The Aftermath of Hate & Terror

On Sunday morning I walked into work and immediately saw the news: 49 dead; 53 wounded at a mass shooting in Orlando that is being called a domestic terrorist attack. I felt numb and was shocked. For hours, I have sat here wondering what there is to even say.

Some words by Robert F. Kennedy came to mind from a speech he gave the night after Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. “It is not the concern of any one race. The victims of the violence are black and white, rich and poor, young and old, famous and unknown. They are, most important of all, human beings whom other human beings loved and needed. No one – no matter where he lives or what he does – can be certain who will suffer from some senseless act of bloodshed. And yet it goes on and on.” (Full text of RFK’s speech)

Politics will, in the end, find its way into this horrible atrocity. Both sides will back into their proverbial corners and begin spouting their typical talking points. The left will start talking about more gun control and hate crimes. The right will focus on Americans needing easier access to guns to protect themselves and radical Islam. Neither of these are actual solutions and only work to prohibit further discussion. As we have seen many other times, we talk today but do nothing tomorrow.

“Yet we seemingly tolerate a rising level of violence that ignores our common humanity and our claims to civilization alike. We calmly accept newspaper reports of civilian slaughter in far off lands. We glorify killing on movie and television screens and call it entertainment. We make it easy for men of all shades of sanity to acquire weapons and ammunition they desire.” Robert F. Kennedy~

In truth there is no easy solution. I wish I had one to make the pain and suffering go away. But as we move forward, we must allow common sense into the discussion. Our regular talking points have been worn out and have become a burden on making any progress.

In the US we have the constitutional right to bear arms. Common sense says that there must be a solution to gun violence that will uphold our right yet not arm the entire public. I don’t really want to be a part of a society where everyone must be armed all the time in order to protect themselves.

“We must admit the vanity of our false distinctions among men and learn to find our own advancement in the search for the advancement of all. We must admit in ourselves that our own children’s future cannot be built on the misfortunes of others. We must recognize that this short life can neither be ennobled or enriched by hatred or revenge.” Robert F. Kennedy~

Our emotions are running high. They range from disbelief to sadness to anger. And though it is normal and appropriate for these feelings we must not give in to them. If we allow ourselves to follow that path of darkness then we will become no better than the gunman as anger can only lead to more hatred and to more violence.

Today, I choose to be open in my political discourse on guns and our Second Amendment right. I acknowledge that there is not a single solution or an easy one. And I choose to see the light and the good in my fellow man. It was Anne Frank that wrote,”[I]n spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart.”

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The Curious Case of Kim Davis

At the end of June, the Supreme Court ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges that state bans on same-sex marriage violated the 14th Amendment and were thus unconstitutional. This led to same-sex marriage being legal throughout the country.

The majority of places began to make the necessary changes within the coming weeks. There was no more uncertainty where the law stood. But in Rowan County, the elected clerk Kim Davis decided to take a stand and defy the Court’s ruling. Not only has she refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, she has refused to issue any marriage license.

Davis filed a lawsuit in federal court after Kentucky Governor Steven Beshear told clerks throughout the state that they had to comply with the ruling and issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The court ruled that she had to comply with the law. So she filed an appeal to the Supreme Court which also ruled this week that she had to comply with the law to which she is still refusing to do today.

Fairness Campaign Director Chris Hartman at a protest outside the Rowen County Clerk's Office. (c) Chris Hartman

Fairness Campaign Director Chris Hartman at a protest outside the Rowan County Clerk’s Office.
(c) Chris Hartman

This ordeal has opened up the old debate of religious liberty protected under the First Amendment and equal rights for all citizens. Kim Davis has been quoted saying that she was not issuing marriage licenses “under God’s authority.” As an Apostolic Christian, she says that she cannot issue marriage licenses as it goes against her religious beliefs.

Another Kentucky clerk that is standing alongside Kim Davis is Casey Davis who has stated that they haven’t tried to prevent same-sex marriage just exercise their First Amendment rights and that same-sex couples could go to a neighboring county to get their marriage licenses.

From that it would seem, we’d be going from the patchwork of states that either legalized same-sex marriages or banned them to the counties. This would seem to be even more confusing if it came to this. Sadly, what Kim Davis is failing to recognize is that the law is the law. It has been ruled upon and even affirmed now.

Kim Davis has the right to believe what she wishes. However, she is a public servant and should do her job. The key words in that sentence are “public servant.” If she is unable to perform the tasks of her job then she either needs to be fired or resign on her own. She does not have the right to decide which laws she will follow and which she will not.

I’m sure we could all get into a huge discussion about what is actually written in the Bible about same-sex marriage, women’s rights, shellfish, slavery, and many other things but that is not the point of this. Yes, we all have the right to freely believe and practice whatever religion we wish to so long as it does not affect anyone else.

