Archive | March 2015

VOTING: An Episcopalian’s Right And Responsibility Of Citizenship

With the May 5, 2015 primary election we begin again a new election cycle for state, and eventually national legislatures and officials. The “Right To Vote” or “One Person, One Vote” concept is a founding principle of our nation – a system of government called DEMOCRACY which our country originated and which has been fought and struggled for and emulated by many nations of the world. The idea that if each person is allowed to vote his or her own mind and self-interest, that common good for all will prevail, lies at the heart of a functioning democracy; but if it is to work, every citizen must vote.

A Brief History
Voting rights were admittedly not equal and available to all when the United States was founded; at first, only white men who owned property could vote. Through great struggle (including imprisonment and death!) women won the vote in 1918. We are more familiar with the long and bitter struggle for voting rights waged by African-Americans, and finally realized with the Voting Rights Act of 1965, just fifty years ago! Unfortunately, enabled by the Supreme Court Ruling of 2013 dismantling much of the Voting Rights Act, we now see many states, including OHIO, creating rules and barriers to voting rights of their citizens:

  • In 2014, the state of Ohio passed a law requiring voters to have a driver’s license, military, state or federally-issued ID. House Bill 269 was signed by the Governor, but later rescinded to allow voters (especially people of color, low-income, elderly and disabled) to present a utility bill or bank statement as identification. Still, such citizens can only cast “provisional” ballots. Ohio has a long history of not counting absentee or provisional ballots.

  • Currently, Senate Bill 63, a part of the 2016 Biennial Budget Transportation Bill, would require the Secretary of State to develop an online voter registration system. The system would require a state driver’s license or state ID, once again likely restricting people of color, low income, or the elderly and disabled from registering to vote.

[NOTE: the state of Oregon recently implemented a system that automatically registers every citizen to vote when they obtain or renew their driver’s license.]

  • The 2016 Biennial Budget Transportation Bill includes an amendment which, if passed, will greatly restrict out-of-state students at Ohio’s colleges and universities from voting. If would require them to register their cars in Ohio and obtain an Ohio driver’s license within 30 days of arrival in order to vote locally using their campus address. This would cost each student approximately $75. If they failed to do so, their out-of-state licenses would become invalid and they would face misdemeanor charges. Clearly, this is another attempt to require a ‘poll tax’ (a fee to vote), which is specifically outlawed in the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

Ohio’s Voting Record
In 2012, over 7,715,000 Ohioans were eligible to vote; of those, only 6,866,000 (or 89%) were actually registered to vote. Of those registered, only 16.7% (1,146,000) voted in the state primary, and only 36.2% (2,485,500) voted in the national election. In reality then, the congressional representatives of Ohio were elected by only slightly over 32% of the citizens of Ohio. Sadly, many Americans have become cynical and distrustful of government, and decry the dysfunction, rancor, and budgetary priorities and waste of our current legislators, both federal and state. Perhaps it is no wonder – since only about 3 in 10 eligible voters in Ohio participated in their selection – and only about 54% of eligible voters nationally!!

The U.S. Census Bureau asked registered non-voters to state why they didn’t vote. The responses were:

    13% said they did not vote for lack of interest
    13% did not like the candidates or issues
    Many reported illness or disability (15%), especially among older registered non-voters.
    Of the 42% remaining, many had logistical problems with the voting process.

When there is a vacuum of citizenship, special interests take over. When ‘one dollar equals one vote’ rather than ‘one person, one vote’ – a situation brought again by the current Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling in 20132 – the good for the majority succumbs to the wishes of the few.

The only antidote to our current governmental problem is to return to one of the founding principles of our democracy – an informed and participating electorate. As Episcopalians, we have inherited a tradition of active citizenship and governmental leadership; indeed, most of the ‘founding fathers’ were Anglicans! We in the Diocese of Southern Ohio can and must assume leadership again in our state and nation by voting ourselves, by encouraging others to do so, and by resisting laws and policies that discourage and inhibit the voting rights of all!

We may never agree politically, but we can ALL be citizens of this great nation. We may not always like the election choices we have, but we cannot let the ‘perfect’ choice become the enemy of the ‘better’ choice!!


IF YOU DIDN’T VOTE LAST TIME, VOTE ON MAY 5 and in every election!

As a Christian, and a citizen, and an Episcopalian, it is your right and responsibility to vote.

Religious Freedom Restoration?? Really!!

Ohio tried a bill like Indiana’s just before the Supreme Court decision on the Windsor case so they withdrew it. I expect to see it rear its ugly head in the near future.

