“Suffer the Children” – The Willful Ignorance of the North Carolina Senate

suffer

Matthew 19:14 in the King James Version of the Bible states,

“But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”

It is a verse that combines two very specific words: “suffer” and “children.”

The KJV was produced over 400 years ago under the direction of the monarch who followed Elizabeth I to the throne of England, a woman who ushered a golden age for her country and launched its exploration into the new world patronizing the likes of Sir Walter Raleigh for whom our state named its capital.

Interestingly enough, the word “suffer” in that context means “permit.” Jesus was instructing his disciples to allow the children to come unto him.

In the Raleigh, North Carolina of today the words “suffer” and “children” have been often combined.

Except, “suffer” means something totally different and something totally non Christ-like.

In this modern context, “suffer” means to subject to something bad or painful. And what has been revealed this week in the North Carolina Senate’s budget proposal certainly is adding suffering to many children.

This is the same governing body that refused to expand Medicaid to many low-income families that have children thus negating their access to preventative healthcare.

And while bragging about a state surplus in revenue while “serving” a population where over %20 of the children lives in poverty, the NC Senate proposed the following according to NC Policy Watch’s Brian Kennedy:

As we wrote about last week, the Senate budget seeks to permanently prevent North Carolina from providing food assistance to low-income families with children through a process known as broad-based categorical eligibility (CAT EL).

A special data request to the Department of Health and Human Services finds that eliminating CAT EL would strip food assistance from more than 133,000 low-income North Carolinians, 51,345 of whom are children who will also no longer receive free or reduced cost school lunched.

Thirty-six percent of the households that will lose food assistance have children, 28 percent support elders, and 23 percent are households with disabled persons.

What is most egregious about this provision is that SNAP is completely federally funded. The elimination of CAT El would result in ZERO cost savings to the state (http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2017/05/15/nc-senate-budget-strips-food-assistance-children-families/#sthash.5GQaO9W7.dpuf).

It should also be noted that the same senate budget proposal also LOWERS North Carolina’s ranking in per pupil expenditure from 42nd last year to 43rd this year according to figures reported by WRAL (http://www.wral.com/nc-ranks-35th-in-nation-for-teacher-pay-ranked-41st-last-year/16693105/).

And add to that, there was this as reported by thinkprogress.org’s Lindsay Gibbs:

At 3:07 a.m. on Friday morning, North Carolina Senate GOP leaders rushed through a budget amendment that stripped education funding for teaching assistants and STEM programs in districts led by Democrats, cut funding to provide fresh produce to food deserts, reallocated money that was supposed to go to an arts museum and a downtown revitalization project, and eliminated a position that works to secure federal aid for disaster relief.

It appears the amendment wasn’t passed to achieve specific policy goals though, but rather as an act of political retribution after a prolonged and contentious budget negotiation in the state’s senate (https://thinkprogress.org/north-carolina-senate-gop-targets-children-who-live-in-democratic-districts-37e03adae03d).

So there are actions that affect the health of children. And there are actions that affect the food sources for children. And there are actions that affect the education for children.

That’s a lot of suffering and children, but not the kind of “suffering” Christ seemed to be talking about.

Ironic that many of those same state senators profess Christ as their savior and moral compass.

But professing Christ and acting like Christ can be two completely different things.

 

Truth Will Out – The Reality of Fake News and The Need To Support Public Schools

“Political language… is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind. “
– George Orwell

“…, and the truth will set you free.”
– Jesus, John 8:32

“This above all: to thine own self be true.”
– Polonius, Hamlet, I, iii

In a society that craves logical fallacies, utilizes half-truths and white lies, and endorses double-speak and propaganda, it is easy to see how those who do not have the time and energy to actually investigate every claim that appears in their sensory range to fall prey to what they may perceive.

There is a need to check sources, but when so many claims are being thrown around, it is hard to put in the effort to validate them all.

If people do not possess enough natural filters to mesh ludicrous falsities from facts, then they can become victim to being hoodwinked, duped, deceived, misled, cheated, and deluded among other things. And if people repeat something that is incorrect enough times, then it can become belief making speculation become gospel.

Check out this video.

http://www.cnn.com/videos/politics/2016/12/01/cnn-anchor-stunned-trump-supporter-newday.cnn

Sorry. There is no substance to these people’s claims. But they live as those claims are truth and they based their decisions on them.

In America, we have many rights. We have the right to life, liberty, and happiness. We have the right to bear arms, vote, and gather.

We also have the right to be wrong.

But I think we also have the obligation to be diligent in looking for the truth. That means one does not need to automatically believe that what every snake oil salesman says is truth. And it reinforces the fact that we so need a strong public education system that not only prepares students with a knowledge/skill set, but allows them to be prepared to have those filters in place that allows them to sift the lies from something that may actually have validity.

Strong public education helps to curb society’s appetite for bullshit, and we certainly have had a smorgasbord of that very bullshit with the Fake news that has become a rather hot topic of late because of its role in the recent presidential election.

