Tag Archives: civil rights

Sorry Nevada, No Trump Mall Walk For You?

Trump Soap Dish Mall Scene President-elect Mango Mess is taking a page out of the 1991 comedy “Soap Dish” in the form of a ‘victory tour’ – but only of the states he won.  So, no Mall Walk in the Silver State.   (If you haven’t seen, or don’t remember “Soap Dish,” try it. Okay, it doesn’t have all that many stars in the IMDB reviews – but I liked it, and if you’re in need of a bit of comedic relief right now, it’s a good movie for popcorn and relaxing.)

While the BLOTUS is taking his adulation tour and victory lap it might be well for him to remember (a) he lost the popular vote, and (b) there has never been a president of the United States of America who met with unadulterated adulation in the history of this benighted nation.  So, when the anti-Mango Mess signage comes out …

Recall, that calls for “give him a chance” lasted only a matter of days until he’d appointed a downright White Supremacist misogynist as his right hand man in the Oval Office.  That didn’t take long at all. Then he appointed a fringe lunatic conspiracy theorist anti-Muslim gadfly to his entourage. 

Recall, that he’s nominating Senator Jefferson (Davis) (General P.G.T.) Beauregard Session (R-AL) to be Attorney General – this nomination for a man who was declared  too racist to be a federal judge.

Recall, that no one has forgotten the whole Email Barrage leveled at Secretary Clinton while the Vice President Elect is fighting in court to keep his emails away from public scrutiny. Oh, the Irony!  And, by the way – What IS in those BLOTUS income tax returns that we aren’t supposed to see?

On the brighter side of the mall – I don’t expect the left side of the political spectrum to line up in lock step  opposition to the BLOTUS, but what I do expect is that opposition to the BLOTUS Agenda will be widespread and genuinely hostile.  For example, getting Democrats lined out is a bit like the old saw about transporting frogs in a wheelbarrow, but in this instance that may be a good thing.   Those whose special concern is environmental, plus those whose vital concerns are for civil and human rights, and those who are particularly sensitive to women’s issues, combined with those who see economic and consumer issues as primal, are all in opposition and the attacks will come on a variety of fronts simultaneously.  It should be interesting to see how BLOTUS responds.  More trips to the Mall?

As BLOTUS traipses through the Malls awaiting his recognition, it would be nice to see (1) reports that various and sundry organizations are planning “issue ad” campaigns.  Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife? Nature Conservancy? NAACP? Urban League? Planned Parenthood Action? Etc.  (2) reports that donors are making these issue ad campaigns possible.  (3) New organizations and coalitions are making informative commercials and message ads visible on TV screens nationwide.   A few “call your Congressman/woman” to “demand protection from predatory lenders,” would be welcome, as would advisories about protecting Americans from voter suppression strategies. 

Too bad it all comes down to money at some point, but we do need people to step up to support efforts by the AFL-CIO, Labor Organizations, Environmental organizations, Civil Rights organizations, consumer organizations, and women’s issue organizations, immigration organization (etc!) so that the dangers presented by a BLOTUS Administration can be publicized.  Might it be nice if for every young person who marches in opposition to BLOTUS, sign in hand, there were two older Americans, passed the marching stage, who can write a check or make a recurring donation to a progressive association or organization?

Think about it.  There’s no reason for every walk in the mall to be a walk in the park.

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Filed under Nevada politics, Politics, racism, Republicans

Happy Fourth of July: A More Perfect Union

Flag July 4th

It’s a good 4th of July weekend.  The benefits of citizenship have been affirmed for members of the LGBT community, but as the founders told us we’re on a path to create “a more perfect union.”  Therefore, there’s more work to be done to insure that housing, employment, and other areas of American life aren’t stumbling blocks of discrimination. We will have to keep up efforts toward building that “more perfect” union.

