Annual Fundraising Appeal

The US Geological Survey recorded a minor earthquake this morning with its epicenter near Wasilla, Alaska, the probable result of Sarah Palin opening her mail box to find the latest issue of CounterPunch magazine we sent her. A few moments later she Instagrammed this startling comment…

Palin2

The lunatic Right certainly has plenty of problems. We’ve made it our business to not only expose these absurdities, but to challenge them directly. With another election cycle gaining steam, more rhetoric and vitriol will be directed at progressive issues. More hatred will be spewed at minorities, women, gays and the poor. There will be calls for more fracking and war. We won’t back down like the Democrats. We’ll continue to publish fact-based critiques and investigative reports on the shenanigans and evil of the Radical Right. Our future is in your hands. Please donate.

Day10

Yes, these are dire political times. Many who optimistically hoped for real change have spent nearly five years under the cold downpour of political reality. Here at CounterPunch we’ve always aimed to tell it like it is, without illusions or despair. That’s why so many of you have found a refuge at CounterPunch and made us your homepage. You tell us that you love CounterPunch because the quality of the writing you find here in the original articles we offer every day and because we never flinch under fire. We appreciate the support and are prepared for the fierce battles to come.

Unlike other outfits, we don’t hit you up for money every month … or even every quarter. We ask only once a year. But when we ask, we mean it.

CounterPunch’s website is supported almost entirely by subscribers to the print edition of our magazine. We aren’t on the receiving end of six-figure grants from big foundations. George Soros doesn’t have us on retainer. We don’t sell tickets on cruise liners. We don’t clog our site with deceptive corporate ads.

The continued existence of CounterPunch depends solely on the support and dedication of our readers. We know there are a lot of you. We get thousands of emails from you every day. Our website receives millions of hits and nearly 100,000 readers each day. And we don’t charge you a dime.

Please, use our brand new secure shopping cart to make a tax-deductible donation to CounterPunch today or purchase a subscription our monthly magazine and a gift sub for someone or one of our explosive  books, including the ground-breaking Killing Trayvons. Show a little affection for subversion: consider an automated monthly donation. (We accept checks, credit cards, PayPal and cold-hard cash….)
button-store2_19

or use
pp1

To contribute by phone you can call Becky or Deva toll free at: 1-800-840-3683

Thank you for your support,

Jeffrey, Joshua, Becky, Deva, and Nathaniel

CounterPunch
 PO Box 228, Petrolia, CA 95558

Religion on the Hill

Why Do We Have Congressional Chaplains?

by DAVID MACARAY

Why do we have them and why do they make $170,000?  Actually, the Senate Chaplain makes a bit less than that (in 2011, he made $155,000).  That’s probably because the Senate Chaplain has only 100 potential customers, whereas the House Chaplain has 435 of them.  In any event, considering the lack of heavy lifting required by the job, these salaries (underwritten by the taxpayer) seem fairly generous.

So, what, specifically, do these chaplains do?  According to their charter, congressional chaplains perform “ceremonial, symbolic, and pastoral duties.”  While it’s hard to know what those duties might have been in the 18th century, today they seem to consist mainly of opening sessions of congress with a prayer, making themselves available to House and Senate members for spiritual guidance, and giving visiting religious leaders a tour of the building.  Not a bad gig.

Of course, trying to evaluate or defend the incomes of disparate jobs is a fool’s errand.  It’s not only comparing apples and oranges, it’s comparing apples and papayas.  Dishwashers make $16,000 a year, school teachers toil in the vineyard for $50,000, the minimum major league baseball salary (even for a bench-warmer) is $480,000, and Wikipedia says Judge Judy gets $45 million a year for dispensing her aggressive, show biz justice.  Forget about it.

The Senate Chaplain has his own crew.  He has a Chief-of-Staff, a Director of Communications, and an Executive Assistant to help him dispense his duties.  In 2011, the total budget for the Senate Chaplain’s office (including salaries and expenses) was $415,000.  While that seems exorbitant from one perspective, from another perspective it seems meager, almost miniscule.  After all, don’t we taxpayers spend $415,000 every 90 seconds or so in Afghanistan?  It’s apples and papayas.

But the most conspicuous issue isn’t their salaries.  Clearly, the elephant in the room is the apparent violation of the constitutional provision establishing the separation of Church and State.  Clergymen prowling the corridors seems inappropriate.  Simply put, why are we permitting (and paying!) some sanctimonious, Bible-thumping zealot to step onto the floor of the U.S. Congress and lead our duly elected government representatives in a mandatory prayer?

The simple answer seems to be that no one cares—or, at least, no one cares enough to make (literally) a federal case out of it.  Not that this hasn’t been challenged in the past, because it has; it’s been challenged several times.  Even James Madison, the so-called “Father of the Constitution,” is said to have questioned whether creating a congressional chaplain violated the separation of Church and State provision.

Alas, it’s more complicated than that.  Consider:  The U.S. Constitution was ratified in 1787, and the first Congressional Chaplains (William Blinn, a Presbyterian, as House Chaplain, and Samuel Provost, an Episcopalian, as Senate Chaplain) were installed almost immediately thereafter, in 1789.  It was as if they almost went hand-in-hand.

Presumably, if the framers genuinely believed that having a congressional chaplain violated the Constitution’s separation of Church and State provision, they wouldn’t have stood by and allowed the position to be created—not with the ink on the document barely dry.  Or would they?  Anyone looking for a “purist” answer isn’t going to find one.

So we’re left with this:  The Constitution forbids the establishment of a state religion, employers can’t ask job applicants if they’re church-goers, and the Supreme Court outlaws prayer in public schools.  Yet churches don’t pay taxes, “In God We Trust” is scrawled on our money, and Congress is asked to pray to God before conducting its business.  That seems strange.  It would be interesting to know what Judge Judy thinks.

David Macaray, an LA playwright and author (“It’s Never Been Easy:  Essays on Modern Labor”), was a former union rep. dmacaray@earthlink.net