Friday, March 30, 2012



After the lying and withholding of exculpatory evidence in many federal prosecutions, the Stevens prosecution being just one recent illustration of this unfortunate truth, we have enlisted a spectrum of former prosecutors, white house counsel, noted authors, and members of congress from across the political spectrum to demand federal legislation to put an end to this misconduct.

More than 125 lawyers signed a letter urging Congress to take up criminal discovery reform and do something about it. 

The signatories included former Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson, author and SNR Denton partner Scott Turow, lead Stevens defense counsel Brendan Sullivan Jr. of Williams & Connolly, former US Attorney and Congressman Bob Barr, former White House Counsel Gregory B. Craig, former DEA Administrator Asa Hutchinson, ATR President Grover Norquist, former Appellate Judge H. Lee Sarokin, and former federal prosecutor and Capitol Hill Judiciary Committee Special Counsel John P. Flannery.

"Our experience leads us to believe that the vast majority of prosecutors act in good faith to fulfill their constitutional and legal obligations," the joint letter said.

"However, federal courts, the DOJ and other entities have for years articulated inconsistent, shifting, and sometimes contradictory standards for criminal discovery, leaving it up to individual prosecutors to navigate this legal maze and determine the scope of their obligations to disclose information."

Yesterday, Hank Schuelke, who Judge Emmet Sullivan appointed to investigate allegations of prosecutorial misconduct in Senator Stevens’s case, testified before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee.  

Much of the initial questioning concerned Mr. Schuelke’s findings about what occurred in the case and how the improperly withheld information could have affected the case’s outcome. 

However, the issue of legislative reform did arise, as well. 

Asked whether Congress should intervene to reform federal criminal discovery, Schuelke replied that the Congress should eliminate the materiality requirement so that in a pretrial setting, prosecutors would be required to disclose any information that is favorable to the accused, regardless of materiality. 

Schuelke acknowledged that the bill introduced on March 15th by Senator Murkowski (R-AK), the fairness in disclosure act, includes such a requirement; the text of that bill is found at the enclosed link - .  

It closely mirrors the legislative reforms that our statement endorses.

The DOJ did submit a statement prior to the hearing expressing their opposition to any legislation reforming criminal discovery practices.  

This is a good example of how you can't teach an old dog new tricks - like fundamental fairness.  The DOJ can't really say they are doing the right thing now - or we wouldn't have these disclosures of misconduct and the clean up afterwards of dismissals and punished assistants.

When asked about the DOJ’s objections, Schuelke stated, “If the Department believes that there should be no pretrial materiality standard -- because that’s what they’re telling their prosecutors now to do --what is the principled reason for opposing legislation that does just that?”

Here is a link to the full hearing if you are interested: .

Sunday, March 25, 2012


The U.S. Supreme Court scheduled 5 1/2 hours of argument over three days on the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.  This is a primer on that historic argument.
The court schedule is as follows:

1.  On March 26, the Court scheduled one hour of argument on whether any challenge to the mandate requiring citizens to buy health insurance or pay a penalty must wait until 2014 when that part of the act takes effect.  The argument for "waiting" to decide the question occurs because, if the mandate is a tax, then it may only be attacked when it is imposed in 2014.

2.  On March 27, the Court scheduled two hours of argument on whether the U.S. Congress overstepped its powers under Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution when it mandated buying insurance.

3.  On March 28, the Court scheduled 90 minutes of argument on whether the Act can survive if the mandate is struck down as constitutionally defective.

As for how historic is this argument, there has not been such a schedule since the Voting Rights Act challenge in the 60s, that ultimately upheld by the Supreme Court.

26 of 50 states have asked that the current patient protection law passed by the U.S. Congress be struck down - principally because of the insurance mandate.  136 other organizations have filed briefs both pro and con, urging the Court either to end or uphold the controversial health care bill.

Each Republican presidential primary candidate has declared that he will repeal the act if elected if the Supreme Court does not do so in its June 2012 decision.

In truth, it is unlikely that whomever is elected President will get an opportunity to repeal the Act.  The President alone can't repeal anything unless like-minded members, usually of his own party, controlling both houses repeal the patient protection enactment.

It is highly unlikely that the U.S. Court will overturn this health care law just as other historic challenges to significant legislation including the Voting Rights Act, the Social Security Act and the Civil Rights Act all failed.

This debate encompasses a few critical provisions in Article I, Section 8 of the United States Constitution, having to do with the enumerated powers of the U.S. Congress and how Congress may exercise those powers. The U.S. Congress has three relevant powers:  first, the power "to lay and collect taxes," second, the power to "provide for ... the general Welfare," and, third, the power "to regulate Commerce ...  among the several states."  Congress exercises these powers, according to that same article, by "mak(ing) all Laws which shall be necessary and proper" to their exercise.