Ravenal Bridge

There may be some dead-enders, some battle flag flying remnants of blatant racism, but no matter how hard the Klan and their allies try, their proposed demonstration will be nothing compared to the thousands who walked along the Ravenal Bridge in Charleston, South Carolina.  We’re closer to being a nation of people who are taking Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s message to heart:

“When evil men plot, good men must plan.  When evil men burn and bomb, good men must build and bind.  When evil men shout ugly words of hatred, good men must commit themselves to the glories of love. “

At least two churches in the south have been the target of recent arson attacks, so in order to form that more perfect union it’s time for people of good will to build and bind.   It’s been a long walk from the bridge in Selma to the bridge in Charleston, but we’re getting there.  We still have to acknowledge the often painful accuracy of Winston Churchill’s backhanded compliment, “You can always count on the Americans to do the right thing, after they’ve tried everything else.”  

In a more perfect union, we’d not have maps showing that a person earning minimum wages cannot achieve a point at which only 30% of his income can pay for a one bedroom apartment.

Rent map

The darker the blue the worse the problem.  We’ll have a more perfect union when we address the complications of living on inadequate wages.  It does no good to march behind banners proclaiming that hard working Americans should “save for the future,” – when simply meeting basic needs for food, housing, and adequate clothing consume all the family’s income. It takes us no closer to a more perfect union to proclaim, “if the poor would just work harder they’d get ahead,” when elements of our judicial system, parts of our educational system, and the myopia of commerce combine to force workers into multiple jobs at minimal wages.  We are no closer to forming a more perfect union when we reward those who prosper at the expense of those who produce.

Unassisted graph

In a more perfect union this graph would be significantly lower.  How do we care for the least able among us? The learning disabled young man with nerve damage, but not quite enough to meet disability standards?  Unmarried, with no dependent children, unemployed except for odd jobs paying about $10 per hour?  A victim of child abuse, and now a victim of a system in which he doesn’t qualify for benefits because he’s never been able to find employment which sustains them. [Reuters]

We’ll be a more perfect union when we are more aware that the able-bodied are not necessarily able to fully function in our modern economy.  In a more perfect union there is more educational, job, housing, and food support for those who live on the margins of despair.

I look to the diffusion of light and education as the resource most to be relied on for ameliorating the condition, promoting the virtue and advancing the happiness of man.” Thomas Jefferson to Cornelius Blatchly, October 1822

And yet:

“About seven in 10 (69%) college seniors who graduated from public and private nonprofit colleges in 2013 had student loan debt. These borrowers owed an average of $28,400, up two percent compared to $27,850 for public and nonprofit graduates in 2012.   About one-fifth (19%) of the  Class of 2013’s debt was comprised of private loans, which are typically more costly and provide fewer consumer protections and repayment options than safer federal loans.”  [TICAS]

In a more perfect union, education advances the “happiness of man,” not merely the bottom line of banking institutions, and certainly not the unrestrained avarice of some for-profit operations who once having the federal funds in hand look to more recruitment without much concern for those already recruited.

And, then – predictably – there’s the Wall Street Casino, which has created SLABS (Student Loan Asset Based Securities).  While certainly not in the mortgage meltdown class, these are problematic because:

“What I find most disturbing about SLABS is that they create a system where an increase in tuition (and the debt-burden on the borrower) equals an increased profit for the investor. When you consider the role that unscrupulous speculators played in the mortgage crisis, one can’t help but wonder if a similar over-valuation of college tuition is taking place for the benefit of SLABS investors. With the cost of attending college increasing nearly 80% between 2003-2013 while wages have decreased, it’s no wonder that so many people are having difficulty paying off their student loans.” [MDA]

This situation is NOT the way to “diffuse light and education.”

There are countless other topics and issues on which we might dwell, assistance for the elderly, transportation, trade, economic security, police and community relations, infrastructure issues, voting rights,  domestic terrorism, domestic violence, gun violence, climate change … the list is  as long as the population rolls, as we try to create that more perfect union of imperfect human beings.

