Church and State

Mr. Moomjean’s article “America 2.0” in the July 9 VCReporter reminds me of 70 years ago when I was in basic Air Force training in Biloxi, Mississippi. Our barracks were two-story structures, and in our case the upper story housed guys from Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi, while the lower story did the same for guys, including myself,f from Washington, Oregon and Idaho. It wasn’t long before we were calling the barrack steps the Mason-Dixon line as one couldn’t get into any extended conversation with the upstairs guys without the Civil War becoming an issue. It became irritating, our attitude being, “Hey, get over it. Aren’t we supposed to learn from past failures and be strengthened by them to live more satisfactory, less burdened lives?”

Obviously, the past can be so entrapping, both in what we think it encompassed and in what it didn’t. Going on to Mr. Moomjean’s thoughts about the status of Christianity presently and at our nation’s founding, I would reverse his judgments. Our Founding Fathers were overwhelmingly influenced by the Enlightenment, which in turn had been fomented by an utter rejection of the mentality motivating the wars of the Reformation and other benighted belligerent actions. None of this was just theoretical; their King George III had ultimate human control of their religious lives. And whether he exercised it or not, the threat was always there.

John Jay, if I remember correctly, was the sole devout Founding Father. Others were nominal Christians, while at an extreme to Jay’s position was Thomas Jefferson who, in a remarkable effort, expurgated all from the New Testament except the words he thought Jesus had uttered. Never in our history had “separation of church and state” been such an alive concept as at our nation’s founding! Of course, popularly, as to our founding, people think of the Pilgrims, not realizing that a quarter-millennium separated them from the Founding Fathers.

Christianity’s present impact on us, even for the unreligious, is far more pervasive and subtle than most realize. When I was young and becoming aware in the ’40s, evangelical Christianity was a backwater in our national life, most evangelicals avoiding politics because it dealt with messy, worldly affairs that were a hazard to the faithful. Besides, the second coming was imminent; thus mucking about in worldly affairs was not only spiritually dangerous, it was unnecessary.

This mode, though, was before the impact of the new technologies of radio and especially television, which fundamentally changed the religious scene. Granted, there were almost titillating failures, like the Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker affair, but otherwise evangelicals did a 180-degree about-face, and today they are a dominant element of American society. Mega-church pastors, mostly evangelicals like Rick Warren, come to mind when the religious scene is invoked. When I was young it was old church thinkers like Paul Tillich, Reinhold Niebuhr, Dr. Albert Schweitzer and Bishop Bromley Oxnam that figured in press releases.

The operative dynamic in this fundamental change is certainty. In an evangelical religious context it’s buttressed by inviolate scripture, in a political setting by the tough sounding “no compromise” mantra, but what’s missing in the last scenario is that there’s no final justification other than the mindset of the no-compromising politician or a group of the same, a pretty flimsy structure built on the ever-shifting sands of time. Following this to its psychological meaning, church and state are no longer really separated. Thomas Jefferson, it is to be hoped, is not witnessing this!


Duane Waln   




Obamacare rulings

Had this been an insurance contract matter, don’t think for a moment that it would not have been “rescinded” (made null and void) for misrepresentation. I sincerely hope we can come up with something better.

Mike Merewether

Reward and punishment

We wonder why our local government executives more and more are caught doing improper and sometimes illegal things? While there always seemed to be a bad actor in every decade, since the year 2000 we seem to have had more than our share of them: Ed Sotelo, who was found by the DA to have committed illegal acts and fined by the FPPC tens of thousands of dollars; Bruce Malkenhorst, who was convicted in 2011 of taking $60,000 from his city treasury to spend on himself; or Robert Rizzo, who was convicted on graft and corruption charges. All of them were city managers and sadly there are others.

 Now we need to see what the consequences of their actions were. In the case of Malkenhorst he is receiving an annual CalPERS (California Public Employees Retirement System) retirement benefit of $551,688/year; in the case of Robert Rizzo, he gets an annual  retirement benefit of  $116,633/year, and for Ed Sotelo he  receives a CalPERS  retirement benefit of $284,988/year plus a PARS (Public Agency Retirement Services) retirement benefit.

 Now let’s look at one of those who fought against the illegal acts while in the position of the city’s finance director to compare those benefits.

 I was fired as Oxnard’s finance director by city manager  Ed Sotelo in November 1999 on false grounds, which were overturned by the United States Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. And a subsequent unanimous federal jury found the city of Oxnard violated my constitutional rights by stopping me from telling the Council members that their city-owned golf course was losing millions of dollars every year. But my final court victory didn’t happen until 2006 after years of repeated, but failed efforts to get the local city government to consider what I was trying to inform them about.

 Today the city of Oxnard finds itself with desperate shortages due to past expenditures that exceeded revenues, including due to the golf course. It has to cut jobs, and recant on promises made to the taxpayers of the city.

