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« Ruth Taylor Brown | Main | Black boxes »

May 29, 2010


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That is incredibly thoughtful.


Oh, geez. (see #5)


And #2 in the above -- the first person, "In France, I..."

Michele Forrest

And lots more from here.


Thanks, Michelle.

Jordan Green

I've hesitated to stake myself out on this because I can imagine that expressing reservations about anything the mayor does will feed perceptions of bias.

As a practicing Christian, my preference is for private prayer that is non-showy (I even feel uncomfortable discussing it). I suppose the invocation is okay. Politics isn't about 100 percent inclusion; it's about meeting the preferences of 50 percent plus 1. And if 50 percent plus 1 are unhappy about it, then there's always another election next year.


Jordan, your last two sentences are keepers.

Michele Forrest

I've already expressed my thoughts on the prayer issue here at Ed's and at Joe's. But this letter, hmmm...

Michael Usey: "Perhaps you find it odd that an American Baptist pastor would be so against city sponsored prayer..."

Not really, because he's pastor of "progressive, diverse, ecumenical" College Park Baptist, "a progressive, liberal bunch of zanies" (their words), but I do find it odd that almost half of the letter he "wrote" is taken word-for-word from other sources, with no attribution. That undermines his credibility and undercuts his message.

Ed Cone

"Politics isn't about 100 percent inclusion; it's about meeting the preferences of 50 percent plus 1."

Framing a question of inclusion in terms of majority rule is troubling in a system designed to recognize and protect the rights of minorities and individuals -- all the more so given the long effort to ensure that the country actually lives up to those principles, an area in which Greensboro once prided itself.

Jordan Green

I can appreciate your qualms, Ed. I think I'm more troubled that the prayer issue seems to me to be divisive and distracting — I hope not by intention. It seems like a largely symbolic issue, and I think Greensboro particularly has deep and systemic challenges that will take our best minds, best good-faith efforts and a measure of compromise to overcome. Employment, police conduct, waste disposal and development standards come to mind. Sadly, much of politics is bloodsport, and I'm not sure it pays to get drawn into this battle.


I take it from Ed's description that this letter appeared or was cited by Nancy McLaughlin in her column. Does the N&R's new jail for columnists allow comments? I am wondering if it has been brought to her attention that the author plagiarized portions of his letter.


Troubling for you maybe, at least on this particular issue, but what Jordan said is simply a governmental fact of life. We live in a representative democracy, not an absolute or proportionately inclusive one. Even so, there is no obligation for our elected leaders to cater to the desires of even a simple majority, something our president understands all too well. They may ignore the desires of any majority or minority group at their future political peril, but they can, do and always have done it.

If this beaten-to-death minor issue, that scarcely affects anyone’s lives outside the council itself, other than by its usefulness as a political tool by bloggers and politicians, is so “troubling”, what do you call the government takeover of the nation’s health care system that will affect every single one of us, against the express will of two-thirds of the American people then? Obama knows best? I guess you are comforted that he is recognizing the rights of the minority?


As a past town council member in Orange County, I found that those who bring up prayer as a desirable element in government proceedings do so knowing they will create a firestorm. It is a tried-and-true act designed to divide.

It also has nothing to do with 50 + 1 percent. Ed's points are well taken. Some issues are not about majorities at all, but about fundamental principles. The wisdom of keeping religion out of government is one of those principles.

As an atheist, I find the persistent efforts of religious activists to impose their practices in government to be exceedingly offensive and counterproductive.


"We live in a representative democracy..." -- CP

You miss Ed's point entirely. We live in a Constitutional republic where the rights of minorities are protected against the tyranny of the majority.


"We live in a Constitutional republic where the rights of minorities are protected against the tyranny of the majority"

Yep, except when it comes to taxes....


By what specific means, Roch? Do elections and policies decided by democratic majority constitute tyranny?


"By what specific means, Roch?" -- CP

The Constitution.


Ed, you and I recently took issue with Joe Guarino for failing to annotate a post quoting deficient material. I think the same standards would have you acknowledge that the source you cite in this post plagiarized much of his letter.


"The Constitution."

Please cite where that specific right is enumerated in the Constitution.


You beat me to it Bubba


"the same standards would have you acknowledge that the source you cite in this post plagiarized much of his letter."

...or else you are an abject liar. Extra, extra, you will read all about it.


To what right are you referring, Bubba?


The right of minority protection from the "tyranny of the majority" that you claimed above. Pay attention to yourself.


The rights enumerated in the Constitution are sacrosanct for all individuals and may not be denied to any group or individual because a majority of people think they should. That's basic. That's fifth grade. Every American should understand that.


And which ones specifically protect
"the rights of minorities against the tyranny of the majority." as opposed, for example, to vice-versa?
Your words, Roch, and supposedly Ed's "point". I passed the fifth grade.

