SP23. Personal Reflections of a School Board Meeting

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I pulled into the parking lot 15 minutes before starting time and immediately thought I should have come much earlier. As I drove to the back parking lot, I noted the surprising number of cars and even a Baptist church full-size bus, from Kannapolis which is not even a part of the Rowan Salisbury School System.

The event? An RSS Board of Education meeting to revisit the newly changed policy regarding GSA (Gay Straight Alliance) clubs in the local high schools. A few years ago the board voted to disallow what they called “sex-based” clubs in the school system, then within the last two months, under legal advice, changed that policy.

At the following meeting during the public comment time, eight spoke out against the change, and the board responded by choosing to revisit the issue in a public meeting with their attorney. Thus this meeting.

As I walked into the building in my church lady skirt, I was treated as a 52-year-old woman, with cordial greetings and smiles exchanged with strangers, and young boys opening the doors for me.  Entering the meeting room, I quickly spotted a friend amidst the crowd of strangers, and sat down in the back beside him. Then another friend came in and sat with the two of us.  Theirs were the only faces I recognized in the crowd, except for the board members and the media, most of whose faces I know only as public figures.  A TV camera was in place.

By starting time, there was standing room only, with many standing. There were maybe 100 present, including several young children, there with their parents. In the row in front of me were presumably a husband and wife and four little boys approximately 6-11 years old.

The atmosphere was pleasant, although charged with anticipatory energy.

Following the Pledge of Allegiance, the announcement was made that, although this was a special meeting, they would take public comment.  14 had signed up to speak, four in support of allowing the GSA clubs and ten in opposition, including six of the eight who spoke at the previous meeting.

Those speaking in support included a local PFLAG leader with a lesbian daughter, and a pastor. Among those in opposition was a young woman who brought her baby as a prop, and cried as she related her fears of her baby girl growing up and someone telling her she could be something besides a girl.  Another speaker cried at the thought of what she would tell her little children if they one day asked her about gay people.  As I returned to my seat after speaking in favor of the clubs, the glares from the audience were icy cold.  I was no longer the kind church-looking lady, but was Satan himself.

The young boy in front of me couldn’t stop watching me the rest of the meeting, with eyes that seemed to reflect both fear and the desire to show me he was not afraid of me. He knew how to deal with Satan.  How sad his eyes made me for the Christian Church. I longed to tell him that Jesus is the most important influence in my life, and that I love all children.  I wanted to tell him that if he or one of his brothers finds himself struggling one day with same-sex attraction and is rejected by his family and his church, I and other Christians with me will be there ready to support him, listen to him, and love him. Of course all I could do was smile at him and breathe a silent prayer.

As the speakers took their turns at the microphone, the crowd became a Baptist congregation.  The opposition speakers, often quoting Bible verses, were lauded with a sea of amens and loud applause, with an uproar when one supporting speaker was accidentally allowed more than his allotted 3 minutes. Two speakers accused the board of secretly letting the supporters know that public comments would be allowed, while keeping that knowledge from the opponents. The evidence: two of us had speaking notes. It was a church circus, reminiscent of the not-so-long-ago commissioner meetings during their discussions on prayer.  Two commissioners were present.  Mike Caskey spoke in opposition, and Jim Sides came in maybe an hour late and sat in the back.  As far as I could guess, if there were 100 people in the audience, 94 of those were in opposition to allowing GSAs, and four of the other six were the supporting speakers.

Following public comment, the board members, guided by their attorney, dove into their business. Susan Cox made a motion to ban all extra-curricular clubs. There was much discussion on this from the board members and the attorney. Although most of the board members seemed to want to ban the GSAs, they finally voted down the motion to ban all clubs. During the discussion, it was brought out that the largest GSA club in the county has no more than six students. It was amazing to me that these few students are apparently a large enough threat to our community that we would seriously consider banning clubs that are enjoyed by hundreds, maybe thousands of our students: Junior Civitan, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Bible clubs . . .

During the discussion, Dr. Richard Miller, board chairperson, presented an admirable discourse about Jesus’ response to all kinds of people, with a reminder that not all Christians are in agreement on the issue, and that there is not just one Christian way of thinking. One woman in the audience arose dramatically, folded her arms in disgust, and exited the room.

