Friday, September 25, 2015

Religious litmus test makes no sense

Republican presidential candidate Scott Walker exited the race on Monday, having come to the conclusion that he was wasting everyone's time and his donors' money.

For a while, though, it was Ben Carson who was on the ropes and several Muslim organizations were demanding his exit. Even Texas Sen. Ted Cruz got a few good licks in on Carson.

For those of you who missed the kerfluffle — or who don't pay attention to politics — here's how it went down: Carson was on Meet the Press on Sunday, where he declared that a Muslim does not belong in the White House, calling Islam "inconsistent with the values of America" and saying some Muslim beliefs are in direct opposition of the Constitution.

“Muslims feel their religion is very much a part of your public life and what you do as a public official, and that’s inconsistent with our principles and our Constitution," Carson said.

Reminds me of a certain county clerk in Kentucky who's getting high fives from some GOP candidates for putting her Christianity above her job.

There was a time in our country when people were afraid of a Catholic being elected president. They worried that John F. Kennedy's religion would not play well with his duties as president. Now, Catholics are fine. Well, unless you're the Pope. But that's another matter altogether.

I have a feeling that Ben Carson may not have read the Bible. Or maybe he's not Christian. Or something. Because the Bible makes it pretty clear that God's law supersedes that of any government. Kind of like that lady in Kentucky keeps telling everyone.

That would mean that if Muslims are exempt from running for the presidency, Christians should be as well. And Jews. Probably Hindus. And just about any other organized (or disorganized as the case often is) religion.

Oddly enough, most elected officials in the United States swear an oath on the Bible that they will uphold the Constitution and any laws in whatever jurisdiction they're serving in. This despite the Constitutional ban on the establishment of a state-sponsored religion.

Odder still, the book that they're swearing on directly opposes many laws that they're swearing to uphold. It's like taking a blood oath that you'll never cut your thumb. It's wholly illogical.

And yet, Ben Carson — and 99.99 percent of politicians, I would imagine — has no perceived problem with Christians running for office. Just Muslims.

While I disagree with Carson's position, I equally disagree with those demanding he get out of the race for having said position. Every candidate has positions people disagree with them on. If they want to remove him from the race, the proper way to do it is at the ballot box.

Worth noting: Ben Carson's poll numbers are up since making the statement. Two national polls released this week show him a solid second in the GOP race at either 18 or 17 percent, depending on the poll. Donald Trump, whose religion is money, still leads the pack.

+Scott Leffler avoids talking about politics and religion at the dinner table. But he thoroughly enjoys it in his column. Tweet him at @scottleffler or email him at

This column was originally published on East Niagara Post

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Media musical chairs

So here's a fun story:

Six years ago today, I ended my seven-year relationship with WLVL in Lockport. I walked into the office around 9 a.m. as always and was called into Dick Greene's office. He told me they were "going in another direction."

So ... unemployed. Ugh. My Facebook status was a simple "ouch."

Later that same day, Eric DuVall, editor at the Tonawanda News, sent me a message on Facebook asking if I wanted to reprise my column for publication in the News. Of course, I agreed. It didn't pay much, but it kept my name out there and made job hunting easier.

I had some radio interviews including WJJL and WBEN. But nothing came of them.

A few weeks later, Tim Marren, editor at the Lockport Union-Sun & Journal asked if they could also run my column. Of course, I agreed. It meant getting paid double for writing one column and it got my name back out there in Lockport, where I was most well-known.

That continued for about a year ... until a full-time job opened up in the Lockport newsroom. I took that job of city editor, replacing Karen Keefe, who took Marren's job as managing editor. Side note: I got my original job at the US&J taking over for Karen's husband as city reporter in 2000.

I kept the city editor job until 2014 when I left the US&J to take the position of news editor at East Niagara Post, where I was reunited (professionally) with Heather Grimmer, who had left her freelance photo job at the US&J in Oct. 2013.

January of this year, the Tonawanda News stopped publication and Eric DuVall moved to WLVL to take over as news director and talk show host — my old job.

ENP has grown considerably in the past year and now has six former US&J peeps (Heather Grimmer, George Root, Craig Bacon, Jill Keppeler, Howard Balaban and me) — and two current ones (Steve Wallace and Bob Confer) on its list of contributors.

And Friday night, we start broadcasting hockey games live via the Internet.

None of which would have happened if six years ago, Dick Greene hadn't decided to go "in another direction."

Friday, September 04, 2015

If you can't do your job, get a new one

Have you heard the story of the poor persecuted Christian woman in Kentucky, jailed for believing in God?

I guess that would depend on where you get your news because that seems to be how the lunatic fringe of the Republican Party is taking the arrest of Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, charged with contempt of court for refusing to follow a federal judge's order that she issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Davis' take on the matter is that same-sex marriage goes against her religious beliefs and as such she feels she shouldn't have to issue same-sex marriage licenses. It's not all that different from pharmacists who want to be able to not disburse birth control for the same reason. Or public grade school teachers who want to teach the alphabet without using the letter R.

Let that sink in. Because, really, it's exactly like public grade school teachers who want to teach the alphabet while ignoring the letter R. The letter R is very much part of the job. And if their religious beliefs prevent them from doing their job, then they should get a new one.

Imagine, if you will, someone getting a job at an adult video store and then refusing to rent anyone adult videos because it goes against their beliefs. Or a waiter at a restaurant who would gladly bring chicken and beef to the diners but refused to allow his tables to order pork of any kind ... for religious reasons. How long do you think those people would be employed? And do you think they'd be made into martyrs? I have a feeling they wouldn't.

I fear that one of the more deranged of the Republican candidates for president will mention this woman's name as a running mate. Or at least that someone in their camps will bring it up.

Of course, Davis is famous because we — the media — made her so. And sadly, I'm not helping the matter by discussing it here in my column. But I have a job to do. And I do it. Novel concept.

This column was originally published on East Niagara Post