What we need is Churchill’s optimism – that eventually, after avoiding problems, exacerbating problems, tinkering with problems – we’ll do the right thing.

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Filed under banking, civil liberties, education, financial regulation, Global warming, homelessness, income inequality, Minimum Wage, poverty, racism

Getting From the Swampy No to a Functional Yes

SwampWith all due respect to my fellow liberals and progressives — and with this introduction you know the criticism is about to pour forth — enough ink and pixels have given their all in the effort to analyze, explain, or otherwise explicate the ‘problems with the Republican Party’ specifically those who’ve been elected to the House of Representatives.  Enough. It doesn’t matter all that much.

It doesn’t really matter, for example if one adopts the “Neoconfederate” model [Salon] or the “two foundings” explanation [Salon], and we can argue if the ‘two foundings’ in question were the Continental Congress and the Federal System, or the Early Federal Period and the U.S. Civil War.  It’s interesting, it’s academic, and as amusing and thought provoking as the argument is it’s not very useful at the moment.

It doesn’t matter too much if the origins of the present dysfunction are religious, social, racial, psychological, pathological, psychiatric,  or a combination of all the above. What matters is that something is very fundamentally wrong with the way the people’s business in conducted in the Congress of the United States.

Getting To No

As of January 6, 2013 there were 48 members of the Tea Party Caucus, all Republicans.  Of the 435 voting members of the House, 234 are Republican, 199 are Democrats. Two independents caucus with the Democrats.  218 votes are needed to pass legislation. If all the members directly affiliated with the Tea Party Caucus refuse to join their other GOP caucus members, the GOP leadership can control only 186 votes.

In short, the ultra-conservatives in the House of Representatives do not have anywhere near the number of votes necessary to enact the agenda of their choosing, but they have more than enough votes to prevent the leadership from enacting legislation cobbled together with Democratic support.

This is the perfect recipe for NO. No action. No real pragmatic politics. No major legislation. No long term solutions.  The high wire act in the 113th Congress is more conducive to (1) short term stop gap measures to alleviate large problems, (2) interim short term budget appropriations and resource allocations, and (3) periodic breakdowns.

Little wonder then the Absolutely Do Nothing Congress has passed only 34 “ceremonial” bills and “108” substantive bills so far. [WaPo] However, if governmental gridlock is the desired result then the 113th is doing splendidly.

Getting Nothing Done

One of the problems with polarized politics is that hyperbole replaces reasoned discussion, and all too often things become A CRISIS!  There are a couple of ways a crisis can occur. First, and most obviously, there is a situation, unforeseen, which arises from a natural or man-made disaster or catastrophe.  Floods, tornadoes, an attack, an unpredictable infrastructure failure might all qualify as a crisis.

The second crisis category is manufactured.  There appear to be two forms of manufacturing of late. One manifestation is the “political crisis” in which a problem of long standing has been ignored or left unresolved for enough time to create an overwhelming backlog — the Veterans’ Administration issues in regard to wait time for medical services is a classic, as is the number of refugee children who have arrived unattended from Central America — a number that’s been increasing since October 2013.

The other form is more ephemeral and depends upon the Crisis, or Scandal du Jour.  For example, the Benghazi attack in 2012 has generated 25,000 pages of documents submitted in 13 hearings. That the documents have done nothing but reinforce the initial reporting, and that the hearings have generated nothing but easy copy and headlines, is immaterial.  The Congress is ‘dealing with the crisis…’


While Congress fritters and frets its way to the end of the 113th session there are some issues which may fall into the first manufactured category — the backlog swamp.

