"The central doctrine of Christianity, then, is not that God is a bastard. It is, in the words of the late Dominican theologian Herbert McCabe, that if you don’t love you’re dead, and if you do, they’ll kill you."--Terry Eagleton

"It is impossible for me to say in my book one word about all that music has meant in my life. How then can I hope to be understood?--Ludwig Wittgenstein

“The opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice."--Bryan Stevenson

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Knock, knock, knockin' on someone's door....

I want to think about the importance of hospitality to Christian practice; indeed, to Christianity itself.

I did; and then I quit. So I'm going to, again.

Monday, July 06, 2015

Now how I wanted to spend my post holiday time....

Because I've mentioned the allegations against Bill Cosby before, I should mention this now.  CBS Evening News (I think it was them; the wife had the TV on, she's off for a week, she never watches TV and she likes the news; I gave up TV news a long time ago, I don't recognize anybody who isn't Walter Cronkite.  Seriously.) opened breathlessly with new evidence Cosby was a serial rapist.  This is from the AP account at Salon:

Bill Cosby admitted in a 2005 deposition that he obtained Quaaludes with the intent of giving them to young women he wanted to have sex with. He admitted giving the sedative to at least one woman.

The Associated Press went to court to compel the release of the documents, and they were made public Monday. Cosby’s lawyers had objected on the grounds that it would embarrass their client.

The 77-year-old comedian was testifying under oath in a lawsuit filed by a former Temple University employee. He testified he gave her three half-pills of Benadryl.
That's rather poor reporting:  I had to look it up, but Cosby was born in 1937, making him 67 or 68 at the time of the deposition.  He's 77 now.  Anyway, I dunno, maybe Mr. Cosby is as guilty as sin.  Slipping somebody a Quaalude so you can sleep with them sounds pretty damned sad to me.  Actually giving it to someone is very bad behavior.

I have to be a lawyer, though, and say he didn't admit he raped the person he gave the Quaalude.  Or even that he had sex with her.  Or maybe he did, and the AP didn't include that part of the deposition.  Seems unlikely, but without the deposition, how do we know?  (adding:  see note below, apparently AP did exclude that information, which does surprise me.  But whether the sex was consensual or not is not resolved, even in the material quoted by Deadspin.  There isn't necessarily a difference between  offering a woman a Qaalude and offering her a drink, if by either you intend to lower her inhibitions.)

The article also says he gave the plaintiff in the lawsuit the deposition was taken for, 3 half-pills of Benadryl.  Why, is the question?  That's one reason I pointed out the confusion about Mr. Cosby's age.  Did he give her Benadryl because she had a runny nose?  Did he imagine it was a sedative and would maker her more compliant to his libido?  Was the lawyer trying to prove Cosby used a "rape drug," and all Cosby would admit to was Benadryl?  Was there any evidence of other drugs in her system on the night (presumably night) of the alleged assault?

I dunno.

I ask because this is going to be used to "prove" Cosby is a rapist.  See, he said he gave women drugs!  Yeah, he did.  That can be a foul thing.  But he also admitted to giving one woman, who sued him, an antihistamine, which is a "drug."  And I used to watch TV shows where somebody got "slipped a Mickey Finn."  It was tame enough for prime time, and all it proved was somebody wanted somebody else to be unconscious.  It didn't prove they were a serial rapist.

Cosby admits he bought the Quaaludes.  How many times did he use them?  On whom?  To what result?  And this lawsuit he settled, what did the plaintiff prove in that case?  That Benadryl dried up her nose?

This is tawdry and ugly, but so was Bill Clinton getting blow jobs in the Oval Office and leaving his semen on Monica Lewinsky's dress.  Bill Clinton's actions didn't exactly justify the howling wolf-pack that hounded him through his presidency.  I'm not defending Bill Cosby to wonder if we shouldn't accuse him on the strength of being named "Bill."*

It's as much evidence of being a sex fiend and a liar about sex and even a serial rapist as we have so far.

*I'll be fair, Deadspin has more extensive quotes from a deposition that goes over cases already known in the public domain; cases where Cosby paid money to women he had sex with.  Ironically, better information strengthens my case that we don't know that Cosby is a rapist; we only know he used drugs when he had sex with some women.  Might as well say he used alcohol when he had sex,  to get both parties "in the mood."  You can't assume he used drugs to overpower them, you need evidence that he did, and there is no such evidence in the quotes in the Deadspin article.

All Cosby says in the deposition is that he gave some women Quaaludes and he and the women (on separate occasions) had sex.  This was in the '70's, Quaaludes were a popular drug, it may be he gave the drugs surreptitiously, it may be he gave the drugs because the women accepted them.  Frankly, the lawyer here does a poor job of clarifying that point, he/she could be shredded in court trying to use this deposition to impeach the witness (prove courtroom testimony varied from deposition testimony).  Cosby's lawyer could reasonably argue his client meant the sex and the drug usage were consensual.  Yes, it was illegal; so was (still is) smoking pot.  Doesn't mean people don't do that before they have sex.

