Thursday, December 31, 2020




REFLECTIONS ON THE YEAR 2020



Today is Thursday, December 31, 2020, the last day of the year, and what it year it was. I for one plan to stay up until midnight tonight not so much to see the new year in as the see the old year out. I am sure we can all agree to shout good bye and good riddance to 2020. I can honestly say it was the worst year of the seventy-seven I have been granted so far. Yet, if you are reading this, you survived. I survived. All is not lost, far from it. Our lives have changed, but not all for the worse, not by a long shot.

The opening paragraph of Charles Dickens's classic A Tale of Two Cities is one of my favorite passages of literature: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..." He was referring to the pre-French Revolutionary age. I think we can use that for 2020. It was definitely bad but it was also good. Let's start with the good.

In thinking of the good in the last year, three things jump into my mind right away. First and foremost is the arrival of vaccines against the coronavirus. In record time, several pharmaceutical companies produced vaccines for public use. This was a miracle of modern science and technology. Within the next few months, vaccines will be available to the general population. With this, the pandemic will decline and life can soon get back to "normal" whatever that may be. 

The second good thing may be the most important in the long run. Faced with its greatest challenge to its integrity since the Civil War, the American constitutional democratic republic held the line. Pushed by a president who knew no bounds of law and order, the old institutions of law and order prevailed as record numbers of Americans went to the polls to reaffirm their devotion to our democratic republic. They loudly and decisively rejected a would-be autocrat and defeated his attempted coup d'├ętat

The year also saw a third movement that we should not forget, the re-awakening of racial justice. Following the police killings of several black people, countless thousands of ordinary American citizens in virtually every city and town spontaneously took to the streets to demand justice and equality for all people regardless of race. Along with the election, this was another way the people arose to reaffirm the basic principles of democracy in America.

Now for the bad in 2020. Here, obviously stands first the pandemic of the coronavirus, or COVID-19. This was the worst public health crisis since the great Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918-19. Then, 600,000 American died along with millions more around the world. In spite of the enormous progress of modern medicine, we are on track to equal this. Accord to Worldometers, as of today, 1,815,389 people in the world have died of covid. Of these, 350,845 were Americans. The U.S. has been since the first the center of this pandemic. While the U.S. has 4% of the world's population, it reported 24% of the world's cases and 19% of the world's deaths. This reflects the lack of national response to the plague. While many others countries successfully quelled the spread, the U.S. did not. In fact, the Trump administration lurched between denial, indifference, and malevolence. Worst of all, they made the pandemic into a political issue in an election year. In my view, President Trump will go down in history for two colossal moral failures, the separation of children from their parents at the border and the handling of the covid pandemic.

With the pandemic, we must consider many after effects of the health emergency. Millions of Americans lost their jobs. Unemployment is twice what it was before the pandemic. Thousands of businesses have closed. Eight million Americans slipped below the poverty line. Millions face hunger and residential evictions. 

While we see that democracy held in America, the other side of that shows us that there was a very strong and residual movement in 2020 to overthrow the democratic republic. President Trump pushed the boundaries of power as far as he could. After the election, which was clear-cut against him, he tried to overturn the legal and legitimate result and keep himself in power. He failed but only because the courts blocked him. Even in view of four years of anti-democratic behavior, nearly half of the American voters (47%) voted for Trump which meant they voted for an overthrow of democracy. This is beyond shocking. And, the most disturbing point of this was the racial element. Some 60% of the whites voted for Trump while over 80% of blacks voted against him. We now have a country that is even more racially divided than it has been, at least since the 1960's. This is the legacy of Donald Trump who ran his whole campaign on racial fear.

Now that we have considered the good and the bad of 2020, we can ask ourselves: Was 2020 the worst year ever? The answer to that depends on our criteria of evaluation. These would have to rest on the measures of death and destruction as well as the trajectories into the future. I see the year 1940 as the worst, at least in modern history. It was in that year that Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy secured control of continental Europe with every hope and expectation of indefinite domination. France fell in June after only six weeks of fighting. This left only Great Britain at war with Hitler. He was planning and preparing an invasion of Britain and the British were getting ready for it. To "soften up" the British, he launched The Battle of Britain, day after day of devastating bombing raids. Britain fell on its knees, literally and figuratively. To save themselves, the British relied on their control of the seas. The Americans were "neutralized" in Neutrality Acts, much to President Roosevelt's chagrin. The Russians were not neutral, they were actually friends of Hitler having agreed in their Non-Aggression Pact of 1939 to divide up Poland. In 1940, the Soviets took over the three Baltic states. Stalin was confident he would live peacefully with Hitler. So, as 1940 came to a close, there was every reason to believe Germany, Italy, and Japan would prevail as the new world dominant powers. If they had, the world would be a profoundly different place than it is now. So, 1940 gets my vote as the worst year in recent history.

