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Questioning the Constitutionality of Religious Charter Schools

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historically speaking

 

In December 2022, outgoing Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor dropped a bombshell opinion that, if upheld by the courts, has the potential to change education forever.

He wrote his opinion at the request of the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board, who asked if the restrictions against religious organizations sponsoring charter schools remained legal with recent court cases that seemed to challenge the idea that the First Amendment Establishment Clause meant a separation between church and state. In his opinion, O’Connor not only agreed with the board that the religious restrictions were now unconstitutional but went a step even further and said that charter schools were, in fact, not officially public. So even if the Establishment Clause restricted states from working with religious institutions, it would not apply to charter schools.

At the time, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt and many in the Legislature praised this opinion. Stitt said, “Attorney General John O’Connor’s opinion rightfully defends parents, education freedom, and religious liberty in Oklahoma. Ultimately, the government takes a backseat to parents who get to determine the best learning environment for their child.”

Based on this support, on June 5, 2023, the board approved an application from the Catholic church for the country’s first religious charter school. While there is a great deal of support in the state, surprisingly, one of the voices of opposition came from the new state attorney general, Gentner Drummond, who believed it unconstitutional.

“The approval of any publicly funded religious school is contrary to Oklahoma law and not in the best interest of taxpayers,” Drummond said. “It’s extremely disappointing that board members violated their oath in order to fund religious schools with our tax dollars. In doing so, these members have exposed themselves and the State to potential legal action that could be costly.”

The new school is clearly setting up a legal showdown that possibly will reach the Supreme Court and could have huge implications for the nation.

To understand how two Republican attorneys general can come to two different opinions, it is necessary to look back and try to understand what seems like a simple clause in the Constitution but yet has been interpreted so differently.

The Establishment Clause states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

There are different ways to view this clause. The most accepted is that the federal government may not establish a required state church the way England had with the Church of England. It’s prohibiting the free exercise thereof that gets tricky.

It has been commonly believed that the second part prohibited the national government from interfering with the state governments that did have required state churches, of which there were several.

The main debate has always been, does the Establishment Clause actually protect religion or build a wall between church and state? It is this difference that can help explain the two differing opinions.

Those who believe in a wall between church and state take that line from the writings of Thomas Jefferson. The line separation between church and state is the most misquoted line in the Constitution in that it is not in the Constitution, yet today almost universally accepted as so. In truth, the line comes from a letter from Jefferson to the Danbury Baptist Association. Those who believe in a wall of separation have been in the minority for most of the nation’s history. Most have accepted religion in government and believed only that government could not interfere with religion. A great example is George Washington placing his hand on the Bible when he took his oath of office, something that is not required but most modern presidents have followed. Further evidence is that it took 89 years for the Legislature or the courts to make any religious laws until they outlawed polygamy in 1878. Even then, it took 70 more years for the courts to make a ruling that began to change this common interpretation.

In 1947 a case came before the courts that is like the current issue in Oklahoma.

In New Jersey, a school board was reimbursing parents for the cost of bussing their children to private schools, including religious schools. In what became known as Everson v. Board of Education (1947), the U.S. Supreme Court narrowly ruled, 5-4, that this practice was unconstitutional. In this landmark decision, Justice Hugo L. Black made two important decisions. First, he declared that the 14th Amendment clause of equal protection meant that the Bill of Rights applied to the states as well as the federal government, and so the Religious Establishment Clause now applied to states as well. (It is hard to believe now, but until 1947 the Bill of Rights only applied to federal charges, not state ones). Secondly, and more importantly, Justice Black cited Jefferson when he ruled that government cannot pass laws that “aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion over another.” With this one case, Jefferson’s wall was suddenly erected, and future courts would follow this example. Under this ruling, Oklahoma could not allow a religious charter school.

The new ruling did not mean all justices agreed, as many minority decisions continued to read the Establishment Clause in the original way.

In a 1953 religion verse education case known as Zorach V. Clauson, the state of New York allowed students release time for religious instruction off campus. Justice William Douglas wrote in favor of allowing release time, saying, “The First Amendment, however, does not say that in every and all respects there shall be a separation of Church and State. Rather, it studiously defines the manner, the specific ways, in which there shall be no concert or union or dependency one on the other. That is the common sense of the matter. Otherwise, the state and religion would be aliens to each other—hostile, suspicious, and even unfriendly.” In other words, Douglas was arguing that the government does not need to be hostile to religion to be separate.

