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Homeless? You're Under Arrest!

So sacred and inviolable is the home that no one may enter it lawfully for any purpose without the expressed consent of the home’s occupant – or a lawfully-obtained warrant based upon probable cause. Whether the home in question is a millionaire’s multi-million dollar mansion overlooking the sweeping valleys of the Rocky Mountains, or an impoverished farmworker’s hovel in southern Arizona, or something in between, the right of the owner to be safe and secure in his or her person and possessions in their place of residence is inviolate. The trajectory of development for this idea goes back to Roman civil laws on privacy, from where the principle was incorporated into English common law. The doctrine of privacy and the right to be safe and secure in one’s own home was articulated by the English jurist Sir Edward Coke, who in 1604 ruled in a case that “the house of every one is to him as his Castle and Fortress as well for defence against injury and violence, as for his repose; … domus …

The Bane and Burden of Homelessness

Like most daily newspapers, the Colorado Springs Gazette has a section for readers’ letters to the editor. Recently the paper published one such letter that demonstrated a remarkable lack of knowledge and understanding regarding the situation of homelessness. In all urban areas across this country, there is a significant and increasing number of homeless persons, and Colorado Springs is no exception. Local and state governments, community-based social service organizations, and city residents are finding themselves ill-equipped to lower these numbers and resolve what many people think of primarily in terms of “problem.” In the letter to the editor, the Gazette reader wrote: “If we are going to solve the problems caused by the homeless population in Colorado Springs, then we need to address the root causes and not the symptoms” (emphasis mine). When I read this, I was crestfallen; the reader cared less about the circumstance of those suffering homelessness and more about the difficult…

Diversity and Religious Conservatism and Liberalism

17 As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.’” 20 He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.” 21 Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money[a] to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” 22 When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions. [Mark 10:17-22, NRSV]
This passage from the Gospel of Mark is particularly onerous, both to me and, I believe, to the church in general. It appears to be asking something of us that we are most unwilling to do, and we don’t quite know wha…

The Perversion of Loyalty

I was never a Boy Scout, but for some reason I memorized the Scout Law when I was an adolescent, and to this day I can recite it with confidence: A scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent. Because I was not a Boy Scout, I never had to recite either the Scout Oath (On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; to help other people at all times; to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight) or the Scout Law in the company of my peers or in public, but I have on occasion slipped the Scout Law into a sermon or a lecture, always with attribution. Lately, however, I have been giving some thought to one item on the Law’s list: loyalty. The reason for this is all the political noise surrounding the current president and his propensity to require loyalty from his associates and political appointments, a requirement which he apparently does n…

Good City and Affordable Housing

The following article is an expanded version of an op-ed piece published April 10, 2018 in The Gazette in Colorado Springs.  What makes a city a desirable place to live? What is the recipe for a healthy and thriving community? I have been thinking about these questions for some time now, but I’m not an urbanologist so the ruminations that follow are somewhat unsystematic. It may sound odd, but I think a city must have a purpose, a reason for being, beyond just providing a physical place where people live. The purpose answers the question of why people would want to live in a particular city, and whether stated explicitly or merely implied, it speaks not only to the vision for a quality of life but also to the diversity of values, beliefs, and traditions held by its populace. A city’s purpose goes a long way toward creating a welcoming atmosphere where people can find a way of belonging. If a city has character or personality, it probably also has some shared sense of what it stands f…

Criminalizing Sanctuary in Colorado

I know there are many people who believe that undocumented immigrants should be deported straightaway. Many also believe that any effort or expense to make it possible for them to live here, contribute to our economy, and improve their circumstances is misguided at best because these immigrants have broken U.S. immigration law. Those who believe it is important to recognize that these immigrants have come here seeking a better life for themselves and their families are also those who care deeply about how they are treated and how they can be helped to navigate their way forward in realizing their aspirations. Those who hold these beliefs do not see themselves as aiding and abetting law-breakers. Rather, they see themselves as acting more humanely toward others whose circumstances in their homeland make the realization of their aspirations impossible and whose life in their country of origin is at risk of debilitating poverty and suffering, to say nothing of violence. Practically all p…