"You miss Ed's point entirely. We live in a Constitutional republic where the rights of minorities are protected against the tyranny of the majority."


They all do.


a woman asked delegate Franklin what they had wrought when he was leaving the 1787 convention. He told her a constitution for "a republic, if you can keep it."

Later articles did away with the republic.

George Hartzman

As I recall, the American Revolution rebelled against unfair taxation and government supported by a lie of a direct link from God to the King.

The King said the colonies should pay more taxes to pay for England's war debt, therefore so did God.

Is this not what we are trying to avoid with explicit prayer before a legislative session?

How many could come to think that God is directly backing what the mayor proposes?

Policies bringing prayer into governing have brought about theocracy in the past, which is why the Founding Fathers rebelled against England's tyranny, which is why many are fighting back on this in Greensboro and the rest of America.

Imagine a Sarah Palin Presidency.

She professes the same population control through religion themes of the King George we rose up against.


Beelz, especially the 19th and 21st. It was all down hill from there.


Well I guess that settles that.


if you look at the votes in the colonial legislatures after wars you'll see that the colonists always raised the money without a fuss for English war expenditures. this was taken from local treasuries. after all, the colonists were subjects of the crown. the objections arose among wealthy smugglers when the margins from their efforts at free enterprise were threatened with tax or siezure, occupation of private property and trials for crimes against the crown being held in halifax, nova scotia or london where colonists could not afford witnesses or attorneys to confront their accusers or the representative of the crown with whom the colonist had a grievance or accused of a crime. Divine rule was winked at in England since runnymeade, but it never stopped them from killing each other over religion. The island was a microcosm of the blood-drenched continent. Treason against the king was a capital offense. The only written complaint that indicted GIII was his failure to end slavery in the colonies. The rebels knew what they could be hanged for, with other colonists helping to tighten the noose. Their disagreement was with parliament and GIII's failure to stand up for their rights as englishmen.

For once i strongly disagree with Hartzman. Palin would not be one step back. She would be two steps back and anyone who concurs that human rights agreed upon since 1215 should be suspended are taking the third step back.

George Hartzman

The "smugglers" were rum runners who didn't want to pay the higher prices mandated by the crown. The french and others were selling for less while the English Nobles wanted higher prices than the "free" market offered, which included prohibitive taxation. So the King entered the fray in demanding the colonies pay higher prices.

The foundation of authority the King, and most historical monarchys used to convince the masses was a direct connection to God. And a well paid, experienced army.

Should our taxation be based on what the government says it needs to keep the peace etc..., or for what God told the mayor and Council who vote for it that it should be, rendering those who object subject to the Omnipotent backed wrath of the believers?


"We live in a Constitutional republic where the rights of minorities are protected against the tyranny of the majority."

That's true to some extent when you are talking about true tyranny. What we are talking about here is possible discomfort and displeasure. I can't imagine how anyone's wonderful night at the City Council meeting is going to be ruined and they permanently scarred because someone said a prayer that they didn't agree with.

It would seem to me that greater discomfort, displeasure, and opportunity for your night to be ruined might come in the form of a tax increase or some other lasting policy that actually affects your daily life than what are mere words to others.

People hear things at City Council meetings and other governmental meetings all the time that they don't agree with or like and that actually affect them.

I have written before that there are some Constitutional limitations but I don't understanding the urgent clamoring for or against the issue by either side. Nobody has explained why we must have this and those on the other side have utterly failed to present an argument as to what the terrible result of having it will be. "Some people won't like it" is something that can be said about any governmental action.

This is a classic example of phony outrage.


P.S. Roch, good point in trying to force Ed to practice what he preaches. It will be interesting to see how he responds.

But you are wrong on the Constitution as it applies to this fact pattern. The Court has already held that non-sectarian prayers do not violate the Constitution, so we aren't talking about a Constitutional issue.

Ed Cone

CP asks what specifically protects "the rights of minorities against the tyranny of the majority."

The Bill of Rights would be be the most explicit example of this principle, which is addressed in Declaration of Independence ("certain unalienable rights") and Federalist #10; it was a great preoccupation of Madison, who warned Washington of "the aggressions of interested majorities on the rights of minorities and of individuals."

50% + 1 of voters cannot take away certain rights from individuals or 50% -1 of voters. That's a foundational principle of this country.


And vice-versa, I would imagine. So when the rights or desires of the majority are in conflict with those of the minority, what's a good nontyrannical leader to do?

As I asked above, do elections and policies decided by democratic majority constitute tyranny?

Maybe someone needs to define tyrannical government for me, both in general terms, and its applicability to this specific issue.


So, let me get this straight. We have been discussing the plagiarism in this letter on local blogs since yesterday afternoon and the News & Record still publishes it this morning?


