Saturday, March 11, 2006

I'm a Tennessean, thank you

In recent days I have had the pleasure of hearing from an old college friend of mine, Chuck Mountel, who found my blog as a result of his shared grief over the death of our former priest and mutual friend Father Chris Rohmiller (Chuck had only recently learned of Father Chris' death). In one of the e-mails he sent me he suggested that I ought to "move back to Cincy," which translated means that Chuck believes that I need to return to Cincinnati. Reports of any return to Cincinnati by Nicole and myself are greatly exaggerated, as such a return will happen...never.

There are many things I liked about Cincinnati. All that good German food sure didn't hurt, and I enjoyed teaching children CCD at St. Catharine Church and School, and I especially enjoyed the hospitality of my brother Knights at Archbishop Purcell Council of the Knights of Columbus. I miss cheap Reds bleacher seats, and I especially miss mettwurst(which is somewhat like a bratwurst, but is seasoned with corriander and white pepper and smoked), the taste of which people in East Tennessee would come to appreciate if you could find mettwurst at the grocery store.

I did not the least bit enjoy, however, the ungodly taxes I was forced to pay on my meager income. I did not enjoy calling the city hundreds of times during a snowstorm just to get someone to clean off the curbcuts on the sidewalk up and down Montana Avenue just so I could get to work-this after I had paid the monstrous above-mentioned taxes so that situations like that could be addressed. I found no fun in daily exercises in futility that involved trying to get around town with my wife without nearly every motorist on the road behaving like an absolute idiot. I used the Metro and TANK buses each day to get around town on my own. Most of the drivers were great folks, I even struck up a friendship with one of them. Barely a day went by, however, when I would meet at least one driver on my four-bus round trip daily slog that didn't treat me as though they wished that I were not there.

I did not understand how, in a town that is so overwhelmingly Catholic, the Archbishop could allow such rampant liturgical abuse and allow so much decent from Church teaching, then wondered why he had a problem with bad priests after failing to enforce orthodoxy.

I failed to grasp why I could not afford a home in Westwood, a neighborhood I grew to love, because taxes were too high for me to afford to buy property-and then City Council wondered why they couldn't bring people back into town to settle.

On the other hand, the taxes here in Knoxville and East Tennessee are low, and Nicole and I still don't have a lot of expendable cash, and yet we're looking at buying property and starting our own business. The KAT busses here in Knoxville do not run nearly as late as I would like, and I dearly wish they would fix all the lifts on the busses, but all the drivers are sincerely friendly and want to help. While I have complained to the city about problems, not one of those problems has had to do with clearing away snow-we don't get much snow in Knoxville and when we do, everything in town shuts down anyway.

The Catholic population here is small but vocal and mighty, and most of the other churches are unafraid to work with us to accomplish common goals. Our bishop is a quiet man, but he does not have a yellow belly and he does stand up for what is right. I have known a few Catholics around here who think he is "liberal." Trust me, you don't know how good you have it.

The politics in this town, like the TVs (as Kenny Chesney would say) are black and white (in the moral sense), and everyone I have talked to here wants my involvement. I think certain ones in Cincinnati were scared of me and didn't want to deal with me. I found no such attitude like that among GOP leaders and others here.

On top of all that, though, I love East Tennessee, it is my home, and I wouldn't want to live anywhere else.

The only thing I'd ask is a hall for the Knights of Columbus, and metts at the grocery store.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Abortion, eminent domain, and who reads this blog...

Well, something tells me that most Tennessee State Senators did not read my blog from the other day when I demanded that our legislators have the guts to stand up against aborticide, but maybe one or two did, because the Senate passed a proposed amendment to the Constitution that would allow the General Assembly to decide the question of abortion in Tennessee.

This is an important stepping stone to heavily regulating or even outlawing aborticide because the Tennessee Supreme Court has ruled that the Tennessee Constitution protects a "broader right" to aborticide than the Federal Constitution, although where they got that from, I have no clue. Thus, by passing an amendment that allows the legislature to decide on abortion, the Senate is taking the first step in heavily regulating or outlawing the barbaric practice.

In the mean time, Rep. Stacey Campfield, great Tennessean and Republican and someone who is a friend of this blog, has introduced a bill to temporarily ban eminent domain confiscation for "development" purposes, something he has advocated for some time now, and so have I.

