Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The art of mediocrity

I received an E-mail from one of my former parishioners at St. Paul's Newman Center in Fresno today. It seems the bishop went to the parish to meet with the parishioners and inform them that he will not assign a new full time pastor to St. Paul's. Rather, he will appoint a Parish Life Coordinator and have a priest act as a sacramental minister.

I have to say that this does not come as a total surprise to me. St. Paul's was difficult to fill, the last time it was in need of a pastor. The reality is that St. Paul's was founded in 1964, in the middle of the Second Vatican Council. The founding pastor, the late Fr. Sergio Negro, was a huge proponent of the principles voiced at Vatican II. St. Paul's became a pioneer parish in our Diocese in many areas. In the inclusion of women as lectors and eucharistic ministers; of female altar servers. Fr. Negro started a Pastoral Council, long before many other parishes. In short, St. Paul's from its birth as a parish has been inclusive of women and has placed an emphasis on the role of an active lay participation in parish governance.

While all of this certainly captures the spirit of the Second Vatican Council, it is not appealing to many traditional pastors. In addition to all of this, St. Paul's is a personal parish and not a geographic parish. Most Catholic parishes are geographic entities. You automatically belong to a parish by the virtue of living within its geographic boundaries. St. Paul's is a parish without boundaries, it is a personal parish. The only individuals who "automatically" are parishioners are the Faculty, Staff and Students of the academic institutions which St. Paul's serves. Anyone else, may become a parishioner by registering. I recall the bishop commenting to me: "That's the last personal parish in this diocese!"

What this means in practical terms is that, the president of the CSUF, the Provost, many professors along with faculty and staff from Fresno City College and of course, many students are parishioners of St. Paul's. As you might imagine, this demographic tends to be well educated and comes from an academic tradition of enquiry, debate and discussion. Another large segment of the parish is composed of University Alumni. As a group, they tend to be very loyal, well educated, well off financially and connected in the greater community. St. Paul's also has, as I mentioned earlier a reputation for being very theologically and liturgically progressive.

While the concept of parish life coordinators had been discussed at the last diocesan convocation. In fact, I made a plea for them at the convocation and signed up for the committee which would oversee their development. The presenter at the convocation of clergy had asked that those who signed up for the committees elect moderators; however, the bishop intervened and appointed moderators himself in order to "save time." And of course, to steer the committees his way. In the case of the parish life coordinators, other diocese require PLC's to attend courses at accredited institutions and become certified. They also pay PLC's a living wage.

Neither of these two requirements are met by the Diocese of Fresno under the leadership of our current bishop. This was particularly annoying to pastors of our diocese who were then, hit up by an increase in assessments (taxes) the bishop places on plate collection to pay for all of these new programs. Pastors of course saw through all of this as just more gouging by the bishop of parish funds. However, given our subservient position there was no outcry at the time. One senior pastor simply said that he was "disgusted." Morale among the clergy is very low in our diocese. Most look to three years from now, when the bishop will be forced to turn in his resignation to Rome. The current speculation is that auxiliary bishop Alex Salazar of Los Angeles will be the next bishop of Fresno.

The result is, PLC's who have spotty preparation at best and are volunteers. You don't need an advanced degree in business to realize what the effects of this diocesan policy will be, on the quality and constancy of service at the parish level. But, then again, most of the PLC's were envisioned as serving in outlying rural areas under the supervision of a "hub church" and a mentor pastor. The decision to assign a PLC to St. Paul's on a permanent basis seems to be a convenient way of not having to deal with a progressive academic community and relegating it to insignificance on a diocesan level. In this, it is the triumph of mediocrity and should come as heart warming news to middle management bureaucrats everywhere within the greater Church.

Monday, November 24, 2008

One giant step backwards.

In the 1960's I was enrolled in a parochial school in the mid-west. In the town in which I grew up there was a German Parish, an Italian Parish, a Polish parish, and an Irish parish. I belonged to the Irish parish. In our little Catholic world, it was considered a "mixed marriage" if a Polish Catholic married an Irish Catholic. I exaggerate but only slightly. All of this serves as a backdrop to what happened in the fifth grade. Sister introduced two new students to our little Irish school; they were two black girls. Everyone in the class was shocked, not because they were black but, because they were Baptists.

To us, the idea of a Baptist or, for that matter any protestant seemed exotic at best. Why would anyone chose to not be Catholic?!? I recall Sister telling our class that we had to respect other people and their beliefs especially when they differed from our own. She also pointed out that this was an opportunity for us to better understand our own faith as well. I think back to my Irish parish in that blue collar neighborhood and the good sisters who taught us some 45 years ago.

