Anti-Racist vs Non-Racist

I came across the following article today:  “I don’t trust white people, even the liberals, and science backs me up.”   It is a good article that exposes the difficulty white people have after 400 years of white supremacy immersion to behave in ways that are non-racist.  The good news is the science this author is citing is behavioral science and not science like the immutable laws of science, such as the law of gravity. This means that white people can change their behaviors and become non-racist.

Non-racist?  I do not see too many people in the anti-racism work talking about being non-racist.  They mostly use the term anti-racist.  So what is the difference?  Actually there is a huge difference.

My taking action as a white ally in a Black Lives Matter protest is an anti-racist action.  I am standing in solidarity against the racism that has been institutionalized in our criminal justice system. (If this statement is new to you; there is a whole body of work out there that documents our criminal justice system as racist, so I am not going to spend time here justifying that statement.)

My reading and researching about institutional racism in the United States of America is equipping me with information to bolster my ability to recognize racism as it has been displayed and continues to be displayed in this nation.  This reading and researching is anti-racism work.  But this work still does not make me non-racist.

As the article points out, there are still unconscious racist messages embedded into my culture that I practice without even batting an eye even as I proclaim anti-racist statements with my mouth and body. To be non-racist in my behaviors means I need to be willing to examine my behaviors in the context of racism. It means that I need to have a wider frame of reference in which to place my behaviors and decisions.

I will give an example.  And it is easier to look at someone else’s behavior than it is my own.  Alabama’s Governor Bentley recently made the decision to close down department of motor vehicles in the most rural counties of the state.  He stated this was for financial reasons because of shortfalls in the state budget. Governors have the unpopular task to make the hard decisions even though it will affect people’s lives. If state budget was the only factor behind this decision, this might seem like a difficult but reasonable decision to make.

However, in the wider context, this decision affects people of color in greater numbers than it does white people.  In the wider context, this decision was made after the state of Alabama passed the requirement that people have to have state issued photo IDs in order to vote in elections. In the wider context, this decision will force people to take time off from work to travel 3 or 4 hours away to wait in line for several hours to get their license and photo ID. In the wider context, the majority of people living and working in these counties do not have positions that pay for personal leave or sick time, so a day off from work is a day’s pay lost.  This may translate in not being able to make rent that month or place food on the table that week.  What first appeared as an unpopular and hard decision to balance a state budget, now begins to look like yet another means to oppress and disenfranchise the poor who also happen to be predominantly people of color.

Now Governor Bentley has stated this decision was not done for racist reasons. On the face of his statements, I believe him. But intention does not negate impact AND look at where he lives. He lives in a state whose state constitution of 1901 was created for the sole purpose to promote and sustain white supremacy. His actions are in line with 114 years of white supremacy codified into the Alabama constitution.

In order for Governor Bentley to be acting from a non-racist place, he needs first to be aware, consciously aware on a daily basis, how the constitution that he swore to uphold is first and foremost a racist document written in such a manner to prevent people of color to fully participate in the governmental process. He also needs to be aware, consciously aware on a daily basis, how his actions affect all of his constituents along racial lines. If he wants to truly be seen as non-racist, then he needs to change his behaviors when making decisions that will negatively impact people of color.

Let me attempt to give a more personal example to distinguish the two terms. I recently shared a sermon with my minister colleagues at our fall retreat entitled:  For Such a Time As This. It was the sermon I gave at the installation of another colleague. In it, I challenge our Unitarian Universalist denomination regarding racism within our faith.  Afterwards, one of my African American colleagues thanked me for stating things that he could not have stated then added ‘with such words comes great accountability.’ My sermon was anti-racist. My accountability to that sermon needs to be non-racist behavior.

It is easier to be anti-racist because that is merely pointing out the splinter in our neighbors’ eyes. The harder work, the aspirational work is to be non-racist, the plucking out the log within our own eye so we can see our own behaviors and change them to be increasingly non-racist. Undoing the ingrained behavior of a 400 year plus white supremacist culture will take concerted effort on all of our parts.

