Friday, May 30, 2014

Marginalized in Deerfield Beach

From David Cohen responding to the Supreme Court decision in the Town of Greece, New York v. Galloway  case challenging the invocation prayer at city meetings:
I do not presume to retry the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) case but I must challenge the decision of the homogeneous majority as a violation of my human rights — I am now legally marginalized. 

When our city’s presiding officer opens each civic meeting by introducing the invocator which is followed by intoning “Everyone stand.” Or “Would you all rise!” it does not come across as a request.  When the invocation, in one form or another cites — emphasizes —  a belief that is inconsonant with mine,  I am consigned to the OTHER caste.

In their very nature, these invocations do proselytize though, according to the SCOTUS majority, it's always been done so it's acceptable as a time-honored custom.  How does this differ from the equally long-standing customs of slavery, of Jim Crow laws and from the ongoing legislation that truncates rights of minorities?

 I have long advocated a moment of silence as an inclusive procedure.  This is supported by scriptures of several creeds and accepted by many non-believers — equal as citizens also.  I cannot understand why any person of conscience in this 21st century republic would not wish to honor this simple step toward mutual respect and unity.

David Cohen — marginalized man

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Hey, Deerfield Beach! How About a Moment of Silence?

Mayor Robb made it a point to mention that the Supreme Court ruled that prayer at commission meetings is “perfectly legitimate”. 

 The court decided 5-4 that opening a meeting with prayer is legal.  However, legal does not mean right; does not mean that many people who have to attend meetings are not offended.  Legal does not mean MUST, it means MAY.  I have long held that if any reflection is needed it should be done in a moment of silence which does not rub people’s noses in another’s religion.  That is why you will see me sitting during invocations at commission meetings.

When this was suggested some years back by a Jewish resident, and brought up by Commissioner Militello, Jean Robb took offense and brought the head priest of St. Ambrose Church to voice disapproval.  All well and good, they have every right to state their opinion. 

However, when Fr. Dalton then accosted Commissioner Militello and shook his finger in her face and said that he would personally make sure she didn’t get reelected, I was shocked.  I couldn’t believe a priest would do such a nasty thing. 

He indeed carried out his threat and convinced many of his District 1 parishioners not to vote for her. In doing so I think he risked losing his church’s non-profit status as he is not allowed to do any politicking in church.
What was most unbelievable is that all she did was respond to a resident by suggesting a moment of silence.  Was Dalton’s overreaction the Christian thing to do?  Surely not! Certainly not in the Methodist Church in which I was raised.  We were taught to respect others' opinions.

A retired Montana Supreme Court Judge says it better than I could, below is an excerpt from his article.
An American Constitution Society for Law and Policy
Web Site Guest Post
I Will Stand No Longer for Prayer

May 8, 2014
by James C. Nelson, Justice, Montana Supreme Court (Retired)

…I cannot not accept the U.S. Supreme Court’s May 5, decision in Town of Greece v. Galloway. In that case the Court held that the town opening its  official board meetings with a Christian prayer offered by members of the clergy does not violate the First Amendment and does not discriminate against minority faiths or coerce participation with non-adherents. 

The Court’s decision is flat wrong. It respects neither the history underpinning the adoption of the religion clauses, the wall of separation, nor the reality that “We the People” are a pluralistic and diverse society encompassing all degrees of sectarian believers, agnostics and atheists.

Nonetheless, that decision is now the law of the land—created from whole cloth and judicially blessed by the right wing Christian majority of our Nation’s highest Court. And, that puts me in a box.

For many years I have stood during opening prayers in public meetings of federal, state and local government. I did so out of a sense of respect for the beliefs of others and for decorum – notwithstanding my personal dis-belief in the prayer and the god prayed-to. But, while respect can be freely given, it cannot be compelled.  And, thus, The Town of Greece leaves me but one option.

I will stand no longer for prayer! I will not, as the Supreme Court suggests, leave the room during the invocation. Rather, I will sit during the prayer in the meeting room in which I am constitutionally entitled to assemble.

I will not be bullied nor will I be shamed into standing. After all, it is not I who is violating the constitutional separation of church and state. I cannot and will not be compelled to participate in any fashion in government sponsored prayer.

To be clear, my problem is not with those who profess and practice belief in one form of religious doctrine or another.  That fundamental right is guaranteed by the First Amendment. Rather, my issue is with public officials who insist on foisting their personal religious beliefs – through prayers in particular – on persons, like me and on others who do not believe, at public meetings.

Stated another way, I take issue with government officers who insist on mixing their official duties with religious prayers, pontifications, Bible readings, and calls upon their God, before, during or at the end official public meetings.

Yet, the Supreme Court in The Town of Greece appears to take the position that this sort of Church/State incest is just part of good ole’ American government – no harm, no foul. Well, the Court is wrong. It is harmful to the First Amendment rights of non-believers and there is, accordingly, a foul of Constitutional magnitude. 

Any legal rational that facilitates some public officers’ seemingly incessant attempts to force their religion down the unwilling throats of non-believers as part of government meetings undisputedly violates the First Amendment. And if that truth offends the religious sensibilities of the fundamentalist Christian jurists doing the facilitating, then so be it. Indeed, thanks to the Roberts five and The Town of Greece, everyone can now be offended – officially and as a matter of law.

