More Than Willing (for Someone Else) to Pay the Price of Security

Now that the 112th Congress is in session, immigration reform will be off the table. Not immigration, just immigration reform. The sole focus will be on border security. So what does “border security” mean?

For a number of people with whom I have discussed the matter, it really isn’t that complicated. You put enough troops on the Mexican border to stop every person trying to cross illegally. If they don’t stop, you shoot them. Can’t find them? Put up more of those satellites that can read license plates from space. What’s so difficult about that?

Now, you may think I was having these discussions with Joe Sixpack from Wal-mart (or peopleofwalmart.com, perhaps). Actually I was having them with evangelical pastors and pastors’ wives. People who generally go out of their way to share the love of Jesus.

One of these pastors said if illegals are interdicted and attempt to evade arrest rather than be taken into custody, you simply have to apply the rule that it is justified to shoot fleeing criminals and you gun them down in the desert. I have to say he had to slightly rethink his position when I mentioned that many of these “invaders” are women and children. Do you shoot the women and children in the back as well?

His revised view was that you don’t shoot the women and children. Just the men. Or at least the ones that look like men. Tall boys and women with short hair might get it, too, but that was just too bad. After all, if you kill the men, the women and children will probably give themselves up.

Of course the little legal problem with this (I would bring that up – which is no doubt one of the reasons that people want to kill lawyers, too, regardless of citizenship or immigration status) is that the gun ’em down rule is a fleeing felon rule. Entering the United States without inspection is not a felony. In fact, it is not even a crime. It is a civil matter.

As you might guess, I’ve already been offered the answer to that: Make it a criminal matter – and a felony at that. Then we can shoot ’em. The only problem is that when they get captured, they are entitled to all sorts of rights under the Constitution. If we do that, we can’t shuffle these people with no money through a deportation hearing system in which they have no right to public defense. ICE are already upset with the judge who said mentally retarded deportees should be given lawyers. If everyone gets a lawyer, they might find out that ICE are deporting a lot more people who have a right to be in the country than we already know about.

It wouldn’t be fair not to give the other argument. It is easy to get around this whole problem with providing lawyers. If we shoot them in the desert, who will know that they weren’t fleeing? The economic security of the United States is at stake. Sometime we just have to do what we have to do to make sure Americans have jobs and no one gets welfare benefits to which they are not entitled. I know some of you think I’m employing sarcasm, or at least hyperbole. (I am given to that at times, I admit.) I wish.

I have honestly asked good conservative evangelical Christian folks whether it worth killing someone made in the image of God? I have honestly been told – as point blank as they would like American troops on American soil to use their weapons – yes, it is. What if they are fleeing the Zetas or the Gulf Cartel and certain death in a war zone far more dangerous that either Iraq or Afghanistan? Too bad. What if they are Christians? They better pray for God to protect them – on their side of the border, of course. If they are good Christians, then they will obey they laws of our land and not enter it without permission. (Honestly, I couldn’t make this stuff up.) At least if they get killed, they will go to heaven. God can afford to take them in – America can’t.

And what about those spy satellites that we can use? If the government build enough of them that we can constantly monitor a 2000-mile border at the magnification to see individual brown faces, we can trust the government to just use this surveillance technology for good, can’t we?  The Executive branch always operates within the law and with the consent of Congress and would never hurt us. We are citizens, after all. They already monitor the internet to make sure no one says something wrong and we’re not worried about that, are we? And they keep us safe with all those body checks in the airports. (They can only get more invasive with those, but that’s the price of freedom, and it’s for our own good.)

And if your neck (or at least your state) is red enough, you may find yourself nodding in agreement with my friends. But maybe you will pause for just one moment and think: we have we become? Are these really conservative values? Are these really Christian values?

Why We Don’t Need a 28th Amendment

I have been getting emails to pass on showing my support for a 28th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. Now there are Facebook groups supporting this “proposed” 28th Amendment. I’ve gotten several invitations for those, too.  I delete chain mail, no matter how glurgy and heartrending on the one hand or politically outraged on the other. But this is one of those viral ideas that needs some sense slapped into it.

The good people at snopes.com have tried, but as I found when I looked at the discussion boards of one of these Facebook groups, they can’t be trusted because, in the words of one poster, “Snopes is run by a couple who are left-leaning Obama supporters. Not legitimate. Depends on what side of the issue you would like to believe is accurate.”