The opponents of the bill insist the federal government may not mandate that any private citizen buy insurance, denying that Congress has the power to do so or the means to execute it. 
But Medicare already does what some argue can’t be done; Medicare’s coverage is presently financed, in its various parts, for those over 65 years of age with a tax-based "mandate" to buy health care insurance; this program, in place for more than 45 years, imposes a payroll tax on every worker and none may opt out of this "mandated" tax.  The opponents of the bill nevertheless persist that the federal government has no "business" in health care, despite Medicare, and government sponsored health care for the military and members of the U.S. Congress.

The rationale for this "new" mandate is fairly straightforward.  If you are going to guarantee health insurance coverage for every citizen no matter his or her pre-existing medical condition, then you have to protect the insurance system against "adverse selection," meaning those persons who have no "skin in the game" who choose not to pay for insurance, as they are presently young and healthy, but then opt into the system just when a medical condition does arise and they seek coverage then.  The mandate seeks to avoid free-loaders gaming the system and shifting the burden for their health care to every one else by failing to participate themselves until they have a health emergency.  The larger the insured pool of contributing participants, the more distributed the risk, and the more reasonable the premiums that everyone else has to pay.  The "mandate," requires each to buy insurance unless excluded because of poverty and, anyone who doesn’t, must pay a fine or tax that counterbalances this adverse selection.

Presently, we pick up the medical tab for those without insurance, often at emergency rooms, but we presume, as a matter of public policy, that these folk have no other alternative than emergency rooms.

Congress also has the power to tax and spend money for the general welfare.   We are quite familiar with Congress' ability to grant incentives by tax policies and to dedicate those revenues to advance policies deemed generally beneficial. In this case, Congress enunciated its lawful constitutional objective under its enumerated powers, of expanding health coverage nationwide, by eliminating pre-existing conditions that have precluded coverage, barring adverse selection, promoting pooling of those who were uninsured to make the premiums affordable, thereby reducing costly emergency room visits by the uninsured ill now covered by the general public.

As for interstate commerce, we can't ignore the fact that this is a multibillion dollar nationwide insurance industry that spans the geographic boundaries of the "several states" - meaning all fifty states.   Congress invoked a lawful and constitutional objective under the commerce power, making laws that were "necessary and proper," to regulate this huge expanse of commerce.  It is clear that any person’s decision not to purchase insurance taken in the national aggregate affects interstate commerce.  The general public should be aware that it doesn’t take much to find “interstate commerce” is affected.  In Gonzales v. Raich; the Supreme Court found that medical marijuana grown lawfully at home (under state law) for personal use and exclusively in one state, California, affected interstate commerce.

Accordingly, if the Supreme Court did the unexpected and struck down the insurance mandate in the Patient Protection Act, they would undermine years of Supreme Court precedents going back to our nation’s founding.

Our history in health care has been shameful, silent acquiesce to human suffering that so often ended in death for those who couldn’t afford treatment.  This Act is the first step in curing the nation’s indifference to universal health care.


It is not too late for the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors to save one of the most productive programs in Loudoun County – the Master Gardener program - even though the Board just cut out the heart of the program last week, by a vote of 5-4 against extending funding to pay the one person, Debbie D. Dillion, the urban horticulturist, who drives this program’s continued success.

Having said that, this column is not a hand-wringing post-mortem - as we can still save the Master Gardener program and restore Ms. Dillion to her post – but we must convince one disapproving member of the Board of Supervisors to change his or her vote at an upcoming meeting of the Board of Supervisors.

We should be grateful and thank those who supported this significant program -- Chairman Scott York (At-large), Supervisor Ken Reid (Leesburg), Geary Higgins (Catoctin) and Janet Clarke (Blue Ridge). 
But Supervisors Eugene A Delgaudio (Sterling), Matthew F. Letorneau (Dulles), Ralph Buona (Ashburn) and Suzanne M. Volpe (Algonkian) disapproved.  Of the dissenters, Mr. Delgaudio has made it clear he won’t change his mind – if you’re trying to figure whom you should call or write.

Mr. Higgins argued that this Master Gardener program was a great example of a “public-private partnership” given that it brings in for our community three times the productivity that it costs.  Similarly, Ms. Clarke encouraged Ms. Dillion to tell the Board why this program was so important.  But this wasn’t enough to carry the board the first go-round.
Mr. Letorneau said “these volunteers can continue to do that without the help of county government.”  Unfortunately, that’s just not so – not without Ms. Dillion’s participation.

Chairman York encouraged the public to try “to educate some of these Board Members who haven’t dealt with the rural area of the county.”  So let’s do just that although this program has a broader reach than “the rural area of the county”– as there are lawns, trees, veggie gardens and house plants across the county.

This phalanx of award-winning master gardeners in Loudoun County volunteer their time to conserve and perpetuate what Messrs. Jefferson, Adams and Washington held dear – a legacy of green growth both necessary to life but also beautiful to behold. 

