April 14, 2005

Email to Bush: Disavow the Attack on the Judiciary

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 11:02 am

An email I have sent to President Bush

President Bush:

As leader of the Republican party and the nation, please reassure us by stating your support for an independent judiciary and by disavowing recent attacks on the integrity of our country’s judges.

The press has widely reported on the Judeo-Christian Council For Constitutional Restoration’s recent conference, “Confronting the Judicial War on Faith.” Quotes from participants in the conference are very alarming:

  • “Here again I draw on the wisdom of Stalin. We’re talking about the greatest political figure of the 20th century. He had a slogan, and it worked very well for him whenever he ran into difficulty. ‘No man, no problem.'” (Edwin Vieira, discussing Supreme Court Justice Kennedy; the full quote from Stalin reads “Death solves all problems: no man, no problem.”)
  • “[D]eliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of our Lord Jesus.” (JCCCR interim chairman Rick Scarborough, talking about Judge Greer of the Schiavo case during a prayer at the conference.)
  • “I believe that in our country today the judiciary is the focus of evil.” (Alan Keyes)
  • “[J]udicial unaccountability is not a political issue, it is a threat to self-government.” (Tom DeLay, via video)
  • “This problem that we’re dealing with fundamentally is a question of sovereignty. When the Supreme Court says that there is a right to kill babies in the Constitution and therefore we can’t have laws against that, or there is a right to commit buggery in the Constitution and we can’t have laws against that, it implicitly asserts that “the people have no right to make laws.”

    As long as the Supreme Court purports to “grade the papers of Congress” — in other words, to evaluate its laws — “it is counter to the very basis of this republic.” Thus, until America throws out the principle of judicial review, “it is a sick and sad joke to claim we have a Constitution.” (Michael Schwartz, chief of staff to Senator Coburn, as quoted by Salon’s Michelle Goldberg)

  • “I consider [Justice Anthony Kennedy] to be the most dangerous man in America.” (James Dobson in his most recent newsletter on “judicial tyranny.”)

While I would like to dismiss this conference as out-of-the-mainstream and irrelevant, it was attended by Republican congressional staffers and at least one congressman, and was addressed by Tom DeLay via video.

I ask you to publicly disavow these comments and the extremist right-wing attack on the Judicial Branch of the US government. Please declare that you will not allow the separation of powers put in place over 200 years ago to be replaced by a subjugation of the judiciary by Congress. Sworn as you are to uphold the Constitution, you can do no less.


Bob *****************

April 12, 2005

Day of Truth vs. Day of Silence

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 1:18 pm

Update: Carlos has a link to Michael Berube regarding the Day of Fear scheduled to follow the Day of Silence: “Focus Even Harder on the Family and its allied organizations, including Campus Jihad for Christ and the Opus Dei is for Everyone Foundation, have proposed a national ‘Day of Fear.'”

Tomorrow is the Day of Silence, a silent student demonstration against gay bias. From the Day of Silence website:

The Day of Silence, a project of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) in collaboration with the United States Student Association (USSA), is a student-led day of action where those who support making anti-LGBT bias unacceptable in schools take a day-long vow of silence to recognize and protest the discrimination and harassment — in effect, the silencing — experienced by LGBT students and their allies.

This “day of action” was started in 1996, and has now gained enough visibility to earn a Religious Right counter-attack. The Alliance Defense Fund is organizing a Day of Truth the day after the Day of Silence. From the ADF website:

The Day of Truth was established to counter the promotion of the homosexual agenda and expresses an opposing viewpoint from a Christian perspective.

Participating students are encouraged to wear T-shirts and pass out cards (not during class time) with the following message:

I am speaking the Truth to break the silence. I believe in equal treatment for all, and not special rights for a few. I believe in loving my neighbor, but part of that love means not condoning detrimental personal and social behavior. I believe that by boldly proclaiming the Truth, hurts will be halted, hearts will be healed, and lives will be saved.

The Day of Truth is scheduled for April 14, 2005. This is the day after GLSEN (The Gay, Lesbian, Straight Educational Network) will sponsor the “Day of Silence.” GLSEN’s Day of Silence encourages students to remain silent throughout the day and not respond to teachers or school administrators. It is part of their overall strategy to change how our society perceives homosexual behavior. But the Day of Silence is a misnomer, because what is truly being silenced is the Truth.

In the past, students who have attempted to speak against the promotion of the homosexual agenda have been censored or, in some cases, punished for their beliefs. It is important that students stand up for their First Amendment right to hear and speak the Truth about human sexuality in order to protect that freedom for future generations. The Day of Truth provides an opportunity to publicly exercise our free speech rights.

Heaven help us. The Day of Silence is a protest against harassment and bias against gays. Regardless of the stated intent, the effect of the Day of Truth will be to justify and excuse continued harassment and bias against gays in our schools. What is the most appalling is to me is this, from the ADF website’s list of answers to “hostile questions regarding the Day of Truth”:

How do you know your “truth” is the absolute truth? Isn’t truth a relative term?