However, it still seemed as if the courts continued moving closer to constructing a complete wall. Probably the most important case on this subject, and one that closely mirrors Oklahoma’s situation, is the 1971 case Lemon v. Kurtzman.

In the case, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a practice in Pennsylvania where schools were helping to pay for teachers’ salaries and books at religious institutions. Alton Lemon led the charge against Pennsylvania for violating the Establishment Clause. Acknowledging the First Amendment’s language is vague, the Court determined a simple three-question test to determine if any government ran afoul of the Constitution. What the Lemon Test asks is, 1) is the primary purpose of the assistance secular? 2) is the assistance promoting nor inhibiting religion? and 3) is there any excessive entanglement between church and state? The test was supposed to clarify the Establishment Clause, and yet in some ways has only made it more confusing, especially the “excessive entanglement.” What the Lemon Test has done, in practice, was case by case and brick by brick built up the wall of separation.

Then came the 2016 election of Donald Trump and his appointment of three conservative justices. There are many cases that have chipped away at the wall of separation, including the 2019 American Legion v. American Humanist Association case. But the Virtual Charter School Board brought up three cases in particular in their question to O’Connor that he addressed. According to O’Connor’s reply, in Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia Inc. v. Comer (2017), the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a Missouri law that forbade Trinity Lutheran Church from applying for a government grant to buy recycled tire parts to soften playgrounds. The Court ruled that Missouri had “expressly require[d] Trinity Lutheran to renounce its religious character in order to participate in an otherwise generally available public benefit program,” which “was a ‘clear infringement on free exercise’ and no compelling anti-establishment interest that could justify such discrimination.”

In the case of Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue (2020), the Montana Legislature passed a law that gave tax credit to anyone who donated to private school scholarship funds. Because state funds were involved, the scholarships could not be used for religious schools. When the state’s attorney general disagreed, the state’s supreme court dismantled the program. The U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the program, citing, The Free Exercise Clause “protects religious observers against unequal treatment” and against “laws that impose special disabilities on the basis of religious status.” The state did not have to give tax credits for private schools, but if they did, they could not discriminate against religious schools.

Finally, the last case O’Connor discussed in his opinion was Carson v. Makin (2022). In this case, the state of Maine had assisted parents in rural areas without public schools to pay for private school tuition. Beginning in 1981, Maine required that funds from the state could only go to nonreligious schools. Like the other cases, the U.S. Supreme Court called this practice discriminatory and ruled that if Maine was going to support rural parents, they could not discriminate against religious schools.

The Oklahoma Virtual Charter School Board felt that these recent rulings should allow for religion to apply for a charter school, and Attorney General O’Connor agreed. O’Connor wrote in his opinion, “We believe, based on the First Amendment and the Trinity LutheranEspinoza, and Carson line of decisions, that the U.S. Supreme Court would likely hold these restrictions [charter school shall be nonsectarian] unconstitutional.” O’Connor then spent the rest of his 14-page draft giving more specific reasons why religious charter schools should be legal, including topics like, “The State cannot enlist private organizations to ‘promote a diversity of educational choices,’ and then decide that any and every kind of religion is the wrong kind of diversity. This is not how the First Amendment works.”

He broke his argument down into five major points. The most interesting of these points is the fourth because after arguing for several pages that religious schools should not be discriminated against, he changed his argument to make the point moot. In the fourth part, he basically wrote that even though charter schools are publicly funded, they are, in fact, not actually public schools.

To make his point, O’Connor referenced the case Rendell-Baker v. Kohn (1982), which involves a private school in Massachusetts called New Perspectives School that dealt with difficult students. The students were referred to by the public schools and received funding from the state to work with these students. When the school fired a teacher, Rendell-Baker, over a policy debate, the teacher and others later fired sued, claiming their First Amendment rights were violated and due process for state teachers was not followed. In a 6-2 decision from the U.S. Supreme Court, it ruled with the school and said private contractors like the school are not public simply because they contract with the state. Based on this, O’Connor wrote, “Rendell-Baker and Caviness counsel strongly toward a federal law finding that Oklahoma charter schools are not state actors and thus not vulnerable as an initial matter to an Establishment Clause challenge.” O’Connor concluded with, “just because the provision prohibiting charter schools from being sectarian ‘in its programs, admission policies, employment practices, and all other operations’ is likely unconstitutional does not mean that religious or religiously affiliated charter schools can necessarily operate however they want.