Those who are dedicated to this work need to be both anti-racist and non-racist. The willingness to stand in solidarity with people of color against racism and the willingness to do the hard soul-searching work to change our own behaviors so they no longer oppress others.

 

 

 

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Chief Justice Roy Moore’s Ten Commandment monument prepares for comeback

There is another proposed bill facing the Alabama Legislature this year and it is AL HB-45 entitled: The Alabama Religious Freedom Amendment sponsored by State Representative Bridges.  The title of the bill alone should cause pause.   There is some background history to this bill being introduced that needs to be brought into the foreground. History that this bill conveniently ignores.

In 1992, Roy Moore was appointed as judge by Gov. Hunt to the Etowah County Circuit Court.  As soon as he took office as judge, he placed on the walls of his courtroom a wooden engraving of the Ten Commandments. He also opened each court proceeding with a prayer that the  jury would seek divine guidance in the deliberations of the trial. The ACLU sued stating that the presence of the Ten Commandments and pre-session prayer were unconstitutional.  Initially Roy Moore lost the case and was ordered to remove the wooden plaque and to stop the pre-session prayers.  There was a stay on the decision and an appeal was made but the court never ruled on the appeal, throwing it out on technicalities. The plaque remained and presumably the prayers continued.

In 1999, Moore ran for Chief Justice on the platform that Alabama must return “God to our public life and restore the moral foundation of our law.”  He won election.  Shortly there after he began plans to have made a 5K plus pound granite structure that would have inscribed on it various quotes from founders of the nation topped with the Ten Commandments chiseled into tablets.  

220px-Roy_Moore's_Ten_Commandments_monumentAt the unveiling of this monument, Moore stated, “Today a cry has gone out across our land for the acknowledgment of that God upon whom this nation and our laws were founded….May this day mark the restoration of the moral foundation of law to our people and the return to the knowledge of God in our land.”  The presence of the monument and Judge Moore’s stance regarding it resulted in a lawsuit that went to the Eleventh Circuit of Appeals.  The ruling was the monument had to be removed.  Moore refused to comply with the ruling.  He lost the appeal. He refused to comply with the court order to remove the monument.  The monument was eventually moved from the rotunda to a room out of view of the public and eventually removed from the Judicial building in 2004.  There was a complaint of ethics violation filed with the Alabama Court of the Judiciary. At the hearing Moore stated,

“To acknowledge God cannot be a violation of the Canons of Ethics. Without God there can be no ethics,” Moore testified.He also reiterated his stance that, given another chance to fulfill the court order, he again would refuse to do so. When one panelist, Circuit Judge J. Scott Vowell of Birmingham, asked Moore what he would do with the monument if he were returned to office, the chief justice said he had not decided, but added: “I certainly wouldn’t leave it in a closet, shrouded from the public.”

Moore was removed from office in 2003.  In 2012, Moore was re-elected to the role of Chief Justice. 

This is the historical background of HB-45, Alabama Religious Freedom Amendment.  This amendment to the 1901 State Constitution (yes, Alabama’s self-identified white supremacist Constitution is still in place.) “would propose a constitutional amendment which would provide that property belonging to the state may be used to display the Ten Commandments and that the right to display the Ten Commandments on property owned or administrated by a public school or public body is not restrained or abridged.”

This amendment is clearly an attempt to allow Chief Justice Moore to reinstate his monolith in the Alabama Supreme Court building in full violation of separation of church and state as he promised he would do if re-elected to office. In fact the amendment describes the monument in how the Ten Commandments could be displayed.  The fact that the Ten Commandments represents a specific religious background–namely the Abrahamic Faiths of Judaism and Christianity this establishes a state religion in the Judeo-Christian tradition.  Could the tenets of Sharia Law be posted on public grounds?  No.  Could there be a plaque of the Unitarian Universalists’ Seven Principles posted?  No. What about the Wiccan’s creed?  No.  The Dao?  No.  

