Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Orioles Win, Baltimore Loses

Orioles Win, Baltimore Loses
Commentary by Sanford D. Horn
April 29, 2015

It was definitely not business as usual this afternoon at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, home of the Baltimore Orioles. It was a beautiful sunny afternoon, 73 degrees at game time when the Orioles took the field. Three outs later, the home team came to the plate, batted around en route to a six run inning and an ultimate 8-2 vanquishing of the Chicago White Sox.

Yet there was no one there to “root, root, root, for the home team,” as the song goes. For while Mighty Casey had not struck out, the City of Baltimore certainly has.

The City of Baltimore caved in to the cravenness of the animalistic behavior that has crippled parts of the city. Yet after a one day reprieve from classes, the Baltimore City Public Schools reopened. If it is safe enough to dispatch children around the city to their schools, the ballpark should have been open for business. While Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, the Orioles organization, and no doubt Major League Baseball put their heads together out of concern for the fans, and so as not to deplete resources from whence they are needed, the 45,971 seats at Camden Yards masqueraded as fans.

Check the box score on Thursday, it will show zero in the attendance category. This is disgraceful. To allow a group of thugs and miscreants to dictate to the city, the team, and the fans – in effect holding them hostage is demonstrative of the paucity of leadership that has plagued this city for years, even decades.

And to make matters worse, the Orioles have literally been driven from town. This weekend’s three-game series with the Tampa Bay Rays has been moved down to Tampa where the Orioles will be designated the home team. This is idiotic as the Orioles will lose three games worth of revenue, need to issue ticket exchanges with the fans already holding tickets for those games, and the vendors, both inside and outside Camden Yards will suffer financially – and they can least afford the loss of a week’s pay – two games against the White Sox earlier in the week were postponed and then today’s debacle. 

The right solution would have been to have the Orioles host the Rays at Nationals Park in Washington, DC while the Nationals are in New York playing the Mets. If the Orioles had to play in Tampa, the league should have authorized a swap of series as the Orioles will see the Rays several more times throughout the season. Thus the next meeting would be in Baltimore. The only good thing is that the Orioles won the game, which is really secondary behind the reasoning for this conflagration in the first place.

The death of Freddie Gray on April 19 was merely a symptom of a greater disease that inflicts Baltimore. That disease is willful ignorance coupled with a lack of discipline. This is not about race, although the professional race hustlers Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton will spout otherwise, nor is this about the police, in spite of there being members of law enforcement reliant too often on force rather than law. But for the most part members of the law enforcement community would prefer to do their jobs in total anonymity without ever firing their sidearm and retiring with a nice pension. Yes, the bad apples need be weeded out and punished appropriately – as should be done in every profession.

What happened to Gray, still under an investigation that should not be hasty, is unfortunate, but there should not be a rush to judgment. Rumors are swirling around like a Phoenix windstorm. Until facts are known and the investigation complete all else is purely speculative. What is known, is that Freddie Gray, 25, had an arrest record as long as Yao Ming’s arms, ran from police, was apprehended, and died in their custody.

This became a call from the wild to loot, pillage, and commit arson, violence against police and property – in other words, an opportunity to be an opportunist. These recalcitrant criminals have a sense of entitlement that if “one of their own” is maligned in any way, it gives them license to upend the city. This was not a peaceful demonstration as per the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. These law-breaking delinquents cannot rob, loot, burn, assault and then demand justice in the same breath. The rioters cost the honest protesters any sympathy and capital they may have garnered with their felonious behavior.

While there are some honest brokers involved here, and they could be seen in the light of day with brooms, trash bags and other tools required to help clean up their neighborhood and restore some semblance of peace and dignity as well as work with police, they are few and far between. My vote for mother of the year goes to Toya Graham who took her 16-year-old son to task for getting involved with the illegal acts occurring in her city. ( She simply wishes to protect her son – her only son – she has five daughters – from ending up in prison, or worse – like Gray – in a pine box. If more parents behaved like this, there would be fewer delinquents on the streets.

