Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category

Opinion: Antioch schools trustee claims racism behind recent board president vote

Tuesday, January 14th, 2020

Ellie Householder by AUSD.

By Ellie Householder, Member, Antioch Unified School District Board of Education

Many have asked me why, when I was nominated to become the vice president of the Antioch Unified School District Board of Education, I did not accept the nomination. To put it simply, I found the process of selecting the Board’s leadership to be deeply problematic — and racist.

We have 4,193 African American students in our school district and not a single African American has ever served as board president. On its surface, this may seem like a benign coincidence. It’s not.

It’s intentional.

At the December 11, 2019 AUSD Board meeting, Trustee Crystal Sawyer-White–an African American who has served on the board since 2016, who was the top vote-getter in that year’s election, and who holds multiple degrees–was denied the board presidency for the second time. It was the third time an African American was denied this position in recent memory, which reveals a troublesome pattern.

The school board’s leadership changes every year. For context, the person who becomes the president has historically been a non-issue, because it simply happened on a rotating basis. For years, that’s how the Antioch school board worked. That is, until Black women started getting elected as trustees.

Although the position of board president is more ceremonial than anything, the three times an African American trustee was up for the board presidency seat, their “qualifications” and “demeanor” were called into question. As many scholars have documented, such statements are often, forms of racial microaggressions that send the message that “people of color are lazy” and “are incompetent and need to work harder.”

Some may argue that this decision “wasn’t racist” because they don’t view the trustees who voted for this as racist. This argument misunderstands what the problem is – institutionalized bias against people of color. Whether or not the trustees involved “are racist” isn’t the point. The point is that the use of coded language marginalizes African Americans and holds them to a standard that their white counterparts are not held to, which is racist. This double standard is revealing of an educational system which for decades has been unfair to African Americans.

After Trustee Sawyer-White was denied the board president position, I was nominated for vice president. I chose to abstain from the vote because I did not think it was right to vote for myself. At the time, I stated I was uncomfortable. To be honest, uncomfortable puts it mildly.

This marked the second time I had witnessed what I can only deem a corrupt process. A process that has a faint veneer of objectivity, when it is clearly anything but. I had seen the exact same thing happen to Trustee Sawyer-White last year when she was denied the role of president after serving for a year as vice president. So, I took issue with participating in a process I saw as unfair.

That is what I meant when I said I was uncomfortable. I’m uncomfortable that some of my colleagues refuse to talk about race. I’m uncomfortable when my colleagues hijack a political process that is meant to serve our youth and instead use it to serve their own interests. This should make many of you feel uncomfortable as well.

As we enter a new decade, I urge my fellow residents to take note of the decisions made by your local representatives and to listen closely to the reasoning behind their votes. Sadly, some of us who are sworn to serve the public make decisions that are far from the best interest of the community. When that happens, we need to have the courage to call it like it is.

With another election approaching, my hope is that we, as a community, can stand together and hold our elected officials accountable. It is through courage, fairness, and honesty that I believe we can begin to move forward as a city and create a school system that is truly stronger and better, for all our students, regardless of their skin tone.

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Commentary: Antioch homeless advocate shares her experience and solutions

Friday, January 3rd, 2020

By Nichole Gardner

My name is Nichole Gardner and I am the founder and Director of the non-profit Facing Homelessness in Antioch. I started the organization in January 2016. We serve hot meals to the homeless in the city of Antioch and supply them with donated jackets, blankets, shoes, clothing and toiletries, weekly. We strive to not only get them a meal and other necessities, but to show them compassion and dignity, and treat them like human beings. When we go out, we play music, hold raffles and give out prizes, we laugh and joke and even break out some dance moves from time to time while we are out there. It’s like a family dinner party.

Throughout the years, I came to realize that Antioch has the largest population of homeless individuals in East County but is lacking services and resources for them. There is one shelter in the city that sleeps 25 and that’s for people who have mental illness, and it is constantly full.

