It’s Nothing to Do With Equality

The Supreme Court of the United States is currently hearing oral arguments in Hollingsworth v. Perry in which the issue presented is “Whether the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits the State of California from defining marriage as the· union of a man and a woman.”

Let’s get beyond whether the Supremes will extend the 14th even further beyond all intent, stretching until it has got to finally snap. The Nine – and their various incarnations over the last 50 years -have  made the 14th into whatever they have want to fashion it. And one may argue that they can do so. The 14th Amendment is a creation of the people of the United States and those who are the lawful representatives of the United States, whether in matters legislative, executive or judicial, will do what they may.

What all the “fair-minded people” in front of the Supreme Court building and all of their friends in the blogosphere have missed is that whilst the 14th Amendment is the creation of the people, marriage isn’t it. Marriage isn’t the creation of any people, “fair-minded” or not.

I can understand why there might be some confusion by those who think that either marriage laws or individual marriage licenses create marriage. From at least  the time of Moses, there has been civil regulation of marriage. The Biblical concern was degrees of consanguinity. In more recent times, there have been age regulations and occasionally health precautions. All of these are concerned with the core purpose of marriage: procreation.

Likewise the purpose of a marriage license is to prevent those who should not procreate from doing so and to register the initiation of the marriage, should such information be needed later in the case of a dissolution. That there are those who will procreate unlicensed does not invalidate the purpose. After all, the law formerly addressed adultery and fornication to curb that factor.

But we need to get this clear: marriage was created by God and is merely regulated by the State. That marriage was created by God to be between a man and a woman is patently clear from Scripture. It’s very institution is linked to the creation of woman as distinct from man. Scripture never suggests that it could be otherwise. All of human history until this most recent blink of an eye has been a universal witness to this. This is, of course, not surprising, as this is the only means of procreation.

And what of the constant cry that we shouldn’t stand in the way of two people loving each other? Love only enters into the matter within the bounds of the institution itself. There are many loves in the world that are not the love of marriage. Each of those must respect the bounds of the type of relationship in which the love grows.

Our affections for other people do not define us. Our desires do not define us. Love itself is not subject to our definition. It is an attribute of God and a fruit of the Holy Spirit.

The legislatures of the several States have the authority to create a type of contractual relationship which persons of the same sex can enter into that carries with it the same legislated advantages that marriage has in the eyes of the law. These legislatures can pass laws regarding real property ownership, taxation, and intestacy.  If the 14th Amendment were going to apply, it would be that these new contractual relationships would be allowed to heterosexual fornicators as well.

So once again, let us be clear. Marriage equality is not about marriage equality. All marriages are equally marriages. However, to declare something a marriage outside of the inherent definition of marriage in creation is to directly defy the Creator. We can throw ourselves on the floor and have a tantrum and say, “But it’s not fair!” all we want. “Fair”, along with “righteous,” “just,” and “true,” are not ours to decide or define.

If the Supreme Court of the United States decides that the State of California is prohibited from defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman on the basis of the 14th Amendment, it will really be saying states must recognize the marriage of any two people – though logically the next step must be to overturn polygamy laws – but I’ll leave that for now. This is not really about the 14th Amendment or equality before the law. It is about who or Who has the authority to define marriage.

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One Statesman in the Field

In the GOP Presidential debates, one candidate continues to stand out. He stands out because unlike the others, he is a statesman. I know this is a term that can have several meanings, but especially among conservatives one of the definitions from The Free Dictionary is the most popular: “A male political leader regarded as a disinterested promoter of the public good.” That man is Rick Perry.

Rick Perry stands out by being willing to do two things. He admits when he is wrong and he sticks to what he believes is right even when the majority disagree with him.

With regard to the former, he has readily admitted that he should have done things differently with regard to his executive order regarding HPV vaccination. Despite this, Michelle Bachmann continues her attack unabated. She even lies when she attacks him, because she talks about a vaccine being imposed on little girls. The Gardasil vaccination had a parent opt-out provision. No child was forced to be vaccinated. It would have been better to have had a legislative mandate combined with an opt-in policy. Perry openly says this, even if it doesn’t stop his opponents and detractors from ignoring it.