But leadership starts from above, and it clearly was not on display in the form of Rawlings-Blake. Numerous sources noted she gave a stand down order to police and to give the thugs room to conduct their miscreant behavior. Rawlings-Blake was actually quoted as saying, “We give those who wished to destroy, space to do that,” regarding the activities of protesters and the expected spillover. She later denied ever saying those words and chastised the media for reporting that she had. (

Rawlings-Blake and many other people referred to the looters and other criminals as “thugs,” then recanted and apologized for using that word that some suggest is akin to using the “N” word. This is absurd, as a thug is a miscreant, a criminal, a ne’er do well, and has absolutely nothing to do with the race of the thug. This is another example of race baiting in an unwarranted circumstance. This is simply linguistic tap dancing – semantics to draw focus away from the real problems – lack of leadership at the top and lack of education and discipline from the rank and file. But if thugs is too offensive, how about marauders? Or will that invoke a picture of Barbary pirates and also be condemned? Such a waste of time.

Rawlings-Blake continued to do herself a disservice when suggesting that the “activists” should be allowed to loot, as “it’s only property.”  More than 150 businesses were destroyed or damaged. Who does the mayor expect will pay for the cleanup and rebuilding.  And what will become of the employees now out of work? More government largesse? Perhaps businesses will not rebuild or reopen. Perhaps owners will decide it simply isn’t worth the investment of time, money, and sweat equity. The mayor is terribly cavalier and capricious in both words and deeds. After all, she imposed a curfew on Monday night, but it was not to begin until Tuesday night. Why not that very night? She took far too long to ask for help from Governor Larry Hogan (R) and bring the National Guard on board. This is a mayor slow to make decisions and then, not terribly good ones. If she does not resign, she should either be recalled or impeached.

For those who suggest I should put my money where my mouth is, I have – by running for Baltimore City Council in 1999 when there were six council districts and each district was represented by three councilmen. I ran against three Democrat incumbents – one of whom was Stephanie Rawlings. In a city that, at the time, had eight percent registered Republicans, I never woke up with any delusions that I actually had a snowball’s chance in Guam of unseating an incumbent. But I was asked to run by the party and knew the opportunity would be exciting and educational as well as giving me an opportunity to share my views with the people and hear from them as well. Sparing all the suspense, I did not emerge victorious on Election Day 1999.

But back to the National Guard and the good work they do. Apparently the Mt. Washington Whole Foods market also knows the National Guard are upstanding folks and that store supplied the Guard with turkey and cheese sandwiches. Mt. Washington is an upper middle class neighborhood not too far from the Park Heights neighborhood where I once resided. There were messages of condemnation that Whole Foods was wrong for serving “the oppressors,” or “the enemy,” and worse language.

More critics thought Whole Foods should have provided the poor neighborhoods’ children with food for they did not get their “free,” read – taxpayer expensed – breakfast and lunch on Tuesday because the public schools were closed due to the civil unrest. A friend living not too far from the epicenter of the rioting, looting, and burning of stores and homes said her children attend a Jewish day school, open on Tuesday, but was keeping them home because she thought it too dangerous to send them out. The reason most of these children did not get their city-provided breakfast and lunch is because an overwhelming number of the marauders were, in fact, young people. Biological age should not matter – arson is arson, looting is looting, assaulting police officers is assault, cutting fire hoses being used to douse arson fires is destruction of property.

These young people belong is school, paying attention to their teachers, doing their homework, garnering themselves the education that will lift them from the poverty in which they are mired, and have better lives than the previous generation. Sadly this disease of poverty is generational. But it is not the fault of the police as Barack Obama would have people believe. In his press conference Tuesday, Obama all but blamed police for the scourge of poverty, drug use, lack of education and single parent families.

Police do not force people to use drugs and become addicts. Police do not force children to misbehave in school and not get the education to which they are so richly entitled. Police do not force girls/women to have unprotected sex, or sex at all, and become teen mothers. And where the word entitlement is concerned, an education should be the entitlement parents seek for their children; not substandard government housing, not welfare or food stamps, but good, dependable, safe schools where their children can learn and rise above the muck of an impoverished lifestyle and become productive members of society.

This is most certainly not about race, for if it is, as liberals subscribe, then it is the liberal who is the real racist. Just as liberals endorse affirmative action as beneficial to minority communities, which in the long run it is not, to suggest the riots are about race is to suggest that blacks cannot control themselves and that blacks have no sense of discipline, as opposed to people who are impoverished, uneducated, and perhaps have substance issues. These are issues of education, personal responsibility, and discipline – and people, regardless of race or ethnicity have the capacity to learn and be educated, have the capacity to be personally responsible, and have the capacity to be disciplined and avoid harmful substances and irresponsible physical relations.

