ACLU Strikes Again

There’s still 156 shopping days until Christmas, but that’s not stopping our friends at the ACLU from beginning its yearly clampdown on freedom of religious expression. Latest target: City of Plantation, FL. The absurdity of all this is clearly described in the Sun-Sentinel article:

Joseph, Mary and the Baby Jesus have no business posing in a public park — even if they’re accompanied by a Hanukkah menorah.

“Inappropriate” is the word the Broward chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union uses to describe the holiday display planned for Liberty Tree Park.

The ACLU, in a letter to city officials, warned that displaying a Nativity scene and menorah violates the separation of church and state. The problem, the rights group said, is that the city is advocating for two religions while ignoring all the others.

“We feel it’s a violation of the First Amendment and an endorsement of religion,” said the ACLU’s Barry Butin. “If they were really neutral and didn’t favor one over the other, they’d have a more inclusive display: Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist.”

The ACLU has already warned Plantation — twice — against setting up religious displays. It was acting on a complaint from an unidentified board member who doesn’t live in Plantation but photographed the creche and menorah one Christmastime.

“We trust that the city will uphold religious freedom and refrain from any further displays on city property,” Broward chapter president Brad Koogler wrote last month.

The group’s original letter, in March, was met with a terse two-sentence reply. Mayor Diane Veltri Bendekovic simply said the city would “take it under advisement.”

In deciding to display both Christian and Jewish symbols, Plantation relied on a 1984 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that said cities can exhibit religious elements if they don’t endorse one faith over another.

However, Butin said, “That doesn’t mean we can’t advocate for a change.”

Of course, Mr. Butin. You can advocate for whatever you want. Just don’t trample on our rights, OK?

Rabbi Sheldon Harr of Temple Kol Ami Emanu-El in Plantation said the city should just spare itself the trouble by staying out of the religious display business altogether.

“Why create the havoc?” he said. “Why create the division within the community?”

Unfortunately, when religious leaders such as Rabbi Marr are too chicken to stand up against this violation of our rights, half to three-quarters of the battle is lost.

Spirited debate is expected during public comment sessions at budget hearings set for 5 p.m. Aug. 25 and 7:30 p.m. Sept. 14 and Sept. 21.

Anyone reading this from Plantation who believes in our right to free religious expression…please show up at the meetings and make your voice heard!

Archbishop Meurice: RIP

Archbishop Emeritus Pedro Meurice Estiu of Santiago de Cuba died yesterday in Miami of kidney failure at the age of 79. Archbishop Meurice was best known for his brave and solid stance against the Castro regime, which came to light for most of us during Pope John Paul II’s visit to Cuba in 1998. Unlike some of his contemporaries in Cuba, namely Cardinal Jaime Ortega, his example of standing up for true Catholic Christian values is one that all of us – Catholic or otherwise – should look to as the example and standard.

Babalú Blog has more on Abp Meurice’s passing.

Archbishop Meurice: RIP and pray for us and for a free Cuba.

Col. West: Was that REALLY Necessary?

The Sun-Sentinel and other media outlets are covering the scathing and personal response by Rep. Allen West to Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz’s comments on the House  floor yesterday afternoon regarding budget bill HR 2560. The Sun-Sentinel story linked at the beginning of the post lays out the gory details so I won’t copy and paste them here.

Suffice it for me to say that Rep. West’s calling of Rep. Wasserman-Schultz as “vile”, “despicable” and “not a lady”, at least in the context of what was said on the House floor, was totally inappropriate and unprofessional. I know there’s no love lost between the two Broward congressional reps (which is understandable and not exactly unusual in politics) and that in itself is no big deal. But Rep. West, as much as I like him and agree with him on most issues, stepped over the line of common decency with the words he chose. Unfortunately, the end result is that attention focuses on what West called Wasserman-Schultz, not the latter’s mis-categorizations about an important bill and issue.

Too bad, because we need truth and facts to be presented, not overheated rhetoric and personal attacks. Like I said, I don’t expect or even desire that they like each other. That’s not the point. But there HAS to be a better way to communicate displeasure, because yesterday’s response by Rep. West makes him look thin-skinned and weak. Too bad.

Casey Anthony Trial Thoughts – Revisited

Re-reading my post yesterday on the Casey Anthony trial, then reading Carlos Espinosa’s post, it made me think of something that crossed my mind after the verdict, but failed to mention in my post due to my dismay in the wake of the jury’s decision.

From Living the Faith on a High Wire:

While the pundits continue to argue about why the twelve member jury ruled as it did, after all is said and done, we can only certainly know that a beautiful little girl, who loved her mother dearly, is dead, her killer will probably never serve time for the murder, and a family, regardless of how dysfunctional they may or may not be, and community, who embraced Caylee as their own, are scarred forever.