Both of these developments are very heartening for the causes of life and freedom in Tennessee. Considering that two issues that I care very deeply about are coming to a head in the General Assembly, it does make me wonder sometimes if more people are reading than I am aware...

Thursday, March 09, 2006

The Knights, charity, and the State of Tennessee (2)

Yesterday I discussed how our Knights of Columbus council was strapped for cash and had such difficulty raising money because of our laws here in Tennessee. I’m sure that some readers are wondering just how the law prevents us from raising money that will go to charitable causes.

Across the country, Knights of Columbus councils that have plenty of money (and therefore dole much of it out to charity) have two factors going for them: Many of them have council halls in which to meet (and rent), and many of them run charitable bingo games at least weekly to raise money for their charities. Council 645 some time back elected to sell its hall on Magnolia Avenue. This meant that the Council would have to split its meetings between Holy Ghost and Immaculate Conception. It is true that Magnolia is not the best part of town to be coming to a meeting in, and that would explain why the hall was so hard to rent. Having a hall would help our cause, however, though the men of 645 are deeply divided on that matter.

Law, however, prevents us from holding a charitable bingo game or other similar enterprise because the Knights of Columbus are not classed as a non-profit organization, as most fraternal societies are not. One reason for this for-profit classification is because the Knights offer an insurance option to members. We may choose not to take life insurance with the Knights, but we do have that benefit available.

Many other states exempt fraternal societies from the rules regarding charity gaming and apply the same rules that would apply to non-profits to fraternal organizations. Tennessee law makes no such exception. Even if it did, the law might then make it cost prohibitive: The law as I understand it only allows non-profits one such event per year, and the one-time permit cost would eat up a substantial portion of the profits.

Some reading may say: “Gosh Dave, Tennessee is a really conservative state and you Catholics are in a minority. A lot of the folks might be uncomfortable with bingo games and Monte Carlo nights going on in fraternal halls and churches all over the state.” That is a truism indeed and the Tennessee Knights respect both the law and the general public sentiment. However, the same laws that prevent profitable bingo also prevent profitable raffles, profitable sweepstakes, and other such cash or high prize drawings. Why do we need the kind of money these kinds of drawings might generate? We need it because the mission of the Knights of Columbus demands big time dollars. Tennessee Right to Life and the Special Olympics, two organizations the Knights traditionally support, do not run on pocket change. Neither do Catholic Charities or Catholic Relief Services, which we also support. As a result, we cannot run on rummage sale money.

A change in our law is needed to allow groups like the Knights greater fundraising latitude. This may take an outright constitutional change, I am not certain. I do know that if we do not find an effective and legal way to raise large amounts of money, the Knights of Columbus will survive but will not be able to rightfully uphold the very first principle of our order effectively: Charity itself.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The Knights, charity, and the State of Tennessee

Most of the time, I blog about newsworthy items in the world of politics or sports. Occasionally, I will blog about an issue in which I have a vested personal interest and I know people of influence read my blog who might be able to act as agents of change, in however small a capacity as that might be. The next two entries fall into that category.

Most of my regular readers know that I am a Knight of Columbus, more specifically I am a member of Council 645 here in Knoxville. Council 645 has its problems, most of which relate to an aging membership, and this is a problem most fraternal organizations face today. Our council faces another issue, however: We have no money with which to carry on our charitable work. It wasn't long ago in the anals of recent history that Council 645 was able to save Knox Catholic High School from bankruptcy, and over the years has given countless hundreds of thousands of dollars (probably millions, if the truth were known) to local charities, worthy causes, the pro-life movement in East Tennessee, and just folks who needed help. That sort of thing is what the Knights do.

The problem came home to me in a very real way when the Council received a request from the state organization to help a brother in need who had been killed in the line of duty as a security guard in Nashville, and had left a young wife and two small children. Every Council in Tennessee was giving something, and you don't need to have much discussion when the widow and children of a departed brother are in need.

We, however, needed a debate, as we had no money to give. It was eventually decided we would give the profits from our monthly church pancake breakfast (a function designed to cover only our operating expenses-it makes no real profit) to the family of the murdered guard. At least we were able to give something.

The Knights could have a lot more money to give and be a real force for God and for good in our community, but the current laws in our state may not allow that to happen.