Poverty rates among blacks under Obama, the nation’s first black president, have risen from 24.7 percent in 2008 to 27.2 percent in 2014. Unemployment in Gray’s neighborhood is 51 percent with 60 percent failing to earn a high school diploma. (

Urban plight is due to liberalism, progressive political planning and it is spreading to the suburbs and exurbs. A lack of discipline at home, where one parent is typically not enough for raising children, where parents are too busy trying to be their children’s friends is where the deleteriousness of a child’s life commences. Fewer and fewer parents read to their children. They park their children in front of a television or send them to substandard day care centers to save money in order to work outside the home and earn money. Children who do not have reading in the home start school already behind those who do.

Liberalism in the public schools consists of assuming minority children can’t do and shouldn’t be challenged. That only hurts them more. As someone who taught in the Baltimore City Public Schools I know from firsthand experience what so-called leaders of schools would expect from their staffs. If these schools can be run by black principals who have Masters degrees and PhDs, why should the level of challenge and expectation be diminished for the children for whom they are responsible? Masters degrees and PhDs are not handed out like tissues at a chick flick. They are earned.

This is why affirmative action is deleterious to minorities. It suggests that certain groups can’t achieve, and therefore must be given something they haven’t earned in order to maintain some sort of statistical equilibrium. The numbers prove otherwise. While affirmative action helps more minorities get into college, it does not help them graduate. In fact once in college, it is sink or swim as it is for all students, and minority graduation rates are considerably lower than non-minority graduation rates.

The problem is, that this is a worsening crisis that can’t be turned around as quickly as making a U-turn on the road. Entitlements must be curtailed to able bodied people and welfare should be limited and be valued at lower than a minimum wage job. Stop incentivizing people to not work, to not get an education, and encourage them to strive for betterment that they can achieve with discipline, education, and hard work. Nothing good comes easily.

Get government out of education. Elected government officials rely upon the votes of those to whom the most is given. They rely upon the votes of the uneducated to which politicians promise the world as part of continued dependency. There is no incentive for politicians to improve the lot of the uneducated, and therefore no incentive to improve the failing public schools.

Education is power and when those need it most garner it, then they will have real power, and more than that, they will have given themselves real freedom out from under the yoke of government and dependency.

Sanford D. Horn is a writer and educator living in Westfield, IN. In a previous lifetime he taught in the Baltimore City Public Schools as well as ran for the Baltimore City Council – unsuccessfully.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Chaos and Anarchy in Charm City

Chaos and Anarchy in Charm City
Commentary by Sanford D. Horn
April 27, 2015

Charm City isn’t so charming these days. As of 6:30 this evening the Baltimore Orioles game against the Chicago White Sox at Camden Yards had been postponed – and not because of inclement weather – but because of civil unrest not seen in the city since 1968.

Baltimore is rife with rioting, looting, destruction of public and private property that has overflowed from an impoverished portion of the western part of the city to the downtown tourist-heavy Inner Harbor/Oriole Park area. This includes throwing rocks, bottles, and bricks at police officers as well as setting patrol cars ablaze. At least 15 Baltimore police officers have been injured some with broken bones as a result of the attacks by rioting thugs.

It should be noted that the three biggest gangs in Baltimore put the police on notice that they have united for the purposes of “taking out” law enforcement, and the men and women in blue are taking that threat seriously.

While the advent of the rioting and violence can be ascribed to the April 19 death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, possibly at the hands of police – and still under investigation, there is no excuse for this recalcitrant behavior. Under the guise of supposed peaceful protesting, the thug-laden crowd had nothing but criminal behavior in mind and deed. 

Police-attributed deaths of black suspects have been in the news with added attention since the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO. The Justice Department ruled police were not criminally responsible for Brown’s death. Yet, Ferguson, as part of Baltimore is today, is reminiscent of Watts, Oakland, and Newark of the 1960s.

Gray, who ran from police, unprovoked, was eventually captured, loaded in a police van, and placed in custody on April 12. Due to a still under investigation severed spinal cord, Gray died on April 19. Gray supposedly fled police because of a history involved with drugs and was in a drug-infested neighborhood at the time of his encounter with police. The six officers who had Gray in custody have been suspended with pay.

Due to the intractable behavior of the thugs burning down their own neighborhoods and looting a local mall – Mondawmin, numerous businesses closed their doors and the University of Maryland, Baltimore suspended all campus activities early in the afternoon. Not only does this criminal activity not solve any of the problems, it both creates more problems and costs the protesters any sympathy they may have accrued due to the questionable death of Gray.

