Toleration and Diversity
If there were ever a hot issue that I didn't want to take a position on,
this is it. Well, this and who should replace Kathy Lee Gifford as Regis's co-host. But
this the Council bill that forces religious institutions that oppose contraception
to fund contraception through their insurance plans -- is the burning topic in themail
today, so I'll offend away, right and left.
We believe completely in toleration and diversity, and we shall not
tolerate any diversity of opinion from ours. That was the position of the City Council
last week. Those who tolerate only their own opinions, and happily trample over opinions
with which they disagree, are not tolerant. Councilmember Jim Graham insists he isn't an
anti-Catholic bigot; he simply talks like one. As Kurt Vondran points out below, in the
Council debate Councilmember Graham repeatedly used anti-Catholic code words and phrases
that date back in American politics to the Know-Nothings and their predecessors. Mr.
Vondran extends Mr. Graham a very generous benefit of the doubt, suggesting that he may
have used these code words unintentionally. I'll leave the judgment of whether Mr.
Graham's language was accidental or unintentional to others. What is clear is that the
Council, which originally had a majority in favor of a conscience clause that
would not force religious institutions to violate the tenets of their churches, was
bullied into abandoning that minimal degree of tolerance.
This issue was tied up in feminist politics, gay politics, and sexual
politics. If the medical issue had been a different one, not related to contraception, the
same passions would not have been aroused, and the issue of freedom of religious
conscience could have been openly addressed. I don't believe the Council would pass a bill
that would force Jehovah's Witness and Seventh Day Adventist doctors to perform blood
transfusions, or require Christian Science practitioners to prescribe medicine. As it was,
the Council felt free not only to disregard, but deliberately to offend, honestly and
sincerely held religious beliefs. I don't give myself any particular credit as a defender
of freedom of belief for defending my own beliefs, or beliefs that I agree with. When I
defend the freedom of others to practice their beliefs beliefs that I may think of
as wrong, odd, or even a little bit dangerous then I deserve some credit. I'm not
giving the Council any credit for their behavior last week.
Mark David Richards, email@example.com
Dear Councilmembers: Thank you for speaking on behalf of D.C. citizens and
supporting health insurance coverage of contraceptives. This law will not affect citizens
who do not need or use contraceptives it is a social good on behalf of the whole.
When I hear members of Congress whom D.C. citizens did not elect suggest Catholic bigotry
on the Council even as the official Catholic Church called gay and lesbian citizens
unnatural, my blood boils. Bigotry is staring D.C. in the face: Congress has not allowed
D.C. to implement its domestic partnership law for nearly a decade. I am reminded of
Benjamin Franklin's statement in The Mother Country (1765): We have an old
Mother that peevish is grown, She snubs us like Children that scarce walk alone: She
forgets we've grown up and have Sense of our own; Which nobody can deny, deny, Which
nobody can deny.
Kurt Vorndran, Kvorn@nteu.org
As President of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, DC's largest gay and
lesbian political organization, the greatest single point of pride I have as to the
inclusion of gays and lesbians in DC political life is the service of Jim Graham on the DC
Council. Moreover, as a Catholic, I am continually embarrassed by my denomination's
misguided stances on homosexuality and artificial contraception. I know for a fact that
Councilmember Graham is not a bigot and is not anti-Catholic. I do think, however, in
fighting for the just cause of comprehensive contraceptive coverage he unknowing and
unintendedly used the words and actions of an outdated 19th century Know-Nothingism.
Most painful was the repeated use of the phrase deferring to
Rome. In fact, no one from Rome contacted Mr. Graham or any other Councilmember. It
might have been better said deferring to Eastern Avenue (the location of the
Archbishop's office). This is not some fine point to those who understand American history
on this matter. To many, the phrase raises the old canard of Catholicism as a
foreign Church that has no place in American life. This was not the
Councilmember's intent, but it is how others used the term.
The exemption in the bill was a tough issue for those of us who support
access to family planning. Members of my own family (who were bitterly anti-Nazi
German-Americans and yet suffered some of the same prejudice Japanese-Americans were
subject to) went off willingly to fight Hitler and stop the Holocaust. At the same time,
our Quaker neighbors were given a religious exemption from military service. My family did
not agree with their religious objections to fighting fascism and the Holocaust, but
respected their sincerity and accepted the religious exemption they had under law.
