Religion

Union Reservoir Master Plan Revisited

New Public Input Sought

 

The following article provides an historical perspective of the Union Reservie Master Plan and the impact of developments that were or are planned in the vicinity of Union Reservoir.

In 2007 the City of Longmont held several public hearings on the Union Reservoir Master Plan. At the time, this plan was extremely controversial. It was conceived and planned to urbanize the reservoir to accommodate the LifeBridge “Union” Development and what was then-known as the West Union Development. The original Master Plan included a semi-private marina for a mixed-use residential development of expensive waterfront homes on the western side of the reservoir. The LifeBridge development to the south also planned expensive homes with an enviable view of the reservoir.

The community uprising over the annexation of the LifeBridge development led to a hugely successful petition drive to put the issue to the voters. The campaign resulted in over 6,000 signatures, nearly one-third more signatures than required.

In the November 2007 election, the voters endorsed a progressive council majority, largely in response to the previous council’s deafness on the LifeBridge issue and its cronyism with the principals of LifeBridge and their associated developers. After years of residential growth, the community had had enough “growth.”

The new council had the option to cancel the development or place the annexation revocation on a special election ballot. Before that decision was made, LifeBridge withdrew its annexation request.

Having seen the handwriting on the wall of their inevitable defeat at the ballot box, LifeBridge shopped their development to neighboring Southwest Weld communities. They were essentially turned down by Mead and Frederick, but found a willing partner in Firestone.

Firestone, aggressively but surreptitiously, began a process of altering its comprehensive plan and instigating flagpole annexations to Longmont’s border in order to annex both the LifeBridge property and property owned by LifeBridge elders known as Fairview Estates at SH 119 and Fairview Avenue. That project is now referred to as Firelight Park.

During the term of office of the progressive majority, decisions were made to expand the Union Reservoir by natural inundation rather than dams and berms. Staff was also instructed to begin purchasing the properties to the west of the reservoir to facilitate this natural inundation. A major purchase of the Adrian property to the west/southwest of Union Reservoir was completed.

The plans for inundation and the purchase of the Adrian property signaled the termination of efforts to urbanize the west side of the reservoir.

Firestone’s aggression in annexing the LifeBridge and Fairview properties resulted in a border war between Longmont and Firestone that produced several lawsuits. The Longmont 2009 elections were held before the Colorado Court of Appeals could rule on the suits. The 2009 election was the most politically dirty and vicious election in Longmont’s recent history. Huge amounts of money flowed into negative campaigning by outside entities. The 2009 election not only returned conservatives to power, but this majority was at the extreme of conservatism and is more representative of the radicalism of the Tea Party than what was more typical of previous Republican council members.

Development in unincorporated Weld County would have posed significant problems in providing water availability to the two proposed development. Those problems conceivably could have prevented the LifeBridge development, if not Fairview, from proceeding.

Not willing to risk a decision from the court that would have negated the flagpole annexations and in the process leave development of the LifeBridge and Fairview projects in doubt, the new council majority proceeded to protect the LifeBridge principals’ business and religious interests. They instructed the city attorney to settle the lawsuits against Firestone.

The annexation agreement that Firestone has with LifeBridge indemnifies Firestone from legal costs over the annexation. When Longmont paid Firestone $100,000 to settle the suits, the city either enriched Firestone for unexpended costs or made it possible for the money to be returned to LifeBridge. This action by the Longmont council majority to transfer Longmont taxpayer dollars to Firestone/LifeBridge was a deal with the devil that smacked of more than crony capitalism. It had the smell of something rotten in Denmark.

With the West Union Development now dead, the city of Longmont proceeded to purchase the Bogott property to further accomplish the needs for the reservoir’s future natural inundation.

The foregoing decisions and actions have necessitated an update in the Union Reservoir Master Plan. This update was presented to the city council at its study session on May 31st. All of the previous plans for the west side of the reservoir have been eliminated. The sections on the south and southeast are substantially similar to the previous version of the Union Reservoir Master plan with two notable exceptions.

The first major change is the removal of a one-quarter mile buffer around certain cottonwood trees on the south side of the reservoir. It was believed that these trees were night roosts of the bald eagle and thus mandated that buffer. The city now contends that these trees are perches used for foraging by the bald eagle and not roosts and has consequently eliminated the buffer.

The second major change addresses County Road 26. The earlier version showed a road realignment that penetrated the Hernor Open Space at the most southeast edge of the reservoir. That arrangement was included as part of the annexation agreement with LifeBridge and would have amounted to a land giveaway to benefit the LifeBridge development.

While the concept drawings on the revised Master Plan have removed the use of Open Space for CR 26, the matter is far from settled. The recent acceptance of an Intergovernmental Agreement with Firestone still begs that question and is an issue that will require vigilance in the years to come.

The matter of the Master Plan Update will begin anew the public input and acceptance process. A Public Meeting will be held on June 16th from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM in the Council Chambers at 350 Kimbark Street.

