Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Politics of Religion

(Thanks to Linda Mason)

Published: May 27, 2012 (www.nytimes)

  Thirteen Roman Catholic dioceses and some Catholic-related groups scattered lawsuits across a dozen federal courts last week claiming that President Obama was violating their religious freedom by including contraceptives in basic health care coverage for female employees. It was a dramatic stunt, full of indignation but built on air.
  Mr. Obama’s contraception-coverage mandate specifically exempts houses of worship. If he had ordered all other organizations affiliated with a religion to pay for their employees’ contraception coverage, that policy could probably be justified under Supreme Court precedent, including a 1990 opinion by Justice Antonin Scalia.
  But that argument does not have to be made in court, because Mr. Obama very publicly backed down from his original position and gave those groups a way around the contraception-coverage requirement.
  Under the Constitution, churches and other religious organizations have total freedom to preach that contraception is sinful and rail against Mr. Obama for making it more readily available. But the First Amendment is not a license for religious entities to impose their dogma on society through the law. The vast majority of Americans do not agree with the Roman Catholic Church’s anti-contraception stance, including most American Catholic women.
  The First Amendment also does not exempt religious entities or individuals claiming a sincere religious objection from neutral laws of general applicability, a category the new contraception rule plainly fits. In 1990, Justice Scalia reminded us that making “the professed doctrines of religious belief superior to the law of the land” would mean allowing “every citizen to become a law unto himself.”
  In 1993, Congress required government actions that “substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion” to advance a compelling interest by the least restrictive means. The new contraceptive policy does that by promoting women’s health and autonomy.
And there was no violation of religious exercise to begin with. After religious groups protested, the administration put the burden on insurance companies to provide free contraceptive coverage to women who work for religiously affiliated employers like hospitals or universities — with no employer involvement.
  This is a clear partisan play. The real threat to religious liberty comes from the effort to impose one church’s doctrine on everyone.

Monday, May 28, 2012

2012 Voter Question Guide

Election questions from Maria Turner

What unique experience qualifies you to hold this office?

What do you see as the major work and challenge in the ______
Office in the next four years?

Please describe your administrative experience.  What are your primary strengths as a supervisor? As an administrator?

What forms of voluntary professional and community service have you been involved with?

Do you see a need for changes in the way this office relates to the public or to the rest of county government?

What do you consider the three key issues to be addressed in the next term?

For challengers: How have your prepared to run for this office? For incumbents: What have been your contributions to your office in the last four years

How will you encourage Smart Growth in the county/township?


In view of the decrease in state revenue sharing, how would you prioritize county services?

Assuming a need to make substantial cuts in the county budget, what process or measures would you advocate to deal with a budget shortfall?

Would you or would you not make changes in the county process of requesting two percent monies from the Saginaw Chippewa Tribe? Please explain.  

How should the county commission work with the townships to ensure an adequate balance between preservation of farmland and open space and urban growth and development?

Expand on an issue(s) of importance to you and list your priorities should you be elected.

What practices are in place or would you like to see in place to ensure the Commission adequately responds to the demands of county growth?

What process or measures would you advocate to deal with the budget shortfall?

What are the main challenges the county is facing?  How would you deal with these challenges?

What practices are in place or would you like to see in place to ensure funds allocated to county departments are spent judiciously?

Do citizens have adequate opportunities for input into governmental decision making process?  Please elaborate.


Are there current sentencing guidelines you would like to see changed? Please expand.

What specific guidelines would you use to ensure victims’ rights are protected?

How should this office relate to the public?

What do you perceive as the greatest obstacle(s) to justice?

What do you think is the appropriate relationship between the Prosecutor’s office and other law enforcement professionals and agencies? How would you achieve this relationship?


Do you see a shift in the types of crimes in Isabella County?  If so, what are your plans to address this?

What will be your approach to the increase in substance abuse and the crimes associated with it?

What, if any, changes would you implement in the operation of the sheriff’s office?

Do you believe there is adequate communication and cooperation among the various law enforcement agencies?

How should the sheriff’s department relate to the public?

Is there a role the sheriff’s department should play in addressing the needs of “at risk” children and adolescents in our community? If so, please describe.


How will you increase the number of voters in Isabella County?

We have seen improvements in voting access with the provisions of the "Help Americans Vote Act." In your view what are other steps that can be taken  to continue providing equitable, easy and fair access to the polls?


(None offered)


What practices are in place or would you like to see in place to ensure the Board adequately responds to the demands of township growth?

What is your position regarding the sharing of governmental services such as fire; police; parks and recreation; water and sewage treatment among local units of government?


