The ACLU is Not Our Friend

Since the beginning of President Trump’s tenure, there has been rhetoric about immigration, and violent sex offenders turned loose from prisons. Leading the way is, supposedly, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). But the ACLU has habitually missed significant steps forward in fighting for the rights of those impacted by the sex offender registry. Instead, the ACLU failed to identify the inaccuracies, injustices, and misinformation about sex offender registries. Instead the ACLU focused upon people that are not American citizens and have direct diplomatic relations with their respective nations to highlight an obvious problem. Registrants have no constituencies what so ever. While I think it is essential to protect all people, the American based (ACLU) focused on non-Americans to grow its membership internationally, alienating sex offenders, families, allies, and most of all the common American citizen.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is a nonprofit organization whose stated mission is “to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States.

The ACLU has had since the 2006 federal passage to a nationally based sex offender registry has failed to become involved in the sex offender registry issues. Anyone that performs a web search where the ACLU has become a defender of registry issues may be in for quite a surprise. The ACLU has made no real effort to fight for the rights of registrants and their families. However, when a case such as Packingham v. North Carolina or the recent Michigan Doe vSnyder, the national ACLU will take credit for something it didn’t really have an initial substantial interest or follow-up after the fact. The ACLU habitually misses civil justice by quickly touting a win in the courtroom but failing to apply that win to the public for immediate use. It is deeply saddening and an injustice to all of those impacted by the sex offender registry that the ACLU has done nothing to enforce the rulings after the fact or to become involved in complex registry issues. The lack of representation by a nationally known organization somewhat renames the ACLU to the “Abandoned Civil Liberties Union.”

Sure, there can be a supporting argument that Michigan ACLU did a marvelous job in protections of those impacted and punished by sex offender registries. However, it is safe to say that the national ACLU didn’t lend the Michigan chapter much support. Instead, I foresee the ACLU with an agenda to further other registries without taking into consideration that “all registries do harm” approach. Therefore, I am a skeptic of the ACLU because the organization fails to embrace the sex offense conversation and the collateral consequences associated with registries.

Over the past year, I and many others have reached out to form partnerships, memberships, and request guidance or assistance for blatant human rights violations of registered sex offenders particularly in North Carolina or the national level. Such developments surround the Alabama Castration law, registrants in North Carolina unable to attend religious services, and the Georgia Halloween issue that quickly spread into North Carolina that still goes unanswered and unchallenged. Each and every time, I received a reply that “the ACLU is unable to provide assistance at this time.” My question to the ACLU is, “when is an approrpiate time?” Thos on the sex offender registry have endured ex post facto policies and inhumane liberties for decades. Yet the ACLU rushes to the #MeToo movement alienating simple Americans because they are not as cash rich as the Hollywood machine to capitalize a money gravy train. When the ACLU fails to address the complexities of sex offender registry issues presents a harsh reality to the sex offender community that the ACLU has given its stance about sex offender registry rights by completly ignoring them and will continue to ignore them.

But one thing is for sure, the ACLU and its chapters are quick to send out a mass mailing or email to beg for our money. It presents an appearance that the ACLU has migrated from grassroots to become a cash-for-rights agency, or it appears to be the reality for most registrants.

People listed on the sex registry, not on probation or monitored, are banned from religious services, banned from public spaces, banned from picking up or dropping off their children from school or daycare, banned from attending church, banned from visiting a state fair, banned from Facebook or other social medial platforms, cannot vacation or commercial properties in Florida or other states without registering within so many hours or the threat of jail. Yet, the ACLU remains invisible to sex offender registrants. The harsh reality is that at least those detained in an immigration holding center have more freedoms and representations than a person affected by the sex offender registry because they may do all those things mentioned once released. Immigrants are not living under a bridge, homeless, jobless, have a sex offender stamp printed on their driver’s license or passport, can receive health care, and assistance for legal advice. Registrants do not have these basic needs and equal access to these rights as Americans.

Civil rights begin right here on our doorsteps. Our nation relies upon effective leadership and organizations to advocate our concerns. But the ACLU with its ennoormous tax-free breaks and agenda on the backs of hard working Americans has gone to the wayside in the name of big donors and publicity of the easy tasks. The ACLU has become an agency center-stage to politicize its agenda by involving itself in the center of the #MeToo movement. Doing so presents a one-sided advocacy that rather than a focus on liberty and justice for all which implies both sides. Clearly the ACLU doesnt seem to care about liberty and justice unless it is profitable for them and allows easy access in giving the ACLU sole recognition value for hard work done by grass-roots advocates. The nearly 1 million registrants and their families have been significantly let down by the ACLU.