Jesus Christ said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). In over one hundred passages in the four gospel accounts of Christ’s life, He either begins with the phrase, “I tell you the truth…” or identifies Himself as the source of revealed truth. As Christians, this provides us with the assurance that Christ is the one and only source of Truth of God.

When there is no standard for truth – when truth means different things to different people – the consequences can be tragic. Most people would agree that the commandment from God, “Thou shalt not kill” is truth. But what happens if someone rejects that as truth, and their “truth” allows them to engage in the killing of innocent human beings? We are simply pointing to what our founding documents, the Declaration of Independence and Constitution, recognize: that there are absolute truths, and that such truth comes from our Creator, God.

This is just so wrong. They are equating gays and murderers, while implying the US is a Christian (and therefore anti-gay) nation. It breaks my heart.

If you are in a position to do so, please support the Day of Silence tomorrow, and let us hope the Day of Truth is seen as the lie that it is.

Religious Moral Values vs. Separation of Church and State

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 6:19 am

I have often said on this blog that I am politically progressive not in spite of my faith, but because of it. This statement raises a legitimate question, though: whether I am questioning the separation of church and state. Barry Lynn of Americans United for Separation and Church and State says (hat tip to Mainstream Baptist):

There is plenty of religious dialogue – and some screaming – in the public square now, and I certainly don’t want to squelch it. But laws made by legislators must be rooted in constitutional values and reasoned analysis, not someone’s personal take on scripture. Put bluntly, if your representative in Congress can’t explain a vote on abortion or the environment without “proof-texting” it to the Bible, he or she has failed to do the work of a legislator in America.

Today’s religious majorities, or maj­or­­ity wannabees, need to understand that personal religious conviction and analysis is not a substitute for policy that seeks a common good that could be recognized as such by people throughout the 2,000 faith groups and diverse array of freethinking and non-believer communities in the nation.

By contrast, Jim Wallis, who is criticized by Lynn, says that “the Gospel is personal but never private”, and should be the basis for our public discussion of policy choices.

On the one hand, I am a big fan of the Establishment Clause of our Constitution not only because it protects government from being corrupted by religion, but also because it protects religion from being corrupted by government. On the other hand, is Lynn suggesting all speech in Congress must be stripped of references to religious moral arguments? This sounds like freedom from religion, not freedom of religion.

I have been criticized (offline) by a family member for resorting to religious arguments on this blog when a purely logical argument would, in his view, suffice. His presumption is that a logical argument is superior to a religious one, so I shouldn’t weaken my case by making it particular to my religious beliefs. But I disagree. For those of faith, religious arguments are always stronger than strictly secular ones. Besides which, any political argument is based on a set of underlying moral assumptions, whether they are implicit or explicit. Since the audience of this blog are my fellow Christians, I base my arguments on both reason and faith, and do so explicitly and unapologetically.

I would like legislators to be free to do the same. Legislators should be able to frame their positions in any way that speaks to their constituents, even “proof-texting.” It is to their advantage to make their arguments as universal as possible so as to broaden their support, but they should also be free to gain the loyalty of a narrow constituency by speaking to their religious beliefs. Assuming they can get elected by doing so.

However, Congress, while being free to be motivated by their religion and to argue based on their religion, can not be allowed to legislate their religion. The laws they pass must be neutral with respect to religion, even if individual legislators are not.

Even more important, while the Legislative Branch should have the freedom to argue from religion, the Executive and Judicial Branches cannot. Laws can not be interpreted, enforced or executed in any way that implies that there is a favored belief system.

This is why I can overlook religious statements from Tom DeLay, a Representative, but am very alarmed at this statement by Justice Scalia during oral arguments on the Ten Commandments case:

[The Ten Commandments] is a profound religious message, but it’s a profound religious message believed in by the vast majority of the American people, just as belief in monotheism is shared by a vast majority of the American people.

And our traditions show that there is nothing wrong with the government reflecting that. I mean, we’re a tolerant society religiously, but just as the majority has to be tolerant of minority views in matters of religion, it seems to me the minority has to be tolerant of the majority’s ability to express its belief that government comes from God, which is what this is about.

The Bill of Rights is there to protect the rights of the minority, not the rule of the majority. The judiciary is our ultimate defense against encroachment by the Legislative Branch on our religious freedom. Theocracy on the bench, whether it’s Roy Moore or Antonin Scalia, is what should strike fear in our hearts, not religious language on the floor of the House.

Lynn’s statement illustrates why the Democrats are so out of touch with religious voters. Religious faith that does not express itself as moral values is dead. Legislators should not have to pretend otherwise. The idea that legislation can not properly be justified by moral values grounded in religious beliefs is an affront to believers and the religious freedom the separation of church and state is meant to protect.

April 8, 2005

John Paul's Legacy: the Catholic-Lutheran Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 8:22 pm

After this week of mourning the death of Pope John Paul II and remembering his life, I must say I respect the man immensely for his principled and consistent moral stands, even as I disagree with some of them. However, for Lutherans, his greatest legacy was the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification signed by the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation in 1999. As Bishop Mark Hanson of the ELCA said this week upon John Paul’s death:

Pope John Paul II will go down in history for numerous reasons, not least of which was the length of his service in the papal ministry. But his commitment to the ecumenical movement will be remembered by many as the hallmark of his ministry…

In particular, Lutherans will always remember John Paul II as the pope who fostered an unprecedented growth in Lutheran/Roman Catholic relations. Healing the wounds laid bare during the 16th century Reformation took on new meaning as the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification was signed in 1999. We live in new hope that the Spirit of the Living Christ will continue that work and bring about an even stronger relationship between the two church bodies.