Hopefully, we can all move on from this issue. We now know that while the Council was
debating the inclusion of a small number of employees of Catholic agencies in
contraceptive coverage they were asleep at the switch to the fact that a far greater
number of workers received no protection under their legislation as written. Further, we
have far too many DC residents with no health care coverage, substandard health care
coverage, or substandard prescription drug coverage and this includes the District
government's own employees for whom the Council must be held accountable.
We in the gay community have our share of differences with the Archdiocese
of Washington. However, on one key question we are united the need for universal
health care. On this issue, our government need not pick sides between these two
communities. It should respond and respond now to our common plea. No child, no person
with AIDS, no worker, no homemaker, no resident regardless of citizen status, should be
without health care in this country.
DC Voting Rights and the First Amendment
Tom Matthes, firstname.lastname@example.org
Every parent, at some point, has to ask an unruly child, asking for
something unreasonable, "What part of 'no' don't you understand?" Memo to the DC
City Council: the First Amendment of the Constitution says "Congress shall make no
law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise
thereof." Since Article I, Section 8, puts Congress in complete charge of legislation
for the national capital district, it cannot delegate any powers to the DC Council the
Constitution denies it. Therefore, when you vote to force the Catholic Church to pay for
condoms and birth control pills for its employees, contrary to the church's moral
teachings, you exceed your authority. "What part of 'no' don't you understand?"
Memo to all advocates of DC statehood: Irritating millions of Catholic voters is a bad
idea. Angering advocates of freedom of religion and the First Amendment is a nutty idea.
Don't you think you ought to put your own Council in order before you ask the rest of the
country to take your dreams of self government seriously?
Contraception and Conscience
E. James Lieberman, email@example.com
Now that Congress is jumping in to stop DC from having a say in its health
care provisions, let's consider: 1) The Catholic Church wants to stop abortion, and
contraception is a bulwark against unwanted pregnancy. Evidently the Church prefers higher
abortion rates to sex "artificially" dissociated from procreation. 2) Catholics
use contraception at about the same rate as members of other faiths. 3) Should Jehovah's
Witnesses be given a conscience exclusion for paying for blood transfusions, which are
contrary to their religious principles? 4) Why don't American Catholics take a stronger
stand (with the Pope) against capital punishment?
Boo to Jim Graham
Thomas Redding, firstname.lastname@example.org
For the Ward One councilman's crude, reckless anti-Catholic remarks during
the D.C. City Council's debate on compelling religious organizations to pay for
contraceptives with health care plans. I'm disappointed that the usually rational Larry
Seftor is countenancing this bow-tied bigotry. The Archdiocese of Washington has every
right to lobby against misguided legislation that would compel church institutions to
violate Church teachings. If you and others are in fact highly offended by
this exercise of First Amendment rights, then I would suggest you heed the immortal words
of our ex-Mayor-for-Life and get over it. If this was an issue, secular or
religious, that was of particular interest to a black church, we wouldn't even be talking
about this; the council would be tripping all over itself to accommodate that church's
concerns. So Bravo, Bishop Lori.
As for Mr. Graham, how ironic to see a mean-spirited liberal
Democrat spouting hateful rhetoric against people of good conscience who hold views
different from his. Who does he think he is, John Rocker? Instead of diversity/sensitivity
training, I would suggest a good old-fashioned recall election to rid Ward One of this
religious prejudice. Finally, after speaking with aides to Reps. Davis and Istook, I take
great satisfaction in knowing that if Mayor Williams is foolish enough to sign this bill,
Congress will take it and, figuratively speaking, use it to perform some creative amateur
proctology. As well it should.
Ed T. Barron, email@example.com
Why is Congress debating the decision by the D.C. Council to exclude a
Conscience clause from the ruling that would force employers in the District
to have their health care plans provide contraceptives to those women who have
prescriptions for them? The Conscience clause would provide a huge loophole
that most companies would take to save the cost of that benefit. I thought that the
Control Board was established by Congress to provide oversight of the District's
decisions, budgets, etc.
Now that Congress has stepped into this murky mess, then the District
should play its hole card, our pseudo Congressperson, Ms. Norton. It's time to cut a deal.