The purpose of “Me Too”, as initially voiced by Tarana Burke as well as those who later adopted the tactic, is to empower women through empathy and strength in numbers, especially young and vulnerable women, by visibly demonstrating how many women have survived sexual assault and harassment, especially in the workplace.

The ACLU has had nearly a decade to identify through various high profile federal cases grass-roots organizations to help benefit their primary cause and mission statement. Organizations such as NARSOL, ACSOL, WAR, and other state-affiliated organizations seek a relationship with the ACLU. But perhaps the ACLU is too ashamed to deal with real problems or association? With almost a million registrants, there doesn’t seem to be a blip on the radar screen that the ACLU is an ally the registry community can rely upon or trust. Civil liberties don’t take sides. It is to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country. This is where the ACLU has failed us and will continue to do so until the registry community hold them accountable for for abandoning registrants. Registrants are not seeking to overturn convictions. Registrants are simply asking for liberty to be preserved after incarseration or sentencing once completed.

We must immediately stop any contributions to the ACLU financially and socially until it returns towards its grassroots of defending liberty and civility for all citizens. Registrants can no longer depend on the ACLU name to support unjust causes – unless, of course, you have a significant cash reserve to present to them. The ACLU must stop acting like a social club with a velvet rope among the very supporters of liberty. Perhaps it is time to close the good ole boys club and support real causes that affect real people?

Eventually, the ACLU will become ensnared into the registry somehow. I certainly do not wish that upon anyone. However, for the lack of ACLU representation amongst us it will perhaps take years of trust building to return towards a civil and educative conversation. The ACLU has abandoned those impacted by the sex offender registry and should be ashamed to call itself an national organization that “defends and preserves the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country. ” A friend would not abandon another brother.

Welcome shouldn’t come with an asterisks

I recently wrote a blog about my thoughts on why church membership has declined over the years. The focus of that particular blog brought attention towards a message of “do unto others” and how we seem to have forgotten that everyone has a specific path when seeking a relationship with their God. After all, we are taught that God created all in his image. Rather than allow that particular message blend with our soul, we somehow became selective rather it be mannerisms, different behaviors, or ideologies to determine if membership and welcoming is qualifications for membership.

This brings me to today’s observation of church parishioners and leadership to particular congregations or perhaps denominations. There seems to be emphasis or expectation on how a person is welcomed into a congregation. Naturally, there are welcoming committees, interest cards to be filled and returned, and in some cases acknowledgment during a service to welcome new visitors. But are congregations and parishioners accidentally or purposely making the welcome feel somewhat unwelcoming? One Sunday I witnessed a car pulling into a visitor space reserved for new people at my local Presbyterian church. Most noticeable on the car rear windshield was an Obama decal. I watched the young couple get out of the car and greeted by a committee person standing at the doorway that could see the visitor parking spaces. The couple was met with a handshake, and the church member went back towards the door to watch for other cars that may be first-time visitors in the remaining parking spaces.

Standing in near the doorway I could overhear conversations as the area from the choir stairwell is adjoined to the area that the welcoming committee stands. What I overheard next from the welcoming committee to a fellow parishner was most disturbing. “Another Obama supporter. I doubt they will be back.” From the brief moment I was struck that membership and welcoming are how one makes and develops it. To some, this observation may be an overstretch of other congregations. But the message of how we receive any prospect of new members or welcoming others to seek whatever religious preference available has indeed become a select committee judging others by the tangibles rather than the merits.

It is as if by chance and constructive skill that some Christians view others in an unchristian like manner if they appear or support others that different than the greeter or congregation majority? A self-assessment would be if an individual at your church mentioned they went to a political speech of a high profile political speaker, despite your objections and opposition to the speaker, in general, would you view that person or member differently? If so, you are perhaps an additional reason church members will continue to decline.

Christian values and virtues should be met with peace, dignity, intercession, and supplication. It doesn’t imply that our personal compass must align with others. It merely means that we surrender at one moment when before our Lord or higher power that we may set aside the controversy and reflect our image of God as merciful and legitimately welcoming of all. Congregations shouldn’t have to become marketing and customer service oriented agents because we should be superlative in our welcoming.

If your congregation has an image of blue jeans, tee shirts, tattoos, unshaven men, or others that appear dramatically different than yourself? Consider your congregation to be lucky and privileged to retain those seeking a religious message of positivity and spirituality versus if they were never there at all. I am always reminded that the meek will inherit the earth. It doesn’t say anything about the best dressed and most successful is in the same line?

Church on the Decline

Growing up as a child I attended church and Sunday school.  I grew up in a family that didn’t regularly go to church but I went occasionally with my grandma or would go with friends. Because I had a diverse group of friends from various denomination backgrounds, I was exposed to many religious services. However, when it came to Sunday school the message was simple and clear to “treat one another the way you wanted to be treated.”  I am sure there were higher level adult conversations in other Sunday classrooms with elders and mature audiences with churches, but I keep reflecting back to when did the message of “treat one another” lose its path or meaning? 