The constitutional problem is singling out religion, not necessarily the provisions found elsewhere regulating various aspects of charter schools. For instance, as it currently stands, federal law does not, in all likelihood, prohibit Oklahoma from enforcing requirements like those indicating that charter schools must be “as equally free and open to all students as traditional public schools” or must not charge tuition or fees, so long as hostility to religion is not present.”

While the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board must have been thrilled with the O’Connor opinion, when Attorney General Gentner Drummond took office, he repealed his predecessor’s opinion and replaced it with one of his own. In a Feb. 23, 2023, letter to the board, Drummond wrote, “The cases identified in your request…involve private schools, not charter schools. This office has previously recognized that charter schools ‘are public schools established by contract.’ Consequently, the cases cited in your request concerning private schools have little precedential value as it relates to charter schools.”

Drummond went on to state that the question of whether charter schools are state actors is yet unsettled, and he hopes the courts will take on the question soon. Currently, according to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, charter schools are state actors, so religious school is unconstitutional. Drummond ends his opinion with, “This previous point relates to a much broader aspect of the issue at hand. As a strong supporter of religious liberty, I am obliged to note that the Opinion does nothing to advance that worthy cause. Religious liberty is one of our most fundamental freedoms. It allows us to worship according to our faith and be free from any duty that may conflict with our faith. The Opinion, as issued by my predecessor, misuses the concept of religious liberty by employing it as a means to justify state-funded religion. If allowed to remain in force, I fear the Opinion will be used as a basis for taxpayer-funded religious schools which is precisely what SISCVS (St. Isidore of Seville Catholic Virtual School) seeks to become.

“Further, this office is obligated to point out that the approval of the SISCVS application will create a slippery slope. While many Oklahomans undoubtedly support charter schools sponsored by various Christian faiths, the precedent created by approval of the SISDVS application will compel approval of similar applications by all faiths. I doubt most Oklahomans would want their tax dollars to fund a religious school whose tenets are diametrically opposed to their own faith. Unfortunately, the approval of a charter school by one faith will compel the approval of charter schools by all faiths, even those most Oklahomans would consider reprehensible and unworthy of public funding.”

There is no doubt that the ruling of the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board to create a religious charter school will end up in the courts. The issue at hand is, does the Establishment Clause in the First Amendment really mean the government should not interfere with religion or that there should be a strict separation between the two? Two questions will need to be determined. First, can religions sponsor public charter schools? The second question might make the first one moot. It asks are charter schools actually public. If the answer to that question is no, then the first is not longer needed. If yes, then does disallowing religions to sponsor charter schools discriminate? The Lemon Test would probably say no to religious charter schools, but with a much more conservative court today, the Lemon Test may no longer apply as more recent decisions are tending to favor religion.

James Finck, Ph.D., is a professor of history at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma and writes for the Southwest Ledger. He can be reached at Historicallyspeaking1776@gmail.com.

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The Hypocrisy of the Sam Bankman-Fried Conviction

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Sam Bankman-Fried (SBF), the founder of FTX and Alameda Research hedge fund has been found guilty on all seven counts related to financial fraud and money laundering in a lower Manhattan courtroom. The trial took a lot less time than expected, as did the jury’s deliberation of the case which speaks to the overwhelming evidence against the onetime financial guru of entertainers, crypto enthusiasts, and politicians. SBF could face sentencing of up to 100 years behind bars.

Gary Gensler, chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, said that “Sam Bankman-Fried built a house of cards on a foundation of deception while telling investors that it was one of the safest buildings in crypto.”* Manhattan U.S. Attorney Damian Williams concurred, calling Bankman-Fried’s actions “one of the biggest financial frauds in American history.”**

SBF’s conviction is particularly fitting since he had marketed himself as a new-style capitalist who was more interested in philanthropy and giving away his wealth, instead of enriching himself. That so many were taken in by this charlatan, especially a number of supposedly savvy investors, demonstrates again that greed remains a significant part of the human condition.

While SBF will hopefully receive his just rewards for his wrongdoings, there is another fraud that has been taking place in the financial world for quite some time, which dwarfs exponentially the scam of the one-time “crypto-king.” Unlike SBF, however, this entity continues to exist and faces no prosecution, but instead is often praised for its operations.

