Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Dear Kim Davis: This Christian Says "You're 100% Wrong."

Dear Kim, I know you are presenting yourself as a victim of persecution: persecution of religious folk who simply want to excercse their faith, persecution by a totalitarian judiciary that is imposing law on average citizens, persecution by a vocal and strident gay minority who are insisting on violating your sincerely-held beliefs, conscience, and deepest religious convictions. Think Again.

First, let me introduce myself to you. I am a Christian. I am a Gay man. I am an attorney who fully embraces the civil liberties enshrined on our Constitution.

Throughout your protestations, you have made fools of the majority of Christians in this country, you have made fools of the people of Kentucky, and you have employed a tortured and innovative interpretation of Constitutional Rights.

You, Madam Clerk, insist that you are being denied your right to live out your faith. I call Balderdash.

No one is telling you to marry a woman. No one is telling that you must engage in homosexuality. In fact, no one is even telling you that you should change your mind, your beliefs, or your most sincerely held religious convictions.

But when you are acting as County Clerk, you are not acting as Kim Davis - you are acting as an agent of the Government.

The First Amendment has a long, time-honored and cherished history in this country. It reads, in part (in case you haven't actually read it) as follows:

Amendent I: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..."

Amendment XIV: "No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States."

Taken together, this is very simple: Under Amendment I, the federal government may not impose a religion upon the nation, nor may it prevent private citizens from exercising their religion. Under Amendment 14, the prohibitions imposed on the federal government are extended to State governments.

A lesson in civics, dear: Counties are administrative units of States. When you act as County Clerk, you are acting under the authority of the State - not as a private citizen. You are therefore bound by a Constitution which mandates that States must abide by the same rules as the federal government when it comes to citizen's rights. And what are our rights? To not have a particular religion and it's doctrine 'established' as official policy.

As a private citizen, you may believe as you wish, protest as you wish, worship as you wish, and even campaign for a Constitutional Amendment to overturn Marriage Equality.

As an agent of the State, you may not impose or establish a religious test on the citizens. It's very, very simple.

But I'll take it even further: As a Christian, you need to stop speaking for the Church, speaking for God, and making grand pronouncements about what you believe the Bible requires as if your position is Infallible In fact, dear, your statements are erroneous at best, and blasphemous at worst: you have presumed to speak for God on the issue.

Millions of Christians in this nation support same-sex marriage. Numerous denominations have endorsed same-sex marriage, ordination of gays and lesbians, and full GLBT equality. For you to presume to 'declare' what is or is not biblical, or Christian, or "God's Position" on the issue is the worst form of arrogance: you presume to speak on God's behalf. Shame on you.

Your approach is not supported legally, Constitutionally, or theologically.

It's time to retire from public life, consider the damage you have done to other Christians and Kentuckians by association, and reconsider your self-righteous, self-aggrandizing motivations.It's bad enough you have made a fool of yourself and a circus of Rowan County - but in addition, you have betrayed your faith, your God, your public trust, and your Constitution.


Thursday, June 18, 2015

Gay Marriage: The Court's Four Choices

We are counting down the days to the Supreme Court’s upcoming ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges. I am not going to use this post to argue the cause for GLBT equality; rather, I am laying out the possible outcomes based on the multiple legal issues in the case at hand. Since news reporters will be tripping all over themselves to be the first to report, it is likely they will report the majority decision without going too deep into the nuances – and the nuances are important.

Although the case is called Obergefell v Hodges (an Ohio case), there are actually four cases involved: Obergefell v Hodges (Ohio), Tanco v Haslam (Tennessee), Bourke v. Beshear (Kentucky) and DeBoer v Snyder (Michigan). These four cases are from the four states that comprise the 6th Circuit, the only federal circuit court that has ruled against finding a right to same-sex marriage.

Contrary to popular understanding, Obergefell, Tanco, and Bourke do not directly address the question of whether states must permit same-sex marriage; all three are cases where a valid same-sex marriage was performed in another state, and the plaintiffs are suing to have their marriages recognized in their new home states. Only DeBoer raises the issue of same-sex marriage within their home state Michigan, and even that case is a little tortured because the original suit was brought against a Michigan law forbidding adoption by same-sex couples, not the actual marriage statute; the complaint was later amended to address the issue of same-sex marriage in Michigan.

With that as background, the Justices have a wide variety of choices open to them. I present them from the narrowest to the broadest possible rulings:

1) Full Faith & Credit
: SCOTUS could address the very narrow issue as to whether or not a state that prohibits same-sex marriage must recognize valid same-sex marriages performed elsewhere. The precedents are somewhat divided here: interracial marriages must be recognized across state boundaries, but other marriages – such as that between cousins (which are permitted in some states, but not others) or between young people (state marriage laws vary, some permitting 16 year olds to marry, while one requires an age of 19) have been decidedly inconsistent. In a narrow ruling, the suits would be decided under the Full Faith & Credit Clause of the Constitution. Even if the couples win, it would not require the states in the 6th Circuit to legalize same-sex marriage: it would only require them to recognize valid marriages performed elsewhere. This is the least likely scenario (but it is possible) and would happen only if Justice Kennedy felt it necessary to ‘slow down” the march toward GLBT equality. A win, but a disappointment, and the battle continues.

2) Gender Bias. Raised as a possibility by Justice Roberts, this approach would apply the existing law that outlaws discrimination based on gender without a compelling state interest. In oral arguments, Roberts asked, “If Sue can marry Tom but John can not marry Tom, isn’t this a simple case of gender bias?" This has several advantages: it would effectively legalize same-sex marriage throughout the US, while creating no new law or precedent; it is also a way for the conservatives to further the issue of same-sex marriage without specifying specific “gay” rights. This approach would probably have a decisive majority of 6-3, or even 7-2, with Roberts (and possibly Alito) joining in the majority. Since this is basic existing law, gender discrimination, no new law, no new rights or ‘protected’ status for gays would be granted. This could be 6-3 or even 7-2, which would add a sense of legitimacy to the court’s ruling, and would be the 'compromise' approach in an effort to gain the widest acceptance of the decision. To me, this is a very possible outcome.

3) Equal Protection Clause.
This would immediately result in legal same-sex marriage across the country, and, by applying it to gays and lesbians, would create a new application of this clause. This approach has the advantage of a clear statement concerning GLBT marriage rights, but would be more controversial than choice #2 above; it would likely be a 5-4 (possibly 6-3) decision. This is the outcome most LGBT groups are looking for.

4) Heightened Scrutiny/Protected Class. This would be the most far-reaching approach, and would affect not only marriage, but every law in every state that discriminates against gays and lesbians (such as employment and job termination, adoption, etc). Under current US law, it IS legal to discriminate between groups if the government has a rational basis. So, for instance, a state may pass a law requiring 7 years of school for doctor licensing, 5 for dentists, and 8 for anesthesiologists if they so choose. This is the standard the 6th Circuit applied to the state laws in Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee, and Kentucky. However, if a group of people is found to have been the subject of ‘animus’ (hatred) resulting in discriminatory laws, then the government must go beyond a mere rational basis; they must prove a “compelling state interest” in order to discriminate. This is a very high standard, and laws almost never meet it. If the Court decides that gays and lesbians are to be considered a protected class, there are several ramifications: first, nothing might happen initially: the Court could send all four cases back to the 6th Circuit for a re-hearing under the new standard. Justice delayed. However, in the long-term, this would affect single every law in the nation that discriminates against gays and lesbians. It is the most sweeping choice; gays would win the most rights for the long term, and the decision (like Roe v Wade) would also generate the most controversy. It is highly doubtful that this could be anything better than a 5-4 vote…and in fact, somewhat unlikely, Justice Kennedy would need to go further out on a limb than he ever has to make this happen. the dissenting opinion would likely be vicious, and conservative political groups would have the most ammunition against the court.

Of course, the Supreme Court often surprises…and often the majority vote is fractured into majority and concurring and dissenting opinions, so elements of all of the above may actually be part of a very complicated decision.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Dear Chronically Late Student:

Dear Student,

I want to address your criticism and disdain over my “poor attitude” concerning your attendance habits. It is clear that you think I’m some sort of ogre for being annoyed at your constant lateness and cavalier attitude towards actually attending class, submitting work by the assigned deadline, or taking an exam at the appointed time.

Let me explain something to you.

This is a class called “Introduction to Business.” It is designed to expose you to the work habits, issues, and dynamics of today’s business world.