(None offered)

(None offered)

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Father Doesn’t Know Best


By  Published: May 22, 2012 (The New York Times)

  Your parents spill a few secrets as they get older.
  One night at dinner with my mom, I ventured that the rhythm method had worked well for her, given that there were six years between my sister Peggy and my brother Kevin, and six more between Kevin and me. She arched an eyebrow. “Well, sometimes your father used something,” she said.
My parents were the most devout Catholics I’ve ever known. But my dad came from a family of 16 in County Clare in Ireland, and my mom’s mother came from a family of 13in County Mayo. So they balanced their faith with a dose of practicality.
  After their first three kids, they sagely decided family planning was not soul-staining. So I wasn’t surprised to see the Gallup poll Tuesday showing that 82 percent of U.S. Catholics say birth control is morally acceptable. (Eighty-nine percent of all Americans and 90 percent of non-Catholics agreed.) Gallup tested the morality of 18 issues, and birth control came out on top as the most acceptable, beating divorce, which garnered 67 percent approval, and “buying and wearing clothing made of animal fur,” which got a 60 percent thumbs-up (more from Republicans, naturally, than Democrats).
Polygamy, cloning humans and having an affair took the most morally offensive spots on the list.        
  “Gay or lesbian relations” tied “having a baby outside of marriage,” with 54 percent approving. That’s in the middle of the list, above a 38 percent score for abortion and below a 59 percent score for “sex between an unmarried man and woman.”
  The poll appeared on the same day as headlines about Catholic Church leaders fighting President Obama’s attempt to get insurance coverage for contraception for women who work or go to college at Catholic institutions. The church insists it’s an argument about religious freedom, not birth control. But, really, it’s about birth control, and women’s lower caste in the church. It’s about conservative bishops targeting Democratic candidates who support contraception and abortion rights as a matter of public policy. And it’s about a church that is obsessed with sex in ways it shouldn’t be, and not obsessed with sex in ways it should be.
  The bishops and the Vatican care passionately about putting women in chastity belts. Yet they let unchaste priests run wild for decades, unconcerned about the generations of children who were violated and raped and passed around like communion wine.
  They still have not done a proper reckoning, and the acrid scandal never ends. In the midst of a landmark trial in Philadelphia charging Msgr. William Lynn with covering up sexual abuse by priests and then recirculating the perverts, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia announced Sunday that two priests in their 70s who worked in parishes and hospitals had abused minors at some point and were unfit for ministry.
  This follows five priests sidelined earlier this month because of substantiated claims of sexual abuse or other violations, plus 17 others suspended after last year’s sickening grand jury report on rampant sexual abuse in the Philadelphia Archdiocese.
  Some leading Catholic groups endorsed the compromise struck by the Obama administration that put the responsibility for providing the contraceptives on the insurance companies, not religious institutions. But others wanted to salute the Vatican flag and keep fighting. On “CBS This Morning” on Tuesday, the pugnacious Cardinal Timothy Dolan of the Archdiocese of New York rejected the compromise and charged that the White House is “strangling” the church. Interpreting the rule in the most extreme way to scare Catholics, he said: “They tell us if you’re really going to be considered a church, if you’re going to be really exempt from these demands of the government, well, you have to propagate your Catholic faith and everything you do, you can serve only Catholics and employ only Catholics.”
  The Archdiocese of Washington put an equally alarmist message in the church bulletins at Sunday’s Masses, warning of apocalyptic risk:
  “1. Our more than 600 hospitals nationwide, which will need to stop non-Catholics at the emergency room door and say, ‘We are only allowed by the government to heal Catholics.’
  “2. Our schools, which will be required to say to non-Catholic parents, ‘We are only allowed by the government to educate Catholics.’
  “3. Our shelters, on cold nights, which will be required to say to the homeless who are non-Catholics, ‘We are only allowed by the government to shelter Catholics.’
  “4. Our food pantries, which will be forced to say to non-Catholics, ‘the government allows us only to satisfy the hunger of Catholics.’ ”
  The church leaders headed to court hope to undermine the president, but they may help him. Voters who think sex is only for procreation were not going to vote for Obama anyway. And the lawsuit reminds the rest that what the bishops portray as an attack on religion by the president is really an attack on women by the bishops.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Proposed Election Laws Create Barriers to Voting


From the League of Women Voters: 

Many legitimate voters will face new hurdles to voting this year, if proposed changes to Michigan election laws pass the Legislature.  The House Redistricting and Elections Committee approved a set of bills today that regulate groups that register voters, impose stricter photo ID requirements for voters, and add a citizenship check-off box to ballot applications.  The League of Women Voters, AARP Michigan, ACLU, and several other groups oppose the pacakge of bills because they will make voting more difficult and confusing, without improving election security or integrity.
  • These changes are not necessary to ensure election integrity and will create barriers to voting.
  • The requirements placed on groups that register people to vote are excessive and will reduce registration opportunities for citizens.
  • The current methods used to verify a voter’s identity and eligibility are effective and additional requirements will not improve upon these methods.
  • Voting is a fundamental right and the Legislature should make voting more convenient and accessible for citizens, not more difficult.
New training, certification, and paperwork requirements will make it more difficult for groups such as the League to conduct registration drives, resulting in fewer opportunities for citizens to register at locations such as schools, community centers, and churches.  According to national data, Hispanic and African American voters are twice as likely as white voters to register through voter registration drives and, therefore, more likely to be adversely affected.

“Groups such as ours are simply providing a convenient opportunity for people to register,” says Susan Smith, President of the League of Women Voters of Michigan.  “It doesn’t require specialized training by the Secretary of State.”

The legislation also requires photo ID for in-person voter registration and absentee voting.  Some people do not have this type of ID and may be discouraged from voting.  Elderly, minority, low-income and young adult voters are more likely than others to lack photo ID.

Michigan currently follows federal law for verifying new registrants’ identity and the voter’s signature is compared to the signature on file to confirm identity for absentee voting.  These methods work very well and there is no evidence of voter impersonation in our elections.

Even the Secretary of State acknowledges that voter fraud is not a problem.  In response to a recent audit, the Bureau of Elections said, “in every instance, where it appears that a deceased or incarcerated person voted and local records were available, a clerical error was established as the reason for the situation.”

Friday, May 18, 2012

Governor Snyder signs Education Bills

From Laura Toy:
LANSING – Four bills sponsored by Sen. Judy Emmons to expand opportunities for high school freshmen and sophomores and non-public students to take public community college and university courses were signed Tuesday by Gov. Rick Snyder. 

 "A college or technical education is becoming increasingly important for success in today's economy," said Emmons, R-Sheridan. "This is about increasing access to a college education. Certain high school students in Michigan were already allowed to take college courses that counted toward their high school diploma and toward a college degree. With today's action, we open this opportunity to more of our children."

   Mid Michigan Community College President Carol Churchill said, "We find that dual enrollment is very important in setting college expectations among students who are still in high school. It allows students to see that they can be in college and they can be successful. We also think it is important to have a seamless transfer between high school and college, giving students every opportunity to learn in a way they find challenging."

   Senate Bill 622, now Public Act 131 of 2012, makes it easier for non-public school students to dual enroll in college courses and expands the age limit for eligibility to dual enroll. PA 132 makes the same reforms for students wishing to take career and technical college courses. 

   "I led this reform to achieve fairness for all Michigan students," Emmons said. "Children attending a non-public school should not be denied the opportunity to dual enroll in college courses simply because of how their parents choose to educate them."

   PAs 133-134 enable the state treasurer to pay the postsecondary educational or career and technical preparation institution for the courses in which non-public school students dually enroll. The treasurer would pay the amount billed by the institution or a pro-rated amount equal to the average statewide per-pupil allowance, whichever is less. The funds would come from the Michigan Department of Treasury, and not from the local school district.

   "This initiative allows high school students easier access to college-level programs and will hopefully increase the number of citizens with higher education credentials," said Robert Ferrentino, Montcalm Community College president. "I have been watching the progress of these bills, and I'm pleased that the reforms are now a reality. I believe the benefits are going to be great for students." 

   Students would be limited to a maximum of 10 courses, with additional limits on the number of courses per year that are dependent upon when the student begins dual enrollment. The limits apply unless there is a written agreement between the school district and the applicable postsecondary institution allowing for more courses.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Opera on WCMU Friday

Gisela Moffit said:
"A quick reminder:  CMU Public Television will show "The Enchanted Island" on Friday, May 18 at 9 p.m. I hope you have a large screen and good loudspeakers to really enjoy the splendor of the production.  When we saw it in January, we were all amazed and thrilled.  Great voices, acting, sets and costumes!"

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Mt. Pleasant Public School Art on Display

 From now through May 31 over 75 works of art from students in the Mt. Pleasant public schools, grades K-12, will be at Art Reach on Broadway, 111 E. Broadway. This showcases the creativity and talent of our young artists so please be sure to visit the exhibition. These students deserve recognition for their efforts, so if you see the works of students you know, be sure to tell them how much you liked them. The shows includes a variety of media, including 2 and 3 dimensional pieces, clay, watercolor, charcoal, graphite, colored pencil, markers, fabric, crayons, pastels, and acrylics.         

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Sari Khoury Retrospective

Art Reach of Mid Michigan will exhibit a wonderful retrospective of the work of local artist, Professor Sari Khoury (1941-1997) in the Gallery, 111 East Broadway, Mt. Pleasant, from June 1 through 30, 2012.
He was a member of the CMU Art Department for 29 years, and was, for a period, Chairman. Of his work, he wrote, “My visual vocabulary is rooted in my training in the modrn traditions ranging from Cubism, to Surrealism, to Abstract Expressionism. I thrive on experimentation with media, and tools, which allow me to create a variety of sensual surfaces achieved through methods of layering.”
Gallery hours are: Monday-Friday, 10 am to 5:30 pm; Saturday, 10 am to 4 pm. Please join us at an Artist Reception, June 7, at Art Reach on Broadway, 5-6:30 pm.