These Master Gardeners are a resource of information and service for working farms, gardens, sustaining food gardens ("victory gardens"), trees, lawns and in house plants. 

My wife Holly, herself a Master Gardener, said that, “For those who do not have a veggie garden or who do not have an interest or time to grow one, the Master Gardeners’ have a ‘grass roots’ program and a ‘tree steward’ program that helps homeowners grow a healthier lawn, trees, and veggies -- for your family.”  Indeed, more than a ton of food grown by the Master Gardeners was distributed to Interfaith Relief to help feed those who have fallen on hard times in this recession.

This constructive force, that is the Master Gardener program, arises out of the training, certification, coordination, and direction by this county’s special treasure, now at risk, our (outgoing) urban horticulturist, Debbie Dillion, with the Loudoun County Extension Office, who has been an integral part of a joint program of Virginia Tech, Virginia State University, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and state and local governments. 

The President of the United States has presented gold awards, for more than 500 hours of service, to Loudoun County Master Gardeners Cathy Anderson, Barbara Arnold, Margie Bassford, Elaine Hawn, Sally Hewitt, Carol Ivory, Jim Kelly, Normalee Martin, Dawn Meyerriecks, and Linda Award.   The President also awarded silver medals, for more than 250 hours service, and bronze, for more than 100 hours, for another 81 Master Gardeners.

Last week, Debbie was invited to speak to the Board to explain what she did.  The Supervisors eliminated her job as she sat at the front table.  We have it in our power, by the force of reason, to restore her job.

Write and call the Supervisors who voted against this program – not to rant or threaten their jobs but to persuade one member to make a course correction.

Friday, March 16, 2012


County Mayo - western coast - home to Flanebragh (Flannery)

My maternal grandmother, Catherine McCoy, was born in Ireland on May 9, 1897 and was baptized according to the Rites of the Catholic Church in the Church of St. Patrick, Crossmaglen, in the County of Armagh. 

Even in her sixties, you were certain she must have just breezed in from Ireland the day before because, what this delicate lady described, in her slight brogue, with blazing blue eyes, was a life-like picture of honest hard working folk, in Irish villages and towns, who helped each other and trusted in their faith to make it all right. 

Catherine lived her life in America – as her Church would have it.  But life in America didn’t begin when she was Sixty -- as one who heard her might suspect.  Catherine left Ireland by boat for New York with her parents when she was only six years of age.   She saw Ireland, in all its wonder and sorrow, through her father’s eyes, in many dinner table conversations, as she came of age in America.  That’s why she could never leave behind the spirit of Ireland born in her and nurtured by her parents.  It defined who she was.

Irish who were not born in Ireland, and have never been to Ireland, feel like they have never left the place, and that somehow it defines or shapes their character, and makes them who they are.  They find their courage, their grit, their skill with words, their love of people, and their faith, in their Irish ancestry.  They tap their feet to Irish tunes, strain to mimic a word of Gaelic to find a soulful connection, swear to their fighting prowess, and swell with pride before the Irish tri-color flag representing the division between north and south separated by a white bar, signifying the elusive peace that all Irish desire.  I don’t mean by this to suggest that these Irish are not Americans.  But they are tied to that distant windswept island by one of those fabled Irish knots you’ve seen in the Book of Kells. 

To put this in perspective, in America, there are 34 million persons who have an Irish family tree, a branch through the Atlantic, to an Irish County and village – and that’s nine times the present population of Ireland itself. 

The Irish in America will tell you, at the drop of a hat, of their historic role in the American Revolution and every war since and in politics as well and how one-quarter of our Presidents had Irish ancestors.  Yeats wrote, “It is an Irish curse to dream things the world has never seen.”  But the Irish also believe that they make their dreams come true.

Every year, St. Patty’s Day invokes the tugs and ties to Ireland for the Irish diaspora.  For years, I was asked if I’d been “back” to Ireland – as if I’d been born there.  So I have gone to see Ireland for myself.  What I found was a green that’s unimaginable, roads so narrow that the bushes and trees sometimes brush both sides of your car, horses so grand and strong you need only stay out of their way if you hope to ride them, and a people so friendly and talkative that even a request for simple directions down the road could prompt a Joycean dialogue about the surrounding region and its history. 
          The beauty of the Irish is that you truly need not even have an Irish ancestor on St. Patrick’s Day to celebrate.  After all, St. Patrick himself was the son of a Roman-British army officer, and thus not Irish at all.  So, on his day, all are Irish in spirit, in the spirit of St. Patrick, who celebrated what’s best in each of us.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