Longmont residents who are concerned about the future of Union Reservoir and who especially want to “Keep Union Wild” are encouraged to review the council communication with particular attention to the drawings contained in the communication.

The nature and form of the Union Reservoir Master Plan covering the future of this valuable Longmont asset is one of the most important decisions that the community will make. The Reservoir belongs to YOU. Be sure that the city’s development plans reflect your wishes to continue to preserve its natural characteristics and to preserve and encourage Longmont’s rich wildlife residents and visitors.

Longmont considers deal with Church Development Fund/LifeBridge

Presentation to City Council, May 31, 2011

The purpose of State Highway 66 Regional Drainage Improvement Project is to detain storm drainage flows north of State Highway 66 between Main Street and Hover Road.

The purpose is not to reduce the expenditures for the developer who may eventually build out the Terry Lake Neighborhood.

CDF/Highway 119 Holdings: That name sounds like a straight-forward business entity. It may have business purposes, but the Longmont community needs to know WHO they are and what are the HOLDINGS.

LifeBridge Church borrowed $26 million dollars from CDF. CDF stands for Church Development Fund. LifeBridge mortgaged their properties known to the Longmont community as the Union Development. They mortgaged their properties north of SH 66 – two parcels: LifeBridge Church is on one of them; the other is to the west and is the property that contains the 20 acres that are the subject of Option 2 in the detention issue.

One of the three deeds of trust covering this $26 million was due in July of 2010. The other two were due in 2012. LifeBridge was unable to repay these deeds and so some of its properties were taken by the Church Development Fund as deeds in lieu of foreclosure. The Times-Call painted the transactions differently, but the prospectus for Church Development Fund investors identifies the transactions as, in fact, deeds in lieu of foreclosure.

Most of the Union Development properties went to Church Development Fund with LifeBridge retaining enough property for their religious campus and the very expensive “waterfront” houses originally planned. To retain its existing church LifeBridge, forfeited some additional properties in Weld County and the parcel next to the church.

Even though CDF now owns many of the properties that LifeBridge bought on speculation, Church Development and LifeBridge are still joined at their hips. Both need revenue if they are to accomplish their shared objective – to plant churches. “Plant” is the word they use to describe their religious growth objectives.

The council communication before you indicates that CDF/SH 119 Holdings is unwilling to accept the scenario that depends for reimbursement on development of the Terry Lake Neighborhood. Under current economic conditions, that development falls into the category of speculation. CDF wants reimbursement for the 20 acres for the expansion of the detention pond NOW, not at some unknown time in the future that may never happen. Who might have that $800,000, $40,000 per acre? The City of Longmont.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that Longmont does not need to accommodate Terry Lake, LifeBridge or the Church Development Fund. While the water flow in cubic feet per second is reduced, no additional properties in the City are removed from the flood plain south of Highway 66 beyond those that are removed following the construction of Option 1.

Religious Right, growing political bully

Church should be separate from state.

Who would Jesus dominate?

A recent Americans United for Separation of Church and State survey of the top Religious Right ministries and groups in America revealed a tax-exempt fundamentalist [Dominionist] empire with an annual income approaching one billion dollars.

The Pat Robertson Empire

Christian Broadcasting Network
Budget: $295,140,001
Location: Virginia Beach, Va.

Regent University
Budget: $60,093,298
Location: Virginia Beach, Va.

American Center for Law and Justice:
Budget: $13,375,429
Location: Virginia Beach, Va.

Christian Advocates Serving Evangelism
Budget: $43,872,322
Location: Atlanta, Ga.

Regent University was originally founded to offer graduate degrees in areas Pat Robertson most wants to dominate: government, education, law, communications, psychology and ministry.

Regent University has a strong Colorado connection with a satellite campus in Colorado Spring.

More important is the Longmont connection. Regent University educated Greg Burt has been, and likely still is, a behind-the-scenes political operative for rightwing Republicans (Bryan Baum, Katie Witt, Alex Sammoury, Gabe Santos) who are now Longmont City Council members.

According to Americans United, “The Religious Right in America is lavishly funded and politically well connected. While the men who lead the fundamentalist Christian political movement hold different opinions about theology, they share a deep and abiding hostility to the separation of church and state. They seek to inject religion into public schools, obtain taxpayer funding for religious schools and other ministries, roll back reproductive choice and deny civil rights to gay people. And they enjoy extraordinary influence in Washington, D.C., and in many state legislatures.”

An array of presidential hopefuls and major congressional leaders is scheduled to appear at Ralph Reed’s “Faith & Freedom Conference and Strategy Briefing” June 3 and 4 in Washington, D.C.

“I don’t think Ralph Reed has anyone fooled,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director. “He wants to forge fundamentalist churches and church members into a disciplined voting bloc and force political candidates to kneel before it.

