The Very Offensive “First Amendment Defense Act”

The “First Amendment Defense Act,” H.R. 2802, is a bill purporting “To prevent discriminatory treatment of any person on the basis of views held with respect to marriage.” The proposed bill is an abomination. You can read it in its entirety here: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-114hr2802ih/pdf/BILLS-114hr2802ih.pdf

The bill provides that “the Federal Government shall not take any discriminatory action against a person, wholly or partially on the basis that such person believes or acts in accordance with a religious belief or moral conviction that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, or that sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage.

This begs some questions (not in any order of importance).

First, do you want Congress or any state assembly legislating morals? I surely do not. And how many individual “religious belief[s] or “moral conviction[s]” does the United States Congress intend to address during this and future terms?

Second, what century are these congressmen living in, to say that “sexual relations are properly reserved to [a marriage between one man and one woman]”? Men have sexual relations with men, and women have sexual relations with women. Get over it. The relationships of and interactions between consenting adults is none of Congress’ damn business, and it’s none of yours either.

Third, since when do we need a statute that protects citizens’ First Amendment right to exercise their religious beliefs? The First Amendment to the United States Constitution is clear in its prohibition against laws “respecting an establishment of religion[] or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” and the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments prohibit state action that violates this clause.

Given that the United States Constitution is the supreme law of the land, and given that it prohibits state and federal governments from violating First Amendment religious rights and freedoms, the enactment of a federal law “defending” such religious rights and freedoms is profoundly unnecessary.

Fourth, how does this proposed bill not constitute an endorsement of certain, very specific, religious beliefs? How does this bill not impose the “moral conviction[s]” of its proponents? The bill’s obvious endorsement of the “religious belief or moral conviction that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, or that sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage” is, on its face, violative of the Establishment Clause. In other words, the bill violates the very freedom it purports to “defend.”

Finally, when are these partisan actors — these political panderers — going to stop trying to pass laws that intrude on the most personal and private aspects of our lives? They are so vocal about governing with “less government”; why are they so intent on enacting so many intrusive and offensive laws? Why do they give no consideration to those citizens — their constituents — whom they are alienating and offending?

To our legislators I say this: You are the United States Congress. Do your job and stay out of our personal lives.

Why Thank the Jury?

A few years ago I observed a murder trial. The accused was represented by a sharp, talented, no-nonsense Cleveland defense lawyer (Jeff) who was brilliant from start to close.  Today I give you my impression about one very small but compelling part of his close.

The prosecutor was the first to give a closing argument, and like every other prosecutor I’d seen in trial, the first thing he did was offer a perfunctory “thank-you for your service” speech to the jury. And like every other time I’d heard that “thank-you” speech, it came off like political pandering: empty and insincere.

I have no doubt that when Jeff stood to give his closing argument, he just wanted to get right to the merits of the case — or, rather, its lack of merit. But the prosecutor’s thank-you was out there, and Jeff had to acknowledge it.

“I am not in the habit of thanking juries for sitting there. It’s like thanking you for showing up.”

Right there — if even for just the briefest of moments — Jeff took the jurors’ collective attention from the state’s substantive argument all the way back to the prosecutor’s empty “thank-you.” How did this work on a subconscious level?

Think primacy and recency. Maybe the prosecutor lost the benefit of the jurors recalling the last substantive things he said during his close; maybe they began to focus on the very first thing he said — the non-substantive and pointless “thank-you” speech.

Maybe the jurors, collectively or individually, pondered the prosecutor’s motive in thanking them, potentially calling into question his credibility. “It’s not as if we had a choice to be or not to be jurors, so why is he thanking us? Does he believe his case is weak, so he’s looking to hedge? What’s the point of it?”

At best, the thank-you constituted a distraction from the substance of the state’s case. At worst, it created a question in the jurors’ minds of the prosecutor’s credibility and motives.

So, if you are an advocate at trial, why thank the jury?

My Perfect Blog (4th Revision)

I have been doing “writing” this blog for two blogging for two three years.  You’ve never seen it any of my posts, though. They’re They’ve all been baking in my head.

I’ve never published this my a blog because I couldn’t make get it perfect. I couldn’t make its appearance perfect, and I couldn’t tweak the writing to perfection.

“It’s got to be perfect!” is was has been my credo; it has led to a lifetime of excessive preparation, of procrastination, and of anxiety and stress. Ironically Unfortunately, the opportunity cost of all the preparation time I spend preparing for a project is a profound lack of time to spend completing the actual project. Almost always, the finished product has been rushed and has ended up being anything but perfect — not bad, maybe pretty good, but never perfect.

The point is, perfect is the enemy of done.

Well, technically, perfectionism or pursuing the pursuit of perfect is the enemy of getting to done . . . or may be the enemy — not always, I guess.

Anyway, I’ve learned through the last 25 years of my professional life that it is important and essential to strive for and produce quality rather than to pursue perfection. Quality is the desired goal and should describe the end product, whereas perfectionism is simply an obstacle and a stressor on the way.

And if you think believe you’re perfect you’ve achieved perfection in any endeavor, then you’re living in a fool’s paradise.

So there it is , and here you go:  my perfect first blog post. It’s not perfect, but it is done — finally (??), and I am perfectly okay with that.