Adding fuel to the fire, the mayor of the city must certainly claim a great portion of the responsibility for spurring on the miscreants. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who I knew when she was just Rawlings and a member of the City Council (for which I once ran when I lived there), should either be recalled or impeached for inciting the spreading riot.

“We also give those who wished to destroy, space to do that,” said Rawlings-Blake, in commenting on the activities of protesters and the expected spillover. She later denied ever saying those words and chastised the media for reporting that she had. (

That has to be one of the most irresponsible statements a person could make. By not condemning the rioting and rioters, Rawlings-Blake did more than give tacit approval; she practically endorsed it with her reckless comments. For this, she needs to be relieved of her duties. She also needs to be taken to task for not instituting a curfew immediately instead of one to commence tomorrow  night, Tuesday, April 28.

The postponement of the Orioles-White Sox game is not just a disappointment to fans, but costly, to the tune of several million dollars lost in revenue for street vendors outside the stadium, the vendors inside Camden Yards, the surrounding restaurants and bars, as well as local hoteliers who count on post-game check-ins, and the numerous people who rely upon tips for a large portion of their incomes.

I lived in Baltimore at one time, and there are some marvelous parts of the city – the Inner Harbor, Fells Point, Charles Street, and Lexington Market are perhaps most notable, and there are also some parts of the city that make hell resemble the Garden of Eden. The empty, dilapidated so-called housing units and storefronts should be razed and the gang members jailed.

Taxpayer money should not be used to rebuild these neighborhoods and rental units should not be erected. The residents should rebuild and police their own neighborhoods with enterprise zones as envisioned by the late Jack Kemp, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under Ronald Reagan.

Kemp, also a former Congressman and Buffalo Bills quarterback, believed that ownership was the key to success. People take pride in owning their home, car, business, etc. People historically do not take appropriate care of rental property and enterprise zones are designed to give people opportunities with the responsibility of turning those opportunities into success with as little government involvement as possible.

As for the burned out businesses, local or national chains such as the CVS, they should not be rebuilt in these neighborhoods. Locals have destroyed their own neighborhoods and must suffer the consequences. Why would any business want to invest in such a neighborhood? Police have backed away from the immediate action perhaps for their own safety, perhaps under orders.

A member of the Baltimore City Council claims a lack of opportunities and racism is why the tumult has occurred. Where’s the racism in a city run by a black mayor, a black city council president, a majority black city council, and a black police chief with a minority majority police force? The reality is, opportunities are not created when people burn down their own neighborhoods and rob their own stores. Opportunities are not created when students choose to shun the education given to them in schools by dedicated teachers. I know; I taught in the Baltimore Public Schools at one time. Ironically, the Baltimore public schools will be closed tomorrow, Tuesday, April 28 – yet one more day when the education of the city’s children is surrendered to violence and thugery.

Poor leadership by those in charge of Baltimore and a paucity of education of the young people in Baltimore lead to an unhealthy future for Charm City. The firestorm in this city was easily predicted, but begs the question of why do such riots and destruction of property and criminal activity keep occurring in majority black locales? Where are the role models outside of gangs and the rap music industry? More Clarence Thomases and Ben Carsons are needed. More Alveda Kings and Deneen Borellis are needed. More Allen Wests and Tim Scotts are needed. Don't know who they are? Look them up.

These malevolent thugs are simply committing acts of mayhem for mayhem’s purpose. Until law and order is restored; until discipline is instituted in the homes and the schools; until animalistic behavior is reined in, Baltimore will cease to be Charm City and sadly be dubbed Harm City. It’s time for serious change and it starts in the homes, churches, schools, and grass roots neighborhoods where youths, adults, and law enforcement can dialogue peacefully.

Sanford D. Horn is a writer and educator living in Westfield, IN. In the late 1990s he lived in Baltimore, taught in the Baltimore City Public Schools, and ran for the City Council – unsuccessfully.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Show American Sniper at Maryland

Show American Sniper at Maryland
Commentary by Sanford D. Horn
April 24, 2015

Has the First Amendment to the United States Constitution been suspended at the University of Maryland in College Park? Has my alma mater become a place where diversity of thought and speech are no longer paramount to the campus experience?

Because of a petition, sponsored by the Muslim Student Association, signed by less than one percent of the student body, the showing of the film American Sniper has been cancelled. The film, about a decorated American war hero, Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, who served four tours of duty in Iraq, has been dubbed controversial mostly by people who have yet to view the movie.