This bill, if passed, would come up for vote in a general election.  We must not let such discriminatory and preferential language be added to our state constitution. This amendment moves Alabama closer to being a theocracy than a democracy.  We cannot allow our religious freedoms to be so narrowly defined under the Judeo-Christian rubric as this amendment would do. 

Published in: on December 20, 2013 at 3:59 pm  Comments Off on Chief Justice Roy Moore’s Ten Commandment monument prepares for comeback  
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HB360: Asks Medical Profession to Ignore Science

The state legislature of Alabama has introduced HB 360 which would amend a previous act regarding abortion with new conditions and new terms.  First it adds a phrase to the definition of abortion which is a prelude to the Personhood bill  (SB 205) that is expected to  come up this session.

“Abortion: The use or prescription of any instrument, medicine, drug, or any other substance or device with the intent to kill the unborn child of a woman known to be pregnant or with the intent to prematurely terminate the pregnancy of a woman known to be pregnant.”  (Underlined is new wording in the Act).

This new language sets the stage for a declaration of Personhood to a fertilized ovum by explicitly declaring abortion is murder.  It is intentionally offensive to those who do not share these religious beliefs.

There is a new  requirement in “§26-23A-4 (9) The abortion provider who is to perform or induce the abortion, a certified technician, or another agent of the abortion provider shall make the embryonic or fetal heartbeat of the unborn child audible for the pregnant woman to hear the heartbeat as described in Section 3 of the act adding this amendatory language.    (underlined is new wording in the Act).    How this is done for the woman who is deaf, I do not know,  but it would be the abortion provider who is required to make it so or be subject to fines.

But this is not even the crux of this bill as the most heinous and unscrupulous section of this bill is the following:

(8) The material shall include the following statements: “Your chances of getting breast cancer are affected by your pregnancy history. If you have carried a pregnancy to term as a young woman, you may be less likely to
get breast cancer in the future. However, you do not get the same protective effect if your pregnancy is ended by an abortion. The risk may be higher if your first pregnancy is aborted.” and ” If you have a family history of breast cancer or clinical findings of breast disease, you should seek medical advice from your physician before deciding whether to remain pregnant or have an abortion. It is always important to tell your doctor about your complete pregnancy history.”     (underlined is new wording in the Act).

This statement is blatantly false.  There is no evidence that abortions  result in greater risk for cancer–it has been proven there is no causative link between the two.   Dr Jen Gunter covers in her blog the scientific research that proves that there is no link between the two.   Here is a quote from her article summarizing the newest study:

A new study confirms this data, that there is no link between abortion and breast cancer. The data come from a study of over 25,000 Danish women from the Diet, Cancer, and Health study. The women completed questionnaires and then were followed for an average of 12 years. This kind of study is probably the best way to look at two common and emotional charged occurrences, like abortion and breast cancer, because there is no recall bias. When something bad happens it is human nature to look back and try to assign causality, but collecting the data prospectively removes this element. The study was also well-powered to detect even a small increase, so another plus.

For Alabama legislators to codify such blatant lies into law is unethical and immoral.  It is placing the women of our state at great risk because  if their physician lies to them about this information, what else is the physician willing to lie about?  I do not expect our legislators to be well versed on every subject but I do expect them to know how to read scientific journals and able to discern between real science and the garbage the religious right calls science.

The religious right calls it science when they believe something to be true and then seek evidence to validate their belief.  That is not science that is magical thinking.   They interview women who have had breast cancer and then ask them if they ever had an abortion.  They do not even consider this fact about spontaneous abortions:

Around half of all fertilized eggs die and are lost (aborted) spontaneously, usually before the woman knows she is pregnant. Among women who know they are pregnant, the miscarriage rate is about 15-20%. Most miscarriages occur during the first 7 weeks of pregnancy.