The only other chink in his armor is his support for a law he signed which allowed for non-citizen children domiciled in Texas without immigration documentation to be considered Texas residents for the purposes of paying college tuition. From the boos in the crowds it was apparent that most Republicans nation-wide do not support this. Nonetheless, Perry explains very clearly and carefully why he signed what was a veto proof bill passed with four “no” votes out of 183 Texas legislators, with Republicans in firm control of both chambers.

But here’s what Yankees like Michelle Bachmann, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum don’t get. Texas is not the only state that has done this. New Mexico and California have as well. Not surprisingly, Arizona is the only state with an actual border with Mexico that hasn’t. In addition to Arizona, only three other states prohibit in-state tuition for children with undocumented immigration status. However, in addition to Texas, New Mexico, and California, eight other states specifically allow it. These include Kansas (passed with a Republican supermajority in both houses), Nebraska (non-partisan, but with a supermajority of members who were otherwise Republicans), and Utah (again, with a dual supermajority of Republicans), New York (split control), Oklahoma (Republican House and even split in the Senate), as well as Illinois, Washington, and Wisconsin (Democratic simple majority in both houses).

Now you may be thinking to yourself, if only four states have prohibited state universities from considering undocumented students as residents, and eight have specifically permitted it, what about the other thirty-eight?  They have not legislated on the matter at all. What is not prohibited is allowed.

But back to Perry. He gets the elephant in the room. His opponents – and the debate watchers that were interviewed afterwards – have nothing to contribute to the discussion. They only have a mantra that is isn’t right for all residents of Texas to receive benefits that non-residents of Texas don’t get. Remember that it is Texas legislators who overwhelmingly chose to consider all residents of Texas as residents for the purposes of in-state tuition, at state-funded Texas universities. What his opponents don’t want to discuss is what happens if you prevent Texas residents who are undocumented from getting an education. Rick Perry tells it like it is. His opponents will never address the issue head on. They can’t and they won’t.

Perry understands the concept of a secure border. He can talk about his reasoned views. I agree with him that it is impossible to build a 2000-mile fence, but disagree that the border can be policed with “enough boots on the ground” as he likes to phrase it, making it the heaviest fortified border in the world.  Nonetheless, he also realizes that the oft-repeated sound bite that we have to secure the borders before we deal with the issue of undocumented immigrants already in the country is a bunch of nonsense.

A child who has been brought into the United States and is growing up does not have the leisure to wait for nothing substantive to be done about the border, even before nothing is done about her situation. She is growing up. She will work hard in high school while her parents work hard doing jobs for $3.00/hour that citizens won’t do at any wage. She may very well have to do this at several schools while her parents (who may be part of the 80% of agricultural workers in the U.S. who are undocumented) move around for work. They and she will work hard just to get enough money for in-state tuition – probably not at the University of Texas, like Mitt Romney wants to say – but at a small, cheap, local college. This is the real face of undocumented children. This is the person that Rick Perry’s opponents and those booing in the audience want to keep in the margins of society. Ideally they want to “send her back where she came from” (a country with no effective government run by drug cartels murdering at will in the most gruesome ways), but barring that, at least make sure she makes nothing of herself.

I will say it again (and probably not for the last time): this is the real face of undocumented children. Rick Perry gets it and it willing to talk about it, whether it is popular or not. Rick Perry gets it and Rick Perry gets my vote.

Defrauding the Church

Recently I was looking at the résumé of a famous preacher who was outed as a adulterer some years ago by another famous preacher (who was himself then outted in the same way). I was looking mostly because he calls himself “Dr.” Under his education he lists “Correspondence Courses Continuing Education – Berean School of Bible”, then an honorary MA (who gets an honorary MA?), two honorary doctorates, and what purports to be a Ph.D. in Religion from North Carolina College of Theology. I had never heard of this institution, but you, dear reader, can probably can probably smell the same rat I did. It is just a bit unusual to go from correspondence courses with no certificate, diploma, or not to mention degree, straight to a Ph.D.