When James Madison originally proposed what would eventually become our First Amendment this is what he had written regarding our Freedom of Religion:

“The civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established, nor shall the full and equal rights of conscience be in any manner, or on any pretext infringed.”

The civil rights of NONE shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship. Same-sex marriage is a civil right. It has been ruled upon and affirmed. The Supreme Court even ruled back as far as Loving v. Virginia (1967) that marriage was a civil right and therefore was protected under the Constitution.

Let’s put this into a difference scenario. How would Ms. Davis feel if someone told her that because she is a woman that she cannot voice her own opinion and was subservient to her husband? The Bible does state this in Ephesians 5:21-30, “Wives, be subject to your husbands as you are to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife just as Christ is the head of the church, the body of which he is the Savior. Just as the church is subject to Christ, so also wives ought to be, in everything, to their husbands.”

I’m sure Ms. Davis would be quite vocal in her objection if someone were to enforce that upon her. Just like with the law, she doesn’t get to pick which parts of her religion she is going to practice and which she will not.

Despite what her religious beliefs or objections may be, the US Constitution is still the supreme law of this country (Article 6, Clause 2) and not the Bible. One may use the Bible for their own personal well-being and for their spirituality but it ends there. If Ms. Davis cannot separate these two things then she has no business being a public servant and should probably find a job at her church.

The New Religious Right to Discriminate

There is an old axiom that history repeats itself. Some may dispute this claim, but it is hard to argue with what a person can witness happening right in front of them. One just has to pay attention and know history to know what the outcome of certain things will be.

After the Reconstruction period ended following the Civil War, southern states (the old Confederacy) began enacting Jim Crow laws. These laws mandated that all public facilities be segregated. They were also used in an attempt to keep African-Americans from voting and even to keep interracial marriage illegal.

School segregation was eventually struck down by the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education (1954). The rest of the Jim Crow laws were overruled by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. However, bans on interracial marriage were not fully struck down until Loving v. Virginia (1967), when the Supreme Court ruled that they violated the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment.

The same arguments that were used against interracial marriage are now being used against same-sex marriage, i.e. it’s against someone’s religious beliefs, it’s a sin in the Bible, etc.

Now, I’m not here to attack anyone’s religious beliefs as even I have my own. But we must remember that we are a secular country and that the U.S. Constitution is the law of our nation and not the Bible. No local, state, or federal law can violate the document, the individual rights that are enshrined within it, or its subsequent amendments.

This includes the Fourteenth Amendment.

Our Founding Fathers were mostly Christians, but we are not a Christian nation. That particular point was emphasized in the Treaty of Tripoli (1796), which states that the U.S. “is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.”

Our Founding Fathers were mostly Christians, but we are not a Christian nation. We were set up to be a secular nation. We have the right to peacefully worship and practice whatever religion we choose to without government interference, but that right does not extend beyond one’s self. We do not have the right to force others to believe the same way we do.

Britain still has an official religion (the Church of England) and France was under the Catholic Church at the time of our independence. Both religion and government intermingled in these and many other European countries. Our Founding Fathers designed our government to discourage this relationship.

Today, we see the ongoing fight between religion and our secular government on the issue of same-sex marriage. In the past two years, bans on same-sex marriage have been struck down from coast to coast in federal court on the same grounds as the Loving decision.

Now, the Supreme Court has taken up the case once again and this time could make an official ruling for the entire country.

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However, though same-sex marriage could soon be legal nationwide, some are finding new ways to treat the LGBT community like second-class citizens.

Instead of being called something like Jim Crow laws, these laws are referred to as “religious freedom laws.” In much the same way that the old Jim Crow laws allowed businesses to legally refuse service to African-Americans, these new laws allow any business or institution the right to refuse service to anyone based on the operator’s religious beliefs.

The purpose of these laws is to “protect” people who work in the service industry from having to provide their services for same-sex weddings if it goes against their religious beliefs.

In February 2014, Republican Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona vetoed SB 1062, which critics argued would have legalized discrimination against the LGBT community. Brewer was pressured to reject the law by several business leaders who believed it would hurt the state’s economy.

More states are now taking up this exact same issue and some are poised to put these policies into law. Indiana Governor Mike Pence, for example, signed the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” on Thursday after it cleared both chambers of the state Legislature.

Some of these laws are written so vaguely that they could extend well beyond just same-sex marriage. The “religious freedom laws” will eventually end up in the courts and will be subsequently overturned via the Fourteenth Amendment.

If someone is a Christian, can he or she refuse service to someone in the Jewish community based solely on a difference of religion? No.

