Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Phrase of the Day: STAY GRANTED

In a last-minute, and completely unexpected, move, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin gave Richard Glossip a stay of execution!

Even though her office argued in favor of the use of midazolam, the controversial lethal injection drug, in the case of Glossip v. Gross, she cited, of all things, its use in the lethal injection process.

Here is the statement from her office today:
        "Governor Mary Fallin has issued a 37 day stay of Richard Glossip’s
        execution to address legal questions raised today about Oklahoma’s
        execution protocols. The stay will give the Department of Corrections
        and its attorneys the opportunity to determine whether potassium
        acetate is compliant with the state’s court-approved execution
       "Last minute questions were raised today about Oklahoma’s execution
        protocol and the chemicals used for lethal injection," said Fallin. 
        "After consulting with the attorney general and the Department of
        Corrections, I have issued a 37-day stay of execution while the state
        addresses those questions and ensures it is complying fully with the
        protocols approved by federal courts."
        The new execution date will be Friday, November 6.
        "My sincerest sympathies go out to the Van Treese family, who has
        waited so long to see justice done,” Fallin said.

A strange reason, but a stay of execution is a stay of execution.  Hopefully, an innocent man will be let free.

If you haven't yet read my blog about this case, please click here.


Saturday, September 12, 2015


Yesterday, here the United States, the nation marked the fourteenth anniversary of the attacks on 9/11.  Fourteen years later, it remains a divisive event.  There are those who are in sync with the official story and those who are not.  While I consider myself a healthy skeptic, I am in the latter of those two camps.  As the events on that terrible day unfolded, and in the weeks and months that followed, I, like so many others, was overcome with many emotions. As the years passed, many questions arose for me and I began to think about all that had happened much more deeply.

Today's film, director David Hooper's first, is The Anatomy of a Great Deception, which discusses his personal journey in researching the events of 9/11.  It is a thought-provoking project into the events of that terrible day that, for Hooper, began with "one simple, innocent question"..

Dismiss this as conspiracy ramblings if you will, but I sincerely invite you to give Mr. Hooper's film a watch.  You just might find it was worth it.


Monday, September 7, 2015

Phrase of the Day: RULE OF LAW

Unless you've been hiding under a rock, you have likely heard of the case of Kim Davis.  Davis is a county clerk in Rowan County, Kentucky.  Beginning late last month, some same-sex couples came to the county clerk's office to obtain a marriage license.  (The U.S. Supreme Court declared same-sex marriages legal back in late June.)  Davis refused, citing "God's authority" as her reason why she refused.  In fact, it had reached the point very quickly where Davis was not issuing any marriage license to any couple, gay or straight, in order to avoid issuing licenses to same-sex couples.

Davis recently petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to hear her case; the Court turned her down.  In fact, Davis had been ordered by a judge about a month ago to issue marriage licenses.  For nearly a week, Davis went before a federal judge several times.  Each time, the judge told her that legally she could not refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.  Davis remained defiant, and was held in contempt of court and put in jail last week.  In court, she told her clerks to not issues marriages licenses.  After being questioned by the judge, the judge told the clerks they had to issues marriages licenses to all couples under the law.  Five out of the six clerks agreed.  The one holdout was Davis' son, Nathan.

The following day, eight couples, six gay and two straight, obtained marriages licenses.  Some of the gay couples had tried to obtain a marriage license a couple of times; some had tried six times, day after day.  Many of them had entered into a class action lawsuit against Davis to be granted marriage licenses.  While a fine by itself would have also been appropriate for Davis' contempt charge, the judge felt that her legal defense fund, the Liberty Counsel, would be able to pay the fines for Davis with no problem while she continued to refuse to break the law.  In response to her being put in jail, the chairman of the Liberty Counsel, Mat Staver, has stated that Kim Davis has been treated like a criminal solely because she is being forced to go against her religious conscience.

In fact, Mr. Staver feels as though Kin Davis' is similar with what went on in Nazi Germany.
          "[W]hat happened in Nazi Germany, what happened there first, they
          removed the Jews from government public employment, then they
          stopped patronizing them in their private businesses, then they
          continued to stigmatize them, then they were the ‘problems,’ then they
          killed them.         
          "Back in the 1930s, it began with the Jews, where they were evicted
          from public employment, then boycotted in their private employment,
          then stigmatized and that led to the gas chambers.  This is the new
          persecution of Christians here in this country."