How do you get a doctorate from NCCT? Let them tell you how in their course catalog (spelling, capitalization, grammar and punctuation, including random elipses, from the original):

The North Carolina College of Theology does award degrees for LIFE-EARNED EXPERIENCE. The specific requirements for LIFE-EARNED EXPERIENCE Degrees are outlined in this catalog. NCCT DOES NOT sell degrees…Qualified applicants must submit proof of verifiable time in ministry in order to receive the degree for which he or she has applied….All applicants must meet NCCT requirement with approval of the President and Executive Board. Each individual application is assessed with consideration of various jobs and positions in which an applicant has worked within the church or ministerial realm. Many pastors and five-fold ministers are NOW deserving a Doctorate, and should rightfully be awarded. NCCT LIFE-EARNED DEGREES are identical to the degrees that are issued to students who graduate from the Satellite Extension Program or “Individual Study Program”. It is the desire of the NCCT President, Board, Staff, and Faculty to be a blessing to those in the field of ministry and offer confirmation of education to the many deserving men and women of God.

That’s right. If you have been in full-time ministry for ten to fifteen years, and you have $2,750.00 plus $60.00 application fee, plus $100.00 administration fee, plus the $860.00 graduation fee, you deserve a doctorate. They would like you to write a 25,000 word paper, which they even have the gall to call a dissertation, but that can be waived. That will get you a Doctor of Biblical Studies. If you want to have a Ph.D. you need to have been in ministry 20 years, have bought one of the other doctorates, and it will cost an additional$5,500.00, plus all the other fees. Because you deserve it. And because you have a ministry that can afford to spend the $10,290.00 in total from the offerings you have received from other people. The one thing NCCT is very clear about: no money, no degree, and absolutely no refunds if you ever realize that you paid for a worthless piece of paper.

From whence comes this idea that a degree of any kind is deserved? A degree is earned through a demonstration of academic achievement in a field of study.

NCCT will tell you not to worry about the value of your LIFE-EARNED EXPERIENCE degree, because it is accredited. According to the course catalog, NCCT is accredited through Accrediting Commission International, Inc. of Beebe, Arkansas. ACI is run by non-trinitarian Pentecostal preacher “Dr.” John Scheel who is the bishop of the Lighthouse Pentecostal Jesus Name Church of Beebe. “Dr.” Scheel got his Ph.D. from Toledo Bible College and Seminary, which had to be re-branded when it was run out of Ohio by the authorities. ACI is also a rebranding of the International Accrediting Commission (IAC) which was run out of Missouri after a sting operation.

But why have one fake accreditation with four is better? A real college doesn’t need the approval four accrediting agencies, but according to the NCCT website, they are accredited by three other bogus accrediting agencies in addition to ACI.

NCCT likes to keep things tightly controlled. The President is “Dr.” J. L. Cook. The Senior Vice-President is “Dr.” Judy Cook, the wife of J. L. Cook. The Executive Vice-President is “Dr.” Jon Cook, the son of J. L. Cook. The rest of the Executive Board includes “Dr.” W. L. Baltimore with two diploma mills doctorates, including one from NCCT;  “Dr.” Varnie Fullwood, who got his Bachelor’s from diploma mill Zoe University (also accredited by ACI) before getting his Master’s and Ph.D. from NCCT; “Dr.” Stephen Thomas, with two diploma mill doctorates, one from Rhema University (accredited by one of ACI’s competitors and not to be confused with Rhema Bible Training Center, which does not offer degrees) and one from NCCT; and Revs. Dan and Tim Cook, who bears a striking resemblance to the other Cooks and each other.

All of the Cook sons, Baltimore, and Thomas also serve on the Thesis/Dissertation Review Board, though how the two Cook non-doctors serve on a doctoral dissertation review board further boggles the mind. Ever other member of the Thesis/Dissertation Review Board about whom I can find any further information also appears to their doctorates from NCCT or another mill.

NCCT is just one of many purveyors of bogus theological degrees. I just picked them out by chance, due to their association with Marvin Gorman, mentioned in the first paragraph. I’m sure there are others who are making just as much money out of spreading false credibility throughout the Church. But be clear about this: it is fraud and it is rife.

It may be found predominantly, but not exclusively, in Pentecostal, Charismatic, and Baptist circles. Does that mean that there is anything wrong with these groups within the Church? Absolutely not. It does mean that there is a need to be extra vigilant. Does it mean that someone has to have a real doctorate or even a real degree of any kind to minister in the Church? No. God uses all sorts of men from all sorts of backgrounds and all levels of formal and informal education.