 A brief history. During my less than two years at the city of Oxnard I found and reported to the  city manager(s): a correction of $7.3 million that was cash hidden by staff, and I  moved that money back into the city’s general fund to stave off  auditors KPMG from turning the city over to the state under bankruptcy requirements; that the city was not following federal retirement laws by refusing to cover its part-time employees with social security, but resulted in the city manager reassigning payroll to another staff; that the city manager needed to get Council authority to provide himself with a personal loan, but was overturned by the city attorney; I informed the city manager  that, as the chief financial officer, I could not accept “exotic foreign currency” from a personal friend of one of the elected officials in lieu of the $2.6 million impact fees that were owed the city; and refusing other similarly illegal or improper actions I was being asked to  cover up, hide or participate in.

 My federal court settlement included a retirement benefit, which, as the court, required the same Oxnard city manager signed. However, to this very day the city, has refused to comply with the complete terms of the settlement  retirement benefits. Consequently I receive less than one-fourth the benefits that Oxnard gave Sotelo. Hmmmmmmm. But sadly, I am not the only Oxnard manager who was punished for reporting a violation of law.

 One local official recently asked me, “How is it that Oxnard has so many bad managers?” I was dumbfounded by the question. Wasn’t she listening? Wasn’t she reading the news? Wasn’t she aware of what was happening around her?

My answer to that elected official and to all the other elected officials of California cities is simple: It’s because you reward those who violate the laws and for their misdeeds, and you punish those who support the laws and written policies.

Phillip Molina, CPA, MBA
Court Certified Mediator




Looking for an answer

I have been recycling and reusing most of my life, influenced greatly by my mom and long before it became the “green” thing to do.

I participate in the Edison energy conservation programs and comply with the city of Camarillo water usage requests for yard water.

I will continue to do this regardless of what other people and companies do as it is a common-sense and prudent use of resources.

However, I am baffled and somewhat peeved regarding the ability of golf courses, country clubs and public facilities to continue water usage to keep things green while being “UN-green.”

Who can answer my question — “Why is the average citizen and/or property owner expected to comply with supposedly mandated cutbacks while the rest of the population continues willy-nilly with whatever resource practices they want regardless of  … fill in the blank?”

There was even an article on MSN.com recently titled “Rich Californians Balk at Limits: We’re not all equal when it comes to water,” which basically states that residents in very rich enclaves state that if they can afford it (even with penalties) they should be able to use it

At the same time several weather scientists from top research university labs (not weather reporters) recently did a report stating that, looking at all the indicators, we will have more rain within the next year than any time in recent history

If anyone out there can explain the rationale behind all this inequality, I would love to be enlightened.

Thank you.

Danette Banyai

Oil and water

Thank you so much for the article by Christopher Judges. He wrote the truth about the cancer we know as Big Oil (Power to speak, 6/18). We will all die by the hand of oil companies because they own our politicians and they hide the true cost of the environmental disaster they have cast on America and the world.

John Puccetti

Studio Gallery at Fisherman’s Wharf

I enjoy your writing but am dismayed that you didn’t mention either the Studio Gallery or Hopper Boat Rentals in your otherwise excellent article about Fisherman’s Wharf in the Reporter (“Past, present and future,” Channel Islands Harbor 50th anniversary special insert, 6/25).

Studio Gallery has unusual, often handmade gifts at very reasonable prices, plus the best greeting cards in the area.  The friendly proprietor, Joanne, also does custom framing.

And when we first moved to the area I had never heard of the Wharf until we rented an electric boat from Hopper.  I hope you have a chance to visit the Wharf again soon and see what you missed!

Anne Baldinger



A world without Alzheimer’s

I am an avid volunteer and ambassador for the Alzheimer’s Association. I am fueled in my passion by the loss of many members of my family to this horrible disease. In preparation for Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month, I joined other Ventura County ambassadors on a visit to the office of Congresswoman Julia Brownley, D, in Thousand Oaks on May 29. We expressed our gratitude for Rep. Brownley co-sponsoring the Hope Act, which will provide Medicare coverage following a dementia diagnosis. In addition, we asked for her support in requesting an increase of $300 million funding for Alzheimer’s research as part of the NIH (National Institutes of Health) budget. This research funding is vitally important in reaching our goal of a world without Alzheimer’s. 

Other facts we reviewed during our visit included:

-There are over 5 million American living with Alzheimer’s and over 500,000 live in California.

-Alzheimer’s is the fifth leading cause of death in California.

-Alzheimer’s is the only cause of death among the top 10 in America that cannot be prevented, cured or even slowed. 

-Women make up almost two-thirds of those living with Alzheimer’s.

Please contact Representative Brownley and ask her to support Alzheimer’s funding and visit www.alz.org to get involved with the fight against Alzheimer’s.

Teresa Valko




The fast track concern

Why have Democrats opposed their president’s passionate appeal to fast-track the Trans-Pacific Partnership? Isn’t he the party leader as well as the leader of the nation?

Press Secretary Josh Ernest vigorously reassured the recalcitrant legislators with soothing, if nonspecific, responses to their concerns, pointing out that the full agreement has yet to be completed, which could answer their objections.