            There’s this wonderful Italian restaurant in Georgetown called Filomena.
            One of the exceptional waiters there, Anton Innerst, dressed to the nines, hails from Lansdowne, Virginia. 
The other evening, a young guest came in with her family, and Anton asked the young lady, “have you registered to vote yet?”  She apparently hadn’t considered it yet.  It was a friendly conversation and he said to her, “It’s your future.”  She seemed to agree.  But he said afterwards, it was his future as well.  You can certainly appreciate what it means to lose the vote when your future depends on it.
Well, here in Virginia, our General Assembly is trying to deny some of us the right to vote.  Unfortunately, Virginia is not the only state.  Many other states are doing the same thing.  There have been initiatives across the country to disenfranchise minorities, the poor, the elderly and students.
The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU has concluded that millions of Americans will lose the right to vote – or only get the vote if someone will help them do so.  We’re talking about reducing our voting population by 5 million votes nation-wide.
The states that have cut back on voting rights supply 185 electoral votes of the 270 needed to elect a president.  That’s two-thirds of what a candidate must win to become president.   6 of the 12 battle ground states have either cut back voting rights or are considering doing so.  We are running the clock on voting rights backward a hundred years or more.
Paul Weyrich, an evangelical leader once said, “As a matter of fact our leverage in elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.”  The strategy is clear, to have a reduced electorate like that had in the off-year congressional election in 2010 (when Republicans shifted leadership in the Congress), rather than having more voting like the more inclusive presidential election of 2008.
This is a calculated effort to disrupt voting rights by –  1) New photo ID laws – requiring a state issued ID – that may require other proof including a birth certificate that is not easy to obtain and may be unaffordable.  No, not everyone does drive, can drive or ever did drive – so they haven’t had ID that satisfies the new rules. 2) There are new limitations on voter registration drives to make it harder to register.  3) There are efforts to eliminate Election Day registration. 4) Other states are curtailing the early voting period – cutting it shorter.
The pretense for these “election reforms” is that this will prevent fraud.  Of course, there hasn’t been any widespread or even isolated fraud that could possibly justify these sweeping reforms, disenfranchising so many; rather, this is about limiting the vote instead, suppressing it, you know like those old Jim Crow laws.
You may think, when you hear this discussion, I have an ID.  And you do.  But more people than you think don’t.  Not only do they not drive, so they don’t have a driver’s license, they rely on cash-checking stores that don’t require the kind of ID the state is mandating in this post 9-11 world -- when it’s harder than ever to get ID.
The New Dominion is becoming the old South once more.  At the current legislative session in Richmond, only days ago, Virginia joined the rank of States passing laws to curtail voting rights, requiring photo IDs to vote, and a 5 day waiting period after you register to vote.
There’s a way to circumvent these cynical obstacles to voting your mind.  Volunteer to help those that they don’t want to vote - so they do get to vote – and contribute the time, bureaucratic know-how, and, yes, the money needed, so that they can meet the strictures of the new unfair election laws – until we can correct them.
Oh yes, and then work hard with these recovered votes, rescued from the cynical machinations of those who pretend to care about democracy, and throw the bums out of office the very next time you can for having the nerve to take away the vote from our most fragile citizens.   Don’t you agree that, when a legislator votes to restrict someone’s franchise in a democracy, he should forfeit the right to represent us at all with his vote in the legislature.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


