Friday, February 20, 2009

Finding our place in the world

A memorable line in The Screwtape Letters: "He thinks that is he finding his place in the world, but the world is finding its place in him."

Christians fell in love early with the idea of redeeming the world by capturing the state, and then using the state to impose Christianity in the world. We've had lots of Christian states since the Roman Empire and its successors in Europe. Shining examples come to mind like the Byzantine Empire; the Holy Roman Empire, which was none of these; Roman Catholic imperial Spain, which in Hispaniola made Hitler look inefficient and restrained, and much much more.

If "Christian" has anything to do with what the Bible says - a disciple of Jesus - then we ought to see what Jesus said about it in the gospels. You look at his basic teachings - the stuff he says we ought to be teaching the nations so as to make disciples of them - and you don't see much of that in any Christian state in the world, any time in history. But you sure see the world and its values capturing the Christians that get tangled up in these projects, 100% of the time.

Jesus told us how he sends Christians out into the world with the gospel: "Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves," not as vultures following predators, like the Christian missionaries who perched in Amman in 2003 waiting to follow the invaders into Iraq. Jesus was thinking of the conquest of Canaan by his predecessor and namesake, Joshua the son of Nun. The first step in that conquest was for the Jordan to be parted by God, so that the people crossed over and were circumcised at Gilgal, becoming helpless in the midst of their enemies, protected by God because they could do nothing to protect themselves. He says "Behold" because this statement is something to behold, the way people behold a big traffic accident: they gawk at it, giving it their full attention. We need to give this saying of Jesus our full attention.

In the wilderness, Satan offered Jesus a deal. Bow down and worhip Satan, and you can have the kingdoms of this world. Satan is not in fact worshiped by saying black masses and doing things at night to naked virgins on altars, just as God is not really worshiped in church services. Satan is worshiped by believing what he says and doing it, just God is worshiped by believing what he says and doing it - as Jesus said, "Why do you call me 'Lord, Lord,' and you do not do the things that I say."

The word of Satan, as Jesus described it, is that lying, killing, stealing, and destroying are the way to solve problems in the world. The deal offered was thatJesus could have these kingdoms if he too would place his reliance on these activities. That's the deal that is always accepted when Christians rely on lying, stealing, killing, and destroying in order to make a place for ourselves, to extend God's kingdom as we imagine.

Thus the Spanish conquerors brought "Christianity" to the New World through their service to Satan in mass murder and robbery. The Crusaders "took the cross" and conquered Jerusalem, slaughtering Jews on the way, serving Satan in murder, plunder, and rape, and supposing along with the pope that sent them that they were doing service to God. The Vichy regime in France that collaborated with the Germans called itself a Christian regime, and many Roman Catholics enthusiastically supported it. The pope was a big friend of Ante Pavelic, whose Roman Catholic "Independent State of Croatia" slaughtered about 250,000 Serbs from 1941 to 1945 as they went about forcing them to become Roman Catholics, and the pope helped Pavelic get away after the war. He died in Spain under the protection of General Franco, whom the Roman Catholic Church helped into power and enthusiastically supported in exchange for his favors.

Closer to home, Christians in the US have always claimed that this is a Christian country, and they've done what they can to make it so, but if you compare the behavior of the US in the world with what Jesus taught in Matthew 5-7, can't we see a few differences? Jesus said there to seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness, rather than worship Mammon, but when has the US and its people not worshiped Mammon? The American state has been very competitive in lying, stealing, killing, and destroying since the Pilgrims were robbing Indian graves in 1621. Our efforts to make it and its people say "Lord, Lord," have worked well enough, but as far as doing what Jesus says, when have we ever seen that? For 50 years the world has had to listen to American Christians whining because the state stopped sponsoring wimpy little prayers in schools invented by politicians to to be heard by men, like the hypopcrites standing and praying on the street corners - and we wonder, in our contempt for the plain words of Jesus about that, why the world doesn't listen to us about this Jesus whose words we so clearly despise.

Yes, indeed, Satan's offer in the wilderness was a deal for suckers, and Jesus was right not to take it. That's one of the things he taught us that he told us to go teach the nations, when we get around to believing Jesus ourselves. Until we do, why don't we shut up and stay home?

Think about it: Christian states never turn anyone into real Christians - disciples of Jesus, that kind - but they sure turn Christians into disciples of Satan, lukewarm, indistinguishable from the worst in the world.

Now one more amazing thing is that Jews have felt these Christian states upon their skins for over 1500 years, and they have clearly seen how the Christians that have built them have thereby banished the words of Jesus from their own lives. Unlike the Christians, Jews did know better until about 100 years ago. They knew that they couldn't make their own state and worship it as their refuge without losing Judaism, because as Moses said in Psalm 90, God is our refuge in all generations.