You, like the Deadspin writer, may not like Cosby's lawyer's interjections; they are very reasonable to me, in a deposition setting.  Same thing would happen in court, but a judge would decide whether the witness had to answer the questions or not.  A lawyer who didn't object would be committing grave errors on behalf of his/her client.

So, again, who knows?  Was Cosby drugging women to rape them?  Or sharing drugs with them during sexual encounters?  One is criminal, the other was, for better or worse, not uncommon in the '70's (probably not today, either; I don't think alcohol improves libido any more than 'ludes did, but still people use it.)  Was Bill Cosby a sleaze who slept with women?  Well, yeah; but that doesn't prove it was all rape.

This is still a matter of prosecution in the court of public opinion and frankly, no one deserves that fate.  And if you're still wondering why this matters, well:  this is why.

Truth matters.  False reporting and bad reporting and misrepresentation is not to be countenanced.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Old times there are best forgotten....

So I heard on the radio yesterday the mention that, in Germany, they put up markers and plaques noting where Jews were killed, or hid, or were housed in ghettos.  The post-Nazi German government and people wish to "never forget," and the public honors go to the victims of the Holocaust, not those who fought and died to defend Nazi Germany.

In America?  Where are the statues to slaves and abolitionists?  Where are the public honors reminding us we have turned our backs on slavery and the horrors it produced for 300 years?  The Third Reich lasted only 12 years, yet Germany is determined to reject all that it stood for, and to honor the victims of that national nightmare.  Slavery in the Americas existed for 300 years, and we put up statutes to the traitors and seditionists who fought that war, claiming they fought for 'state's rights' and the "lost cause" and the "noble traditions" of the South.

Those would be the noble traditions limned in the stories of William Faulkner and Flannery O'Connor.  Or represented in "Django Unchained."  That's the South and the history our statues honor:  the men who thought owning other human beings was an economic necessity and a good worth fighting a war to preserve, worth destroying a nation and a Constitution to maintain.

Those are the people we honor with statues and schools and public parks named for them.  For the slaves, for the abolitionists?  As Charlie Pierce points out, we buried that history as quickly as we could.

The Electoral College controversy would drag on for months, not reaching resolution until almost the eve of the scheduled inauguration on March 5, 1877. To break the deadlock, Congress appointed an Electoral Commission, made up of five Senators, five members of the House of Representatives, and five Supreme Court justices. Congress originally hoped to have seven Republican members of the Commission, seven Democrats, and one independent. As it turned out, however, the actual membership turned out to consist of eight Republicans and seven Democrats. The Commission voted along straight party lines 8 to 7 to accept all of Hayes' electoral votes and reject the Democrat's claims. The night before President Grant's term expired, the Senate announced Hayes had been elected President. The deadlock was broken behind closed doors when Southern Democrats agreed to support Hayes' claim for the Presidency if he would support increased funding for Southern internal improvements and agree to end Reconstruction, thus guaranteeing home rule -- meaning white control -- in the South. Hayes became President and the Southern Democrats could reverse with impunity the gains that blacks had made during Reconstruction.

As Mr. Pierce adds:  "Thus ended the American Civil War. With a victory for the white supremacy that had been crushed on the battlefield."

Look away, look away, look away from Dixie land....stare too long, and you could find it staring back at you.

Following up on the life and times of Ken Paxton, Texas AG

The criminal investigation against Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has taken a more serious turn, with special prosecutors now planning to present a first-degree felony securities fraud case against him to a Collin County grand jury, News 8 has learned.

Special prosecutor Kent Schaffer told News 8 Wednesday afternoon that the Texas Rangers uncovered new evidence during the investigation that led to the securities fraud allegations against the sitting attorney general.

"The Rangers went out to investigate one thing, and they came back with information on something else," Schaffer told News 8. "It's turned into something different than when they started."

Schaffer, a Houston criminal defense attorney, said the securities fraud allegations involve amounts well in excess of $100,000. He declined to comment specifics of the fraud allegations.

A first-degree felony conviction is punishable by up to life in prison.
In May Paxton was fined by the Texas Securities Board for steering clients to a friend's investment firm without registering as an investment advisor (word is both gays and straights can register under Texas law.  In fact, they have to.).  That led to an investigation which finally led to two private attorneys in Houston being appointed as special prosecutors.  They also plan to bring charges for failure to register, a third-degree felony.

I don't know what the standards are for removing a sitting Attorney General.  It's an elected position (we elect almost everyone but the Capitol janitor), so I presume he'd have to be impeached.  Considerable pressure would come down on him, however, if he is indicted.  A sitting AG facing felony charges is just not something you want to see.

I see a resignation in his future.

Onward through the fog

Esquire did its best to find out which of the 254 counties in Texas (I think I said there were 265 the other day; fact-checking is not my forte, and I regret the error.  I'm also not gonna chase it down and correct it) are not issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.  Denton and Hood County have claimed national attention, largely because they are near big population areas (Denton is just north of the Dallas/Ft. Worth "metroplex," with a combined population larger than Houston's, Hood county just to the southwest of Ft. Worth/Tarrant County).

It turns out some 60 counties aren't issuing same-sex marriage licenses, most because they don't have forms suitable to the purpose.

