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Christian Legal Clinics of Philadelphia: 2017 Promotional Video featuring James W. Cushing, Esquire!

Hello folks.  As many of you know, I am a volunteer for the Christian Legal Clinics of Philadelphia; you can learn more about us here.  We help literally hundreds of people every year try and secure justice in the legal system through pro bono or low fee legal services.  We are always trying to improve our services, help more people, and be able to do more for the people we are already helping.

The Clinic’s annual promotional video for 2017 is now out and I am featured in it!  Although I do not really view what I do as particularly noteworthy, I am thankful, humbled, and honored by the recognition.  I hope that as the weeks and months progress, the Clinic can continue to grow and flourish in its service to those in need in the Philadelphia area.  Please continue to pray for us and donate to us your time, talents, and treasure as you feel led (if you want to give to our ministry, please see here).  Thanks to everyone who makes this vital ministry possible and thanks, above all, to God from whom all blessings flow.

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Suit Challenges Cross At Site of Historic Spanish Mission

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

The Freedom From Religion Foundation this week filed suit in a California federal district court challenging the constitutionality of a 14-foot tall granite Latin cross in Santa Clara’s Memorial Cross Park.  The complaint (full text) in Freedom From Religion Foundation v. City of Santa Clara, (ND CA, filed 4/20/2016), says that the cross was donated and placed on city-owned property in 1953 by the Lion’s Club to mark the site of the second Spanish Catholic mission established in the city in 1777. The site continues to be maintained by the city. Plaintiff claims that the city’s actions violate the Establishment Clause of the federal and state constitutions as well as the “no aid” clause of California’s constitution.  FFRF issued a press release announcing the filing of the lawsuit and containing a photo of the disputed marker.

You can learn more about this issue here.

The United Shapes of Arithmetic: Shape Reveal

Nathan Rudolph, my friend and fellow parishioner at St. John the Evangelist Anglican Church, has started a comic strip which I have greatly enjoyed and appreciated.  With his permission, I will repost them here after he posts them.  I think my readers will appreciate them as much as I do as they are rather insightful with a snarky edge.  Enjoy!

https://scontent-lga3-1.xx.fbcdn.net/v/t1.0-9/23316841_1353656414740969_5904752801940424929_n.jpg?oh=b4e8615a1308819c0c86f8e932bce6ce&oe=5A9F821C

6 of the best YA ensembles!

Here is the latest post by Angela and Daz Croucher to their blog A.D. Croucher! They are up-and-coming young adult authors. Check them out!

A.D. Croucher

Ensembles are cool. They just are. When you find your crew, you feel less alone. And you can carry out magical heists much more easily. Here are 6 of the greatest YA ensembles.

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The progressives who cried bigotry

Every now and again I come across a fantastic article the warrants posting here; I recently came across one in the The Week which, I thought, was pretty insightful. Be edified.

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It is difficult not to enjoy the liberal outrage being generated by the so-called “Nashville Statement,” a brief, fairly boring manifesto on marriage recently issued by an evangelical Christian body called the Council on Biblical Manhood and Woman. Here’s a sample:

We affirm that God has designed marriage to be a covenantal, sexual, procreative, lifelong union of one man and one woman, as husband and wife, and is meant to signify the covenant love between Christ and his bride the church.

We deny that God has designed marriage to be a homosexual, polygamous, or polyamorous relationship. We also deny that marriage is a mere human contract rather than a covenant made before God. [Nashville Statement]

As far as Christian defenses of marriage go, this is tame stuff. Still, I understand why super-woke outlets like Salon are comfortable referring to the document as “bigotry-filled” and glibly pretending that any real Christian would surely disagree with its claims about morality. These websites also pay writers to insist that wrestling GIFs are threats of violence and that allowing male teenagers to compete in female athletic competitions is unremarkable. For those engaged in such work, clear thinking with rigorous categories and definitions is a professional liability. They accept emotion, feigned or otherwise, as the only genuine moral currency. They are geniuses who can simultaneously maintain that “male” and “female” are artificial socially constructed distinctions to which no meaningful predicates can be attached — that there is no such thing as being a man or a woman per se — and that it is possible for a woman, something that in essence does not exist, to be trapped in a man’s body.