Now I seriously doubt that anyone who knows me or who has read anything I’ve written would call me left-leaning or an Obama supporter. But what I do know is that there are conservatives that assume any fact that does not support their agenda is part of the vast left-wing conspiracy. The sad fact is that our side has it’s own share of idiots. There are as many people swayed by the flag-waving and anti-government rhetoric as there are those who think everyone ought to be forced to pay for the less fortunate and save the polar bears.

Now let’s just look at this “proposed” amendment:

Congress shall make no law that applies to the citizens of the United States that does not apply equally to the Senators and Representatives and all other branches of the Government; and, Congress shall make no law that applies to the Senators and Representatives and all other branches of the Government that does not apply equally to the citizens of the United States.

When I first read this, I realised immediately that the language was so vague as to be unenforceable. It doesn’t actually mean anything. Despite the Facebook group saying, “It avoids all the 18th century formal and ‘legalize’ language, and is simple to understand and straight forward,” it is neither simple to understand nor strightforward, despite the lack of “legalize” language. However, it does appear popular with those who lack the ability to write using proper vocabulary and grammar. Not a good sign.

With all the justification for this amendment that has been sent out with it, it appears that the motivation for it is the idea that members of Congress exempt themselves from legislation that applies to everyone else. This includes the myths that Congresspersons get their congressional salaries for life, that they don’t pay social security tax, and that they are “exempt from any fear of prosecution for sexual harrasment”. Of course the thing that spurred this into motion was that they exempted themselves from the provisions of the health care reform bill.

None of these things are true. I find the strangest of these to be the exemption from fear of prosecution for sexual harrasment. This implies that not only are Congresspersons somehow more prone to sexual harrasment than other people, but that they wanted to make sure they were free to do so. Beyond these patently ridiculous propositions, no one is prosecuted for sexual harrasment. It is a civil matter. People are sued for sexual harrasment. Congresscritters could already be sued for sexual harrasment as a tort before the passage of the Congressional Accountability Act in 1995. Now there is a specific statutory right to sue.

Some of the ranting and raving in the Facebook group is funny, if sad. One man said, “So snopes is making this mostly false. What kind of answer is that? It is a fact that Congress does pay themselves after they leave office.” Sorry, snopes didn’t make it false. They just showed how it was false. Most companies have a pension plan so that people get paid after they leave their employment. There are provisions for the pensions of all federal employees, just like there are for state employees. And just like other pension plans, they contribute to it out of their salary and if they don’t stay on the job very long, they don’t get a very big pension.

The same person said, “Poli means many and tics are blood suckers it may sound stupid but it is reality.” No, it is not reality, but he is right, it does sound stupid. About as stupid as a woman on the same thread who said, “We as a mostly nieve and willlingly uneducated ppl have let this situation creep up on us.”  I don’t know if I would attribute that to everyone else, but she did provide evidence that the uneducated bit applies to her.

But back to our proposed amendment. . . The last clause is the more useless. “Congress shall make no law that applies to the Senators and Representatives” unless it applies equally to everyone else. Does this mean that when they set the salaries for members of Congress, they have to give everyone else in the country the same salary? Since Congresspeople can participate in the Federal Employees Retirement System, they have to let every citizen join the FERS?

Where it really gets silly is the bit about “no law that applies to . . . all other branches of the Government that does not apply equally to the citizens of the United States.” So when the Secret Service is authorised by law to protect the President and other member of the Executive Branch and certain members of their families, does this mean that every citizen is entitled to Secret Service protection? Or when the law says that the Department of Agriculture must inspect meat, does this mean that every citizen can (or perhaps must) inspect all meat produced? Or since the US Treasury is authorised by law to print currency, is every citizen authorised to print currency? Or how about the Department of State, which is the part of the executive branch charged with carrying out foreign policy and representing the United States to foreign governments. Is everyone entitled to negoitate with foreign governments on behalf of the American people?  There are an infinite  number of examples of how ridiculous this is.

So no, we don’t need a 28th Amendment to limit Congress, especially one as useless a current viral proposition. The biggest limit on Congress is already in the Constitution. They are elected. Don’t like a particular member? Don’t vote for them. What usually happens is the people want to limit somebody else’s Congressman. You know what? They don’t represent you. If people in another state or another district make a bad decision, too bad. It is the nature of representative democracy.

