IN ALLAH WE TRUST  church state separation cartoon

Imagine seeing that painted on the walls of the Klamath County Courthouse. The only group this would not offend are Muslims.

The Founding Fathers were very insightful–they all seemed to buy into the Christian religions of their time–but they ultimately resolved that church and state should remain forever separate. This ensured that no single religion could extort government with secular ideals. They felt that in order to protect religious freedom, no religion or religions idealism should be allowed a foothold in government. As social trends surge and fade, any religion in a system has the potential to oppress those of less dominant faiths. If you make it possible for your religion to dominate, you also make it possible for your religion to fall to the dominance of a successor.

Last year, a religious zealot and County Commissioner named Tom Mallams  pushed an administrative order to paint “In God We Trust” on the wall of the County hearing room. Jim Bellet, another County Commissioner voted for the measure, stating, “I don’t see a problem with it.” And now the words are there, offending agnostics, athiests, Bhuddists and every other religion that isn’t part of this ilk.

In spite of widespread religious beliefs, ‘In God we trust’ was neither a motto, nor was it used on American currency until a century after the American Revolution. The Cold War needed a clear way to differentiate American ideals from godless communists, so the phrase was added to currency in 1958. Mallams made statements about how America has always been Christian country, so apparently he has chosen to ignore history or is blithely ignorant of it.

nopeaceStill don’t get why this is a problem? In the mid 1980s, a religious group led by Bagwan Shri Rajneesh bought so much real estate in eastern Oregon, they were able to take over the town of Antelope. The Rajneeshies would still be there if not for corruption charges that led to the expulsion of the Bagwan. When people like Mallams and Bellet blur the line between church and state, they are making it easier for other religious groups to infiltrate government. When you set a precedent like Klamath did, there can be no argument against the next, different religion stamping its logo on government walls. Those who enjoy their God on the walls may not like it when the regime changes and their slogan is replaced something even more reprehensible (to them). In other words, the people who think this is a tribute to their religion are actually undermining their freedom of religion with these tactics.

This trick was the peak of stupid, arrogant moves and cause enough to boot both Mallams and Bellet. Here’s hoping that Klamath voters are smart enough to do the right thing and oust these nuts, though the track record of backward conservatism betrays such hope.

LEADING WHAT?

Caught up in the excitement and emotions of the election season, people forget the basic question…

What is it we need from our county commissioners?

There are two traits that make good county commissioners:

  1. Competent administrative abilities.
  2. Leadership that makes a difference.

While they have proven administratively competent, the Commissioners FAILED in their leadership roles. Commissioners need to maintain operations AND advance the community and the economy through their administration. As the only elected local leaders with the administrative authority to implement agendas, the County officials are crucial to progress. If the local economy is stagnant, it is largely their fault for having bad ideas, or none at all. The cloud of economic collapse has loomed over Klamath for nearly a decade. If Klamath voters choose to maintain this status quo, we must be forced to assume that too many people like it that way. Klamath may be the only community where consistent failure makes insiders giggle.

Jim Bellet had extensive life experience in operating a construction contracting firm and an equipment rental business. Bellet had the opportunity to use his knowledge to streamline county codes and permitting operations to create better incentives for capital investment. He did no such thing. The space he occupied, turned out to be a waste.

Mallams was a farmer, and the agriculture community always pushes for someone who they feel understands them, regardless of whether that person helps the rest of the community. Not only did Mallams fail the farmers, he demonstrated that he possessed no vision whatsoever. Catering to a secular religion did absolutely nothing to advance Klamath, in fact, he took it backwards.

Recently, ECS Composites, Klamath’s newest, largest manufacturing firm shuttered its doors. Before that, Klamath Metals shut down. In the past five years, there have been no significant gains for the local economy outside of government services. Even two former Safeway stores were closed. What does that tell you?

Nobody wants to invest in a bible-thumping backwater (except for a Bible printing company), especially not progressive companies building data centers, such as Facebook and Apple, who announced further expansion in Prineville, of all places. Klamath lost them before, and every time they expand elsewhere, Klamath proves it has nothing to offer (we kind of have more to offer through OIT and regional telecommunications, though Pacific Power canned the power option the first time). The rest of our business climate and economic troubles are because of leaders who have nothing to offer. There are so many things local government could have done and could be doing to make Klamath attractive to business investment, none of which occurred under Mallam’s and Bellet’s watch.

Hopefully, if there is any intelligence remaining in the voter base, it will send them packing. Incumbents have failed us all and will continue to fail as long as they block good leaders from taking their place.