The Bible states that women are inferior to men and that women should obey men. So do Christians have the right to refuse service to a woman if she is not accompanied by a man or has a different opinion than a man? No.

Why? Because in a secular society, though a person may have the right to practice his or her religion freely, they do not have the right to force those beliefs on others. Everyone is supposed to be treated equally under the law.

Again, people have the right to their religious views. No one can force an individual to accept same-sex marriage if it goes against their religious views.

However, that right still does not extend to discriminatory actions against the LGBT community. If a person runs a business that provides a service to weddings and doesn’t want to provide that service to a same-sex wedding, there are a couple of options:

  1. They can find a new job that will take them out of that situation; or
  2. They can grow up and act like a rational adult and do the job they are paid to do.

There are times when we blur the line between religious freedom and secular government. It is imperative that we remember why this line was put in place by our Founding Fathers, and why we’ve amended the Constitution to specify that all citizens are free and equal under the law.

Using religion to discriminate is still discrimination and is still wrong. And as history has proven before, it is also unconstitutional.

Affirmative Action in Modern Society

Recently in the case Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, the United States Supreme Court, by a 6-2 vote, upheld a Michigan ban on Affirmative Action.  The ban stated that universities didn’t have to consider race as a requirement for enrollment.  Michigan isn’t alone with a ban either as states like California, Washington, Oklahoma, New Hampshire among others have done so, as well.

In June 2013, the New York Times ran an article which graphed how minorities have fared in states with affirmative action bans.  The graphs only look at a couple major universities within a few states, but they can manage to tell quite a bit.  Whether with or without a ban, the overall percentage of minorities as freshmen increase and decrease… sometimes, more wildly than others.  But it also shows that percentage of that state’s total minority population and how it differs from the percentage of minority freshman.

California

The charts specifically point out UC Berkeley and UCLA.  The graphs show that 49% of the state’s college-aged residents are Hispanic though only 11% and 17% of freshman are Hispanic at those two schools respectfully.  That is a big gap.  The chart does show that both universities are lower in their percentages after the ban on affirmative action that before, but both were in decline before there was a ban. (as of 2011)

Florida

In Florida, 27% of the state’s college-aged residents are Hispanic.  When it comes to Florida State and the University of Florida, both universities showed that 18% of their freshman were Hispanic.  Not as wide of a gap as California.  And in Florida, the percentage of freshman has increased right along with the state’s college-aged residents in this category.  Sadly, it is the African-American community that has seen a decline at Florida State and a mix of up-and-down years at the University of Florida. (as of 2011)

It’s mostly in Washington state where both Hispanics and African-Americans have seen an increase in the percentage of freshman, with a little variation over some of the years.  So the graphics have the ability to make the cases for or against affirmative action bans in the same manner.  There were increases and decreases before bans were in place as there were afterwards.  And though the charts do show the percentage of a state’s college-aged residents, it fails to identify how many have completed their secondary education in order to advance to college.

According to the Tuscon Sentinel, the University of Arizona, Arizona State University, and Northern Arizona University have all seen steady increases in the percentage of minority undergraduates since 2010 when voters approved of an affirmative action ban.  We cannot assume that the other universities/colleges show the same numbers, and it doesn’t break down the minority numbers and their relation to the total percentage of the population.

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All of the numbers that I have discussed this far have left off something very important… the students that leave those states to attend a university in another state and the students from other states that go to those particular universities.  How is that shown in the numbers that have been discussed?  And should they be used to help show if a university is measuring up in minority enrollment to the state’s total minority population?

Hypothetical

So to bring this concept into some form of scope, let me bring up a hypothetical situation.  Let’s say that a white man and an African-American man both apply to the same university with the exact same credentials (i.e. same GPA, same SAT scores, etc.), and only one can be admitted.  Should the African-American be chosen over the white guy simply based on his race and nothing else?  If that is the case, aren’t we using the same form of discrimination on the white man that we are attempting to exterminate on minorities with Affirmative Action?

Let’s make a slight change.  I will keep the African-American man but change the other to a Hispanic woman.  Does she now qualify over him because she is two minorities (woman and Hispanic)?  Does it come down to how many minority groups a person can be a part of?

In this country, not all secondary education is created equal.  There are good schools and bad ones.  So grades and GPA may not alone indicate which prospective student is more qualified  than another.  A student with a 3.4 GPA and comes from a good school may be more qualified than a student coming from a bad school with a 3.5.

When discussing Affirmative Action, especially when it comes to our universities, it goes beyond any simple talking points that politicians or even the media would have us believe.  It is a very complex issue that is intertwined with our nation’s past.  It was derived from necessity.  But as we move forward from those times, what type of role does it play if any at all?  One must look to the entire picture in order to get an idea of this and not just the rhetoric.

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