A November 24th report by Craig Timberg in the Washington Post, “Russian propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news’ during election, experts say,” highlights how easy it seemed to be to allow falsities to become digested by an eager audience that did not have its filters in place.

“The flood of “fake news” this election season got support from a sophisticated Russian propaganda campaign that created and spread misleading articles online with the goal of punishing Democrat Hillary Clinton, helping Republican Donald Trump and undermining faith in American democracy, say independent researchers who tracked the operation.

Russia’s increasingly sophisticated propaganda machinery — including thousands of botnets, teams of paid human “trolls,” and networks of Web sites and social-media accounts — echoed and amplified right-wing sites across the Internet as they portrayed Clinton as a criminal hiding potentially fatal health problems and preparing to hand control of the nation to a shadowy cabal of global financiers. The effort also sought to heighten the appearance of international tensions and promote fear of looming hostilities with nuclear-armed Russia.

Two teams of independent researchers found that the Russians exploited American-made technology platforms to attack U.S. democracy at a particularly vulnerable moment, as an insurgent candidate harnessed a wide range of grievances to claim the White House. The sophistication of the Russian tactics may complicate efforts by Facebook and Google to crack down on “fake news,” as they have vowed to do after widespread complaints about the problem” (https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/russian-propaganda-effort-helped-spread-fake-news-during-election-experts-say/2016/11/24/793903b6-8a40-4ca9-b712-716af66098fe_story.html?hpid=hp_hp-top-table-main_propaganda-8pm%3Ahomepage%2Fstory)

Wow! And I am sharing this blog post on Facebook. And just this morning, there was this on CNN.com.

http://www.cnn.com/2016/12/02/politics/russia-fake-news-reality/index.html

Sure, you could claim that this is just “main-stream” media trying to douse the celebratory fires of Trump’s presidential victory, but where is the burden of proof?

If experts in a field are saying that something is happening, I am more apt to believe them because of their expertise. It’s a filter, so to speak. If 95+% of climate scientists say that global warming is happening, then I just might take their word for it. It’s just like what Tommy said in the iconic movie Tommy Boy: “You can stick your head up the bull’s ass yourself, but I’ll take the butcher’s word for it.” Therefore, if experts are saying that the use of fake news was prevalent in the 2016 election and had an effect on it, then I am apt to believe it.

tommyboy

The fact that fake news is a reality and actually dictates what many call the truth in and of itself is a strong indication that we need strong public schools Nothing screams more loudly for the need to have strong support for our public schools so that truth can be more easily obtained, more easily sensed, and more valued.

With the rise of technology, the sprawl of social media, and the exponential growth of knowledge, those in power have relegated our public schools into industrialized test-taking factories that simply measure how well students take tests. It has made critical thinking a national deficit. Nothing allows for the breeding of fake news more than that.

There’s nothing fake about the need for strong public schools.

And if you ever read Hamlet, you will realize that Polonius is an ass.

 

What Would Jesus Wear? Apparently White After Labor Day

 

Satan is at it again according to Kami Meuller.

He’s voting.

And tempting people in long early voting lines to vote for candidates who may overturn years of regression in the form of Voter ID laws, gerrymandered districts, and LGBT discrimination.

And Satan is wearing a pantsuit.

Probably white. In fact, all people who wear white are satanic, right Kami?

Check out the story on NC Policy Watch’s blog – NC GOP worried about long lines, pantsuits, and Satan. It talks of Kami Meuller, she of the “political peacocking” fame.

The posting itself starts with,”

The folks at the N.C. Republican Party sent out a few interesting tweets this week, one of them from Communications Director Kami Mueller who was apparently worried about the long lines at some early voting sites on Thursday, the first day of early voting. She gave people a number to call for voting assistance.

Thank goodness the NCGOP is helping us with the very process that they tried to discourage.

In fact, I am very grateful that they believe that people who are going to vote are probably going to make their decision while in line because they are undecided anyways. No wonder they don’t want Satan influencing early voting participants.

Actually, I am being facetious. And the word “facetious” uses all of the vowels in order. Wait, make it an adverb and you get “facetiously.” Wow, now you really have all of the vowels! Try that at your next party or Jeopardy game.

NC Policy Watch also included a Tweet from Ms. Meuller that ranks about as logical and sound as the ones she sent out after the NCAA pulled its championships games from NC in response to HB2.

kami

Forget the talk of Clinton’s wanting to kill babies and being bought. It’s the fashion critique that makes me want to judge Clinton.

But as I was pondering about voting early, I thought “What Would Jesus Wear?” And I got this.

He’s wearing white!

And after Labor Day!

Maybe God is trying to get his vote in early as well.

Billy Pilgrim and the Sermon on the Mount – The Differences Between the Beatitudes and the Me-atitudes.

I miss Kurt Vonnegut.

Lived through the Great Depression. Fought in WWII. A POW and a social critic.

