"I'm what the world considers to be a phenomenally successful man. And I've failed much more than I've succeeded.
And each time I fail, I get my people together, and I say, "Where are we going?" And it starts to get better." - Calvin Trager

With Ya, my Ga tutor in Mallam
The Rev. Mike Kinman
Executive Director
Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation
Age: 38

Check out Forsyth School ...
where Robin teaches and
the boys attend.

Since you're already blowing time surfing,
why not do some cool stuff

  • Watch the Make Poverty History videos
  • Watch Sara McLachlan's "World on Fire" video
  • Take a seat at Oxfam America's Hunger Banquet
  • Look at the "Eight Ways to Change The World" photo exhibition
  • See how rich you are on the Global Rich List
  • Make a promise to do something cool -- and get people to do it with you
  • Use your computer to fight HIV/AIDS and other diseases

    While you're at it, do these things
  • Join the ONE Campaign to Make Poverty History
  • Join the Episcopal Public Policy Network
  • Join Amnesty International
  • Subscribe to Sojourners Online newsletter about faith, politics and culture
  • Sign the Micah Call and join other Christians in the fight against poverty
  • Subscribe to a great new magazine about women and children transforming our world

    People who show us What One Person Can Do
  • Liza Koerner (Teaching soccer and doing mission work in Costa Rica)
  • Erica Trapps (Raising money so Tanzanian children can go to school -- check out her photo gallery)

    What's happening in Sudan might
    surprise (and shock) you

  • Episcopal Diocese of Lui
  • South Sudanese Friends International
  • The Sudan Tribune
  • SudanReeves -- research, analysis and advocacy
  • Save Darfur
  • Darfur: a genocide we can stop

    For your daily fix on the irreverent...
  • Jesus of the Week
  • The Onion

    Interesting People Who Are Great To Read
  • Beth Maynard's excellent U2 sermons blog
  • Global Voices Online
  • Neha Viswanathan - poetry, commentary, humor, reflections

    Some interesting organizations and programs
  • Borgen Project - poverty reduction through political accountability
  • CARE
  • Center of Concern
  • DATA: Debt, AIDS and Trade in Africa (Bono's site)
  • El Circulo de Mujeres/Circle of Women
  • Engineering Ministries International
  • Episcopal Peace Fellowship
  • Episcopal Relief and Development
  • FreshMinistries
  • Global Campaign Against Poverty
  • Global Ministries
  • Global Work Ethic Fund -- Promoting philanthropy and fundraising in developing and transition countries.
  • Karen Emergency Relief Fund
  • Magdalene House
  • The M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence
  • Natural Capitalism
  • NetMarkAid - Humanitarian Entrepreneurs
  • North American Association for the Diaconate
  • Peace Child International
  • People Building Peace
  • Project Honduras
  • Results - Creating political will to end hunger
  • St. Paul's Institute
  • Stop Global AIDS
  • TakingITGlobal -- connecting youth for action in local and global communities
  • Tanzania Educational AIDS Mission
  • TEAR (Transformation, Empowerment, Advocacy, Relief) - An Australian Christian anti-poverty movement
  • Working For Change
  • Xigi.net -- an open-source tool to aid discovery in the capital markets that fund good.

    Some Episcopal churches and dioceses doing cool things
  • Companions of Swaziland - Diocese of Iowa's Companion Relationship
  • International Development Missions -- St. Paul's Church, Sparks, NV
  • The Malaria Villages Project - St. Paul's Church, West Whiteland, PA

    Must-read books and websites about them
  • What Can One Person Do: faith to heal a broken world -- Sabina Alkire & Edmund Newell
  • The End of Poverty -- Jeffrey Sachs

    Learn more about things you really should know more about
  • UN Millenium Development Goals
  • The Millennium Campaign
  • AIDS Matters - a resource for global AIDS professionals
  • Christian Aid's in-depth report: "Millennium Lottery: Who lives and who dies in an age of third world debt?"
  • Foreign Policy In Focus
  • Poverty Mapping
  • Solutions for a water-short world
  • Transparency International: The global coalition against corruption
  • UNICEF's State of The World's Children report 2005

    General cool and/or goofy stuff
  • Alicebot chat robot
  • Bono Quotes -- but what's really wild is that it's from a page on Boycottliberalism.com!
  • Buffy Slanguage
  • Big Bunny

    Useful web tools
  • Gcast - make your own podcast
  • Podzinger - podcast search engine
  • Orb - streaming digital media

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    Listed on Blogwise
  • Monday, April 24, 2006

    First Amendment Blues

    I got two emails yesterday that were urging me to sign some of these ubquitous internet petitions that are out there. The first was against John Kerry being the democratic nominee in 2008, which was nice enough (I didn't want him to be the nominee in 2004, so I certainly don't want him in '08), except the grounds were that because he was Roman Catholic, electing him would be tantamount to setting up a theocracy, which is unconstitutional. (A student of history would know something about the discussions that happened around JFK's election .... or maybe even someone who saw the first season of The West Wing ... but that probably expects too much).

    The other was about a House bill (235) that would change the IRS guidelines to allow for endorsements of candidates for electoral offices from the pulpit. There's reasonable arguments on both sides for this -- only he framed it by saying that church's should lose their tax-exempt status if they engage in any political activity.

    One of the things I am just sick of is the complete misunderstanding of the separation of Church and State as put forth in the First Amendment. So here's what I wrote back to this person. Lawyers (Ian O., Rand, others) who read this -- and everyone else (I know Ian K. and Wells will have opinions), let me know if my argument would be thrown out of court.