At these various churches there were activities such as church softball teams, piano lessons, choir, arts, baking, youth fellowship, Boy and Girl Scouts, summer trips, and the list goes on. Despite being mostly a visitor at the time I was welcomed, treated as a member, and provded opportunities to grow with that particular community. The elders of the church and Sunday school teachers were just that – teachers. Nearly everyone I encountered at a young age was a school teacher somewhere in the community. It was perhaps the first time that I could see the “real” them versus the school teacher role. 

Without attempting to sound stereotypical, there were male choir directors that presented effeminate mannerisms, but we still listened to what they said and were coached to sing on key – or close as possible. Nobody in any of the congregations made reference to being mindful or become concerned because of their traits. Again, the emphasis was placed to treat others the way we wanted to be treated. 

Somewhere along high school when Reagan became president the tone of the church significantly changed. It was as if a national purge was taking place. There was no longer room for anyone politically, socially, or different. The softball teams, arts, choir, summer trips, Boy and Girl scouts, baking, arts, and so on were abruptly ending. 

There was a new surge by the far-right and conservative to bring order and controls back to the church – all while blaming homosexuality as the demise of Christianity. However, from my perspective and viewpoint I was witnessing a witch hunt of labeling anyone slightly effemenient or butch to be associates or associated with the gay/lesbian community. The irony is that the far-right actually was the demise of religious attendance in America for failing to treat others as they would themselves. 

Whenever the country appears to be on the brink of turmoil or divided there are religious leaders or far right voices that exclaim blames to homosexuality or liberal thinking. It became so problematic that churches began directly asking members and visitors if they were practicing gay or lesbians. Today that practice is no longer widely used. However, congregations have begun implementing background checks on members for various reasons. To me, any church or religion with a background check shouldn’t be considered a church. Again, churches are losing its own faith to follow how to treat, respect, and welcome others as you would like to be treated. 

Perhaps all individuals should be reminded the valuable lesson of “treat others the way you want to be treated?”

Why We Stopped Going To Church

We used to show up all the time when we were younger but slowly committed as time went on.

I recently read a lovely written post with the discussion if Christianity is dead? I don’t think it is dead. Instead, I believe that it has somewhat like a birthday appearance for a favorite relative. We used to show up all the time when we were younger but slowly committed as time went on. We don’t turn up in the church until someone points it out. When we do show up, it must either be on Easter or Christmas. It seems that our priorities are to go last minute grocery shopping before the NFL football games come on later that Sunday evening.

Let’s face facts that Sunday sporting events have replaced the church, as we know it. Comedians and some well-known pastors have mentioned that if ESPN would broadcast on the sing-spiration screen during service that church turnout would improve significantly. Of course, this is sad, but in all honesty, it is somewhat accurate.

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I cannot support the argument that people are no longer Christian or have given up on God. Perhaps it’s safe to say that the church is irrelevant and full of hypocrisy. Look at the moral failure of so many of its leaders. But I would counter that we as Christians should retake our congregations by creating a counterculture of integrity and grace. Jesus said that it would be by our fruit that people would recognize us. Live a life of integrity with each other and outsiders, and your church will become a magnet, not a repellant.

God is missing from the church. That would be a big argument that I could make. I used to be an active member of my congregation. I stopped going because the focus seemed more about a focus on buying a new organ, new carpet, office upgrade and the list went on. I felt I was in a budget meeting more than a place of worship. Another issue was most of the stories, while positive, and seemed to allude to success as material matters such as Mercedes, Lexus, and other expensive excesses. I tend to value happiness, health and being kind to one another over material possessions. I don’t think the Gospel of the Good News included a Mercedes.

Politics always seem to slip in the pulpit. This is one of my pet peeves. While it may be true that some political issues affect the church, I should be an advocate of my congregation and community to speak about compromise and patience. When pastors or ministers bring political favoritism into the church then, of course, it will either create a divide or silence from the opposition. This is where I enjoyed learning about the history of Elizabeth I. She would always say to her ministers to vote their conscience. This is where religion should step back and let the community shape itself. Religion is the one that should administer the teachings of patience.

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Finally, let’s face more facts. We just want to sleep in on Sundays. American society works harder and longer hours than most nations. Long gone are the shops from the 1960’s that close at 6 PM and closed every Sunday. Overtime and bringing work home only to get on the computer to catch up seems more of the norm. Of course, this will cycle into taking away from religious commitments.

The church is not dead. We are just keeping it somewhat like the daily lives we live. It was once on our to do list but managed to fall off when other items started pushing its way in.

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