- observations by John P. Flannery -
Just watch this video and make up your own mind -
if you want to get an idea of how our Virginia Governor handles objections to Virginia's backward legislative policies that disrespect and abuse a woman's constitutional right of privacy.
It is hard to imagine that Governor Bob McDonnell is the Governor of a Commonwealth once headed by Thomas Jefferson when he summons an array of State and City Police, heavily armed, to suppress a crowd of mostly women, obviously unarmed, who showed up to protest his policies against them in Richmond yesterday, March 3, 2012.
When the unarmed crowd assembled peacefully yesterday afternoon on the steps of the Capitol to protest, the SWAT team arrived in full battle regalia, at the Governor's orders, to war against their First Amendment exertions to assemble and speak. 
It was as if he said - "don't these women know their place?" - and he set out to put them in their place because plainly they went where he forbade them to be. 
Perhaps it's time to go back and read the Governor's doctoral thesis again - and re-visit what he said he'd abandoned, as youthful mutterings.  Now we know he was lying to us so - that he'd changed - so he could become Governor - and do precisely what we said he would.
At first yesterday, the police obstructed the access of the demonstrators to the Capitol grounds, and then the citizens walked across the grounds, so recently made so pristine with our taxpaying funds, so they could do what normally happens all over Richmond Capitol grounds.
But these speeches were not by the legislators. 
They were by the people who objected in as much force, and with arguments more plainly righteous, in opposition to what the General Assembly wrongly did to them days earlier.
Plainly, the Governor had enough, no more dissent for him, not another day in which their public expressions might turn even more public opinion against his constitutional misconduct.
The Governor and the General Assembly acted in such a heavy-handed and unfair fashion, doing so much wrong, that citizens from around the world and journalists and late night comedians ridicule us for what our General Assembly did.
What the protesters did not understand when they thought they could "get away" with expressing their critical opinions again was that, while you may have freedom OF speech, you almost certainly don't enjoy freedom AFTER speech - at least not down Virginia way. 
 After the crowd chanted, "This is what democracy looks like, This is what democracy looks like,..." O'Donnell's goons - and that's what we'd call the henchmen of any gangster - moved in to change the democratic tableaux, from what democracy was intended to look like, to destroy any notion that we here in Virginia may officially respect differing views. 
There were the vacant "have-a-nice-day-we're-here-to-help-you-stares" -- through plastic shields - while they cleared well meaning Virginians from the public square who wrongly thought that hey could say what they thought in the so-called "land of the free and home of the brave."
They thought they could stand and speak in front of the Capitol.  Think again!
McDonnell's muscular puppets isolated those who stood on the steps in protest, divided and separated the groups of protesters, and then moved in on the smallest group remaining on the steps to arrest them.
If you listen to the tape of this unconstitutional debacle, in defiance of assembly and free speech, you'll hear the crowd protesting, demanding that one officer who approached one of the women on the steps, take his unconsented and offending hand off her shoulder. 
Could there be a more apt offense to demonstrate the protesters' point - that Virginia has decided to assault the privacy of women generally and individually. 
The crowd objected to this officer presuming to address so intimately and intimidatingly - while he places his hand on her person.
There were additional cries from the crowd at the armed men, carrying automatic rifles, apparently sub-machine guns - when no one in the crowd had anything more offensive than a clear voice to suppress.
We praise the citizens of other nations who protest their wrongful governments and castigate these foreign leaders at any hint that they suppress their citizens' expressions in protest. 
By that standard, shouldn't we be castigating Governor McDonnell for not being able to withstand the heat of public declamation at his policies? 
Or did it hurt his frail male ego so much more that it was women, a group he would relegate to chattels, that had the nerve to object to his paternalistic administration of their private lives?
The other marchers cheered those who were caught in the web, not for being caught, but for having shown the strength of their convictions, for having been hauled off because they sat on the steps, the public steps, and objected to what our shameful legislators said and did only days before, led by their Governor.
In a nation of invertebrate politicians, is it possible that our democratic ideal, if it is to be preserved, will in the end be won or lost by what we citizens do to protect that ideal - as there were no legislators in evidence to fight for us? 
But isn't it true that, in all the great battles for rights in this nation, we the people must lead our elected officials.
Are they the last and most timid of the people's allies in these struggles for a right and just society because they care more about keeping their job than doing it?  I'm afraid so. 
And this tragedy in Richmond is only the most recent example.
If you want to see the face of Virginia, a haunting spectre true to life, that we thought a thing of the past, that we'd left behind us long ago, in the 50's perhaps, or maybe the 60's, this picture (below) of impersonal dark forced SWAT goons really does say it all.
The New Dominion has grown old again and the rights of individual citizens wither before the muscle of men who do what they're told and  have neither respect for women nor for the liberties and rights that Thomas Jefferson struggled to defend and protect. 
So let us consider what we could say about a Republican ticket that would consider for even a brief moment having our Governor on the ticket.
Would that be a hidden indiscreet promise that we could expect to see more suppression of the same in our nation's capital after their inauguration - should we dare to disagree and then, even worse, seek to invoke our First Amendment right to assemble and to speak?
It will be interesting to observe if the Republican party finds our Governor still worthy of being Vice President after his casting efforts for the role. 
We sincerely hope they find him overzealous and out of bounds - because that would favor our constitutional government.
On the other hand, if he is chosen, that would tell us a lot bad of what we can expect from the Republican Party of Romney, Santorum, Gingrich, and the many others in that party who have let us know that they care not so much for women's rights.
Of course, then we would have to make the error of licensing them to repeat these dark practices in the nation's capital - were we foolish enough to allow them to win the vote in November in the first place.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