Tnx, btw, for the update, Ed. Seems like the right thing to do.

George Hartzman


I was a supporter of the mayor during the election based on his platform, which did not include injecting religious issues into government business.

Religious priorities are an unexpected twist.

Dr. Mary Johnson

Yes, Roch. The N&R took it and ran. You are surprised (I'm sorry it's not a declarative statement) by this?

George, I would submit that the Mayor is not injecting religion into city business, as the prayer/invocation/whatever occurs before the initiation of business.

As for Pastor Usey, first, as a Baptist (albeit a "lapsed" one), I disagree with him (and/or the Committee whose words he "allegedly" lifted to quote as his own):


Second, so do other Baptist pastors. But Ed won't be asking/quoting them. They don't support his party (take it any way you want it) line.

Third (trying a question instead of a declarative statement), I'm kinda wondering how the minority of late term, viable babies whose very lives are aborted because of the opinions of a Supreme Court majority might feel about the Constitution and the Bill of Rights absolutely protecting the minority from the "tyranny" of the majority?

Of course, those of us who are already here (clearly way past the fifth grade) and arguing on a Sunday morning about praying to The God who unquestionably frowns on that sort-of-thing, won't get to ask them.

Ed Cone

Roch - the N&R Ideas section goes to the printer on Thursday, so any error or omission not flagged by then is going to appear on Sunday no matter what. I can tell you that filing a column on Tuesday means one sweats the possibility of breaking news for the better part of a week.

The update on sourcing was necessary. FWIW, I didn't understand from the earliest comments by you and Michele that there was a sourcing issue -- I didn't get that until I went back and reread Michele's late-afternoon comment.

CP, rights and desires are different things. Rights are supposed to be unalienable, no matter what the desires of a majority. I don't know that a majority of local voters favor deracinated government prayer, but I in either case I think introducing it was a bad decision by the Mayor.


I suspected you might not have picked up on the meaning of early comments.

I understand what you are describing (although doesn't the N&R still print in house?), but is that the bar for Sunday accuracy? That if it wrong on Thursday, it's wrong on Sunday? "Greensboro's most trusted news source" has no ability to stop the presses, no procedure to effectively correct something major like this after Thursday?


So it's not a majority-minority thing for you. I must confess that I was temporarily sidetracked by Roch's "entire" understanding of your point, rather than your point as stated, and that you do not think Knight's policy amounts to tyranny, although you did couch it in terms which seemed to pit minority against majority, whether in regards to rights or will. At any rate, your thumbs up or down opinion, at least, has been clear enough all along.
Do you think the decision will be rescinded?


cp: as i anticipate, you and Mary ask the closest thing to a clinical question about the current pillow fight. you seldom disappoint. who is the prince and who is the frog in this fairy tale is a tough call because both sides are free to call bullshit/blemish on the other. both sides like to start skirmishes against their imagined enemies and inferiors. Even though i consider myself as spiritual and religious as the next sumbitch, i'm attracted to these rubber sword fights like a tumblebug to a moist cowpile. We have a hundred cultures and a million subcultures on the same stage here. Regardless of the number of players, the acts and the outcomes are the same as the classics. Your clinical questions ruin the fun and may cause serious inquiry. Hartzman and Firebaugh do it too. Makes me sick.


"I must confess that I was temporarily sidetracked by Roch's "entire" understanding of your point..." - John

What I said, actually, was that you missed Ed's point entirely, which was, as he wrote, "Framing a question of inclusion in terms of majority rule is troubling in a system designed to recognize and protect the rights of minorities and individuals." But if you are agreeing with that now, good.

Dr. Mary Johnson

Beelze, I am genuinely sorry you feel sick. I hope you feel better soon.


As I once said, Beezle, reading you is like reading a fortune cookie while dropping acid. You short-circuited my cackalacker a long time ago. I have no further clinical questions for this witness, your honor.


thanks Dr Mary

cp: your lucky number is whatever comes after the square root of -1.

Ed Cone

CP, my guess is that the decision will not be rescinded by Mayor Knight. As far as I can tell, his plan for government prayer is not illegal, just a bad idea.

Roch, what could the N&R do -- assuming that anyone in authority was made aware of the problem on Saturday afternoon, which is by no means a given in the first place -- pull the Ideas section from circulation? Reprint the section, and then re-collate tens of thousands of papers?

The production schedule, which as I understand it is dictated in part by cost considerations, is a liability in terms of producing timely commentary, but even a much later print run would likely have missed this, and I would guess that most publishers would regard the offense as unworthy of anything approaching the cost of fixing it.

Brandon Burgess

I actually think he will rescind his decision. He has demonstrated sensitivity on other issues such as seating arrangements on the dais and speakers from the floor segments. I wouldn't be surprised if he rescinded this misguided decision.

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