I started the Antioch Homeless Advocacy Coalition (AHAC) back in June after researching, doing interviews of homeless people around the city and visiting the shelter and CARE center in Concord, which are also constantly full I realized that Antioch needs to do more to battle its homeless problem and that there clearly isn’t enough services for the amount of homeless we have living on our streets.

I, along with other homeless advocates, started attending city council meetings and voicing our concerns. Initially the city told us that they don’t deal with homeless services and that it was a County issue. After attending city council meetings for about eight months, not missing one meeting, the city put together a Homeless Taskforce and the city realized how important it was to deal with its homeless crisis and they put aside over $500,000 into a homeless account that would go towards homeless services.

Our advocacy group has started doing homeless encampment clean-ups around the city, getting the homeless involved and holding them accountable for their garbage. We were surprised at how many of them jumped in and wanted to assist us with cleaning up the city. We have worked with public works and they have given us dumpsters around the city and have given us bags when we do our clean-ups.

Something that we have found that surprises members in the community is that although we are a homeless advocacy group and we feel like it should be a basic human right for people to have shelter and be out of the cold and rain, and have food to eat and water to drink, that we are not naïve to the fact that we do have Antioch residents who have valid concerns when it comes to homelessness in the city. If you commit a crime, are harassing, vandalizing, stealing and causing chaos in the city, you deserve to go to jail, you need to be punished for those things. Garbage around the city is a major problem and that is why we have pushed for dumpsters around the city.

Homeless people in front of businesses can be detrimental to business owners. Talking to the owner of Straw Hat Pizza, who said he closed his Antioch location because of homeless individuals constantly in front of his business, showed us that. People being afraid to walk in and out of businesses because of homeless people asking for money or laying on the ground is a problem.

Our group’s goal is to let people know that we agree with their concerns. We believe shelter and housing would help with these problems. We know not all people want to get off the streets, but we are fully aware that a majority of the people that we have come in contact with do. And even for those who don’t, they still don’t want to be sleeping in the freezing rain and should also have an opportunity to have a shelter to sleep in those elements.

We want the community to know that although we may have some bad apples out there on our streets, we also have really good people out there that are just down on their luck and need help to get back on their feet. There are people who work and have jobs, we have elderly people, disabled people in wheelchairs, over 300 students in our district that are homeless, families sleeping in cars, and veterans living on our streets.

There are so many reasons why people become homeless. Losing a job, living paycheck to paycheck and becoming ill all of a sudden, having the head of the household suddenly pass away, not being able to afford housing, as we are in a housing crisis. Rent is going up, but wages aren’t. People aren’t able to afford rent or their medical bills and medication, and don’t have family to help them.

I think everyone wants the same thing and that is to have our homeless community off of our streets – maybe for different reasons. But we all want the same thing. The problem is what solutions, other than shipping them off to another city (even though most of them were actually born and raised here) can we come up with? It’s been proven that criminalizing homelessness doesn’t work, and housing is the key.

Safe parking for people who are in cars, and housing is a step in the right direction to dealing with this crisis. There are cities such as Oakland, Berkeley and Los Angeles who have parking programs and tiny homes for their homeless.

We have to do something different than we have been doing for our city. Depending on the County has gotten us nowhere. They have emergency funding for our city, which with they say they are going to build a CARE center in Antioch earlier this year. But they said it would take two-to-three years to build, and from my knowledge nothing has been done, so far.

Although I’m excited about the money the city has set aside for services, that money is not going to help get the homeless off of the streets. So, we as advocates have more work to do. We want our city to go back to the way it was when this crisis wasn’t so bad. Although homelessness is very complicated, providing housing for the unhoused is a start to a solution.

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Letter writer unhappy with Antioch School Board bypassing Sawyer-White for president, again

Saturday, December 14th, 2019

Dear Editor:

2019 will be the year in which our African American community is once again, not recognized for their continued and positive contributions to the City of Antioch.

