Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Thorner/O’Neil: Lead plaintiff of ‘Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association’ states her grievances

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By Nancy Thorner & Bonnie O’Neil – 

As noted in our collaborative article published Monday, Nov. 9, 2015 in Illinois Review“Supreme Court to Adjudicate Mandatory Union Fees”, Rebecca Friedrichs is the lead plaintiff, an outspoken opponent of her teachers’ union who agreed to let her name become identified with the case. Friedrichs has taught elementary school for 28 years, mostly in the Savanna School District in Anaheim, Ca. You can listen to her discuss the case here, read a Q&A with her here, and a commentary by her in the Orange County Register here.

We cannot deny there is much wrong in the world of government and politics today, but few who complain about specific problems do anything to correct them. That may be because the average person feels incapable of facilitating a positive change, believing it a difficult, even hopeless task. True, it is a daunting task, often quite expensive and absolutely time consuming. Therefore, it is understandable that individuals consider themselves ill-equipped to facilitate any significant policy change, and thus most of us choose to just live with the problem, which is why problems remain problems year after year and end up lasting for decades.

Anthropologist. Margaret Mead, believed individuals could facilitate change in our world, as evidenced by her famous quote:  “Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world.  For, indeed, that’s all who ever have.” Some might argue that Mead, born in 1901, lived during a period of time when it was possible for individuals to facilitate a change, but that our world today is far more complicated, and it has become increasingly difficult for an individual to accomplish any major change in established laws or procedures.

That may be true, but even today there remain a few American citizens willing to try to correct problems they encounter, especially when it significantly impacts their lives as well as others. Rebecca Friedrichs is a perfect example of such a person. She saw a significant problem with the rules and tactics of the powerful California Teachers Union and decided for the sake of teachers, students, and ultimately society that these problems needed to be exposed and challenged. Mrs. Friedrichs’ ultimate hope in doing so was to facilitate a positive change that would benefit teachers as well as students.

Lead Plaintiff’s Concerns

Friedrichs realized the California Teachers Union (CTU) had expanded its scope of responsibility far beyond its original role of helping and protecting teachers from job-related problems, such as providing legal counsel in situations where teachers needed assistance. Instead, the Union morphed into an organization with unprecedented power, far exceeding the authority reasonable people deem acceptable.  The Union increased teachers’ obligatory dues and used the additional money to insert itself into state political matters, even when there was little or no reason to believe such actions were protecting the welfare of teachers or benefiting the education of our children. The California Teachers Union began using members’ dues to finance and support specific organizations which had little or no benefits to teachers.  That practice has escalated with funding directed to highly controversial organizations that a significant portion of the teachers actually oppose.

Friedrichs’ main concern was not about union dues for collective bargaining, but about these additional fees teachers are asked to pay.  Friedrichs is one of many who resent financing groups, candidates, and/or politicians whose purposes are in direct opposition to her own and others.  The Union allows teachers to be exempt from paying those specific fees, but they must then continue to work with Union leaders and teachers who resent their decision and exhibit overt resentment.  Thus, there is subtle pressure for teachers to be silent and to continue paying the full dues.

Fair minded people sympathize with teachers who show the courage of their convictions and opt out of paying the fees.  Thus some do applaud Mrs. Friedrichs for being willing to stand up to the injustice, the powerful Union, and the politicians and organizations that have been benefiting from the Unions’ donations. However, there are powerful people benefiting from the donations, making it all the more difficult to find a way to stop the CTA from such practices.

The political power of the California Teachers Union has been well known in specific circles, but recently has also become more obvious to the general public. That is partially the result of reports like the one released by the California Fair Political Practices Commission which stated that the CTA is number one on the “Billion Dollar Club” list of top spenders in California politics.   The CTA alone has spent more money in California politics than Chevron, AT&T, Philip Morris, and Western States Petroleum Association combined.  You read that correctly – “combined.”    For their record breaking spending in politics and for other reasons, former George W. Bush speechwriter, Troy Senik has deemed the CTA the worst union in America.