Truly a leading voice for the twentieth century. Fifty years of writing – 14 novels, 3 short story collections, 5 plays, and 5 works of nonfiction. Slaughterhouse Five is a must read for anyone (and on my suggested list of works for my daughter to read) and “Harrison Bergeron” was a staple of mine in freshmen English classes.

And probably the best cameo performance ever in Rodney Dangerfield’s Back to School.

He also was one of the most recognizable authors to ever walk the earth, sporting a mustache about as well as Mark Twain and Magnum P.I.

vonnegut.jpg

He also has a quote about religion and politics that a recent post by my Auntie Sherry reminded me of. It reads,

“For some reason, the most vocal Christians among us never mention the Beatitudes (Matthew 5). But, often with tears in their eyes, they demand that the Ten Commandments be posted in public buildings. And of course, that’s Moses, not Jesus. I haven’t heard one of them demand that the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, be posted anywhere. “Blessed are the merciful” in a courtroom? “Blessed are the peacemakers” in the Pentagon? Give me a break!”

There’s a lot of truth to that in this political climate, especially here in this election year. For me it is more applicable to the elections in North Carolina.

I am not a Biblical Scholar. After being christened in the Roman Catholic Church, I grew up in the Southern Baptist tradition where services ended right at noon and softball season brought about a higher attendance in church for eligibility. I do not attend a regular church now, and I do consider religion and spirituality as being separate. My study of his words and deeds do not lead me to believe that he would endorse many of the people in office today who claim to follow his teachings. And I am very adamant that Jesus not be used as a political endorsement.

I do look to the teachings of Christ for guidance and inspiration, and the Sermon on the Mount where the Beatitudes are found are very dear to me.

They are as follows from Matthew 5: 3-10.

  • Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
  • Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.
  • Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.
  • Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.
  • Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
  • Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God.
  • Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
  • Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Many believe that the word “blessed” here means “happy” and that serves well for me. I am not a Greek or Hebrew scholar, but I will trust what linguistic experts say here.

Terms like “poor in spirit”, “mourn”, “the meek”, “hunger and thirst for righteousness”, “merciful”, “clean of heart”, “peacemakers”, and “persecuted” are not simply literal references. It seems to me that what Jesus was saying was that he was going to help those (and charge his followers to do the same) who had lost faith, who suffer any form of sorrow, who put others needs ahead of theirs, who show mercy to others, who strive not to be polluted by the world, who seek peace rather than confusion, and who do right even when others disagree to find happiness.

And if we are going to follow Christ’s example, then we should as well.

I wrote a post last April after the Network for Public Education convention on Raleigh entitled “Legivangelists and Others Who Praise the Lard.” In June I wrote a post entitled “Politics and the God Complex- Putting Jesus on the Ticket.” I believe that I had Vonnegut’s words streaming in my mind when I wrote them. And both pieces deal with the use of Jesus and God as validation for what has been enacted here in North Carolina under the present leadership.

If anyone on West Jones Street can convince me that suppressing the vote through a racially motivated Voter ID bill, discriminating against the LGBTQ community, cutting unemployment benefits for many who were still reeling from the great recession, denying the expansion of healthcare through Medicaid, and allowing for people to drink polluted water, drawing election districts to deny people’s democratic voices, and allowing for over 20% of our kids to live in poverty fits in with the Beatitudes, then I will gladly withdraw this post.

It seems that in those instances it was more about the “Me”atitudes rather than the Beatitudes.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “It is appalling that the most segregated hour of Christian America is eleven o’clock on Sunday morning.”

Is that still true? I am not asking it as a rhetorical question.

If I had a picture of every lawmaker in Raleigh who championed, sponsored, and voted for the aforementioned pieces of legislature, I think I might have the most homogenous looking group of lawmakers I have seen in a while.

I wonder what Billy Pilgrim would have said about that. Actually, I think I do.

RIP Kurt Vonnegut. Rather, please keep talking to us.

Open Letter to Tami Fitzgerald, Executive Director of NC Values Coalition, Concerning HB2

Dear Ms. Fitzgerald,

I read with great interest your remarks conveyed in an interview outside of a Winston-Salem courtroom concerning a recent federal hearing of the HB2 bill.

I read with greater concern that your ability to speak on platitudes is only surpassed by the circular reasoning you seek to influence others to continue to discriminate.

The recent article by Triad City Beat (https://triad-city-beat.com/2016/08/tami-fitzgerald-trans-people-use-bathroom/) features an impromptu interview with you concerning your views on HB2. What was most interesting was your exchange with Lily Carollo, a J-School student at UNC-CH.

Here is what Triad City Beat posted about that encounter.

Several reporters drifted over to get Fitzgerald’s take on the legal debate, including Lily Carollo, a journalism student at UNC-Chapel Hill who is an intern at Indy Week (our fellow alt-weekly in the Triangle).

Carollo asked Fitzgerald how she thought transgender people who have physically transitioned yet have not updated their birth certificates should handle the bathroom dilemma created by HB 2.

“I think the law offers them the opportunity to update their birth certificate once they have sex-reassignment surgery,” Fitzgerald said.