Infrastructure: Residents of Los Angeles were recently reminded that 92 year old water pipes cannot be expected to last forever, and when they fail they have no regard for sacred public spaces — like Pauley Pavilion. Over 170 school buildings and 165 bridges in New York were constructed over a century ago. The average age of the 6,800 water lines in New York is 69 years, and 2/3rds of them are susceptible to internal corrosion and failure. [FutNy]  One out of every nine bridges in this country falls in the structurally deficient category, and the average age of a U.S. bridge is 42 years.  [2013RC] We have a early 20th century power grid which is supposed to keep us going in the 21st century. Failure to address aviation needs is costing the U.S. economy valuable revenue as a result of congestion and delays.  [2013rc]

Civil Rights:  The Civil Rights Act, and the provisions safeguarding voting in America are overdue for review. Voter intimidation, suppression, and curtailment are no longer the sole province of the old Confederacy.  We continue to put this issue on the back burner at our peril as a democracy.

Public Health and Safety: Heart disease and cancer continue to be the main causes of death in this country, but Alzheimer’s is climbing up the tables.  An aging population will require more health care services in a wider variety of settings than our current system can address.  We kill 34,677 of us every year in traffic accidents, but we continue to defer highway improvements because of budget constraints.

We kill off 26,631 individuals annually in firearm accidents, another 19,766 in firearm related suicides, and yet another 11,101 in firearm homicides. [CDC]  Still we wrangle about requiring universal background checks and how we might prevent straw purchases.  We can’t even seem to agree that stalkers and spousal abusers shouldn’t have immediate access to firearms.

Whether it’s Alzheimer’s or assault rifles, we’re still operating with entirely too many Medically Under-served Areas, there are 297 such reports for Nevada, and a search of neighboring California turns up 2,065 records. [HRSA]

Immigration: We have a mess going in this department.  It’s hard to ignore the fundamentally racist rantings of the Deport’em Now crowd, who never seem to have much to say about the northern border.  However, we will need to tune them out, or at least down,  if we are going to attract the best and brightest scientific and technical minds we’ll need for a 21st century economy.  We’ll need to figure out how to invite in those who have joined our Armed Forces, willing to die for this country, only to discover later there are voices demanding that they mustn’t  live here. Something rational needs to be done to meet the needs of children who came here as toddlers and have known no other country, and those who have one native born or naturalized parent and another who is not.  Comprehensive immigration policy reform would help. So would adequately funding the judicial, social, and educational components of our immigration policy — security is the easy part — it’s the larger, more complicated portions of the problem we’re delaying.

Might we add more to this list? — items which if we let them progress on their own long enough we’ll find ourselves in a “crisis” situation — climate change, income disparity and inequality, educational funding and curriculum development, and the regulation of capital markets to improve stability.

Our Bottom Line

One of the more egregious practices of failing businesses is the Run To Ruin mentality.  Got an aging delivery truck? Never mind, just keep depreciating it without putting any funds in replacement and capital improvement accounts, and when the thing finally gives up the ghost go out and get another loan to cover the cost.  Delaying serious proposals for maintaining our national safety, health, economy, and infrastructure is tantamount to adopting the Run to Ruin model on a national scale.

Another highly questionable business practice which will lead directly to bankruptcy court is the Disposable Asset Theory of Management  wherein all facets of an enterprise are ultimately disposable, including personnel.  Low wages and paltry benefits yielding high employee turnover? No problem, just hire more and cheaper labor. With 3 job seekers for every position available there will always be somebody.  Eventually those training and retraining expenses will add up, predictably levels of service will decline… and those adherents of the DAT management style should be looking for a buyer sooner rather than later.  Deferring the issues of hiring and retaining well trained and competent public employees is, again, like trying to run the country on the cheap (DAT) and then expressing surprise when “things don’t get done.”

By far one of the most predictable ways to go out of business is to ignore the changing circumstances and economic atmosphere around a firm.  Ever so redundantly speaking — Rule Number One: If you have an increasing share of a declining market you are in very real trouble. Think Kodak.

