Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Bethlehem's Newest Magistrate: Buddy Christ!

Yesterday, I got a love note from Scott J. Hough, P.S.C. You probably recognize Ph. D., D.V.M. or even Q.C. But there's only a special few among us who know what P.S.C. means.

Give up?

I'll give you a hint. The love note, which was really a postcard, told me this: "NOTICE. A warrant for your arrest has been issued. Failure to respond to this notice will result in your arrest at home or at work." P.S.C. stands for Pennsylvania State Constable. Once again, I had neglected a Bethlehem parking ticket and was facing the big house. I donned my rubber underwear and headed immediately for District Judge Stocklas' office on Broad Street.

So why the hell am I confessing my criminal behavior? Because of what I saw when I arrived at Stocklas' office. Inside his office, there's a courtroom. You enter this courtroom through a glass door. And emblazoned on this door, for the entire world to see, are these words. "Jesus is Lord of Bethlehem."

Seriously, what is up with that? Ladies behind the counter told me the courtroom door "came that way." One of them said, "It's funny. Just last week, someone was asking why that was there." I wonder if this someone was a Jewish, Muslim or Buddhist litigant. I don't think they'd feel very confident in the court's impartiality.

A little more than a year has passed since our Supreme Court ordered a Kentucky court to remove a courthouse display of the Ten Commandments. Its purpose was to advance a religious, as opposed to secular, message. In some cases, a similar display can be considered secular or might have historical signifigance. But "[w]hen the government acts with the ostensible and predominant purpose of advancing religion, it violates the central Establishment clause value of official religious neutrality."

No secular purpose is advanced by "Jesus is Lord of Bethlehem." It clearly promotes Christianity over other religions. Northampton County President Judge Freedberg should order its immediate removal. It's great in a church, but has no place in a courtroom unless Jimmy Stocklas thinks he's Buddy Christ.

Update From Court Administrators:
I emailed Northampton County Court Administrators twice at their email contact address. Both emails were returned by that devil, the Mailer Daemon. This is what the Devil tells me. "500 POSSIBLE UNSOLICITED MAIL DETECTED / APPEARS TO BE SPAM." Why do governments even bother to set up email contact addresses if they reject everything you send them? That's one reason I have this blog.

I called and spoke directly to court administrator Jim Onembo. He explains the sign as a leftover from a prior tenant, and assures me it will be blocked until it can be removed. I appreciate his quick response to an obvious violation of the Establishment clause.

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is same as Northampton County Council voting to spend $700.00 of taxpayers money on an Easter Egg hunt. If I remember from my school days, this event is based on one religion and does not cross all religions. Why should any county government espouse or sponsor religious events? Taxpayers should not have to worry that County Council members having a Christian agenda. Does that mean that any religious organization can come to County Council to have their event sponsored? Is County Council showing impartiality?

Anonymous said...

"In nomine Patris et fillii et Spiritus Sancti" AMEN!

Anonymous said...

In addition to my post (Anon 6:52), I believe that the Easter Egg hunt was sanctioned by County Council to be held on County property. Is the Right Reverend Ron Angle going to be bringing his Ten Commandmants to the County Council sanctioned religious event?

Anonymous said...

I think it's about tiem to hold a Flying Spaghetti Monster Commeration Day dinner at the Northampton County Courthouse!!

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 6:51 & 7:59, So far as I know, and Easster Egg Hunt advances no specific religion and is secular in nature. It should have roots in some pagan religion, but those are lost in the mists of time. It is secular.

Anonymous said...

I think the sign should say Buddy Christ is the Lord of Bethlehm. Great picture Bernie

Anonymous said...

Dear Bernie, The Easter Egg is a symbol of Jesus Christ's resurrection that has it's roots from the Old Eastern Orthodox Christian Community. The egg symbolizes rebirth and has been used to educate children throughout the centuries. The coordinator (probably Bishop Ron Angle; yes, he's been elevated) of this activity is promoting Christian ideals using County money and resources. Would Bishop Angle give taxpayers money for a Buddhist tradition? There should be a separation of Church/State. That's my argument.

LVDem said...

I'm going to hell for saying this, but all hail the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Off to church to pray for forgiveness.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 9:50, Angle a bishop? Actually, he thought he was a cardinal. You just demoted him.

You're right, but you're not completely right. First, the word "Easter" is actually a Saxon word meaning the godess of spring. Second, eggs and rabbits are symbols of fertility, and have their origin in pagan spring rituals. Christians did adopt the use of an egg, but its roots are much older than that.

I don't think an easter egg hunt advances any specific religion and is not thought of in that way. At this point, it's entirely secular, at least in my view.