It does mean that no one should represent that they possess formal educational achievement that they have not earned. I don’t care what else they want to say about how great their ministry is, or how fruitful it is in whatever way their group acknowledges fruitfulness, they are defrauding the Church.

Intellectual Dishonesty

I have recently discovered how plagued the Church is with deception. I’m not talking about people wandering around in false doctrine, though there is plenty of that about. I’m talking about Christian ministers — some in high profile ministries — in collusion with faux educational institutions, deliberately deceiving others with regard to their academic qualifications. The real scandal is that it is not a scandal.

I just thought it was a bit silly when I saw the late Kenneth Hagin calling himself “Dr. Hagin” after Oral Roberts gave him an honorary doctorate courtesy of ORU. But one preacher, however popular, flaunting his honorary degree does not a scandal make.

Recently I was looking at the websites of various leaders involved in what is known as the “Apostolic-Prophetic” movement. A disproportionate number of them seemed to have doctorates. Cindy Jacobs even has two. It didn’t take long to discover that all of these doctorates were from “schools” of theology started run by their friends. Cindy Jacobs got her honorary first doctorate from Christian International Ministries, run by Bill Hamon. Hamon “earned” his bachelor’s and master’s from his own Christian International School of Theology before allegedly receiving an honorary doctorate from an unnamed university.

Beyond those who are using honorary doctorates to call themselves “Dr.”, there are those who are claiming to have earned doctorates. They have them from organizations like the Wagner Leadership Institute. They get credit for attending each other’s meetings and conferences or watching each other’s videos. They take two-day and three-day courses like “Discovering Your Destiny through the Fivefold Ministry Gifts” and “Apostolic Breakthrough”.  Each of these equates to “training units”. Get enough training units and you get a doctorate. Or as WLI states on their website:

WLI  desires to remain unhindered from traditional higher-level educational requirements and is not an accredited institution. WLI offers three diploma tracks: Bachelor, Master, and Doctor of Practical Ministry. Diplomas do not certify levels of attainment, but rather accumulation of training units.

You can’t get your training units simply by attending a seminar or webcast or listening to a CD or watching a DVD. You have to write a 3-5 page paper. Within 90 days. Unless you bought a CD or DVD, in which case you have one year. The paper should not have anything to do with demonstrating knowledge of the “course” content. It is only a self-evaluation. “Students fail a course only when they neglect to turn in papers on time.” Not academically up to watching a DVD and taking a year to say what you got out of it? “Students may also receive training unit credit for on-going ministry, writing books, mission trips, and pre-approved self-studies.” It is nice that WLI admits that its diplomas are essentially worthless.

However, do those who attended conferences and other meetings and sit under the teaching of these “doctors”, know where their spurious credentials were obtained? Or do they trust that Dr. Chuck Pierce or Dr. Cindy Jacobs or Dr. Bill Hamon or Dr. Rus Jeffrey or Dr. Don Lynch or Dr. Jim Goll or hosts of others have legitimate claims to use the title?

To put oneself forward as having what a reasonable person would expect to be academic credentials in the promotion of Christian ministry, when no such credentials exist, is nothing less than fraud. It is deception. Fraud and deception are not condoned by the apostles and prophets of the Bible, those who claim to be such today notwithstanding.

I wish that the rot in worthless academic credentials ended with this particular infestation, but it runs deeper and wider in the Church. Of this, more later.

Three Years is Not Six Days

It seems moral outrage does strange things to math skills. What is it with all the outrage over Casey Anthony being released next week? Headlines suggest that she is serving less than a week for lying to police. Twitterers and bloggers are beside themselves.

No one seems to realize that she’s actually being punished rather harshly. First, she’s gotten the maximum sentence. Second, she’s been sentenced to serve the penalty for each of the four count consecutively. Third, Florida is very stingy with time off for good behavior.

So many people seem to want the three years she’s been in prison to be substitute punishment for the murder she probably committed. It just doesn’t work that way. If she’s declared not guilty, she can’t be punished in a backhanded way. If her liberty has been deprived and she is found guilty of anything, she has to be credited for the time. That’s the way the law works for everyone else, and everyone is equal under the law.

I know it is hard for the public to stop rubbernecking at the train wreck that is the dysfunctional Anthony family and the tragedy of Caylee Anthony’s death. Surely there is another personal tragedy somewhere for people to latch onto and invest emotion. Let the law to its job.