What I witnessed Wednesday night at the Antioch School Board meeting was incomprehensible to say the least. School Board Member Crystal Sawyer-White was recognized by her peer to be School Board President for calendar year 2020. This was encouraging to hear the nomination and I believe instrumental to many in our community seeing an African American woman taking the reins of one of the largest and highly challenged school districts in Contra Costa County.

But the nomination was quickly challenged, and the outcome was unbelievable. The excuse was that Board Member Sawyer-White needed to understand the actions of the president role by being the vice president for a year. It appeared that some members of the Board failed to recognize that Board Member Sawyer-White was vice president in 2018 and was overlooked for the president role in 2019.

What is clear is the AUSD School Board already had an agenda not to recognize Board Member Sawyer-White and I am reminded of other actions that have occurred in this city. If you recall Editorial posted by Susanne Larson on March 2, 2019, she reflected on the actions of the City Council referencing hiring an African American City Attorney and the mockery of that meeting.

I may not know all the School Board Members personally, but I do know this is not about color. This is about having those in charged having a “liked” policy thinking and only keeping to that. It is about the fear of change that a new president with a different mindset from others will bring to the table. It is ignoring “this is how it is done” and having a strategic view instead of a tactical one.

AUSD continues to struggle in providing every student the ability to achieve success. Test scores speak for themselves!

Board Member Sawyer-White’s credentials are far from those that are serving. Though she may not have the decades in representing the city as others, but what is important is having the education, skills and background to drive a vision forward. A vision that has been lacking on the school board for the decade I have resided here in Antioch.

We lost this opportunity to really see a new leadership model and I am hoping that you will remember this in November. It is time to ask ourselves, “Do we want a board that is exclusive or inclusive?”

We don’t need to have Board Members that are exclusive in thinking as this hindered our kids, teachers and community. What we need are inclusive, inspirational thinkers that are actively engaged with administration, teachers, kids and the community at large.

Thanking you for your time.

Gil Murillo

Antioch

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OP/ED: PG&E blackout is blackmail

Saturday, October 12th, 2019

By Greg Palast

OCTOBER 11, 2019

The PG&E Blackout Con is all about threatening the judge in the PG&E bankruptcy case. The victims have joined with the bondholders to eliminate the equity of the stockholders who deserve nothing. So in desperation, the power company pigs are turning off your lights. Hopefully, the judge will not be intimidated.

Leaving hospitals, schools and 1 million homes without power — and that means without water — in California is the endgame of deregulation mania.

Jerry Brown, Bill Clinton and other deregulation snake-oil salesmen, and the PG&E greedster bosses, should be imprisoned for the people already burned to death.

Where is the California utility commission?

I’ve written a book published by the United Nations called, Democracy and Regulation, about how to avoid such piggery. When I wrote the book, it was meant only for Third World nations — apparently, Northern California is the third world of electricity.

Public utilities must be publicly owned. Decades back, I investigated power company racketeering for the Justice Department.

As an expert, I can tell you, PG&E is a criminal enterprise parading as a power company. Shut them down — not us.

Palast, a Puffin Foundation fellow in investigative reporting, is the author of the New York Times bestseller, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, now a feature documentary. www.GregPalast.com

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Payton Perspective: I love Antioch! Here’s why

Thursday, October 3rd, 2019

Yes, our city has areas that need improvement, but it’s not a “miserable” place to live

In light of Wednesday’s negative news that Antioch ranks as the most miserable city in the Bay Area, and second most in northern California, I’m not buying it and I think someone needs to point out the positives, in spite of the various challenges we face as a once, again growing community.

First, a bit about the study based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau using six different statistical categories. Antioch was ranked number 213 of all 1,000 U.S. cities on the list. The greatest weight, at 40%, was given to population growth from 2010-18. Antioch’s was only 8.6% but that was greater than average. Another 15% was given to average commute time to work, pegged at 45.4 minutes. Another 15% for people without health insurance, at 9.2%. Another 10% was used for those in the civilian labor force at 63.4%, 10% more for median household income at $69,950,  and the final category weighted at 10% was for those in poverty which the study shows is 14.6%.