Hey, that's what Congress does, cut deals. You scratch my back and I'll scratch yours
while the taxpayers foot the bills. Here's the deal. In exchange for the D.C. Council's
allowing the Conscience clause to be included in the health care plan regulations, Ms.
Norton proposes that the District gets the right to tax those who work in the District but
pay no taxes here. Now that's a deal.
New DC Law: Pass Two Joints for Any Reason, Get 10+
Years in Jail
Jim McLeod, firstname.lastname@example.org
Some may have read in the July 12 Washington Post (Allan Lengel,
District Toughens Marijuana Penalties, B1, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A26020-2000Jul12.html)
about the City Council making marijuana distribution a felony. The article ends with a
quote from one of the many who spoke out against the bill, I just wish the council
members were more interested in doing the bidding of the voters of [DC], rather than the
U.S. Attorney's office. On this note, at the July 11 reading, Councilmember Orange
spoke against an amendment which would prevent those who are simply sharing a joint
without a profit motive from being prosecuted as felons. Orange said the US Attorney
wouldn't attempt to prosecute persons for distributing a joint and that even if she did,
no jury would convict on that amount. He added, that in his experience representing
criminal defendants in Superior Court, he never knew the government to prosecute a
defendant for a felony if it only involved a joint. (The audience could not comment at
this reading of the bill, but I would have reminded him that the DC Code is what has
prevented the government from doing so up until passage of this bill.) Councilmember
Chavous said he did not want to send a message that we were getting softer on those
distributing marijuana (which the bill he voted on actually does for a first time
distribution of less than a half a pound -- reducing the penalty from 1 year and $5000
fine to the non-jury demanable 180 days and $1000 fine).
Mr. Orange seems to say it all. Let's trust the US Attorney, because even
if she attempts to prosecute on a joint, a jury of DC citizens can be trusted not to
follow properly given jury instructions based on the law the Council passed. Orange and
Chavous were 2 of 4 members of the 5-member Judiciary Committee who did not attend the
committee's publicly announced May 10 hearing on the bill. So now, if you are convicted of
distribution of a joint by a judge, who for the first time I know of in Superior Court
will be the finder of facts on the merits in drug distribution cases, your second sharing
of a joint with someone, even with a cancer or AIDS suffer, can mean five years, plus
another five if the US Attorney prosecutes it as a repeat offense. Judiciary Chair Brazil
seems convinced that these tougher penalties will deal with the problem. But the testimony
at the hearing strongly indicated and I'd submit decades of experience teach us
that the demand will not be significantly reduced by harsher penalties for
traffickers. I think arresting users and offering them treatment would have more impact on
reducing demand. Time may tell, but I wonder if our elected officials are truly interested
in listening or just assume someone else -- like the prosecutor or a jury will
figure it out.
The Post didn't report how members voted: Phil Mendelson (At
Large) and Sandy Allen (Ward 8) were recorded as voting against the bill, #13-240. Mr.
Mendelson asked for a roll call on his amendment, which Jim Graham (Ward 1) and David
Catania (At Large), in addition to Mendelson and Allen, voted for. The other 9 members,
Linda Cropp (Chairperson), Harold Brazil (At Large), Carol Schwartz (At Large), Jack Evans
(Ward 2), Kathleen Patterson (Ward 3), Charlene Jarvis (Ward 4), Vincent Orange (Ward 5),
Sharon Ambrose (Ward 6), Kevin P. Chavous (Ward 7), voted against the amendment.
We just received a letter from Arlene Ackerman admonishing all parents to
make sure their children come to school on time and to remember school starts September 5.
She goes on to lecture us about the importance of attendance and how our school will lose
money if our child does not arrive in a timely manner. Not once does she mention what
on time is. Considering all the news reports and discussion about changing
school hours, it would have been helpful to know when we are supposed to get our kids to
school. This is typical of the half-baked way she went about things.
And to Paul Vance, I say that an immediate way to improve schools is to
lower the student/teacher ratios. In the five years that we have been in the public school
system, the ratio has gone from 22 to 1 to 28 to 1. This is an untenable situation.