My Letter to Metropolitan Gerasimos

I will be posting this letter along with the letter to Rep. Dina Titus:

His Eminence Metropolitan Gerasimos
Greek Orthodox Metropolis of San Francisco
245 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94103

Your Eminence

As an American member of the Greek Orthodox Church currently living abroad, I was appalled when I learned that a member of your diocese serving in the United State House of Representatives, Dina Titus, publicly declares that she supports ethics of which Orthodox Christians would be proud and uses her position in Congress to look out for Orthodox issues.

Rep. Titus’ ethics are in direct contradiction to the teaching of the Orthodox Church. Rep. Titus openly supports the federally sponsored killing of the unborn. By her words and actions she is declaring that support for abortion is compatible with Orthodoxy.

Metropolitan Jonah of the Orthodox Church in America boldly declared in Washington, D.C. in January of this year, “…the unqualified opposition to abortion that is at the heart of the Orthodox Christian Tradition and is unarguably the teaching and the dogma of the Orthodox Church.” As Metropolitan Maximos of Pittsburgh has said, “It is our obligation as Orthodox to speak up and not remain silent on this issue.”

Rep. Titus has voted in favour of using tax dollars to fund abortion, in House Roll Call No. 571 (the District of Columbia funding bill, H.R. 3170), in House Roll Call No. 643 (the Pence amendment to H.R. 3293), and in House Roll Call No. 884 (the Stupak-Pitts Amendment to H.R. 3962). Such votes unarguably stand in opposition to the ethics of the Orthodox Church. She is openly an accomplice to what the Orthodox Church clearly and unequivocally regards as murder.

As a member of the Greek Orthodox Church, I urge you to fulfil the obligation to speak up and not remain silent. I ask you to call upon Rep. Titus to repent of publicly rejecting the teaching and dogma of the Orthodox Church and Holy Tradition in the Congress of the United States. I call upon you to fulfil your duty to Christ and His Church to guard the holy, life-giving sacraments and demand that Rep. Titus refrain from receiving the Most Precious Body and Blood of our Lord so long as she spends the public purse to rip the bodies of the innocent unborn from their mothers and pours out their blood upon the altar of convenience.

In Christ,

How a Bishop Should Respond

In a previous post I mention the conflict between Bishop Tobin of Providence and Rep. Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island over the issue of abortion and Kennedy’s putative Catholic faith.

With thanks to Seraphim, who mentioned it in a comment and to Fr John Whiteford, from whose blog he got it, I refer you to Bishop Tobin’s direct response to Kennedy’s claim to Catholicism.

Our Orthodox bishop should take note. Won’t but should.

Making Contact

In following up my own responsibility to do the things I urged all Orthodox Christians to do in the previous blog post, namely, to write to all Orthodox Congresspersons who support the culture of death and reject the teaching of the Orthodox Church and to their respective bishops, I have come across an interesting stumbling block. Congresscreatures can be tricksy when trying to reach them by correspondence.

Some prefer email and others prefer postal mail. At least some will only get postal mail in their Washington office after it has been through a month-long irradiation process. Senator Snowe states this on her website. Others block email from non-constituents.

In terms of reaching them, it would certainly be most effective for them to hear from Orthodox Christians who also happen to be constituents. However, because they claim to be members of the Orthodox Church, they represent Orthodoxy in Congress whether they like it or not, and the best attempt should be made to remind them of that fact.

I’m going to have to do a little research tomorrow find out the most effect ways to correspond with each. On the other hand, the addresses for the respective hierarchs are more straightforward and as far as I know they don’t send their post to Ohio for irradiation. Though the addresses are easy enough to find on the internet, for your convenience I have included them below:

With regard to Senator Olympia Snowe and Rep. Niki Tsongas:
Metropolitan Methodius
Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Boston
162 Goddard Avenue
Brookline, MA 02445
Tel: (617) 277-4742
Fax (617) 739-9229
email: metropolis@boston.goarch.org

With regard to Rep. John Sarbanes:
Metropolitan Evangelos
Greek Orthodox Metropolis of New Jersey
215 East Grove Street
Westfield, NJ 07090-1656
Tel: (908) 301-0500
Fax: (908) 301-1397
email: metropolis@nj.goarch.org

With regard to Rep. Zack Space:
Metropolitan Nicholas
Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Detroit
2560 Crooks Road
Troy, MI 48084
Tel: (248) 823-2400
Fax: (248) 823-2401
Email: office@detroit.goarch.org