The institution, of course, is the Federal Reserve and, for that matter, all central banks.  Central banks do what FTX did but on a colossal scale. While SBF’s crimes were limited to those who foolishly invested with him, the Fed’s customers are all those who hold dollars and have little option to not use them unless they want to revert to barter and become desperately poor. Like what SBF did to his investors, the Fed has defrauded (although surreptitiously) its “customers” by robbing them of their purchasing power through monetary debasement. The loss of purchasing power by the public has been redistributed to the Fed, the political class, and financial elites.

While Fed officials, the government, academia, and the sycophantic financial press may try and obfuscate the matter, the fact remains that the Federal Reserve has the ability to create money out of thin air and without limit. It is essentially counterfeiting writ large.  No criminal, be it SBF, Bernie Madoff, or the Mafia, could ever dream of such a scenario!

The Fed’s creation of money through credit expansion is certainly more subtle than the swindling which SBF engaged in or what took place in earlier times from “coin clipping,” but the underlying criminality of the action is certainly the same. However, central banking is a part of the financial structure of almost every nation-state regardless of which political party is in control.

As SBF wrapped himself in an aura of a benevolent and charitable new-age businessman, the Fed hides behind its criminality by presenting itself as a necessary and indispensable factor for the nation’s economic well-being. Without the Fed and its dual mandate of “price stability” and full employment, the economy would collapse.

Yet, this is a ruse. Before the advent of central banking, economic life went about quite nicely. It was only when central banks appeared that the dreaded boom and bust cycle became more frequent and severe. Moreover, in the pre-central bank era, most of the world was on a gold/silver standard where paper money notes could be redeemed for gold and or silver. This acted as a check on inflation and protected peoples’ purchasing power.

The Fed was created in a bi-partisan manner by the top politicos and the major U.S. banks and signed into law by Woodrow Wilson in 1913. It allowed banks to counterfeit without facing the consequences of their actions. Stable prices and low unemployment are secondary functions of the Fed and mostly spoken about for public relations.  Protection of the system, especially the solvency of the Big Banks and now funding the national government through debt monetization, remains the prime responsibility of the Fed.

This, of course, is not to exonerate SBF. Why is it though that the laws which convicted the rogue crypto financier are not applied to America’s central bank?  When sovereigns of the past debased the money supply most acknowledged its immorality and pointed out who benefited. In this supposed enlightened age where “equal justice before the law” is supposedly a ruling mandate of the legal system, its application apparently does not apply to the monetary authorities of the world and their political front men from all political sides.

Capitalism, at its core, is a moral argument where respect for property rights, the freedom to exchange, honest money, and the liberty to become an entrepreneur are the foundations upon which the system rests. Those who legitimately satisfy consumer tastes and demand are rightly rewarded. Naturally, in doing so, entrepreneurs enrich themselves but they do so by providing for the needs of their customers and in the process create jobs and incomes for those they employ, all of which is done on a voluntary basis.

Central banking is the essential instrument of “crony capitalism” which is the antithesis of free enterprise. Crony capitalism is a new version of mercantilism which was condemned by the likes of Adam Smith and was one of the factors why the American Revolution was fought. It has since come back with a vengeance.

Besides the immorality of central banking, the Fed’s manipulation of the money supply has deleterious effects on economic life. Inflation hurts the poor and the working class disproportionately while the Fed’s control of interest rates and credit is the reason for the dreaded business cycle.

The present age has prided itself in its efforts to attain justice in regard to race relations, the environment, economic equality, and now gender recognition. Yet, the immorality of central banking remains, and while Sam Bankman-Fried may be incarcerated, social justice warriors (as well as conservatives) willfully ignore the counterfeiting elephant in the room. Until central banking is outlawed, a truly just social order is an impossibility.

James P. Philbin
Adjunct Professor of Economics and History
Northern Virginia Community College

FOOTNOTE: *https://www.zerohedge.com/political/sam-bankman-fried-found

FOOTNOTE: **https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2022/12/sam-bankman-fried-has-been-arrested.html


Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the letters published on this page are solely those of the respective authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Royal Examiner’s editorial team, its affiliates, or advertisers. The Royal Examiner does not endorse or take responsibility for the accuracy, completeness, or validity of any statements made by the authors. The statements and claims presented in the letters have not been independently verified by the Royal Examiner. Readers are encouraged to exercise their own judgment and critical thinking skills when evaluating the content. Any reliance on the information provided in the letters is at the reader’s own risk.