Just another example of political correctness on a college campus. This backfired at the University of Michigan where the film was to be shown, then cancelled due to the complaints of a handful of students, but ultimately that decision was reversed. Free speech and expression fully on display at Michigan.

If the folks at the Muslim Student Association, or anyone else for that matter, do not want to see this film, don’t go. This is not a required class assignment, and no one is forcing anyone to the theater. But don’t inflict your antipathy toward the film on those who do wish to see it. And how can it be condemned by people who have yet to actually see the movie?

What happened to the free and open exchange of ideas?

Recalling another controversial film, The Passion of the Christ (2004), and the condemnation leading up to its release, there was discussion about the film at the Alexandria, VA synagogue to which I once belonged. I believed then, as I do now, that it was important to see the film, then, have an intelligent and intellectual dialogue about its merits and shortcomings. That is what occurred then, and should occur now on the College Park campus.

I applaud Breyer Hillegas, president of the University of Maryland College Republicans who enlisted members of his board to garner signatures on a petition of their own. In less than a day, they managed to compile more than 450 signatures of people who wanted to see American Sniper as well as of those who, while not interested in seeing the film, support the First Amendment.

The Student Entertainment Events (S.E.E.) Committee should reinstate the event to show American Sniper on May 6 and 7 as originally scheduled, and hold a post-film dialogue, moderated by S.E.E. in the theater or by Dr. Wallace Loh, president of the university himself.

I have forwarded this letter/column to Dr. Loh and recommend that your comments be dispatched to him as well. Politely inform him that you wish the university reinstate the two day showing of American Sniper for those people who believe in, and support the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States. Dr. Loh can be reached at or 301-405-5803.

A university should be a beacon of free speech, critical thinking, and expanding one’s base of learning, and experiences. However, what is not free is the cost of attending a university, the cost of running a university. Should the University of Maryland, my alma mater, continue to acquiesce to the demands of the very few, financial supporters of the university who support the freedom of speech and expression, who support the First Amendment of the Constitution, should speak with their wallets and have their voices heard loud and clear, that we will withhold future contributions to the school.

Sanford D. Horn is a writer and educator living in Westfield, IN. He is a 1988 graduate of the University of Maryland.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Rolling Stone Gives Journalism a Black Eye

Rolling Stone Gives Journalism a Black Eye
Commentary by Sanford D. Horn
April 12, 2015

Rape, by its definition is a violent act – a crime committed by a person or persons against a victim – defiling the victim against his/her will to such an extent the victim suffers physically and mentally for an undetermined period of time. This includes the potential trauma of reliving it over and over in his/her mind and possibly in a courtroom – if the victim is lucky enough to have his/her attacker caught and identified.

The only act possibly worse than the crime itself it when someone lies about a rape. It cheapens the legitimacy of actual victims who need medical attention and legal assistance to bring their attackers to justice. It also forever damages the reputation and life of the falsely accused.

These scenarios have been far too frequent over the past several years thanks to social media and a 24 hour news cycle.

In the most recent notorious case, irresponsible journalism is as much, if not more, to blame than the lying accuser. This, of course, is the fictitious story written by Rolling Stone magazine’s Sabrina Rubin Erdely for their November 2014 issue entitled “A Rape on Campus.” This fabricated 9,000 word story detailed the alleged victim, “Jackie” and a gang rape she accused seven members of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity at the University of Virginia of committing.

Rolling Stone magazine, founded by Jann Wenner, is not nearly the edgy periodical it once was dating back to its initial issue, November 9, 1967. It has become an irresponsible publication damaging the reputation of its profession, the accuser, as well as the accused.

While not as egregious as the Duke University rape case against three members of its men’s lacrosse team in 2006 insofar as the legal implications for the accused, there are still victims and perpetrators in the UVA case.

With the Duke case, a publication was not the responsible party for levying charges against the accused, the specific person who lied was. The names of the three athletes were dragged through the mud interminably and their lives became a waking nightmare until it was determined they were falsely accused. Nevertheless, their reputations in tatters, rebuilding them is a near impossibility – much akin to the strength of a newspaper’s retraction story buried on page 50 after a front page exposé already destroyed the accused.

In the case of Erdely’s overwhelmingly irresponsible work of fiction, she merely damaged her reputation, that of her employer, as well as that of the so-called accuser “Jackie.” Fortunately, the names of the accused never appeared in print as the accuser opted not to cooperate with police in Charlottesville. It begs the question as to why not. Wouldn’t any crime victim want justice? Wouldn’t any crime victim do whatever possible to assist law enforcement in the apprehension of the culprits? As that did not occur, the first red flag should have been raised by Rolling Stone or at least by Erdely.