Reorganizing the D.C. Government
Ed T. Barron, email@example.com
Mike Bindner, in his posting last Thursday, calls for a reorganization of
the District Government. Hey, that should have been Tony Williams's first priority the
first year after he was elected. You cannot focus on the little stuff until you take care
of the really big stuff. It's like saying you can't take the time to learn how to type
because you're too busy writing. It's quite late in the game but unless, and until, Mayor
Williams does flatten that bloated inept and immovable bureaucracy we will be in a
reactive mode, replacing one Department head after another with no real improvement in
District services at lower costs to the taxpayers.
I called for Mayor Williams to address the bloated bureaucracy several
times right after he was elected. Even sent him a long letter describing how to form teams
that would result in a very flat organizational structure that would be both efficient and
effective. Perhaps we will get lucky in Williams's second term, and he will begin to treat
the disease instead of band-aiding the symptoms.
Ah, the DC tree people. Last year we awoke one morning to find
a giant limb drooping over our house from a tree across the street. Visual inspection
revealed a huge and growing crack in a limb that was the size of your average tree. Calls
to the tree people emergency line (after searching through a disconnected number and
several voice mails) revealed they would get to it in about three months.
Well, I posted warning signs and called the cops, who came, looked, muttered and left.
Three days later, the limb cracked and fell. It pancaked a car parked in defiance of my
neighborly warning, took out part of our railing, and blocked the street for hours.
Hoo-hah! This past weekend, I noticed a similar droop in the same tree, different limb,
threatening two houses across the street. I warned the neighbors, but look forward to more
tree drama. Trees . . . you gotta hug 'em or cut 'em!
Martha Saccocio's comments about trees in the District prompts me to share
a story of my own. About two years ago, an elm tree mysteriously started growing out of
one of the potted plants on the balcony of my apartment. After tending the tree as best I
could, it was becoming too much work to keep the poor thing alive I was having to
water it four times a day, and the roots had reached their limit in this, its third and
largest pot. Across the street from my apartment are a number of tree boxes that have been
left untended and unweeded. So, on July 1, I decided to contribute to the city's
beautification by transplanting my tree into one of the tree boxes. But that's not all.
Around the tree I planted red, white, and blue/violet flowers, and in
front of the tree I planted a placard which reads: This tree is dedicated to the
more than half million veterans, taxpayers, and citizens of the District of Columbia who
despite fighting in foreign wars, paying their full measure of taxes, and faithfully
serving their country, continue to have no voting representation in the Congress of the
United States of America. 'Taxation without Representation is Tyranny.' The tree is
on the corner of New Hampshire Avenue and 21st Street, NW, and has been attracting all
kinds of attention from residents and tourists alike. You can see photos of the tree
online at http://home.dn.net/~schaefer/fdp/democracytree.html.
Who says social consciousness raising can't be aesthetically pleasing and good for the
In response to Ralph Blessing's idea to dedicate the Iwo Jima Memorial as
the official WWII memorial, let me remind him that that statue has another, more official
name: The Marine Corps Memorial. The men depicted are Marines, and the inscriptions around
the base of the statue list every battle the Marine Corps fought in since its inception.
Being the son of a former Marine although he would be the first to say, Once
a Marine, always a Marine I can assure you that past and present members of
the Corps would not look kindly upon Mr. Blessing's idea to usurp their memorial for the
sake of architectural expediency.
The D.C. STATEHOOD GREEN party does not accept any corporate money; soft,
hard or in-between. We do not accept in-kind gifts of any sort, not cash, not
checks, not money orders. In other words we are completely 100 percent clean! Now that
leads to my next point: we are here to make a progressive change in this colony of ours,
AKA Washington, DC, through the political process. All of us are 100 percent volunteers
dedicated to democracy and the democratic process for people untainted by corporate
interest or money, and we intend to win with the help of the people. We are asking the
people to support this effort in any way that they can. Some can contribute money, some
can contribute time and effort; some will be able to introduce us to people that don't
have access to the Internet, but whatever you can do, please do it now.
We D.C. residents are rapidly being excluded from the decision making
apparatus by undemocratic forces intent on maintaining the colonial status of this city.