This fact reveals the nonsensical element of their finding alleged causative links.  There are lots of factors that lead a person to develop cancer but abortions (spontaneous or intended) have been ruled as not being one of them. Our legislators need to put their religious beliefs aside and reconsider the impact this legislation will have on a state already tarnished as being uneducated.

Requiring physicians to betray their professional ethics and standards by codifying lies into law is harmful to all of Alabama.  This bill needs to be defeated not only for the reasons that it attacks a woman’s right to choose but mainly because it is simply bad legislation. Period.

HB 57: How to Shut Down a Woman’s Right to Choose

I attended the public hearing on AL HB 57 having the the misnomer of being called the “Women’s Health and Safety Act.” I had a chance to speak to this bill. Here is what I said:

Let’s be honest about what HB 57 really is about: The fiscal notes make the intention of this bill very clear. It is to shut down medical clinics–not to protect the lives of women. This bill is about government interfering in the individual rights of women having domain over their own bodies. Plain and simple. This is not about safer medical clinics. Stiff regulations with class C felony charges for non-compliance are an attempt to bully clinics into closing if they are unable to comply with the regulations because of cost factors to come up to the new codes—codes that include interfering with Doctors determining the safest course of action for their patient. Do not be deceived by HB 57 it is not about safety it is about interference in choices women make over their own bodies. Women will seek abortions whether there are clinics in this state or not. The question is will the women have them in medical clinics or in some alley as they did 40 years ago before Roe v Wade. I urge you to vote down HB 57.

There were several people who were invited to speak first in favor of this bill.  Not as many as I anticipated and those opposing this bill far outnumbered them.  Two were women with heart wrenching tales of being whisked through back door entrances and then left alone after the procedure. One woman had her abortion in 1977. The second woman’s tale was even more harrowing, claiming she had become pregnant before her wedding and her fiance forced her at gunpoint to have an abortion and then after her being coerced never saw her fiance again. She then made the claim that she can no longer have children because the abortion resulted in her having cancer three times making her unable to conceive children.

I found both of these heart wrenching stories to be poor choices to support this bill. The first one because the event took place in 1977. I was to find out by later testimony the clinic she went to for  her abortion was closed decades ago because of sub-standards. The second story because being coerced at gun point to get an abortion is a criminal offense and she is blaming the clinic instead of her assailant. Further, studies have proven there is no link between abortions and cancer.  While these stories were heart wrenching they didn’t have much credibility to address the current situation of the state’s remaining five clinics.

One of the clinic operators from Montgomery spoke to the requirement that doctors must have attending privileges at local hospitals.  She stated that the doctors at her clinic come from Atlanta and Washington, DC.   She stated that doctors that only perform abortions cannot receive attending privileges at local hospitals in Alabama.  But this fact alarmed me. No one asked the obvious question.  Why did this clinic have to rely on doctors from distant and out of state cities like Atlanta and Washington DC?  Are there no doctors already in Montgomery willing to perform abortions?

In the  abortions arranged in this state there have only been 6 deaths of women as a result.  And the two most recent deaths occurred over 20 years ago.  Another opponent stated in any other medical field this kind of statistic would be hailed as a sign of excellence.  She further stated that women are 14 times more likely to die from a pregnancy she didn’t want  than if she had an abortion.

One of the requirements of HB 57 is to require clinics to meet the standards prescribed in the rules foroffice-based procedures – moderate sedation/analgesia,” and shall meet all other requirements in those rules, including the recommended guidelines for follow-up care, requirements for recovery area, assessment for discharge, reporting requirements, and registration requirements.