A TRIBUTE TO MARTIN LUTHER KING by John P. Flannery - at St. James on 3/1/12

In his later sermons, the Reverend Martin Luther King compared himself to Moses.  Moses led his people out of slavery.  He saw the Promised Land.  But he never got there himself.  Moses died on a mountain top in Jordan.  Deuteronomy 34:1-10.  This was the fate that Dr. King foreshadowed for himself.
In April of 1968, Martin Luther King was in Memphis, Tennessee supporting a garbage workers’ strike. 
Thirteen Hundred sanitation workers had struck because black workers had been sent home while white workers remained on the job.     
King gave a speech supporting the sanitation workers, and 15,000 came to the Mason Temple to hear what he had to say. 
He returned again to Memphis to lead a march but things went wrong; there was looting and fights with police. 
King returned again, to have another march, without the looting and without violence. 
On the evening of April 3rd , King gave a speech saying, “I don’t know what will happen now.”  He said: “I’ve been to the mountain top.”  More, “I’ve seen the Promised Land.  I may not get there with you.  But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land.”
Toward evening, that next day, April 4th, he stepped out on the balcony of the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee. 
A rifleman shot a .30-06 caliber bullet that broke Dr. King’s jaw, cut through his neck and spinal cord, and the slug lay spent in his shoulder blade.  King died.  He was not going to reach the Promised Land.  He would die on that mountain top in Jordan instead.
His message, however, survived and it was that we must carry on and march to the Promised Land.  We must resume and continue the march that he began.  We must begin the world over again.  And that is our tribute to King and to ourselves – to continue and finish what he began..
But where to begin anew?
Robert Kennedy said in Indianopolis to a crowd that had not yet heard that King had been killed that we must “tame the savageness of man and to make gentle the life of this world.”
King would have agreed with that sentiment.  Taming the savage!  Making gentle!
We live in a time, however, when we risk greatly losing what King gained.  It is because too few presume there’s no urgency.   Christ said that he would spit forth from his mouth those who were tepid.  Revelations 3:16.  There are many who are luke warm today.  King said of such folk, “He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it.  He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.”  So we cannot remain silent.  But many are.  We cannot fail to act.  But many are indifferent in the face of gross violations of civil rights and liberties.
Aristotle said nothing improves your aim like having a target.  King spoke against “the triple evils of racism, economic exploitation, and militarism.”  Those are our targets – fighting those three, so inextricably tied together.
By way of background, you should know at least that King was born on January 15, 1929.  He followed Jesus as a minister and followed Ghandi on how he might lead others in a ministry of tolerance and political action for fairness and equal rights without violence.
King led the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott.  He also led the March on Washington in 1963 where he spoke of his dream for a nation – an articulation of a dream, brought home with such political force, that it prompted sweeping civil rights and voting reform legislation.
When King received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 for his struggles against segregation through Ghandian civil disobedience and nonviolent resistance; he took the award as a commission to extend his efforts from civil rights to advocating peace.
The seeds of racism were planted when our nation was founded.  Our founding fathers agreed to tolerate slavery to make this nation.  That corrupt and toxic bargain has compromised this nation’s promise from the start to this very day – begging the question, what we really meant when we said in our declaration of independence that we believed in unalienable rights.
We know today that the Supreme Court decision in Dred Scott, deciding that a man was property, was wrong. 
But haven’t you wondered how politicians make similar made decisions today, in their  political accommodations, that compromise essential truths? 
Justice Taney made such a decision in Dred Scott out of respect for the seminal compromise that this nation made to tolerate slavery. 
The Taney Court traded soulful humanity for slavery in service to political convenience.   
As it was done then, so is it done today. 
No, not that decision on slavery but others just as odious in their own way.
When the Civil War ended, it was believed that slaves were made free by the 13th Amendment, and all men acknowledged as equal by the 14th Amendment. 
But it wasn’t to be so. 
Words we found were weak tools when it came to overcoming the differences between and among races that so many wrongly found intolerable.
My wife Holly and I visited the St. Louis cemetery in Louisiana several years back, and we went to the grave site of Homer Plessy whose courageous conduct prompted an infamous Supreme Court case. 
In Louisiana in 1890, there was a law that blacks and whites rode separately in different railway cars.  The way that the conductors distinguished color was by comparing one’s skin color to that of a brown paper bag and, if you were as dark or darker, you rode in the “black” car.   
The failure to “know your place” in the correct car was a crime. 
The passenger and the conductor both were held accountable for this crime.
Blacks in Louisiana thought that the Civil War and the amendments to our constitutional really meant something. 
Homer agreed to test this railway car offense at to race.
Homer Plessy was light-skinned, seven-eights Caucasion, and only one-eights black, so he could have passed the screening as white but he made it known that he was black. 
This mattered when, on June 7, 1892, he boarded a car for white patrons only on the East Louisiana Railroad in New Orleans en route to Covington, Louisiana. 
When the conductor asked Homer to leave the white car, he refused.  He was arrested.  He challenged his arrest and prosecution as violative of the the 13th and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, the 13th prohibiting slavery and the 14th assuring him of equal rights.  But to no avail. 