While the Royal Examiner makes every effort to publish a diverse range of opinions, it does not guarantee the publication of all received letters. The Royal Examiner reserves the right to edit letters for clarity, length, and adherence to editorial guidelines. Moreover, the Royal Examiner does not assume any liability for any loss or damage incurred by readers due to the content of the letters or any subsequent actions taken based on these opinions.

In submitting a letter to the editor, authors grant the newspaper the right to publish, edit, reproduce, or distribute the content in print, online, or in any other form.

We value the engagement of our readers and encourage open and constructive discussions on various topics. However, the Royal Examiner retains the right to reject any letter that contains offensive language, personal attacks, or violates any legal regulations. Thank you for being a part of our vibrant community of readers and contributors, and we look forward to receiving your diverse perspectives on matters of interest and importance.

 

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A Season of Hope

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Front Royal’s own Reverend Dr. Mark Jordon recently delivered a sermon about how the best place to look for the birth of Christ is in the hearts and faces of those we encounter in our daily lives.  That, he argued, is the right way to combat the divisiveness that threatens not only our community but the world at large.  I believe we saw that dark force at play in our recent elections, where candidates launched attacks against each other because of their religion, schooling preference, and family members.  I doubt I am the only one who felt that this detracted from the sanctity of civic life.

With Dr. Jordan’s encouragement in mind, I accepted my supervisor’s invitation to meet with Tom McFadden, who will join the school board soon.  I will admit that I approached this meeting with a touch of apprehension, but I respected his willingness to work through whatever apprehension he may have also had.

Hearing Mr. McFadden’s questions, I believe he approached our meeting with an open mind and a willingness to listen.  He asked how he could help recruit and retain teachers.  He asked how he could highlight the positive activities occurring within the school system.  He offered his admiration for our schools’ efforts to serve students with disabilities – at no additional cost to families.  After the meeting, he thanked us for our time; he reached out to other staff members and thanked them for serving our community.

I do not believe that one conversation with a person allows you to “see their soul,” and I do not believe that Mr. McFadden and I would agree on every opinion or issue.  I do believe, however, that gestures of goodwill deserve to be seen as such and that they should encourage civil discourse.  We will face challenges and need to debate issues, but we must do so in a way that recognizes ourselves in each other.  He is Catholic, and I am Presbyterian – but we both have faith in God.  He attended public schools in Ireland, and I attended Warren County Public Schools, but we both believe in providing our community’s children with a good education.  We both love our wives and families dearly.

As citizens of a democratic republic, we will likely find ourselves at odds with each other on serious issues.  Mr. McFadden and I are equally capable of disappointing each other in the future.  Neither he nor I nor you know what the future holds for our community.

As Dr. Jordon said on Sunday, we must wait and see because SOMETHING is happening.  Is it the rot, bile, and vitriol that we saw during contentious moments during the election season, or is it the hope, goodwill, and fellowship that I believe I saw in this recent meeting?  Will we attack each other from a distance based on preconceived notions that might be inaccurate, or will we meet together and listen to each other’s points of view?

Zachary D. Logan
Warren County


Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the letters published on this page are solely those of the respective authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Royal Examiner’s editorial team, its affiliates, or advertisers. The Royal Examiner does not endorse or take responsibility for the accuracy, completeness, or validity of any statements made by the authors. The statements and claims presented in the letters have not been independently verified by the Royal Examiner. Readers are encouraged to exercise their own judgment and critical thinking skills when evaluating the content. Any reliance on the information provided in the letters is at the reader’s own risk.

While the Royal Examiner makes every effort to publish a diverse range of opinions, it does not guarantee the publication of all received letters. The Royal Examiner reserves the right to edit letters for clarity, length, and adherence to editorial guidelines. Moreover, the Royal Examiner does not assume any liability for any loss or damage incurred by readers due to the content of the letters or any subsequent actions taken based on these opinions.

In submitting a letter to the editor, authors grant the newspaper the right to publish, edit, reproduce, or distribute the content in print, online, or in any other form.

We value the engagement of our readers and encourage open and constructive discussions on various topics. However, the Royal Examiner retains the right to reject any letter that contains offensive language, personal attacks, or violates any legal regulations. Thank you for being a part of our vibrant community of readers and contributors, and we look forward to receiving your diverse perspectives on matters of interest and importance.

 

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Front Royal Shines Bright: A Heartfelt Thanks for a Magical Christmas on Main

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I’d like to extend a giant THANK YOU to everyone involved in making Christmas on Main – Christmas Parade & Merry Market such a HUGE success.