So, over half of the study was based on something that’s not that big of a deal, the population growth in Antioch, and something people knew about when they moved, here, the commute. The study is clearly biased as it punishes cities with land available for new home development and rewards those that are already built out. Ridiculous. It doesn’t mention the affordability of housing, which is why many residents moved here, and actually plays in Antioch’s favor. The study should have used the term “challenged” instead of “miserable”. That would be more accurate.

Yes, we still have a crime problem and need more police. But Chief Brooks just pointed out, this week that we currently have 106 sworn officers on the force. That’s up 17 from 2013 when Measure C, the first half-cent sales tax, was placed on the Antioch ballot. While it’s not as many as we need, violent, Part I crime continues to decrease and the department is headed in the right direction toward the 126 sworn officers we need, in order to get to the 1.1 officers per 1,000 population. (1.2 is preferable).

Yes, we have a challenge with homelessness in our city. But the council is working on pro-active solutions, and we can expect a large amount of the $2.9 million from the state committed to East County, that will be administered by the county, to be spent in Antioch to help solve that problem.

One idea is to convert the former Big Kmart building into transitional housing for the homeless. Plus, there’s a huge parking lot where their RV’s could park at night. For now, it’s just an idea that might need to be considered. There are other, private sector, church and non-profit related solutions in the works, as well.

Yes, we have retail and other businesses that have been closing. But, that’s a nation-wide trend, mainly due to online shopping. If you’re doing that, giving money to businesses outside of our city through Amazon and other websites, then you’re contributing to that. I don’t. I shop local and spend my money in Antioch, or East County, and if I can’t find something here, then I shop elsewhere in our county. Then, again, this trend is just a reality of today’s marketplace and I’m not going to fault progress and innovation. We just need a solution to what is going to happen with the empty buildings.

Yes, we have a challenge with the commute for many of our residents, but that too has improved with the widening of Highway 4 and the extension of BART to Antioch. Yes, I know it’s not “real” BART, but it connects us to the system and soon, in the next few years, it will connect us to the east and south. Plus, with more local employment on the horizon, with the advent of more upscale homes attracting business owners who will locate their businesses in Antioch, fewer and fewer of our residents will have to leave town to go to work.

While I’m not happy with the Council’s approval of the four marijuana businesses, this year and believe they actually work against the City’s effort to rebrand and improve Antioch’s reputation, there are other business interests doing what they can to improve Antioch.

Take Sean McCauley and his Brentwood company, for example. So far, he’s invested millions of dollars and purchased seven buildings in historic, downtown Rivertown, has fixed up two of them, and has brought two restaurants to Antioch. First, was Smith’s Landing Seafood Grill in the former Humphrey’s location. Second was Guadalajara Taqueria on West Second Street across from El Campanil Theatre. Plus, he’s working on other business ventures to improve Antioch.

New homes are being built by four different homebuilders in Antioch, right now, creating well-paying jobs, selling in the $500,000 to $700,000+ range, and increasing existing home values. The new homeowners will also be paying new fees, including the annual police fee, plus a fee on some of the homes, to extend Slatten Ranch Road from the J.C. Penney store and the Hillcrest BART Station to connect at Laurel Road, near the Highway 4 interchange. That will open up the 200-acre area the Council set aside in 1998 for commercial development and employment.

There are also other, outside business interests looking to invest in Antioch and develop commercial property, as well as plans for the types of development our city has never had before. In addition, there are local business owners planning on more improvements to Rivertown, including a big boat berth marina and a Pier 39-type attraction along the waterfront. They also have plans for other parts of the city, including a vehicle manufacturing plant off either Wilbur Avenue or East 18th Street. Another plan includes a hotel and convention center with a rotating restaurant on top for a one-hour dining experience in which people can view the river for a half hour and Mt. Diablo and the hills for the second half hour. A world-class architectural firm has already been consulted about that proposed project.