But then the Zionists imagined that Jews could do as the Christians did, make their own worldly state, so that Jews can be safe. They wanted a state just as in Samuel's day they demanded a king for themselves - because they rejected God. It certainly hasn't done anything to make Jews safe, and in lying, stealing, killing, and destroying Israel gets better and better all the time - just like all the "Christian" states we have hoped in over all these years.

Yes, indeed. When Jesus was offered, "Fall down and worship me, and I will give you all these kingdoms and their glory," he answered well, "Out of my face, Satan, because it is written, ' You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only you shall serve.'" And that worship and service is to learn from him to do the things that he says, no other way.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Legal research

I've been discussing the case with a lawyer who is a civil litigator but has no expertise in Special Education law. That's not a problem, because our case doesn't call for deep knowledge of SE law, just enough to litigate damage claims and maybe the Due Process Hearing. So we've been going back and forth, and I referred him to Disability Rights California, formerly PAI, for their guidance.

For instance, he pointed out that Fitzgerald v Barnstable concerns Title IX and in fact contrasts it to the Supreme Court's opposite finding in Smith v Robinson (1984), in which it found IDEA to not even provide for recovery of attorney costs. So Congress overturned that decision in 1986 by adding the following language, now in IDEA 2004 as 20 USC Section 1415 (l):

(l) Rule of construction
Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to restrict or limit the rights, procedures, and remedies available under the Constitution, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 [42 U.S.C. 12101 et seq.], title V of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 [29 U.S.C. 790 et seq.], or other Federal laws protecting the rights of children with disabilities, except that before the filing of a civil action under such laws seeking relief that is also available under this subchapter, the procedures under subsections (f) and (g) shall be exhausted to the same extent as would be required had the action been brought under this subchapter.

Thus, the Smith decision cited in Fitzgerald applies to IDEA as it stood in 1984, but not to how it reads today, although the reasoning of Smith is still pertinent in general to statutes like what IDEA used to be, as opposed to Title IX and to IDEA as now explicitly amended. Now Fitzgerald confirms the view of the 9th Circuit that IDEA does permit 1983 actions ("other Federal laws protecting the rights of children with disabilities") once I have exhausted the administrative remedy of Due Process that I have now begun. That places the Superintendent firmly on the hook personally, along with Robert Morgan at the California Dept of Education, for their abuse of Stephen, if we can't come to a peaceful resolution before then.

It strikes me that I enjoy legal reasoning because it really is the kind of Talmudic reasoning one sees in Rabbi Jesus in the gospels as he debated the scriptures with the scribes and Pharisees, and indeed that's where I've been trained in it. It can be very useful indeed, properly done, in breaking the teeth of the oppressor. At the same time, it can be truly evil when done to turn aside justice - it's a dangerous tool - especially because it can easily be a seductive lust of the mind that has no concern with justice. In truth, it would be best if we can come to a peaceable resolution in which everyone finds mercy. It's good that I have been having to think more about these things lately.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

School news

I filed the Due Process Hearing request today, naming Chino Valley Unified School District and the California Department of Education as respondents. I gave copies to the board members, and indeed had a profitable conversation with one at the budget meeting they held for the community this afternoon. I also sent a copy to a lawyer who asked to see it in case we have to come to blows with CDE and the school district.

If you want a copy, say so and I'll email it to you.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Guest comment

Jacob Hornberger wonders about the obvious in the American Christian love of war and indifference to the deaths of the innocent:

Christian Support for Killing Iraqis
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Among the things about the Iraq War that I have never been able to understand is how American Christians have been able, in good conscience, to support this war. After all, no one can deny that neither Iraq nor the Iraqi people ever attacked the United States. That makes the United States the aggressor — the attacker — in this particular conflict. How could American Christians support the killing of Iraqis in such a war of aggression? How could they reconcile this with God’s sacred commandment, Thou shalt not murder.

One possibility is that Americans initially viewed the Iraq War as one of self-defense. Placing their trust in their president and vice-president, they came to the conclusion that Iraq was about to unleash WMDs on American cities. Therefore, they concluded, America had the right to defend itself from this imminent attack, much as an individual has the moral right to use deadly force to defend his life from someone who is trying to murder him.

But once the WMDs failed to materialize, American Christians did not seem to engage in any remorse or regret over all the Iraqis who had been killed in the invasion. It was all marked up as simply an honest mistake. At the same time, hardly anyone called for a formal investigation into whether the president and the vice president had intentionally misled Americans into supporting the war based on bogus exaggerations of the WMD threat.