Political Power Vested Through Dues

According to Lennie Jarrett, project manager for education transformation at Chicago’s Heartland Institute, an article dated February 5, 2014, states that Illinois has the same problem as California.  A teacher will pay $1,000, on average, in union dues each year. It is the policy of most unions to convince teachers they have no choice and must pay these dues to be allowed to work.  Of this money, up to 80 percent is used for purposes other than collective bargaining, and more than 50% is used for politics.

In almost every state, teachers are automatically signed up to have a specific amount of their pay diverted to their unions’ political funds.   The facts indicate when “paycheck protection” laws require unions to get permission from teachers before taking money for political purposes, teachers almost always say “no.” When teachers were given the chance to opt out of paying for the political causes engineered by education unions, they did so in droves.

Education unions have become perennial political powerhouses, nationally and locally. Terry Moe argues in his groundbreaking study of teachers unionsSpecial Interest: Teachers Unions and America’s Public Schools, that “by comparison to other interest groups, and certainly to those with a direct stake in public education—parents, taxpayers, even administrators — the teachers unions are unusually well equipped to wield power.” Consider the following:

  • Fortune magazine has consistently ranked the National Education Association in the top 15 of its Washington Power 25 list for influence in the nation’s capital.
  • The head of the Chicago Teachers Union had this warning to any mayoral candidate in the 2011 mayor’s race who didn’t toe the teachers’ line: “I think the opportunity is to throw the weight of 30,000 members and their families and students and teachers.  I mean, we’re looking at maybe 800,000 people we could affect on some level.”

Due to their massive base and the massive dues that they charge, teachers unions can both mobilize voters and spend huge sums of money to defeat ballot initiatives and candidates that they don’t like. As Terry Moe put it, “when all is said and done, the power of the unions to block change is the single most important thing that anyone needs to know about the politics of American education.”   Enormous political clout is exerted by union heads at the expense of their members who frequently disagree with their union bosses’ political agendas.  Most of the union dues collected (often as high as 95%) flow to a specific political party’s candidates, even though, according to 2003 polling data from a National Education Study, only 51% of teachers who are union members identify with that party. Thus almost half of the union members are paying to elect candidates with whom they specifically disagree.

In disclosure forms filed at the end of the year 2011, it was revealed that the NEA spent almost $88 million — more than 20 percent of its entire budget — on “contributions, gifts and grants” that largely funded left-wing and non-education-related causes, including drives to raise the minimum wage and organizations promoting radical social issues. As a Wall Street Journal” editorial noted, the union’s financial disclosure forms “expose the union as a honey pot for left-wing political causes that have nothing to do with teachers, much less students.”

Left-leaning organizations supported by NEA dues include: 

  • ACORN
  • Business and Professional Women/USA
  • Campaign for America’s Future
  • Congressional Black Caucus Foundation
  • Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute
  • Democratic Leadership Council
  • Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network
  • GLAAD
  • Human Rights Campaign
  • Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund
  • NAACP
  • National Association for Bilingual Education
  • National Council of La Raza
  • National Partnership for Women & Families
  • National Women’s Law Center
  • People for the American Way
  • Rainbow PUSH Coalition
  • Sierra Club

This website provides more examples of left-leaning recipients of teachers’ unions.

Fairness and equality for all is what our citizens expect of America’s leaders.  Our nation has prospered largely due to those who understand the concept that injustices will survive only as long as people remain quiet about them. Within months, it is expected that Chief Justice John Roberts, and esteemed Justices Samuel Alito, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan, Anthony Kennedy, Sonia Sotomayor, Anthony Scalia, and Clarence Thomas will all have the opportunity to finally put an end to the cleverly designed teachers’ mandate that has forced teachers to pay into a system that uses their money for political purposes and candidates with whom they politically oppose.   May the Supreme Court vote reflect what is best for all our people, not just those who abuse their leadership privilege. We thank Mrs. Friedrichs and the other ten teachers who have chosen to challenge the status quo and restore equality. We wish them and their attorney well as they expose truths, present facts, and argue their position to the above esteemed Supreme Court Justices.