I was among the many who phoned Rep. Julia Brownley, D-Thousand Oaks, to urge a vote against fast-track. Among other things, I was concerned about violations of national sovereignty, of states’ rights and the right of localities to regulate noxious enterprises within their borders, e.g., one California county’s banning of fracking. Further, the idea that an international panel of industry experts could decide if investors should have compensation from our governments for anticipated lost profits seemed an outrageous proposition.

Have I read the document? Of course not. How would I? The two copies of it are available only to legislators, who are not permitted to copy it nor to make notes of the admittedly incomplete agreement.

However, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, has read it and offered a damning criticism of it, as has Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont.

“Who’s Bernie Sanders,” you ask?  He’s the guy whose candidacy U.S. media ignores, despite polls indicating huge bipartisan support for his ideas. But per The New York Times, he can’t win because the big corporate donors will snub him. A very good reason to trust him.

And I do trust Bernie. I also trust Warren. I do not trust the slick Mr. Ernest, nor the president.

Margaret Morris



Why isn’t anyone outraged?

Children comprehend: We are all connected. Bravo!

Amazing but true. It takes an eight-grader (Hector Guerrero, letters, June 11) to raise the red flags and tell us to “stop overconsuming.” Bravo, Hector!  You have proven that a 14-year-old can comprehend what millions of humans do not, and that is . . . we are all connected.

The question remains: Why do we not see through the eyes of children who will inherit this Earth? Is it arrogance or ignorance, or is it the belief that one person cannot possibly make a difference? With 7 billion people sharing this time and space, one would reasonably think with a conscience (integrity) and compassion (humanity), yet few appear to be outraged. A rally poster once read “If you’re not outraged, you’re NOT listening.” You may actually think you “hear” the message of climate change and overconsumption (aka, greed), but are you actually listening?

The poorest of the poor of our world are paying the price for the overconsumption of the richest nation on Earth. It is called environmental racism. Our Earth is knowingly being violated, abused and exploited on a daily basis. Precious H2O being flushed down the drain because only the clueless need a water-sucking sponge (aka, lawn). Hello! Those days are gone, after four serious years of drought. And don’t forget the most recent oil spill on Refugio Beach and the wildlife lost and beach now landscaped with not-so-lovely tar balls. “Sorry” just doesn’t cut it anymore when trying to defend offshore drilling. Have we forgotten the BP disaster in the Gulf? This is corporate greed — enough is never enough. Clean coal is a myth handed to those who are still waiting for the fairy godmother to “pay up” for a lost tooth.

Reality check, we live on one planet we call Earth. Ask yourself, would you allow your loved one to be violated, abused and exploited and walk away and do nothing? One day, your children and grandchildren will surely ask . . . Why wasn’t anyone outraged?

Linda Principe
Thousand Oaks




Oil. Who needs it?

Editorial: Time for an oil change (6/4).

People forget that before we had petroleum, we were killing whales for their oil. Just to light up our houses.

Petroleum has saved lives and has improved the lives of man. Because of oil, our medical profession has given people ways to live, and changed so many things to help people in the world to live long, healthier lives. There are so many things that are made from oil, too many to list. Not only transportation, the many things produced from petroleum that have changed our lives for the better.

There was an oil spill by Union Oil in around the 1970s and we were informed that it would hurt the environment for maybe 50 years or longer. Within five years, the beaches around Santa Barbara were cleaner than before the spill. If we do away with oil, are we willing to go back in time and do away with all the products made from petroleum?

I know there is a price to pay for progress, like the oil spill in Santa Barbara, and it is sad that some animals die. But because of petroleum, many people are alive and the world is a better place. In time, maybe we will find an alternative, but now we need oil.

Jerry Lucero



Those who are troubled

America’s great experiment in democracy is still very much in the process of becoming.

I am not unsympathetic to Paul Moomjean’s perspectives on his “An attack on Christianity” essay (Right Peruasion, 6/4). Most, however, simply want Christians to stop attacking them when they are not attacking Christians.

There are those who cause trouble. And there are those who are troubled. It is curious that Moomjean does not distinguish clearly that much of the collective attacks on Christianity come from the body of Christ itself. Ideas are on the cusp of becoming until they aren’t allowed to evolve.

Change has a lot to do with institutions that are attacked. Yesterday’s orthodoxy is often today’s heresy. Allowing the planet to be abused, overcrowded, etc., illuminates how new approaches to evolving times can alter perspectives on the way we view things. Contemplative religious bodies, for instance, do not agree often with revolutionary religious denominations.

American Indian faiths would question the logic of this being a Christian nation. Our democracy was designed in part to separate church from state for freedom’s sake — to protect the individual.

The injustice done to the marine Paul perceives is part of the challenge ecumenical councils are trying to resolve in making this a better place. Meeting someone halfway is a communication’s aim to broaden understanding.

When our Congress is unwilling to compromise (it really isn’t an option, moral or otherwise, to refuse), one wonders if peace and unity will ever have a chance. The Confederate flag being taken down voluntarily is an indication that our system remains a work in progress. The kingdom of God is joined at the hip with freedom, justice, capitalism and united, as Mr. Moomjean enumerates some of them. But the kingdom of God is for the individual to embrace — not the state or religions to decide for them.

John Whelan








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