We have many positive things about Antioch: we have the river and Delta for recreation, the East Bay Regional Parks District land, some of it in Antioch and much of it adjacent for hiking, picnics, swimming at Contra Loma Reservoir, and exploring, like the sand mines in the Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve at the end of Somersville Road.

Yes, we have challenges in the schools, specifically with K-8th grades. But we have some good high school academies, with the Dozier-Libbey Medical High School at the top of that list. Plus, we have some great charter and private schools serving students and families who prefer those alternatives.

We have many, many churches and other religious institutions in Antioch, serving the most important aspect of our lives, the eternal, which ties back to our city’s roots and it’s founders, the Smith brothers, who were Christian ministers, and the surviving twin, William who with the townspeople of 1850

Antioch has youth and adult sports programs like crazy, with football, softball, soccer and baseball leagues playing at the more than 30 public parks and private sports fields and facilities in our city. We also have the Contra Costa Event Park (formerly the fairgrounds) with the annual County Fair and other events throughout the year, including the Saturday night car races at the Antioch Speedway.

We have more great history, here as the oldest city in the county, which can be learned about at the Antioch Historical Society Museum and Sports Legends wing on 4th Street. We also have many wonderful people who care about our city and serve the community through their churches and various volunteer groups, such as the Rotary, Kiwanis, Woman’s, and Soroptimist Clubs. Plus, those groups that provide various activities for our residents, such as the Fun After 50, Model Railroad, the Lapidary Clubs, to name a few.

The bottom line is Antioch is better than what the reports of the “misery index” have to say. Stay positive, folks. Remember, those articles and reports were all done by people who don’t live here. So, they don’t know what we know. Don’t let one statistical analysis get you down. But, let it be a wake-up call for our elected representatives to do more and sooner to solve the problems they can, through government. As President Lincoln said, and I paraphrase, government should do that which we can’t do ourselves, or as well, ourselves. While we can’t expect them to solve all of our problems, we do need our elected representatives to not work against us and work to solve the problems that they can.

Don’t let outsiders determine Antioch’s future. I believe it’s brighter than it has been in over a decade, and will continue to be if we keep a positive attitude and hold our officials accountable to do the job we elected them to do.

I love Antioch. That’s why I’ve continued to live here for the past 28+ years and keep my businesses in town. Do you love Antioch, too? If so, let others know why.

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Please tell CCTA: East County needs freeway from Brentwood to Tracy for long term economic growth

Monday, August 5th, 2019

The Contra Costa Transportation Authority is holding Telephone Town Hall Meetings to inform the public of the Initial Draft 2020 Transportation Expenditure Plan (TEP) and get their input before finalizing the plan and placing another tax measure on the March 2020 ballot to fund it. The meeting for East County will be held on Wednesday, Aug. 8 (see previous post on this website, below)

The plan (www.ccta.net/theplan) currently has a total price tag of $3.061 billion and the tax is in addition to the county’s current half-cent sales tax for transportation from Measure J, which voters approved in 2004 and expires in 2034. The new tax would last until 2050. The CCTA attempted to pass a similar additional half-cent sales tax in 2016, known as Measure X, but it failed. The only new section of roadway in the entire county in that plan was the $117 million “limited access” connector between Vasco Road and the Byron Highway, next to the Byron Airport. Voters overwhelmingly voted against the measure and it failed.

Fortunately, that project was included in the Regional Measure 3 expenditure plan which did pass. But, RM3 didn’t include the long-planned Route 239, the proposed four-lane freeway between Brentwood and Tracy, which will connect East County to Interstate 5, the economic lifeblood artery of the state.

That road has been on the books for over 60 years. But, planning for it only began in 2013 as part of what was known as the TriLink Project, as it crossed the three counties of Contra Costa, San Joaquin and a sliver of Alameda, and was to also include two lines of transit down the middle, connecting the end of the BART line in East County to Tracy.