Mr.Staver, Kim Davis was jailed for breaking the law.  Period.

There are other county clerks refusing to issue marriage licenses, too, but I want to highlight a story out of Oregon.  Judge Vance D. Day, a circuit court judge in Marion County, Oregon, has recently refused to issue any marriage licenses in order to avoid issuing them for same-sex couples. He is under investigation for a series of ethics issues, one of them being his refusal to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Even though in violation of the Supreme Court's ruling, Judge Day had immediately instructed his clerks to refer couples to other judges. 

While the situations of Kim Davis and Judge Day are similar, the approaches are vastly different. Judge Day immediately had other options to be presented.  Davis did not even want her clerks to issues marriage licenses, and maintains from jail that they still should not do so, even claiming the licenses are invalid.  Both are in the wrong in the sight of the law, but the judge at least gave options, where Davis wants to use her position to hold up the rights of others hostage.  She has even stated she would not resign from her position.  Judge Day is at least offering legal circumvention; Kim Davis is staunchly offering religious imposition.  Let me clarify, I do not feel Judge Day is correct, not at all, but at least he has currently suggested an alternate route.

Christian conservatives are condemning Davis' jailing as religious persecution.  That is their belief and they are entitled to that belief, but the contempt ruling is legal, not religious.  Let us look at the Supreme Court's ruling on same-sex marriage.  In his majority decision paper, Judge Anthony Kennedy wrote that the plaintiffs were seeking "equal dignity in the eyes of the law" and that "[n]o longer may this liberty be denied".  Nowhere in the justices' decisions is it stated that they were ruling on religious beliefs and convictions, and nowhere do they state that everyone's religious beliefs must change.  Why?  Because the Supreme Court is not a religious body; it is a legal body, and thus has no jurisdiction over religious beliefs.

Mike Huckabee, a current Republican presidential candidate and Christian conservative, has stated that Kim Davis is facing what he calls "judicial tyranny" as a result of "overreach of the judiciary".  Once again, an intentional misinterpretation of the Supreme Court's legal ruling regarding equal rights as an anti-religious statement.  Kim Davis, and others who believe that way she does, can believe that way all they wish.  Legal issues and laws can coincide with religious beliefs, like murder, but those issues and laws still address legality alone and nothing more.

America is not a theocracy and was never intended by its founders to be one.  The separation of church and state is a tenet of that.  America is, and was always intended to be, a nation of laws. 

To be fair, Kim Davis has worked in the Rowan County clerk's office for roughly twenty-five years, and was elected as County Clerk on January 5 of this year.  So, after a quarter-century of working in the County Clerk's office, and roughly six months after her beginning as County Clerk, the Supreme Court hands down its ruling on same-sex marriage.  Clearly, the dynamics have changed; that cannot be denied. 

Still, if her private, individual religious beliefs are against same-sex marriage, but the position to which she was elected, which included an oath she took to uphold the Constitution, is a legal, government position, then the law must prevail.  The county clerk's office is not a religious institution.

How did Davis respond to this new dynamic?  With discrimination against same-sex couples by denying them their legal right to get married, citing God's authority and her religious beliefs as her justifications.  It is religious bigotry and entitlement, not religious freedom.

Does Kim Davis have a right to be County Clerk?  Of course, she does.  Still, to continue in that position, she has to issue marriage licenses to straight and same-sex couples because same-sex couples have the same right to get married as straight couples.  That is the nature of her non-religious position as County Clerk.

If Kim Davis is against same-sex marriage, then she should not marry a woman.  If Mike Huckabee, who is also a Baptist minister, does not want to perform a wedding for a same-sex couples, then he shouldn't.  (The Supreme Court ruling does not address individual religious beliefs or how churches and clergy have to perform their duties.) 

So, what's the problem?

For one, the misuse of the term "religious freedom".  The religious freedom granted by the Constitution is about the exercise one's religion and religion itself.  The "religious freedom" of which people like Kim Davis, Mike Huckabee, and others speak appears to be the freedom to rework and rewrite the fabric of this country.  Whenever those who wish to change the fabric of this country do not get their way, the automatic response is their religious freedom is being denied.

The other problem, which stems from the "religious freedom" arguments, is the rising tide of anti-secular law sentiment among many Christian conservatives.  It is a form of religious separatism.  It is not separation of church and state, but separation church from state ... or more along the lines of elevation of church over state. 

