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by Peterr

A Few Religious Objections to Hobby Lobby, et al.

6:45 am in climate change, Economy, Education, Energy, Environment, Health Care, Judiciary, LGBT, Military, Religion by Peterr

After reading through some of the recaps of the oral arguments at SCOTUS yesterday in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores and Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Sebelius, it appears that some of the justices, and perhaps a majority, are willing to allow private religious objections to trump the laws, regulations, and ordinances enacted by local, state, and federal governments. Just so that no one is surprised later, I thought I’d lay out some of my strongly held religious beliefs now.

I have a strong religious objection to the death penalty, yet for the fifth time in five months, my state of Missouri has spent my tax dollars to carry it out. At the foundation of the Christian church — the Lutheran branch of which I am pleased to serve as a pastor — is the story of the execution of Jesus at the hands of the state and his resurrection three days later, through which God says “No” to the death-dealing forces of the world. My tax dollars are spent at the state and federal level to support exactly this system of vengeance, not justice, which all too often is administered in a way that is irregular at best and occasionally flat out wrong at worst.

I also have a strong religious objection to torture, yet my state and federal government continue to spend millions of tax dollars on that form of torture known as “solitary confinement,” and tens or hundreds or thousands of millions on “enhanced interrogations” and the hiding thereof from the oversight of the courts. Indeed, I have strong religious objections to NOT spending my tax dollars to bring the perpetrators and enablers of torture to justice.

I have strong — very strong — religious objections to the unequal treatment of people before the law, yet the Department of Justice seems bent on spending my tax dollars and the tax dollars of similarly-minded folks by the millions to chase the poor and powerless into prison while giving the wealthy and powerful sternly worded letters and a good talking-to. In the financial fraud around the housing market, homeowners are hounded and unscrupulous mortgage dealers are allowed to roam free. During the recent Lesser Depression, homeowners pushed underwater by the practices of their banks have suffered greatly (“We’re sorry, but your equity has disappeared because the property values have fallen so much because we crashed the economy”), yet the SEC and DOJ use my tax dollars to go to great extremes to settle civil litigation with the the banks in such a toothless fashion that the board of JPMorgan Chase gave Jamie Dimon a 74% raise after guiding them through with only a slap on the corporate wrist. And you don’t want to know how strongly I object on religious grounds to the failure of the DOJ to pursue criminal rather than civil penalties . . .

I have viscerally strong religious objections to sexual abuse, yet the military paid for with my tax dollars continues to turn a blind eye to the climate in the military that leads thousands of those in the ranks to not report the harassment, abuse, and rapes they have suffered at the hands of their colleagues and commanders, and that allows far too many of those against whom reports of abuse were filed to avoid accountability. Similarly, I have strong religious objections to NOT spending my tax dollars to do this on every US military base and port and outpost.

I have extremely strong religious objections using my tax dollars to administer the public law in secret, with secret judicial proceedings, secret decisions, and secret sentences.

I have powerfully strong religious objections to using my tax dollars to carry out executive decisions made on the basis of secret evidence to violate the sovereign territory of other nations in order to remotely execute those with whom they disagree, without allowing the accused an opportunity to know the accusations against them, to state their case, to respond to the allegations, or even to publicly confront their accuser. I especially object when such executions are carried out against an anonymous targets based on undefined notions of “suspicion” and “association.”

I have seriously strong religious objections to using my local, state, and federal taxes to provide a public education to my child and the children of my neighbors that is incomplete (such as abstinence-only sex education), or based on disproven science, pseudo-conflicts, and unproven beliefs. The earth is round, old, and getting warmer by the day because of human activity. There is no serious scientific objection to these concepts, and I strongly object on religious grounds to using my tax dollars to teach otherwise.

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by Peterr

The Few. The Proud. The KGB-Like.

7:49 am in Military by Peterr

The Marines put a lot of stock in their reputation and image. Words like “honor” play a large part in Marine culture, as does the Marine motto “Semper Fi.” The Marines’ recruiting website puts it like this:

Marines are held to the highest standards, ethically and morally. Respect for others is essential. Marines are expected to act responsibly in a manner befitting the title they’ve earned.

That may be the expectation, but the reality — at least insofar as the Marines are responsible for the conditions of Bradley Manning’s detention — is something else.