But it’s not just the restless young piling on the Nashville Statement. So too are the bandwagoning would-be woke neoliberal Baby Boomers who insist that a basic assumption which they have held for most of their now-long lives — namely that same-sex marriage is an oxymoron, like married bachelorhood — is now rank bigotry. In 10 years when polygamy is legalized by fiat, they will rail in their creaking voices against “polyphobes” or some similarly monstrous coinage. Their recent decision to call those of us who insist that marriage is a covenant between men and women “bigots” is ludicrous, predictable, and somewhat grimly amusing.

It’s also entirely correct. In the eyes of the world, faithful Christians will always be bigots.

But if the Nashville Statement is “bigoted,” then the target of the council’s animus is much wider than its critics, juvenile and geriatric, will allow. It is bigoted not only against same-sex marriage, but against participation in what used to be called “the marital act” outside of its proper context, namely that of lifelong exclusive marriage designated by God for the avoidance of sin and the conferral of those graces necessary for resisting it. It is, therefore, by extension bigoted against divorce and the fallacious assumption that it is possible for those whose spouses live to marry again and against polygamy and concubinage. It is bigoted against the unnatural practice of what was once called “self-abuse,” against onanism and (though its drafters may not like having this pointed out) contraception. It is bigoted against willful delight in lust, against pornography. It is bigoted against any denial of the efficacy of God’s grace and his infinite mercy for the hearts of the contrite. It is bigoted, in other words, against sin.

If this is bigotry, then all Christians are bigots.

Those halcyon periods when the spirit of the Gospel has not disgusted the zeitgeist, when our religion has not outraged the powers and principalities, the rulers of the darkness of this world, have been brief and lucid intervals. If hating sin is bigotry, then may the Immaculate Heart of Mary strengthen us in our rank prejudice not only against these sins of the flesh, but against greed, blasphemy, the occult, irreligion, murder, lies, gossip, calumny, hatred, despair, and all sins mortal and venial.

Of course, it should go without saying that hating sin is not the same thing as hating sinners, much less condoning violence or uncharitable words. All Christians must condemn such things.

But it does seem to me rather late in the game for the Nashville framers to be taking up arms against the legalization of same-sex marriage. Its appearance was a predicable consequence of Protestant acquiescence with divorce, contraception, fornication, various disordered practices among married couples, and other evils. Unmoored from religious morality, marriage necessarily becomes a meaningless civic designation. Reversing Obergefell would be a good thing; it would not be enough to restore the legal status of marriage in this country to one in keeping with their own convictions.

For the foreseeable future, our bigotry looks like a losing game.

By Matthew Walther and published in The Week on August 31, 2017 and can be found here.

Yessource: The Word is Live

Here are my latest uploads to YesSource, my Yes rarities youtube page (about which you can read here).  This post is another addition to my series of Yes music posts and a collection of all my Yes-related posts is here.  Yes, of course, is a, if not the, premier progressive rock band, and I am an enormous fan of it.

You can see all of my Yessource uploads here.

My latest YesSource uploads can be found here

‘X’ Marks the Spot Where Inequality Took Root: Dig Here

Every now and again I come across a fantastic article the warrants posting here; I recently came across one in the Economic Opportunity Institute which, I thought, was pretty insightful. Be edified.

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In 2002, I heard an economist characterizing this figure as containing a valuable economic insight. He wasn’t sure what the insight was. I have my own answer.

The economist talked of the figure as a sort of treasure map, which would lead us to the insight. “X” marks the spot. Dig here.

The graphic below tells three stories.

First, we see two distinct historic periods since World War II. In the first period, workers shared the gains from productivity. In the later period, a generation of workers gained little, even as productivity continued to rise.

Figure 1: The X marks the spot where something happened.