Let’s be optimistic and believe that eventually we will move from dependence on fossil fuels and toward renewable energy sources.  In old fashioned retail terms this means fossil fuels will be a declining market.  So, WHY are we subsidizing an industrial sector which we know to be on the way out?  Again, if we take a short-term defensive approach to energy policy we’ll be violating Old Rule Number One in ways that will not be helpful in the future — or we can wait for the Crisis in which the oil sector sputters out and takes a chunk of the economy with it.

Avoiding the Run to Ruin, Disposable Asset Theory, and the Ostrich Stance mistakes means we are going to have to stop lurching from crisis to crisis, and start doing some serious public policy planning.  We need to stop talking about running government like a business, and start doing precisely that — running it as a long term, asset rich, enterprise with public service as its core.

Instead of the Doctrine Of No, how about functioning based on the belief that Harry Truman was right: “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.”

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Filed under Economy, Politics, Republicans

License, Registration, Cash, and Valuables?

Winnemucca Court HouseIt’s a slippery slope and the sheriff of Humboldt County, NV may have wandered over it. [LVRJ] Two travelers on I-80 saw their personal cash confiscated because they were “suspected” of drug trafficking.  These civil forfeitures are subject to the provisions of 18 U.S. Code 981, which is pretty lenient on the topic, the person having been perceived as engaging in a “specified unlawful activity.”  There are also the provisions of NRS 179.1164-5 to consider.  In Nevada, the forfeiture is supposed to be attendant with an arrest, a search with a warrant, or an inspection pursuant to a warrant — the latter a rather large loophole.  In short:

“Nevada forfeiture law provides paltry protection for property owners from wrongful forfeitures.  The government may seize your property and keep it upon a showing of clear and convincing evidence, a higher standard than many states but still lower than the criminal standard of beyond a reasonable doubt.  But the burden falls on you to prove that you are an innocent owner by showing that the act giving rise to the forfeiture was done without your knowledge, consent or willful blindness.”  [IJ]

So, what standards are applied by officers in Humboldt County?

“…officers are trained to recognize evasiveness during questioning, including stories about travel routes that don’t add up or a lack of luggage on cross-country trips.”  [LVRJ]

Here’s where the specifics become part of the discussion — (1) What constitutes ‘evasion’ during questioning?  (2) What elements of a ‘travel route’ make the journey suspicious? (3) How much luggage is presumed reasonable before a ‘lack’ is noticeable?

Let’s look at the first question:  “Where are you headed?”  Can I respond, “…to California?” Or, must I say that I’m headed for beautiful downtown Fresno to visit my ailing grandmother on Elm Street?  Where have I been?  Can I say, “Colorado?” Or, must I inform the officer that I’ve been helping my disabled brother-in-law move from Grand Junction to Aurora?  Just how much personal information must I divulge to a complete stranger in order to assuage his suspicions that I am not a drug trafficker or a money launderer?

What must I say in order to make my travel route ‘reasonable?’  “Well officer, I tried fishing at Wild Horse, but somebody told me that Knott Creek was better, but I didn’t have any joy there so I thought I’d try the East Carson…..”  What would happen if I said, “I dunno’ I just got into my truck and started looking for places that looked interesting and I might end up over at the Bodie, CA park to see the ghost town…”  Does my itinerary have to make sense to anyone other than myself?

And, how much luggage must I pack before I am plausible?  I do recall, and always with a smile, a former colleague who — with considerable assistance from his wife, I always suspected — could pack everything he needed for a weekend conference in one small attache bag.  I also remember, with some nostalgia for the days when gasoline was $1.50 a gallon, when I could take off for a weekend with everything I needed for a bit of site seeing and photography scrunched into a single duffel bag.  Would this be enough to convince The Officer I wasn’t drug trafficking or doing a bit of ‘asset hiding?’

Without some very clear guidelines, Humboldt County could find itself categorized with such infamous places as Tenaha, TX,

“Police in an East Texas city will no longer enrich their coffers by seizing assets from innocent Black and Latino drivers and threatening them with baseless criminal charges, under a settlement reached today with the American Civil Liberties Union.

