Discrimination should be prohibited

In the recent Hobby Lobby ruling, five of nine Supreme Court justices abandoned our country’s foundation of separation of church and state and ruled that the religious beliefs of a corporation can trump the rights of employees. It also emboldened some religious leaders like Rick Warren to send a letter to President Obama requesting a robust “religious freedom” exemption in his anticipated anti-discrimination order aimed at prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Obama signed that order last Monday without the requested religious exemptions. The terms “religious freedom” and “religious liberty” were used during the civil rights era when businesses tried to justify their refusal to serve African Americans and interracial couples. Should those with religious motivations be exempt from laws designed to treat everyone equitably and fairly?  The hypocrisy revealed in their letter is evidence of the injustice LGBT people have been facing for far too long and it has thankfully made those who have been advocating for equality steadfastly refuse to support any anti-discrimination legislation that includes broad religious exemptions.  

In his 2012 inaugural speech, President Obama declared, “Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law.” We have a long way to go.

In 29 states it is legal to fire or refuse to hire someone based on sexual orientation, and in 33 states it is legal to fire or refuse to hire someone based on gender identity. The fundamental principles of fairness, equality and equity for all must stand along with general laws applied evenly and fairly regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation or gender identity. The proposed Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) passed by the Senate includes a robust religious exemption and, according to Republican Senator Orrin Hatch,Utah, the law “strikes a good balance between making sure that discrimination based on sexual orientation will not be tolerated, but also that one of our nation’s fundamental freedoms — religious freedom — is still upheld.” In other words, discrimination will not be tolerated, unless it is right and just to discriminate based upon our religious beliefs.

The only way for people in a pluralistic society with diverse backgrounds, diverse faiths and diverse beliefs to coexist, is to respect all with no exceptions and refuse to recognize an expanded definition of “religious liberty” that includes harm and costs to others. Discrimination is harmful not just to the individual, but to society as a whole. One who is fired or denied housing because of an innate attribute unrelated to merit is harmed, often times significantly, both economically and psychologically. It is an affront to human dignity. Sanctioned discrimination embedded in laws or regulations in the form of religious exemptions essentially creates a caste system. No group should be singled out or exempted from protection and, at the same time, no group should be exempt from following a general law of equality for all.

Religious freedom and liberty will continue to thrive if we pass laws protecting the rights of all people. You can still believe that marriage is between a man and a woman. Your freedom to practice your religion, to attend your house of worship and to engage in fellowship with others remains intact. You will not be forced to practice another religion or abandon your current teachings. But once you enter the marketplace and involve yourself in hiring, firing and providing housing and services to others in this country, you cannot use those beliefs to harm others. As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg stated in her Hobby Lobby dissent, “[Y]our right to swing your arms ends just where the other man’s nose begins.”

Our leaders must adhere to the sovereignty of individual rights and freedoms where all people are treated equally and fairly with dignity and respect. This is the civil rights issue of our time.

Mary Haffner

Editor’s note: This has appeared in other publications.




No position taken

Last week Regent Properties began circulating a draft proposal to build 55 upscale homes in the hillsides above the city of Ventura, with 170 acres donated to the community as open space. The Reporter carried a story about it in its July 24 issue, with comments from community members, including VHC; I pointed out the happy prospect of our community possibly acquiring access to open space in the hills.

It’s important to understand that the VHC Board has not taken a position on the proposal, nor will it for months to come. There are multiple layers of information and official reviews that VHC members and the community will have to consider. Only then would the Conservancy Board decide whether we can in good conscience be the holders of land in trust for the community donated by Regent. As with any development proposal, city officials, most likely the City Council, will be responsible for that decision.

There are a number of technical issues that the city will likely need to study before taking action, and the California Environmental Quality Act will require an environmental review. The challenges for any residential development in our hills are fairly well known — soil stability, grading, slope, water, drainage, natural gas lines, traffic and more. The required review will likely encompass geotechnical issues associated with slope stability, and the applicability of the city’s Hillside Management Program, adopted by the city in 1989 and part of its General Plan. Additionally we would expect individuals and groups, including residents of affected neighborhoods and the VHC membership base, to add their voices to the decision-making.

The roles that land trusts play in conservation development may include holding easements, participating in stewardship of conserved lands and/or working with developers and landowners at the pre-development and development stages to promote conservation-friendly outcomes. Be assured that the Conservancy is interested in working with Regent Properties and all property owners, as well as the city, to facilitate public access and permanently protected open space for the community. However, the Conservancy has not taken a position on the Regent proposal at this time.

Tim Coonan
President, Ventura Hillsides
Conservancy Board of Trustees

Who are the monkeys?

In his review of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (7/17), Tim Pompey says, “Call this the human-ape version of the Middle East peace process.” What an idiotic comparison. Tell me, sir, in Pompey’s mind are the Jews the monkeys? You fools.