Homer was convicted and sentenced to a fine of $25.00.   The US Supreme Court found that “separate” did not mean “inferior.”  Justice Brown wrote for 7 of the 8 justices that it was false to assume “that the enforced separation of the two races stamps the colored race with a badge of inferiority.  If this be so,” he said, “it is not by reason of anything found in the act, but solely because the colored race chooses to put that construction upon it.”    Simply amazing you might rightly think. 
Justice John Marshall Harlan objected in his dissent to the majority opinion, saying that this decision by the majority would be vilified in days to come as much as the Dred Scott decision ever was.  Harlan did not believe “separate” was “equal” and the conduct was plainly not even close to “equal” when it came to all manner of facilities including toilets, cafes, and public schools.
Plessy v. Ferguson had the effect of empowering the South to do worse things, under the guise of separate and equal, to  segregate the races, not just on rail cars but in housing, education, hotels, restaurants, beaches, interracial marriages, and by taking away the vote from blacks by requiring they pay poll taxes that they couldn’t afford, requiring that they owned land to vote when they were mostly rental tenants, and that they pass literacy tests that were hardly fair and most certainly unnecessary.
Brown v. Board of Education in 1954 said that “separate” was not “equal” and it was rightly hailed for its content but the decision ran aground in its implementation. 
The Brown decision said that this offending segregation had to be remedied with “all deliberate speed” but no one first suspected that “deliberate” was “glacial” or that it might mean no movement at all – or massive resistance in the South.
This was what King was up against when he set out to make a difference.
We talk about faith – and we know King to be a man of faith but he also spoke of ecumenism  - a broader acceptance than just what he believed.  Now how refreshing is that breadth of tolerance?
He said:  “A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that our loyalties must become ecumenical …” 
King exhorted “every nation” to “develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies.  This call for a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing, unconditional love for all men.”
He could not help but comment on those who disagreed with him, with “his oft misunderstood and misinterpreted concept” that was “so readily dismissed by the Nietzches of the world as a weak and cowardly force” and how, he said, it “has now become an absolute necessity for the survival of mankind.”
We see in our body politic a different notion of Christian today than what King held dear, we see a faux political Christian – who has no use for the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount.  So how could such a person call himself or herself a Christian?
Jesus spoke of kindness and charity toward the poor.  But we have Republican presidential candidates who think food stamps to feed the poor and hungry are a political punch line. 
Jesus spoke of mercy but we have elected officials who favor tough love – go get a job you bum, pull yourself up by your own bootstraps.  Don’t expect charity.  That’s for suckers – like, well, Jesus, who said love your neighbor.
Jesus spoke of peacemakers as the children of God but we have Christians who would war throughout the world as if that was what Jesus would want – when he said exactly the opposite – to make peace.
Jesus said blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness.  Reverend Don Prange is certain that the word “righteousness” may be properly understood as “justice.” 
Unbelievably, we have faux Christians who say that “social justice” has no place in the pulpit.  Does anybody ever read the scripture they purport encompasses what they believe?
The Sermon on the Mount has been excised from the belief and practice of the Faux Christians who use faith as a political device. 
They show intolerance for those who do not believe as they do.  They can’t be said to “resist not evil” and they most certainly don’t “turn the other cheek.”
Our challenge today, without regard to religious believe, is a nation that increasingly we find lacks soulful compassion. 
King spoke of a faith among the religious for humankind over property.  Faith must go beyond religious belief to encompass Senecan Stoicism and Kantian humanists and every other kind of belief system. 
Faith cannot itself be a basis for intolerance – though it plainly is for many. 
Einstein rightly worried that “A man who is convinced of the truth of his religion is indeed never tolerant.” 
But King, by word and example, was tolerant. 
King understood that, if we can’t co-exist with our differences, we may not be able to exist at all.
King also found a method to implement what he believed.
He visited Ghandi’s birthplace in India in 1959 and said,
“Since being in India, I am more convinced than ever before that the method of non-violent resistance is the most potent weapon available to oppressed people in their struggle for justice and human dignity.  In a real sense, Mahatma Ghandi embodied in his certain universal principles that are inherent in the moral structure of the universe, and these principles are as inescapable as the law of gravitation.”
King did not believe that each of us was an isolated ego.   He believed we were part of what the Reverend Jesse Jackson thought of as a multicolored quilt of differences, sewn together into one vast unified fabric.  No doubt Jackson was inspired by King’s own remarks.  King said, “all life is interrelated, that somehow we’re caught in an inescapable network of mutuality tied in a single garment of destiny.”
How do we, to borrow Robert Kennedy’s formulation, “tame the savageness of man?”  It was what King did – modeled on Jesus and Ghandi – non-violence in protest for fairness and equality. 
That’s how he fought the persistent racism on buses, in eateries, hotels, jobs, indeed at every turn, and how he fought to remove obstacles to the franchise so that blacks would have recourse to how they were badly governed when they arrived in the polling booth and threw a lever.
What King discovered and sought to remedy was a system that valued property over persons and, in the bargain, short-changed workers in pay and benefits, denied them credit, housing, education and many other opportunities – all because of race – in a form of violence as invidious as physical violence, economic violence. 