Erdely must have had an agenda when concocting this story; an ax to grind; a desire to expose the rape culture that may or may not exist on college campuses. While there is no doubt most colleges and universities do all they can to sweep these crimes and others under the rug in an effort to keep the student population from fleeing the campus and keep new students matriculating, social media and legitimate news sources do what they can to prevent that from happening, and that’s a good thing.

Sadly, it took years to unearth the disgraceful sex crimes and molestations committed by former Penn State University assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky. Fortunately he was stopped, but not before dozens of boys were victimized by this filthy pervert.

Make no mistake, this story by Erdely will give real rape victims pause to consider whether or not to report the crime committed against them for fear it will become the next UVA case. More victims will wonder if they will be taken seriously by police both on and off campus.

At the same time, more males on campus will fear they could be the next victimized, falsely accused patsy of an angry co-ed with issues, and this will only create a more tension-filled atmosphere on more and more campuses.

Because of Erdely’s apparent agenda, her’s was a single-sourced screed, confirming nothing with anyone else, getting no alleged accusers names – which turned out to be a good thing – see the Duke case, nor did Erdely ever confirm “Jackie’s” true identity. Little by little Erdely’s story unraveled until ultimately there was nothing left but a handful of thread – and egg on the faces of Erdely, her editor Sean Woods, who also did a woeful job in ensuring Erdely’s accuracy and bona fide sourcing, as well as Rolling Stone itself.

Sadly, both Erdely and Woods remain on the payroll at the magazine, when in reality they should be on the unemployment line. As a professional journalist and writer nothing less should be expected were the same unprofessional actions taken by this scribe. Not only is Erdely still employed at Rolling Stone, she has yet to offer an apology to the UVA Phi Kappa Psi fraternity.

Phi Kappa Psi intends to sue Rolling Stone and they should go after the irresponsible tome for all they can get, and then donate the proceeds to rape victims’ charities. Bankrupt the magazine to send a message to the rest of the journalistic community that this kind of irresponsible behavior is unacceptable.

Additionally, reverting back to referring to the lack of fraternity members’ names being published as a good thing, the names of accused rapists should not appear in print or on the air until a guilty verdict is rendered. Once the rapist label is hung on someone, guilty or not, that label will hang around the neck like an albatross in perpetuity, thus ruining a person’s life interminably.

Make no mistake, this call for protecting the identity of the accused should not be mistaken as a sign of being soft on rapists. In fact, I support the death penalty for rapists, as the crime they commit alters a person’s life irrevocably in ways unimaginable.

Rolling Stone should be ashamed for printing an unverified story that could have had farther reaching implications. It should also be ashamed for keeping Erdely and Woods on the payroll for their egregious irresponsibility of masquerading as journalists.

The continuing existence of a free press is one of the cornerstones of the foundation of the United States of America. Thomas Jefferson said it best: “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”

It is vital that responsible journalists, writers, scribes, and bloggers shine the light of day on the irresponsible of this profession and drive them from the industry. The readers – those who spend their hard earned money to freely choose which publications will earn their trust – must send a message to the irresponsible that their services are no longer required.

Sanford D. Horn is a writer and educator living in Westfield, IN.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

RFRA V. Liberal Intolerance

RFRA V. Liberal Intolerance
Commentary by Sanford D. Horn
April 2, 2015

As a responsible columnist and journalist (yes, there is a distinct difference between the two), before penning this column I took the time to actually read the text of Indiana Senate Bill 101 – the Religious Freedom Restoration Act – the bill that is causing shpilkes in the hearts and minds of far too many people.

This bill, signed into law by Governor Mike Pence (R) to take effect on July 1 of this year, is designed to protect the religious liberty of people of faith and conscience, not discriminate against any group or individuals. That Pence addressed the media and the nation in a clumsy manner defending the legislation is irrelevant. What is relevant is that people of faith for far too long have been harangued by the intolerant left for being people of faith; mocked for having religious convictions – mostly Christians, but also Orthodox Jews, Catholics, and others who stand by religious principles, even at the cost of their businesses.