To our volunteers who helped get everything set up, assisted vendors ushered the carriage rides, made sure the parade entries were lined up, and helped to ensure a great day for everyone: you are appreciated, and these events can’t happen without you!

To our friends at the Town of Front Royal Public Works and Energy Services staff who blocked streets, cleared parking lots, picked up trash, made sure the electricity was working, and so much more: you are the best, and your efforts do not go unnoticed. To the Officers at the Front Royal Police Department who worked tirelessly to keep everyone safe during the day’s events: your vigilance and professionalism are outstanding. I’d also like to acknowledge the hard work of Lizi Lewis, Manager of Community Development & Tourism, and her team at the Visitor Center. They are always helpful, insightful, and great to work with on events and projects.

To our vendors and parade participants: You knocked it out of the park this year! I was in awe of the artistry and magic in your creations. You made us all feel like we were in a Hallmark movie.

To our merchants and residents downtown: thank you for your patience and for sharing our beautiful downtown with everyone.

Last but certainly not least, to our community: Thank you for showing up. It was truly amazing to look out and see such a remarkable crowd. I hope the event made your heart as happy as it made mine and that you created memories to enjoy for a lifetime.

There is quite a bit of time and effort that goes into planning events like these. At the Chamber, we are already looking forward to next year and thinking about how we can make this event even more enjoyable for everyone. We’re always open to hearing your thoughts and suggestions. Please reach out if you have something to share.

I wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year!

All the best,

Niki Foster, President
Front Royal-Warren County Chamber of Commerce

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Leslie Mathews: Gracious in Defeat, Firm in Clarifying Misreporting

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I wish to extend my Congratulations to my opponent and incumbent, Kristen Pence, on her victory in retaining her seat on our local school board!

I’d like now to address Mr. Bianchini regarding his November 8 write-up.  While I guess it is likely that someone by the name of “Leslie Matthews” chairs a group called “Mothers for Liberty” and is employed at Christendom College, I believe you were reporting on me.

I must clarify — I am “Leslie Mathews” – an employee of Christendom College and Founder and Chair of the Mom’s for Liberty, Warren County, VA Chapter, a fairly new, powerful, and strong parental rights organization in America.  During and after my campaign for the school board, the above-mentioned info seemed to be of huge interest to some, so I wanted to enlighten you a bit.

The online group — “Save Samuels” chose to make its opinion known regarding certain candidates, who they claim did or did not support our local library, and in my opinion, turning our latest local election into a fiasco! Other organizations, such as the Browntown Community Center, piggy-backed off the “Save Samuels” group when forwarding this group’s “online packet” out to their email recipients, and there were some campaigners who were asking voters if they would like a “sample ballot” listing the names of the candidates who supported the library (see attached).

Mr. Bianchini, although you reported that Moms for Liberty came about just before the issues surfaced in our local library, I regretfully inform you that I nor Moms for Liberty, Warren County, VA, can rightfully take credit in bringing forth the awareness of the filth that was at our children’s reach in our Samuels library!  I wish to take this opportunity to thank those who brought this issue to light and for pursuing new procedures through efforts to protect our children!

We members of Moms for Liberty consist of parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles who stand for parental rights and who will fight to protect the very innocence of our children’s minds, hearts, and bodies!  If that means, when choosing to be candidates in local elections, we have our names listed in opposition to others’ views and/or that our names aren’t shaded in on a sample ballot because of this — then so be it!  Almighty God warns – Woe, to those who harm and disregard the protection of the children, it would be better to tie a millstone around their neck and toss them into the depths of the sea!  I take His warnings seriously, and I never give a false indication of where I stand or whom I affiliate with. I thank you, Mr. Bianchini, for taking notice, but I suggest you dig deeper next time on the affiliations of others so you have a much more accurate report.  (see attachment).

 

My run for the school board seat was very good, and I want to thank those who supported me and my endeavors.  The numbers speak volumes and give hope that several South River folks still remain morally steadfast and will press forward for our children’s educational best and the future of America.  For that, I am sincerely grateful!

Mrs. Leslie Mathews
Warren County


Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the letters published on this page are solely those of the respective authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Royal Examiner’s editorial team, its affiliates, or advertisers. The Royal Examiner does not endorse or take responsibility for the accuracy, completeness, or validity of any statements made by the authors. The statements and claims presented in the letters have not been independently verified by the Royal Examiner. Readers are encouraged to exercise their own judgment and critical thinking skills when evaluating the content. Any reliance on the information provided in the letters is at the reader’s own risk.