In his meditations in the course of political action, King had to consider the question of war – the Vietnam war then. 
King had been praised for his non-violence in Montgomery, also on the Freedom Rides, in Albany, Birmingham and Selma.  He was dumb-founded therefore when the public and even his strongest supporters challenged his opposition to the war.  They told him that civil rights and peace didn’t mix.
But King said he had to live up to his ministry.  He said, “the relationship of this ministry to the making of peace is so obvious that I sometimes marvel at those who ask me why I am speaking against the war.”
He saw capitalism, and the military industrial complex, entangled in the racism at home and the war abroad.  He saw profit-taking at the cost of human life.  King asked how we could possibly burn human beings with napalm?  How could we create orphans here at home with the loss of servicemen abroad?
Father Berrigan took draft cards and burned them with napalm – and he was prosecuted and imprisoned for that.  Berrigan asked how destroying paper records with napalm could possibly compare with killing Vietnamese men, women and children.
King connected racism with capitalism and militarism by the fact that the war was sending the poor and minorities, “their sons, and their brothers, and their husbands to fight and die in extraordinarily high proportions to the rest of the population.”
As Omar Khayyam said: “the moving finger writes, and having writ moves on.”
We have moved on but it’s not what many expected when King lived. 
There has been a perverse march to the rear – a taking back of rights, a compromising, diminishing and elimination of the gains that King made and this assault is no longer just against blacks and minorities.
Today we see the triple evil as dangerous a threat as ever to the unfulfilled American promise of fairness and equality.
We fight wars of conquest, born by the poorest among us, by minorities disproportionally. 
Our businesses have only one measure of success – the bottom line – and not the welfare of society. 
Civil rights and liberties are under siege.
So-called Christian candidates make light of feeding the poor, of housing , of job training, of helping the unemployed, and it looks like things are going to get worse – before they ever get better.
To choose one particularly egregious example, this nation is watching voting rights taken away again.
There have been initiatives across the country to disenfranchise minorities.
The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU has concluded millions of Americans will lose the right to vote – or only get the vote if someone will help them do so. 
We’re talking about reducing our voting population by 5 million votes.
The states that have cut back on voting rights supply 185 electoral votes of the 270 needed to elect a president.  That’s two-thirds of what a candidate must win to become president.   
6 of the 12 battle ground states have either cut back voting rights or are considering doing so.
These limitations on voting rights attack persons of color, the poor, the elderly, and students.
We haven’t seen anything like this in this country in a century – we are going back to 1912.
Paul Weyrich, an evangelical leader once said, “As a matter of fact our leverage in elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.” 
The strategy is clear, to have a reduced electorate like that had in the off-year congressional election in 2010 (when Republicans shifted leadership in the Congress), rather than voting like the more inclusive presidential election in 2008.
This is a calculated effort to disrupt voting rights by –
·        New photo ID laws – requiring a state issued ID – that may require other proof including a birth certificate that is not easy to obtain and may be unaffordable.  No, not everyone does drive, can drive or ever did drive – so they haven’t had ID that satisfies the new rules.
·        There are new limitations on voter registration drives to make it harder to register.
·        There are efforts to eliminate Election Day registration.
·        Other states are curtailing the early voting period – cutting it shorter.
The pretense for these “election reforms” is that this will prevent fraud. 
Of course, there hasn’t been any widespread or even isolated fraud that could possibly justify these sweeping reforms, disenfranchising so many; rather, this is about limiting the vote, suppressing it, you know like those old Jim Crow laws.
You may think, when you hear this discussion, I have an ID.  And you do.
But more people than you think not only don’t drive but they rely on cash-checking stores that don’t require the kind of ID the state is mandating in this post 9-11 world -- when it’s harder than ever to get ID.
The New Dominion is becoming the old South once more. 
At the current legislative session in Richmond, only days ago, Virginia joined the rank of States passing laws to curtail voting rights, requiring photo IDs to vote, and a 5 day waiting period after you register to vote.
Yeats wrote it’s an Irish curse to dream things that the world has never seen. 
But by such dreams, one struggles to make them a reality, and thus does civilization advance. 
King had a special dream and began a march to the Promised Land telling one and all his dream of fairness and equality.
It is our duty to complete that march – and to make real that dream.
Robert Kennedy said to those in South Africa, still fighting apartheid, but making progress, how they were making a difference for the better – and why they would succeed.
Kennedy told them: “It is from numberless diverse acts of courage … that human history is thus shaped.  Every time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million difference centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”
Each of us must act to bring down the walls of oppression and resistance right here at home.
Give me a place to stand, Archimedes said, and I can move the world. 
So we can today if we stand on the shoulders of those who went before us, on the shoulders of Martin Luther King, and we reaffirm his belief in tolerance, equality, freedom and non-violence. 
We cannot fail – nor afford to fail – and by this resolve to follow King’s course, and to perform the political acts required, we pay tribute to Martin Luther King who only saw the Promised Land.
We owe it to King and ourselves to resume our march so we may arrive at the Promised Land.
Thank You.