I ask myself: What happened to those values? When I arrived at my new parish this last Spring, the choir sang a beautiful hymn, "All are welcome here" as the choir sang, I thought to myself: are all truly welcome here? The hymn expressed the sentiments of the Second Vatican Council and the values imparted to us by the wonderful teaching order of Dominican Sisters. Values that respect those with different opinions, belief systems, backgrounds. That saw a differing idea not as a threat but, as an opportunity for charity, deeper understanding and personal growth. Sadly, the idea of openness which the Holy Spirit invited us to embrace through the Blessed John XXIII has been shelved in favor of control. For example, professors at the university level are not allowed to discuss the issue of ordination of women with their students.

The faithful are left with Church documents which present lofty ideals and Church governance which pays lip service to those ideals but, crushes anyone who dares to invoke them. In this, the contemporary Church resembles the eastern European satellite nations of the former Soviet Union. They had enlightened constitutions which were ignored by those in positions of power, or worse, quoted as a justification for their unchallengeable rule. The late Pope John Paul II said of the old Soviet empire, it was a rotted tree. I simply shook it and it fell. Naked power and fear can only impose control/order for so long. In the case of the hierarchy, they have cut themselves off from the body of the Church, the people of God. Most bishops opt to govern by fiat rather than engaging in meaningful dialogue with the faithful. The net result is an increasing number of Catholics who ignore the bishops on the questions such as artificial birth control. They question the wisdom, if not the motives, of the bishops in the wake of the Pedophilia Scandals. Catholics who question an endless appeal for funds while, given no voice in the application of those funds, and often, little or questionable accountability, are continually being asked for more and more money. Why, where is it going?

Like King Louis XVI who remained insulated at Versailles while the people rioted in Paris, our bishops remain insulated in a sort of private boys club, where they believe that if they say it then, it must be true. Like Louis, they are bewildered that the people don't simply obey.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Address to the Mayor and City Council of West Hollywood, California.

Tonight, I was invited to address the Mayor and City Council of the City of West Hollywood. To my pleasant surprise, I was honored with a commendation by West Hollywood for my efforts in working towards the promotion and preservation of civil rights. I humbly accept this honor on behalf of all of those who have marched and worked to overturn the hate law which is Proposition 8. The following, is the text of my address to the City Council.

On November 4th, we experienced a breakthrough in our history as a nation. We elected the first African American president of the United States of America. With this exceptional act, we turned a corner in our history as a nation and helped to realize the dream of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. A dream in which a person would not be judged by the color of their skin but, by the content of their character.

As if this accomplishment was not enough, the character of President-elect Barack Obama and his vision for our nation have given birth to a new found spirit of hope and optimism. A spirit has been enkindled in our nation which we have not experienced since the election of the JFK.

We need to draw strength, inspiration and courage from this new spirit of hope and optimism because on that same night of November 4th, something unworthy of the spirit of America happened with the passage of Proposition 8: a hateful law. In the tradition of the Nuremberg laws and Jim Crow laws, a slim majority of the electorate of our state was manipulated by what is arguably one of the most deceptive and unethical election campaigns in recent memory.

And yet, something remarkable has happened in the wake of this attempt to enshrine discrimination in our state’s constitution. Across our communities, our state and our nation, people have poured out onto the streets, campuses, civic centers, and government centers to voice their support for equal rights. I was privileged to participate in Sabbath services at Kol Ami synagogue here in West Hollywood on Friday evening. After the services, a woman who had been at Stonewall came up to me and said: “This is a second Stonewall.’ The movement has begun.

The Spanish mystic, Theresa of Avila once observed that: “God writes straight with crooked lines.” I believe that what is happening now is an illustration of that wisdom. Perhaps, losing on this proposition initiative is precisely the catalyst that our community needed to energize us and give us a renewed strength and vision. Those who would strip us of our rights and human dignity are quick to invoke their idealized social order and the name of God. Whether racists of 40 years ago, or the bigots of today, they have unwittingly pushed us too far and have given life to a new movement. We will fight harder than ever before; we shall overcome.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

keith olbermann

An eloquent and powerful editorial on the subject of same sex marriage.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Vatican shell game.

The Associated Press published an insightful article by Frances D'Emilio on 30 October 2008. The article begins by a citation "Vatican City" and proceeds to discuss new announced screening guidelines for priests. The article states:

"The church said it issued the new guidelines to help church leaders weed out candidates with 'psychopathic disturbances.' The scandals have rocked the church in recent years, triggering lawsuits that have cost hundreds of millions of dollars in settlements.

The Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests said the Vatican needs to go beyond screening seminarians to end what the group calls the church's 'virtually unchanged culture of secrecy and unchecked power in the hierarchy' that left dangerous priests in parishes.

A 2005 Vatican document said men with 'deep seated' homosexual tendencies shouldn't be ordained, but those with a 'transitory problem' could become priests if they had overcome them for three years.

The new guidelines reflect the earlier teaching, stressing that if a future priest shows 'deep seated homosexual tendencies,' his seminary training 'would have to be interrupted."

The above, are quotes from the more lengthy article. But, what the article reveals is the strategy of the hierarchy, at least those in the Vatican, to play a sort of "shell game" with the pedophilia sex scandal. They begin by announcing new psychological screening guidelines for seminarians. Sounds good, so far. Then they speak about "psychopathic disturbances" OK, most everyone would agree that pedophilia falls in this category, it is listed as a disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders published by the American Psychiatric Association. But then, the guidelines suddenly switch gears and introduce the issue of homosexuality.

Pedophilia is a mental disorder. It has ZERO to do with the gender or the sexual orientation of the pedophile. What it has to do with is that an adult suffers from an impulsive mental disorder in which he/she engages in sexual relationships with minors. There are both male and female pedophiles, there are both heterosexual and homosexual pedophiles. The issue is pedophilia not gender or orientation. So, why mix the two subjects in these new guidelines?

Certainly, the Vatican officials who created these new guidelines are aware of these psychological distinctions. The simple truth is that any organization which works with children will draw its share of pedophiles. Be it a school district, a scouting troop, a youth program, it stands to reason that pedophiles will be drawn to professions and circumstances which grant them exposure to children. The church sex scandal was not about the fact that some pedophiles made it into the ranks of the priesthood and abused children. It was about the fact that bishops who became aware of these pedophiles covered up their crimes and moved them around in an attempt to protect the institution from scandal and lawsuits.

So, now, in a new guideline, that whole subject is again side stepped and homosexuals are being set up as the scapegoat for the institution. It was just those dirty homosexuals if, we got rid of them, there would never have been a problem in the first place. Well, not so if you believe psychologists or the Survivors Network. The truth is that most pedophiles are heterosexual and that most pedophilia is incestuous. The myth that most pedophiles are homosexual is socially comforting because, it gives the illusion that it is "those" people outside of our family who are a danger. When in fact, it is usually a family member who, is probably heterosexual who is the most likely predator. While it is true that in the case of the church sex scandals, most pedophiles were homosexual, the bottom line remains that this is a mental disorder not directly associated with sexual orientation.

A pedophile, is after all, an adult who seeks out and has sexual liaisons with minors. When you look at the educational system used by the church to train priests, a disturbing specter begins to emerge from the mist. Minor seminaries. Young adolescents were enrolled into minor seminaries starting their studies for the priesthood at 13 and 14 years of age. They were inserted into an all male environment, not permitted to date and effectively stunted in their psycho sexual development. They became, though never intended as such, pedophile factories. The irony is, that most of these High School Seminaries had closed by the time that the sex scandal exploded.

Needless to say, this is a huge embarrassment to the hierarchy and also constitutes a question of legal liability. As they state: triggering lawsuits that have cost hundreds of millions of dollars in settlements." So, introducing the question of homosexuality into the guidelines seems very suspect indeed. There is no psychological basis for doing so, and it seems to be but a diversion of responsibility from the hierarchy to a scapegoat minority group.

Monday, November 10, 2008

4 Nov. wasn't the end but, the beginning of the battle.

In 1976 I exercised my right to vote for the very first time. In the subsequent decades which have followed, sometimes the individuals and propositions I voted for won, sometimes they lost. After each election, win or lose, life continued. Everyone went back to their jobs and families and we went forward as a society. This time, something different is happening. Those who supported "yes" on Proposition 8 are asking why we don't simply accept the election results and "move on."

The answer is rather simple. This was not about a political party wining or losing. This was not about a position on taxes, redistricting, or a school board bond issue. This was a referendum issue which REMOVED, TOOK AWAY, A CIVIL RIGHT FROM A MINORITY IN OUR SOCIETY. This has a pejorative, direct, and personal effect on a large swath of our state's citizens and on the lives of their children, family members and friends. This issue is not simply going to go away because, we are not simply going to go away.