The conduct of Quantico Brig commander CWO Denise Barnes in particular is not doing much to enhance the image of the Corps, but she’s hardly alone in that. Marines above and below her in the chain of command are at least as responsible for the abuse of the reputation of the Corps as she is.

What kind of Marine treats prisoners with disrespect, and plays petty, degrading, and humiliating games with them?

What kind of Marine overrules expert medical opinion for the care of those under his/her control and command?

What kind of Marine lies about his or her actions and stands in the way of legitimate legal processes?

What kind of Marine detains civilian visitors to the brig for no reason other than to prevent the prisoner from having visits by attempting to intimidate those who try?

What kind of Marine subjects prisoners in custody to conditions that the International Committee of the Red Cross would call a violation of the Geneva Conventions?

What kind of Marine? The kind found up and down the chain of command at the Quantico brig, apparently. If it is a military crime to “bring discredit upon the armed forces,” as Manning is charged with doing, then there are more than a few leathernecks who ought to be facing a military tribunal of their own.

Judge Andrew Napolitano of Fox News summed up the situation like this in January, and things have only gotten worse since then:

Regardless of whatever crime Private Manning may or may not have committed, he’s innocent until proven guilty.  Both Mr. House and Private Manning have constitutional rights.  These KGB-like government tactics are not only obscenely un-American, they are wholly unconstitutional and unlawful.

Barnes is not only not showing respect, but bringing the Corps into disrespect by her punitive approach to a prisoner in her brig awaiting trial. By not putting a stop to this conduct, Barnes’ superiors are joining her in bringing disrespect upon the Corps.

What kind of Marine sits by in silence as the reputation of the Corps is trashed?

They are The Few. The Proud. The KGB-Like.

It wasn’t always like this, you know. I have a feeling that PFC Guy Gabaldon, USMC (Reserve), would not be impressed (emphasis added):

The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Cross to Guy L. Gabaldon (517054), Private First Class, U.S. Marine Corps (Reserve), for extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty while serving with Headquarters and Service Company, Second Marines, SECOND Marine Division, in action against enemy Japanese forces on Saipan and Tinian, Marianas Islands, South Pacific Area, from 15 June to 1 August 1944. Acting as a Japanese Interpreter for the Second Marines, Private First Class Gabaldon displayed extreme courage and initiative in single-handedly capturing enemy civilian and military personnel during the Saipan and Tinian operations. Working alone in front of the lines, he daringly entered enemy caves, pillboxes, buildings, and jungle brush, frequently in the face of hostile fire, and succeeded in not only obtaining vital military information, but in capturing well over one thousand enemy civilians and troops. Through his valiant and distinguished exploits, Private First Class Gabaldon made an important contribution to the successful prosecution of the campaign and, through his efforts, a definite humane treatment of civilian prisoners was assured. His courageous and inspiring devotion to duty throughout reflects the highest credit upon himself and the United States Naval Service.

Approved by the Secretary of the Navy on November 23, 1960

Aren’t there any Marines like PFC Gabaldon around today?

by Peterr

Advice From Obama in Egypt to Obama in DC

1:39 pm in Countries in Conflict, Foreign Policy by Peterr

In June 2009, President Obama delivered a powerful speech in Cairo, addressing the relationship of the US and Islam. Given what’s been happening on the streets of that city during the last week, Obama might want to go back and review his words from that speech. They were quite good, and offer a fair bit of sound advice for the foreign policy mess he finds himself in right now.

From 2009:

I have come here to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world; one based upon mutual interest and mutual respect; and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive, and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles – principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.

I do so recognizing that change cannot happen overnight. No single speech can eradicate years of mistrust, nor can I answer in the time that I have all the complex questions that brought us to this point. But I am convinced that in order to move forward, we must say openly the things we hold in our hearts, and that too often are said only behind closed doors. There must be a sustained effort to listen to each other; to learn from each other; to respect one another; and to seek common ground. As the Holy Koran tells us, “Be conscious of God and speak always the truth.” That is what I will try to do – to speak the truth as best I can, humbled by the task before us, and firm in my belief that the interests we share as human beings are far more powerful than the forces that drive us apart.

My, but that sounds different today.  . . . Read the rest of this entry →