Carollo quickly personalized the question in a way Fitzgerald might not have anticipated.

“I haven’t had my birth certificate updated, but I don’t have a penis anymore,” she said. “Should I be allowed to use the women’s bathroom?”

“I think you are allowed to apply for a new birth certificate so that you can,” Fitzgerald replied.

“What do I do in the meantime though?” Carollo pressed.

“Well, I think you should go right now today to apply for that,” Fitzgerald said.

Carollo persisted.

“But it takes three months for the birth certificate to come through,” she said. “So what do I do in the meantime if I’m on campus or if I’m in a state building?”

“I don’t know,” Fitzgerald said before recovering her talking point.

“Under HB 2 you should continue and use the bathroom on your birth certificate,” she said.

Ms. Fitzgerald, those are empty answers to real questions. It seems when you are actually pressed for an explanation on your views points and why they are valid you seem to stumble.

You seemed to rely on the use of “birth certificates. “

So did the Voter ID law that was just overturned in time for the November elections. With the current ruling of the 4th Circuit Court came a strong statement concerning the deliberate use of racial motives in denying some people the right to vote. It had to do with the use of birth certificates and knowing that poorer people and older people who needed them to obtain valid ID’s would have a tough time getting them.

The very people that your coalition praises in your NC 2014 Pro-Family Scorecard as “Champions for the Family” (NCVC-2014-Pro-Family-Scorecard-Final1.pdf) voted for House Bill 589 (the Voter ID Law). In fact, all of the House of Representatives you single out to praise on the Scorecard (except only five) were sponsors of that very bill.

(Might I also add that your list of “Champions” in both the House and Senate is comprised solely of white individuals who obviously hold religious views that are close to yours and the coalition’s – Judeo-Christian.)

Is it not interesting that your coalition and those you support seem to rely so much on the birth certificate argument to validate the passing of discriminatory laws to create politically motivated solutions for problems that never existed? Voter fraud is practically nonexistent in North Carolina; Sexual assaults by transgender people is the same – practically nonexistent.

But you said in court earlier that day that it was a big problem. In another example of giving of empty answers to real questions you made a claim and then could not back it up with proof or data. As reported in the Winston-Salem Journal on August 2nd by Michael Hewlett (“Judge hearing request to halt House Bill 2 questions why legislators passed the legislation”),

“Tami Fitzgerald, president of N.C. Values and a strong supporter of House Bill 2, said there is a false narrative that men haven’t gone into women’s bathrooms dressed as women and sexually assaulted women. She said there have been 100 incidents around the country but didn’t give specifics. According to PolitiFact, there have been few incidents in which sexual predators have pretended to be transgender in order to sexually abuse women.”

You presented no specifics given for a claim that is under scrutiny to begin with. Sexual assault is already against the law.

Ironically, on the NC Values Coalition website (http://ncvalues.org/about-us/mission/), your profile as the Executive Director states that you were “Chairwoman of Vote FOR Marriage NC, the official referendum committee that successfully passed the North Carolina Marriage Amendment.” That amendment was struck down by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals as being unconstitutional. The Supreme Court followed that up with legalizing same-sex marriage across the nation. In essence, you were supporting something that was unconstitutional.

The Voter ID Law – (HB589 from 2013) that you supported was just declared invalid and in essence, unconstitutional.

And now comes HB2, which will be decided upon in the courts. However, recent court cases suggest that it is a matter of time before it is repealed. And Butch Bowers assertion that HB2 is merely a law of reaffirmation of privacy and could not really be enforced is not a strong precedent to stand upon. It is a law, like the Voter ID law, based on hypothetical situations that became gospel due to fears of others interpreting happiness in their own way.

And it’s strange that you would defend hypothetical situations such as transgender sexual assault of voter fraud when you yourself seem not to take stock in “hypothetical” situations. Allow me to refer back to the Triad City Beat article, farther down the post.

Paul Garber, a reporter with the Winston-Salem public radio station 88.5 WFDD, picked up the question and took it in a different direction.

“Look, I’m a guy and if a transgender woman wants to use the same bathroom as me, it’s not a big deal to me,” he said. “But what if a very masculine looking person with facial hair who is biologically female comes in the women’s bathroom. How would you feel about it?”

Fitzgerald hesitated, as if wary of a trap.

“You’re asking me a very hypothetical question,” she said.

Reactions from the handful of reporters hovering nearby were immediate and visceral.

“It’s a hypothetical, but entirely predictable situation, given HB 2,” Winston-Salem Journal reporter Michael Hewlett protested.

“And it’s a situation you created,” an unidentified camerawoman seethed. (Fitzgerald is not a lawmaker, but her son-in-law, Chad Barefoot, serves in the Senate.)

After getting Garber to repeat the question, Fitzgerald acknowledged, “Probably there would be some discomfort before there’s a change in the birth certificate.”

Then, back to another talking point.

“I’m more comfortable defending the right of privacy.”