Two weeks ago, when council voted to give $700 from their discretionary fund for an easter egg hunt, religion was on no one's mind. If county council was giving money to a specific church or religious group for an easter egg hunt, then you'd be right. But I believe the beneficiary is a secular group.

The Establishment cause is designed to prevent our government from becoming a theocracy, advancing a specific religion like the Church of England. I don't think too many will argue that a sign saying "Jesus is Lord of Bethlehem" is a blatant endorsement of Christianity over other religions. It has no place on a courtroom door, and is probably a leftover from the prior tenant. But the easter egg hunt you mention is a real stretch, dude. Obviously, it offends you. But its former religious signifigance is long gone. I don't think you could convince a court that it violates the Establishment clause.

Chris Casey said...

I have that movie, "Dogma" on DVD. Any movie that has George Carlin as a Catholic Cardinal is great in my book! Christ as buddy, what's wrong with that? I'm the Buddha of Blogging, and nobody worships me!

Anonymous said...

From Anon 6:52, 7:59 and 9:50 - Bernie, I see your point and this will hopefully be my last post on the subject. Additionally, again, Pope Angle and his cronies have decorated the Northampton County Courthouse with Christian religious symbols for St. Patrick's Day. Non-Christians have complained regarding insensitivity. Any government, whether County or otherwise, should be sensitive to respecting minority viewpoints and cultures. Whether YOU view Easter Eggs or any other symbol as pagan, secular or anything else is your opinion. Others may see the government as sanctioning sponsorship of Christian thought and ideology in politics. It makes just plain sense not flaunting one religion or religious festivities within a government setting.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Now Angle's a pope! First, you demote him and then you promote him!

I understand your sensitivity, but don't think it is widely shared. I just don't see how an Easter Egg hunt advances one particular religion. Actually, your argument about St. Paddy may have a little more validity. But once again, I think most consider that day as an appreciation of Irish culture. It's mostly an excuse to drink green beer.

If I felt either of these things advanced a specific religion, I'd be with you 100%. I don't. I don't think they present a threat of establishing any religion as a state sponsored religion. But if you see a theocracy rearing its ugly head, you should speak out, and I apprciate your concerns. Maybe a judge would agree with you.

Anonymous said...

Ron Angle associated with any form or post of Christianity is hilarious or sacrilege or something. Angle as a Christian (one like Christ) just doesn't compute. Too funny.

Now I could see his fat ass the Easter Bunny, though. A really nasty mean one...sorta like an Easter spin on the Pennsylvania Dutch Belshnickle of Christmastime.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Actually, Angle is watching his diet and is morphing into a lean, mean fighting machine. He's even given me a walkie talkie and says 10-4 a lot. But now he's started wearing camoflauge make-up to county council meetings. It's really freackin' me out.

Anonymous said...

Bernie, I've never known you to be so ill-informed! Drinking green beer is most definitely a religious experience!

Erin gO'Braghless
Brewmeister
Leprechaun Brewing Co.

R Mosh-ko-ko said...

"And Goddi/Gotti (god) said 'Youse better leave them 'mandments up and while yins are it at, --NO MORE "anons." What are yizz, nutst?'"

Book of Moshki 1:7

R Mesh-kee said...

"'Oh, and Me, Sonny and Ghostie will not be messed wit. We just bet up All-yayhoo (Allah)up here so
yoooze bums leave that JC thing up 'ere too or We'll hurt yez.'"

Book of.........2:3

bgivens said...

I refer you and your readers to my website www.billybytes.com and the article "Springtime Follies" by the site's editor Billy Givens, dated April 13, 2004:

"Like Roman centurions on Calvary, rolling dice for the possession of Jesus' robe, the Council members of Northampton County gamble over its tattered finances.

"This Thursday, April 15, 2004, Council is scheduled once again to refinaance the county's illegal $111 million bond, after tabling this dangerously risky venture in each of the last two meetings - ignoring the pleadings of Blank, Rome, Comisky, and McCauley bond counsel and responding instead to the warnings of oponents of the refinancing scheme.

"The refinancing coincides with this spring's 2004 Easter/Passover season, on the second anniversary of Northampton County Councilman Ron Angle's crucifixion in the County's Courtroom 1 for alleged anti-Semitic comments made on his Saturday morning WAEB-FM talk/call-in radio show.

"Though Angle's Judas Iscariots on Council failed to remove hims from that body, they did succeed in stripping him of his positions as finance committee chair and Council vice-president.