Figure 1: The ‘X’ marks the spot where something happened in the mid-1970’s. (Click to embiggen)

The second message is the very abrupt transition from the post-war historic period to the current one. Something happened in the mid-70’s to de-couple wages from productivity gains.

The third message is that workers’ wages – accounting for inflation and all the lower prices from cheap imported goods – would be double what they are now, if workers still took their share of gains in productivity.

A second version of the figure is equally provocative.

Figure 2

Figure 2: Follow the money (or the lack of it).

This graphic shows the same distinct historic periods, and the same sharp break around 1975. Each colored line represents the growth in family income, relative to 1975, for different income percentiles. Pre-1975, families at all levels of income benefited proportionately. Post-1975, The top 5% did well, and we know the top 1% did very well. Gains from productivity were redistributed upward to the top income percentiles.

This de-coupling of wages from productivity has drawn a trillion dollars out of the labor share of GDP.

Economics does not explain what happened in the mid-70s.

It was not the oil shock. Not interest rates. Not the Fed, or monetary policy. Not robots, or the decline of the Soviet Union, or globalization, or the internet.

The sharp break in the mid-70’s marks a shift in our country’s values. Our moral, social, political and economic values changed in the mid-70’s.

Let’s go back before World War II to the Great Depression. Speculative unregulated policies ruined the economy. Capitalism was discredited. Powerful and wealthy elites feared the legitimate threat of Communism. The public demanded that government solve our problems.

The Depression and World War II defined that generation’s collective identity. Our national heroes were the millions of workers, soldiers, families and communities who sacrificed. We owed a national debt to those who had saved Democracy and restored prosperity. The New Deal policies reflected that national purpose, honoring a social safety net, increasing bargaining power for workers and bringing public interest into balance with corporate power.

In that period, the prevailing social contract said, “We all do better when we all do better.” My prosperity depends on your well-being. In that period of history, you were my co-worker, neighbor or customer. Opportunity and fairness drove the upward spiral (with some glaring exceptions). Work had dignity. Workers earned a share of the wealth they created. We built Detroit (for instance) by hard work and productivity.

Our popular media father-figures were Walter Cronkite, Chet Huntley, David Brinkley, and others, liberal and conservative, who were devoted to an America of opportunity and fair play.

The sudden change in the mid-70’s was not economic. First it was moral, then social, then political, ….. then economic.

In the mid-70’s, we traded in our post-World War II social contract for a new one, where “greed is good.” In the new moral narrative I can succeed at your expense. I will take a bigger piece of a smaller pie. Our new heroes are billionaires, hedge fund managers, and CEO’s.

In this narrative, they deserve more wealth so they can create more jobs, even as they lay off workers, close factories and invest new capital in low-wage countries. Their values and their interests come first in education, retirement security, and certainly in labor law.

We express these same distorted moral, social and political priorities in our trade policies. As bad as these priorities are for our domestic policies, they are worse if they define the way we manage globalization.

The key to the treasure buried in Figure 1 is power relationships. To understand what happened, ask, “Who has the power to take 93% of all new wealth and how did they get that power? The new moral and social values give legitimacy to policies that favor those at the top of our economy.

We give more bargaining power and influence to the wealthy, who already have plenty of both, while reducing bargaining power for workers. In this new narrative, workers and unions destroyed Detroit (for instance) by not lowering our living standards fast enough.

In the new moral view, anyone making “poor choices” is responsible for his or her own ruin. The unfortunate are seen as unworthy moochers and parasites. We disparage teachers, government workers, the long-term unemployed, and immigrants.

In this era, popular media figures are spiteful and divisive.

Our policies have made all workers feel contingent, at risk, and powerless. Millions of part-time workers must please their employer to get hours. Millions more in the gig economy work without benefits and have no job security at all. Recent college graduates carry so much debt that they cannot invest, take risk on a new career, or rock the boat. Millions of undocumented workers are completely powerless in the labor market, and subject to wage theft. They have negative power in the labor market!