However, the five clinics in Alabama never use heavy sedation and never general anesthesia. The requirements mandate that any clinic with 4 or more patients receiving moderate to heavy sedation at a time need to be able to evacuate patients via gurneys in case of fire.  The clinics maintain they never have more than 3 women at a time in recovery. The sedation used is light to moderate sedation and the women are ambulatory and able to leave on their own and have no need for gurneys.
All five clinics in order to comply with the requirements needed for moderate sedation/analgesia which they rarely use would include building new facilities because the land they currently are on does not allow for expansion.  In short, these clinics will be forced to close because they will not be able to comply with the provisions of this bill, provisions that are not warranted and have only one purpose and one purpose only: to shut down legal abortion clinics in the state.
Next up:  SB 205 Personhood bill defining the rights of a newly impregnated egg as having full rights and protection as an independently living human.
HB 57 already is preparing for passing SB 205 because  Section 2 begins with The Legislature finds  all of the following:
(4) Abortion involves not only a surgical procedure with the usual risks attending surgery, but also involves the taking of human life. 
This means the legislature in passing this law is already prejudiced in believing that abortions are immoral and those who have abortions are murderers. If this bill passes it will effectively close the remaining five abortion clinics in the state.
HB 57 will be coming up for a vote next Wednesday after there are amendments proposed and further review is made after findings of this hearing.  There will be no further public hearings on this bill before the Senate.

Amendment 4 Does not Fix Racist Constitution

Tuscaloosa News does not seem to like my letters.  None of the letters I have written in the past 3 years have been published.  The newspaper seems more interested in publishing such pieces as “President is inviting the wrath of God”  which reduces this column to an entertainment section equivalent to the National Enquirer than serious debate.  After a week of waiting for a response or for publication, I am posting my letter in response to their editorial.

To the Editor:
The recent editorial supporting Amendment 4 (October 18) to the state constitution  does not seem to understand how racism works. Amendment 4 claims it will remove racist language from our constitution which was established in 1901 with the sole purpose of creating a White Supremacist State. Removing racist language is only a cosmetic touch as it does not and cannot fix the institutionalized racism that is still embedded in the constitution. The paragraphs that will not be removed by this amendment because they are not explicit in their racism are still racist. This particular section was written in the 1950’s when it was believed by the White majority that Blacks were not educable but merely trainable and that language remains. These terms, education and training refer to the alleged abilities that Whites versus Blacks had. The belief was Whites could be educated while Blacks could only be trained. The only way to fix our 1901 constitution is not by deleting phrases but by a complete rewriting of the constitution. Alabama Education Association Executive Secretary Henry Mabry is right when he states Amendment 4 removes the guaranteed right to an education. That is how institutionalized racism works. It is so embedded into our state constitution that to remove racist language actually restores racist policies. Cosmetic fixes are not enough, we need a new state constitution if we are indeed serious about undoing our racist heritage.
Fred L Hammond
Minister, Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Tuscaloosa

Postscript:  Since writing this letter, there have been  several conversations as to what the motivations or reasons are behind this amendment.  The author of the amendment claims it is purely to remove the stain of racism from the constitution.  Perhaps. One can never fully know what those intentions might be.

What is clear is this.  While removing racist language seems a laudable act;  this amendment REENACTS a provision that had previously been held unconstitutional that for racist reasons eliminated a right to public education. When actions to remove language is being undertaken within a document created specifically to create a white supremacist state then the whole constitution needs to be looked at to see where else racism is imbedded.  There are systemic aspects of racism  interwoven in the document that must be examined and rooted out.  For example; racism is also in the constitutional policies guiding the  actions of the governing body.  Removing racism demands not just a cosmetic touch but a full reworking from scratch in order to remove all forms of racial oppression.

Alabama HB 56 Public Hearing

I have just returned from my first foray into Alabama politics at the statehouse where a public hearing on HB 56, Alabama’s combined version of several  laws passed in Arizona regarding immigration.  Many of the provisions are word for word from Arizona and thus if you hated Arizona’s SB 1070, then you will hate Alabama’s.

The first Wednesday of the month is the usual day when  my Unitarian Universalist ministers from Alabama and the Florida panhandle gather in Montgomery for a collegial meeting.  My Florida colleagues were unable to come to Montgomery today, so I suggested that we meet at the statehouse and attend this public hearing.  I was going to prepare a statement and having my colleagues there was indeed a comforting presence.

