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« Requiem | Main | Define "working" »

Feb 25, 2008

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Joe Guarino

Question:

If the contents of this press release is true, what implications does it have with respect to the objective of achieving the separation of church and state, toward which we are supposed to be striving in Greensboro?

Anthony

None that I can see Joe. How does religion figure into this at all other than the fact that there are pastors involved? No theological precepts are mentioned or alluded to in the press release.

Ed Cone

The separation of church and state, exemplified by our wholly secular Constitution, is hardly limited to Greensboro.

I don't see that this press release has much to do with the separation of church and state. What connection do you see, Joe?

David Hoggard

What a strange observation and question, Joe. Greensboro's pastors have a rich history of involving themselves into social activism, especially within the black community.

Jim Rosenberg

None. Absolutely none.

Beau D. Jackson

If a statement of a similat nature were to be released at a white Baptist church by a white pulpit forum "Holy Hell" would be released by the local black community. But, of course, with the racial climate such as it is that would be acceptable.

Jim Rosenberg

Nelson Johnson holds a press conference to announce his new ringtone. That's not the point. The point is that the doctrine of separation of church and state is wholly and completely a restriction on the actions of the state and has absolutely nothing to do with the actions of pastors. Period. Sam, tell 'em.

Tony Wilkins

Ed,
Do you know the normal procedure for 30 year old closed cases?
I'm sure there's a guideline in place but I have no idea what it is.

Billy The Blogging Poet

If there was anything of value in those boxes it would bury the likes of Jim Melvin and the GPD officers involved that day and there is no way ANY officer could go public without the approval of GPD and the City Manager's office being involved.

So apparently someone is trying to put up yet another smoke screen and blame it on Wray.

And finally, who's to say these 50 boxes haven't already been copied and placed in databases and FBI files somewhere? Could there really be 50 boxes of unknown evidence never before seen by the FBI? Somehow I doubt it.

And yes, how long are documents kept after a case is closed?

Doug H

I can easily imagine that there is a statute of limitations that dictate how long records have to be kept. There is certainly one for architects. After that they can be destroyed, usually without there being any ultimate motive.

Joe Guarino

There are also different sets of rules for the retention of different types of records in the medical field. I have little doubt there are similar rules regarding certain types of police files. We cannot assume that any implication of wrongdoing offered up by this group holds water. Ask them whether they think the use of the black book was discriminatory.

But I suppose that, with respect to my initial comment, I must have been having retroactive hallucinations regarding civic discussions that have been held in the past. When the dreaded members of the religious right have attempted to breach the esteemed wall separating church and state in the past, and influence public policy, have we seen expressions of alarm that the influence they were seeking was constitutionally dubious-- if not dangerous and improper?

It doesn't matter whether the black pastors' advocacy of social justice concerns, based on their conception of religious morality, has a longstanding history. The question is whether they are being held to a different standard than the dreaded religious right has been held in the past.

Does this mean it is now OK for conservative pastors to unite and tell the City of Greensboro how to conduct the public's business? Does this mean they would not be bitterly opposed on separationist grounds? Wow... if that were only true.

I agree with Beau.

Jonathan Jones

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was in its formative stages, with its mission having been publicly professed, by the time David Wray became chief in July 2003.

If records that would have been valuable to that group were destroyed, then one might expect some sense of anger from the folks involved, regardless of whether destroying them was within the Greensboro Police Department's evidence protocol.

Just a hunch.

John D. Young

Joe are you referring to pastors or a specific church loosing their tax exempt status with the IRS because they take sides for a specific candidate in a political campaign? That has been an issue. If that is what you are referring to I think this is very different.

I am not aware of any reason for pastors, a specific church, mosque or synagogue or anyone to not be able to address community issues.

We will need to wait and see what is shared at the press conference tomorrow but it would seem that as the GPD reviewed its records and made some of them available to the GTRC under both former Chief Wray and Chief Bellamy that they may have used these sortings as a time to purge these old records.

Good question already asked a few times above -- What is the normal time to keep records? Also the city and the survivors of Nov. 3rd did sign a very specific agreement, at the time the funds were paid to the survivors for the civil trial, to never bring Nov. 3rd back into a court room.

If the issue is primarily the historical record then there is significant information that has never been fully explored. The core transcripts from the first state murder trial are in the possession of Judge James Long. The GTRC did a brief look at those fairly complete transcripts that includes the court room testimony and closing arguments but they deserve a great deal of study. A few people after the T&R Report was released have spent some significant time reviewing those important transcripts. It appears that those transcripts will eventually be in the N.C. State Archives and be more accessible. They are a real treasure trove

Anthony

Joe,

"But I suppose that, with respect to my initial comment, I must have been having retroactive hallucinations regarding civic discussions that have been held in the past."

Yes - the problem is that in the discussions we've had in the past, you've never been able to point to any specific instances of anyone acting the way you claim. There's always some faceless boogeyman who denies religious right pastors the right to express concerns, while allowing other pastors that benefit. No one actually seems to do that though.

As Jim pointed out, there's a distinction between what the government can do, and what private citizens can do. The former can be accused of violating the separation of church and state. The latter cannot. They may *ask* the government to do something that violates the separation of church and state, but that in and of itself is not a violation.