You use the word “right” in discussing privacy. The word “right” comes up many times in our revered historical documents that defined our nation.  There’s the wonderful statement from the Declaration of Independence that says,

“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.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed….”

I do think it right of me to say that it includes men and women despite their sexual orientation or identity. And with religious freedom (that NC Values Coalition states is a key issue with them) the word “Creator” could mean anyone’s conception of a higher power. Then how can I or anyone stand in the way of someone else’s happiness much less their need to relieve themselves?

Ms. Fitzgerald, I also noted that on the website for NC Values Coalition that there is a strong connection with Biblical teaching. “The Mission statement” says,

The mission of the North Carolina Values Coalition is to advance faith, family, and freedom in public policy and the culture of North Carolina from a Christian worldview.

“The Primary Strategy” states,

  • Educate and equip voters to elect to public office those who hold a Christian worldview
  • Hold elected officials accountable for anti‐faith, anti‐family, & anti‐freedom votes
  • Educate, inform, and influence NC citizens, politicians and policymakers
  • Engage pastors, churches and people of faith
  • Coalition building and networking with other like‐minded organizations to accomplish common goals and optimize resources
  • Organize and equip grassroots advocacy

In both of those excerpts you say the word “Christian.” I would like to ask if that worldview takes into account what Christ says about homosexuality and transgender people. Actually he said nothing about either one of them. He talked of love. There is the Golden Rule of “love one another as you would love yourself” (John 13:34), but other verses come to mind as well, not just from Jesus, but from his disciples and apostles.

For example there is 1 Corinthians 13:13. (And I use the NIV.)

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

Galatians 5:6

“For in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. All that matters is faith, expressed through love.”

Discrimination is not love Ms. Fitzgerald.

And you’re discriminating.

Fifty Shades of No Way – New SBOE Member Todd Chasteen’s First Book To Challenge

Now that Todd Chasteen has now been appointed to the NC State Board of Education, I would like to go ahead and ask that he and others on the board read the latest installment of the Fifty Shades of … book for possible inclusion in schools, or at least in the dialogue of what is happening in North Carolina.

I will offer only this table of contents to the SBOE and Mr. Chasteen in deference to any delicate sensibilities toward works of literature that actually display and describe the human condition through creative use of language, strong diction, vivid imagery, incredible detail, and varying syntax.

I must admit that the other books in this series really are not that well written and have one driving motif, but I would ask that this book, Fifty Shades of No Way, be investigated as it does accurately portray the climate and terrain of the Old North State.

Here is the list of chapter titles. There are 50 –Get it? Fifty Shades of No Way. In each chapter there is deception, manipulation, vivid imagery, hurt feelings, but most of all in each one of them someone is getting screwed pretty hard and often, mainly the citizens of North Carolina.

Enjoy

  1. HB2 – Bathroom Bill
  2. HB3 – 5.5% income tax cap – TABOR
  3. Medicaid Expansion Denied
  4. Voter ID Law
  5. Gerrymandering of Districts
  6. Duke Coal Ash Ponds
  7. Fracking Industry Without Oversight
  8. Teacher Pay still at the bottom tier in the nation
  9. Removal of due-process rights for new teachers
  10. Tom Ross Replaced With Margaret Spellings
  11. Graduate Degree Pay Bumps Removed for new teachers
  12. Bad Teacher Evaluation Systems
  13. Push for Merit Pay
  14. “Average” Raises and neglecting veteran teachers
  15. Central Office Allotment Cuts
  16. Rainy Day Fund That Can’t be Accessed Unless The Apocolypse Comes
  17. Religious Freedom Bill
  18. Attacks on Teacher Advocacy Groups (NCAE)
  19. Revolving Door of Standardized Tests
  20. Less Money Spent per Pupil in Traditional Public Schools
  21. Remove Caps on Class Sizes
  22. Jeb Bush School Grading System
  23. Opportunity Grants Expansion
  24. Allowing Private and Religious Schools To Profit From Tax Payer Money
  25. Charter School Growth Without Regulation
  26. Virtual Schools Deregulation
  27. Achievement School Districts
  28. Reduction of Teacher Candidates in Colleges
  29. Elimination of Teaching Fellows Program
  30. Governor’s Inability to Defend Policies to the Press
  31. Governor’s Unwillingness to Defend Policies to the Press
  32. Attacks on Teacher Assistants
  33. Elimination of State Employees Rights to File Discrimination Suits in State Courts
  34. Pissing Off Bruce Springsteen
  35. Using God and Jesus as Political Crutches
  36. Gov. Dan Forest’s request to have Charter School Report to be Rewritten
  37. Buck Newton Keeping Our State Straight
  38. House Bill 539 – Giving Charters Money For Services They Do Not Provide
  39. Rowan-Salisbury Pepper Spray Proposal
  40. Chad Barefoot’s Appt. to Senate Education Committee Chair
  41. Teach For America Expansion Plans
  42. SB 873 – Access To Affordable College Education Act
  43. Clyde Edgerton and New Hanover County’s Superintendent
  44. What the Teacher Working Conditions Survey Really Said
  45. Arresting of Teachers Who Protested and Saying They Were At Fault
  46. McCrory’s Didaskalithedemosiophobia – Yep, That’s What I said – Look it up on my Blog
  47. SB867 – Background Checking Bill
  48. Appointing People Who Are Not Qualified to the SBOE
  49. Special Sessions of the General Assembly
  50. Surreptitious Midnight Meetings to Craft Bills That Only Benefit a Few

Politics and the God Complex – Putting Jesus on the Ticket

“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” Matthew 6:5-6 ESV

This post will piss off some people, but here it goes.