Several conversations with county clerks and assistants also revealed that, while generic same-sex marriage application forms might have been sent to counties across the state (or not, as the case may be), marriage licenses, themselves, still used the gendered language of "Mr." and "Mrs." instead of "Applicant 1" and "Applicant 2."
And there's the ever popular "the computer program needs to be upgraded."   But whatever the excuse, only three counties refused to explain why they weren't issuing licenses; and interestingly, none of the counties have a population above 150,000 (Lubbock, at just under 300,000, is the exception that proves the rule).  Most of the counties, in fact, are under 50,000 in population.  I went to school with more students than that at UT-Austin.  I went to college in Nacogdoches with more students than in many of the smallest rural counties on the list.  The majority of the counties seem to be under 20,000.  This gives rise to a few thoughts.

One:  rural counties tend to be more conservative; not just politically, but in action generally.  They don't embrace social change rapidly, and they don't embrace bureaucratic change rapidly.  Change costs money, and most rural counties in Texas are operating on a shoestring, out of courthouses a century old that probably need to be torn down for all but historical reasons (don't get me started on some of the Texas courthouses that were torn down in the halcyon 50's to make way for modern monstrosities).

Two:  Texas doesn't have any laws banning discrimination against gays and lesbians.  Rural counties can be more forgiving than you might expect (people tend to be people in small towns, not categories like "gay" or "lesbian."  There was a documentary on PBS recently about a mayoral campaign in an East Texas town.  One candidate was gay, and his campaign manager, his nephew, had Down's Syndrome.  Nothing was made of any of this in the campaign.  The gay candidate lost because of conservatism, as in, keep the candidate we know (the incumbent mayor), not the one who promises to revitalize the town (by attracting tourists, which is what many small Texas towns are slowly learning to do).  Then again, they might prefer the "don't ask, don't tell" standard of living.   Same sex marriages in such places might be a bridge too far.  I mentioned my lesbian friend who died of cancer.  The church of her childhood shunned her, even in death, because she lived with (but couldn't marry) her partner.  Shunned her parents, too, lifelong members of the church.  It was ugly, but sadly it didn't surprise me.  That's not the whole story, because that county is one that is now issuing licenses to same-sex couples.  Not sure what the church is going to do with that, but I'm glad I don' have to find out.

You can see what a couple in a county of 1000 or even 20,000 might be up against.  They might not be anxious to marry, because social repercussions could easily become legal repercussions.

That saddens me, but I will note that Rick Scarbrough's home county, Nacogdoches, is issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples.  So there's that.  And the change is gonna happen.  Maybe three counties will have to be forced to issue licenses; maybe not.  If someone is denied a license, that's undoubtedly bad.

But I don't think it will be that bad for that long, and in the end, that's good.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Onward, Christian Soldiers!

Because I wanted an excuse to link to NTodd's piece....

And whatever you can say about the county clerks of Texas, they're none of them as crazy as this:

Time for Public Officials to take their stand one way or the other

Jesus Christ is Lord of all. He came to save the world by His death and resurrection. That world includes you, me, the family, the civil government, all the institutions of life. He came to advance His Father's kingdom, not watch man run rampant upon the earth as if Christ had never come. As if it were the days of Noah!

Public officials are ministers of God assigned the duty of punishing the wicked and protecting the righteous. If the public officials decide to officially approve of the acts of the wicked, they must logically not protect the righteous from the wicked. In fact, they must become protectors of the wicked. You cannot serve two masters; you must pick – God or Satan.

The criminal laws against homosexual sodomy are for the protection of the righteous, particularly the young, the weak, the vulnerable, who need the law to teach them right from wrong when in a vulnerable state. The U.S. Supreme Court, although it claims to have done so in 2003, cannot take something that God calls a crime and declare it not a crime.

We're facing something even worse now, the civil government taking a new step and actually requiring the approval and sanctifying by the state of an evil behavior. Five justices on the U.S. Supreme Court have now opined that the States of this country and all of us must approve of so-called marriages of same sex couples.

Therefore, the civil government must now become a persecuting power; you cannot avoid it. The civil government must protect what it approves of. It must protect the advocates' employment, their business dealings, their lives in every way. Against whom? Against those who think their lifestyle is evil. That's you and me, bible-believing Christians, the Church, etc.

Public official, what will you do? Will you stand up for the law of Alabama, for the people, for the weak and vulnerable, for the law of God? Or will you capitulate? Will you become complicit in the takeover by the wicked?

"I must follow the law," you say. Law? What law? There is no law anymore, there's just opinion. One day this, one day that. When the law becomes merely the opinion of a handful of people on the courts, there is no longer any law. There is tyranny. There is chaos. But there is no law.

The young and the weak, those that are caused to stumble by courts that approve of what is evil, are those whom Jesus referred to when he said, "It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones." Luke 17:2. You don't want to be complicit in allowing such stumbling blocks.

Don't use the Nazi war-crimes trial defense: "My superiors (or the courts) told me to do it." You're not standing for the rule of law when you capitulate to a law that defies God and exposes people to the wicked. You're just a coward making excuses!

Or will your conscience cause you to resign? Why would you leave the people of this State, their children, your children and grandchildren to the wolves, those who would rend the society apart with their denial of what's good and evil?