Is the COVID-19 pandemic the worst plague in history? Not by a long shot. It is no where near as devastating as the Black Death of the Fourteenth Century when some 25 million people, a third of the population of Europe, died. Survivors at the time commonly considered this to be the end of the world. It was indeed the end of the word that they knew.

Is President Trump the worst president in American history? He gets my vote. There is a long list of wrong doing but we have to look no farther than his behavior after the election to prove the point. He tried to overthrow our democratic institutions. No president had ever tried to do such a thing.

So, who should be our Person(s) of the Year for 2020? Who are our outstanding heroes who helped us get through the nightmare of 2020? My vote goes to Drs. Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx. Even under death threats, they never failed to tell us the truth, guide us on best response, and to give us hope for a better day. In my view, they are our national treasures of 2020. They were our guiding lights as we groped our way through the dark tunnel of the pandemic. They are my heroes of the hour.

As a student of history, I like to consider the big picture and try to make sense of where we are in time. Here is my view of this. We Americans are living in a moment of clash between forces of revolutionary change and forces of resistance. The Twentieth Century gave us two big legacies: that the government is responsible for the welfare of the people and that evolving democracy is the best political system. Starting in the 1950's, American began moving toward effectuating these two guiding principles. Blacks, women, homosexuals and many other maginalized/ignored social elements found the benefits of this Great Democratic Revolution. However, the traditional power structure, the white man, arose to resist this revolution which would displace him from control of the various power structures of America. Donald Trump became the pinnacle of the white  man's backlash to the evolving multi-cultural democracy in America. He was more than a dog whistle to white racists. He brought together the elements of anti-democratic resistance. He came close, but ultimately failed to stop the GDR. Democracy won but just barely and there will remain a very strong anti-democratic resistance for the foreseeable future. I expect this resistance actually to strengthen as it becomes clearer and clearer that white people will become a minority of American society. Demographic trends show this happen within a generation whether white people like it or not. White people have shown they will not "surrender" "their" country easily to the non-whites. I suspect there is much more trouble and violence ahead on this front. Trump did not cause racism in America. He was just the most recent politician to capitalize on it and just because he failed we cannot say the problem has gone away. Not at all. Racism is the original sin of America and until we come to terms with it we will continue to be dangerously divided as a nation.


Finally, what about the schism in South Carolina? What did the year 2020 mean for that? The former members of the Diocese of South Carolina who left the Episcopal Church started a legal war almost eight years ago when they sued the Episcopal Church for possession of the property they knew belonged to the Church under church law. Along the way in the last eight years, the state courts have been on both sides. The SC supreme court ruled for the Episcopal Church but before and after that the local circuit courts ruled in favor of the breakaways. We are now awaiting a judgment of the SCSC. The basic issue there is whether the justices will uphold the SCSC decision of 2017 or overturn it. Unlike the state courts, the federal courts have been clear on the side of the Episcopal Church. The federal district judge in Charleston recognized TEC as hierarchical and the Episcopal diocese as the one and only legal heir of the old diocese. His decision is on appeal with the U.S. appeals court. There is little chance the appeals court will change anything. So, after eight years and at least ten million dollars, we still do not have resolution of the legal war. However, we are much closer now than ever and I expect there is a very good chance both state and federal courts will issue final judgments in the year 2021. Even if they do, this may not be the end of the story as the breakaways have proven clearly that they will deny, delay, and sue until there is absolutely no possibility of legal action left. So, alas, even if the courts rule in 2021 that may not be the end of the sad history of the schism.


My best wishes to you and yours as we move into a new year. A new day is coming. It has to be better that what we are leaving behind. I am confident it will be. At any rate, remember we are here for the living of this hour, with whatever that may entail. Peace.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

 



FORT WORTH SECESSIONISTS PRESENT ARGUMENTS TO U.S. SUPREME COURT



On yesterday, 23 December 2020, the breakaway contingent going under the name of Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, presented its written arguments to the United States Supreme Court. This was in opposition to the Episcopal Church's petition to SCOTUS, of 19 October 2020, asking the court to grant cert in order to review the ruling of the Texas Supreme Court that found all in favor of the secessionists in Ft. Worth.