A second motion was made by Josh Wagner that the wording be changed to only ban clubs that would encourage or discourage anyone’s sexual orientation. They went into closed session with the attorney, and came back to vote that one down also.  Thus the issue closed without any change, leaving all extra-curricular clubs open for students.

I didn’t stay for the final segment but left when the board went into closed session.  As a friend walked me back to my car, the air had changed. There were storm clouds in the sky but larger ones in my heart, as I pondered the state of the Church and how we have moved so far away from the example and teachings of Jesus.  I didn’t know at that time what the final vote inside would be, but my heaviness was that a whole roomful of people believed with all their hearts that fighting against gay people is God’s will. God, help us.

 

Salisbury Post‘s coverage of meeting here

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SP22. Racism Patriot-Style?

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50 years ago today, July 2, 1964, the United States passed the Civil Rights Act.

This morning’s local front page news headlines another of Rowan’s own, a local Tea-Party politician, being asked to step down from his appointed position because of racist posts on Facebook.

Earlier this week, in an article about racist accusations being made against him, he denied all racism, then in seemingly the same breath, stated that the NAACP is the most racist organization in the country.  I had to reread that line a few times to believe he actually said it in his own defense.

Do the Donald Sterlings, the Paula Deens, and the local Tea-Partiers believe themselves not to be racists? Are we really living in such a self-deceptive society?  Or are they well aware of their racism, like the white pointed hat wearers of the not so distant past, and attempting to conceal it just as those predecessors did?  I choose to believe most of today’s racism is of the ignorant variety . . .

According to the local paper, the offending Facebook posts have been removed, but here are a few that were easily accessed.  (I wonder what the “offensive” ones were like!)  The all-caps type is his, not mine; and the black print comments are mine.

 

Our country is the Confederacy?
“LET US CROSS OVER THE RIVER AND REST UNDER THE SHADE OF THE TREES”, FINAL WORDS OF STONEWALL JACKSON. THE END OF OUR COUNTRY, THE CONFEDERATE STATES OF AMERICA.

The Republican Party is not Right-Wing enough. To hell with lesbos, queers, liberals, and abortionists!
I AM VERY CONCERNED ABOUT THE DIRECTION OF THE NATIONAL GOP. I HAVE BEEN INVOLVED WITH THE GOP AT EVERY CAMPAIGN LEVEL SINCE I WAS 9 YEARS OLD AND THE ONLY WINNING FORMULA IS TO BE THE PARTY OF CONSERVATIVE PRINCIPLES. THIS OUTREACH CRAP HAS BEEN TRIED MANY TIMES BEFORE AND HAS ALWAYS FAILED BECAUSE THE GROUPS YOU OUTREACH TO CARE ONLY ABOUT HOW MUCH YOU ARE GOING TO PROMISE AND GIVE THEM AND WE WILL NEVER BE ABLE TO GIVE MORE THAN THE LIBERALS AND DEMS BECAUSE THEY DON’T HAVE A PRINCIPLED BONE IN THEIR BODY AND THEY DON’T CARE EVEN IF OUR CONSTITUTIONAL REPUBLIC IS DESTROYED. TO HELL WITH THE LESBOS, QUEERS LIBERALS AND BABY KILLERS.

Those irresponsible blacks
THE IRRESPONSIBLE BLACKS WILL REELECT HIM AND HE KNOWS IT. http://www.ncgop.org/ncgop-calls-patrick-cannon-resign-mayor-charlotte/

Got your assault weapon yet? Better hurry!
EVERYONE NEEDS AT LEAST 1 IN YOUR HOUSEHOLD TO PROTECT YOURSELF AND YOUR LOVED ONES AGAINST THE COMMING TYRANNY. http://www.thefederalistpapers.org/video-2/the-assault-weapon-rebellion

Of course
THE MOST DANGEROUS PERSON TO FREEDOM IN THE WORLD TODAY. http://www.thefederalistpapers.org/us/watch-how-obama-responds-to-35570-counts-of-voter-fraud-in-north-carolina

Likes Tillis
PRO LIFE, PRO TRADITIONAL MARRIAGE, PRO 2ND AMENDMENT, PRO FREEDOM. WHAT MORE COULD YOU ASK FOR. THOM TILLIS WILL MAKE A DIFFERENCE!