I believe Donald Trump is a very smart man. No. Really. Very, very smart.

I also believe that he understands very well how to provoke people. He sees invisible buttons on people that can be pressed and cause visceral reactions in them that will help his presidential aspirations.

  • Wall built by Mexico to keep Mexicans out? Check
  • Ban all Muslims from entering the country? Check
  • Own the Twittersphere? Check
  • Get endorsed by God? Working on it.

Yesterday, Donald Trump addressed a group of “high-profile evangelicals ahead of speaking before a larger group of religious leaders at a gathering hosted by the Christian group, United in Purpose” according to a CNN report (http://www.cnn.com/2016/06/21/politics/donald-trump-hillary-clinton-religion/).

In that meeting, he questioned Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama’s religious affiliations. He said,

“We don’t know anything about Hillary in terms of religion. Now, she’s been in the public eye for years and years, and yet there’s no — there’s nothing out there. There’s like nothing out there. It’s going to be an extension of Obama but it’s going to be worse, because with Obama you had your guard up. With Hillary you don’t, and it’s going to be worse.”

I actually find that humorously hypocritical coming from Trump, a man who has disparaged women, Muslims, Mexicans, and those less fortunate than himself.

Furthermore, if Jesus came back to earth right now I envision him walking around in a pair of blue jeans and wearing a t-shirt with some sandals. And I do not think he would be at Trump rally. Far from it. At least that isn’t the Jesus I have come to understand. To me Jesus wasn’t even religious. He was spiritual.

At the end of his initial meeting in this venue, Trump said something that really struck me as arrogant. He said,

“What you really have to do is pray to get everybody out to vote, for one specific person. And we can’t be — again — politically correct and say we pray for all of our leaders because all of your leaders are selling Christianity down the tube, selling Evangelicals down the tubes.”

You may question who that one specific person might be, but to me there is no doubt that Trump told people to pray that God puts him in the White House.

Of course he did, he’s a salesman. And hypocritical to me.

He is simply trying to buy the evangelical vote. Literally buying it. That’s what he does, because Trump seems to worship money and power.

And nothing could be more unChrist-like in my mind.

But it is amazing how many American politicians seek to gain a political endorsement from the Son of God.

Trump is a smart man. He knows that seeking the endorsement of God is essential to garnering a very faithful voting segment of the population. Many in our state have done it.

Take a visit to the website for the Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation – http://cpcfoundation.com/. That’s .COM. It’s commercially driven.

Now take a look at the North Carolina Caucus members – http://cpcfoundation.com/north-carolina-prayer-caucus-members/. See some familiar names?

  • Governor Dan Forest
  • Senator David Curtis, Co-Chair
  • Senator Chad Barefoot
  • Senator Joyce Krawiec
  • Senator Buck Newton
  • Senator Jerry Tillman
  • Representative Rob Bryan
  • Representative Paul Stam

These eight lawmakers abide by the CPCF’s Vision and Mission which state,

  • Protect religious freedom, preserve America’s Judeo-Christian heritage and promote prayer.
  • The CPCF will restore and promote America’s founding spirit and core principles related to faith and morality by equipping and mobilizing a national network of citizens, legislators, pastors, business owners and opinion leaders.

All in the name of religious freedom. Talk about your separation of church and state.

Look at that list again. I have written all of them before on issues in which I feel they were taking exclusionary and biased approaches that ultimately hurt people.

Not a single one of them has ever written me back or even commented on what I had to say. Maybe they prayed for me. Maybe not. Certainly not out loud. Perhaps in a closet?

To me Jesus never hid behind a religious agenda. In fact, I see his confrontations with the Pharisees and the Sadducees as evidence that those who always claim to know the will of God might be the very people who need “go into their rooms and shut the door and pray to the Father who is in secret.”

Maybe they should not brag about it. Or use it as a political crutch. Or use it as a way to raise money.

Trump cannot really be a part of the CPCF – he is not a politician, but if he could he would because I think he wants that pipeline of “support” to become president.  And he would get donations from that affiliation.

And from what I have seen from the latest news reports, Trump needs a lot of donations.