Robert Ostrove





A history lesson

I read Mr. Moomjean’s column on America’s sins (7/17). He states a teenager in the 1950s would fully support America’s wars, etc. As one who grew up in those 1950s, I can give an actual firsthand account rather than rely on Mr. Moomjean’s mythological belief system.

World War II was fresh, and the massive damage caused by a sophisticated propaganda machine was fully apparent. As a result, every high school student was given the tools to understand propaganda, and see the fallacies it attempts to hide. Mr. Moomjean’s column is a great teaching tool in propaganda techniques.

Mr. Moomjean first creates a straw man. He alleges beliefs held by what he calls a “hard-core liberal.” An actual liberal will recognize both the positives and the negatives of America’s past, since one can only improve by learning from one’s mistakes and build on one’s successes. Mr. Moomjean, like all good propagandists, then attacks his straw man, since it is such an easy target.

Mr. Moomjean then decides to use the age-old smear tactic, guilt by association, claiming Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are somehow the disciples of various people. And of course he brings up good old Bill Ayers. As one who lost close friends to the Vietnam War, I want to point out that anti-war activists went over the line, bombed a university building and killed one person. The pro-war activists in the Ohio National Guard went over the line and killed four students at Kent State. So bottom line, activist excesses death count: 4-1, pro-war to anti-war. Both were wrong and were recognized as wrong by most Americans. And in the end, the anti-war activists were closer to the truth than the pro-war jingoists.

There is much more in the column which is basically positively averred as true without actual factual verification. In the end, he appeals to the mythological Ronald Reagan. Forgetting that the actual Ronald Reagan traded arms for hostages; the actual Ronald Reagan got 63 Americans killed in the American embassy in Beruit Lebanon and did nothing; The actual Ronald Reagan got 241 Marines killed in Lebanon and did worse than nothing. HE CUT AND RAN.

I would suggest that Mr. Moomjean read the ninth-grade civics curriculum on propaganda from the 1950s before writing another pathetic excuse for an essay. Learn actual expository writing techniques, and maybe even learn critical thinking skills in the process, so he doesn’t fall for his own propaganda.

Norm Rodewald




Our ever-fading promised land

These are thoughts brought up by Paul Moomjean’s comments in the June 19 VCReporter on Judge Rolf Treu’s recent ruling. I’m not a schoolteacher, and even our grandkids are either in graduate school or in their last year of college, so I claim no close awareness of the current public school scene.

At the same time, I’m skeptical that the judge’s ruling making unconstitutional high school teacher tenure is any kind of a panacea. Even the lawyer arguing for the ruling recognized that only 3 percent of teachers, as Moomjean notes, are “highly ineffective”; so how is denying tenure to all teachers going to change things that much?

The corollary is that here’s still a further weakening of rank-and-file power to interests of authority, a dynamic endemic in our ever-fading promised land!

Duane Waln


Plastic bag nonsense

I have several comments regarding Mike Gibson’s letter (7/10) commending Ventura’s City Council for not adopting a plastic bag ordinance.

He states, “The fact is, on any given day one is highly unlikely to see more that two plastic bags floating around the city.” This is a fact? Based on what statistical evidence? Does he travel up and down most of Ventura’s streets, beaches, parks, malls every day recording observable bags to arrive at this fact? Where is he looking after (or during) a busy weekend? I’m inclined to believe Mike doesn’t get out much.

He mentions that his household recycles their plastic bags — very commendable as 90 percent of plastic bags end up in landfills, waterways or the ocean, meaning the vast amount of plastic bags are only used once before being added to our growing trash disposal burden, which is another reason why lessening the availability and, thus, use of plastic bags would be a positive act. By the way, your household should be using reusable canvas bags, eliminating the need for plastic bags and discussion of plastic bag ordinances.

Plastic does not biodegrade. Plastic just breaks into smaller and smaller pieces, much of which becomes airborne particulants that we breathe into our internal bodily systems. Plastics also contain petrochemicals. We all have these bits of plastic with their petrochemicals in our bodies. Thus, the less plastic in our environment, the healthier we will all be.

Lastly, he writes that environmental extremism (defined as?? desiring less trash and a healthier planet?) can be disrupting and damaging to the natural order of things. What is his definition of natural order? Humans greedily exploiting and over-consuming the resources of this planet in the pursuit of profit and owning more “stuff”? Plastic is not natural and the more we can eliminate its usage and inherent disposal problems, the healthier our planet and you will be.

Brad Nelson


Storm the Canada border

After reading Raymond Freeman’s laughable diatribe “Oh, Canada” in the Sharper Focus (7/10) section this week, I have just one very basic question for Mr. Freeman: If Canada is the blissful utopia you portray it to be, why on earth are you still living in the United States?

Mike Gibson






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