It was heartening to see the Governor come out so supportive for us in the Los Angeles Times article. He has encouraged us not to give up, to keep on fighting. In an interview Sunday on CNN, he stated: "I think that we will again maybe undo that, if the court is willing to do that, and then move forward from there and again lead in that area." He has let us know that we will prevail.

Upon losing to the Labour Party in 1945 Winston Churchill was comforted with the words: "This is a blessing in disguise." He quipped: "Then, it is very well disguised indeed." The blessing in disguise here, is that we have discovered who our real friends are in the battle for equality and justice. Our enemies have unmasked themselves and for all of their polished words, and feigned concern, we now clearly see them for what they truly are and their malicious intent is now clearly evident.

This referendum also served as a wake up call for same sex couples, the whole gay and lesbian community, and for our families and friends. Had we won on Tuesday, we might have slipped into a comfortable and self satisfied mentality that California was our "safe zone." Having lost, we realize that until equality comes in all fifty states, we are all of us at risk. The very forces that gathered to attack us here must be confronted and defeated nationally. That means, that the battle for California is only the first of many battle yet to be fought.

Friday, November 7, 2008

The struggle continues.

On Wednesday 5 November, there was a protest march which ran through West Hollywood, CA. On Thursday 6 November there was another protest march on the Mormon Temple in Los Angeles. Today, 7 November there will be a protest rally in front of City Hall in Palm Springs, CA. On Sunday 9 November there will be a protest march on the State's Capitol in Sacramento at 1 PM. Other protest marches are occurring in San Francisco and throughout the state. This is reminiscent of the tumultuous times of 1968.

On the evening of 4 April 1968, while he was standing on a balcony of his motel room in Memphis, Tennessee, where he was to lead a protest march in sympathy with striking garbage workers of that city, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. That it turn prompted mass civil disobedience by African Americans throughout America. The assassination of Dr. King was not simply the assassination of one person, it was an attempted assassination of hope. Hope that America could fulfill her mission and be an inclusive society with liberty and justice for ALL.

The decision by 52% of the electorate of California to deny equality for ALL this past week, was also an attempted assassination of hope. Hope that our State was somehow, better than that. That we would not vote for discrimination. That we would stand with minorities in our society and protect their rights. That did not happen. As in 1968, the forces of bigotry, hatred and smug supremacy prevailed. Then, this prompted an out pouring onto the nation's streets of those who were oppressed by an unjust majority. That is happening now again. Dr. King once observed that: "A riot is the voice of the unheard." Unlike then, violence has thus far thankfully been averted.

Many in society in 1968 hoped that African Americans would simply calm down and that society would return to "business as usual" once the blacks were put back in their place. I'm sure that many of those who voted "yes" on Prop 8, as well as the Architects and chief patrons of Prop 8, hope that once the "fags" calm down, it will also be "business as usual". Well, it wasn't the case in 1968 and it is not the case now.

So, where do we go now? Now, is a time for those who voted NO on Prop. 8 to do several things.

Here's a starter list:

1) Find out what business gave money to "yes" on Prop 8 and cease doing business with them. Ask your friends and families to boycott those businesses. This includes not only corporations but, Realtors, contractors, lawn services, any business, no matter how small. Send them an economic NO when you use one of their competitors, send them a copy of the receipt and let them know this is business you would have given to them if not for their bigotry.

2) If you are a Catholic who's parish actively supported "yes" on Prop 8, here are some things you can do. Do not put your contribution into the collection basket at Mass. The collection is assessed (taxed) by the bishop. In my Diocese, the tax amounts to 17%. That means that 17 cents of every dollar you put into the basket goes to the bishop. Instead, make out a check to your parish and drop it by the church office as a "special gift." If the bishop starts taxing "special gifts" then, offer the parish to pay for part of the utilities bill, etc. with your check made payable directly to the appropriate company. Thus by passing church hands altogether. In this way, you help your parish and send the bishops a message. Oh, don't forget to write your bishop a letter and let him know that a) you are doing this, b) why and c) that this will continue until a public apology is issued for having supported "yes" on Prop 8.

3) Press your bishop continually and publicly about equal employment protection and domestic partnership health benefits for gay/lesbian church employees.

4) Do not donate to Diocesan Appeal campaigns but, only to funds with restricted application. For example, a hospital, an orphanage, a school, etc.

Any other suggestions? Let me know and I'll be happy to pass them along. As one reader said, this is not over. It won't be over until we have liberty and justice for ALL.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Equal rights! The chant filled the night in LA.