I have not done a statement at a public hearing in several years, the last time being when I lived in Connecticut and so I was anticipating a similar procedure where one needs to sign up well in advance of the meeting in order to get on the speakers list.   This really was not a concern I needed to worry about.   I got there early.  So did another person who it turns out had been on several emails that I received from Unitarian Universalists in the Birmingham area.  When the doors opened for the meeting I became the first person to sign up to speak, my new acquaintance, third.

State Rep. Mickie Hammon (Yes my last name minus the d)  is the chair and chief sponsor of this bill.  He gave a few introductory remarks including that this bill is already being amended and therefore much of what we are responding to could no longer be valid.  He then called on me to speak.

Here is the text that I delivered.

My name is Fred L Hammond, I am a resident of Northport.  I am also the minister of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Tuscaloosa.

Last night, Governor Bentley stated that your role now that the election is over is to represent all of Alabama; this bill does not represent 4% of our people in this state.  This bill causes you to not live up to the role set by our Governor.

Where-ever a similar bill to HB 56, has been passed, be it in Prince William County in Virginia or in Arizona the result has been the destruction of whole neighborhoods and local economies. And while these bills in these other locations also claimed to not use racial profiling, the lives of authorized citizens were repeatedly interrupted by unwarranted stops by police based on “reasonable suspicion.” These locations became hostile environments for American citizens who also happened to have brown skin or spoke with a particular accent.  We must not allow this to happen again in Alabama.

Nor does this bill serve the well being of our municipalities who will be mandated to enforce a law with no consideration of what the economic cost to those municipalities will be.  This body of legislators has not done its homework on what the direct and indirect cost will be to Alabama. Since the state will not be raising taxes to fund the additional work load being requested, municipalities and counties will have to raise their own taxes.  In Prince William County where this bill was first piloted in this nation, the county had to raise its taxes by 33% in order to be in compliance with the law. And that still was not enough to enable full compliance by the local police.  This will happen here in Alabama as well and will cause further collapse of this state’s economy as the poor and middle class fall under its heavy financial burden.

Another result of similar legislation elsewhere was soccer moms were going to prison while murderers and rapists remained on the street.  The courts were mandated to place a higher priority on an immigrant being found guilty of trespassing or transporting an unauthorized citizen to church while the seeking of true justice for the victims of violent crimes were placed into limbo.  This court mandate is in HB 56 as well.   There is already a two year waiting period in Montgomery courts for cases to be heard. This bill will have dire consequences and unforeseen costs to the well being of Alabama.

This bill would potentially criminalize with a felony workers for shelters who are trying to protect their clients from the domestic violence of their spouses.  If the client is an unauthorized citizen, then the worker is in violation of this bill for concealing and transporting an unauthorized citizen.  He or she could have their car impounded, charged with smuggling a human being, and charged with concealing or hiding an unauthorized citizen. The employee could be convicted with two Class C felonies simply for doing their job.

This legislation troubles me as a person of faith on many levels.  Our faith calls us to love mercifully, to act with justice, and to walk humbly with our God.  It is what Christians, Jews, Muslims and many other faith traditions are also called to do in their faith. This bill prevents what good people of faith are called to do and therefore must not be passed.  Thank you.

The next speaker was a proponent of the bill. He immediately launched into an attack wondering what planet I lived on. His body posture was angry and he shouted from the podium at the evils of illegal immigrants.

Then my new acquaintance spoke. She calmly shared some stories about her work in the Hispanic community. She pointed out the sections of the bill that would inadvertently target them. She provided some facts regarding immigrants in the state.

The next speaker was a former Minuteman from the southwest. He also yelled and screamed about his first hand knowledge of what these illegals do to Americans. I think I am beginning to see a pattern. And sure enough those who were for this bill were angry, emotional, and offered no facts to support their stance. Those who were against this bill or might have been in favor of the concept of the bill but against certain sections of the bill were calm, reasoned in their speech.

