The spirit of demagoguery

The following editorial appeared in the Los Angeles Times:

It’s a seasonal tradition, as predictable as wreaths and reindeer: Social conservatives accuse the news media, government, public schools and culture in general of waging a “war on Christmas.” (One act of aggression they like to cite: Saying “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.”)

Presidential candidate Rick Perry contemplates a bigger battleground, a war not just against Christmas but against religion — and its field marshal is President Obama. In a television ad airing in Iowa, the Texas governor says: “I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m a Christian. But you don’t need to be in the pew every Sunday to know there’s something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military but our kids can’t openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school. As president, I’ll end Obama’s war on religion. And I’ll fight against liberal attacks on our religious heritage ...”

This is demagoguery. Contrary to public opinion, the Supreme Court has not banned children from praying in public schools. What is prohibited are state-sponsored prayers or Bible readings — a perfectly reasonable ban given the requirements of the First Amendment of the Constitution. And there is no reason to juxtapose gays serving openly in the military with the issue of whether children can pray in schools.

But it’s the reference to “Obama’s war on religion” that is most irresponsible.

The ad itself offers no examples, but Perry’s campaign cited these:

• A Supreme Court case in which the administration argued that a teacher at a religious school can sue her employer under federal disability laws.

• The refusal of the administration to defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court.

• The administration’s unwillingness to exempt some Catholic institutions from a regulation requiring health plans to cover contraception and abortion.

• The administration’s rejection of a grant for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to help victims of sex trafficking, because it doesn’t provide full family planning, contraception and abortion.

In all of these cases, one or more religious groups took a position different from the administration’s. But people of faith aren’t monolithic on these or other issues. Many believe, as we do, in a strong separation of church and state. To characterize the administration’s policies as a “war on religion” isn’t just crude, it’s corrosive.

Since the beginning of his term, Obama has had to contend with unfounded rumors that he’s not a Christian. Now Perry is accusing him of leading a war on religion. The details are different, but the message is the same: He is not one of us.


Fri, 01/20/2017 - 09:01

Outside Editorial: A more presidential Donald Trump is unlikely, but necessary

The following editorial first appeared in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

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Fri, 01/20/2017 - 09:01

Letter: The Homeless Ordinance

As I understand it, on Monday the assembly will be voting on an ordinance to permit the police to evict people camping in the downtown and make them move to a camping area in the Thane avalanche zone. I think that’s mistaken public policy. I’ve just hand delivered a 5 page letter to the CBJ in opposition. But what’s really needed isn’t my opinion. It’s a newspaper’s reporting of the facts. That said, if someone’s camped out in a doorway, it couldn’t be a more clear cry for help. And underneath that gruff scary homeless person is so often someone suffering the terrible diseases of mental illness and addiction.

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Fri, 01/20/2017 - 08:51

Win Gruening: Homeless Not Helpless

When Mayor Ken Koelsch recently proposed a city ordinance prohibiting camping in downtown Juneau to help resolve on-going issues with our homeless population, there was significant public reaction.

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Fri, 01/20/2017 - 08:50

My Turn: A Good Time for Kindness

Some time ago, the snow was mounded everywhere, deep and wet. As I gazed from my window, contemplating shoveling, I saw a neighbor plowing out the nextdoor driveway and mailbox — and then chug over to our mailbox, and plow it out as well. Such a welcome and unrequested act of thoughtfulness, of kindness: it lifted my spirits!

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