Tonight, I was in West Hollywood at the Pacific Design Center on the corner of San Vincente and Santa Monica Blvd. Thousands of people gathered and marched up to Sunset Blvd. and from there to Crescent Heights and from there back to Santa Monica Blvd. People came out of shops and restaurants and cheered. They joined in the march. The streets were packed with marchers, the energy was palpable. The forces of repression may well have done something of a favor for our community. They may have ignited a new passion and sense of purpose.

Tomorrow, we were invited to demonstrate in front of the Mormon Temple on Santa Monica Blvd. a group that has pumped tens of millions of dollars into California to write their religious views into our State's Constitution. Lest, I be accused of partiality, perhaps a visit to the Catholic Cathedral of Los Angeles should be next. For those unfamiliar with the history of the twentieth century, the Cardinal Archbishop of Vienna encouraged Catholics to vote "YES" for the union of Austria to Hitler's Third Reich in 1938. Another, disturbing example of bishops playing politics.

The following message is from one of our readers, I felt compelled to share it with everyone as a post:

"There's still MORE good news to note at this point amid the loss - the California Attorney General has stated that the passage of Prop 8 does NOT invalidate the same-sex marriages that already have taken place in California, and he's said he is ready to defend that stance in court if pressed. So, supposedly we have the State of California on our side.

The lawsuit that you mention has been filed by Lambda Legal, along with the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and the ACLU on behalf of Equality California and six same-sex couples.

If any of your readers aren't familiar with these non-profit groups, they should look them up - they are tirelessly and relentlessly fighting for our rights within the legal system, not only marriage rights, but adoption, child custody, school discrimination, job security and more. Let's talk family values, shall we?

The men and women within their ranks who are working on cases like these are the unsung heroes who still need our continued support.

So, not only do we have time and momentum on our side, we've got folks like this fighting for us on the inside, too.

It ain't over yet."

If your parish promoted "yes on 8" perhaps, you could take your normal weekly contribution and send it to one of the aforementioned organizations. Replace your normal contribution with a note in your weekly offering envelope explaining that you will continue to do this until, a public apology is made from the pulpit to gay and lesbian parishioners and their families.

We lost a battle, we won some battles and the struggle continues.

52% yes, 48% no. A week ago I was on an evening news show with a fundamentalist minister who stated that they (the "yes" side) were leading by 9 points. He made this erroneous claim in answer to an observation which I made on that program. I had cited that in 2000 the proposition then, to limit marriage only to heterosexual persons, won by 61% and that this time the percentages were far closer almost 50/50.

In the past eight years, the population of California has moved from opposing same sex marriages, from 61% to 52%. And that, with the "yes on 8" side spending the lion's share of seventy three million ($73,000,000.00) dollars. Much of this came from donations to non-profit religious organizations. In many cases, the intent of the original donors of those funds may have may have been set aside by the leadership of the various religious organizations. I've already had several Catholics tell me that they gave money to help in charitable endeavors and not to pay for a political campaign. They have informed me, they'll remember this when asked to donate in the future and when/if they give, it will be "directed" or "earmarked" giving, i.e., for specific projects, or defined purposes.

Equally disturbing, were some of the outright deceptions engaged in by "yes on 8" partisans. For example, automated phone calls targeting African Americans in which the voice of Barack Obama was imitated. In these "robocalls" the person imitating Obama's voice asked people to vote "yes on 8". A position which the real, now President-elect Obama opposed. He was in favor of NO on Proposition 8. Beyond this, there was a letter which was extortionist in its tone. It demanded that companies which had donated to "NO on 8" pay the "yes on 8" campaign an equal amount of money or, else they would be targeted for economic retribution. Are these "sour grapes"? No, they simply are a review of facts. What is done, is done; however, it will now be undone.

This morning, an injunction was filed with the courts to prevent this measure from taking effect. This is the beginning of a legal battle which will probably end before the same justices of our State Supreme Court who, only a few months ago, ruled in favor of same sex marriage. Time is also on our side. As I mentioned earlier, only 8 years ago, fairness lost by a margin of 11% of the electorate voting against equal treatment under the law. Then, those in favor of legal discrimination were not nearly as well financed as they were this time and yet, this time they only managed to win by a 2% margin. In a few years, we will be positioned to overturn yesterday's results in a future referendum.