Something to think about

Today’s USA Weekend newspaper insert featured an article on Brad Pitt (“Family Guy”). In the sidebar he is quoted as saying, “Look, man, I hit the lottery. I’ve got a responsibility to spread that wealth.”

“Responsibility to spread that wealth” — antithetical to the me and only me “anti-redistributionist” Tea Party Republicans and their backers.

Beyond asking “What would Jesus do?” They should be noting was Jesus did. But that, too, is antithetical in their redefinition of Christianity. That’s why they are more appropriately described as Christianists.

Maddow: “They have been focused like a laser – on your uterus.”

One hundred and forty-one days after the Republicans promised a “jobs bill,” the Republicans proposed a limp 10-page document on the subject. What have they been doing in the meantime (besides promising to kill Medicare as we know it)? They have been obsessed with your uterus.

Since coming to power in Washington, Republicans have tried (so far unsuccessfully) to:

  • Cut off Planned Parenthood funds as part of the battle over this year’s budget
  • To make it easier for hospitals to refuse abortion cases
  • To make it more expensive for small businesses to purchase insurance under the healthcare act that would cover abortion, and
  • To ban abortion training funds

Getting in on the obsession, the Senate GOP would fine and imprison doctors who don’t provide advance notice to parents of an abortion procedure.

And if the foregoing isn’t sufficiently radical, the actions of some states have given new meaning to extremism. A Louisiana House committee approved a BAN on abortions. The bill extends penalties for “feticide” to women who have abortions and to doctors who perform them. In its original form, women who have abortions could be sent to prison for five to 15 years. Subsequently modified, the prison term now only applies to doctors. Omitting women but targeting physicians is apparently considered “compassionate conservatism.” Or are there simply more women voters than physician voters?

Fifteen states, where Republicans control the legislatures, have anti-abortion proposals that carry jail time for doctors: Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, New Mexico and Idaho. Watch this Rachel Maddow Show segment to see just how vile and insane these Republican-controlled legislatures have become. I guarantee that your jaw will drop.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ezglVWz16J4

Although there is a constitutionally guaranteed right to an abortion, Republicans pick and choose which constitutional rulings they like, or they invent new ones such as “corporations are people.” These state laws are being passed with full knowledge that they violate the constitution.

With the help of Republican presidents beginning with Ronald Reagan, the United State’s courts – from District courts to Appellate courts to the Supreme Court – have been packed with judges and justices whom Republicans hope and expect will ultimately lead to rewriting constitutional protections to deny women’s reproductive rights – from the right to choose to contraceptive freedom. These state proposals and laws are tools for reaching the Robert’s Supreme Court in order to abolish Roe v Wade and the privacy rights that support the ruling.

Five of the U.S. Supreme Courts justices are Roman Catholic. The Catholic Church has threatened to excommunicate public officials who act to support reproductive rights, specifically abortion rights. The Catholic Church also opposes contraception. Make no mistake, contraception restrictions are also part of the Republican war on women and families. It’s about religion. It’s about power over women. And it’s un-American.

The flip side of Ayn Rand

The movie version of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged was released on April 15th. Also on April 15th, Chris Hedges spoke at Union Square in New York City during a protest outside a branch office of the Bank of America. The first celebrates selfishness as the purpose of humankind. The other exhorts that, “We can never have justice until our neighbor has justice.”

Ayn Rand, born and educated in Russia, was influence by her family’s experience and the Russian revolution of 1917. Ironically, the very statism that she denounced provided Rand, a Jew and a woman, a university education.

Also influencing her beliefs were the writings of Fyodor Dostoevsky (amongst others). Dostoevsky in Crime and Punishment understood the radical evil behind the desire that allows men and women to serve systems of self-glorification and naked greed.

With her pseudo intellectualism, either by nature or by nurture, along with a twisted definition of rationalism, Rand adopted the code of Raskolnikov, who believed and argued that although we live in the world, we can free ourselves from the consequences of living with others, consequences that will not always be in our favor.

Ayn Rand rejected religion in favor or atheism, yet she misunderstood atheism. Atheism rejects the existence of “God” as a determiner or as the ultimate judge of human behavior, but it does not claim that ethics (or even morality in its broadest sense) should or would be rejected.

Chris Hedges was born of a father who was a Presbyterian minister. In addition to his extensive career as a reporter and author, Hedges received a Master of Divinity from Harvard University. A Master of Divinity is the standard prerequisite for ordination to the priesthood or pastorship or other appointment, ordination or licensing to professional ministry.

Hedges is driven by his fervent belief that there is an absence of ethics and morality in contemporary American society. He decries a “temple where greed and profit are the highest good, where self-worth is determined by the ability to amass wealth and power at the expense of others, where laws are manipulated, rewritten and broken, where the endless treadmill of consumption defines human progress, where fraud and crimes are the tools of business.” He believes the primacy of life is mercy and justice. “But once we defy the religion of unfettered capitalism, once we demand that a society serve the needs of citizens and the ecosystem that sustains life, rather than the needs of the marketplace,…once we love our neighbor as ourself, we break our chains and make hope visible.”