Find the breakaway's brief of yesterday here .

The basic argument TEC had made was that the Supreme Court's Jones v. Wolf decision of 1979 was fatally flawed and needed to be clarified or replaced. The evidence was that states all over the country had arrived at widely different, even contradictory, decisions following Jones which had introduced the notion that civic courts could resolve church property disputes within a denomination by strictly adhering to state property laws neutrally. TEC had argued that this approach was a violation of the First Amendment that prohibited the civic state from interfering in the internal matters of a religious entity.

Not surprisingly, the secessionists argued in their brief of 23 December that the Jones decision was perfectly fine and needed no attention. According to them, neutral principles had worked well as evidenced by its wide application in numerous states. So, the basic point of contention between the two sides is whether the Jones decision should be left as is or should be reinterpreted.

Interesting to note that the breakaways' brief undercuts its own assertions in its Appendix which lists four groups of states responding to the Jones decision: those that adopted it, those that rejected it, those that were unclear, and those that had not addressed it. This actually substantiates TEC's case that the decision had led to judicial chaos and needed clarification.

Also interesting to note that the breakaways' brief completely ignored the South Carolina Supreme Court decision of 2017 that followed neutral principle and still found that TEC owned 29 of the 36 parishes in question as well as the Camp. 

In my view, the basic issue facing SCOTUS now is the interpretation of the First Amendment. Does the civic state have the constitutional right to settle property disputes within a denomination? If so, what are the exact parameters under which this may occur while adhering to the First Amendment? Even the breakaways admitted that the Jones decision and its "neutral principles" guide had led to wildly different outcomes in the courts.

TEC asked SCOTUS to grant cert and review the Ft. Worth case. I expect this decision will hinge on whether the justices see this case as one of the First Amendment or of the contemporary culture war. If the former, they will grant cert and side with TEC. If the latter, they will deny cert and allow the Texas Supreme Court decision to stand. 

Traditionally, SCOTUS has shied away from Episcopal Church cases. Time and again it has refused to accept property cases from TEC. However, the new 6-3 conservative majority in SCOTUS has loudly signaled its devotion to the rights of churches against the state. The recent Cuomo case was a prime example of this. In this, the court said the state could not discriminate against churches in imposing attendance limitations even under the health emergency of the covid pandemic. If the court continues this hard swing in favor of the First Amendment rights of churches, it stands to reason it would want to review the Ft. Worth case. This is certainly what TEC wants. On the other hand, if the ultimate goal of the conservative justices is to bolster traditional conservative cultural and social institutions in America, they might see the Ft. Worth case as a chance to strike back against the socially and culturally progressive Episcopal Church. This would work to the breakaways' favor.

Now, we wait for the U.S. Supreme Court to decide whether to grant cert. This will be by vote of the justices and will likely occur in the next few months. If they deny cert, the matter is over and the TX SC decision stands in finality. If they grant cert, they will take up the case and issue a decision upholding or overthrowing the TX SC decision and this would probably happen by July of 2021.

Monday, December 21, 2020




NOTES,  21 DECEMBER 2020




Good day to you, blog reader. Here is a wish that all goes well with you and yours on this, the 21st day of December of 2020. It is Monday, and time for the weekly check in on the crises we have been tracking for months, the pandemic, the litigation, and political. So, where do we stand now on these issues?


PANDEMIC. We are now in the worst phase of the year-long COVID-19 pandemic and matters are getting even worse by the hour. All metrics show alarming trajectories of cases and deaths. 

Consulting our usual source, Worldometers, we find that in the last week (December 14-21), there were 4,527,981 new cases in the world for a total of 77,264,853. In just the last two weeks there were over 10,000,000 new cases in the world. As for deaths in the world, there were 80,935 last week, a rising rate of 5%. This brings world deaths to a total of 1,701,599. In just the last two weeks there have been over 150,000 deaths from COVID-19. This represents 10% of the entire mortality of this pandemic. Numbers are skyrocketing. 