In tomorrow's post, I will explain why, and what could be done to change it-and it isn't a government subsidy.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Can the Tennessee legislature have guts like this?

I have to wonder if our Tennessee General Assembly could possibly have the guts of lawmakers in South Dakota this week. South Dakota made history by openly defying the Supreme Court and outlawing aborticide within that state, save a threat to the life of the mother.

Long Live South Dakota...

It is high time that our sovereign states stand up to the federal courts and let it be known that we are tired of being imposed upon. If we want to ban the murder of the unborn within our borders, we ought to have that right. I do not live in California, nor do I live in New York or New England. Perhaps the people in those parts of the world think it is alright to take the lives of precious little children, but I believe if a similar ban were put before the people of Tennessee in a referendum, it would pass.

It has been said of the South that even our Democrats are conservative by comparison. Perhaps it is time to put that theory to a test in Tennessee. Stacy Campfield, I hope you are reading this-I can't think of a better man to take up the cause of Life. It is time to use the power of the legislature and all of the power of state governmnet to protect the unborn, and we can nail Bredesen to the wall in an election year.

In 1990, George Voinovich won the Ohio Governor's race by making abortion, specifically his opposition to it, the prime campaign issue. We Republicans need to take the ultimate stand for those who cannot stand up for themselves.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Tennessee Republicans: Grow some guts!

Harold Eugene Grooms, the convicted chop-shop operator is now an alleged drug smuggler. We all suspected that this would come to pass (at least those of us following this case) but now I think we must ask the question: "Where's the beef?" More precisely where is the Tennessee Republican Party?

Yes, we all know Bredesen "gave back" the contributions he got from Grooms, but he has a history of taking contributions in ways that might be considered crminal, and even had his henchmen doing his bidding in the Highway Patrol. It has been alleged that certain troopers' jobs were threatened because they would not contribute to Bredesen's campaign.

In most places, that would be the undoing of any political candidate, especially an incumbent Governor. Not in Tennessee's current political climate, because we can't find a Republican with enough intestinal fortitude to stand up for our values and oppose the Governor.

All of those who backed down when they had an opportunity to take a stand for what was right should tell us all what they are so afraid of. Do they fear the criminal element that supports the Governor? Do they fear henchmen may try and "come after" them politically? If they do, that is all the more reason to oppose Phil Bredesen. If we allow Bredesen to succeed to crushing his political opposition with the sort of corruption that is epidemic in his administration, he will have no trouble allowing his "friends" to do bidding in these ways when he seeks other offices as well.

Republicans, do not be held hostage to fear of defeat or fear of a fight!

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Church organizations and taxes

I have returned to posting after several days' absence, as Nicole and I were able (Providentially) to attend Father Chris Rohmiller's funeral, spoken of last week here at the World. I want to personally thank all of my old college friends in the Dayton area for their hospitality to both of us in these preceding days of great shock to all of us. I especially want to thank Mark Regeic and R. Jason Howard, Esq. for both extending to us such a warm welcome as well as the use of their respective homes during the period of the funeral and the days following. We hope in the coming weeks to return the favor to you, and to do so under much happier circumstances.

I returned tonight from a weekend of grief in Ohio to find that some people are giving grief to TBN over the tax exemption of its mega-broadcast complex in Hendersonville. A judge has ruled that at least part of the massive spread (which includes the late Conway Twitty's old home) should be exempt from taxation.

A whole lot of people are crying foul, largely because many see TBN as a money-making affair. It is easy to see why some might view it as such, especially since why a television network founded to spread the message of Christ needs Twitty City as a part of its property. I agree with the judge's ruling, however, largely because to rule any other way sets a nasty legal precedent.

For example, what would prevent the State of Alabama from levying similar taxes on EWTN, TBN's Catholic counterpart? Right now, EWTN is exempt and will likely remain so (I doubt Montgomery wants very much to cross the Holy See), but in reality, if TBN had to pay taxes on all of its land and assets in Hendersonville, it could be argued that EWTN, whose assets, though numerous, are far more humble compared to those of TBN, should be made to pay taxes on its assets in the Birmingham area, which include two monastic houses, multiple television studios, a church, and a religious shrine.

Both TBN and EWTN have a right to engage in their mission free of interference from the state. To insure that their religious message can reach people without state interference, the tax man needs to leave them both alone.

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