Hedges proselytizes that “we must turn from exalting the self, to subsuming of the self for our neighbor.”

Somewhere between the orthodoxy of Rand and Hedges is a world that can be embraced. We are far away from that world.

Religious Right Ambulance Chasers en route to Japan

God is my EMT

Those first on the scene to provide assistance to a ravished Japan were motivated by compassion and concern for their fellow human beings. But as the dust settles, both literally and figuratively, adherents to the evangelical “shock doctrine” are descending, equipped with opportunism and radicalism. Described by Naomi Klein in her book of the same name, “shock doctrine” refers to the effort to dominate the world through the exploitation of disaster-shocked people and countries.

David Barton, revisionist historian for the Fundamentalist Religious Right and Dominionists, wouldn’t know genuine scholarship if it slapped him in the face (and it probably has). He and his fellow travelers can already be heard in a number of venues, not the least of which is Fox News.

Glenn Beck, with his usual diarrhea of the mouth and constipation of the brain, spouts all manner of “religious” idiocy on a regular basis. Others, like Jan Markell, founder of the messianic Olive Tree Ministry, herald their evangelistic opportunity with statements such as, “We’d all like to think that the nation of Japan would turn and repent as a result of what happened. [While] we know that won’t happen, we know individuals will.”

Markell is never satisfied to allow others their fundamental freedom of religion (or freedom from). The primary mission of her Olive Tree Ministry is assisting local Baptist churches in reaching Jews for Christ; to see those Jews saved, baptized, and actively serving in local Baptist churches.

“Because the Japanese people shun God in terms of their faith and follow idol worship, atheism, and materialism, it makes me wonder if this was not God’s warning to them,” Rev. David Yonggi Cho of South Korea’s Yoido Full Gospel Church, considered to be the world’s largest single congregation, told the online newspaper News Mission.

Dominionist Cindy Jacobs, ruminates that Japan’s disasters were caused by its adherence to “pagan” theologies. “The people of Asia have worshipped the dragon for 5,000 years…Let’s pray that the deep idolatry and the worship of hundreds of idols under the guise of Shintoism, Buddhism, and allegiances to being “sons of the dragon” will be broken and thousands will turn to the Lord.”

Jacobs, Markell and countless others are quite willing to insult the Japanese intellect because they cannot conceive of anything being superior to their beliefs.

While CRASH (Christian, Relief, Assistance, Support, & Hope) can be applauded for bringing in necessary supplies to those in need in Japan following their triple disaster, that’s not all they will be bringing.

Evangelical Don K. Clements writes, “I don’t want to get ahead of God in this matter, but there is certainly the possibility that most of the people living in the affected areas – who already are seeing that their government has not been well enough organized to bring relief to the area, but these folks who love Jesus instead of the Buddha seem to really care – that many of these people and their descendants will come to know the reality of Jesus and through faith become his disciples.”

The Japanese are an extremely well-educated people and, thankfully, there education is mostly secular.

As reported in OpEdNews.com, “Most of the country believes in evolution and looks upon Christian scriptures as allegory and metaphor, as it would any religious system.” And “contrary to the belief of most Christians, Buddhism is not really a religion – at least not in the sense of placing gods or a God at its core. It is quite possible for a Christian to practice many tenets of Buddhism without becoming an apostate. Confucianism is a system of ethics and government. Both of these “religions” make up the bulk of Japanese philosophy and both aspire to the Golden Rule. As for the Shinto religion, it is ingrained into Japanese history and mythology and is coupled with Buddhist philosophy on spirituality.”

The Japanese help each other because it is the right thing to do; it is the human thing to do. They do it without strings attached. They do not do it for the opportunity to propagandize and proselytize. In the Japanese culture, there is no such thing as an evangelical shock doctrine.

Rational people and religious pluralists can only hope that the Japanese will not take the evangelical insult to their intelligence – and their culture – seriously.

Once Reverend Huckabee aligns with fraudster – and Dominionists

They're being played

You probably have seen them by now, the angry commercials featuring Mike Huckabee rallying the fearful (and faithful?) against the perceived government takeover of your healthcare by the Affordable Care Act. (They like the pejorative “Obamacare.”). He and his commercial rant and rave that “the American people” want it repealed and urge you to sign their petition to help make it happen? How much you wanna bet that once they have your email and address, you’ll be dunned incessantly to contribute to the effort. I thought of “signing” it to see what would happen but don’t want my reputation attached to a pack of lies and don’t want my Inbox polluted.

The “Repeal It Now” campaign was set up by Restore America’s Voice and 949 Media Group. And low and behold the 949 Media Group is a firm run by a notorious scam artist known for bilking struggling homeowners seeking to renegotiate their mortgages. A Think Progress article provides the skinny on Derek Oberholtzer, the ne’re do well who runs the media operation.

