Book Club Meeting: Leonard Levy’s “The Establishment Clause: Religion and the First Amendment”

Our next book, recommended by Lee Nackman, is Leonard Levy’s “The Establishment Clause: Religion and the First Amendment. The publisher describes the book thus:

Leonard Levy 1st Amendment Book

Leonard Levy’s classic work examines the circumstances that led to the writing of the establishment clause of the First Amendment: ‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion. . . .’ He argues that, contrary to popular belief, the framers of the Constitution intended to prohibit government aid to religion even on an impartial basis. He thus refutes the view of ‘nonpreferentialists,’ who interpret the clause as allowing such aid provided that the assistance is not restricted to a preferred church.

For this new edition, Levy has added to his original arguments and incorporated much new material, including an analysis of Jefferson’s ideas on the relationship between church and state and a discussion of the establishment clause cases brought before the Supreme Court since the book was originally published in 1986.

Meeting: Thursday, August 16th, 10:30 AM to 12 Noon.

Location: UNC Health Care Hillsborough Campus on 460 Waterstone Drive, Hillsborough, NC 27278. We will meet in a conference room not too far from the café area. Directions to conference room: Come into main lobby, make a right at the gift shop, go down the Administration Hallway on the right. The conference room is first door on right after passing second set of brown double doors in hallway.

All are welcome, even if you have not read the book!

Book Club Meeting: Colin Woodard’s “American Nations”

cover-_american_nations-577x860Our next book, highly recommended by Jerry Morris, is Colin Woodard’s American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures in North America. Writing in the Washington Post, Reid Wilson describes the book thus:

“Red states and blue states? Flyover country and the coasts? How simplistic. Colin Woodard, a reporter at the Portland Press Herald and author of several books, says North America can be broken neatly into 11 separate nation-states, where dominant cultures explain our voting behaviors and attitudes toward everything from social issues to the role of government.”

Meeting: Thursday June 21st, 10:30 AM to 12 Noon.

Location: UNC Health Care Hillsborough Campus on 460 Waterstone Drive, Hillsborough, NC 27278. We will meet in a conference room not too far from the café area. Directions to conference room: Come into main lobby, make a right at the gift shop, go down the Administration Hallway on the right. The conference room is first door on right after passing second set of brown double doors in hallway.

All are welcome, even if you have not read the book!

Hal Crowther Speaking on June 5th!

Crowther Promo Draft 1

Hal Crowther is a critic and essayist who lives in Hillsborough, North Carolina. He is the author of An Infuriating American: The Incendiary Arts of H.L. Mencken, (University of Iowa Press), and four collections of essays. His most recent collection, Gather at the River, was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle prize in criticism. He is also the author of Unarmed But Dangerous, for which Kirkpatrick Sale praised him as “the best essayist working in journalism today,” and Cathedrals of Kudzu: A Personal Landscape of the South, winner of the Lillian Smith Book Award for commentary and the Fellowship Prize from the Fellowship of Southern Writers. Another collection of essays, Freedom Fighters and Hellraisers: A Gallery of Memorable Southerners, will be published by Blair Press in October. —— Crowther is a former screenwriter, a newsmagazine editor for both Time and Newsweek, and a syndicated columnist whose columns won the Baltimore Sun’s H.L. Mencken Writing Award in 1992 and the American Association of Newsweeklies prize for commentary in 1998, shared with Nat Hentoff of the Village Voice. For his essays on Southern culture and letters for The Oxford American, he was a finalist for a National Magazine Award in 2003. Crowther’s essays have been published in many magazines and newspapers, from Granta to the New York Times, and included in many anthologies, including the 2014 Pushcart Prize volume for “The Joys of Obsolescence.” He is married to the novelist Lee Smith.

Book Club Meeting: George Lakoff’s “Don’t Think of an Elephant!”