However, the TriLink Project website is no longer active and neither the four-lane freeway nor the transit lines are included in Contra Costa County’s plans for the next 30 years.

Yet, it’s Route 239 that will ensure East County’s long-term economic viability, allowing current businesses, including agriculture, to get their products to market quicker. Plus, it will open up our area for greater local job creation, and complete what I refer to as the beltway around Mt. Diablo, eliminating the cul-de-sac effect with the three two-lane roads connecting us to the east and south.

Antioch and East County have the freight rail connecting us to the east and west, plus the river connecting us to the world, to move goods. But we only have Highway 4 and BART connecting us to the west for moving people and goods.

Central County folks oppose Route 239 saying it will “induce growth in East County.” But they’ve been saying that for almost 50 years about every new road improvement, including the Hwy 4 Bypass/extension, which we had to fight for over four years from 1994-98 to just get approvals, not any money. In fact, it was that same mindset that prevented Hwy 24 from being extended to East County back in the 1970’s and the result is a surface road with the three names of Ygnacio Valley Road, Kirker Pass and Railroad Avenue, today.

I grew up in Walnut Creek and moved to Antioch because it was more affordable. In fact out of all us who attended the 35th reunion of the Northgate High School Class of ’81 in 2016, only four classmates still lived in Walnut Creek. Where did many move to? East County. So, as I said to my fellow elected officials when I was on a panel during a transportation conference back in the late 1990’s when I was serving on the Antioch City Council and Contra Costa Transportation Authority, don’t blame us for the growth. They had kids and we needed somewhere to live that we could afford. That was East County we were pushing for funding and approvals for Highway 4 widening and the Highway 4 bypass/extension. We received it and those projects are now completed.

It’s time we completed the transportation infrastructure in East County and Route 239 is a key part of it.

Besides, that road won’t induce residential growth. We have the Urban Limit Line to control that. But it will induce economic growth with more local jobs, which is what East County needs.

We need both Route 239 and the transit link between Antioch and Tracy. But, for now, let’s push for funds for the freeway to be included in the county’s new plan. Estimates are it will cost an additional $1 billion. I say add it to the total and let the voters decide.

We need bold leadership from our local elected officials and the voice of “we the people” to make it happen.

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Writer responds to Payton Perspective: Exercising our right to religious freedom in the public square

Sunday, July 7th, 2019

Dear Publisher:

Hypocrisy is not limited to those who are agnostic or atheist. Many people of faith can be just as hypocritical whether they be Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist or of any other faith.

Look at those of faith who say it is okay to pull families apart and put children in cages at our border. Is that really a statement of faith?

Does that really apply the golden rule or is that hypocrisy?

Or, look at the man in the White House. A narcissistic serial liar; with five children from three baby mommas and innumerable mistresses on the side. A man who somehow holds solid support from the faith base of the South.

Those folks just look the other way. Does that really make one a person of applied faith or a hypocrite?

This is not a question of exercising faith. This is an issue of free speech. Free speech on both sides. So, on this point we can agree.

In our American we have free speech, but that right is not absolute. You cannot yell “fire” in a theater. At governmental meetings where the public can speak, everyone should have the right to make their statement within the bounds of acceptable decorum.

Does someone expressing their desire to have a flag flown have the right to silence others? No, is the simple answer.

Do those of faith have a right to express their view? Yes, is the simple answer.

The decisions of our representatives should be based on the law. What does the law state? How should it be applied? What are the rulings of courts that may apply? This is how decisions should be made by government, local, state or national.

Our Declaration of Independence and Constitution are documents written by men. All religious testaments are words written by men. Whether they are inspired by a higher power; well that is a question.

Your statement made “that there is no separation of church and State in the Constitution” is incorrect.

The United States Constitution is a living document with Amendments. The first ten of these is called the Bill of Rights.

Amendment 1 states, and I’ll paraphrase, Congress shall not establish a State Religion. By Supreme Court confirmation this means that no religion has a preference over another and has no sway over the government of the United States. That; in and of itself is separation.

