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Archive for the ‘The Law’ Category



Religion: The Gatekeeper and Denier of Human Rights?

Jul9

by: Michael Hulshof-Schmidt on July 9th, 2014 | 6 Comments »

Credit: Creative Commons

The past few weeks have left me nonplussed regarding basic human rights and those decrying “infringement of their religious liberties.” It is difficult for me not to see organized religion as the common denominator of discord in the form of misogyny, homophobia, racism, and even further marginalizing those living in poverty.

Currently, President Obama is working on an executive order with the goal to be diverse and inclusive: federal contractors must not discriminate against LGBTQ people. Am I the only one who feels that this seems like basic common sense and good leadership? I thought our world leaders were charged with the task of expanding human rights and advocating for targeted populations. Sadly, “religious leaders” such as Rick Warren and Catholic Charities insist that this effort of equity infringes on their religious liberties. Need we remind Catholics of what religious infringement might look like, a la The Crusades and The Inquisition? You remember The Inquisition – those madcap Catholics just providing “tough love for heretics,” Jews, Muslims, and anyone not willing to convert to Catholicism.

In the wake of the foul Supreme Court decision Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, which seemed like a decision made on behalf of the Catholic Pope, I am in a state of worry about how thoroughly religion dictates human rights and which religion(s) shares disproportionate power.

My understanding is that the executive order (which is not in a final draft) will not force heterosexuals to have sex with or marry people of the same sex. It will instead allow LGBTQ people a source of income – to be granted employment. Denying people employment and a way to sustain themselves and their families seems to run contrary to how I understand the purpose of religion. It leaves me asking: “who does your God hate.” Is God about hate? If we continue to travel down a road of “religious infringement” based on people who are different, how does this help to create a peaceful community of people? How does this help humans share a planet and create space for differences?

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Patriarchy, Religion, & the Supreme Court

Jul1

by: on July 1st, 2014 | Comments Off

The owners of the businesses have religious objections to abortion, and according to their religious beliefs the four contraceptive methods at issue are abortifacients.”

- Justice Samuel Alito, in the majority opinion, Burwell v. Hobby Lobby.

Credit: Creative Commons

We can add “Justice” Samuel Alito, “Justice” Anthony Kennedy, “Justice” John Roberts, “Justice” Clarence Thomas, and last, but certainly not least, “Justice” Antonin Scalia to the oxymoron list since this Supreme Court decision amounted to anything but justice. The five men voting in the majority denied the rights of women, most particularly working-class women employees at “closely-held” (family owned with a limited number of shareholders) for-profit corporations, which actually includes most U.S. corporations, control over their reproductive freedoms generally extended to women at other companies.


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How to Create the Ideal Government and Society

Jun30

by: Roger Copple on June 30th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Credit: Creative Commons

This article is not specifically about the exploited working class, the disappearing middle class, or the still-controlling ruling class. Instead, it is about describing how local, state, and the national governments can be improved, preferably under a new national constitution. It is not just about government; it expresses my worldview on several topics.

Some hardcore pragmatists and realists think it is foolish to contemplate ideas that may take 100 years to implement. But to idealists–visualizing the actual goal or dream is what energizes us. In the first half of this long article (I apologize), I identify some of the major political and religious groups in the United States; and then, in the second half, I propose a fair system that levels the political playing field among these diverse groups.

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Struggle for Racial Justice is Local

Jun23

by: Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove on June 23rd, 2014 | 2 Comments »

Credit: Creative Commons

Since Michelle Alexander publishedThe New Jim Crowin 2010, communities of color across America have been talking about the need to dismantle America’s system of mass incarceration. As with the old Jim Crow, the problem is institutionalized racism (not just “a few bad apples,” but a system that corrupts the best of people). The language of “law and order” many have replaced “segregation forever,” but the result is the same: black men are subject to a system of control that cannot be questioned because it is the law.

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Presbyterian Church Votes to Divest from Israel Occupation Profiteers Caterpillar, Motorola & HP

Jun20

by: on June 20th, 2014 | 10 Comments »

Credit: Creative Commons

In a contentious vote guaranteed to be met with outrage by hawkish U.S. politicians and some Jewish leaders, the Presbyterian Church (USA) voted 310-303 to divest from three major U.S. companies engaged in “non-peaceful pursuits” in Israel-Palestine.

PC(USA) voted on Friday evening at its 221st General Assembly in Detroit to divest from Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola Solutions, three companies which provide equipment and technological implements utilized by the IDF in its military occupation of the Palestinians in the West Bank. The church’s divestment overture focused only on these three companies, and was careful not to align itself with the international BDS movement or with any efforts to divest from the State of Israel (per a passed amendment during the proceedings).

At the General Assembly before the vote, Caterpillar was singled out for providing the IDF with equipment used in home demolitions, the construction of settler-only roads and the uprooting of Palestinian farmlands illegally appropriated by Israel; HP was singled out for providing biometric scanners used on Palestinians at checkpoints and customized software for the Israeli Navy; and Motorola was singled out for providing surveillance systems used by the settlements in the West Bank.


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Commissioner Calls Obama the N-Word, It’s Time for Mandatory Diversity Training

Jun11

by: Keli Goff on June 11th, 2014 | Comments Off

(Cross-posted from New American Media)

Credit: New American Media

Here we go again. Someone in a position of authority has said something racist. More specifically, something racist about President Barack Obama, and gotten caught. Only this time the person didn’t make a fried chicken or watermelon joke, or call the commander in chief “boy.” He actually used the n-word. And did I mention this authority figure—who used the most offensive racial slur imaginable—also happens to be a member of a local police commission?
Robert Copeland, a police commissioner in Wolfeboro, N.H., referred to Obama—in public—as “that f–king n–ger.” A witness subsequently reported the incident to other members of the police commission, which eventually generated a reply from Copeland that read, in part:

“I believe I did use the ‘N’ word in reference to the current occupant of the Whitehouse (sic). For this I do not apologize—he meets and exceeds my criteria for such.”


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Bergdahl and the Broader Conversation

Jun11

by: on June 11th, 2014 | 5 Comments »

It is indeed a joyous time: the last American POW is finally home. Who can deny that the U.S. military has indeed fulfilled its promise that it will leave no man (or woman) behind? Sargent Bowe Bergdahl has hardly been released, however, when the magnificent, wonderful story of courage and patriotism was transformed into, in Jon Stewart’s words, a complicated, clouded, controversial story. He has been called a deserter, a traitor and a coward. It seems as if even our soldiers are not guaranteed our respect after risking their lives for our freedoms.

 

As a Muslim, should I care? As an American, I certainly should, because my hope is that every soldier comes home safely to his or her family. The problem is, of course, that controversy inevitably follows anything even remotely connected to Muslims today. In the case of Bergdahl, who remained for five years in Afghanistan in the custody of the Taliban, there are indeed a myriad of connections that make me uneasy, but perhaps for not all the same reasons as Republicans.

True, there is the issue of the five Taliban released from Guantanamo Bay in a prisoner exchange. Who knows what they will be up to after their release? For many, that’s a serious concern. It should be, because unconstitutional imprisonment and torture is bound to make people even angrier with the U.S. government. Who knows when or where we’ll meet those five again.

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Human Life is More Precious Than Rocks

May12

by: on May 12th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Last month, as the world began the remembrance of the twentieth anniversary Rwandan genocide, in which 800,000 people were hacked to death over a 100 day period, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon plead with the international community to send more peacekeepers to another African nation on the brink of genocide: the Central African Republic. Speaking recently in that country, where some 640,000 people have fled their homes for fear of being slaughtered, the Secretary General said, “The international community failed the people of Rwanda 20 years ago…And we are at risk of not doing enough for the people of the C.A.R. today.”

Subsequently, the U.N. Security Council authorized more U.N. peacekeepers to the C.A.R., who are due to arrive by September. None of those peacekeepers are slated to be Americans.

The absence of any Americans on the U.N. peacekeeping force for the C.A.R. might be a good “gut check” moment for the nation, especially when weighed against the militaristic message that President Obama is sending to another part of the world: the Asia Pacific.