Lakoff Elephant CoverOur next book is George Lakoff’s The All New Don’t Think of an Elephant! Know Your Values and Frame the Debate. Make sure that you read the second version, dated 2014, which is a significant update to the original 2004 publication. You can read Lakoff’s summary of the book here.

Meeting: Thursday April 19, 10:30 AM to 12 Noon. Please note that this meeting time begins one hour later than the original schedule.

Location: UNC Health Care Hillsborough Campus on 460 Waterstone Drive, Hillsborough, NC 27278. We will meet in a conference room not too far from the café area. Directions to conference room: Come into main lobby, make a right at the gift shop, go down the Administration Hallway on the right. The conference room is first door on right after passing second set of brown double doors in hallway.

Please read this important work by Lakoff at some point, even if you cannot attend the meeting and, if available, come to the meeting even if you haven’t read the book.

Social Media: It’s not Just for Russians Anymore!

Our next quarterly meeting will be held on March 6th, from 6:30 to 8:00 pm. Location: Room 230 at the Whitted Building, 300 W. Tryon Street, Hillsborough.

Join us at our quarterly meeting, at which Allison Mahaley and Vicki Boyer will share their insights on the use of Facebook and Twitter; the good, the bad, and how it can be used to support separation of church and state.

  • If you have an account on either platform, bring your device and play along with us.
  • If you don’t have an account, open one and bring your device.
  • If you don’t know if you want one, come and have fun with us!

All members and potential members are welcome to attend.

Second Book Club Meeting: C Street

Our first book club meeting went well. We had 13 participants and a lot of energetic conversation.

9780316179737Our next selection is C Street: The Fundamentalist Threat to American Democracy by Jeff Sharlet. A teaser for you: What do the Air Force Academy, Uganda, a disgraced ex-governor of SC, an extreme-right evangelical group located on C Street in Washington, DC and the foreign policy of the USA have in common?

When: Thursday, March 15, 2018 from 9:30 – 11:00 AM

Where: Whitted Human Resources building, Mtg. Room  250, 300 West Tryon Street, Hillsborough, NC 27278.

If you want coffee please bring it with you this time.

Please, come join us for the discussions even if you haven’t read the work, or haven’t finished it. Please read the selection even if you cannot make the discussion. The information you will gain and share is too important to miss. Our First Amendment right is too precious to lose.

First Book Club Meeting: Democracy in Chains

Great News: Beginning this February, Orange-Durham Americans United for Separation of Church and State will begin a monthly Book/Coffee Club.

What: Read and discuss important books related to current First Amendment Issues locally and nationally, written by renowned authors. Books selected for reading and review will be “Must Read” works that are critically relevantDemocracy In Chains Cover to AU’s mission, and to our nation’s well-being.

Our first selection is Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of The Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America by Professor Nancy MacLean, William H. Chafe Professor of History and Public Policy at Duke University.

When: Thursday, February 15, 2018 from 9:30 AM to 11:00 AM.

Where: UNC Hospital Cafeteria, Hillsborough Branch. Café is located on the first floor to the right of the lobby area.

Discussion Leader: Jerry Morris, Co-Chair of ODAU

Please, come join us. Bring a friend. Sip some coffee as we share ideas and collective wisdom about the book on review. We have an important mission and message to spread in our area and these works can help us.

Regardless of political affiliation, MacLean’s book is a true “Must Read” for any citizen concerned about the home-grown assaults on our Democracy. As Prof. MacLean’s work demonstrates, this assault is well-planned and well-funded. In NC, we have seen the dreadful fruits of this “stealth” plan in our current legislative houses. We can see its fruit in the current makeup of the U.S. House and Senate. If the trend is not reversed by faithful citizens who will put our nation’s Democracy above their party’s dogma, we may soon see the plan’s democracy-eroding effects in our courts throughout the land.

Yes, please join us for the discussions even if you haven’t read the work, or haven’t finished it. Please read “Democracy in Chains” even if you cannot make it to the coffee. The information you will gain and share is too important to miss. Our First Amendment rights are too precious to lose.