More good news, this cost the opposition HUGE amounts of money and human resources. Money and resources which they do not now have to fight us elsewhere. There is also a new administration in Washington DC which will probably repeal some of the faith based initiatives of Bush & Co. The new government will appoint more sympathetic judges. The question of persons with same sex orientation serving in the Armed Forces will probably be revisited.

Still, more good news, in New York state, the state senate is now in the hands of the Democratic Party. The out going senate, which was controlled by Republicans, effectively blocked passage of same sex marriage legislation which had been approved by that state's lower house and which the Governor was prepared to sign into law. So, this now clears the way for New York to pass this legislation. Yes, we lost the battle for proposition 8 in yesterday's election but, the war for equality and fairness continues. Battles are lost by victors in every war.

Last night, after it was announced that Barack Obama was elected President, the press interviewed an elderly African American man who had fought for equal treatment under the law in the 1960's. The journalist asked him if he ever thought he'd see the day when an African American would be elected President of the United States of America. The elderly man paused and stated: Back then, we were just fighting for the right to sit at the same lunch counter and drink out of the same water fountain. My grandfather was lynched by a mob, we were attacked by the KKK. I never imagined I'd live to see this day.

There were many battles lost on the way to greater liberty and justice for all, others were won. We lost a battle yesterday, by a very narrow margin. This is a time to lick our wounds, learn from our mistakes and redirect our wounded sense of justice to fight twice as hard to obtain justice. We lost a battle in California, we won a battle in New York. We've elected a new national government with a thirst for justice. We will prevail again in California and in our Nation. We will join many other people in Europe, Canada and South Africa were discrimination is now illegal. We shall overcome!

Monday, November 3, 2008

With Liberty and Justice for All?

On Saturday 1 November I attended an ecumenical prayer service which was held at Saint John's Episcopal Cathedral in Los Angeles, California. Present at that beautiful event which gave witness of God's all embracing love, were various clergy. It reminded me of the fact that as we draw closer to the God of us all, who is love, we are drawn closer to each other. At one point a same sex parent spoke of a recent conversation held with their adopted daughter. The girl became upset when she saw a car pass by with a "Yes on 8" bumper sticker. She said: They shouldn't be allowed to put that out in public. The parent patiently explained that we live in a democracy and that everyone has a right to express their opinion, as long as they don't hurt anyone. The girl thought for a moment and said: but, they are hurting someone, they're hurting our family!

From the mouth of babes! My grandmother used to say that small children and drunks never lie. I cannot think of a more powerful way of expressing what tomorrow's vote means. It is about safeguarding the rights of all families in our state. It is about protecting our constitution from being altered to enshrine bigotry. It is about protecting all of our citizens from having to live in fear. From having to suffer discrimination. From having to defend their existence in the face of condescension and sometimes, outright hatred and physical hostility. We're better than that. We're voting for that little girl, for her family and for all Californians.

On Sunday 2 November I attended a rally in front of City Hall in Fresno, California. For those of you unfamiliar with that part of our state, it is a very politically and socially conservative area. The bullet proof vest which I was lent by homeland security reminded me that there are still school yard bullies. Cowards who attack those they think are weaker or, who challenge their own insecurities. I received an E-mail that a local "yes on 8" minister was going to release this congregation from services early so, that they could infiltrate and disrupt the rally, I mused: Is that what Jesus would do? It was a sunny and beautiful day and over 1,000 very motivated No on Prop 8 people stood in front of the podium. A podium which I was privileged to share with many wonderful dignitaries including the granddaughter of the late Cesar Chavez, Cristina. The infiltrators never showed up. Shakespeare said: "The brave man dies but, once. The coward dies one thousand deaths."

I had the opportunity to enjoy a conversation with Cristina while we were waiting our respective turns to speak. If it wasn't for Cesar Chavez, many of the few rights and protections now afforded to migrant workers in California would not exist. We recalled the time in our national history when people like the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Cesar Chavez were seen as subversive. When they were told: "This is how things have always been." Cristina said, that if her grandfather were alive today, that he would be working for NO on Proposition 8. That he always championed the cause of any person or, minority group that found itself being attacked. There was a lot of hatred directed at Dr. King and Cesar Chavez a few decades ago. Some people still resent them today. But, their courageous stand moved our nation a little closer to making good on our Pledge of Allegiance: "with liberty and justice for ALL.'

PLEASE, join with us tomorrow on Election Day. Please, vote NO on Proposition 8. There will be long lines at the polls tomorrow. Expect to wait 90 minutes or even 2 hours at some locations, before you get to vote. Go with friends and family. Make it part of a day together. Invite neighbors and co-workers.