The United States continues to be, as it has been since March, the world's epicenter of the plague. America has by far the most cases and deaths in the world. Last week, the U.S. reported 1,530,312 new cases, a rising rate of 9%. This gives a total of cases of 18,267,579. Over 3,000,000 of these new cases were reported in just the last two weeks. As new cases continue to run at around 10% a week, deaths from COVID-19 continue to hover around 6% weekly. Last week, 18,410 Americans died of the plague. In all, 324,869 people have died from the coronavirus in the U.S. Of these 36,000 happened in just the last two weeks.

The pandemic continues to sweep South Carolina and Alabama as it has in the last few months. In SC, there were 21,200 new cases last week for a total of 273,406. In the last two weeks, over 41,000 South Carolinians have contracted the virus. As for deaths from the virus, there were 196 in SC last week for a total of 4,935. The death total of the last two weeks was 370. Alabama continues to be hard hit. In AL, there were 26,821 new cases last week for a total of 322,452. There were over 50,000 new cases in the last two weeks. As for deaths in AL, there were 287 last week for a total of 4,389. The coronavirus is spreading out of control in our southeastern states as in much of America. 

Charleston County continues to see surging numbers as well. It reported 920 new cases last week, and nearly 2,000 in the last two weeks. Deaths in the county are up to 313, and rising at a 9% weekly rate. 

While we are in the midst of a terrifying winter surge of the pandemic, there is great news at hand. Two new vaccines are now available and will be offered to the public in the next few months. The light is at the end of the tunnel, as far as the pandemic goes.


LITIGATION. We are still in a holding pattern in the court cases. We are awaiting two briefs in two important cases. The first is the brief of the Anglican Diocese of SC in the South Carolina Supreme Court. The Episcopal diocese appealed to the SCSC to overturn Judge Dickson's outrageous order and submitted its brief (written arguments) to the SCSC last month. The ADSC brief (counter arguments) will be presented in the near future but I am uncertain of the exact date.

On 23 December, the breakaway faction in Ft. Worth is due to submit its brief in the United States Supreme Court. The Episcopal Church has asked SCOTUS to grant cert and accept its appeal of the Texas Supreme Court ruling that found all in favor of the secessionist contingent in Ft. Worth. After the breakaways turn in their brief, the justices of SCOTUS will decide whether to grant cert. This should occur in the new few months. 


POLITICAL. I am preparing an end-of-year review of the political crisis in America and so will skip this for now. I will return with my thoughts on this soon.


Meanwhile, as a gardener, I always look forward to this day, the Winter Solstice. This year it falls on today, Monday, December 21. For nature, the winter solstice is a turning point. This is the darkest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. From here on, the days will lengthen and the sun will brighten in the sky. Typically, the worst of winter weather is yet to come, but the rising light portends all the great promises of spring and new life. 

In prehistoric and ancient times, people universally marked and celebrated the "rebirth" of the sun after the winter solstice. As they saw the sun declining in the sky, they feared it would die, and its death would extinguish all life. Thus, there was always great rejoining when the sun began to lift on the horizon in what is now late December. Nowadays the Christian world celebrates new birth at Christmas. The four gospels do not provide the time of year in which Jesus of Nazareth was born, so early on it seemed fitting for Christians to put it in late December (in the cult of Mithras, widely popular in the Roman Army, Dec. 25 was the birth day of the mythical saviour-figure Mithras). So, today I am rejoicing at the passing of the Winter Solstice and the impending celebration of birth, this Friday. Welcome new sun, welcome new life.


The Winter Solstice today provides a metaphor of this whole year. This is the darkest day of the darkest year of my lifetime. Yet, in this fearful moment, there are many signs of new life as there is every reason to hope and expect a better day ahead. Things will be better. We have to believe that. Always remember, we are here for the living of this hour. Peace.

Friday, December 18, 2020




AWAITING CHRISTMAS



Greetings blog reader. It is just a week until Christmas Day. I do not know about you, but I can hardly wait for that day to arrive. I may be reverting to my long-ago childhood, but did we ever need Christmas more? This has been the year from Hell. We need the arrival of the Divine Presence now more than ever, at least in out lifetimes. So, I say, hurry Christmas, hurry the arrival of the new light. 

Many blog readers noticed I did not make a posting last Monday as I usually do. I had just learned that my 81-year-old brother in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, had contracted the coronavirus. That means his wife, along with my sister, probably have gotten the virus, or will get it. Right now, he is at home taking OTC meds. It is a good thing he has a relatively mild case, at least so far, because there is not one ICU bed left in the entire state of Mississippi. That state has been overwhelmed. It seemed that all the heaviness of the year fell in on me at once and I did not have the heart to write anything on the computer last Monday. 

Perhaps you too have family members and friends who have acquired the virus. The plague is spreading rapidly and people are falling sick all around us. It is hard to keep up a good spirit in this seemingly ever darkening night.

We must not, will not, let the night vanquish us. One way we can keep our heads above water is to relish the small acts of kindness that we can do for each other. Let me share with you a few recent examples that will lift your spirits as they did mine.

For 25 years, my local parish has provided a free Thanksgiving Day meal for the community. It started out small and has turned into a major event, especially for a small church. In spite of the pandemic, this year the parish went all out and served a record-breaking 675 meals. And this year, we had only pick-up and home delivered meals. We packed in extra food for people to use for days. 

Another act of kindness. My good friend from childhood lives in downtown Chicago, near Lincoln Park. A few years ago, he was hit by a truck while crossing the street and ever since has struggled to get around. He has to have a walker to go anywhere. Well, on the day before Thanksgiving he was crossing the street and out of the blue a woman he had never seen appeared at his side to help him across. On the other side they struck up a conversation about what they were going to do on the next day, Thanksgiving. He told her he had hoped to go to his favorite restaurant a few blocks away but would not do so this year. The woman immediately said she would go to the restaurant, pick up and pay for his favorite meal, and deliver it to him on tomorrow, Thanksgiving. She did. At noon she appeared at the door, tote bag in hand. My friend was overwhelmed with joy and gratitude. A person he had never seen spent her Thanksgiving Day going to great lengths to see to it that he had a good day. Many people would say things like this just do not happen in big cities but they would be wrong.

Another act of kindness. Once a month my local parish has a "Beans and Rice" day to distribute free beans and rice to anyone who wants them, no questions asked. You might be surprised at the number of people who arrive to collect just these basic staples. We have a local food pantry in town but it screens its patrons. Our local Daughters of the King chapter decided to make December's Beans and Rice day a free food day. And so, they found enough money to buy bags and bags of food to hand out to anyone who arrived to collect the beans and rice. My wife, Sandy, was the driving force behind this project, I am proud to say. The Daughters prepared hundreds of bags which they handed out to the surprised and delighted patrons on this months's Beans and Rice Day.


St. Luke's parish house, Jacksonville AL. Sandy Caldwell looks over the room full of bags of food assembled by the DOK for distribution on Beans and Rice Day, Dec. 12.

And finally, I like to go back to my favorite Advent hymn, "Lo he comes with clouds descending." This is one of the most beautiful hymns in the hymnal and I always look forward to it at this time of the year. We need it now more than ever. My favorite rendition is the one by Richard Jensen on Youtube. There are many other versions available on Youtube. Any one will do. I invite you to listen to one of them today.

So, it is with little flickers of light that we banish the darkness of the night in which we find ourselves. We are here for the living of this hour, as hard as it may be. Peace.

Monday, December 7, 2020

    



NOTES,  7 DECEMBER 2020



Greetings, blog reader, on this Monday, December 7, 2020. Today is a somber day in many ways; and it is time to check in on the crises we have been tracking for months now.


PANDEMIC. It is clear to everyone that we are in the midst of the worst health crisis in our lifetimes. In fact, we are in a once-in-a-century health emergency. People are falling ill and dying by the thousands all around us. Moreover, right now we are in the worst part of this awful plague; and all signs indicate it will only worsen for the new few months as winter sets in. At nearly 300,000 Americans dead, we are looking into twice that number by next February, at least according to the experts. In the great flu epidemic of 1918-19, 600,000 Americans died. We are on track to match that, in spite of the great advances in medicine in the last century.

Looking at our usual source, Worldometers, the data of cases and deaths are soaring in almost every category. There were 4,318,335 new cases last week, December 1-7, for a total of 67,493,569 cases in the world. In just the last two weeks, there were over 8,000,000 new cases in the world, a record. As for deaths in the world, there were 76,475 last week for a total of 1,543,627. This was a rising rate of 5%. In the last two weeks, nearly 150,000 people have died of COVID-19.

The figures for America are even more grim. The U.S. continues to be the world's epicenter of this pandemic. Last week, the U.S. reported 1,408,192 new cases, for a total of 15,159,529. This was a rising rate of 10%, a record. In the last two weeks, some 2.5m Americans have contracted COVID-19, again soaring numbers. As for deaths in the U.S., there were 15,805 reported, for a total of 288,906, a rising rate of 6%. In the last two weeks some 25,000 Americans died of the plague. All the charts show these to be record numbers on a skyrocketing trajectory. Infections and deaths will only get worse in the next few months.

Our local southeastern states continue to be "hot spots" for the virus. Last week, South Carolina reported 15,880 new cases, for a total of 232,009. This was a rising rate of 7%, up from the 5% of the previous week. In the last two weeks, SC reported 25,000 new cases. As for deaths, SC reported 207 last week, for a total of 4,560. According to the New York Times, in the last two weeks, SC saw a 48% rise in new cases, 25% increase in deaths, and 23% jump in hospitalizations. 

As for Charleston County, there were 856 new cases last week, for a total of 20,783. In the last two weeks, the county reported over 1,500 new cases. As for deaths, the county listed 8 last week, for a total of 301. It is clear, the disease is spreading rapidly in Charleston County although at a slightly lesser rate than Richland and Greenville, if this is any consolation.

Alabama's figures are even more alarming. Last week, the state reported 22,648 new cases for a total of 269,877. There were 37,000 new cases in just the last two weeks. As for deaths, the state reported 312 last week, for a total of 3,889. This was a rising rate of 9%, up from the 3% of the earlier week.

In spite of the exploding numbers, virtually nothing new is being done to mitigate the pandemic, at least in our local states. All eyes are on the vaccines that are on the horizon. Two, Pfizer and Moderna, are on the cusp of approval and distribution. However, distributing these will present huge problems. Availability will be prioritized and the lower levels may not have access to them for many months to come. The first to be vaccinated will be the most vulnerable, particularly the medical personnel who have to deal with the virus every day. The second tier will be older people (I am going to be the first in line of this group). Meanwhile, the coronavirus is spreading as wildfire and will continue as such for the time being. The worst is yet to come.


LITIGATION. Nothing new to report here. We are waiting on two court developments. The first is in the South Carolina Supreme Court. TEC and the Diocese of SC are appealing Judge Dickson's outrageous decision of June 19, 2020 purporting to reverse the SCSC decision of Aug. 2, 2017. The Church side submitted its brief to SCSC on Nov. 12. We are now awaiting the new diocese's brief. Then, the SCSC will consider the case and decide whether to hold a hearing or go straight to a written decision. 

The second concerns the U.S. Supreme Court. On Oct. 19, TEC and its diocese of Ft. Worth filed for "cert" in SCOTUS to appeal the Texas Supreme Court decision of May 22, 2020 that found all in favor of the breakaway contingent. The Church side filed its brief; and seven entities have filed "amici curiae" briefs in support of the Church side. We are now awaiting the brief of the breakaway side. It is due on Dec. 23, 2020. After that, the nine justices will decide whether to grant cert. If they do not, the case is over. If they do, they will review the TSC decision and rule on it. In my view, this is a landmark case at the heart of the bedrock principle of the separation of church and state, that is, the First Amendment. If the nine justices see it that way, there is a reasonable chance they will grant cert.


POLITICAL. The American people have spoken loudly and clearly. They rejected Donald Trump as president. Trump has rejected the judgment of the people and continues to assert entirely fictitious claims of election fraud. However, the institutions that he had counted on to help him make a coup d'├ętat  refused to go along with his madness. The legal system, headed by AG Barr, and the federal courts all upheld the law. Although Trump can continue to do a lot of damage to American democracy on his way out, his days are numbered. Sanity and decency are on the way. In both the health and political crises, the cavalry is on the way, thank God.


Finally, we must pause and remember Pearl Harbor Day, the Day of Infamy. All those years ago now, the world changed forever. I was not alive then but my parents told me how they reacted that day. They had chosen that day to move from rural south Alabama to Pensacola where my father had recently landed a good job. A few weeks earlier they had bought a little house on west Cypress Street, a short distance from beautiful Pensacola Bay. As they were moving their household items into their "new" house at mid-day, a paper boy ran up and down the streets shouting "Japs attack Pearl Harbor." Everyone ran out and bought the special (Sunday) edition and turned on their radios. My parents had wildly mixed reactions, happiness at their new home but great fear and foreboding at what would come. My mother sat on the front steps and wept. After all, Pensacola was a major naval point. There would be a great deal of change to come in their immediate world. Little did they know at just how much the world would change locally and globally. 

Today, it will help us to put things into historical perspective.We are in a hard time, no doubt about it. Our hearts break at the sickness and deaths all about us. Sometimes, we may want to sit on the front steps and weep, and maybe we should. However, on the whole, our travails pale in comparison to those of our parents and grandparents, the generation of the Great Depression and Second World War ("the Greatest Generation"). Just as we, they did not know the future, yet they did their best through it all. In the end, the world that developed, that they helped create, after the war was far more wonderful than they could have imagined. I think what sustained them through the darkest of hours was family, community, faith, and nation. After all, it is the basics that count the most in life; and I think we should remember that truism this day. The darkest day in American history since the Civil War may have seemed almost unbearable to the people at the moment, but it was not. This is worth remembering today, Pearl Harbor Day.

Finally, always remember we are here, as our ancestors were here on Pearl Harbor Day, for the living of this hour. Then, as now, the people had no choice of what was forced on them. So today, let us take inspiration from how our forebearers prevailed over adversity, moving on with our lives while facing fearful odds. Peace.  

  

Friday, December 4, 2020

 



SIX RELIGIOUS DENOMINATIONS BACK EPISCOPAL CHURCH IN U.S. SUPREME COURT



On October 19, 2020, the Episcopal Church and its diocese of Ft. Worth officially petitioned the United States Supreme Court to take its appeal of the Texas Supreme Court decision of May 22, 2020. That decision found all in favor of the breakaway entity in Ft. Worth. Find my blog post about this here .

Soon thereafter, six religious denominations and one think tank filed "amici curiae" (friends of the court) briefs with SCOTUS in support of the Episcopal Church position. Collectively, these present a strong case for the Church side. TEC is asking the high court to grant "cert," that is, to agree to accept an appeal of the case from Texas Supreme Court. If they agree, the nine justices would review and render a judgment on the TSC decision. If SCOTUS should grant cert, the justices would hold a hearing and then render a written decision in which the majority of the nine would either uphold or overturn the TSC decision.

The basic argument of TEC is that the Jones decision of 1979 has done more harm than good in American jurisprudence. It created an impossible approach called "neutral principles." This has produced only widely contradictory and confusing court decisions, in short, chaos. Moreover, the First Amendment precludes the civic state from interfering with the internal affairs of a religious organization. TEC is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the TSC decision in favor of the principle of the separation of church and state.

Six national religious denominations have filed amici briefs:

---the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, on Nov. 18.

---the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)  Nov. 23, 2020

    the Reformed Church in America

    the United Methodist Church

    the Moravian Church in America

    the United Church of Christ

In addition, the Rutherford Institute, of Charlottesville VA filed an amicus brief on Nov. 23, 2020.

In general, all of the amici briefs support TEC's position on the Jones decision, that is, the "neutral principles" rule that courts have used is unworkable and the First Amendment protects the rights of religious denominations against interference by the courts. The denominations also emphasized that SCOTUS should clarify the enforceability of trust provisions established by the national churches. This has been an enormous problem. 

As we know, the courts in South Carolina issued diametrically opposed decisions on the applicability of the Dennis Canon. The SC supreme court ruled that the Dennis Canon was in effect and that 28 of 36 parishes acceded to it. The circuit court purported to overturn that and declared that none of the 36 had acceded to the Dennis Canon. Thus, while the SCSC recognized TEC ownership of the 29, the circuit court recognized that TEC had no interest in any of the 36.

All of the amici briefs are available on the SCOTUS website. Find them here .

There could be more amici briefs supporting the Church side.

The breakaway side in Ft. Worth has until December 23, 2020, to file a reply brief with SCOTUS. After that, we can expect amici support for that side.

In all likelihood, in early 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether to grant cert. If they deny cert, the TSC decision stands as final. If they grant cert, SCOTUS will rule on the issues of the case. If they grant cert, we can expect a ruling from SCOTUS by July of 2021.

Of course, no one can predict whether SCOTUS will grant cert, or if they do, will side with TEC. However, the recent ruling in the Cuomo case was a strong statement on the inviolability of the First Amendment. Since this principle is the heart of the TEC case, it stands to reason the high court would look favorably on the TEC appeal. However, if the justices see the TEC case basically as part of the broad culture war in America, the 6-3 conservative court could seize this as an opportunity to bolster traditional social conventions.