As an American, as a Jew, as a constitutional conservative, as a capitalist, as a Hoosier, as a human being, I support the right of free people in a society of free market capitalism to conduct business with whomever they choose. Government should not dictate with whom someone does business. There are already laws in place concerning public accommodations and more importantly, the free market will win out. After all, for better or worse, when there is an injustice, real or perceived, the public, or parts of the public will rally around the victim – again, real or perceived.

As an American, as a Jew, as a constitutional conservative, as a capitalist, as a Hoosier, as a human being, I do not support discrimination. I do, however, support the right of people of faith and conscience to conduct their business how they see fit, and with whom, and SB 101 protects the rights of people of faith. It does not endorse discrimination because the burden of proof is on the potential accused, as opposed to the traditional system of American jurisprudence where that onus is on the accuser or prosecution. A person or business denying service to another person or business must prove that providing that service is a substantial burden upon the provider’s religious beliefs and/or practices.

This legislation, in large part, has been viewed as depriving the homosexual community some sort of rights or accommodations under the guise of religious freedom, when it is really protecting the rights of people of faith.

Consider: a person is adamant that he/she should be served a ham and cheese sandwich in a kosher delicatessen and is summarily denied service as such an item could never appear on the menu in that establishment. Should the person denied that sandwich be allowed to sue the deli for denial of services? Of course not, it would put an undue burden on the religious practices of the owners of the kosher deli. And, the patron could be accommodated elsewhere without any undue burden on him/herself.

The crux of the argument surrounding SB 101 involves the right of service providing businesses to be forced to provide services to same sex couples when the business owner’s religious beliefs forbid homosexual marriage. Some would argue that the business is not required to attend the same sex ceremony, but simply provide for the couple, be it flowers, food, cakes, etc. Yet, a multitude of Christians have expressed concern that, based upon the Biblical definition of marriage – one man and one woman – they would be unable to provide services to the same sex couple.

And let the record show, Christians are not the only people of faith who believe in the Biblical definition of marriage. I believe in the Biblical definition of marriage, would not want to be forced to provide services to a couple seeking to have a same sex “wedding.” The same sex couple could seek services elsewhere without any undue burden on their ability to achieve their goal without forcing me to abandon my belief system. Should the same sex couple request services for a non-nuptial event – celebrating a religious holiday, an everyday order for whatever such a business sells, accommodating them does not require the owner to compromise his/her principles.

Pence said this is the most important piece of legislation since the First Amendment, yet due to the pressure of the Gay Mafia, Pence feels compelled to walk back some of the language in the bill, which in turn would only weaken its effects.

This is where the free market should take over. A business chooses to deny services to a potential patron, the forces of the market will be employed. Take the Chick-fil-A dining establishment that came under fire because the owner said he does not support same sex marriage. The call for boycotts was instantaneous. Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) said he would never allow the chain to open a restaurant in his city. By the way, Mr. Emanuel, the state of Illinois has a RFRA law of its own, as do 19 other states in the nation. And then State Senator Barack Obama voted in favor of the Illinois RFRA.

Those 20 states are: Alabama, Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.

In response to the called boycott, the forces in league with Chick-fil-A swarmed to the restaurants nationwide in epic numbers to support their local franchises.

In light of the Indiana legislation, establishments across the state have taken to putting up signs welcoming all comers – an obvious business ploy, and good for them – that’s why a person opens a business – to make money. Should a business choose to deny services for religious reasons, they run the risk of losing money from whoever is negatively affected by that decision. There may be a boycott, there may be signs, billboards, letters decrying that business as bigoted and could suffer financially. And that should be the choice of that business, not government.

Yet, in addition to the 20 states that have RFRA laws, former President Bill Clinton signed into law a federal version of RFRA in 1993, backed by a 97-3 vote in the Senate.

We all have a shared desire here to protect perhaps the most precious of all American liberties, religious freedom.

This act will help… honor the principle that our laws and institutions should not impede or hinder but rather should protect and preserve fundamental religious liberties….

The free exercise of religion has been called the first freedom, that which originally sparked the development of the full range of the Bill of Rights. Our Founders cared a lot about religion. And one of the reasons they worked so hard to get the first amendment into the Bill of Rights at the head of the class is that they well understood what could happen to this country, how both religion and Government could be perverted if there were not some space created and some protection provided. They knew that religion helps to give our people the character without which a democracy cannot survive. They knew that there needed to be a space of freedom between Government and people of faith that otherwise Government might usurp….