“Consumer report websites are rife with complaints about Oberholtzer’s odious business practices. In one scheme, Oberholtzer paid for radio and other advertisements telling distressed homeowners to contact his company A2S to pay a flat $595 fee to receive assistance in renegotiating their loans or to block a bank foreclosure. The Federal Trade Commission has prosecuted Oberholtzer for deceptive practices. In numerous cases, Oberholtzer took the $595 payment, and never did anything to stop a foreclosure or even contact the mortgage company in question. In many instances he continued billing his customers further fees totaling nearly $1,000 without lifting a finger to actually renegotiate their mortgage or halt a foreclosure, as his “Apply 2 Save” company promised.”

According to the FTC, the defendants have filed for bankruptcy. The order imposes a judgment of more than $4 million, which is suspended based on their inability to pay. The full judgment will become due immediately if they are found to have misrepresented their financial condition. The order was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho. Delightful. Once you see the cops in pursuit, simply file for bankruptcy and “all is forgiven.” So it appears that Olberholtzer will not receive the “spanking” he so richly deserves (pun intended).

Following news reports of Oberholtzer’s illegal activities, Ken Hoagland, chairman of Restore America’s Voice, terminated the 949 Media Group saying, “We were unaware of the seriousness of the past issues with this vendor and we have taken immediate action to terminate the relationship. No public official working with us to repeal the healthcare act had any knowledge of nor relationship with any vendor or subcontractor.” And if you believe that, well, you know the rest.

Having been driven out of the business of defrauding already desperate people facing foreclosure, Oberholtzer became active in Republican politics. Olberholtzer also owns inactive domains called electmichele.org (presumably for Rep. Michele Bachmann , R-MN), repeality.biz, electme2012.com, and ravpac.info.

Before Huckabee ran for president, before he was governor of Arkansas, he was a Baptist minister. Before you jump to positive conclusions, remember that while all religions are created equal under the law, not all religious beliefs and churches are created equal. Huckabee has strong ties with the Dominionist and Reconstructionist factions of the Christian right. At their root they believe that America, indeed every nation on earth, is meant to be governed by biblical law.

Is there a coincidence that many on the right – religious or otherwise – are trying desperately to get out in front of Sharia Law with state laws and hyperbolic rhetoric that “Sharia is coming, Sharia is coming”? I doubt it. They are fully aware of Dominionism and all that follows from it and undoubtedly see a similar totalitarian attempt in Sharia. These free enterprisers want to demolish “their competition” before it can gain market share.

Mike Huckabee is a Fox News contributor. So is Sarah Palin. On March 2nd, Fox News terminated the contracts of potential 2012 presidential candidates Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum – but not Huckabee and Palin. Could it be that Fox News likes either of them as presidential picks and is more than happy to give them free air time to promote themselves and their beliefs? It wouldn’t surprise me at all.

So be careful, be very careful. You could end up with a President Huckabee. Not only would you lose the benefits of the Affordable Care Act that go a long way towards making healthcare a right. But you would be well on the road to making America a Dominionist nation

What they do is not spontaneous or random. It is planned.

Sadly, it takes a crisis for most Americans to understand when something is seriously wrong. More often than not they fail to see blatant partisan agendas until those agendas slap them in the face, or the wallet. Such is the case with the outrageous actions and beliefs of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and all of the like-minded elected representatives up and down the government ladder.

The Republicans have been on a roll with their lies, immoral belief system and inside out, upside down attempts at explanations of damned near everything. With the money and power of special interest businesses behind them, they have been able to milk discontent to their liking. Organizations like Americans for Prosperity (of trans-national corporations and other over-sized business entities) and the money of the likes of the Koch Brothers have hijacked the concerns of millions and focused them into a “Tea Party” of discontent to capture governorships, state legislatures, and the House of Representatives.

Make no mistake about it. There is a Conservative Agenda long ago outlined and executed. They are strategic geniuses with a tenacity that is satanic in nature.

When, where and how did all of this planning begin? It began at least in 1981, when the Patron Saint of Conservatism Ronald Reagan was elected to the presidency of the United States. It began because they had captured the highest office in the land (indeed, in the world) for conservatism for the first time since Herbert Hoover. Eisenhower was impure. So was Nixon.

It began in earnest with the formation of an organization called the Council of National Policy, also in 1981.

The Council for National Policy is a highly secretive organization that claims over six hundred members consisting of the most powerful religious, political, business and media conservatives in the nation. Initially their membership was publicly available and that listing can be found on the Internet. Coloradans might be surprised, or maybe not, at who from our state appears on this list. It is reported that Joseph Coors provided the seed money.

As attention began to focus on them, the organization went substantially underground. Its membership is confidential and by invitation only. Members come from government, religion, business, media and conservative think tanks responsible for providing contrived “studies” that assist with the conservative talking points that are repeated endlessly on talk television and radio.