Three years is three years.

Move along…

Disingenuous Interference in the Humberto Leal Case

Reading and listening to the news media, the uninformed might think that the international issues surrounding Humberto Leal’s execution have only just been uncovered. It might appear that the Obama administration has some sort of leg to stand on. These impressions are entirely without merit.

The whole issue Leal’s lack of access to Mexican consular officials after his arrest has been litigated.  Let’s set aside the facts that Leal never revealed his Mexican citizenship after his arrest and that his lawyers never raised the issue before, during or after trial, including his first trip up the habeas corpus ladder. When he filed a petition based on President George W. Bush’s order to the states that they review the cases of the 51 Mexican citizens on death row across the country at that time, that was fully litigated and denied by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (the highest criminal appellate court in Texas). He then filed a second federal habeas petition which was denied by the district court, appealed, and rejected by the Fifth Circuit in 2009 (573 F.3d 214).

The current administration and the media have tried to bolster their position (and yes, it is the same position) by suggesting that Bush endorsed the ruling of the International Court of Justice that led to his order that the states review the Mexican cases. Rather, Bush only ordered the review because he thought he was duty-bound to do so, because the US was a signatory to the Optional Protocol Concerning the Compulsory Settlement of Disputes to the Vienna Convention, which says that ICJ decisions are binding on the parties before it. He was under the impression that the Optional Protocol was binding on the states. However, in 2008 the US Supreme Court said no, in Medellín v. Texas (552 U.S. 491). Since the Supreme Court, not the Executive Branch, decides what is and isn’t the law, it didn’t matter what President Bush thought and it doesn’t matter what President Obama thinks.

The Supreme Court said no because the Optional Protocol is not self-executing. In other words, it requires enabling legislation. Now at the last minute, the Administration is arguing to the Supreme Court that enabling legislation has been filed in Congress and the Court should wait to see if it passes.  This is the only arrow left in the quiver of the Administration and it is blunted, bent, splintered and missing fletchings.

Congress has had three years since Medellín to pass enabling legislation. It chose not to do so with the proposed Avena Case Implementation Act of 2008, introduced into a Nancy Pelosi-controlled House of Representatives by four liberal Democrats. It never made it out of committee, not to mention across the Capitol.

Now Senator Patrick Leahy has introduced S. 1194. It has no chance of passage, despite the Administration’s repeated assertions that it’s strong support makes a difference. I seriously doubt it would get through the Senate, but it doesn’t have the tiniest hope of getting through the House. It is telling that amicus brief goes on and on about the Senate and does not even mention the House of Representatives.

It is not even as if the passage of S. 1194 would have any effect on the execution of Humberto Leal. It might give him a chance to have a court determine whether not having had consular access unfairly prejudiced his case. The chances of success in such a challenge are infinitesimal. Leal’s guilt in perpetrating a gruesome crime is indisputable. Even the Mexicans admit that.

The last shred of his case, if the Supreme Court were to stay the execution, and if the Congress were to pass S. 1194, is a court might find that had the Mexican government hired the right attorneys for him (if they even would have done so at the time), those attorneys would have presented evidence in his punishment phase differently so that the jury would not have given him a death sentence. The Administration insists in its brief that unless this charade is played out, relations with Mexico will be irreparably damaged and all Americans traveling abroad will be put at risk. There is simply no credibility in any of this.

Unlike the characterizations by the Administration and media, this case has nothing to do with Texas refusing to follow international law. The Supreme Court answered that in 2008. This cases had been litigated and re-litigated, examined and re-examined, for years. It is time for the sentence to be carried out and the Obama Administration to stop interfering.

The Cost of Littering

You have to wonder when Revenue and Customs workers finally starting thinking something might be up. Charlene Ostle kept ringing them up and changing the number of children she had, thus entitling her increased benefits.

She told them she had three sets of twins and two sets of triplets, all before reaching the age of 26. At one point she had given birth to five children in three months.

Even though she knew what she was doing was wrong, she said her pride kept her from asking from help. What? She had no shame in claiming to have had all of these children out of wedlock and no shame in asking the Government for help.

It got her £30,000 in benefits and remarkably only a nine-month suspended sentence. She was spared jail in part because she is actually pregnant with her third child.