With regard to Rep. Dina Titus:
Metropolitan Gerasimos
Greek Orthodox Metropolis of San Francisco
245 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94103
Tel.: (415) 753-3075
Fax: (415) 753-1165
Email: metropolis@sanfran.goarch.org

With regard to Rep. Melissa Bean
Bishop Longin
Serbian Orthodox Diocese of New Gracanica – Midwestern America
P. O. Box 371
Grayslake, IL 60030
Tel: (847) 223-4300
Email: eparhija@newgracanica.com

The Greatest Scandal in American Orthodoxy

After seeing an article about the clash over abortion between US Rep. Patrick Kennedy and his diocesan bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, RI, I decided to look into the voting records of the one senator and five representatives who are members of the Orthodox Church. The results are not surprising, but equally as shameful. I almost don’t know where to start.

The teaching of the Orthodox Church concerning abortion is just as clear and just the same as the teaching of the Catholic Church. It doesn’t matter that it is an issue the Ecumenical Patriarch skirts around, perhaps because it takes away from his main job of opening evironmentalist conferences and exhibitions. And just like the Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church has members who have been elected to public office and act in direct opposition to the Orthodox Christian faith. It is not a matter of what they do in their private lives, for which they should go to confession and after which their priest should happily partake with them of the most precious body and blood.

Rather, it is a matter of what they lead their country to do. They have chosen to take a public stand against the teaching of the Church. They have appropriated the public purse for the killing of unborn children. They have otherwise refused to protect the unborn and directly facilitated those who would kill them.

It is the duty of the diocesan bishops of those members of the Orthodox Church who openly and knowingly pay for, or otherwise facilitate, the killing of the unborn to excommunicate those persons. Any bishop who knows what a Congressperson who claims to be under their spiritual authority is doing in this regard is failing in their responsibilities if they to otherwise.

Any Orthodox bishop, including the Ecumenical Patriarch, who praises or elevates such a person in the Church should be causing a scandal far worse than the misappropriation of funds in the OCA, or a drunk Antiochian touching up girl in a casino. Every clergy and every lay person of such a diocese who cares about the integrity of the Orthodox Church should be writing to their bishop.

I already knew the views of Olympia Snowe. She has been one of the most social liberal Republican members of Congress since she entered the US House in 1979. She has been in the Senate since 1995. She has consistently voted against the unborn. Has Metropolitan Methodius of Boston spoken out against her? No.

Pro-abortion senator and archon of the Orthodox Church, as conferred by Black Bart himself, Paul Sarbanes may be out of the upper chamber, but now his son John represents Maryland’s 3rd district. Equally as pro-abortion, this year Rep. Sarbanes has voted to fund the State Department under Hilary Clinton to promote abortion projects throughout the world, fund abortions in the District of Columbia, fund Planned Parenthood to provide abortions, and to provide federal subsidies to insurance companies to pay for abortions. Has Metropolitan Evangelos of New Jersey taken a stand against him? No.

Rep. Zach Space of 18th District in Ohio may be a Blue Dog Democrat, but he voted with Sarbanes on all but the last of the four legislative measures mentioned above. He also voted with Sarbanes for the DeGette clone-and-kill bill, and the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act, among others. I’d like to hear something from Metropolitan Nicholas of Detroit on this. If you hear anything, let me know.

Rep. Niki Tsongas is the widow pro-abortion Sen. Paul Tsongas and has been elected serve the 5th district of Massachusetts. She has also voted against unborn life 100% of the time. Still nothing from Metropolitan Methodius…

The Greek do not have a monopoly on Orthodox representation in Congress. The Serbs have Melissa Bean of Chicago in Illinois’ 8th district. Bean actually lives in the adjoining 10th district, but it’s all the same for our purposes. She has also voted against the unborn 100% of the time. Bishop Longin of the Diocese of New Gracanica – Midwestern America needs to say something and do something.

The one that stands out the most as a bad example of Orthodoxy on Capitol Hill has to be Alice Costandina “Dina” Titus, from the 3rd District of Nevada. Not only had she voted against the unborn 100% of the time like the others, she makes the strongest public claim to Orthodoxy. On the home page of her website, she boldly declares “Congresswoman Dina Titus Sworn-In on Grandfather’s Greek Bible” (if it has moved from the home page by the time you read this, try this direct link to the article).  The article, written by Andrew Manatos, notes “Congresswoman Dina Titus’ rise to national prominence is a story that will make all Hellenes and Orthodox Christians proud.” Clearly for Manatos, like so many Greeks, Hellenic culture and background and Orthodoxy are the same. And clearly for Manatos and for Congresswoman Titus, the important thing about being Orthodox is being Greek, not adhering to the unchanging teaching of the Church, particularly about the sanctity of life.