While the Royal Examiner makes every effort to publish a diverse range of opinions, it does not guarantee the publication of all received letters. The Royal Examiner reserves the right to edit letters for clarity, length, and adherence to editorial guidelines. Moreover, the Royal Examiner does not assume any liability for any loss or damage incurred by readers due to the content of the letters or any subsequent actions taken based on these opinions.

In submitting a letter to the editor, authors grant the newspaper the right to publish, edit, reproduce, or distribute the content in print, online, or in any other form.

We value the engagement of our readers and encourage open and constructive discussions on various topics. However, the Royal Examiner retains the right to reject any letter that contains offensive language, personal attacks, or violates any legal regulations. Thank you for being a part of our vibrant community of readers and contributors, and we look forward to receiving your diverse perspectives on matters of interest and importance.

 

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The Loss of Innocence

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There are certain days in our nation’s history that are simply more important than others. These days tend to be ones that have changed our nation for better or worse. These are turning point days and generation-defining dates.

For my generation, Gen X, that date is Sept. 11, 2001, as we were in high school or early 20s. It seems like everything in my memory is categorized as either pre or post 9/11. For my grandparents that day was Dec. 7, 1941; it was scarred into their memories and completely changed their lives forever. While my Baby Boomer parents have felt the effects of 9/11, the day from their youth that left a scar happened 60 years ago this month, for on that day the very popular President John Kennedy died, but even more importantly, so did our nation’s innocence.

On that tragic November day, Kennedy and his wife had been in Texas along with his V.P. Lyndon B. Johnson for a few days to kick off his southern campaign tour for reelection. Kennedy knew he had a fight in Texas as he had just recently proposed the Civil Rights Act. Kennedy had avoided getting too involved with Civil Rights earlier in his presidency because Southern Democrats had opposed it, and any support could break up the party. Yet after the 1963 March on Washington and the assassination of civil rights activist Medgar Evers, Kennedy knew it was time to take up the fight. His goal on this southern tour was to try to hold the party together while trying to get support for his bill. Yet while in Texas he spent most of his time talking about the economy and military preparedness, topics much more comfortable for his southern audience.

After speaking in Fort Worth, the presidential party flew to Dallas and rode in multiple convertibles on their way to The Trade Mart. As they drove through Dealey Plaza around 12:30 p.m., shots rang out as they passed the Texas School Book Depository. President Kennedy was hit.

Before Kennedy was pronounced dead at 1 p.m. at Parkland Memorial Hospital, Dallas police arrested Book Depository employee Lee Harvey Oswald. Our nation came to a halt as word spread over the airwaves.

After his death his wife would refer to Kennedy’s presidency as Camelot, capturing the feeling of most of the nation. His good looks and charisma added to his leadership and strength had captivated America. Even today he is still considered one of the most popular presidents ever. In fact, when I poll students, he usually makes the top ten. While the loss of such a popular president was tragic, what was even more tragic was America’s loss of innocence which opened the door to civic mistrust and a lack of faith in our country.

President Johnson, who was sworn in aboard Air Force One just two hours after Kennedy was killed, ordered an investigation into the assassinations of both Kennedy and Oswald. Oswald was shot and killed by Dallas night club owner Jack Ruby a week after being charged for the Kennedy assassination. The Warren Commission, headed by Chief Justice Earl Warren, included two senators, two representatives, a former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, and the former U.S. High Commissioner for Germany. During the investigation the American public believed the government’s story of the lone shooter, but after the commission released its findings, that all changed. While the more than 800-page report initially calmed most people’s fears, it did not completely remove them. While most Americans believed Oswald was the shooter, it was becoming a common perception that he had not acted alone.

The big change began in 1966 with the release of three separate independent investigations. First was Mark Lane’s Rush to Judgment that questioned the accuracy of the Warren Commission. Next was an investigation by New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison who saw a conspiracy and coverup in the shooting (the Bases for Oliver Stone’s JFK). Finally, Life Magazine released the Zapruder film which was an amateur video which called into question if Oswald acted alone. Americans became so consumed with the new reports that 20 years later when Newsweek took a poll, 74% of Americans did not trust the Warren Commission.