Your duty is to stand against the ravages of a superior authority that would go beyond its rightful power and force upon the people something evil. That's what the founders of our country did when Parliament exceeded its powers. That's what the Puritans in civil government in the 1600's did when the King exceeded his powers.

On Judgment Day, you won't stand in front of the media, the advocates of "Equality," or even the federal courts; you'll stand before the King of Kings, the Judge and Ruler over the Kings of the Earth, Jesus Christ. His law is not subject to the vote of man, and He, asthe good and loving author of that law, does not exempt any nation from it. The law's author, speaking of Himself as "the stone which the builders rejected," said, "Whosoever shall fall upon that stone shall be broken; but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder." Luke 20:18.

What can you do? You have authority as an elected official. You also are sworn to uphold the U.S. Constitution and Alabama Constitution. Find a way to do so. Don't acquiesce to the takeover (actually the takedown)! Use your authority and every legal angle to oppose the tyrants! If necessary, just say, "No." It is not rebellion for you to say, "Your interpretation of the Constitution is wrong, beyond your authority, and detrimental to this nation." In fact, it's your duty. You're not opposing the rule of law, you're upholding it by saying that.

I had to quote the whole thing to show how batshit crazy it truly is.  This is the work of the director of the legal staff of the Alabama Administration of Courts (hat tip to trex in comments below for putting me on to this), Mr. Wim Johnson.  He sent it to the legal counsel to the Governor of Alabama.

Soteriologically (which is to say, theologically, but specifically with regard to ideas about salvation) it's a quagmire.  You don't even have to get there, though (for some reason that always makes people uncomfortable, especially people who've grown up in Baptist saturated cultures), to note the problems of the 1st Amendment against this "analysis."  Exegetically (the Biblical references), it's a joke.  Historically, it's laughable.  This hits all the marks: Bible-thumping wannabe preacher of hellfire and damnation; Godwin's Law (which, let's face it, has it's applications), and "Just say no to tyranny!", always an American favorite, because "tyranny" always means replacing it with another kind of tyranny.

Anybody want to live under this guy's vision for government?  And, again, for those of us old enough to remember the '60's of the civil rights movement, does this screed sound any different because it's directed against sexual orientation, than it did when it was directed against race?

As for Mr. Johnson's challenge about the questions to be asked on judgment day, the Gospel of Matthew is quite clear on the matter, and the question that will come from Mr. Johnson's lips, be he a good man or one about to be cast into the outer darkness, will be:  "Lord, when did we see you?"

I don't know about Mr. Johnson, but that question always keeps me a bit humble.*

*Probably not a major concern for Mr. Johnson.  Religion Dispatches tells me this comes from "Christian Reconstruction," an arch-Calvinist school of theology.


First, not all the county clerks in Texas are all that thrilled with the Texas AG (who is the state's civil lawyer, not the lawyer for the state's counties); viz:

“We were the first people to be affected and the last ones to be contacted,” wrote Deborah Rushing from Yoakum County. “No one had our back.”

After Attorney General Ken Paxton — the state’s civil lawyer, not a primary legal authority on county matters — advised clerks to defend religious freedom but expect lawsuits, Ellis County Clerk Cindy Polley wrote: “Does it seem to anyone else the AG is putting it back on us?”

“HELP!” Brewster County Clerk Berta Rios Martinez wrote. “I just had my first gay couple come in for a marriage license and I ran them off!! … Did I do right? HELP!!!”

Shelby County Clerk Jennifer Fountain wrote her “vent” after a resident told her that issuing the licenses was “taking Shelby County to the fires of hell”:

“Why didn’t [Abbott] say ‘The state of Texas WILL NOT ISSUE same sex marriage licenses. If you want to sue, sue the State.’ Instead, he hung us all out to dry, threw us under the bus.”

Fountain went on: “I’ve issued marriage licenses to couples that I’ve had in court for beating each other up. I’ve issued to people that have lived together for 20 years. … Did I get ugly phone calls and blasted on [Facebook] for issuing them? No!!”

Lang’s other emails declined interviews and quoted Paxton. When she wrote about “instilling my religious liberty,” Hood County Commissioner Butch Barton wrote telling her to “hang in.”
That last paragraph refers to the now infamous County Clerk of Hood County, who apparently has the backing of her county government.  Of course, so far no same sex couple in Hood County has come to the clerk asking for a marriage license,  so the county doesn't face the costs of a lawsuit, the clerk doesn't face the prospect of a fine.  (As the AG noted in his opinion letter, Texas law levies a $500 fine against any county clerk who refuses to issue a lawful marriage license.  Minors and cousins can't marry in Texas, so there are still some grounds for refusal.)

The way government is set up in Texas, county governments and clerks are elected offices.  I'm not even sure the clerk is subject to the rule of the County Commissioner's Court (local county governing body).  Which is to say, I'm not sure what that grounds are for removing a County Clerk, short of impeachment (which I'm just assuming is the method for removing an elected official before the term of office has expired).  I'm not going to look into the Texas Govt. Code (or Local Govt. Code, whichever) to find out.  But I do know neither the Governor nor the AG has any authority over County clerks, and telling them to violate the law as recently established is telling them to take a long walk off a short pier.