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Friday, September 12, 2014

Religious Freedom

By Nancy Thorner and Bonnie O’Neil – 

Our nation’s forefathers were Christians, and they wrote often they believed the battle to attain their liberty was won due to their reliance on God and the Holy Bible. Through the years, Americans and their leaders enacted laws that reflected biblical values and principles. We remained a highly moral country for almost two centuries, largely because our people wove their Christian beliefs into all parts of their lives, including the public arena.

What happened to America from 1776 to the present? How can we explain the immorality that exists today? Where was the church in this unfortunate battle that ignored historical precedents and an established culture based on moral values, in order to introduce anti-biblical, moral defying laws? How did we slip so far away from the godly standards America once valued?

If there could be one time in history that stands out as indicating a change of direction, it would be the Supreme Court decision to remove prayer from our schools. Some argue that ruling was just a consequence of a society that had slowly morphed into one less religious and more secular. But there is little evidence to prove that is true.

However, It is rather astonishing that not a single legal brief from a Christian church or organization officially opposed that Supreme Court case; a decision that most see as the “beginning of an escalating downward trend.” That fact indicates the true cause for America’s moral decline may be due to a change of attitude within church leadership, that had begun to intentionally ignore all things political and/or controversial. That trend continued and exists today.

There may be many good reasons and excuses for that major change, but the results for both the church and society have been devastating. Church membership has drastically fallen, immoral laws and thus immorality abounds, and our nation and people no longer resemble that of our of our amazing forefathers.

Christians must fight back

So, should we just give up and admit America has declined so much that we can never restore those days and all we have lost?  Absolutely not!  The Church can survive this lapse, but it likely will require our spiritual leaders to become involved in the battle, rather than remain casual observers who rationalize they have no responsibility in what is happening to our culture. They are the one who have the platform and trust of those who want morality to regain its former place in our lives, but need instructions and information to do so.

Church leaders in 1776  led their people into a war for altruistic purposes. Today they just need to lead their people into voting booths armed with facts that enable them to make the right choices.

That is how Christians can fight to regain our lost freedoms and principles, without the traditional weapons of war. This victory can be won through the power of  prayer, words, and inspiration from God.

Our ancestors tasted the bitterness of subjection to a tyrannical King who cared little for them. Today we are experiencing an overbearing, power hungry government that is largely secular, with a largely anti-Christian agenda. Our ancestors could not live with tyranny, but sadly Christians and their church leaders today do not seem as concerned about the issues, direction, and spiritual health of our county, at least not enough to take any action that would help reverse the trend.

Church leaders claim that it is not their duty to educate their congregation about anti-Christian laws or to provide enlightening information at election time, but, if not them, who then? Most people are so busy with their lives, they do not have time to keep up with the myriad of political issues and laws. The majority are likewise completely unaware of what is happening to our society due to new laws that invite immorality. Who better to give them facts than the entity they can most trust with the truth: Their Church leaders.

The Black Robed Pastors were willing to die by the sword for freedom; Church leaders today are not asked to die, just to speak out against morality and to thwart the efforts of those enacting anti-Christian laws that are incrementally destroying America. Will they enlighten their parishioners; equip them with truths and allow their congregations to become informed “points of light” in their neighborhoods, at their jobs, and possibly even at town hall meetings?

Heed these words in a 1944 speech by Norman Thomas, an American socialist and a six-time Presidential candidate of the Socialist Party of America, then consider how close they are to our current condition:

The American people will never knowingly adopt socialism, but under the name of liberalism they will adopt every fragment of the socialist program until one day America will be a socialist nation without ever knowing how it happened.

One hundred sixty eight years earlier, Samuel Adams, as a Founding Father, an architect of the principles of American republicanism that shaped the political culture of the United States, and second cousin to later U.S. President John Adams, expressed this prophetic warning:

If ever a time should come, when vain and aspiring men shall possess the highest seats in Government, our country will stand in need of its experienced patriots to prevent its ruin.