We are creating a new American aristocracy, with less opportunity – less social mobility and weaker social cohesion than any other advanced country. We are falling behind in many measures of well-being.

The dysfunctions of our post-1970 moral, social, political and economic system make it incapable of dealing with climate change or inequality, arguably the two greatest challenges of our time. We are failing our children and the next generations.

X marks the spot. In this case, “X” is our choice of national values. We abandoned traditional American values that built a great and prosperous nation. Our power relationships are sour.

We can start rebuilding our social cohesion when we say all work has dignity. Workers earn a share of the wealth we create. We all do better, when we all do better. My prosperity depends on a prosperous community with opportunity and fairness.

Dig there.

By Stan Sorscher and originally published in Economic Opportunity Institute on August 5, 2015 and can be found here.

 

Enforcing Marital Agreements According to the Law of the Case

In the matter of Bienert v. Bienert, 2017 Pa.Super. 255, Case No. 17-1288 (Pa. Super. Aug. 7, 2017), the Superior Court of Pennsylvania has clarified the enforceability of marital property agreements (MSA) executed prior to the filing of a divorce but entered into while the husband and wife were separated.

As mentioned above, while the MSA was executed by the parties while they were separated, it contained rather precise language as to how their marital property is to be divided in the event of a divorce. Specifically, the MSA indicates that it “settles all rights of the parties” and, indeed, “is not contingent upon either party of both parties being granted a divorce,” but would be “made part thereof” in the event of a divorce.

After the husband filed for divorce, the wife filed a petition for alimony pendene lite and was represented by counsel when she did so. The husband opposed the aforesaid petition, arguing that the MSA was a complete and final settlement of all obligations and, as it does not allow for alimony pendente lite, the wife should not be allowed to collect it. In response, the wife argued that as the MSA does not specifically refer to alimony pendente lite, she is able to collect it. Notably, the wife did not argue that the MSA was invalid for any reason, she merely advanced an interpretation of its language. Ultimately the trial court denied the wife’s petition on the basis that the MSA is a complete and final settlement of all claims, including alimony pendente lite and no provision allowed for its collection. The trial court pointed out that “absent fraud, misrepresentation, or duress, spouses should be bound by the terms of their agreements.”

After failing to receive alimony pendente lite, the wife’s attorney withdrew his appearance on her behalf, which led to the wife filing multiple petitions to enforce the MSA regarding various provisions of property division. The Superior Court observed that all of the wife’s various petitions “were premised on the view that the Agreement was valid and enforceable.”

Separately, the husband eventually filed a petition to hold the wife in contempt for violating the terms of the MSA. In response to the husband’s petition, the wife raised defenses claiming that she executed the MSA under duress as the husband requested the wife to execute the MSA immediately after the wife had been sentenced in court for three felonies and charged with a misdemeanor and was “in rehab.” This was the wife’s first mention of duress, despite her efforts to enforce the MSA previously as described above. Indeed, even when arguing duress, she made no argument that the MSA was invalid. A short time after the husband’s filing of the contempt petition, and the wife’s filing of defenses, as described above, the wife filed a contempt petition asking for the enforcement of the MSA.

At the hearing for the above petitions, the wife raised arguments to avoid the terms of the MSA on the grounds of mistake, misrepresentation or duress. She now further claimed that she did not know the MSA applied to her divorce, allegedly believing it only applied to her separation. The trial court ruled against the wife. Thereafter, the wife hired a new attorney who filed a new petition to void the MSA for the reasons set forth above. The court subsequently denied the wife’s petition and went ahead and entered a decree in divorce. In response, the wife appealed, which led to the opinion described herein by Superior Court.

On appeal, the wife again argued that she executed the MSA against her will and that a mutual mistake of fact existed, both of which warrant the voiding of the MSA. Furthermore, as an aisde, the trial court did not hold an evidentiary hearing on her last petition which, the wife argued, was unfair as it did not give her a full opportunity to litigate her economic claims. Superior Court affirmed the trial court. In ruling against the wife, Superior Court relied on the law of the case doctrine and equitable estoppel.