But it's just a suggestion, so that's okay, right?

And I'm really sympathetic with Shelby County Clerk Jennifer Fountain.  I don't think God will refuse the validity of these marriages, but she's right that such matters are up to God. Her concerns about her own job are really quite sensible,  And she makes an excellent point:  as a teetotaller (and so probably a Baptist), she doesn't drink or allow alcohol in her house, yet she's issued TABC licenses for the sale of liquor.  So why can't she issue marriage licenses now?

Why, indeed?

Texas AG Paxton says there is a group of lawyers read to pro bono defend any clerk who gets sued over this issue.  As someone noted on a Texas news radio program this week, that means you crawl out on the limb and saw it off after you, and don't worry, there's probably a private lawyer who will represent you free of cost.  Probably.

Court costs and fines and attorneys fees, if recoverable, will be up to the individual and the county to pay, however.  But hey, the Texas AG says “Texas must speak with one voice against this lawlessness, and act on multiple levels to further protect religious liberties for all Texans.”  This ghost army of pro bono lawyers who will probably volunteer to defend you, have got your back.

Now don't you feel better?  If not, take three paragraphs of this opinion and call the Texas AG in the morning:

Factual situations may arise in which the county clerk seeks to delegate the issuance of same-sex marriage licenses due to a religious objection, but every employee also has a religious objection to participating in same-sex-marriage licensure. In that scenario, were a clerk to issue traditional marriage licenses while refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses, it is conceivable that an applicant for a same-sex marriage license may claim a violation of the constitution.

If instead, a county clerk chooses to issue no marriage licenses at all, it raises at least two questions. First, a clerk opting to issue no licenses at all may find himself or herself in tension with the requirement under state law that a clerk "shall" issue marriage licenses to conforming applications. TEX. FAM. CODE ANN.§ 2.008(a) (West 2006). A court must balance this statutory duty against the clerk's constitutional rights as well as statutory rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Acts. Second, a court must also weigh the constitutional right ofthe applicant to obtain a same-sex marriage license. Such a factually specific inquiry is beyond the scope of what this opinion can answer.

In short, county clerks and their employees retain religious freedoms that may provide for certain accommodations of their religious objections to issuing same-sex marriage licenses--or issuing licenses at all, but the strength of any particular accommodation claim depends upon the facts.
If you are wondering, that is legal weaselspeak for "HellifIknow, but you're probably screwed."  Everything in law does "depend upon the facts."  And a legal opinion that constantly refers to the facts without reaching a conclusion about the law, is a legal opinion that knows the facts are not on its side, which means the law is not going to swoop in and save the political position.

Walter Dellinger says that last sentence of the first paragraph is where "understatement morphs into error."  The Texas AG knows, of course, that the scenario described would be unconstitutional, a clear violation of the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment.  He knows that, but he doesn't want to say it.

So instead, he says:  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.   What the Texas AG told Texas county clerks was:  we don't know, maybe you could make a case, the law is probably against you, we can promise unnamed lawyers might be willing to represent you pro bono, but that won't cover anything except attorney's fees, and whether or not the suit is even worth the fight depends on so many factors we can't even give you an opinion about our opinion.

But all of Texas needs to speak with one voice about this, so:  you go first.

And now it turns out it was all a misunderstanding:

The religious doctrines to which I adhere compel me to personally refrain from issuing same-sex marriage licenses. Nonetheless, in addition to the county clerk offices in the several surrounding counties, as soon as the appropriate forms have been printed and supplied to my office, the County Clerk’s Office of Hood County will have staff available and ready to issue same-sex marriage licenses.

Because some have misreported and misconstrued my prior statements, I want to make clear that the County Clerk’s Office of Hood County will comply with the recent decision of the Supreme Court of the United States.

I am grateful that the First Amendment continues to protect the sincerely held religious beliefs of public servants like me. That has not changed since last Friday. As Justice Kennedy stated, “it must be emphasized that religions, and those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned.”
I really don't think the hold-outs are going to hold out for very long.  It won't be long until Texas does speak with one voice on this issue.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Nattering Nabobs of Negativism

Louie Gohmert is both a Biblical and Constitutional scholar:

“It is a tragic and ominous day for the United States when a decision by five unelected justices of the U.S. Supreme Court blatantly violates the law in order to destroy the foundational building block for society provided by Nature and Nature’s God – that was stated as divine law by Moses and Jesus. Our nation has been blessed with liberty, opportunity, power, and individual prosperity beyond any other nation in history. Both Moses and Jesus stated that it was God’s law that ‘a man will leave his father and mother and a woman will leave her home and the two will come together as one.’ That defined marriage. Jesus even added that the defined marriage that God brought together should not be divided by anyone. The Supreme Court ruling is heartbreaking for the turmoil it will mean for our nation’s future.
I'm not sure, but I think he just said that county clerks shouldn't be forced to issue marriage licenses to people who have been divorced.  Or maybe he wants to repeal Texas' divorce laws.  It's a little vague.  And I'm quite sure the divine law of Moses forbade the eating of cheeseburgers or milk shakes with hamburgers, and certainly no one should be eating shrimp po'boys or shrimp creole or crab cakes.  I'm not sure why those things haven't already meant turmoil for our nation, but then, I'm not the Biblical or Constitutional scholar Rep. Gohmert is.