If Kim Davis was Muslim, Christian conservatives and, let's be honest, others would be against her, saying she should just do her job or step down.  And yet, if she was Muslim and refused to issue marriage licenses based on her religious beliefs, she would be doing nothing different that what is the case today.  (I would still say she was in the wrong and should issue marriage licenses.)  To say that there is a difference and Kim Davis, the Christian, is right is based in religious arrogance.

There are many countries that are theocracies.  Some of them are Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Somalia, and Iran.  It is curious to note than no Christian conservative has stated that those countries are great examples of government rule.  If so many of them want religion to rule this country -- Mike Huckabee, for one example, when he initially ran for President in 2008, said he wanted the Constitution to be rewritten to be more in line with the Bible -- why don't any of them tout those other countries as examples?  The answer is religious elitism.

The case of Kim Davis boils down to someone behaving in direct conflict with the oath she swore to uphold ... someone not doing her job to its fullest extent ... and using a cloak of "religious freedom" as defense.  Those who support her and, perhaps, want to see America become a theocracy need to understand that, as a nation of laws, the law must prevail.  Those who are against same-sex marriage, citing their religion, show themselves to be unjust, seeing gay persons as second-class citizens who do not deserve equal rights. 

They also represent Christianity as religious colonialism.


Tuesday, September 1, 2015


I urge you, dear readers, to read this and both get involved and spread this post around as much as you can.  A man's life hangs in the balance.

The death penalty has been a divisive subject for years.  Its roots could arguably be traced back ages when early homo sapiens walked the earth (i.e. threats, real or perceived, that were met with violence and death).  The use of crucifixion under the Roman Empire, the use of the electric chair and lethal injection, and even the murders of innocent people during the Salem witch trials are all various examples of the death penalty.  It has been deemed necessary when dealing with criminals whose crimes (also real or perceived) are so severe that only putting them to death is deemed as just punishment.

There have been examples when the death penalty has been commuted, and the discovery of DNA several years ago has, at times, be a key element in getting convictions of varying degrees overturned.  There are times when people have not only be incarcerated unjustly, but even put to death unnecessarily. 

Today, I will highlight one such case.  The case of Richard Glossip.

I will be providing links to relevant sites, but I wanted to provide a very brief overview.  A murder took place at the Best Budget Inn in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, on Janaury 7, 1997.  The victim was Barry Van Treese, the owner of the Best Budget Inn.  The man convicted of the murder is Justin Sneed, who was in charge of maintenance at the inn.  The manager, Richard Glossip, was on duty and onsite at the time.  Sneed was arrested and charged with Van Treese's murder.  Sneed implicated Glossip, saying Glossip had paid him to kill Van Treese.

Justin Sneed is serving a life sentence.  Richard Glossip is on death row.

Key points in this case include:
  • Deal made by detectives with Sneed for implicating someone else
  • Videotape of Sneed's confession, including the offer made by detectives, was never shown to any jury.
  • Shoddy defense representation
  • Sneed changing his testimony repeatedly
  • No physical evidence to support Glossip's involvement

Richard Glossip is scheduled to be executed on September 16.  He has been on death row for seventeen years.

I first became aware of this case on a recent episode of the Dr. Phil television show.  I am not a regular viewer of his show, but I had seen commercials for the episode that featured actress Susan Sarandon.  Sarandon, played Sister Helen Prejean in the very powerful film Dead Man Walking.  Both Sarandon and Sister Helen appeared on the episode.  Below is that episode in its entirety.

Many of the points covered in the show are in the next link, but I would recommend you give it a read.  This is a link to Sister Mary Prejean's blog about Richard Glossip's case.  You will see links for signing a petition to Oklahoma's Governor Mary Fallin to give Glossip a stay of execution to allow all of the relevant evidence to come to light, to write to Governor Fallin directly, to write your local newspaper about this case, and more.  I would strongly encourage you to scroll down on the site and click on the DOWNLOAD THE TALKING POINTS link for an overview of this case before you continue.  Here's the link: Save Richard Glossip's life

There's even a website dedicated to Glossip himself, which includes information about his life and updates on his case.  Here's that link: Richard Glossip Is An Innocent Man

One wrongful death does not, and cannot, warrant or justify another wrongful death.  Please see everything presented here and get involved.  At the very least, I urge you to spread this post as much as you can on various social media.  The time is getting closer to September 16, Richard Glossip's scheduled execution date. 

An innocent man was killed on January 7, 1997.  Don't let another be killed on September 30, 2015.  Please help!