    I imagine that what sparks this in you is not wanting the "religious right" or the Roman Catholic Church to impose their views on the country. That's great ... neither do I. But the answer to that has nothing to do with religion.

    The First Amendment says: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." It also says after that, "or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press."

    The First Amendment prevents an OFFICIAL establishment of a state religion. Religion can exist (and, in fact, atheism being a fairly foreign concept in the 18th century, it was assumed by the founders that it would exist and that people and governments would be shaped by it), but the government cannot tell an individual WHICH religion they have to practice or, in fact,
    if they have to practice any religion at all.

    That's why if some state representative here in Missouri wants to put forward an amendment declaring Christianity the "state religion" of Missouri, that should be and would be unconstitutional. You cannot have a state religion.

    The first part of the first amendment is there to prevent the government from mandating what someone can and cannot believe. All belief systems should enjoy equal protection and access under the law -- so far as the practice of those belief systems doesn't infringe on the constitutional rights of others (in which case the problem would be the infringement of the
    practice, not the belief system itself).

    It really is about "preventing theocracy" -- having a religion that is one with the state that the people are mandated to believe and follow as such.

    That is the LIMIT of the first part of the first amendment.

    The problem with the two emails you sent out is that they have nothing to do with the first amendment. Neither one of them is trying to establish a state religion. Both are trying to restrict speech on the grounds that it is based on religious thought -- which I would argue is actually a violation of the first amendment.

    Ideas are ideas. Some ideas find their foundation in religious beliefs. Others find their foundation in other systems or are just plucked out of the air. The free expression of ALL ideas (again, assuming they do not cause a "clear and present danger" -- like shouting "fire" in a crowded theatre) is guaranteed by the First Amendment.

    The problem is, what you are saying is that ideas that are based on religious principles are not OK and ideas that are not based on religious principles are OK. That's unconstitutional -- and should be. Religious ideas should get no advantage in the marketplace of ideas over non-religious
    ideas, but they should get as much power as all others. You cannot discriminate against an idea just because its foundation is religious.

    As far as churches losing their tax-exempt status if they "get directly involved in politics" you run into a whole bunch of problems.

    First of all, how do you define "getting directly involved in politics" -- strictly speaking, any activity that involves more than one person is political. Churches have been the driving force behind some wonderful social change in our country. Your description of this bill would have stripped all the churches of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of their
    tax-exempt status for participating in the civil rights movement. It would strip all the churches that I work with that lobby for increased government attention to eradicating global poverty and acheiving the Millennium Development Goals of that status as well. Both of those are intensely political acts.

    Churches enjoy a tax-exempt status because the people have decided that they -- like other nonprofit entities that enjoy the same status -- provide a valuable public service and do not exist for their own profit. If you want to argue that no churches should have tax-exempt status, go ahead ... and you actually might be able to make a decent argument there. But you can't
    have participating in political activity be the yardstick.

    I sense the problem is that you don't like two things.

    1) You don't like the ideas that some religiously-motivated people are putting forward.

    2) You don't like the idea that a religious group is making laws.

    Well, on No. 1 ... do what you do whenever you don't like ideas that are being put forward. Refute them. Present better ideas. Campaign and argue about why your ideas are superior. Persuade and lead. That's what democracy in this republic is supposed to be about. But don't attack them on the grounds that they are religious -- because that makes as much sense constitutionally as attacking yours on the grounds that they are not.

    On 2) -- power is held by groups and always has been. Unless you have a dictatorship, the majority will rule, and that means groups and coalitions will make and interpret the laws. Now you can call the "organization behind the powerbrokers" the Democratic Party, the Republican Party, The Roman Catholic Church or the Flat Earth Society. It doesn't matter. If they campaign effectively enough and get enough seats in Congress and put someone in the White House who puts people on the federal bench -- they get to make and interpret the laws (assuming those laws fall within the Constitution).

    Do you think the Democratic Party or the Republican Party doesn't tell its membership how to vote? What do you think Whips do in the House and the Senate? There is no difference between someone being persuaded by their Party how to vote and someone being persuaded by their church how to vote except -- here it comes -- that one has a religious foundation and one does
    not. And you cannot discriminate against a person or organization on the basis of religion because of ... The First Amendment!

    I know I've gone on about this for awhile, but I think the emails you're sending out are dangerous (not that you don't have a right to send them -- the First Amendment cuts all sorts of ways!) because they are rooted in a widespread misunderstanding of the First Amendment and the separation of Church and State in particular.
    Mike at 4/24/2006 02:06:00 PM

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    Episcopalians for
    Global Reconciliation

    EGR is an organization resourcing a grassroots movement of spiritual transformation in the Episcopal Church to end extreme poverty on this planet.

    The structure for this movement is the Millennium Development Goals -- 8 goals committed to by all member nations of the UN and a unique partnership of governments and civil society to:

    *End extreme poverty
    *Achieve universal
    primary education

    *Promote gender equalty
    *Improve maternal health
    *Reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS
    *Promote environmental sustainability
    *Build a global partnership for development

    EGR resources and connects the church to embrace what one person, one congregation, one diocese and one church can do to make this mission of global reconciliation happen.

    Want to find out more ... check our our website at www.e4gr.org.

    "Christ's example is being demeaned by the church if they ignore the new leprosy, which is AIDS. The church is the sleeping giant here. If it wakes up to what's really going on in the rest of the world, it has a real role to play. If it doesn't, it will be irrelevant."
    - Bono


    What I'm Reading
    Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln
    by Doris Kearns Goodwin