The ACLU settled a class-action suit, pending court approval, against officials in Tenaha and Shelby County, where it is estimated police seized $3 million between 2006 and 2008 in at least 140 cases. Police officers routinely pulled over motorists in the vicinity of Tenaha without any legal justification, asked if they were carrying cash and, if they were, ordered them to sign over the cash to the city or face charges of money laundering or other serious crimes.” [ACLU]

The infamous Boatright Case is not one with which Humboldt County, NV authorities would want to be associated either.  Unfortunately, the Humboldt County cases are not isolated instances, a recent article in Forbes publicizes other incidents in may other states.  Police in one singularly repugnant incident confiscated church donations on their way to the bank and didn’t release the funds until a former Reagan Administration appointee to the Justice Department’s Asset Forfeiture Office took the case pro bono.

When remote, rural, Humboldt County hits ABC NewsBreak, it’s time to give more serious consideration to the nature, and to the implementation of drug enforcement policy than what gives the appearance of hopping on the Cash for Freedom bandwagon of law enforcement officers in too many jurisdictions.

Bones of Contention

Let’s begin with the proposition that no one wants to facilitate drug trafficking, and no one would seriously advocate that we should make it easy for people to hide assets from legitimate scrutiny (and taxation), nor do we want to make it easy for international criminals to transfer funds with alacrity.  That said:

(1) How can we balance the need for legitimate law enforcement activity with the personal privacy and security in our “persons, houses, papers, and effects,” as guaranteed by our 4th Amendment?

(2) How do we adhere to the precept that we are innocent until proven guilty if we allow the civil forfeiture without a standard at least as robust as that required to justify an arrest?

The sorriest part of this state of affairs is that Humboldt County, Nevada, although newsworthy at the moment, is not all that far from the more egregious behavior of police operations in other states.  Instead of attracting a reputation as a bulwark of ‘liberty,’ the county has adopted a culture of convenience, especially when it comes to collecting cash.

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Filed under civil liberties, Politics

Then and Now: Voter Intimidation

Compare to 2012:

“True the Vote’s founder, Catherine Engelbrecht, has said “we see again with this administration . . . it’s just stunning the assault on our elections that we’re watching gain steam with every passing day, so we found ourselves to be unwittingly on the front lines of an issue that I think will be the inflection point for this election.”

A reporter attending True the Vote’s Colorado State Summit described how one speaker told the crowd that “they should enjoy bullying liberals because they were doing God’s work. ‘Your opposition are cartoon characters. They are. They are fun to beat up. They are fun to humiliate,’ he intoned. ‘You are on the side of the angels. And these people are just frauds, charlatans and liars.’”  [Demos]

Inflection point? More like over the line back to the bad old days of voter intimidation and harassment.  Fun to beat up?  One could wonder if anyone was “having fun” during the following tragedies?

May 7, 1955 · Belzoni, Mississippi
Rev. George Lee, one of the first black people registered to vote in Humphreys County, used his pulpit and his printing press to urge others to vote. White officials offered Lee protection on the condition he end his voter registration efforts, but Lee refused and was murdered.

August 13, 1955 · Brookhaven, Mississippi
Lamar Smith was shot dead on the courthouse lawn by a white man in broad daylight while dozens of people watched. The killer was never indicted because no one would admit they saw a white man shoot a black man. Smith had organized blacks to vote in a recent election.

September 25, 1961 · Liberty, Mississippi
Herbert Lee, who worked with civil rights leader Bob Moses to help register black voters, was killed by a state legislator who claimed self-defense and was never arrested. Louis Allen, a black man who witnessed the murder, was later also killed.

June 12, 1963 · Jackson, Mississippi
Medgar Evers, who directed NAACP operations in Mississippi, was leading a campaign for integration in Jackson when he was shot and killed by a sniper at his home.