"Tim Merwarth...succeeded Angle as finance committee chairman, and Council...appointed Nick Sabatine chairman of its economic development committee.

"At the behest of Council president J. Michael Dowd, Merwarth and Sabatine introduced [an] ordinance, drafted and approved by County solicitor Brian Monahan spurious amendments to the 1998 articles incorporating the GPA [General Purpose Authority.]

"Merwarth and Sabatine introduced their ordinance to Council on February 21, 2002," for its first reading.

"This was two days prior to Angle's February 23 radio broadcast, chosen by this enemies including The Morning Call and The Express-Times as the Gethsemane Garden of his betrayal.

"Everyday thereafter, for 12 days, up to the crucifixion date of March 7, 2002, the presses rolled relentlessly, finally sealing Angle's tomb.

"Fortunately for Northampton County's taxpayers, however, Angle has been resurrected on Jolly Joe Timmer's WGPA-AM talk/call-in radio show ['At Issue'] (8-10 AM, Mon.-Thurs., 1100 on the radio dial, on which he and callers like Ken Nagy of Forks Township have exposed the fiscal dangers of the $111 million bond's refinancing.

"The diabolical purpose of this refinancing scheme is a desperate need for immediate cash flow (the purpose of all derivative or 'swaption' refinancing schemes) to fund the County's proposed $40 million bond for purported Open Space, but in reality another Open Wallet bond issue for Northampton County taxpayers - and a $100,000 refinancing fee for the County's resident bond counsel, Blank Rome."

Billy Givens said...

Bernie,

In my article "Springtime Follies," I report that "Blank Rome's Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and managing partner is David F.Girard-diCarlo, a George W. Bush 'Ranger' committed to raising $200,000 personally for the President's re-election, and together with Pennsylvania' 5 other Rangers, of raising in excess of $200 million for Bush's campaign war chest. The other Rangers are:

"Robert Asher, Pennsylvania's Republican National Committee (RNC) member.

"Stephen B. Burke (Comcast Corp. Ex. VP)

"Manuel N. Stamatakis (CEO, Capital Managemment Enterprises. Appointed by then-Governor Tom Ridge to the Delaware River Port Authority, he leads a $430 million project to renovate Phiadelphia's old navy shipyards.

"Alan P. Novak, lawyer and lobbyist with the firm of Conrad O'Brian, Gellman, and Rohn, whose clients include Big Tobacco. Novak specialized in nunicipal law and serves as the solicitor for sevefal local governments. Novak subscfibes to the belief that 'The forced redistribution of wealth and the over regulation of the free enterprise system - even under the guise of law for the purpose of advancing misguided notions of social or economic justice - is destructive of the fabric of society, and must not be tolerated."

Billy Givens said...

On June 6, 2002, "Northampton County Council passed an ordinance giving council a last-ditch defense against any attempt to remove the Ten Commandments from the county courthouse.

"Council passed the ordinance 8-1 in front of a packed galley of more than 75 people who spoke close to an hour, imploring council to defend the commandments' place in Courtroom One.

"Council's ordinance states that council does not believe the placement of the commandments violates the U.S. Constitution, which is interpreted by the federal court.

"Council appears to be preparin to take the matter to a higher court than the Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which [Councilman Ron] Angle called a 'liberal' court.

[On this score I disagree with Angle, at least in its current makeup. This is the court of Judge Margorie "Midge" Rendell, wife of Pennsylvania's kleptocratic Governor Edward G. Rendell; former Pennsylvania Attorney General Judge J. Michael Fisher, whom the PA Republican Party Committee put up as a "show-case" candidate to oppose Fast Eddie in the 2002 gubernatorial contest - just as the Republicans nominated Lynn Swann as the "window-dressing" candidate in the 2006 gubernatorial cycle; Judge Sam Alito from New Jersey, whose 5-4 split decision gave our country the notorious "knock and announce" doctrine, a flagrant violation of the U.S. Constitutions Fourth Amendment right against unwarranted "search and seizure."; former Easton federal judge Franklin S. VanAntwerpen, who gave Michael Solomon, a former Northampton County official and convicted felon, a slap-on-the-wrist sentence even though Solomon refused to give testimony implicating county officials like Northampton County Council President Wayne Grube; and, finally, federal prosecutor Michael Chertoff, the scarry-looking Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.]

"'The American Center for Law and Justice has offered to assist county council free of charge in its fight to keep the commandments up,' said Bob Kilbanks, a local Republican and former Congressional candidate.

"'I do believe that the overwhelming majority of people in this county wants those commandments to hang there,' Angle said during the debate. 'Don't rely on the media to help us on this issue, because they're not going to help.'"