Court Cases in Pennsylvania: Good vs. Evil

— Crossposted from Democratic Convention Watch

There were two interesting happenings in the courts of Pennsylvania this week. Both of them relate directly to Governor Tom Corbett, and show him to be the kind of person dedicated to personal gain over human rights.

Certainly you remember the case of Jerry Sandusky, the coach who was abusing young boys for years and is now in prison for life. When pedophiles are brought to light, it is the obligation of those in charge to do something to prevent further abuse. Tom Corbett, as attorney general, chose not to, and instead to take $640,000 from Sandusky for his gubernatorial campaign coffers. He is not being charged, yet, but the three men who oversaw Jerry Sandusky are now going to trial. Former Penn State president Graham Spanier, Former Penn State Vice President Gary Schultz, and Former Penn State Athletic Director Tim Curley, are charged with knowing about Sandusky's abuse, not reporting it to the police, and then lying about it to the Grand Jury. Specifically: perjury, obstruction, endangering the welfare of children, failure to properly report suspected abuse and conspiracy.

More after the jump.

My guess is that Corbett's complicity will come up at some point. And probably someone will end up mentioning that he is up there with Bob McDonnell for turning the governor's mansion into a pay-to-play site. Read this

So, we have a bunch of powerful men putting their own institutions (Penn State and the Pennsylvania Legal System) ahead of the protection of young boys.

In another court case, the Pennsylvania Board of Health is suing the Montgomery County Register of Wills D. Bruce Hanes. Hanes is the man in charge of issuing  marriage licenses. In light of the recent Supreme Court decision, he started issuing marriage licenses to gay couples: 34 of them so far. 

I know, you don't understand what the Register of Wills and the Health Department have to do with marriage licenses. This is Pennsylvania, and we are weird. For example, my mailing address has a zip code that includes part of 3 counties, and is different from my actual township. If I had a landline, it would be in yet another town. In addition, Pennsylvania is one of the only states in the country that does not have a gay marriage or civil union law, and also not a constitutional ban on marriage equality. Marriage licenses come from the Register of Wills, which is a county position, and the State Health  Department oversees, among other things, marriage and death certificates. 

The Attorney General's office, headed by Kathleen Kane, is refusing to defend the state against the ACLU suit related to the ban on  gay marriage. She won't touch this, either. Under Pa. law,  the Health Department is allowed to sue in Commonwealth Court, because marriage licenses are a civil, not a criminal, matter. That's why it is a suit in lieu of a criminal action. 

Further, the Health Department is an arm of the Executive Branch, and Corbett wants to defend against both the ACLU suit, and anything that would allow gay people to marry. Again, he is against civil rights and human rights, and basic moral decency. 

On the up side, Jerry Sandusky is in jail, where he can't hurt any more boys, and he will never get out. Spanier, Schultz and Curley will likely join him there in a year or two. It is not out of the realm that Corbett will end up as an indicted co-conspirator one of these days. In the end, the Pa. DOMA law will be struck down, and the Montco marriage licenses will stand, and will end up issued in all the other counties, too. 

Football, Rape, Cash: Idolatry

— by Rabbi Arthur Waskow

I watched with horror but little surprise as thousands of Penn State students rioted against the firing of Head Football Coach Joe Paterno for failing to call the police  – even when a grad student told him of actually witnessing the anal rape of a ten-year-old boy.

The fact that a few days later, thousands of students mourned the damage to  dozens of young lives felt like only the first small step toward compassion, toward comfort.

For it is the systematic idolatry of football at Penn State  and beyond that is the true culprit — not merely Joe Paterno or the alleged multiple rapist, Jerry Sandusky, or the now dismissed president of the University and his indicted colleagues

These people were merely the priests of that idolatrous cult.  Football brought oceans of prosperity to Penn State, as to other colleges and businesses — and like many ancient and modern idolatries, whoever / whatever can bring such abundance is a god and Its priesthood is too sacred to be doubted.

What is idolatry?

More after the jump.
It is turning a pleasing and partial aspect of the universe, a single limited aspect of the  Holy, into the Ultimate.  It is falling on our faces and closing our eyes before it, blinding ourselves to its flaws,  as if it were the Interbreathing of all life, the Majestic Order of all existence.

The Talmud tells a tale of a Jew who came to one of the ancient rabbis: “I have bought a Roman house with beautiful pool and waterfall. At one end of the pool is a beautiful statue of Venus. Must I destroy it as an idol?”

“It depends,” answered the rabbi. “If the pool was put there to adorn and celebrate the statue, it is an idol. Destroy it. If the statue was sculpted to adorn and beautify the pool, then it is art. Enjoy it.”

Football has its place. It can be an example of graceful speed, agility, accuracy, and strength – an example of how delightful the human body can be, one of the glorious unfoldings of Divine grace and Divine Grace, love beyond merit.

As the Jewish prayer says on the occasion of going to the bathroom, ” We thank You for this body of open hollow vessels and closed-off stops, knowing that if the hollow vessels became closed-off or the closed places became open, we could not survive before You to live and celebrate Your creativity.”

But for many football has become an idol.  Why?

Cash.

As Moses warns the people,

“You will enter this rich and fruitful land that has grown and flourished because I, the Breath of Life, have interwoven plants and animals, microbes and mountains, human beings of many different talents and desires and cultures.

“But soon you will convince yourselves that you alone invented all this fruitfulness, that you can exploit it with no self-restraint, that it would be a waste of time — literally, a waste of time – for you to pause and let the earth and yourselves and each other rest and celebrate the Interbreathing that created it.

“Corruption will conquer. If you rape the Earth your Mother, why not rape your own children?”

“And then the abundance will vanish.”

And the people will face the truth – some with grief and awe and compassion, some with rage at what they seem to be losing.

Whether it is a world-wide church or a single yeshiva or synagogue or mosque or ashram,  a football stadium or a computer design or a company that extracts primeval carbon from the planet’s underparts, elevating abundance from part of the sacred whole to the Ultimate is one of the paths to self-destruction.

Penn State and BP’s oil-well disaster in the Gulf of Mexico were rooted in the same spiritual distortion.

The sacred intertwining that does in fact deserve our celebration, our awe, does not need to be called God. Some who call themselves secular feel and act upon that Awe; some who call themselves religious have turned “God” into an idol.

Indeed, in another story the ancient rabbis say they went searching for the impulse to idolatry, hoping to destroy it – and finally found it hiding in the innermost chamber of the sacred Temple, the Holy of Holies.

It is the Awe that we must constantly renew, not the labels we attach to it.

With blessings of wholeness, harmony — shalom, salaam, the deep peace —

Arthur

Rabbi Arthur Waskow, director, The Shalom Center http://www.theshalomcenter.org; newest book, co-authored with R. Phyllis Berman, is Freedom Journeys: The Tale of Exodus and Wilderness Across Millennia (Jewish Lights), available from Shouk Shalom, our on-line bookstore