We have always had the right to refuse to marry a couple; but to refuse to serve food, or provide gasoline or withhold medical care is not religious freedom – it is, pure and simple, discrimination. . . would someone withhold services because a woman in shorts came into a Muslim-owned business? or an Pentecostal with long hair and bonnet in a drugstore requesting necessary drugs? There’s a long list that these laws would allow – and could even affect those not targeted. LGBTs are not the only ones who could suffer under these laws.

Notice Ohio’s position on these draconian discrimination laws:

31 states have heightened religious freedom protections
By Juliet Eilperin March 1, 2014 

The recent flurry of state bills giving religious exemptions from certain laws — including the Arizona law that Gov. Jan Brewer (R) just vetoed — raises a question: How many states already provide heightened protection for the exercise of religion?

The answer? Thirty-one, 18 of which passed state laws based on the 1993 federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The protections in an additional 13 states came through court rulings. Here’s a map of which states have added protections and which do not:


“These state RFRAs were enacted in response to Supreme Court decisions that had nothing to do with gay rights or same-sex marriage,” explained University of Virginia law professor Douglas Laycock in an e-mail. “And the state court decisions interpreting their state constitutions arose in all sorts of contexts, mostly far removed from gay rights or same-sex marriage. There were cases about Amish buggies, hunting moose for native Alaskan funeral rituals, an attempt to take a church building by eminent domain, landmark laws that prohibited churches from modifying their buildings – all sorts of diverse conflicts between religious practice and pervasive regulation.”

A new political fight has emerged in part because some of these more recent proposals are shifting the definition of when citizens can opt out on religious grounds. The federal law says that the government may not pass a law that “substantially burdens a person’s exercise of religion.” But now some businesses — including the ones who are challenging the Affordable Care Act’s contraception coverage mandate in the Supreme Court — are arguing that they don’t have to meet this substantial-burden test.

Kansas, for example, already has the Kansas Preservation of Religious Freedom Act. But its state House passed a bill that would have allowed any individual to refuse to recognize same-sex couples or provide them with services on religious grounds, without having to show that such compliance would substantially burden their ability to exercise their faith.

This week the Kansas state Senate declined to take up the House bill. Laycock, who described that proposal as extreme, wrote that both advocates and opponents of these laws are poisoning Americans’ views of what religious freedom means.

“The conflicts over gay rights and contraception are polarizing the country and endangering religious liberty more generally,” he wrote. “Neither side in these fights seems to have any respect for the liberty of the other.”

Gov. Pence: Religious law ‘not about discrimination’(1:07) (” title=”Governor Pence on RFRA)

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence vigorously defended the state’s new religious objections law. Businesses and organizations including the NCAA pressed concerns that it could open the door to legalizing discrimination against gay people. (AP)

Juliet Eilperin is The Washington Post’s White House bureau chief, covering domestic and foreign policy as well as the culture of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. She is the author of two books—one on sharks, and another on Congress, not to be confused with each other—and has worked for the Post since 1998.”

What Are WE Going To Do?

Mark 11:1-11

Today is Palm Sunday, the beginning of the observation of Holy Week. During Holy Week every year, we are reminded of the last week of Jesus’ life, as He arrived in Jerusalem for Passover amidst celebration and joy, and was hailed crowds of His followers as their Savior, the new Messiah, the Son of God

During Holy Week, Jesus was adored, abandoned by His friends, arrested, envied by authorities who were playing political games, tortured by police who thought nothing of cruelty and committing murder, tried in a rigged and bogus trial, and put to death in the most cruel, humiliating and painful way possible on a cross.

During Holy Week, also, Jesus died, was buried by his grief-stricken friends and followers and was seen again by those same people, as He overcame death to live again forever.

All this in one week – we know it happened, not only from the Bible accounts, but from historical secular writings of the day.

So Holy Week is a time when we celebrate our love for Jesus, then mourn His suffering, then rejoice again on Easter Day – rejoice for His resurrection . . . and OUR own!

So today on Palm Sunday, as we symbolically have our palms, as people over 2000 years ago did in Jerusalem, let’s imagine what that day was like:

It is Palm Sunday and there’s a crowd of people out there lining the street to welcome; Jesus comes riding in on some young donkey like the old kings of Israel centuries before had done as they entered the Holy City. Jesus is coming down the road to Jerusalem; the king is coming.

The upcoming Holy Week can be said, really, to center around a series of parades. . .