There is a glimmer of hope in that some Church leaders are awakening to the reality that they must begin providing facts about bad bills, laws, and procedures that negatively affect and impact Christian families. That indeed would be exceedingly helpful to families, and has the potential to change the direction of our Country.  However, they are few and far between.

Everyone needs a source whose opinion they greatly value to provide critical information about controversial issues; not just any source, but one they can trust. Christians can combine their voices, and thus have a positive impact on the culture.  We applaud the pastors who have awakened to become beacons of light to the body of Christ.  Meet the new “Black Robed Regiment” who are stepping forward to protect the church and our country. May many more follow.

Black Robed Regiment message needs to be heard today!

During the week of August 24 through the 28th, The Illinois Family Institute, David E. Smith, Executive Director, held ten special events in different areas of the state featuring Pastor Dan Fisher and his presentation titled, “Bringing Back The Black Robed Regiment.” Pastor Fisher is the Senior Pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Yukon, Oklahoma, and also serves in the Oklahoma state legislature. As one of the first original Pulpit Freedom Pastors, Fisher is on the boards of Bott Christian Radio Network, Reclaiming America for Christ, and Vision America.

One presentation was held in the Bensenville church of Pastor John Kirkwood, who is Associate Director of the Christian Emergency League (CEL). To learn more visit christianleague.org.  A core strategy of the CEL is to is to partner with like-minded believers in prayer and finances to advance Christ and the morals set forth in the Holy Word of God. Its goal is to partner with like-minded Christians to form a chapter in all 50 states and territories, although the core of the CEL will most likely be drawn from pastors.  Never to be dismissed by church leaders are these words of warning by German patriot and Lutheran minister Dietrich Bonhoeffer during WW II which ultimately cost him his life:

Silence in the face of evil is itself evil. God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.

Such powerful words. They should be put in cement for future centuries to observe, consider, and embrace. Pastor Kirkwood, Associate Director of CEL, can be contacted at (309) 863-5196 or P.O. Box 300, Bensenville, IL, 60106.

This video shows Pastor Fisher recounting the story in a Black Robed Regiment presentation through the eyes of Rev. Peter Muhlenberg, the minister who spearheaded the Black Robed Regiment movement. In his impersonation of Rev. Muhlenberg, Dan Fisher, appearing on stage initially wearing a black robe, unrobed to reveal a military uniform underneath, as did Rev. Muhlenberg, when at the conclusion of his Sunday sermon on January 21,1776 he declared:

In the language of the Holy Writ, there was a time for all things, a time to preach and a time to pray, but those times have passed away.  There is a time to fight, and that time is now coming!

Marching to the rear of his church, the Emanuel Lutheran Church in Woodstock, Virginia, in his full military uniform, Muhlenberg declared, “Who among you is with me?”  On that day one-by-one men from his congregation stood up and joined Muhlenberg in the fight for liberty. They embraced their families and walked down the aisle to add their names to their pastor’s, as others from the community heeded the call.

Shortly afterwards the Woodstock congregation and community watched their men ride off to war with pastor Muhlenberg riding in the lead as part of the 8th Virginia Regiment, singing “Onward Christian Soldiers.”

It’s now or never for church leaders to take a stand to become the Black Robed Regiment of todayin order to preserve religious freedom for generations of Americans to come, remembering that freedom is a Gift from God.  It is time for pastors to speak boldly and their civic duty to do so.  Step up to the challenge today and become among the ranks of The Black Robed Regiment of the 21th century.

Part 1: Thorner & O’Neil:  Calling all Christians  

Part 2:  Thorner & O’Neil: Calling all Church Leaders 

Part 3:  Thorner & O’Neil:  Church falls short if evangelizing is sole purpose 

Part 4:  Thorner & O’Neil: Patriot preachers of the 18th century