FRANKLIN GRAHAM, TELLING IT LIKE IT IS!!! FRANKLIN GRAHAM FOR PRESIDENT 2016!!!http://cnsnews.com/news/article/michael-w-chapman/rev-graham-muslims-who-want-practice-sharia-law-should-go-back-where?utm_source=Facebook&utm_medium=Marketing&utm_term=Facebook&utm_content=socialflow&utm_campaign=graham-sharia

THIS PROVES THAT DUMBASSES CAN BE LAWYERS AND SERVE ON THE US SUPREME COURT.

a portrait of Robert E. Lee   http://fineartamerica.com/featured/2-general-robert-e-lee-1807-1870-everett.html

 

On Facebook he “likes”:
Warbird Pinup Girls
The Tea Party  

The Tea Party   

 

This sub-cultural brand of racism cannot be pinned to the Republican Party nor to the conservative religious denomination of which he is a part. Neither condones such radical extremism.

50 years ago today the United States of America passed the Civil Rights Act  . . . As Leonard Pitts so perfectly said it in his Sunday column, 50 years later we still have a long long way to go.

 

photo credit: Victor Chalfant. Posted on Mac Butner’s Facebook page with this personal comment: I KNEW THE SOUTH WOULD RISE AGAIN! GOD BLESS DIXIE! YEE HAW!!

 

 

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SP21. Jacob and Esau and NC Teachers

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Senate Republicans unveiled a plan on Wednesday that would give North Carolina teachers their biggest pay increase in history, 11.2%, and would raise the state’s teacher pay ranking from its current 47th to somewhere near the middle.  Hooray, right?  Well, not so fast.  There’s a catch.

Remember the Old Testament story of Jacob and Esau?  Esau, the eldest son with all the rights that entailed, came in hungry, probably from hunting and trapping, smelled the porridge his brother Jacob was cooking, and sold his birthright for it.

The proposed plan is this: Take the raise, and trade in your tenure.

We have no indication that Esau thought about his choice.  He was hungry.  He wanted soup.  Soup was for right now.  A birthright was for sometime in the future, for children, grandchildren, and future generations.  Not a concern for the moment.

Sure, we could debate whether tenure is fair, whether it helps or hurts education, etc., but that is not what Esau was thinking about.  He was hungry.  Right now he wanted a bowl of soup.  He would enjoy it, but would be hungry again tomorrow, and his sons and descendants would forever wonder at the choice he made for them.

NC Teachers, should your 2014-2015 pay be dependent on your own choice between a raise and tenure, at least think about your choice.  If you choose a raise, immediate gratification will be yours.  It won’t satisfy or be remembered for long before you are hungry for another.  But much farther reaching than that, your collective choice will change history.  Right or wrong, good or bad, fair or unfair, tenure has been a part of the teaching profession for generations.  The soup spoon being extended to you will stop that; and don’t let yourself be fooled – Unlike raises, which will always be debated by the legislature, once gone, tenure will not return, not for you, not for your daughters, not for any future generation of teachers.

Of course, Jacob was happy.

 

 

photo credit: masbury wordpress

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SP20. Rowan County Commissioners and the May 6 Primary

 

What We Need

Leaders who are:
1.  more interested in serving Rowan County than in serving politics,
2.  intelligent enough to hear, respect, and consider all perspectives of an issue, and
3.  strong enough to stand up against power-players

 

Why Rowan County Government Is Not Working Well

Government ceases to function when, on the political 1-10 spectrum, all the players (or the clear ruling majority) are ones and/or tens.  When one political party is able to take over a government body, or when there’s a stalemate of uncompromising extremes, whether it be national, state, or local, that body is in danger of losing the give and take that’s necessary in serving a diverse 2-party population.

Currently Rowan County’s Board of Commissioners is dominated by one extreme mindset and appears focused on holding onto that power above all other priorities.  What we need are, not more ones and tens, but some fours, fives, sixes, and sevens, who are able and willing to work together to find the best answers to Rowan County’s issues.

Many are upset about the commissioners’ recent purchase of the Salisbury Mall property, and the possible tax increase it will bring.  Many are upset at the lack of cooperative effort of the commissioners with other local boards like the School Board and the Salisbury City Council.  Many are upset about the commissioners wasting dollars and energy fighting a legal battle about prayer in government meetings.  Many are upset at the general lack of professionalism being exhibited under Rowan’s name. Voices all over the county are calling for change in our county government.