There are many “ocracys” that the framers of our Constitution tried to prevent. Chief among them was theocracy. For, to paraphrase C.S. Lewis, those who torment us with their religious beliefs will do so without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.
And now, sadly, they will also do so officially, with the divine sanction of the Supreme Court of the United States.

We the People may be stuck with the Court’s newest law; but, as for me. . . I will stand no longer for prayer."


Friday, May 9, 2014

Deerfield Beach, Who's to Blame?

Bringing up decades old racism is not right, what happened in 1958 in the south was shameful, but bringing up the Robbs’ part in it is not going to help our city, and will only serve to further polarize the residents.  However, overreactions that are going on today should be addressed. 

Mayor Robb, when phoned by Channel 10’s investigative reporter Bob Norman, and told that workers had to carry water jugs while working, said, “I don’t think people should be treated like they are back on the plantation and I think a few heads should roll in terms of people in charge.”

This was a bizarre thing for the mayor of a city to say.  This was a very provocative statement.  She didn’t say she would look into the allegations, she didn’t say our city provides a water truck for our outdoor workers - this must be wrong, she didn’t say I will check with the city manager to get to the bottom of this, she didn’t even say no comment until I know the facts.  

She snapped that the city was at fault and she jumped to firing “people in charge”.  What mayor would do that, and why?  It smacks of prior knowledge and that she knew the workers were black. The mayor played the “race card”. 

Again, why? The workers were black, however, so are their supervisors.  Was her comment a ploy to try to make Chaz Steven’s 1958 history lesson irrelevant, and take the heat off?  Many think so.  However, putting such a personal agenda ahead of facts and the good of the city shows Robb’s priorities.  Suspicions that she was involved with Sandra Jackson to produce a scandal are a bit farfetched.  

Perhaps Jackson wanted to show that Jean Robb was not racist and took it upon herself to point out that black workers were being oppressed hoping that Jean would get the credit for helping them. This event needs a thorough investigation. 

Some are saying that the other four commissioners are wrong in pointing the finger at Jean all the time and bringing up her faults.  They should concentrate on running the city.  Lofty goal, but sadly Jean cannot bring up an issue without causing dissention.  As much as some of the commissioners tried to facilitate a compromise and/or point out the reasons her issue was not a good idea, nothing worked and a divide has been created. No meeting goes by without a Jean Robb caused disturbance.  Jean has published her desire to replace Miller, Preston and Ganz.  That unquestionably leads to a divisive commission.  This atmosphere causes everyone to look for gotcha opportunities. 

Don’t blame the commissioners for standing up for themselves, and taking commission meeting time to do it, due to open government laws they have no other venue. 

Commissioner Miller objected to being yelled at by Jean, on the phone, Commissioner Rosenzweig is still waiting for an apology from Jean for accosting his wife, Commissioner Preston was accused by Jean of making remarks that Dr. Robb, Mayor Robb’s late husband, was racist.  Ben never ever said such a thing; in fact, no one has done that except Chaz Stevens who published on his website old newspaper stories. 

Jean has created the impression that Bill Ganz is out to get her because he doesn’t personally like her.  That is nonsense.  His great sin is caring about the finances and the running of the city, and having a bit of a temper.  At first he carefully explained why the ideas the mayor had were not feasible, why certain items had been fully discussed at a prior time and were now being carried out and should not be changed.  His logic was correct.  All Jean heard was NO.  And after stubborn refusal after stubborn refusal by Jean to listen to reason, he started pointing out her inconsistencies. 

What happened after that has led to where we are now.  The residents who supported and still support Jean Robb have personified their anger and are focusing on Bill Ganz as the bad guy.  Hey, folks, you are living in a big glass house, quit throwing stones.

 What Bill has done is he has pointed out that Jean’s bypassing bidding procedure is not a good idea, that the fire station should not be sold without a serious study of the finances, that it is not fiscally responsible to bring the fire department back to our city, that eliminating the CRA would lose 15 million dollars for the city, that the CRA could still buy the A1A hotels if they were within the city’s price range and also complete the Sullivan Park improvements, one is not exclusive of the other, that eliminating the beach building codes placed in the charter by the OSOB referenda would be harmful to the city, and,  well, I don’t have to go on, you get the idea. 

Jean seems to believe that the provisions of the Deerfield Beach Charter don’t apply to her, recently I heard her say that she sent a check to two charities from a donation, if the donation was to the city, she alone is not allowed to decide where money goes, that is a decision that must be made by the whole commission.  She has admitted in public that she has ordered city staff to do her bidding, again illegal, and another violation of the charter. 

Someone who has not seen the evolution of the current atmosphere of the commission may well blame everyone on the dais, to them I say, go back a year, before Jean’s election and watch a few videos of those meetings and then say it isn’t Jean’s fault. 


Thursday, May 8, 2014

True or False? Deerfield Beach

Fraud? - 05/07/14
It appears that charges of poor working conditions motivated by racial prejudice were staged by a couple of disgruntled city employees, aided and abetted by others outside of city government. The result was an embarrassing video report by Channel 10 reporter Bob Norman. The city claims the charges are false and never pursued through normal union grievance procedures...
 Read the rest and view the video here: