Wednesday, July 26, 2017

In which I mourn my friend.

There was once a teacher from the Public Education System whom I respected greatly.

He was the one primarily responsible for piquing my lifelong interest in math and civics.  He pushed the ideal that any problem that can be modeled by mathematics can be studied, can be understood, can be acted upon within the bounds of the problem domain.  He believed that being educated in the functional structure of government empowered a person to be a good citizen, to engage positively in the democratic process.  Not a practicing Christian of any specific denomination, he was a decent person and believed in the existence of God just like everyone else where I grew up.  Not highly political, he leaned Democrat and valued the hard workers of America be they cowboys, nurses, or assembly line workers.

Long after I left school, in his own middle age, he hit a speed bump in the road of life developing an addiction to prescription painkillers.  After a brief season of chemical induced crazy, he became Born Again and adopted a Charismatic Christian lifestyle.  In rural Oklahoma this also means adopting dogmatic, ideological Republicanism.  And he changed.

Gone was the rational, thoughtful, balanced individual I had admired and respected as a child.  In his place is an angry, fearful, hateful man.  By virtue of his chosen religiosity, he has incorporated a worldview holding that Democrats are evil secular humanists who deny God and worship at the altar of Socialism.  Republicans on the other hand acknowledge Jesus as their Lord and Savior, and humbly follow the will of God, only to get persecuted and ridiculed by the liberals for their efforts.

I cannot abide this worldview, nor the changes it wrought in my friend.  It is overly simplistic and willfully ignorant, painting the veneer of a false dichotomy on the face of our complex and ever-changing society.  It took a man who had compassion for the poor, who accepted students for who they were regardless of their expressed sexual orientation, and created instead a person with open and agitated hostility towards "poor, lazy welfare takers" and the "godless, liberal gay activists".

Working in collusion, Breitbart, Fox News, the GOP, and Charismatic Christian Nationalism, killed my mentor.  Yes, I grieved the loss of my friend.  Yes, I'm still damn angry about it.  No, I can no more change the material facts of this reality than I can add a cubit to my stature.

So, what do I do?  Well, for one thing I cook.  I cook for Muslims, I cook for atheists and agnostics, I cook for Pro-Choice Gay Socialist Liberals.  I welcome them into my home, I feed them, and I love on them.  I share in their joys, fears, and ambitions.  I share my own experiences of life as sailor, nerd, Believer.  All the people he now hates borne of misguided religiosity, I will embrace.

Since I believe in a Sovereign God, I am forced to accept that the reality I live in is supposed to be this way, at least for now.  So I will quiet my soul, I will pray a prayer of guidance, and I will speak out against religious bigotry and class hatred in my writing.  And tonight, because my Lord has shown favor to me today, Sarah and I will eat well, slumbering in an air conditioned house on a comfortable mattress, recharging our physical and spiritual batteries to face the evils tomorrow will certainly bring.


Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Woody doesn't do Public Protesting

I have never attended a public protest, mainly because I'm not a goddamned Liberal.

The last time I considered joining a protest was back in 2008 when the radical-left socialist and domestic terrorist, William Ayers, was scheduled to speak at my university.  As a veteran, patriot, and solidly partisan Republican, I joined in the popular outrage of the time directed towards Obama and his Libby Crew like Ayers.  This outrage was exampled to me by the conservative pundits I listened to on talk radio three hours every day.  I was fully committed to standing outside the teaching college in my American Legion gear demonstrating my opposition to the presence of this UnAmerican "Big L" Liberal at my school.

Fast forward a decade and my political ideology has shifted to Centrist.  I no longer listen to Beck, Hannity, and Rush on talk radio.  I don't read "The Federalist Papers Project" blog or watch PragerU on Youtube.  I didn't replace those things with their liberal counterparts, but rather changed the methodology of how I keep myself educated.  I very closely follow the daily business of my state government for the 2-3 months they are in session each year.  I monitor the Federal Courts System for issues that are of concern to me.  Basically, I fired The Media.  I'm not an idiot and I don't need those idiots feeding me the Conservative or Progressive or Christian Point-Of-View their Advertisers have paid them for.

Which brings me to this Sunday's PRIDE March at the Nebraska State Capitol Building.  I'll be there.  With my heterosexual christian wife.

My Evangelical brethren and my die-hard Republican friends will not understand my participation in this event.  Their lack of understanding stems from a lack of education, which results in a lack of empathy.... manifesting ultimately in fear and anger.   Those friends consume the viewpoints of sources such as Dr. Carson, Col Alan West, Sean Hannity,  The Family Research Council, Nebraska Family Alliance.  Those sources tell my friends "The Gay Lobby is eroding the Values this country was founded upon.  They are forcing their Gay Agenda down our throats.  They hate God and they hate you.  Fight them, for your children's' sake."  I consider that position incorrect, ignorant, and wrong-headed.

I will be at the event to stand in solidarity with my LBGQT brothers and sisters.  To demonstrate to them that I see them.  As human.  As citizens who deserve equal protection under the law.  As part of my family and my community here in Lincoln where I've made my home.  I will be at the event, so that if my Evangelical or Republican friends choose to counter-protest, they will see me standing there, unashamed and unaccused.

This is not a Republican vs Democrat issue.  It's not a God vs Atheist issue.  This is about human dignity and common decency, an issue of Civil Liberty, and I choose to respond in Love.  Join me.

Nebraska Pride March | Nebraska State Capitol Building | Sunday, 11. June 2017

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Shall I Apologize for my Polemic Position on Pop-Christian Culture Apologetics?

"Woody, why do you hate Apologists?  I thought you were supposed to be a Christian or whatever?"

I do not hate Apologists.  I simply have never met a single one who, after hearing their case, I had any intellectual respect for at all.
A number of months ago a visiting preacher spoke to the church I attended.  He was with Ratio Christi, an apologist group that targets college campuses.  He lamented from the pulpit that "too many of our Youth leave the faith when they get to college." His group, he stated, offered "historical, philosophical, and scientific arguments to believe in Christ." (

On its face I have no objection to that intention.  I too believe in Christ and believe that the Bible is true.  I too assign intellectual value to history, science, and to philosophy - getting my bona fide's studying chemical engineering at University and engaging in Lincoln-Douglas Values Debate in High School.  As both Scientist and Believer, I daily witness the mastery and mystery of God's Hand in His Creation.

 But here's the rub, I also believe conceptual integrity and I'm not an idiot.

As an intellectual nerd, I have undertaken a more rigorous study of history, science, and philosophy, than the majority of my christian brethren.  In addition to fluency with the fundamentals of western science and philosophy, I have fluency with the fundamentals of the Scriptures, having been raised in a King-James-Only-Church.  So when the Christian Apologist makes bull-crap arguments, taking concepts out of context, cherry picking language - I will know it.  When Scientists do this, intentionally misapplying concepts to make a fallacious point, or obfuscating data to coax readers into incorrect conclusions, we kick them out of our community and ridicule them to scorn (see Anti-Vaxxers and Climate-Change-Deniers).  Among Truth-Seekers there is *no* room for intellectual dishonesty.  If a person must use falsehoods and deceit to "prove" the "truth", they are at best ignorant of what the truth actually is, or at worst simply a dishonest jackass.

Many Evangelicals have been deluded into accepting Popular Apologetics as an authentic tool for presenting the gospel to secularist non-believers.  It is their Biblical David to battle the Secular Goliath.  By my personal standard, I do not believe these Christians exhibit intelligence in this choice.  They are an ignorant people playing with hard concepts they do not comprehend.  So you may ask Dear Reader, "What's is the end-game here, Woody?  What purpose does the practice of Christian Apologetics, as used by American Evangelicals, serve?"  For me that answer is easy: The end-game is what the end-game is for most of American Christianity: Money and Political Influence.

If you want to know what American Christians really believe in, examine what they teach their children in Church.  Do they teach their little ones the Bible? No, they teach the Awana Program which makes learning individual bible verses (interlocked with Protestant Conservative Christian Dogma) Fun!  What about the High Schoolers?  Surely they teach those Youth the Bible?  No, they teach second-rate Apologetics a la Lee Strobel's "The Case for Christ", as their Sunday School Curriculum (the movie based upon the book cleared $7M in its first two weeks at the box office.  Each 'Student Edition' of "The Case for Christ" features 5 pages of advertisements for the other "The Case For.." books available for purchase from the Publisher at $9.99 each.)  For a bit of variety, they also teach a thinly-veiled "You're not an Godly American if you vote Democrat" message, a la a private screening of Franklin Graham's "Decision America" video (why would you show a video about Godly Republican Voting to minors who can't vote? Well... Brother Graham didn't spent a cool $9M on that project just to miss an easy opportunity to "invest" in the minds of future "christian voters" too).

Money and Political Influence.  Not the Bible.  Not Jesus's compassion upon the poor, upon women, upon refugees.  Not Jesus's overturning of the money changers' tables or his chastisement of the hypocritical Religious Leaders.  Nope.  Money and Politics shapes the discussion that a large segment of the Religious in America swallow without thought.

Thursday, May 18, 2017


Yesterday was a very unfortunate day for (some) children in this, the Great State of Nebraska. Children in the Juvenile Justice System, children in the Foster Care System, children in the Developmental Disability System, and also children who are sick as well as poor, on the Medicaid System, they will indeed and undoubtedly suffer from votes taken Wednesday on the Nebraska Unicameral Floor.

The Governor has line-item veto authority on the budget, and he exercised that this year on a number of DHHS and Nebraska Supreme Court programs. Nebraska is supposedly crafting our best shot at weathering a very real economic downturn. His stated purpose for the vetos was to not touch the "rainy day fund", presumably to put the state at a lower risk of a Special Session resulting from revenue catastrophically lagging forecasts over the interim. On a number of the overrides, the chairman of the Appropriations Committee stated he felt the reduction in the Reserve was appropriate, and that the amounts of money were so small, that the reductions to the Reserve would be virtually insignificant.

The cuts were particularly viscous to a particular class of people, those at the margins of society. Normal people are often honestly ignorant of the plight of these Others. Sometimes we simply don't see them... and other times we decide not to. Riding the bus I do see some of these, The Unfortunates: The single moms wearing a McDonald's uniform whose stroller blocks the aisle, the convicts on work release taking about their "old-ladies" and their kids back in freedom, the dirty jeans construction worker with a lunch box that looks just like mine - they are people. Also where I live informs me of these Unfortunates, literally, between the Governor's Mansion one block to the West, and drug houses in a blighted area one block to the East.  I see barefoot and shiftless kids playing in yards of houses with overgrown weeds and missing windows, completely ignorant of how the middle-class white preacher's children experience childhood. These are the people impacted by these senseless budget actions.

I cannot say for certain what is the content of my fellow Nebraska Christians' hearts, for "what man can truly know another man?" But I hear these "Christian" Senator's arguments, I see their votes which represent their constituents. If you claim the cross and you aren't ashamed of your state government putting party politics before people, I'm ashamed of you... which doesn't really matter much in the greater scheme of things.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

It is illegal in Nebraska, for a teacher in a public school to wear a cross necklace under a state law passed in 1919. You won't believe why!

**I am not a lawyer, just a dedicated nerd.  Courts determine innocence or guilt of crimes.  Title is intentionally sensationalized! because this stuff is deep and I wanted to provide some levity**

Let's take a closer look

On Wednesday the Nebraska Unicameral will begin the second day of General File floor debate on LB 62 (LB 62 Document Page).  I am really hoping for high quality debate on this bill.  It touches on some very important issues of both religion and law, and our style of doing state government provides an opportunity for anyone to increase their exposure to a handful of legal topics, in real-time, from the source: the Unicameral itself.  Topics likely to be discussed tomorrow might include the Separation of Church and State/Establishment Clause, the doctrine of Reasonable Accommodation, the notion of "compelled speech".  We also might see examples of various procedural methods of amending law, amending bills, and discussion of the phrase 'the opening of the statute for modification", something applicable to all bills and laws.