September 15, 1963 · Birmingham, Alabama
Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley were getting ready for church services when a bomb exploded at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, killing all four of the school-age girls. The church had been a center for civil rights meetings and marches.

January 10, 1966 · Hattiesburg, Mississippi
Vernon Ferdinand Dahmer, a wealthy businessman, offered to pay poll taxes for those who couldn’t afford the fee required to vote. The night after a radio station broadcasted Dahmer’s offer, his home was firebombed. Dahmer died later from severe burns.

April 4, 1968 · Memphis, Tennessee
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a Baptist minister, was a major architect of the Civil Rights Movement. He led and inspired major non-violent desegregation campaigns, including those in Montgomery and Birmingham. He won the Nobel peace prize. He was assassinated as he prepared to lead a demonstration in Memphis.
Sadly, there are many more listed here.

Some people don’t want to take their country back, they really want to take it backwards.



Filed under 2012 election, Politics, racism

Amid the Wheat and the Weeds: Arguing for Gay Marriage

President Obama announced his support for gay marriage yesterday, framing the debate as a question of human and civil rights.  Why, in the most powerful nation on the planet — because we are inclusive, not in spite of the fact — do we have a class of people comprising possibly 4% of the total population who are denied certain civil liberties because of their sexual orientation?  Good question.

One Church Curiously Divisible

The arguments in favor of discrimination against the LGBT community are nearly all based in theology,  and the theological arguments trace back to the Reformation.   How can one tell if a nation is sanctified?  St. Augustine offered a clue in his description of the Visible and Invisible Church;  that there are the ‘saved’ who participate in the visible church, and that visible church was not pure — it contained both “wheat and weeds” within.  By Puritan lights the Anglican Church was weed-ridden, filled with popery, and riddled with improprieties meant to be expunged for the betterment of all.

This is all perilously close to the 4th century Donatists, an heretical sect which believed that only those who led blameless lives might be considered actual members of the church.  The Puritan fathers were quick to deny this classification, but their emphasis on Visible Saints led some, like Robert Browne, to argue for the distillation of the church down to the congregational level so that the membership of the church was entirely composed of ‘true’ believers.   In time the Puritans  (the Separatists who landed at Plymouth and the non-Separatists in the Great Migration)  were established on American soil and developed a “method” by which church membership was bestowed.  The New England Method mostly consisted of establishing that the person had a good reputation, lived free from any scandal, and readily submitted to Church instruction and discipline.  This would include Beza’s emphasis on a collective effort to “combat sin and teach the true religion.”

Without digressing into a history of the knock-down-drag-out turned to Civil Wars English Reformation era*, suffice it to say that one school of thought held that a “nation’s salvation” was defined by how closely the body politic mirrored the Visible Church.  Obviously, the fewer theological weeds the better.

What might have been spectacularly on display during the North Carolina voting on gay rights was the political version of purifying the state by imposing the theological doctrines of congregational churches upon the political institutions in order to insure the ‘salvation of the state’ as defined by congregational discipline.  It’s important for the members of the Visible Church in this regard to impose the discipline of the church because the state is the vessel of the Invisible Church, and as the Invisible Church more closely conforms to the norms of the Visible Church, then the salvation of the state (everybody) is more perfectly known.

All this assumes that there is something to be saved.  When civil libertarians argue for the separation of church and state, the response from the rigid adherents of various congregations recoils from the notion that there is no “invisible church” to be saved.  The essential problem of course, is that having an “invisible church” as clarified during the Reformation era is well nigh impossible in a nation of Catholics, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, and non-believers. These individuals, and their beliefs, constitute the Weeds in the Wheat Fields of the Lord.  For the various ‘disciplined’ congregations this “must” be a Christian nation, because no other manifestation of the Invisible Church (state) would be capable of salvation.