The U.S. Constitution gives neither Congress nor federal Courts any authority over marriage.

Except in the 14 cases since 1888 to 2003 where the Court has ruled on marriage, that is.  Including this bit from Lawrence v. Texas:

[O]ur laws and tradition afford constitutional protection to personal decisions relating to marriage, procreation, contraception, family relationships, and education. … Persons in a homosexual relationship may seek autonomy for these purposes, just as heterosexual persons do.”

Which apparently wasn't enough to make Jesus weep.

After that, the Congressman's statement just gets weird.....

Who is still speaking?

But, as Dana Scully once asked her priest:  what if nobody is listening?

I get that news coverage prefers conflict to victory.  Bleeds leads, success bores.  But here's the thing: I still come across arguments that Christians should "speak up" against the reactionary, conservative, resistant to change Christians who always get in front of a camera or a microphone.

Yeah, it's the fault of those Christians who aren't reactionary conservatives that their message doesn't get out.

If you've heard of the United Church of Christ, it's probably because you read this blog regularly enough.  Probably had no idea the UCC had a Coalition for LGBT concerns.  Or that the UCC passed a resolution on homosexuals and the law in 1969, and has been a steady advocate for equality for gays and lesbians since that time.  It might be news to go to a UCC congregation that is "open and affirming" and ask how they feel about the Obergefell decision.

But NPR decided to talk to a Baptist church where they are sure to dislike the decision.

I don't know who made that choice.  I like John Burnett, but maybe he thought this was a good editorial choice.  Maybe a producer lined it up and told him to go there with his recorder.  I don't know.  But finding a church that rejoiced in this decision, from a denomination that has supported his change for decades, would have been a chance to open a door on something other than the standard news narrative that all "Christians" oppose gay marriage or any other controversial social issue, and the only Christians who don't are gay pastors and "gay" churches and they are the fringiest of the fringe and, de facto if not de jure (but as much the latter as the former) not "really" Christian.  Because everybody in America knows the "real" Christians agree with Rick Scarborough (either one; the nut in Nacogdoches, or the long since silent "king maker" and former best-selling author) and the American Council of Bishops, and "liberal" Christians are neither real Americans nor Christians.

Besides, interviewing people about how happy they are is only a good story for about 24 hours.  And then we have to go back to hearing from the discontented and the malcontents and the ones who simply don't like whatever just happened.  Unless they happen to be members of a "liberal" denomination, and then we don't ever care what they have to say.

And it's their fault nobody knows what they think or have to say.  Right?

Monday, June 29, 2015

We seem to have lost our signal.....

Elsewhere in Texas, sanity rears its head:

"I have serious concerns about the far-reaching implications of this blanket protection for officials who may chose to ignore the law based on their personal religious beliefs," [Texas state Sen. Rodney] Ellis wrote to [U.S. Attorney General Loretta] Lynch. "Will judges be able to argue that they should not recognize or authorize divorces if it offends their religious sensibilities? Could a judge refuse to send a defendant to the death penalty under his or her belief that 'thou shalt not kill' means just that?"

No word yet on whether or not Sen. Ted Cruz thinks there's any "religious backing" for that.

Stay tuned.....

Mississippi Goshdarn!

So, in Texas (I'm sure this doesn't hold in Mississippi, but for illustrative purposes, let's stick with Texas), my wife and I each have an 1/2 undivided interest in all property acquired during the marriage.  Inherited property is the property of the party inheriting, but any proceeds from that property (like stocks or monetary investments, to keep it simple) are community property.  If one of us dies intestate, the other inherits according to probate laws that regard our marriage as establishing property rights.  If we own a home, the survivor has a life-time possessory interest in the home, despite who gets title under intestacy laws (because 1/2 of the property would go to the children of the marriage).

Note that:  children of the marriage.  Any children I might have who are not children of this marriage (or whom my wife might have, let's not be sexist now) inherit under intestacy laws because of the marriage.  Otherwise intestacy is a fight in probate court for who gets what, whoever you are, which is something the state has no real interest in encouraging.

And what about the children?  So long as they are minors, parents are responsible for the care of the children, and remain so even after divorce.  Death is whole 'nother matter, so let's not go off the deep end, here.  Suffice to say that the law is concerned with children of the marriage; establishing paternity for any other children is, again, a court case.  One other reason for marriage is so the state can hold someone responsible for the kids, in divorce or in death (or, sometimes, just in child protection!) without the need for paternity tests in call cases.

Getting the picture?  Marriage is woven into the laws as tightly and deeply as can be imagined.  Who can be married to whom is one question.  What marriage establishes, under law, is another.

So now, thanks to the Supreme Court, some geniuses in Mississippi want to think the "unthinkable," and just do away with marriage altogether, the better to keep pure Christian hands (well, some; mine are as Christian as anybody's, and you know where I stand on this) away from the unspeakable evil of same-sex marriages.