Going Barefoot When You Need Wading Boots or Legivangelism 101 – An Open Letter to Sen. Chad Barefoot

Dear Sen. Barefoot,

No doubt many in your party have congratulated you on your recent appointment to the Chairmanship of the very important Senate Education Committee which oversees the state’s K-12, Community College, and UNC systems. Additionally, you were reaffirmed as the Chairman of the Senate Education Appropriations Committee.

In your brief tenure as a legislator (3 years), you now not only have a direct hand in the funding of public schools and universities in North Carolina, you now have a direct say in how those monies are used.

As a veteran public school teacher and parent of two children in traditional NC public schools, I cannot congratulate you on this “achievement”.  To me, your new role on West Jones Street is nothing more than a political ploy to have someone in the mold of a Sen. “Skip” Stam and Sen. Phil Berger to continue the General Assembly’s assault on our public schools.

Your voting record that aligns strictly along party lines, your sponsorship of key acts of legislature that alienate many of the very children you represent, and your very own words firmly support my assertion that you not the person needed to decide the fate of public schools.

Sen. Barefoot, your voting record on “Key” votes as revealed in on votesmart.com shows that out of 48 votes shown, you voted “yea” for all but 6. However of those other six, you were the sponsor of co-sponsor which means that your vote already was a “yea”. You voted only “Nay” on two of them. Ironically those two had to deal with sales tax, which many counties use to fund their schools (https://votesmart.org/candidate/key-votes/136399/chad-barefoot#.Vzh75ZErJ1s).

This voting record of yours is just indicative of the rubber stamp that you would be in the Senate Education Appropriations Committee. That does not bode well for public school children when opaque charter schools and virtual schools are given more funds and less oversight, when vouchers are set to get more tax-payer money, and when federal government had slapped a law-suit on our state.

On the NCLEG.net website you are listed as the actual primary sponsor on a variety of bills that have been detrimental to public schools and their employees. The most apparently egregious are:

  • Senate Bill 444 – Teacher Compensation Modifications. This bill raised pay for new teachers, while deliberately ignoring veteran teacher pay in an attempt to raise “average” pay.
  • Senate Bill 536 – Students Know Before You Go. This bill was “AN ACT TO PROVIDE ACCURATE AND COMPLETE DATA TO STUDENTS ON 3 POSTSECONDARY STUDENT COMPLETION, GRADUATION, AND EARNINGS FOR OUTCOMES AT NORTH CAROLINA POSTSECONDARY INSTITUTIONS.” In reality, it was a way to discourage students from pursuing certain majors because of how they were monetarily presented. Some of those were education preparation programs in UNC system schools which might help explain why you co-sponsored Senate Bill 836.
  • Senate Bill 836 – Alternate Teacher Preparation. This is an act that would authorize local school systems to have more lateral entry. What this really means is that you spend less to obtain in many cases less qualified teachers to teach in hard to staff areas. Rather than elevate the teaching profession, you are making the teaching profession less desirable to those in NC.
  • Senate Bill 862 – Opportunity Scholarships Forward Funding. This will give more money to vouchers thereby diverting tax-payer money to more religious-based and private schools that do not have to maintain standards that public school must. More importantly, nothing has shown that these vouchers have actually increased student achievement for those who use them.

You were also a co-sponsor of SB2 (2014) that prohibited the expansion of Medicaid for many in North Carolina. That alone hurts MANY children who attend public schools. Your vote for the controversial HB2 bill threatens federal funding for the very schools for which you now are dictating policy.

Sen. Barefoot, your strong faith is emphasized on your Facebook page, website, and also highlighted by Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary where you obtained a Master’s Degree in Christian Ethics. SEBTS even did a special profile of you on their website entitled “Southeastern Graduate Chad Barefoot: The Youngest Senator in North Carolina” (https://www.sebts.edu/headlines/articles/SoutheasternGraduateChadBarefootNCSenator.aspx).

In this profile you state,

“How amazing is it that Baptists in this state, collectively, have taken care of the needs of young children for over 125 years. What started out as an orphanage now looks to rebuild broken families. Baptists provide physical and emotional shelters for children but also tell them about Jesus. The focus is to find them an eternal home… After prayerful consideration I realized that what the state [of North Carolina] needed was leaders who were well-grounded in understanding the difference between right and wrong.”

As a man of faith, I will not argue with the assertion that children are our most precious gifts. Taking care of their needs is paramount. But does your concept of the difference between right and wrong derive from your interpretation of the Bible or from the Constitution, the same constitution that allows for same-sex marriage to be legal and protects basic civil rights regardless whether people believe in the same religion or spiritual path?

Christ was the greatest of teachers, one who stared down people in power and admonished them on behalf of those in need. And when we in North Carolina have almost one in four children living in poverty, then there are a LOT of children in need.

So with a political record that denied Medicaid expansion to many families of these children, kept monies from going to their public schools, and discriminated against those who are transgendered, how can you honestly say that you are willing to ensure “that every child in North Carolina has access to a high-quality education”?

When people take office they are usually asked to put a hand on the Bible to uphold the Constitution, not the other way around. And our state constitution requires that all our students have the right to a quality public education, whether those students are poor or rich, Christian or non-Christian, straight or gay or even transgender.