The prohibitions against wear of "religious garb" does not single out Christianity's crosses and Catholic habits, it extends as well to yamakas or the Star of David worn by Jews, to hajibs and the Crescent Moon of Islam, or any other object that is worn out of a person's religious conviction. From a review of the transcript to LB 62's  Public Hearing, we learn that almost a hundred years ago, the KKK lobbied for and secured passage of, similar religious garb bans in 35 other states, because they didn't want nuns educating their children with views that disagreed with their white-superiority beliefs. These bills were not difficult to get passed because at that time there was a great anti-catholic fervor sweeping the country, the ripples of which I felt in rural OK growing up. The protestant American people of the time were in fear the Catholics, many of them immigrants from Europe, might attempt to undermine America itself by electing a Papist-Sympathizing President. Might seem odd now, but it was a widely held fear back then. Since that time, all states have repealed their bans on the wear of religious garb by public teachers with the exception of Nebraska and Pennsylvania.
(Transcript of Education Committee Public Hearing on LB 62)

I'd like to review some of the arguments made Tuesday as a preview on what we may hear Wednesday:

1) As written, LB 62 would repeal two sections of state law which contain variously: language establishing criminal offences, language establishing criminal penalties for offenses, language compelling actions/speech. With passage of LB 62, notwithstanding local school dress codes, any teacher could wear any item of "religious garb."

2) Sen Schumacher has voiced a concern I think might be slightly in the legal weeds, but is valid enough to deserve mention. If the statutes are repealed the following hypothetical situation could occur: Two middle-aged public teachers, identical male twins, one a catholic bishop the other an agnostic LBGQT advocate, could both desire to "wear pink patent leather slippers and a pink frock" while teaching in a Public School. With the repeal of the statues, he posits, schools might allow the bishop to wear the clothing by way of the man's first amendment right to freedom of religion (as the uniform of a church officer), but might deny the agnostic (due to the clothing causing potential disorder in the classroom).  Sen Schumacher feels this might create a situation where the State offers preferential treatment to a person with positive religious affiliation over someone with no religious affiliation, something he feels might violate the 1st Amendment's Establishment Clause.  I think the dress code policies of local schools make this a moot point, but there is some merit to the argument.

3) Senator Chambers also takes issue with LB 62.  Sen Chambers utilizes a particular style of oratory in floor debate - always speaking with the knowledge his words are being recorded for History as a matter of the Public Record.  He often splits his speaking time between using rhetoric to make the point of his position, and separately discussing the procedural or legal substance of his position. In floor debate today he rhetorically asked, "If the Catholic Lobby feels so strongly that the current law is unconstitutional, why haven't they challenged the law in the courts?"  Although it might be considered inflammatory by some, and perhaps rightfully so, in my view that question is an incredibly dense piece of intellectual work, asking several layers of different questions regarding matters of law, important social issues, and data that can be found in the public record.

The technical answer to his question, insofar as I understand it, is that in order for the Court to determine the garb ban is indeed unconstitutional, a person with "Standing" is required to bring a suit before the court. To establish Standing is a not-simple legal topic, but I'd offer the gist is this: a Concerned Party would have to wear religious garb in the classroom in violation of current law, and be charged of violating the law by an agent of the State.  At this point the Concerned Party, now Defendant, could ask the Court for relief, something also guaranteed under the First Amendment, freedom to "petition the government for a redress of grievances".  From most of the cases I've read, it's about here that lawyers specializing in this type of law are typically procured for the Defendant, often retained by religiously affiliated lobbies.  Those lawyers, together with the AG defending the law, would then make their arguments to the court, first in written briefs outlining the legal aspects of their case, then in open court discussing the merits of their case through timed question and answer, with the Court making final determination on constitutionality of the law. I'm fairly certain the Court would strike down the current law as a clear and blatant violation of the First Amendment's protection of religious freedom, so clear is the question of the law the ACLU testified in favor of this bill as necessary to correct the current unconstitutional statues.