 

Why Should You Vote?

Some are saying this County Commissioner election is the most important in many years, because it could either harden the already one-party power play, or it could balance the board again so there is give-and-take in decision-making.  This directly affects our well-being as a people, socially and economically, as well as our reputation to surrounding counties, and even beyond NC.  Rowan is being noticed and talked about far outside our borders, often as a laughingstock.  No one can change this but the voters, and in recent local elections, a very few votes have won and lost the races.

 

What is a Primary Election?

The main election is in November.  In November the ballot will include candidates from both the Republican and Democrat parties.  Voters will be able to vote for any mix of Republicans and Democrats for the various offices.  The purpose of the primary elections in May is for each party to select its own candidates to put on the November ballot.  In the primary elections, registered Republicans can only vote for Republican candidates, and Democrats for Democrat candidates.  Registered Independents cannot mix votes in the primaries, but can choose to take either the Republican ballot or the Democrat ballot

 

Why most Independents are likely to opt for the Republican ballot this May

This year’s County Commissioner race has three Democrats and eight Republicans vying for three open positions.  Since there are three positions available, all three Democrats will automatically be on the November ballot, but the eight Republicans must be cut to three.

 

When to vote

Primary Election Day is Tues., May 6, but you can vote early, beginning Thurs., Apr. 24.  Early voting is preferable for two reasons.  It’s usually much quicker, with no lines; and if you wait until Election Day and something comes up to keep you from getting to the polls on time, you get left out of the vote.

On May 6 voters must go to their own precinct locations. Early voters can vote at the Rowan Public Library in Salisbury.  See Board of Elections website for other locations, times, precinct info., etc.

 

So who should you vote for?

Two newly surfaced “vote for change” groups, “La Resistance” and “Fix Rowan,” have endorsed the same three candidates: businessman and cattle farmer Jim Greene, Rowan County deputy Jonathan Love, and Lutheran minister Judy Klusman.  Klusman, who has experience in state level government and can add a feminine voice to the all male board, seems an excellent fit for Rowan leadership.

The other five Republican candidates are:  business owner Joe Coladarci who introduces himself as a tea-party candidate;  Brandon Cupp, local gun shop owner and the youngest of the candidates; Greg Edds, a professional and successful businessman and the best persuasive speaker of all eight candidates, but the recent chairperson of the local Republican Party and as politically far-right as a person can be; David Roueche, a consultant in pharmaceuticals; and Jim Sides, the current chairperson of the County Commissioners who also identifies as a tea-partier.

 

Three Other Possible November Candidates

There are three additional possible candidates for the November election, but they won’t be on the May ballots:  Independents Chris Cohen, Raymond Coltrain, and Gene Miller.  In order to run in November, an Independent must collect 4,000 signatures from Rowan County citizens before May 30.  The Salisbury Post reported on Apr. 18 that Coltrain has made history by being the first unaffiliated candidate to acquire the necessary signatures.

If you would like to help give these candidates a chance to run, you can print their petitions, sign, and mail your (and others’) signatures to be counted.  Your signature is not an endorsement or a commitment to vote for the candidate in November.  It simply allows the candidate the opportunity to run.
Gene Miller
Raymond Coltrain
Chris Cohen

 

Other  Interesting  Resources

Basic data and photos of candidates

Candidates Forum at Catawba College Tues., Apr. 15 (video)

Almost unbelievable video of Salisbury City Manager Doug Paris treated with disrespect at the Rowan County GOP Men’s Breakfast.  Meet some of the candidates here.

If you haven’t voted before Sunday, Apr. 27, check the Salisbury Post for a helpful collection of candidate and voter information.

 

Who am I?

I am a registered Independent who dislikes political polarity and who votes for candidates who are able and willing to play well with others for the good of the whole community.  I am a devout Christian who is troubled when elected political leaders purport to have been elected as the county’s spiritual leaders.  I have been called liberal by conservatives, and conservative by liberals, and I think they’re both right.

My views are my own and not a reflection of my workplace, my church, or the Salisbury Post.