A Pivotal Year?

2017 could well go down in modern American history as the pivotal year for a cultural sea change.  The scabs and bandages have been torn off four long term festering sores in the American body politic in 2017.  We need treatment.

We peeked under the first bandage in mid 2016.  Call it, “male predatory sexual aggression.”  Our genitalia grabbing President shrugged off his offenses as “locker room talk.”  But numerous women broke the silence, at considerable risk to themselves, and told us that it was a lot more than talk.  Those women emboldened others to begin telling the truth about the abuse  they had received from wealthy, powerful, egotistical men with whom they worked or that they encountered.  This year it was a movie mogul whose gross behavior was exposed, and more and more women began saying, “#me too,” and describing the abuse that had been inflicted on them by politicians, entertainers and others.  2017’s flood of accusations has placed the issue front and center in our public awareness.

The second bandage was torn away in Charlottesville, VA. and exposed the deep and gaping wound that African Americans, Jews and others have long known as vitriolic racism.  Many have acknowledged and analyzed systemic racism and the ways it is deeply imbedded in our society, but the raw, violent expression of it, veiled and substantially ignored in the last several decades, is now unmistakable in all its nastiness.  Systemic racism has created a social and economic order that stifles the opportunity for thriving of minority persons, even as cries are raised alleging reverse racism against supposedly beleaguered white folks.  Vitriolic racism is now unmasked, an unmistakable expression of the racist fear and hatred at the root of our common life.  We must deal now with both forms of racism.

The gaping wound of gun violence is not new in 2017, but it has reached new levels of unspeakable carnage.  The wholesale slaughter of innocents in Las Vegas, followed closely by a massacre of Texas worshipers and a host of other heinous shootings, show how far down the path of insanity we have come.  It is not as though the sale of guns cannot be regulated effectively, especially to known criminals and the mentally ill.  It is our fear that causes us to buy thousands of weapons and resist any effort to curtail their availability.  Mix that with anxiety and aggressiveness on the part of some, and we have the present disaster.

The fourth festering sore is now unmasked by our convoluted US Congress as it makes dramatic changes to the tax code.  Its name is “Unbridled Greed.”  It has been with us before, particularly in the Gilded Age, and now masquerades cynically as tax cuts for the middle class.  Every analysis exposes its clear results: enriching the wealthy while impoverishing the poor, and pretty much everyone else.  Along with the changes in taxation come the removal of regulatory restraints and protections for the public.  This dramatic change is enforced by restrictions on voting rights and gerrymandered electoral districts which protect those who protect the wealthy.

Predatory sexual aggression, combined with vitriolic racism, the unchecked availability of guns and rigid economic inequality, all point to a deep seated cultural sickness: the compulsion to dominate.  That cancer is fully exposed in 2017, and we will not solve any of its symptoms until we acknowledge the disease.  And, this year will not be pivotal, we will not change, unless we begin to treat it.  That’s the diagnosis and the prognosis.  So, what is the treatment?

Curing the compulsion to dominate is not a matter of legislation or elections.  It is a matter of the heart of individuals and the soul of the nation.  As a pastor I might be expected to prescribe religion as a way forward.  It is maddening to acknowledge, however, that the fundamentalist versions of religion are enablers and encouragers of the compulsion to dominate.  They want to dominate and do not hesitate to use politics to try to do it.

Religious traditions that teach love for the neighbor and seek justice for the poor; religions that believe that all persons are children of God, beloved by God, and deserve to be respected and cherished: they hold the antidote for our disease.  May they thrive and speak their truth boldly.  They may be our best hope to pivot toward the nation of justice, compassion and unity that we aspire to be.  2017 will turn out be a pivotal year only if we begin to address these four crises.  It requires confession, contrition and conversion:  starting with ourselves and advocated to all, especially our cultural and national leaders.  With regard to predatory sexual aggression we have at least made a start.  We must begin to address and reverse the other three as well.

Rev. Rollin Russell