Now, I realize that I may be a little bit old-fashioned. In my day (yes, I hear your groans and see your eyes roll), if the train left the Long Island Railroad Station at 7:15am, I did not wander up to the platform at 7:17 and expect it to be waiting for me. And I knew that the excuse, “Sorry, I missed my train” was not an excuse at all. It was a cause for termination. You see, if I am expected to start work at 9:00 am – and if I expect to get paid beginning at 9:00 am – that does not mean I am combing my hair in the bathroom at 9:15 and then wandering over to the coffee machine and getting around to turn on my computer at 9:30. It means I am working at 9:00 am, so when a customer calls with a problem, I am prepared to efficiently and courteously assist them.

So you are correct, I am annoyed when you seem to think that it’s perfectly fine to wander into a 9:00 am class at 9:05, 9:15, or even later, because I should somehow be honored that you chose to show up at all. I don’t care that your gas tank was low, that you burned your toast, or that you didn't anticipate that the snow might cause slower travel times. You are interrupting the class and the flow of learning, and worse, depriving your fellow students of all the wisdom you have to impart on the subject we just discussed (The very subject for which you will demand personal tutoring and explanation just before the exam, at your convenience, of course.)

And that report that was due at the beginning of class on Thursday? No, it’s not “OK if I print it off after class,” or “give it to you tomorrow,” or “just email it over the weekend because my thumb drive wasn’t working right.”

Let me explain: When I worked in an office competing for government grants, we were given strict deadlines – to the minute – to submit our proposals. When a dozen competing proposals came in, had I sauntered in 5 minutes late with our proposal, it wasn’t “OK;” it meant I just blew a chance of securing a 5 million dollar contract for my office. And it also meant that I was incredibly disrespectful to my co-workers, because all of their work on the proposal was for nothing.

And yes, when the UPS man is rushing to pick up your line of next season’s designer clothing for the Fashion Show, and you aren’t ready because “tomorrow is good enough,” you just blew your chance to sell a line of clothing to every department store in the country – and 30 months of pre-planning just went down the drain.

How do you think your co-workers and employer will feel about that?

I suggest you learn this lesson NOW.

Yes, sometimes cats run out the door and get hit by cars. Yes, your child suddenly falls ill. Yes, flat tires happen.

That doesn't mean you get a “freebie.” What it means is that you learn that these are the things that happen in the normal course of life, and if you have a deadline, you plan to meet your deadline ahead of time – you don’t start the night before and then expect a free ride when nothing is ready in the morning. Rushing in at the last minute because it's "on time" is little more than "adequate;" it is the minimum to be expected. It's nothing special.

Perhaps you’re seeking an employer who is a little more lenient than I am.

Good Luck.

Better to learn this now than when your mortgage, auto loan, and kid’s soccer tuition depends upon your steady paycheck.

Planning on being self-employed so you don't have to put up with being told what to do? I got news for you: you will need to be even more diligent in your work, because your customers won't stand for the quality of delivery that you have exhibited.

So, call me mean, rigid, and old-fashioned. If I have presented you with a standard that requires you to grow and change – I have done my job. If you're not into that sort of thing, consider dropping the course while you can still get your tuition back.

I’ll bet that's one thing you will do on time…

Monday, May 11, 2015

Fascism and American Sports,,,

Let me say at the start that I truly enjoy sporting events, and teach a college course in sports economics. I have raised funds and brought many students to their first professional games: basketball, baseball, soccer. Growing up on Long Island, NY, I was a child of the NY Islanders Dynasty.

I also have reason to support military veterans, whether it be at the college at which I teach, or from a more personal perspective: My son is a Marine, my uncle was a Navyman, and I’m in the Coast Guard Auxiliary.

But I am also a student of history, and what I see occurring at sports stadiums today is frightening at best.

In his 2003 seminal essay, “The 14 Characteristics of Fascism” in Free Inquiry Magazine, political scientist Dr. Lawrence Britt summarized the fascist regimes of Hitler (Germany), Mussolini (Italy), Franco (Spain), Suharto (Indonesia), and Pinochet (Chile). Dr. Britt found they all had 14 elements in common. Some of these include:

Powerful and Continuing Nationalism – [the] constant use of patriotic mottos, slogans, symbols, [and] songs….in public displays

Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights - Because of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of "need." The people tend to look the other way or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerations of prisoners, etc.

Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause - The people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial, ethnic or religious minorities; liberals...

Supremacy of the Military - Even when there are widespread domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding... Soldiers and military service are glamorized.

Obsession with Crime and Punishment - The police are given almost limitless power to enforce laws. The people are often willing to overlook police abuses and even forego civil liberties in the name of patriotism.

Enter the Sport Stadium: the largest on-going collection of citizens in "public displays."

Now, I expect the National Anthem at the start of a sporting event. I look forward to it, to be honest. And I even appreciate the playing of other nation’s anthems when the match is international. But the trend is now towards something very unsettling – so unsettling that it’s reminiscent of the elements of Fascist Propaganda cited above.

The last time I went to a Mets game Citifield, I have to admit that I was a little uncomfortable when I was exposed to a “new tradition” in the 6th inning: the announcer required that we all stand, sing God Bless America, and participate in honoring ‘the veteran of the day.’ The fact that a stadium full of thousands dutifully rose as soon as they were told to, in order to honor the military, should cause some pause. In fact, it’s downright chilling.
I thought this was a one-time special event; I have since observed this ceremony multiple times, at multiple baseball stadiums. It’s now the norm.
This past week, the Washington Post revealed a ‘formal,’ paid relationship between the government and the NFL for much the same type of intertwining of the military state and sport.

As articulately expressed by www.FreeThoughtProject.com,

“The national anthem is a long, drawn-out, pregame event. There’ll be a flyover by the Blue Angels at the perfect, climactic moment. During a break in the action, some soldier returning from Afghanistan or any other foreign war-zone will be reunited with his family while the stadium erupts in deafening applause and heart wrenching sobs.

Well, hold off on purchasing those tickets just yet, because the Washington Post found something interesting this week. All this patriotic propaganda- the troop-salutes, the banner ads, even the community service events where troops and NFL teams “build or re-build” a playground together, come with a price tag.
Fourteen NFL teams were paid a total of $5.4 million by the Department of Defense to cover the nationalistic propaganda filling downtime during the games.”

That’s right: not some organic, groundswell of thanks to our vets; but a paid program by the Pentagon to create a pro-military groupthink at a captured audience. Think about that.

So yesterday, perhaps my sensitivity was on high alert, but what I saw at a Major League Soccer game was equally scary. Soccer – often thought of as the international, or even “un-American” sport – took its required worship of the Police State to yet another level.

In the wake of the murder of NY Police Officer Brian Moore – thousands of police officers from around the nation lined the highways of Seaford, NY for his funeral. It was portrayed as a show of “support” for the officer and his family – but of course, the majority of those in attendance wouldn’t have known him if they had tripped over him when he was alive. Rather, at a time when police wrongdoing is revealed daily on websites such as CopBlock.org, this was not a show of respect as much as a show of force: the Blue Line that protects its own, showing its muscle and demanding respect and awe from the public.

The start of the inaugural match between the New York Red Bulls and the New York City Football Club in Harrison, NJ, was launched with a moment of silence for the slain officer (I could argue that while police officers get such treatment, hundreds of innocent Americans slain by police get no such honor…but I won’t belabor that point.) But then the players entered the field – with black armbands. They didn't read, “Moore” – they read “NYPD.”

Yes, I have a problem with that.

At a time when there is a public relations war between the cops and the citizens they are supposed to serve; when police defiantly turn their back on the Mayor of New York City when he dares to criticize their tactics; when courtrooms have revealed the systematic and routine planting of evidence on innocent citizens; when military equipment and armaments are being distributed to civilian forces – yes, I have a problem with two sports teams being required by their league to “take sides.” When I was insolent enough to suggest so on a Supporters Club website, the post was removed by administrators with no explanation.

When I was merely 2 years old, none other than General and President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned,

"In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist."

BBC’s documentary “Fascism and Football” is described thusly: “A documentary on how the Fascist regimes of Spain, Italy and Germany made football an important pillar of their propaganda and the lengths they went to in order to control the sport…”

Sports Fans, take note: The next time the masses at the stadium is told what to do, and how to do it, and when to do it, in an effort to honor the Police State – be aware of how you are being used – and the history behind it.