Thursday, July 25, 2013


Sure, the County Clerk in San Diego filed an injunction to limit the scope of the Supreme Court’s Proposition 8 ruling, saying that it should only apply to the same-sex couples in the case or to the counties in which they live. Never mind that arguing with the Supreme Court over a final ruling seems crazy or that I get nervous every time I learn about these attempts to impede same-sex marriage. It was widely thought that this move, like another the week before, would be unsuccessful, and it was - it was dismissed by the California Supreme Court.

Now that they are losing the battle over same-sex marriage, in addition to such matters as the teaching of evolution and prayer in schools, the Christian conservatives are scrambling. They are desperate. That’s all I could think when I read an article in the Los Angeles Times several weeks ago about a judge rejecting a lawsuit against the Encinitas Union School District - near San Diego, coincidentally - claiming that the teaching of yoga in its elementary schools violates the state law against the teaching of religion in public schools.

Really. As the headline read, “Judge finds yoga complaint a stretch.”

As funny as this, including the tongue-in-cheek headline, is, it’s no joke.

Never mind that yoga is seen to promote healthy exercise and eating habits and have the potential to decrease fighting and bullying. Never mind that Encinitas Superintendent Tim Baird assured, “We are not instructing anyone in religious dogma. Yoga is very mainstream.” Never mind that the Naval Medical Center in San Diego - the good old American military - uses yoga to help military personnel wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan recover from injuries and regain self-confidence.

Dean Broyles, the president and attorney for the Escondido-based National Center for Law and Policy who filed the lawsuit on behalf of a couple with two children in the Encinitas public schools, insisted during the hearing that “yoga poses are integrally linked to religious and spiritual beliefs.” After the ruling, noting that he “strongly disagrees with the judge’s ruling on the facts and the law,” Mr. Broyles declared, “This case is simply about whether public schools may entangle themselves with [religion]...and use the state’s coercive powers to promote a particular religious orthodoxy or religious agenda to young and impressionable schoolchildren.”

Whether or not Mr. Broyles and his organization is specifically Christian, it sounds to me like this, along with the other cases, is simply about the religious right wanting desperately to clear the public schools and public life of other orthodoxies and agendas so that theirs is the only one left. They are trying every way they can, to an ridiculous, if not illogical extent, to not let others impose their beliefs so that they can.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Rock hard out in the desert

“The family’s home was...vandalized, with ‘I hate Section 8' followed by a profanity and a racial slur. The family’s son had urine thrown at him by someone who shouted, ‘You dirty Section 8' and a racial slur. The family moved back to inner-city Los Angeles for fear of more harassment...”

This certainly sounds to me like some civil rights have been violated, to say the least.

But that’s not how city officials in the Los Angeles County towns of Palmdale and Lancaster in the desert-like Antelope Valley northeast of L.A see it. Never mind that, as reported in the Los Angeles Times last week, this incident and numerous others are recounted in a two-year investigation by the U.S Department of Justice and highlighted in a letter from U.S Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez to L.A Sheriff Lee Baca. Never mind that, according to Perez, one sheriff’s supervisor told Justice Department officials that he thought all African-Americans were recently moved to the Antelope Valley were gang members.

And never mind that, as I have written about before, the investigation started when there were reports that Palmdale and Lancaster residents receiving Section 8 rental subsidies from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, who are mostly black, were subjected to surprise visits by inspectors accompanied by gun-toting sheriff deputies. Or that, during some of these inspections, people were handcuffed, held down and punched.

Or that, in the case concerning the family mentioned above and detailed by Perez, a L.A County sheriff deputy uploaded photographs of luxury vehicles in the garage of the family receiving subsidized housing to an “I Hate Section 8" Facebook page (who knew there was one!).

As ugly and damning as every little bit of all this is, officials from both cities and the county are disputing the findings and saying they won’t pay out the $12.5 million that the Justice Department has ordered that they pay to the victims of harassment and intimidation. They insist that they were only checking to see if the tenants were abiding by Section 8 rules in an effort to keep the communities safe. There are talks going on, but this could end up in court.

I have written before about R. Rex Parris, the mayor of Lancaster who prefers to start off City Council meetings with a prayer to Jesus. I didn’t know that he is a “veteran civil lawyer,” but apparently he is. In any case, he said, “If the county wants to pay millions, let them do it, but Lancaster isn’t going to pay 10 cents of it.” He also publicly complained that it was “unfair” that African Americans receive a disproportionately high percentage of Section 8 vouchers and that his city should be “waging a war” against the program.

Like I said, it sounds like a violation of or “waging a war” against civil rights - enough so that people feel safer back in the inner-city ghetto.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

America gives and America takes

Yes, I am glad that the U.S Supreme Court declared that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional and that California’s Proposition 8, banning same-sex marriage, is invalid. Even if the Prop. 8 ruling hangs by a technicality (“I’ll take it!” as I read someone quoted), this pair of decisions is an astonishing victory, leaving me awestruck and pinching myself at times and not knowing when this will stop.

But I’m also alarmed, to say the least, that the court also, the previous day, essentially took the teeth out of the venerable 1965 Voting Rights Act, declaring that the criteria for “pre-clearing” or approving changes in voting rules and procedures in certain jurisdictions known for past discrimination were out of date. Within days of the ruling, the Florida and South Carolina legislatures, controlled by the Republicans, were getting set to impose stricter voting rules (photo I.D, reduced poll hours, oddly shaped districts, etc.), making it more difficult for blacks and other minorities, who tend to vote Democratic, to vote and/or have significant impact when they do. So while gay people are cheering, other minorities are facing a tougher time.

And so it goes, and keeps going, in America, as we’re reminded as we celebrate America on the Fourth of July. Yes, we have great freedom and awesome rights in this country - the kind people in other countries die for - but, oh, how tender and fragile they are! And despite, or maybe because of, them being so hard-won.

I called the marriage rulings a “victory.” That means someone lost. And indeed, the proponents of Prop. 8 and the banning of same-sex marriage are fit to be tied and all the more so with the appellate court lifting the hold in California weeks before it normally would. Although I am pleased that these people - people who are generally the ones who make such a big patriotic deal about the freedom and rights that we are “blessed” with in America - lost, I regret that they are angry, and I see that they are trying to limit the scope of the Prop. 8 ruling, saying it wasn’t a close action suit.

As the Los Angeles Times editorialized, “There almost certainly will be new legal challenges, but the era of Proposition 8 is, for practical intents and purposes, over.” While it is good to know that “the era of Proposition 8 is....over” and that it is widely agreed, even among Proposition 8 supporters, that it is highly unlikely that any legal challenges will be unsuccessful, “there almost certainly will be legal challenges.” And other challenges.