Because I had gone first, those who were vehemently for this legislation would reference my statement and attack it or would glare at me as they referenced it. Here are two examples of comments that were made. “I hope this committee is not buying these buckets of compassion.” “Yes, Christians are called to love mercifully, that is why we have missionaries to go into their countries to fix them there [italics mine] so that they do not have to come here.” During this speakers direct reference to my testimony, I caught Rep. Hammon staring at me from the chair’s bench. I do not know what was going on in his mind but he was startled when he realized I caught him.

In all there were about 10 speakers who were against this legislation and six who were for this legislation. At the end of the speakers, Rep. Hammon spoke again. He stated that it costs Alabama $200 million a year to educate unauthorized children and provide emergency medical care to unauthorized citizens in the state so while there will be municipality costs to his attrition through enforcement bill it will be outweighed by the savings. This figure is totally fictional.

First, public schools are mandated by the federal government to provide a quality education to children K-12 irrespective of citizen status. Therefore, we simply do not know how many undocumented children there are in Alabama’s schools as it is data not taken. [Watch out this will be coming.] Second, hospitals also do not know how many of their patients are undocumented and receiving treatment. [Again, watch out Alabama this too may be coming down the pike. These two unknown factors are currently before the Arizona legislation in direct opposition to federal law.] Therefore, since we do not know how many students or how many patients, there is no way to know what the cost is to educate undocumented people or medically treat undocumented people in Alabama.

But as I discovered in listening to today’s testimony bonafide facts are dismissed and raw emotional fear is valued. I have a feeling that I am going to become well acquainted with the Statehouse as this issue moves forward.

Alabama Constitution Reform

Alabama’s Constitution is a document that is over 100 years old. While the most blatant racist articles in this constitution have been struck down by the US Supreme Court, it is still an institutionalized white supremacist document with its fist-ed control over minority-majority counties and cities.  The attempts in the past for constitution reform have been blocked repeatedly by special interest groups and the wealthy who enjoy the power this constitution privileges them.

The Unitarian Universalist Church of Birmingham passed  a resolution on September 16, 2010 declaring that congregation’s intention to seek constitution reform.   Having this unjust document be overhauled and modernized to meet the needs of the 21st century would be continuing towards the fulfillment of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream of equality and justice for all.  I encourage other Alabama congregations, Unitarian Universalist and others,  to pass their own resolutions urging for constitution reform and then to send these resolutions to their state representatives, state senators, and to Governor Bentley.   Here is the Unitarian Universalist Church of Birmingham’s resolution on Constitution reform.

Resolution on Constitutional Reform, Endorsed by the UUCB Board

September 16, 2010

TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN:

Whereas, as Unitarian Universalists, we envision a more caring, just, productive, and prosperous Alabama, governed under a new constitution that promotes a better life for all Alabamians, and

Whereas, the chief agenda item of the Alabama State Constitutional Convention of 1901, as articulated by John. B. Knox, in his presidential address to the convention, was, quote: “And what is it that we want to do? Why it is within the limits imposed by the Federal Constitution, to establish white supremacy in this state…But if we would have white supremacy, we must establish it by law—not by force or fraud.  These provisions are justified in law and in morals, because the negro is not discriminated against on account of his race, but on account of his intellectual and moral condition.  There is in the white man an inherited capacity for government, which is wholly wanting in the negro.” (Official Proceedings of the Constitutional Convention of the State of Alabama, May 21, 1901 to September 3, 1901, 1:538-42), and

Whereas, the 1901 constitution’s provisions to enshrine Alabama’s large rural land-owners and large sector operating in Alabama, and

Whereas, Alabama’s constitution is the oldest, longest, and most complex in the nation, with 827 amendments (compared to the national average of 116), with more amendments pending each year, as Alabama’s governance continues to become more complex, and