Secondly, moving from the Judicial side to the Legislative side of this, Sen Chambers has announced his intention to introduce an amendment Wednesday morning that would strike the punishment and crime language from current law, but would retain the prohibition against religious garb. I expect a very high level debate on the Chamber Amendment tomorrow, but as a primer, Senator Chambers voiced concerns he has with the how the Nebraska Justice System interfaces with children in his constituency. He says he is aware of students belonging to the LGBQT community enrolled in Public Schools, where a teacher of the student both wore religious clothing and made strong strong religious statements regarding homosexuality in the classroom. When the parents of the student kept the student out of school to prevent what they saw as the student's harassment, the county took legal action against the student and his parents under Nebraska truancy laws. Senator Chambers feels strongly that religion has no place in Public Schools because he feels "children should not be forced to become involved in the arguments held between grown adults". I will admit I'm not swayed by the arguments commonly presented by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which are very similar to Sen Chambers's argument here, but part of being a student of the law is maintaining an open mind. I'm very much looking forward to listening to the debate to get a better handle on the legal aspects of the various arguments being offered.

I cannot recommend tuning in to the debate strongly enough.  The snippets of things we hear in the media do not come close to encapsulating the complexities found in the making of law.  My intuition says the Chambers Amendment will not be adopted, and LB 62 should advance to Select File today.  If anyone has questions on any statements I made above, or on the debate that goes down Wednesday, hit me up!

Monday, January 30, 2017

Should Teachers Be Able To Punch Students In The Mouth Without Consequence?

"An example of Partisan Republicans attempting to game the committee and referencing system of the Nebraska Unicameral, poorly"
I just wrote my state senator on LB 595, a bill related to teachers interacting with combative students. My wife's employment as a para-educator, working primarily with behaviorally challenged students, provides me with background knowledge on some of the school environments that would be impacted by this bill.  Partisan Republicans are attempting to stack the deck and get their bills, some of which that have serious legal problems in their construction, onto the floor for General File.  They are doing this with a 2-pronged approach.  First, on Legislative Day One, they loaded certain committees with vote lock majorities of Partisan Republicans and placed inexperienced, unqualified people in chairmanships, such as Sen Groene, a person who has never worked in Public Education,as chair of the Education Committee.  Then, they are using a vote lock majority on the Referencing Committee to steer bills to committees that are not best suited to hear the bills.  Such is the case with LB 595.  Originally referenced to Judiciary, then two days later re-referenced to Education.  I have requested transcripts of the meeting where the re-reference decision was made.  I want to know exactly who said what on this bill, which I will then share publicly with the People of Nebraska.

Hello Senator Pansing-Brooks,

On Friday (and again this morning) I heard Sen Chambers make reference from the floor of his pending motion to re-reference LB 595 to the Judiciary Committee, that motion put LB 595 on my radar.

The Legislative Journal indicates the bill was referred to Judiciary on the 12th day of the legislature, and re-referred to Education on the 14th day, I would like to request the transcripts of the Referencing Committee meeting where the determination to re-reference 595 was made.  If this was a case of both committee's chairs mutually agreeing to re-reference the bill, could you point me toward where I can find that in the record please?  If your office cannot get the transcripts for me due to your workload doing the business of the state, please refer me to where I can obtain them myself.

Regarding the language of the bill: My wife is a para-educator to Everett Elementary School, primarily working with behaviorally challenged students.  LB 595 speaks to a hazardous aspect of her job that she deals with on a daily basis, physically combative students.  Having read 595's text, we both have serious concerns regarding the bill's current language, particularly in that the 'hold harmless' provisions provided school officials are far, far too broad.  We are also concerned that there is no age-related aspect to the bill, addressing violent kindergartners and elementary students along with violent high school teenagers in the same bill seems imprudent.

I feel this bill should be heard in Judiciary, that is where the 'hold harmless' provisions would be best addressed.  Even better would be a joint committee of Judiciary and Education, but I figure that's simply an impossibility, especially in the current political climate.  If the bill stays in Education, I very much hope Sen Groene will research both the Mandt System (, the system my wife was required to be trained in prior to doing any work related to restraining combative students, and also the current policies and procedures utilized by LPS in their Special Education programs.

Thank you for your work in the legislature.  I'd respectfully urge your opposition to LB 595 as currently written, and to support Sen Chamber's motion to re-reference LB 595 to the Judiciary Committee.

*address redacted*