The law of the case doctrine is one that “expresses the practice of courts generally to refuse to reopen what has been decided … in order to protect the settled expectations of the parties; to ensure uniformity of decisions; to maintain consistency during the course of a single case; to effectuate the proper and streamlined administration of justice; and to bring litigation to an end.” In addition, the doctrine applies, for the most part, specifically with respect to a court adhering to prior decisions within the same case. In other words, although multiple petitions may be filed in a given case, they are essentially cumulative and are not evaluated in isolation from the rest of the case. While the doctrine does not disallow a court from reconsidering prior decisions within case, it is certainly within its appropriate discretion to refuse to do so in order to maintain consistency and uniformity.

Equitable estoppel functions very similarly to the law of the case doctrine. Pursuant to estoppel, “a party to an action is estopped from assuming a position inconsistent with his or her assertion in a previous action, if his or her contention was successfully maintained.”

In applying the principles above, the court noted that the wife has taken inconsistent positions regarding the MSA throughout the litigation of the divorce matter. Sometimes she sought enforcement of it and, indeed, did so successfully at times. Other times she filed for husband’s alleged contempt of it. Still, at other times, she argued it should be void or unenforceable or was the result of mistake or duress. The case was litigated for a year and a half before the wife began questioning the validity of the MSA despite the fact that multiple other petitions were filed and argued assuming its validity. As she attempted to enforce the MSA, without questioning its validity, and the court ruled on the same, she cannot now, suddenly and late in the litigation, change course and argue that the MAS is somehow unenforceable. Not only have prior court rulings been made on the good faith of the wife’s arguments, her suddenly raising directly inconsistent arguments undermines the legitimacy of her prior arguments and the rulings thereon. Furthermore, it puts the husband into an untenable position of committing to arguments against the wife that he may not have advanced in light of the wife’s sudden reversal. It was clear the wife raised her new arguments due to her lack of success with her prior arguments.

Ultimately, then, it is vitally important for litigants and practitioners to settle on a theory of a case and adhere to it throughout as, otherwise, the court, and certainly the other party, will take notice of a party raising inconsistent and mutually exclusive arguments later in the litigation of a case as compared to its beginning. Obviously while new information is typically learned and discovered during litigation which can legitimately result in modifying one’s arguments, the position or posture of a party to an essential and known element of case, say the enforceability of a marital agreement, is something that needs to be established early on, and there is limited ability to change or reverse course once a party commits to one.

Originally published on October 3, 2017 in The Legal Intelligencer and can be found here and reprinted in the Pennsylvania Family Lawyer for its October 2017 edition (Volume 39, No. 3) (see here).

Lay Minister Sues Georgia Health Department For Employment Discrimination

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

“As reported by The Blaze, a doctor and public health expert who was dismissed from his position with the Georgia Department of Public Health within two weeks of his hiring has filed a religious discrimination suit in federal district court in Georgia.  The complaint (full text) in Walsh v. Georgia Department of Public Health, (ND GA, filed 4/20/2016), contends that Eric Walsh’s position was terminated because of the content of sermons he had given as a Seventh Day Adventist lay minister. In the sermons, he criticized Catholicism, called homosexuality sinful and characterized evolution as a religion created by Satan. The suit seeks damages, reinstatement and injunctive relief for violations of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1st and 14th Amendments. A statement from a spokesperson for the Georgia Department of Public Health said that the withdrawal of a conditional offer to Walsh had nothing to do with his religious views, but instead was triggered by a finding that Walsh failed to disclose outside employment to his prior public health agency employer in California. ”

You can learn more about this issue here.

6 #awesome social media YA novels

Here is the latest post by Angela and Daz Croucher to their blog A.D. Croucher! They are up-and-coming young adult authors. Check them out!

A.D. Croucher

Social media is everywhere and everything these days, so here are 6 #mustread social media-based YA novels. Like!

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