Everyone loves a parade. Parades and processions draw crowds; people want to know what is going on. They tag along to be part of the festivities, even if they don’t know what is going on.

On Palm Sunday, as Jesus rode into Jerusalem the crowds grew large. People were waving palm branches and shouting

    Hosanna!! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Mark 11:9)

as Jesus rode along the street until Jerusalem. You might think that ‘hosanna’ means ‘hurrah’, but it actually means ‘O, save me’. People were excited and hopeful that Jesus was going to save them from Roman occupation, poverty, humiliation – from unjust laws and treatment.

Palm Sunday is also a reminder that Jesus confronted the people of Jerusalem and Israel with a decision – were they going to believe in Him or not. And today, Palm Sunday Jesus confronts us with that same decision today. Almost every person in this country believes in God, at least say he or she believes in God – everyone in this room would say that.

But how many people understand what that can mean. On Palm Sunday Jesus confronts us with a choice – are we going to live as Jesus taught us, and believe His message or not?

Within the crowd along the road, there were a number of people with different views and reactions as to what was taking place. Just as there are in any crowd today:

There were those in the crowd those who were merely casual observers. They were in Jerusalem for Passover. They may not even have ever heard of Jesus. They had no idea what was going on; they didn’t care about all the fuss. They were content to stand along the curb and watch the procession go by. They did not want to get involved.

And there were the plotting authorities, watching everywhere Jesus went, everything He did, there to demean and degrade Him. The Pharisees and other temple authorities were afraid of Him and the power He seemed to have. He was upsetting the norm of obedience to the Jewish faith and therefore subverting Roman governance. Here was a man who didn’t subscribe to the Jewish law – he even said that we were to love everyone.

Some of these temple authorities had been plotting about how to stop Jesus from gathering followers. They had been working with the Roman authorities to try and stop Him.

Some people in the crowd praised Jesus thinking He would save them from the Roman oppression. They were sure that He would bring an army and overthrow the Roman Empire. But that was not what Jesus seemed to be doing. . . and they were disappointed and discouraged. They soon lost their belief in who and what Jesus was. Later , some of these ‘believers’ were members of the crowd who cried

    “Crucify Him.” (Luke 23:21)

But many people following Jesus believed in Him and knew that they were not following his teachings. They had heard or seen some of the miracles He had performed; they knew He was a holy man. They had searched the Scriptures and believed that He was Who He said He was and committed themselves wholly to Him. These true believers recognized Jesus as “King of Kings” and “Lord of Lords.” A few would follow Christ regardless how dark the path became.

Then, also, by the time Good Friday came in Holy Week, there was a new group of people watching the parade – those who were not followers of Jesus. Some of these were planted by the temple authorities, some were faithful Jews who thought Jesus taught heresy, and some were there just because of blood lust. There was going to be trouble and they wanted to be a part of it, in fact, they wanted to stir it up. Those were the people who, on Good Friday, stood in the crowd shouting

    “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” (Luke 23:21)

Jesus offered Jerusalem a choice on that first palm waving day. And we have the choice today. We can be curious, but not committed – we can use Jesus’ name but not following his teachings, or we can choose to be dedicated disciples who devote ourselves to Christ and work for the Heavenly Kingdom or we can stay in the middle-of-the road, watching everything that is going on, but never getting involved. Or we can be the troublemakers.

Which are you?

    Are you a casual observer?

    Do you just like trouble?

    Aare you merely curious?


    Do you believe that Jesus really did bring a new world into being? A new way of thinking and living?

Are you dedicated to the teachings of Jesus and trying to live your life as a true believer?

During Holy Week, we are given a chance to look at our lives and our relationship with God. We are given time to decide to change and become disciples of Jesus.

Now, as we start Holy Week, it is time to decide if we are once again going to love God with all our hearts, and our neighbors as ourselves!

Let us pray:

O God, our Father, on this Palm Sunday, enable each of us to open our hearts and lives that the king of glory may come in and may we say from the depths of our being,

    “Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” (Mark 11:9)

During this week help us to remember all he went through; call us to watch and pray with him.

We thank thee, Father, for all the ways You hast blessed us, bringing about good for us, bringing hope out of struggle, peace out of suffering, strength in the midst of our struggles and the light of thy love shining as we have traveled.

Give us patience with those who try ours. Help us to forgive those who speak evil against us. And help us love even those who are difficult to love, because they are loved by Thee. Bless our sick. Give us peace in the world and help us to be peacemakers. Amen.

Delivered at In The Garden, Trinity Episcopal Church on Capitol Square, Columbus, OH, 29 March 2015