Sunday, March 16, 2008

Nobody's Fault But Their Own ....

I am tired of conservatives and Christians sitting around their sanctuaries complaining that that they have no voice in the culture. Frequently they just haven’t done their homework and paid the price of admission into the conversation. I saw the classic illustration of this last week.

I am a member of a group of attorneys and judges that meets privately for social interaction and training in the law. This particular chapter tries very hard to keep its members abreast of current issues and challenges in our profession. The topic this month was Oklahoma House Bill 1804.

This organization is actually quite fair in its selection of speakers. They try very hard to present all sides of an issue. However, this time, on this issue, I am told that they had a hard time getting anyone to defend HB 1804 before their group.

The amazing thing about this session was the amount of religious input. Aside from a very influential representative of the Tulsa real estate community who was there calling HB 1804 into question, a young Latino Catholic priest actually delivered a sermon in the ceremonial courtroom of the Federal Court House. He was supporting the official position of the Diocese of Tulsa. The point of the sermon was that HB 1804 is immoral in the eyes of the Catholic Church. We were treated to several minutes of exhortation as to how Oklahomans who support HB1804 are cruel to "immigrants" and are violating their human rights.

The young attorney for a group of churches that support HB 1804 was also there explaining their position and his input to the case.

The single Oklahoma legislator who came to defend HB 1804 did a fine job of taking on all comers. His performance cannot be faulted. But, what was missing was the appearance of public support for HB 1804. HB 1804 is widely supported by the public at large, particularly among political conservatives and conservative Christians. The easiest way to light up a talk radio phone bank or start a coffee shop buzzing in Tulsa is to introduce a discussion of illegal immigration. But, in this conversation, in the very courthouse where some of those issues will likely be decided, the appearance was that the legislature was standing alone.

Conservatives and Christians don’t seem to realize that the court house walls are very thick. Coffee shop activism and talk radio clamor do not penetrate those walls. These are invitation only events. You have to start with someone with the credentials to be invited. That means lyou have to use lawyers. You can be invited by being sued or, if you have standing, you can buy your way in by filing suit, trying to intervene in existing litigation or by filing an amicus brief. The Catholic Church understood this perfectly. A group of liberal churches understood it and had their say. There was no discrimination. Conservatives and Christians who support 1804 did not pay the price of admission and thus were not heard. And, it was nobody’s fault but their own.


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