The group meets three times a year and revealing what is discussed is prohibited. Attempts are made to keep locations and the invited speakers a secret. But in recent years, capable investigative reporters and media pressure have forced the organization to be more open. George Bush and Dick Cheney have been keynote speakers at the conferences. Other speakers include Grover Norquist, Oliver North, Robert Bork and Rick Santorum, to name a few

Initially conceived and created by religious Dominionists, the marriage with Republican Conservatives across the spectrum of influence is now complete.

Dominionists have absorbed the financial positions of business conservatives and translated them into the Gospel of Prosperity, a gospel that says God wants you to be wealthy and that if you do as you are told, you will be. If you are in need or poor, it is because you have been disobedient to God’s will and you deserve your suffering. They will usually not say this when visible to the public at large, but they will say this in somewhat protected confines.

Financial and corporate conservatives recognize and need the numbers of Dominionists (frequently known as the religious right or fundamentalists) and have no issue with the creation of a theocracy. It maintains allegiance. It establishes authority. It provides a voting army.

And those who have integrated both Dominionism and a fascistic definition of capitalism have now risen to power in large numbers.

The well-developed agenda of the Council for National Policy explains why Republicans never vary from the positions they advocate – no matter how provably wrong and no matter what polls may reveal about the public’s positions as new information or changing circumstances change viewpoints. They are not interested in representing the public at large. They are only interested in convincing enough of the public to win elections. Any variance risks lost time if not collapse of the objectives. Achieving their goals demands no modification, no acquiescence, no compromise.

It also explains why and how they “over-reach” and claim a mandate whenever they are successful in gaining control of a legislative body, a state or a branch of the U.S. government. It makes no difference to them whether they win by one vote or by one million. A mandate is always claimed. The objective is to gain the power and codify the agenda – by any means available or necessary.

It is why you hear them claim “the American people” (fill in the blank) even when the American people do not agree with them. It is why Governors Scott Walker of Wisconsin, John Kasich of Ohio, Rick Scott of Florida, and Chris Christie of New Jersey, to name a few who have grabbed the headlines recently, are ramming an agenda down the throats of any and all. Truth, justice and the American democratic way be damned.

This time, however, they have picked on the American worker and there are lots of them. American workers do not like to be insulted, to be used, to be abused. The American worker is opening his or her eyes. The American worker is recognizing that even if they are not a member of a union, they are the next target, the ultimate target. The absence of jobs, the uncertainty of retaining jobs, the threatened loss of a middle class or even a working class lifestyle is eating away at their consciousness.

For those who have not yet clarified their feelings and perceptions, let me remind them of Germany in the 1930s and 1940s.

First they came for the communists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.

Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.

Pastor Martin Niemoller

School district maneuvers to avoid First Amendment lawsuit

The Douglas County School District has added a new wrinkle to the proposed voucher plan. They now plan to expand eligible private schools to as far as ten miles outside county boundaries. Why would they propose such an unorthodox provision? The answer to that question can be found in the district’s concern over being sued for providing taxpayer dollars to religious schools.

The Douglas County School District has an unusual uniformity in its private schools. Thirteen of the 14 schools within the district are all religious schools. It’s mighty darn hard to argue in court that there is no motivation or intent to support religion when the only voucher choices are faith-based institutions.

The new boundaries substantially increase the number of eligible schools and allow the district to argue that there is no bias, no promotion of religion. These expanded boundaries increase the number of eligible schools from 14 to about 105, changing the percentage of religious schools from nearly 100% to about half.

The district is also hoping to protect itself in court by having a provision for students to opt-out of religious instruction. That sounds reasonable on the surface. However, most Christian schools do not confine themselves to biblical instruction during a confined course of instruction, but instead infuse the entire curricula with their religious positions.

Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, which devotes itself to preserving the Constitutional prohibition in the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, has already communicated its serious concerns about the avenue that the Douglas County School District is pursuing. On November 16, 2010, American United sent the district a four-page letter outlining its opposition to the district’s voucher plan. The district would be well-advised to scrap the plan now and spare itself a costly and protracted court battle that in all likelihood it cannot win.

In its letter to the Douglas County school board dated November, 16, 2010, Americans United describes the educational approach of religious schools that would make it impossible to segregate the use of taxpayer funds from religious purposes.

“Most religious schools are part of the ministry of the sponsoring church. Because religious indoctrination is an important part of these ministries, the schools integrate religion throughout their curriculum and require all students to receive religious instruction and attend religious services. Thus, there would be no way to prevent the publicly funded vouchers from paying for these institutions’ religious activities and education. The vouchers would be unrestricted in their use and would pay for all aspects of a religious education, including worship, proselytization, and religious items such as Bibles.”

As an alternative to prevent this or any other voucher plan, State Senator Evie Hudak, who is vice chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee, may seek an amendment to bar the use of state funds for vouchers in the school-finance bill.