What this law basically says is that the Government should be held to a very high level of proof before it interferes with someone’s free exercise of religion. This judgment is shared by the people of the United States as well as by the Congress. We believe strongly that we can never be too vigilant in this work,” concluded Clinton on November 16, 1993.

Because of an overwrought hyperbolic hysteria amongst the gay community, it has not only blown out of proportion the effects of SB 101, but has proven itself both intolerant of people of faith as well as amazingly hypocritical in its visceral response to the Indiana legislation where it hardly uttered a word upon the passage of the federal law and/or the other 19 states where RFRA is in effect.

Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, said, “Indiana is a horrible place,” yet he is conducting business in Saudi Arabia where a man received 450 lashes simply for being gay.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) has placed a ban on non-essential travel for New York state employees to Indiana, yet he will venture to Cuba, where gay marriage is illegal.

The governors of Washington and Connecticut, Jay Inslee (D) and Dan Malloy (D), respectively, have issued similar travel bans.

In support of the ban, Kevin Ollie, men’s basketball coach at the University of Connecticut announced he will not travel to Indianapolis for the Final Four this weekend. This is really a non-story as the Huskies didn’t even make the tournament this year after winning it all last year.

My question is, will the Connecticut women’s basketball team, which is in the Final Four, boycott that championship in Tampa, because Florida has an RFRA law similar to Indiana. (UConn is slated to play my alma mater, the University of Maryland, Sunday night for a spot in the Tuesday night championship game.) Let’s see what is more important, their principles or winning another championship. What say you, coach Geno Auriemma?

A rock band by the name of Wilco cancelled its May 7 concert in Indianapolis on the heels of SB 101. Do they plan to cancel their dates in Scottsdale, AZ, Bridgeport, CT, Orlando, St. Augustine, Tallahassee, and West Palm Beach, FL, Chicago, IL, Louisville, KY, New Orleans, LA, Kansas City and St. Louis, MO, and Dallas and Houston, Texas in deference to those states’ RFRA laws? That would be 14 concerts out of 21 on their calendar a potential loss of two-thirds of their potential revenue – but they have their principles, yes?

And closer to home, in Walkerton, Indiana, 20 miles south of South Bend, Memories Pizza, owned by Kevin O’ Connor shuttered its doors within the past 24 hours due to the overwhelmingly violent (verbal and physical threats) in response to an interview given by O’ Connor’s daughter, Crystal. She said it would violate the family’s religious convictions to cater a gay wedding. This was a hypothetical question asked by the reporter from ABC-57 as the pizzeria has never been asked to cater a wedding of any kind. Crystal emphasized that all people are welcome to patronize Memories Pizza regardless of sexual orientation, but that did not fend off the firestorm to come.

The social media review site Yelp was inundated with vicious attacks on the O’ Connors and their establishment, located in Walkerton more than a decade. They stopped answering the telephone at the restaurant because they could not discern which orders were real and which were fake. The O’ Connors even received several death threats. And for what? Because this family of faith expressed their faith publicly and fervently held to their religious beliefs.

In response to all the negative bashing endured by the O’ Connors, they closed Memories Pizza, which hopefully will not become a distant memory in Walkerton. However, radio host and author, Dana Loesch created a “Go Fund Me” page called “Support Memories Pizza” in hopes of raising $35,000, and it raked in over $314,000 in less than one day from over 11,200 contributors. Just as with the Chick-fil-A situation, the people have spoken and rallied around decency to save a business that if some people wish not to patronize, they are free to go elsewhere for a slice.

Governor Pence should not cave in to the gay mafia’s caterwauling and threats. “This legislation was designed to ensure the vitality of religious liberty in the Hoosier state. This law does not give anyone a license to discriminate.” That said, there should be no reason to amend the law just days after its enactment.

“Gay liberals have turned into bullies,” said Tammy Bruce, a gay conservative, in an interview on April 2 on Fox and Friends. “It is the antithesis of what every civil rights movement was about,” said Bruce, host of her own radio program and author of three books. Bruce is right and the attempt by the gay mafia to blackmail, threaten boycotts or to move businesses should be met with resistance. If a business wishes to move from Indiana because of SB 101, it has but 30 states from which to choose should they attempt to stay true to their principles. They will then endure the cost of moving and restructuring its labor force.

Bottom line, SB 101 is designed to protect religious liberty as afforded by the first amendment of the United States Constitution and not discriminate against anyone. Let all who observe have a happy and meaningful Pesach or Easter.

Sanford D. Horn is a writer and educator living in Westfield, IN.