Whereas, Alabama’s state government is so restricted it cannot meet the needs of modern society, as shown by studies published jointly in 1999 and 2001 by Governing magazine and the Maxwell School of Syracuse University, ranking Alabama’s governmental performance last among the 50 states, and

Whereas, Alabama’s constitution demonstrates profound distrust of democracy and self-reliance, failing to enable counties to plan for their own economic development and growth, imposing severe restrictions on municipal home rule, disallowing use of the gas tax to support public transit, and causing half the legislative agenda to be focused on issues of strictly local interest, so that more than 70 percent of our constitutional amendments apply to a single city or county, and

Whereas, Alabama’s constitution enshrines an unfair and ineffective tax system, ranking it among the bottom three states in its unfairness to our poorest citizens (Governing magazine, Feb. 2003), forcing local governments and school boards to rely on fickle and regressive sales taxes because of constitutional restrictions on property and income taxes, and requiring nearly 90 percent of state funds to be earmarked for specific uses (higher than any other state), thereby destroying fiscal flexibility, and

Whereas, oligarchical control continues to prevail not only in Alabama’s government but also through its corporatist interlinkages with the business sector, resulting in a prime regional location for anti-union corporations, very poor educational resources, increasingly changing and dangerous climatic conditions, a deeply polluted environment, and large numbers of people being driven from the state in search of better economic opportunity and more friendly places, and

Whereas, a modern corporations in the position of oligarchical white supremacy over all aspects of governance are well documented by Wayne Flynt, Bailey Thomson, Harvey H. Jackson III, and in Melanie Jeffcoat’s film for the ACCR, entitled, Open Secret, which reenacts portions of the 1901 constitutional convention, and

Whereas, redrafting of the Alabama constitution must begin with frank recognition of the oligarchical and racist provisions of the 1901 document, in order to support mutual trust and the successful collaboration of all constitutional convention delegates in reformulating those provisions, and

Whereas, a reformed Constitution based on democracy is necessary for the proper discharge of governmental responsibilities, and for the assurance of broad social benefit generated by the business constitution for Alabama would, by contrast, establish broad principles for governmental operations without imposing restrictions on good lawmaking, recognize that local and metropolitan problems need to be solved at home and not in Montgomery, organize government into efficient branches, protect citizens rights, authorize appropriate types of taxation rather than imposing a state-wide tax code (extending to the level of motor vehicle assessments), encourage the people’s aspirations for democratic instead of oligarchical control of government and the business sector,  encourage people to become well-educated, collaborative, and productive citizens, and

Whereas, past attempts at constitutional reform in Alabama have been blocked by organized special interests whose unique privileges, wealth, and political power corrupt both the democratic exercise of governmental responsibilities and the conduct of business in Alabama, and

Whereas, there is an Alabama-wide grassroots movement calling for a constitutional convention of democratically elected citizen delegates from each House legislative district, as evidenced by newspaper editorials and a statewide petition drive, signed by approximately 75,000 citizens throughout the state of Alabama, calling for such a Constitutional Convention, and

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Unitarian Universalist Church of Birmingham, through its ordained and lay leaders, members, and friends, will actively seek, educate, support, and advocate on behalf of a Citizen’s Constitutional Convention for the purpose of writing Alabama’s 7th Constitution, and

BE IT RESOLVED, IN ADDITION, that the Unitarian Universalist Church of Birmingham will seek to enroll the other Unitarian Universalist Churches throughout the state of Alabama in support of this resolution, or similar resolutions, according to their individual preferences, and

FURTHER BE IT RESOLVED, that the Unitarian Universalist Church of Birmingham strongly urges action by the members of the State Legislature, the Governor, and other elected officials of the State of Alabama to support and pass the enabling legislation, which will be introduced in the House and Senate in the 2011 session, that will allow the people of Alabama to vote on whether they desire a Citizen’s Constitutional Convention to be called.

Published in: on November 17, 2010 at 11:33 am  Comments Off on Alabama Constitution Reform  
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