Those who are elected to school boards have a responsibility from a number of perspectives to provide for superior public education of the students it serves. It is unacceptable, indeed reprehensible, to use those positions to advance religious instruction or pursue privatization of education whether by voucher, by charter schools or by facilitating home schooling.

Parents who object to or are dissatisfied with public education already have the option to chose alternative schools. However, they are not entitled to public funds for those purposes. Those dollars are a public pact for public education amongst generations past and present, with or without school-age children, for the betterment of our civil and secular society. There has never been, nor should there ever be, a personal or individual entitlement to any of these funds.

Heaven Fest should support local charities

As seen in Longmont Ledger, February 20, 2011

Heaven Fest, the Christian music festival that played at Union Reservoir last summer will land somewhere “North of Denver” on July 31, but that’s about all that can be determined at this writing.

How many in our Front Range communities would be surprised to learn that in the festival’s first three events (2007-2009) Heaven Fest gave not one dime to local charities. Read that again then shake your head in wonderment.

Heaven Fest is a wholly owned subsidiary of Worship and the Word Movement, a religious charity that files 990s with the IRS. Much was made of this status in support of the permit application, but the facts belie the promises. WWM grossed over $1 million from 2007 to 2009 and donated a mere 2.13 percent, every penny of which went to support two orphanages in Central America.

Instead, 100 percent of the $47,029 donation was given to the Miami based “House of Refuge,” which ran orphanages in both Venezuela and Honduras. Interestingly, the Venezuelan government seized the property and shut down that orphanage in 2008, and in 2009, the founder and operator of both orphanages fled Honduras rather than face charges of child molestation and sexual misconduct.

Last year’s event at the reservoir grossed an estimated $1 million. Heaven Fest promised various amounts to various local charities — $50,000 to one, all parking fees to another – but in an August 10 article in the Times-Call under the banner “Stoked,” the organizers announced contributions totaling $46,000 of which $1,500 (3.3 percent) would benefit local charities with the rest going to entities in foreign countries.

As for the $900,000 economic “bump” predicted by various Longmont civic executives, it never happened. Sales taxes exceed those in three other months. Compared to the same period in ’08 they were $22,000 less.

Last year I argued strongly with Longmont’s City Council that a gate fee should have been charged to this non-profit organization, just as though it were a commercial rock show. It was obvious that council wanted to duck the discussion with its unspoken tension on the line between church and state.

The permit was granted of course, and minimal fees were charged. The possibility of a gate fee anywhere from $40,000 to $100,000 was waived. A strong argument can be made that the city violated Rule 9:14 of the Municipal Code which specifically states, “(N)o expenditure shall be made for any charitable or benevolent purposes to any denominational or sectarian institution or association.”

What WWM does with its money and where they spend it is none of my business or anyone else’s. Had we in 2010 negotiated a percentage of the gate and directed to our local charities, I wouldn’t be writing this letter. But council ducked the debate, hyped the event and it won’t surprise me if it does so again.

If a city wants to make an illegal donation to a religious organization, I suggest at the very minimum it demand a public audit so citizens are fully informed.

I will provide documentation for all facts above upon request.

Heaven Fest 2007 990 filing

Heaven Fest 2008 990 filing

Heaven Fest 2009 990 filing

Hurry! Have babies – NOW

Religion, the original 'viral' meme

Religious people are going to inherit the earth, or so says Robert Rowthorn, a British economics professor.

How so, you say? Well, according to other research, religious people carry a “religiosity gene,” meaning they inherit a predisposition toward religious belief.

According to Rowthorn and his mathematical model, the religiosity gene works best if you mate with someone else who has the religiosity gene. Extrapolating from this and demographic data that indicates that the religious have more babies than the non-religious, Rowthorn contends that the gene combined with the practice of religion will result in the world becoming more religious rather than less.

Rowthorn has crafted a complete theory around the results of his modeling. He writes, “For religion to influence genetic evolution, it must convey some kind of selective advantage. Such an effect might come through social bonding via ritual, formation of group identity through myth, honest signaling through participation in costly ceremonies, and adherence to social norms through love or fear of God.”

Using statistics gathered between 1981 and 2004, adults who attend weekly religious service have on average 2.5 children while those who never attend have an average of 1.67 children. And more secular societies have lower birth rates than religious societies.

But according to Rowthorn, all bases are covered. We shouldn’t worry about religious defectors, because those who have the gene will spread it widely into surrounding populations. And all of this is to transpire in the space of a few generations.

It now makes a lot more “sense” that fundamentalists – Catholic, evangelical and others – are so against contraception. Or at least it makes sense if they presume a “religiosity gene” to go along with church attendance and the objective to spread the word and to take Dominion

Rowthorn contends that scientists agree that features of the human brain affect belief in the supernatural, obedience to authority and other characteristics. I don’t doubt that. American scholar Bob Altmeyer’s behavioral research on the authoritarian conservative tends to support this. He posed the very weighty question, What happens when “authoritarian conservatives” inherit the earth?