The Pledge of Allegiance you reference containing “Under God” was not originally written with those words. You misspeak here.

Written in 1892 by Francis Bellamy it originally read: “I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic, for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Not until 1954 in response to Communist threats of the time were the words you reference added.

You speak of “Divine Providence” in your Perspective. Divine for whom? Slaves? Native Indians? Indentured Servants? Women? Truth be told this country was formed because of a tax revolt and a lack of representation in Parliament by white, land owning men.

If all men are equal, then why would a higher power shine greater on North American than on the British Isles? Why not shine equally on all? The world rotates so why not shine all over the world? We’re not blessed by Divine Providence we’re blessed by our law. For whom no one is above.

I don’t have the answer to many of the questions written here. I’m not that smart, gifted, or enlightened. Humility rather than hypocrisy should be the consideration whenever an elected representative needs to make a decision for all of us.

Thank you for expressing your thoughts and for publishing this response should you choose to do so.

Mark Jordan

Antioch

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Payton Perspective: Exercising our right to religious freedom in the public square

Saturday, July 6th, 2019

During the recent debate over flying the LGBTQ rainbow flag at Antioch City Hall, I was most taken aback by the comments by one supporter of the effort. The lady literally said to the council, while directing her comments to those of faith in the audience, some who spoke against flying the “pride” flag, “You get to have freedom of your religion in the privacy of your own buildings.”

It’s not the first time I’ve heard that argument in someone’s effort to support what they claim to be the “separation of church and state”.

It was her way, and that of others, to attempt to silence those, mainly self-identified as Christians, to prevent them from arguing their point that the flying of the rainbow flag is an offense against the Bible and the Christian faith.

Her argument is completely hypocritical. What she’s basically saying is, Americans of faith are free to exercise it, but not publicly, and not have it   impact how they will be governed, while she and people on her side of the issue get to not only express themselves publicly, but have their views impact how we will be governed, and implemented into government policy and even law.

It’s ironic that she and her side complain that those on the other side of the issue are intolerant. Yet, her statement clearly shows her lack of tolerance of those with a different point of view.

Her statement is also completely false. The inalienable, God-given, and constitutionally protected freedom of religion – the first freedom and right enumerated in the Bill of Rights, because that’s what our nation was founded upon, going back to the Pilgrims in 1620 – can be exercised anywhere people of faith want to. That includes in the public square, specifically in public debate, discussion and decisions affecting all of us.

You can’t help but have how you believe, your views, and your faith impact how you will live and how you want to be governed in a democratic republic, such as the United States.

In fact, in this country we get to have what we believe implemented into law. It’s been said that every piece of legislation is a piece of morality, determining right from wrong, or what’s better or best about an issue.

Finally, there is no separation of church and state in the Constitution. The Bill of Rights are limitations and restrictions on the power of government, not the other way around. It’s actually separation of state from church. While there is not to be a state-run church or religion, as there was and is in England, the Church, i.e. people of faith, can influence how we are to be governed.

If you go back and study it, you will learn that Thomas Jefferson’s argument in his letter to the Danbury Baptists wasn’t about which religion’s views would be dominant in our government, but about which Christian Protestant denomination would be the dominant one in our federal government. Nevertheless, we don’t have or want a government-run church.

While flying the rainbow flag was a policy issue for the council to decide, the argument that those of us who still believe we are “One Nation Under God”, as is written in our Pledge of Allegiance, and that our nation was formed “with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence” as our Founding Fathers wrote in the Declaration of Independence, aren’t allowed to share our views and values based on our faith, and want and can have them implemented by the government, is simply wrong.

The battle over whose views and values will dominate public discourse and decisions will continue. But those of us who are people of faith will not be marginalized, silenced or forced into the privacy of our buildings in order to exercise our freedom of religion – as Christians, Muslims and others of faith are forced to do in Communist China.

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