Kennedy’s assassination was a game-changer in our nation’s history. For the first time the majority of our nation did not believe the government. Before this, for the most part, Americans believed the government was telling them the truth, or if not, it was for a good reason. Now America had lost its innocence. If the government had lied about this, what else were they lying about? Our nation entered one of its darkest hours as our own government became the bad guy. The assassination was just the beginning of a long dark road.

Shortly after, came Vietnam War protest in the streets and antigovernment sentiments. The Watergate scandal and the presidential resignation of Richard Nixon made Americans more suspicious and less confident of their government. Events like the Iran hostages made it seem like maybe we were losing the Cold War if we could not even get our hostages out of a far less powerful country like Iran.

Fortunately, the 1980s did relieve some of the stress and brought back some faith in America once more. The problem is we did not come all the way back. Since the 1960s and ‘70s patriotism and American faith have fluctuated. Personally, I do not believe we will ever be as confident in our government as we were pre-1963. That door is closed. As a historian, I wonder if maybe we should have never completely trusted the government; they have never been completely truthful. But as an American, I am disheartened, for I long for the days when we felt our government was always on our side and looking out for our best interests.

James Finck, Ph.D. is a professor of history at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma. He may be reached at HistoricallySpeaking1776@gmail.com.

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Opinion

Boondoggled or Railroaded?

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As the beginning phase of the grade separation project of the Rockland Road overpass begins with the relocation of utilities, neighbors in the area are beginning to see just how much of an inconvenience this project is going to be, and some wonder what is the true value.

Yes, there were a number of hearings prior to reaching the current stage of progress, but when dealing with entities such as Norfolk Southern, Vdot, the Port of Virginia, and the Warren County BOS, looking at a gift horse in the mouth. I, like others, have never heard reasonable answers to often-asked questions, just how badly this improvement is needed to improve our quality of life in the Rockland area.

Some of those include.

  • Emergency access during construction- With the fire and rescue station located less than a mile from the railroad crossing, will there be some sort of provision to allow access during construction, or will they have to make the 6-mile detour around Fairground Road to respond?

Keep in mind, there are probably less than 200 residences from the railroad tracks to the intersection with Bennys Beach Road including the residences of Bennys Beach and Windy Hill. From Bennys Beach to Fairground Road only has maybe 4 property owners.

  • Rockland Road from Bennys Beach to Fairground Road- This rural road is far from Vdot standards, with narrow widths, blind hills, sharp turns, no shoulders, and rock outcroppings that challenge normal traffic volume. Now, all 200 residences are forced to use a road that is dangerous as is, with more opportunity for something bad to happen, especially with about 8,000 dump trucks importing fill material to build the ramps to the bridge. It would be a shame, although a real possibility, that this railroad crossing claims serious injury or, worse, a life due to the detour.
  • Rocklands Rural Character slowly diminishes- The railroad tracks have always separated the industrial portion of Warren County to the rural portion. This project, with its 40-foot-wide roadway and bridge, will still get you to the rural part of the county, just quicker and without delay due to a train blocking the tracks. It still ends in a 20’ wide rural unimproved roadway, but at least the major expense of further development is out of the way and opens the door for more development.

So with that, what are the benefits?

Norfolk Southern will no longer hear complaints about blocking the crossing to change out crews or to let other trains pass. My experience is when the port or other businesses with sidings along that section of track block the crossing it is only for short intervals while building the train.  Norfolk Southern also benefits so that if and when they do install a third rail, there will be fewer obstructions in their way.

The Port of Virginia comes out with less complaints from the community, more flexibility in using the mainline tracks in building their trains, and kudos for providing the grant that allows for such a project to be done. There are other communities in the county that don’t have a choice of another route out if the train blocks their crossing (Shenandoah Shores) and probably won’t until some entity grants funding for such.

Warren County and the BOS no longer have to field complaints about blockages and will now have an important and expensive piece of the puzzle needed to increase the development of this area of the county. All that will be left to do is install a bridge over the river to make a loop to Shenandoah Shores (giving them another way out), and the entire area becomes a target for development.

We, as residents, once we tolerate the 18-24 months of construction inconvenience and the project is completed, get the benefits of no-hassle egress to and from 522, a utilitarian highway overpass leading to our rural country setting, and most likely even more through traffic.

A boondoggle is defined as ‘work or activity that is wasteful or pointless but gives the appearance of having value.’ Not really having comments, suggestions, or opinions addressed or otherwise coerced is a form of being railroaded.

Have we been railroaded or boondoggled with this project?

17 Year Rockland Resident

David Anderson
Warren County


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