So, secularists, stop taking the pill, remove your IUDs, and make love daily, but do it with humility. After all, didn’t Jesus say that the meek should inherit the earth? I don’t recall anything about the earth being inherited by the religious. But don’t expect any financial assistance – whether for basics, education or anything else – from the fundamentalists. They only care about babies BEFORE they are born.

“The violence of deformed Christianity”

The massacre in Tucson has prompted soul-searching among Americans. However, that soul-searching should go even deeper, says the Rev. Howard Bess, back to the early distortion of Jesus’ teachings, messages of peace and justice that were twisted to justify wealthy churches embracing violence and power. Reverend Best writes, “Jesus drew heavily from a minority of Old Testament writers who had rejected violence in all its forms.…His best picture of the God he served was that of a loving father.”

O Little Town of Bethlehem Today

By Ron Forthofer

Photo courtesy of SXC.hu

During Christmas time, the town of Bethlehem in the West Bank, the birthplace of Jesus, comes to mind. I wonder what Jesus would think were he to return to Bethlehem, to Jerusalem and to the rest of the West Bank today. Unfortunately, he would still see a foreign military force occupying the land. Since Jesus had experienced the Roman occupation when he was alive, he might not be too surprised about the occupation. However, Jesus would also see something he had not witnessed under the Romans. The current foreign power, Israel, has now colonized much of the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and there are about 500,000 Israeli colonists living in over 200 illegal Jewish-only colonies and outposts on lands taken from the Palestinians.

The website www.ifamericansknew.org provides some additional details about what Jesus would observe in Bethlehem today.

“Towering walls and militarized fences now encircle Bethlehem, turning the 4,000-year-old city into a virtual prison for its Palestinian Christian and Muslim citizens. Bethlehem has only three gates to the outside world, all tightly controlled by Israeli occupation forces.

Israel has confiscated almost all the agricultural land in the area for illegal settlements, making it impossible for many Palestinian farmers to continue tending their land. Outside the town, the fields where shepherds once watched their flocks are being filled by Israeli housing blocs and roads barred to the descendants of those shepherds.

‘It is unconscionable that Bethlehem should be allowed to die slowly from strangulation,’ says South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Bethlehem’s residents increasingly are fleeing Israel’s confining walls, and soon the city, home to the oldest Christian community in the world, will have little left of its Christian history but the cold stones of empty churches.”

Jesus would observe that Palestinians in the West Bank are prohibited from entering Jerusalem, thus preventing them from worshipping at their holy sites. He would see that travel is also problematic between Palestinian cities and towns due to the presence of hundreds of Israeli roadblocks, military checkpoints and other obstacles. Thus Palestinians find it hard to conduct commerce, leading to increased unemployment and poverty. For Palestinians, it is also difficult to access medical care or to go to schools that may be located in a neighboring community. Palestinians are forced to travel on narrow and often unpaved roads since they are not allowed on the modern Jewish-only highways that Israel built in the West Bank. In addition, travel between Gaza and the West Bank is nearly impossible for Palestinians mainly due to the Israeli blockade of Gaza.

Water shortage represents a crisis for Palestinians in Bethlehem as well as in the rest of the West Bank and Gaza. Amnesty International issued an extensive report in October 2009 on this Israeli-caused disaster. Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International’s researcher on Israel and the OPT (Occupied Palestinian Territories), said: “Israel allows the Palestinians access to only a fraction of the shared water resources, which lie mostly in the occupied West Bank, while the unlawful Israeli settlements there receive virtually unlimited supplies. In Gaza the Israeli blockade has made an already dire situation worse.”

Amnesty reported that Palestinians’ water consumption in the West Bank barely reaches 70 liters a day per person, well under the World Health Organization’s recommended minimum of 100 liters a day. Israelis consume over 4 times as much water as the Palestinians. The Amnesty Report added: “In some rural communities Palestinians survive on far less than even the average 70 litres, in some cases barely 20 litres per day, the minimum amount recommended by the WHO for emergency situations response. … The stark reality of this inequitable system is that, today, more than 40 years after Israel occupied the West Bank, some 180,000 — 200,000 Palestinians living in rural communities there have no access to running water and even in towns and villages which are connected to the water network, the taps often run dry.”

In an associated news article, Amnesty also pointed out that, in contrast, “Israeli settlers, who live in the West Bank in violation of international law, have intensive-irrigation farms, lush gardens and swimming pools.”

This description covers only a little of what Jesus might see in Bethlehem today. Sadly, this situation doesn’t live up to the ideas of peace on earth and goodwill to men. Neither do the horrific situations in Iraq and Afghanistan and many other places. Clearly much work remains to be done before peace on earth and goodwill to men are a reality.