Let me make this clear: Dina Titus’ rise to national prominence is a story that should make all Orthodox Christians, Hellenic or not, ashamed. Has Metropolitan Gerasimos of San Francisco denounced Congresswoman Titus’ votes to fund the killing of the unborn?

There is one Orthodox member of Congress who has not sacrificed the children of America to Moloch. Gus Bilirakis repesents the 9th district of Florida. He has a 100% pro-life voting record. Whether his votes have been guided by his Orthodoxy or by his adherence to the Republican Party and conservativism, I don’t know.

As for the others, I think every American Orthodox Christian who adheres to the teaching of the Orthodox Church has a responsibility to write to every Orthodox Congressperson who votes in opposition to Orthodoxy and call them to account. Likewise, they should write to every Orthodox hierarch who has refused to demand the protection of the unborn and refused to excommunicate those who lead the nation in opposition to the moral teaching of the Orthodox Church and call them to account.

If the Orthodox hierarchy will not stand up, the Orthodox laity must stand up. I’m not so naïve to imagine that either the Congresspersons or the hierarchs will actually listen. The Congresspeople have shown that their loyalty lies with their political party and the hierarchs have shown that their loyality lies with their ethnicity. No matter. Orthodoxy doesn’t change because of either. The unborn are being murdered in their thousands every day and the faithful need to declare to those who are complicit in these murders: You do not speak for me! You do not represent the Holy Orthodox Church, the Holy Tradition and it’s unchanging inerrant understanding of the Holy Scriptures.

I think every Congressperson should be free to vote their conscience. If that conscience says the teaching of the Orthodox Church through the Holy Scriptures is wrong, then they should leave the Orthodox Church. They should excommunicate themselves and go be Episcopalians or whatever semblance of Christian form suits them.

Mythbusting: Who Were the First Congressmen?

Because I was recently reminded of the popular idea amongst those favouring Congressional term limits and the ideal citizen legislator that the original intent was for yeoman farmers to serve a single term and return to his land, I decided to do a little bit of research.

Looking at the members of the House of Representatives in the First Congress (1789-91), I compiled information about how many terms they served, what their occupations were outside of politics, and what political offices they held prior and subsequent to their service in the House. The results were quite surprising.

The House of Representatives of the First Congress of the United States was comprised of 66 members. There were 65 seats, but one member, Theodorick Bland of Virginia, died in office and was replaced by William Giles. In calculating the average number of terms, I have used Giles. The average number of terms served in the House was 2.72.

However, of the 66, only two (George Gale of MD and Giles of VA) held no previous political office, though Gale was a member of his state’s convention to ratify the US Constitution. Of the rest, 48 had previously served in their state’s legislature and 29 had served in the Continental Congress. Only 13 ended their public service with their stint in the House of Representatives and only three of these were single term Congressmen. Seventeen served in the US Senate, including 4 of the 18 who only served one term in the House. Balancing out the 18 single-termers are 18 who served four or more terms.

Twelve held executive branch appointments after leaving Congress, including Thomas Tucker who served as Treasurer of the United States for 27 years,  John Steele, who was Comptroller of the US Treasury and Elias Boudinot who became director of the US Mint.

Others were elected to executive office in their home states, including seven governors and two lieutenant governors. Thirteen served as judges after leaving Congress, six on the supreme courts of their states and four as federal judges.

So how many were farmers? Of the 11 with agricultural interests, eight owned plantations. Only three could be referred to as lesser farmers. Of those three, only one, William Floyd of NY, was just a farmer. George Mathews of GA was also a merchant and Joshua Seney of MD was also a lawyer.

A lawyer? Surely there weren’t lawyers in Congress back in this golden era! Well, only 29 of them in the first House of Representatives. That’s 44% of the membership. Yes, almost half. The next closest occupation represented amongst the Representatives are the thirteen with mercantile interests. Five were clergymen and five were teachers (this includes William Baldwin of GA, who had been both).

There seems to be little evidence from the First Congress that members were expected to be yeoman farmers who spent a few weeks in Washington during a single two-year term and then went back to the land. For the most part they were lawyers and rich merchants who spent a significant part of their lives engaged in the business of government.