For example, on his recent visit to Japan the President said of the China-Japan territorial dispute over uninhabited rocky islands in the East China Sea – a dispute which may result in a China-Japan military confrontation – “What is a consistent part of the alliance (U.S. – Japan alliance) is that the treaty covers all territories administered by Japan.” Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who expressed relief that America will militarily defend those rocky islands, said of Obama’s military reassurance, “On this point, I fully trust President Obama.” Needless to say, not expressing relief over Obama’s promise to take America to war over those uninhabited, rocky islands was the Chinese government. Indeed, as mentioned today in a New York Times editorial, this week’s water cannon spat between the Chinese and Vietnamese navies over the deployment of a Chinese oil rig in the South China Sea may be a direct geopolitical consequence of President Obama’s assertive – and official – military posture of collective defense, his own editorializing about America’s war-weariness notwithstanding. According to the New York Times editorial board:

Some experts say the Chinese deployed the rig because oil and gas reserves were recently found nearby. But the move could also be pushback against President Obama and his increased focus on Asia. On a recent trip to Asia, Mr. Obama said America would defend disputed islands in the East China Sea under its security treaty with Japan and reinforced a treaty commitment to the Philippines.

So here we have the President of the United States – again, publicly telegraphing to the American people that he “feels their pain” about stupid wars – simultaneously telling China and Japan, explicitly, that he is prepared to take the United States of America to war over those uninhabited, rocky islands that are disputed by China and Japan, and those two respective nations responding accordingly: Prime Minister Abe of Japan with relief, and the Chinese military with an upping of their ante in other disputed waters of the region.

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Botched Oklahoma Execution Reveals Self-Deception

May9

by: on May 9th, 2014 | 3 Comments »

‪At 6:23pm yesterday, the state of Oklahoma initiated its effort to kill Clayton D. Lockett. Twenty minutes later, after being declared unconscious by a physician, Lockett cried out, “Oh man,” writhing in pain. Addled by this unexpected display of pain, one of the executioners said, “Something’s wrong.” Soon after, the window to the observation room was covered and media were escorted out of the room.

A state official later reported that Mr. Lockett died of a heart attack at 7:06pm.

The fact that this unexpected scene was preceded by months of arguments by lawyers about the constitutionality of resuming executions in Oklahoma guarantees that a debate about the death penalty will ensue. Those who have argued that this ultimate form of punishment is “cruel and unusual” will make last nights scene their case in point. The Governor of Oklahoma has already declared that a thorough investigation of what went wrong will take place before any other executions go forward. Privately, in conversations at home and on their computers, many will say, “Did he suffer? Sure. But why shouldn’t he after what he did.” Most national polls show that support for vs. opposition to the death penalty is about 50/50. Both sides will have plenty of people to argue.

But I think it would be the greatest of tragedies if we did not notice that what happened in Oklahoma last night reveals perhaps our deepest national self-deception-that, no matter what goes wrong, we will fix it because we are in control.

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Troy Davis: The Human Price of the Death Penalty

May5

by: Jen Marlowe on May 5th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

It was September 21, 2011. I stood on the grounds of the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification State Prison, holding Troy Davis’s younger sister on one side and his teen-aged nephew on the other, with other supporters wrapping us all in a tight circle of prayer, as we waited in agonizing tension to learn whether Troy Anthony Davis would be killed by the state of Georgia that night.

He was.

Troy Davis protest

Protesters take part in a day of action for Troy Davis. Credit: World Coalition Against the Death Penalty.

Troy Davis, an African American man, had been convicted and sentenced to death for the 1989 murder of white off-duty police officer Mark MacPhail in Savannah, GA. His conviction was based almost entirely on testimonies from eyewitnesses and jailhouse informants, the vast majority of whom later recanted or changed their testimony, many stating that police had coerced them to initially implicate Troy. Others stepped forward to identify another perpetrator. Yet, despite a growing mountain of evidence pointing to Troy’s innocence, and nearly a million people worldwide calling for clemency, Troy Davis was executed with a three-drug lethal injection cocktail. The time of death was 11:08pm.

Troy’s execution and the by-turns-heart-breaking, by-turns-inspiring journey that led to it are documented in my new book, I Am Troy Davis. I Am Troy Davis is Troy’s story, and that of the Davis family, primarily Troy’s older sister Martina Davis-Correia, who was Troy’s fiercest advocate and with whom I co-authored the book. From Troy’s childhood in racially charged Savannah; to the night of Officer MacPhail’s murder; to the man-hunt for Troy which ended when he turned himself in, believing if he told the truth that everything would be alright; to the subsequent two-decade fight waged by Martina to prove his innocence, who was simultaneously fighting to survive an aggressive form of breast cancer; I Am Troy Davis takes us inside a broken criminal justice system where life and death hang in the balance, and where finality is too often prioritized over fairness.

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