Sunday, April 10, 2005
politics are alive and well in South Carolina
SC Statehouse Report
10 , 2005 - - South Carolina politicians seem to continue
to use religion to push partisan political positions, but
a new book reminds people that God is neither a Democrat nor
Just this week, Statehouse Republicans pushed two social
moral issues to the forefront - - a constitutional amendment
against same-sex marriage and a measure that would allow the
posting of the Ten Commandments on public property. Both essentially
are ways for fundamentalist Republicans to gin up their political
base and keep dividing people with wedge issues.
What's alarming is that lawmakers are spending so much time
on these issues when thousands of South Carolina's children
go to school hungry, tens of thousands of families live in
poverty, the state's education system is at the bottom, infant
mortality rates are among the nation's highest and the state
has the third highest unemployment rate in America.
Instead of working diligently and seriously to solve these
problems, they fiddle-faddle with fringe issues to push their
version of social engineering on a sleepy electorate. All
the while, they know both issues likely will stay in the headlines
because both will face constitutional challenges if they become
Ladies and gentlemen: it's South Carolina politics as usual.
progressive evangelical leader Jim Wallis says this kind of
politics doesn't have to be played out every day in legislatures
across the country.
"The religious and political Right gets the public meaning
of religion mostly wrong - - preferring to focus only on sexual
and cultural issues while ignoring the weightier matters of
justice," Wallis writes in "God's Politics: Why
the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It."
"And the secular Left doesn't seem to get the meaning
and promise of faith for politics at all - - mistakenly dismissing
spirituality as irrelevant to social change."
He says when either political party tries to use God for
political purposes, it makes a bad political mistake. He writes
his book is a challenge to the Right and the Left to shape
up to allow the voice of religion to be heard to challenge
the typical way of doing business.
"God's politics challenges narrow national, ethnic,
economic, or cultural self-interest, reminding us of a much
wider world and the creative human diversity of all those
made in the image of the creator."
Wallis' argument, when boiled down, is that politicians shouldn't
invoke the name of God or use religion to endorse their political
positions. Instead, they should worry whether their positions
are on God's side. In other words, they should look at issues
and ask, "Is this what God would want?" or "Is
this what Jesus would do?"
WORLD: At the pumps
TRACK: New section
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By shifting to this perspective, it's interesting to look
at some current hot issues before the General Assembly:
- Income tax cut. Wallis says budgets are moral documents
because they highlight true priorities. The new $5.8 billion
state budget, for example, currently includes an income
tax cut for small businesses that will take $130 million
out of the state revenue stream. With so many kids going
to school hungry, is this what Jesus would want?
- Same-sex marriage. A measure that calls for a constitutional
amendment to "protect" traditional marriage also
would institutionalize discrimination against gays and lesbians
who want to be in recognized committed relationships. While
the measure is moot because same-sex marriage already is
illegal in South Carolina, Wallis' challenge reminds us
that one of religion's fundamental responsibilities is to
care and protect the vulnerable. So is this amendment what
God would really want?
- Hog bill. Development-backed legislators want to
keep cities and counties from enacting tougher environmental
rules than required by the state. But protecting God's earth
can be considered a religious issue. Is damaging the earth
by more development really what Buddha or the God of Mohammed
or Jesus would want?
- School funding. Is it fair to fund two kinds of
school systems - - districts in urban and suburban areas
with solid tax bases and good facilities versus poor, rural
school districts with some third-world conditions? Does
it reward those who are better off and fail to show compassion
for those who live in poorer areas by denying similar educational
services to them? Would God approve of this?
Regardless of your religion, "God's Politics" makes
you think about how politicians and governments set fiscal
responsibilities. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize
quickly that everybody could do better.
4/10: At the
Another great cartoon from Bill McLemore:
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4/7: More complete
picture needed on rural schools
To the editor:
In the extensive local coverage of a lawsuit brought against
the state by some school districts who claim unfair treatment,
some underlying factors have been barely touched, others ignored.
- For one thing, conditions in some of these districts did
not pop up overnight. A history of indifference, waves of
sectional rivalry, and political pandering have yielded
to perhaps unreasonable local demands, and bills have become
- A second issue: how much in state funds, over and above
per-pupil allotment, has the state poured into these districts
to patch up existing problems. If this were mentioned in
the trials, it missed the news coverage.
- How wisely have the districts used funds, local, state
and federal, that were available - issues like bloated bureaucracy,
surplus electronic gadgets, frivolous courses, and, worse,
huge proportional budgets for public relations?
- How much have the districts spent in the last ten years
on sports and entertainment? Coaches salary supplements,
real estate, athletic gear, band and cheerleader equipment
and uniforms, transportation?
(It is worth noting that one of the complaining districts
needs building funds, but was somehow able to fund a football
team that reached the state finals. Another district just
got an elaborate new high school building - complete with
a football stadium.)
There is a moral issue here. The districts are spending taxpayer
money to drag on this litigation, while the same taxpayers
are paying dearly for the state to defend itself! So now a
judge can decide what should rightly be decided by legislature?
-- Roy Hammond, Centenary, S.C.
agenda is clear as sunshine
To the editor:
In regards to the blab (Commentary,
3/20) about losing money on students leaving the public
school system using vouchers, I have a little to add to the
With Public Schools retaining 49 percent of the income from
taxes generated for students that would be out of the education
system, I think you will agree the squawk from the Educational
Elites [ EEs] shows a low IQ.
After speaking to the office of Education at the State House
I am assured 49 percent of this money will be kept right in
the State educational coffers. Now lets say for the
sake of establishing a mental grid we have [say] 20,000 fewer
students in the public classroom with 49 percent of the funding
for these 20,000 students still in the EEs pockets.
Well you can see now it would take a low IQ to complain
of this fortune and this is what some are doing. It is a power
play from people who are in need of something they didnt
get in the very public educational system they advocate if
you ask me.
But then, I would be shunned at any state EE level talks
as I have bad teeth, but hey, my mind works well and math
is not too much for me, but then again my agenda is clear
-- Gary Rice, Columbia, SC
In this new section, we will keep track of Statehouse Report's
record of forecasting what goes on in the legislature. For
example, at the beginning of the year, a commentary called
for no roads to be named for living officials. Sixteen days
later, House Speaker David Wilkins introduced such a measure.
SOUTH CAROLINA SCORECARD
Here's a "thumbs up" and "thumbs down" related to various
political events from the past week:
Edge. Hats off to Rep. Tracy Edge, R-Horry, for calling
for Rudy Giuliani to return $80,000 from a speaking fee for
a tsunami fund-raiser.
Dems. For two years, SC Democrats have let Gov. Mark
Sanford get away with just about anything. Finally over the
past week, they held a press conference criticizing his economic
McConnell. Kudos to Senate President Pro Tem Glenn
McConnell for having the courage to stand up to Republican
colleagues and vote against a same-sex marriage proposal because
of its blatant unconstitutionality.
Evergreen. The shipping line should owe more than
$2 million for spilling oil and damaging South Carolina's
coastline, but a judgment this week is a good start.
McMullen. SC Policy Council President Ed McMullen
might want to pick somebody other than the late deposed Vice
President Spiro Agnew as a role model for quotes in lambasting
opponents of the governor's voucher program.
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