Hoisted on Their Own Canards

Possibly because it wouldn’t do to enter a court room in the United States of America prepared to argue that civil rights may not be extended to members of the LGTB community because to do so would be to “leave the wheat fields of the Lord unweeded,” and thereby be a sign that the Invisible Church is further from salvation, the ‘disciplined congregations’ must invent reasons which sound more harmonious with modern judicial and political doctrine.

#1.  “The extension of civil rights to the LGBT community would destroy the institution of marriage.”   How this might be the case is highly questionable, and the so-called study showing marriage declining in some Scandinavian countries conveniently ignores the fact that gay marriage is not actually legal in Denmark, Norway, and Sweden.  Nor does the study account for the fact that marriage in general has declined in this area, or that the decline in the rate of marriages doesn’t correlate to the legalization of same sex relationships. Indeed, a paper from the University of Virginia’s Department of Economics finds that “…legalizing same-sex marriage or civil unions in a state has no effect on the state’s divorce or marriage rates. These results give preliminary evidence which suggests that the marriage and divorce decisions of heterosexual couples are not affected by whether or not same-sex couples are allowed to form legal unions.”  (pdf)

#2.But, think of the children…”  A review of the scientific literature is revealing:

“In 45 empirical studies of outcomes of children of same-sex couples—including all studies listed in Tasker’s (2005) comprehensive survey that examined childhood outcomes, several more recent studies listed by Wald (2006), all four studies listed by Meezan and Rauch (2005) as the highest-quality studies in this field, and all the more recent studies that cite the earlier ones—none found statistically significant disadvantages for children raised by gay and lesbian parents compared with other children.”  [Stanford] pdf

Thus much for that one.  But what of the corollary argument that “Oh, dear, Gays would be allowed to adopt children?” If the research indicates that there is no statistical disadvantage in educational attainment or social skills for children raised by gay parents, then why get exercised about it?

#3. The Projection Arguments.  There are several unsubstantiated claims made which are projected or anticipated fears bearing little or no relation to reality.   (A) If we have gay marriage then schools will have to teach tolerance.   Yes, and what might be wrong with this?  It seems radical to argue that schools should teach INtolerance.  Unless one is an adherent of the Pastor Sean Harris school of beating “the gay” out of one’s offspring (since retracted) then tolerating people of other ethnic groups, other faiths, and other kinds of families should be considered a good thing.  We really shouldn’t be tolerating bullying gay youngsters, any more than we should tolerate bullying of “nerds,” unattractive, or  overweight youngsters, or any other excuse juveniles with undeveloped cerebral capacities dream up to demonstrate their lack of interpersonal social skills.

(B) Foster parents would have to undergo sensitivity training.   As if sensitivity training is a bad thing?  Generally speaking a significant source of complaint about sensitivity training tends to come from those who seem to be in  particular need of it.  We want our law enforcement personnel to be aware of differing social customs.  Imagine the outrage over having a male police officer strip search a devout Muslim or Jewish woman — or any woman for that matter?  There’s an entire segment of our corporate economy devoted to helping companies develop their human relations and personnel policies.  We are appropriately upset with teachers who humiliate or degrade children for their economic, ethnic, or social attributes.

If gay marriage doesn’t have any impact on heterosexual marriage rates, if it has no perceptible negative effects on children raised by homosexual parents, if it demands that people behave more tolerantly with each other — then what’s the problem?

Now, we’re back to that Invisible Church, the one in which the nation cannot be assured of God’s beneficence because there are too many weeds in the wheat fields.   However, if we’re attuned to Biblical injunctions there are at least two which apply:

Let us not therefore judge one another any more. But judge this rather, that you put not a stumbling block or a scandal in your brother’s way.” Romans 14:13

Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you shall be forgiven.” Luke 6:37


* To fully wade amongst the wheat and the weeds, read Michael Braddick’s “God’s Fury, England’s Fire,” Penguin Books, NY, 2008.   For an explanation of the Puritan church’s problems with the issue of baptism and the Halfway Covenant, see Frank Dent’s postings in the New Reformation Press.

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