Having that said, I am not the judge and whether I still think she is guilty of her daughter’s death in some way is irrelevant.  There should be plenty of time for repentance.  May God have mercy on Caylee, Casey and all involved

Compare that to what I wrote yesterday:

In the end, justice…at least the one that matters, was not served yesterday in Orlando, Florida. We still don’t know how little Caylee Anthony died. No matter how she died, someone is hiding the truth and that person (or those people) is (are) free today to continue to live their lives as in the past. No accountability, no responsibility.

Needless to say, Carlos’ thoughts on the future of the Anthony family are much more rooted in Christian compassion and hope than my dark and skeptical view. Too bad for me, because as hard as it is sometimes, we have to hold out hope for ourselves as well as others.

Thank you, Carlos for sharing your thoughts with us and for leaving the door open for reconciliation and hope.

Ultimate Justice has not been Served

I admit I didn’t follow the Casey Anthony trial day-to-day. Like most people, I knew the basics of the horrible death of Caylee and the subsequent convictions, accusations, lies, cover-ups, etc. My first reaction to the stunning verdict yesterday was one of disbelief and disagreement. How could a lying, grossly neglectful mother get off virtually free and clear from this?

As I read and listened to pundits give their opinions throughout the evening and this morning, I have come to the acceptance (if not total approval) that the jury probably did the best they could under the circumstances and evidence they were given. Their heads must have been spinning at all the outlandish testimony and outright lies thrown out by Jose Baez’s witnesses (a genius defense-lawyer strategy in a murky case such as this one). In the end, perhaps we ought to agree with this analysis that the jury made the right call.

The evidence presented by the prosecution shed little light on a cause or motive. However, as Marcia Clark points out in a compelling piece, the accidental drowning scenario painted by the defense imploded from within. Logic dictates that any responsible adult would do everything possible to save a child’s life from a drowning incident. No frantic 9-1-1 call…but lots of duct tape. As Clark indicates, not even a manslaughter conviction based on pure and gross negligence. To me, that’s just as shocking, if not more, than the not-guilty of murder verdict. Circumstantial evidence may not have been enough for a full murder conviction or even manslaughter, but anyone that has served in a jury (as I have) can tell you that the vast majority of evidence in a trial is circumstantial. A + B = C. Reasonable doubt must be able to clearly prove that A + B does NOT = C.

In the end, justice…at least the one that matters, was not served yesterday in Orlando, Florida. We still don’t know how little Caylee Anthony died. No matter how she died, someone is hiding the truth and that person (or those people) is (are) free today to continue to live their lives as in the past. No accountability, no responsibility. That’s what really hurts. I still trust our judicial system, and I (as so many others) desire that some day the truth about this case finally come to light. I think it will. We just have to be patient.

You Can’t Spell U-S-A Without G-O-D

The recessional hymn at the Mass I attended yesterday was America the Beautiful. While part of the Catholic hymnal, the patriotic nature of the song makes it a unique but appropriate selection in commemoration and celebration of Independence Day. I’ve heard and sung this or God Bless America at other Masses in past years, but hearing America the Beautiful yesterday turned on a light in my head, one that I hope also illuminated inside my fellow parishioners.

America! America!
God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

Hearing that familiar and beautiful refrain for the umpteenth time, its real significance finally hit me. Like that other traditional American song, God Bless America, the refrain of America the Beautiful recognizes the essential nature of God’s omnipotence and grace in the beginning, present and future of this country. It doesn’t matter (except perhaps to progressives and post-religionists), that the lyrics were written in 1895. It’s words and meaning ring true today, as do the words at the beginning of our Declaration of Independence:

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…

God’s grace has endowed us with rights – gifts – that we are to cherish and protect. Among these include the right to NOT believe in God, His divine providence or His granting of our unalienable rights. This, IMO, is the beauty of the Declaration as well as that of the Christian faith (which the majority of the Founding Fathers practiced): Freedom to believe – or not to believe – and the tolerance, patience and humility to accept God’s will and love for everyone. Unfortunately, we hear and see too many examples of those in the United States who twist the meaning of our freedoms to imply that God and religion need to be removed from society and the fabric of our country in order to establish “equality” and “fairness”.  Even those Founding Fathers who did not believe in traditional Christianity (Deists such as Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin) understood and defended the basic and essential truth of our Creator-endowed rights as well as the moral good of religious practice – especially public religious practice.

God, whether in the minds and hearts of Christians, Jews, Muslims or otherwise, cannot be removed from the fabric of this country. To do so would be to disavow of the fundamental principle by which the United States of America was created – Freedom.

Have a wonderful Independence Day and may God Bless America!

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