After the WMDs failed to materialize, American Christians had an option: They could have called for the immediate withdrawal of all U.S. troops. Instead, they did the exact opposite. They supported the continued occupation of Iraq, with full knowledge that U.S. troops would have to continue killing Iraqis in order to solidify the occupation.

That’s when Christians began supporting a new rationale for killing Iraqis: that any Iraqi who resisted the U.S. invasion or occupation was a terrorist and, therefore, okay to kill. Since terrorists were bad people, the argument went, it was okay to support the killing of Iraqis who were resisting the invasion and occupation of their country.

Yet, rarely would any Christian ask himself the important, soul-searching questions: Why didn’t Iraqis have the moral right to resist the invasion and occupation of their country, especially if that invasion and occupation had been based on a bogus principle (i.e., the WMD threat)? Why did their resistance convert them into terrorists? Why did U.S. troops have the moral and religious right to kill people who were defending their country from invasion and occupation?

Instead, people in Christian churches all across the land simply just kept “supporting the troops.” I suspect part of the reasoning has to do with the mindset that is inculcated in public schools all across the land — that in war, it’s “our team” vs. “their team,” and that Americans have a moral duty to support “our team,” regardless of the facts.

Among the most fascinating rationales for supporting the killing of Iraqis that American Christians have relied upon has been the mathematical argument. It goes like this: Saddam Hussein would have killed a larger number of Iraqis than the U.S. government has killed in the invasion and occupation. Therefore, the argument goes, it’s okay to support the invasion and occupation, which have killed countless Iraqis.

But under Christian doctrine, does God really provide for a mathematical exception to his commandment against killing? Let’s see how such reasoning would be applied here at home.

Let’s assume that the D.C. area is besieged by two snipers, who are killing people indiscriminately. Let’s assume that they’re killing people at the rate of 5 per month. That would mean that at the end of the year, they would have killed 60 people.

One day, the cops learn that the two snipers are parked in a highway rest area. There are also 25 other people there, all Americans, men, women, and children, and all innocent.

The Pentagon offers to drop a bomb on the parking lot, which would definitely snuff out the lives of the snipers. The problem is that it would also snuff out the lives of the other 25 people.

Under Christian principles, would it be okay to drop the bomb? I would hope that most Christians would say, No! As Christians, we cannot kill innocent people even if by doing so, we rid the world of those snipers. If we cannot catch the snipers except by dropping the bomb, then we simply have to let them get away. God does not provide a mathematical justification for killing innocent people.

Yet, isn’t that precisely the mathematical analysis that has been used by Christians to justify their support for the killing of Iraqis. What’s the difference?

In their blind support for “our team” and for “supporting the troops” in Iraq, American Christians seem to have forgotten an important point about government and God: When the laws or actions of one’s government’s contradict the laws of God, the Christian has but one proper course of action — to leave behind the laws of man and to follow the laws of God.

I would like to see some reasoned responses to Hornberger from some of those Christians out there that he describes. How do you differ from the Christians who trusted and followed Hitler, or Stalin, or their pastors that heartily approved lynching and the ethnic cleansing of black people from whole counties between 1890 and 1954? How do you follow those examples and still manage to live with yourselves?

Friday, February 06, 2009

More Due Process news

I got to work today. The link quit on the IEP tape, so I had to run around, and I'll have to get the new link to people. I talked to the Offfice of Administrative Hearings (OAH) in Laguna and, sure, the California Dept of Ed (CDE) gets dragged into hearings all the time - no problem naming them as respondents.

I found who I'm supposed to talk to at the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) at the US Ed Dept about CDE, but she was out. I got some referrals for lawyers when it comes to suing for damages if we have to go there, but I need to get more.

Now here's some great news. On 21 January, the US Supreme Court reversed the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals and ruled unanimously in Fitzgerald v Barnstable School Committee that 42 USC Section 1983 suits are NOT precluded unless Congress has provided a specific remedy that is clearly intended to replace 1983. IDEA 2004 doesn't even provide for damages, much less provide an alternate remedy to 1983, so that means Ed Heatley and other abusers can be held personally liable under Section 1983. It should now be easier to find someone to take it on contingency, if we need to go there - Due Process doesn't provide for money damages.

Read the Supreme Court decision. The reasoning is not difficult, and looking at it, I'm surprised that even appeals courts felt otherwise.

So now I've got to do some hard work getting the Due Process filing ready, and I have to hire a lawyer for the damage part if the Board decides to be unreasonable.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Annual IEP meeting for Stephen

We held the IEP meeting for Stephen at the school district office, and so we're on our way to a Due Process hearing. I've never been that way, and I'll have to learn, write, and get some advice. You can listen to the IEP meeting here:

Roll the tape

And now it ought to work for a while!