Just how much social order are these clowns willing to undo in order to defend social order?

Even with no-fault divorce, the court gets engaged in a marriage in order to divide up property (the law abhors the vacuum of not knowing who the owner is, especially in the case of real property or registered property, like cars) and determine who will be responsible for the welfare of the minor children.  These are serious state concerns.  Undo marriage, and suddenly everybody is either common-law married (which means you haven't really removed the state from anything, except that now judges have to recognize same-sex relationships as "marriages" under whatever rules for common-law marriages the state establishes), or nobody is married.

And now who is the father of those children?  The law presumes the husband of the woman giving birth is the father (it's a rebuttable presumption).  But with no marriage?  Now who's the daddy?  And who does all this property belong to?

We accept this state of affairs for the poor because, well, this is America:  we don't care about the poor.  But for the middle class?  Even as it disappears, it has a great deal of political clout in these "family values" issues.

What is it about Mississippi that it always makes Texas look just a little smarter?

Dr. Freud to the white courtesy telephone, puh-leeze

I think we used to call this a "Freudian slip":

"Is there something about the left — and I am going to put the media in this category — that is obsessed with sex?" [Texas Sen. Ted] Cruz responded.
Alito and Roberts were concerned with being called bigots; but their animus to gay marriage was actually fairly clear:  marriage means sex, and gay sex is icky!

Is allowing people to marry somehow condoning their sex lives?  I mean, I know I grew up with that paradigm, and I understand it still prevails in the culture, despite the fact marriage is hardly a gateway to sexual intercourse anymore.  It's more of a entry to presumed monogamy, in practice, than it is to finally "gettin' it on!"

Have any of the discussions of the Supreme Court decision, before or after it was handed down (it was awaited with breathless anticipation) mentioned sex?  Has there been any speculation about how many couples will now have sex inside a legally authorized relationship?  All I recall was the discussion of next of kin, survivor rights, spousal rights; you know, legal stuff about property interests.  On a personal note I knew a lesbian couple who couldn't marry.  Had one of them not died of cancer, I should hope they'd have been at the courthouse getting a marriage license over the weekend.  They had to jump through many hoops to arrange their legal affairs, especially with one partner dying, and even then they couldn't get everything that comes automatically to a married couple.

But the question of sex was not the overriding question of their legal status as two persons who loved each other but could not marry.

So who is it who's obsessed with sex?

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Going on into the night....

Here's the problem with what the Texas Attorney General has announced:

Sec. 2.001. MARRIAGE LICENSE. (a) A man and a woman desiring to enter into a ceremonial marriage must obtain a marriage license from the county clerk of any county of this state.
(b) A license may not be issued for the marriage of persons of the same sex.

But, of course, Paxton recognizes that.  It's the basis of his opinion that county clerks and justices of the peace cannot be forced to carry out their governmental duties under the Court ruling handed down on Friday, because (as the 5th Circuit held in the Texas law closing abortion clinics), residents of one county can just drive to another county; or another J.P., as the case may be.

So what he's actually said is, it's not a substantial burden on someone living in East Texas if they have to drive down to Houston or over to Austin or even Dallas to get a marriage license issued; or to find  J.P. who'll conduct the service.  And if you live in Erath County, or Presidio in the Trans-Pecos region, you can drive to El Paso or Amarillo or. well, Austin or Dallas.

Even if it is more than 500 miles away (Texas is a BIG state).

Because that's what religious freedom is all about; the freedom to tell you to stuff it if you aren't a member of a legally protected class.  You can't do that to blacks and Muslims and Jews because of the  Civil Rights Act.  But gays and lesbians are not a protected class under federal law, nor under Texas law, so discriminate against them freely, even if you are a government official.

And yes, he knows that, too:

The only statutory restriction on their authority is that they are "prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race, religion, or national origin against an applicant who is otherwise competent to be married." Id.§ 2.205(a) (West 2006).

The citation is to the Texas Family Code, which is following the Civil Rights Act in that language. The Family Code is silent on whether state employees must conduct a wedding ceremony.  But then, the Code lists all the non-government employees in Texas who are authorized to conduct a wedding ceremony, and not being government employees, the others listed can't be compelled by the government to provide a service the government also provides, and which is part of the duties of certain government employees.

We'll continue to protect your right to be a bigot in Texas, especially if you work for the state.

Told ya this was gonna get ugly.

Interestingly, the only case law the AG can summon for his opinion is Federal trial court opinions (none from Texas) and one opinion from a state court in Vermont (take that, Bernie Sanders!).  Which means, legally, he's really got nothin' except the backing of the neanderthals in Texas politics, and a real hatred of gay and lesbian couples.  I wish I were more surprised, so I could be more disgusted.  We are strangling our school districts and just waiting for the next decision on school finance by the Texas Supreme Court (which has ruled on the misbegotten mess that is school financing in Texas before), and when that decision comes the State will once again find ways to not fund Texas schools in a manner befitting the 21st century in any country not named "Somalia."

But Ken Paxton assures the county clerks of Texas that lawyers will be provided for those counties that get sued because they followed this AG's opinion which is tissue thin on legal grounds and endorses with no basis in law or sense pointless bigotry against other persons.