Your actions, allegiances, and words do not suggest you are willing.

Legivangelists and Others who Praise the Lard

Having grown up in a small town in the deep South during the 1970’s and 80’s, it was not uncommon to view televangelists on weekends, especially when only four or five channels were available to watch. Claims made by these people were seemingly noble and altruistic, but they always asked for money to do God’s work. They wore sharp suits, had fantastic hair, and convinced many that if money was sent, then God’s glory could be delivered.

I will never claim that all televangelists were and are shady. Billy Graham has been an inspiration to many here in North Carolina. My mother read his books and watched his sermons. He never came across as greedy and truly seemed interested in helping people.

But there are some people who seemed to cross a line and used the Lord’s name as a resume builder, a salary raiser, and a policy shaper.

Think about Jim and Tammy Bakker and the PTL Empire. Think about Oral Roberts and his claim that if he didn’t raise enough money that God would take him from the earth. Think about Jimmy Swaggart and his famous admission of infidelity.

I especially remember seeing Ernest Angley (a native North Carolinian) asking for people to touch the television screen so that he could heal people through the air waves. It was fascinating and even I as a young boy would touch the static-laden screen. But one day I asked myself, “If he could do that through the TV, then why couldn’t  Rev. Angley just go down to the local hospital and heal those people for free?” Certainly that would be favorable to God.

From then on, I became understandably more skeptical of those who profess a strong faith but whose actions seemed to alienate the very people who needed the most help.

Claims of helping the poor and those in need seem to have been very profitable for many of these televangelists. It allowed them to raise massive amounts of money and garner enough power to control the emotional and moral compass of many. There is a strong correlation between those televangelists and many that we have in elected office in Raleigh who make the same claims of altruism and preach a common sermon that has raised massive amounts of money to do the great work that needs to be done.

These politicians need a name befitting their purpose in mixing personal politics with evangelical callings; therefore, I submit a new entry into the lexicon of our language: legivangelist.

Legivangelist  – (n.) one who preaches to constituents about how holy his cause is in hopes of obtaining votes in elections  to maintain power over those he claims to help

Ironically, like many of the televangelists of the 80’s and now, legivangelists are being somewhat dishonest about their true intent in helping the poor and trodden. They are singing what Ulysses Everett McGill calls in O Brother, Where Art Thou?  “songs of salvation to salve the souls” to voters. And it is not for the glory of the Lord. It is for the advancement of a political agenda.

Take for instance the Opportunity Grants. Many of these legivangelists told North Carolinians that we needed to help the poor to get a good education. Rather than fully funding public schools and competitively paying qualified teachers, what happened was a voucher system that allows taxpayer money to be diverted to private (ironically mostly religiously affiliated) schools for someone else’s profit.

What was presented as a solution for poor students was really a way to weaken public schools by siphoning money and resources away from where they were originally intended.

Another example is the idea for school choice and charter schools. Legivangelists saw an opportunity to use more tax payer money to finance privately-run charter schools so that all people could have a “God-given” right to choose the school for their students even when that charter school makes a profit and can be selective in its student body and totally bypass regulation and testing.

Again, it is a tactic to present oneself as holy and giving, but in reality it is hurting others (public school students) for a profit of money and/or political power. Charter schools have shown to be less diverse than traditional public schools; they have a highly selective process in building a student body.

The HB2 bill just passed into law was aimed at protecting women and children from certain but nonexistent attack from sexual predators. However, in reality it was nothing more than a scheme to allow for more discriminatory legislation and a power grab over local municipalities. It was using the ruse of protecting our women and children for the sake of politics. In fact, it was using women and children as pawns in an unholy scheme.

When a state has almost one in four children in poverty and facing hunger, homelessness, and uncertainty, real believers in the tenets of Christ do not adhere to exclusionary practices; they attack the source of the problems like income inequality and equitable resources.

When health care costs are rising at vast rates, real believers in the tenets of Christ do not neglect the sick and ill. They certainly would not decide to withhold Medicaid expansion from the very people, especially children, who need it most just to make a political statement.

When coal ash deposits are allowed to poison drinking water sources people, real believers in Christ would not still call for deregulation and not punish those companies involved. Simply changing the criteria for what is considered clean water does not make the water any cleaner for children to drink. That’s like changing the definition of water so that it can be called wine, and none of these legivangelical politicians could ever really change water into wine.

Tears for “repentance” have been shed many times by televangelists with or without gobs of mascara, and people like Jim Bakker were eventually found out and served time in jail or were disgraced in the court of public opinion. There was a judgment day, so to speak, for all of these people who misguided their followers for profit.

However, a judgement day for North Carolina’s legivangelists comes every election cycle when people have the opportunity to vote.

The book of James states (1:27), “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

Jesus did not discriminate, God has no grandchildren, and those who profess a true adherence to Christ’s teachings let their actions speak louder than their spun words.

Just watch how they treat all children.