The latest example? The profoundly anti-democratic, corporate-sponsored (Marriott
Corporation + AOL = $60,000) referendum that basically gave up our right to vote for our
own school board. This, superimposed on the background of the congressionally imposed
control board, superimposed over Congressional control of our budget and our laws,
superimposed over our absolute powerless impotent "non voting" representation in
Congress! This is why I ask citizens to take this revolutionary stance and support the
only real democratic and progressive party in this colony. Contact the DC Statehood Green
Party at www.dcstatehoodgreen.org.
In the Wednesday, July 12 issue of themail Gary Imhoff referred to Walt
Kelly's most famous Pogo cartoon. Here's what's actually in it: in the first
panel, Pogo and Porkypine walk along a pristine shoreline in Okefenokee Swamp (which
actually exists, straddling the Georgia-Florida border). Porkypine says Ah, Pogo,
the beauty of the forest primeval gets me in the heart. Pogo replies, It gets
ME in the feet, Porkypine. In the second panel, Pogo and Porkypine are seated on a
tree looking at a dump, piled high with garbage. Porkypine: It IS hard walking on
this stuff. Pogo: Yep, son, we have met the enemy and he is us. The cartoon
was published on Earth Day 1971.
[Actually, the reason that both We has met the enemy and
Friday the 13th are famous phrases from Walt Kelly is that he used them
frequently as catch phrases. I believe that the hunt for the enemy that I described was
the first use of We has met the enemy; David's citation of the
environmentalist adaptation was one of the last uses. At various times, Friday the 13th
fell on any day of the week except for Friday, so any day of the week is correct in that
quotation. Gary Imhoff]
Rock Creek Gallery kicks off its Summer 2000 schedule with an evening
celebrating the publication of Winners: a Retrospective of the Washington Prize.
This anthology features many of the Washington area's best-loved poets, and chronicles the
growth of the Washington Prize from a modest local event to a national competition entered
by poets from across the country and abroad. Rock Creek Gallery (formerly the Art Barn) is
located on Tilden Street near Beach Drive in Rock Creek Park, approximately 1/2 mile off
Connecticut. The celebration starts at 8 p.m., with readings by local poets whose work
appears in Winners, and an open mike will follow.
Holt House Tour and the Legacy of Slavery
Eddie Becker, firstname.lastname@example.org
You are very cordially invited to join a tour of the historic Holt House.
Join the Kalorama Citizens Association's (KCA) Holt House Preservation Task Force for a
one-hour walk around this historic landmark located on the grounds of the National Zoo
overlooking Walter Pierce Park, and learn about its links to 19th-century industry along
Rock Creek and to the history of slavery in the nation's capital, as well as about the
current condition of this early 1800s house. Rain or shine, Wednesday, July 19, 6 pm. Meet
at the west end of Walter Pierce Park, off the Calvert Street entrance behind Mama
Ayesha's, by the picnic tables. It was the history of this house and surrounding sites
that inspired the Chronology on the History of Slavery and Racism, http://innercity.org/holt/slavechron.html.
Fundraiser for DCPL with Susan Kidd
Patricia Pasqual, email@example.com
On Sunday, July 23, from 4:00 - 6:30 p.m.. the All Souls Episcopal Church
in Woodley Park, 2300 Cathedral Avenue NW, will host a community-driven fundraising event
to raise money and awareness about the D.C. Public Library. Susan Kidd, anchor of the NBC
Channel 4 News at 5, will be hosting the event. The event's theme is, Libraries
Build Communities, and it shows support for an institution that has always played a
pivotal role in the development and preservation of community identity in Washington, DC.
The Library's prized Washingtoniana collection a vast assortment of DC-related
cultural and historical artifacts, is unmatched even by the National Archives.
In addition to its role as a repository for the history and culture of the
city, the Library also provides other important services and programs, such as children's
reading programs, free computer training, and special resources covering music, arts,
business, and Black Studies. For more information, please contact Dean Iacovelli at
547.0034 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Two great girls looking for a home: professional, quiet, responsible. Must
be close to Metro Dupont, Cleveland Park, Woodley area. Two bedrooms preferred, but
may be able to work with one bedroom and large living space. Excellent references. Contact
CLASSIFIEDS FOR SALE
I have a 1957 Tappan gas stove in very good condition I would like to get
rid of . . . and since it is going to require some manpower to get it out of the basement
and up the stairs and out of the building, I thought this forum would be a good place for
DCians to consider purchase. E-mail or call 829-2198.
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