What harm is done to a county clerk issuing marriage licenses to strangers neither the clerk nor any of the offices's employees is likely to see ever again, is not explained.  But it must be fierce to provoke such a baseless and futile argument for bigotry disguised as a legal opinion.  Then again, isn't that what Justices Alito and Roberts feared?

Sunday Afternoon goin' down....

I promise to stop soon; but Mike Huckabee was on the TeeVee Machine while I was in the kitchen canning up peaches (salsa, chutney, brandied, and the rest will be just canned), so I didn't hear him say this:

"I don't think a lot of pastors and Christian schools are going to have a choice" but to resist, Huckabee said on ABC's "This Week." "They either are going to follow God, their conscience and what they truly believe is what the scripture teaches them, or they will follow civil law."
A:  as a Christian pastor, I don't have to conduct any wedding I don't want to.  I've known many a pastor all but brag about threatening not to officiate at a wedding if the couple didn't accede to his pre-marital counseling; never knew one who actually went through on the threat.

Most churches don't like the reputation of turning away weddings.  Gay weddings might be a different matter, though; for awhile, at least.  But no couple is going to sue the pastor to make him stand up and lead the vows.  There is, quite literally, a 13th Amendment to consider here.  You can't force someone to work for you, be that person a pastor for a wedding, or an employee for your business.*

B:  I guess those of us who think we've been following God and our conscience and what we truly believe scripture teaches us on this subject since at least 1969 are not Christians?  Or pastors?  Because the UCC has authorized a same-sex wedding since I can remember, and yet we followed civil law and never considered the service in our Book of Worship a wedding with all the privileges attendant thereunto (legal beagle talk, very posh!).  Well, until Friday, anyway.

Get over yourself Mr. Huckabee.  Nobody is going to make a martyr out of you over this issue.  In fact, you're a Baptist, you don't believe in the sanctity of the saints or the blessedness of the martyrs.

*Please note this is to be distinguished from opening your business to all comers, and then deciding certain customers are not worthy of your expertise and abilities.  Pastors can refuse to wed couples because pastors do not offer their custom to all and sundry on the sidewalk.  Bakeries and florists, on the other hand, do, and should no more be able to refuse a same-sex couple than they would refuse Jews, blacks, Asians, Catholics, Muslims, Sikhs....

You get the idea.

Up too early on Sunday Morning....

The more I read about the Supreme Court's decision, the more I realize the talking points are coming from the four dissenters.

For example:

Underlying all of this seemed to be an anxiety, one expressed in Justice Alito’s dissent, that the decision would get anyone who didn’t agree with it labeled a bigot. “Forty percent of Americans still oppose it. We need to treat those people with respect and not just fall into liberal groupthink that they’re all just bigots,” Kurtz said. “If someone doesn’t wholeheartedly agree, they are going to be called bigots, or that they’re anti-constitution,” Lee said.

And this:

It was no surprise that the Supreme Court held Friday that there is a constitutional right to same-sex marriage. It is very difficult to distinguish the case from Loving v. Virginia, which in 1967 invalidated state laws forbidding miscegenation. There was, as an economist would say, a “demand” (though rather limited) for biracial marriage, and it was difficult, to say the least, to comprehend why such marriages should be prohibited. In fact the only “ground” for the prohibition was bigotry. The same is true with respect to same-sex marriage. No more than biracial marriage does gay marriage harm people who don’t have or want to have such a marriage. The prohibition of same-sex marriage harms a nontrivial number of American citizens because other Americans disapprove of it though unaffected by it.

I have to demur that more than ever I'm surprised when this Court feels itself bound by precedent, although I am also gratified.  Still, I agree; the case before the Court was virtually indistinguishable from Loving.  Unless the Court was going to repudiate that decision (which the dissents do, at least sotto voce), what other outcome was possible?  And perhaps this is why Justice Alito is so concerned with the effects of bigotry.  Because the guilty dog barks loudest.  Because they can't really justify their feelings (which is all they seem to muster) against same-sex marriage, and they know it.  And i tis their feelings, their delicate sensitivity to personal criticism, that seems to matter most to the dissents.

I wondered why Ken Paxton and Greg Abbott had their Hobby Lobby talking points down so quickly on Friday.  Obviously it's because they had staff reading the dissents and picking up the clues, stale and tasteless as those bread crumbs are, leading down a trail to a dead end.  Maybe I should read these dissents for more information.

Or maybe I should just ignore them.  I think they've lowered the quality of Supreme Court opinions to  a new basement.  Better if someone just takes their shovels away; that hole's deep enough.*

*Because I have to say, to me, this is damning with faint praise:

“The two best opinions Roberts has written on the court are his opinion in the Obamacare and gay marriage cases,” said Walter Dellinger, who served as acting solicitor general in the Clinton administration. “While I don’t agree with his bottom line in the same-sex marriage case, he wrote the most respectful and best-reasoned argument for allowing the democratic process to run its course. None of the advocates defending bans on same-sex marriage at the court came close to articulating as good an argument as Chief Justice Roberts.”