 

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SP19. Fred Phelps: Sifting Through His Tragic Legacy

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According to a Twitter post by Fred Phelps’ son Nathan, the 84-year-old patriarch of Topeka’s infamous Westboro Baptist Church is in hospice care, near death.  Phelps’ tactics of spreading his “God Hates Fags” message were so harsh that even the churches that are outspoken against homosexuality deplored what he was doing.  Phelps, a disbarred lawyer, a four-time political candidate, an Eagle Scout and a civil rights activist in earlier years, will likely be forever known and remembered as the leader of that little gay-hating funeral-protesting church in Kansas.

 Fred Phelps is a tragic figure, a life lived in such a way that few will mourn his death, and millions are likely to celebrate it.  His “Fags Die God Laughs” picket signs are forever embossed on the public mind, the same public that will laugh with joy in the face of his death.  The tragic irony.

 Yet, it has been wisely stated that there is something to learn from every life, and Phelps is surely no exception.  A man with gifts, a man who made some contributions to the world in the past, but, by his own choosing,  a man who sold out along the way, maybe for fame and what he might have perceived as power.

Most church leaders with Phelps’ level of name recognition are mega-church leaders and/or TV evangelists, with their fame bringing even more growth to their churches; but Westboro Baptist Church reportedly has about 40 members, most of whom are family members of Phelps, and their media attention has not added parishioners to their pews. To add to his tragedy, many of his other family members, including son Nathan and three other of his 13 children, left the organization, and, according to Nathan’s Twitter report, the elder Phelps has been excommunicated from the church since August 2013.

Fred Phelps’ life seems a wasted one, but for those of us on the outside looking in, there is much we might learn if we will, first from Phelps’ own life, and second, from those of his followers.

Power.  Not an unusual motivator, but always a dangerous one, for when power is gained too quickly, it almost always becomes abusive. Phelps was a failure in many ways.  He was disbarred from his law practice.  He ran for several political offices but never won.  His church has not been successful.  But -  maybe it started with the murder of University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard  –  the “God Hates Fags” picket signs caught the media’s attention, and Phelps’ name and face were soon recognized everywhere.

Did Phelps really hate gays that much, or was it all about personal power and media fame?  Who can know?  But we have all seen power take over people’s lives, especially those who seem to feel most without power.  Administrators who abuse their staff, white supremacists, those who concoct elaborate lies online just to see how far they’ll spread, those who physically or emotionally abuse their spouse or children, gunmen who kill school children, those who troll blog sites with the goal of stirring people’s anger . . . The desire for power and fame is dangerous.

Then there’s the question of those who followed Phelps.  Why?  How does Phelps, Koresh, Billy Graham, Nelson Mandela, Jim Jones, Charles Manson, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Michael Moore, Rush Limbaugh, Jerry Falwell, Sun Myung Moon, Joseph Smith, MSNBC, Bill O’Reilly, the Dalai Lama, or Hitler attract followers?  People follow people usually for fear or for attraction, and we are all people.  We are all, by nature, learners, and we learn from those we “follow” – our ministers, our friends, our favorite talk show hosts, our favorite basketball players.

My pastor told a story Sunday of three neighborhood boys playing in the newly fallen foot-deep snow.  The father of one of the boys challenged them to a competition.  Positioning himself at the far corner of the yard, the challenge was to see which of the three boys could walk to him with the straightest path.  One carefully watched his feet as he trod to the father.  Another carefully watched the other two boys as he trod.  And the third, the actual son of the father, kept his eyes on the father the entire walk.  They finished with two very crooked paths and the last one straight.

When we “follow” our trusted mentors, even our trusted religious leaders, we are all susceptible to being led astray.  The goal on which we focus should be carefully chosen.  As Christians, while our pastors and teachers can be helpful guides, constant focus on the Christ from which we get our name is what will make our path straight.

Phelps was a misguided soul for whatever reason, as are all of us to some degree, ever seeking our own ways.  May we not forget out own faults as we react to the sometime-in-the-future news of his passing, and may we find the grace to leave all judgment in the hands of God.   

Two final personal questions to be sure our developing legacy is not like that of Phelps:

1.  Are we oppressing or putting down others as we find our way?

2.  Are we misusing the name of God to push our own agendas?

 

Would that our legacy be one of grace and love.

 

 

 

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.  (Prov. 3:5-6)

I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.  (Phil. 3:14)

For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. (Phil. 1:21)

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