The cause of unity was very much at the forefront as Pope John Paul II warmly greeted me at The Vatican in 2003. From his deeply spiritual presence and his profound faith he welcomed me as a brother in Christ and together we shared our prayers that the Body of Christ might soon be one.


April 4, 2005

Urgent Action Needed Again on Budget Resolution

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 5:47 pm

From fellow-Lutheran Faithful Progressive, a post with the tongue-in-cheek title ” Plight of US Poor So Bad that Lutherans Urge Action!” has a serious message:

As a group, Lutherans value God’s grace above almost everything else-though of course there are many different perspectives even within ELCA Lutherans–many feel that doing ‘good works’ is almost a sign of vanity.

This is probably not so surprising given their history…

…[but] the modern Lutheran church has come a long way to learn from many other traditions that faith has a way of shriveling up when it is not watered with the love that moves one to action.

All joking aside, ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson has demonstrated time and time again that modern Lutherans care deeply about the millions of Americans who live in poverty. Bishop Hanson makes me proud to call myself a Lutheran. For example, yesterday FP got this e-mail from the ELCA Advocacy:

Your help is desperately needed again on the FY2006 federal budget.
Large spending cuts will harm millions of children, elderly, and
working adults:
– Too many children will not get the education they need to succeed,
and fewer sick children will be able to see a doctor outside of an
emergency room
– Vulnerable elderly people could lose critical nursing home services
– Promises to our nation’s veterans will be broken
-Take action! Please write your members of Congress immediately and ask
that they adopt a fair and just budget!

Click here to send an email to your Senators and Representative via the ELCA’s Action Alert regarding the 2006 budget.

The Beauty of Spanglish

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 3:55 pm

Via Streak, a post from Sensory Overload alluding to the injustice of capital punishment, an important topic to be sure, but what I love about this post is its authentic spanglish dialogue. As a Southern Californian and a fairly rusty spanish-speaker, I always enjoy listening in to spanglish conversations I overhear. The rapid change from Spanish with a classic rural Mexican accent to English with a perfect Southern California accent is music to my ears. From Sensory Overload:

Me: Hi Papi ~ so, tengo un trabajo nuevo….(I have a new job).

Papi: Ai, mija (subliminal message: Finally, gracias a Dios.) ~~ que nice. Que es? (Yes we really say, “que nice” or “que fancy” or “que bad manners tienes”…ah, but I digress…)

April 2, 2005

ELCA as Ecumenical Bridge Builder

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 11:09 am

Faithforward brought to my attention this item from the ELCA:

The Conference of Bishops of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) advised its church to commit to “interim Eucharistic sharing” with the United Methodist Church, a step that may lead to a full-communion agreement between the two churches sometime in the future.

“What we’re proposing is interim Eucharistic sharing, which allows congregations to come together to share worship, to do joint study and exploration and to get to know each other a lot better. It allows space for people to learn about one another’s traditions,” Bjornberg said in an interview with the ELCA News Service.


UCC as Model of Progressive Christian Advocacy

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 10:16 am

A post from Carlos at Jesus Politics on a Christian Century article reporting the formation of a new movement for moderate-to-liberal Christians:

[Bob] Edgar [general secretary of the National Council of Churches], a United Methodist minister and former congressman, said that every Thursday a telephone conference call takes place involving about 40 progressive religious figures, including Jim Wallis of the Call to Renewal movement, James Forbes of New York’s Riverside Church, Welton Gaddy of the Interfaith Alliance and David Saperstein, a Reform rabbi in Washington, D.C. The discussions, which began around Labor Day, are hosted by the Washington-based Center for American Progress (CAP), founded in 2003 by John Podesta, who was chief of staff at the Clinton White House. The sessions are coordinated by CAP senior fellow Melody Barnes, a former counsel to Senator Edward Kennedy.

Barnes predicted on February 24 that in six months the group will be a free-standing “prophetic faith movement,” according to one participant, Peter Laarman, executive director of the southern California–based Progressive Christians Uniting.


April 1, 2005

Fuller and USC Professors on Evangelicals Today

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 10:47 am

Larry Mantle, the host of a local talk radio show on an NPR station in Southern California, interviewed two professors from Fuller Theological Seminary and another from USC on the general topic of evangelicalism today. The discussion ranged from evangelicals and politics, to Christianity and the media and science and religion. Guests were Eddie Gibbs and Winston Gooden from Fuller Theological Seminary, and Diane Winston from USC’s Annenberg School for Communication.

See here and scroll down to Thursday, March 31, “Evangelicals Today” for a description of the show (this isn’t a permalink, so no guarantees the link won’t go stale.) Or click here for the audio.

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