For instance, if a group of pastors has a rally to encourage the board of education to require all NC public school students to pray to Jesus every morning, that would not be a violation of the separation of church and state, and they have every right to hold that rally and express their opinions. On the other hand, if the BOE actually goes and makes that prayer a requirement, then that *is* a violation of the first amendment.

That group of pastors can certainly be criticized for asking the government to do something that violates our Constitution, however, they themselves are not violating it.

Maybe you think in this instance, these pastors are asking our government to do something that violates our Constitution. If they were, then I would agree they should be criticized for that request (though not for actually violating church/state separation). However, you haven't actually articulated what un-Constitutional action our government is being urged to take. You're simply saying "Pastors!" and expecting everyone to see some sort of equivalence between this and some vague, unspecified alternate situations.

Jim Rosenberg

It might be worth hearing what these guys have to say before arguing against it on constitutional and procedural grounds. It's kind of a formality, I know, but it's polite.

Joe Guarino

Funny-- I seem to remember members of the religious right being publicly branded as the "Taliban" when it was perceived they were trying to influence public policy according to their conception of religious morality on specific issues, in a manner not unlike the Pulpit Forum is doing. The implication, of course, was that they were trying to establish a state religion.

And it has been advocated very strenuously and publicly in this community how important it is to maintain that strict separation. Now, it is certainly possible to seem to parse differences that make the difference in the way the Pulpit Forum is treated seem more justifiable. But doing so is ignoring the elephant in the room.

And the local media will likely grant this group a megaphone, lovingly, regardless of the merits of their claims.

Ed Cone

Rosenberg, comments like yours and John Young's -- "We will need to wait and see what is shared at the press conference tomorrow" -- are most unhelpful.

Anthony

"in a manner not unlike the Pulpit Forum is doing"

Well, that's the crux of the issue isn't it? Since you're still talking in vague generalities, it's hard to know in what manner the religious right was trying to influence public policy, but usually it seems that there's an outcry when that "manner" involves trying to get actual laws and legislation passed. What legistlation is the Pulpit Forum asking for here? None? Then it's not the same manner, is it?

And as has been pointed out, we don't actually know what they're going to say yet. You are comparing vague apples to unknown oranges here.

David Hoggard

Problem is: they are black pastors. Right, Joe? Simpkins "machine" and all that....

Jim Rosenberg

How is religion even remotely involved in this? The fact that these men are pastors is pure tangent. They appear to have a message about destruction of evidence. They happen to be pastors. They could just as well be saying, "Pick up our trash," or "We oppose the new Wal-Mart." In this case, it's even more clear: they are talking about procedural matters in a criminal case. It doesn't get much more secular than that. If you called them "the Taliban" for that, people wouldn't disagree, they'd look at you like you were nuts because it doesn't make any sense. You asked the question, and the answer is that there is no conceivable issue related to the separation of church and state in this announcement. You might be on the other side of their position for a million reasons, many of them good, but the separation issue is a non-starter.

Beau D. Jackson

This ploy is nothing more than to keep the the TRC in the puiblic domain, I suspect for personal and financial reasons, why else would certain individuals constantly bring it up for discussion at City meetings. It's also an intimidating power play by local black groups, as well as, alledged clergy. This keeps everybody in city government (the troops) towing the line for the next flare-up making it easier to intimidate playing the race card.

Margaret Banks

Tony, your question about whether there is a policy in place for the destruction of old records ... I wanted to know the same thing, but unfortunately wasn't able to get an answer from City Hall for my story that's running tomorrow. Maybe we'll get an answer tomorrow.

David Hoggard

Wow, Beau... "Alledged clergy"? "Financial reasons"? Just... Wow.

Jim Rosenberg

In this busy day and age, I find EdCone.com so convenient! The press conference is 11:30 AM tomorrow, and even thoiugh I don't know what they are going to say, I already know why I disagree:

- unconstitutional violation of church/state separation
- double standard having to do with the religious right
- outside statue of limitations
- smoke screen to scapegoat wray and cover up melvin/gpd sins
- ploy to keep trc in public domain
- gimmick for personal and financial reasons
- intimidation of city government
- playing of the race card
- phony ploy by fake pastors
- example of media favoritism

Thank you, EdCone.com!

Joe Guarino

I'm out, but:

http://guarino.typepad.com/guarino/2008/02/pulpit-forum-pr.html

Bubba

Isn't it funny how all the Defenders of the Faith here are not interested in the very strange combination of information in the release, the very strange way it's worded, the clear implications made in the statement, and the timing of it all?

Gee, I guess that would require just a little too much inquisitiveness and intellectual integrity to be exhibited.

Heaven forbid!

Billy The Blogging Poet

Bubba, I find myself in agreement with you again. Scary, ain't it?

keith brown

all you have to do is go to the second floor of greensboro public library there is a very aged document that chronicles every bit of the police departments handling of the shootings, it is right across from where i was studying land use law in north carolina. It was a great read check it out .

Natalie

I am not sure if any messenger would be granted reprieve with this kind of info. We are all big kids and can discern where necessary- as pointed out.

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