Sunday, June 7, 2015

First Hickory Humanist Alliance Meeting in Lincoln County Scheduled

On Monday, May 18 the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners adopted an inclusive invocation policy that provides "the leader or appointee of any assembly that periodically and regularly meets with[in] the county for the purpose of worshipping or discussing their religious perspectives" an opportunity to sign up to give an invocation (up to four times per calendar year) on a first come, first serve basis.

While the Hickory Humanist Alliance has active members who live in Lincoln County, we have not held meetings in Lincoln County previously. However, to comply with this new policy we will begin holding regular meetings in Lincolnton starting on June 14 and plan to sign up to deliver invocations after we hold a couple of meetings there.

Our first meeting will be held at Zippers in Lincolnton on June 14 at 11 am. Anyone is welcome to attend, but please RSVP via our Facebook event (or by messaging our page) so we can reserve a table with enough seating.

Zippers Restaurant and Lounge
475 N Generals Blvd, Lincolnton, North Carolina 28092
Note There appears to be a technical issue currently with the invitation on the Lincoln County website resulting in an error (80000000be03cc496079e167). I have contacted their support team about this issue. Hopefully they will have it fixed soon.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Did Representative Mitchell Setzer Share My Email With Another Constituent?

I submitted the following letter to the editor to the Hickory Daily Record several weeks ago. They have yet to print it, so I have resubmitted it and am publishing it here as well.

I want to thank Cliff Moone for his op-ed (HDR 4/28) defending my position (HDR 4/21) on the "Second Amendment Preservation Act" introduced in the General Assembly by Reps. Mitchell Setzer and Jay Adams. Until I read Mr. Moone’s piece, I was not aware of Gregory Ream’s letter (HDR 4/23) criticizing mine.

Ignoring Mr. Ream’s peculiar understanding of the English language and support for a legal theory that has been repeatedly rejected by both state and federal courts since the Eighteenth Century, what struck me most about his letter was how it raised several points that were not actually included in my letter. For example, Mr. Ream says that I claimed “an NRA board member also opposes such legislation” and that the unconstitutional nature of the bill was so clear that an “eighth grade civics student should be able to understand it.” Neither of these points were raised in my letter.

I did make these points, but I made them in a personal email that I sent to Rep. Setzer. There are basically two ways that Mr. Ream could have received this information. Either someone hacked our email, or Rep. Setzer - or someone on his staff - shared the email with Mr. Ream or with someone else who shared it with Mr. Ream. I have contacted Rep. Setzer and the support staff about this possible breach in their email security, but I have not received a reply yet.

I have worked in the computer software industry for over twenty years, so I have no illusions about any of my unencrypted email being private or confidential. However, short of hacking or government surveillance, I think most constituents reasonably expect that email they send to their legislator remains confidential. At the very least we certainly don’t expect that our legislators are sharing email we send to them with other constituents. Hopefully Rep. Setzer will clarify what happened here and reassure the public about his handling of constituent email. Until then, I encourage others to ask him about this issue.
NC Representative Mitchell Setzer

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Reflections on the Lincoln County Board of Commisioners Meeting

Here are my quick initial reflections on Monday's Lincoln County Board of Commissioners Meeting:
  • There was no opening invocation for this meeting (and nobody complained about that, but the post 1954-Pledge was said), and the Commissioners were still able to do the people's business in front of a crowd of over a hundred - standing room only, overflow crowd in the outside hallway.
  • Everyone who wanted to got a chance to speak, including two atheists (we were first!), a Muslim, a Wiccan, a Pagan, and several Christians who spoke out for non-discrimination in invocations (or no invocation, or a moment of silence - one of the Fundamentalist Christian protestors standing near me said he would come and pray out loud himself during the moment of silence if they passed that). A majority of the speakers were critical of Mitchem and advocated an inclusive policy, and even a few of Mitchem's "supporters" acknowledged that they "might have said it differently."
  • Three or four Fundamentalist Christians, several carrying hate literature and signage, spoke in defense of the words that Commissioner Mitchem took back. I won't repeat what they said here. True Islamophobia at its worst.
  • A former Commissioner and Christian joked with Mitchem that he had "really stepped in it buddy, and tracked it in the house!" He also noted that historically Lincoln County had never actually discriminated in who gave the invocations, but that they had had trouble finding someone to do them. As a Commissioner, he used to do them himself (as did the current Commissioners until about 6 months ago when they started inviting local clergy to do them).
  • Mitchem promised to treat people of all religions fairly in his government duties and tried to blame the media for the whole kerfuffle. He didn't clarify his position further, or talk about his vow to walk out if a Muslim gave the invocation - but he did refuse the offer by the Muslim speaker to personally hand him a Koran (Mitchem: "You can put it on the desk").
  • Commissioner Martin formerly proposed replacing the invocation with a moment of silence and was therefore the only vote against the policy that was adopted.
  • I'm looking forward to the first Hickory Humanist Alliance meeting in Lincoln County, and I hope Commissioner Mitchem is remembered as the guy who diversified the invocations at Lincoln County Commission meetings.
Lincoln County Board of Commissioners
Chairman Carrol Mitchem

Meanwhile, it's getting interesting in Mecklenburg County...where the Commissioners apparently still give the invocations. And Rowan has switched to Plan B while they explore their next steps.