Rabbi Paley: Notes from the memorial for fallen officers

Paley.Andrew

Rabbi Andrew Paley, right, speaking at the Meyerson

Rabbi Andrew Paley, senior rabbi at Temple Shalom in North Dallas, described the experience of participating in the memorial at the Meyerson Symphony Center to the five police officers killed in an ambush on July 7, as “powerful, exciting, overwhelming.”

Paley was one of three clergy who offered a prayer during the tribute, and he sat on stage directly behind First Lady Michelle Obama.

The dignitaries on the stage whispered to one another several times throughout the event. But it seems what the audience most noticed was when former President George W. Bush whispered some comment to the First Lady and her reaction to him.

Micki Rawlings leaned over to say something to Dallas Police Chief David Brown. Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price commented to DART Police Chief James Spiller. The Bidens interacted. But the current first lady and former president were cutting up like old friends.

Bush.Obama

Michelle Obama seems to be trying not to laugh at a comment former President George Bush made to her while their spouses look on.

Paley said the comments he heard were mostly innocuous. Commenting on one soloist from the interfaith choir that performed, Bush leaned over and said, “Man, can she sing.”

But other comments got more of a reaction when Bush said something to the first lady and both his wife and her husband laughed at Michelle’s response.

Paley said the Bushes arrived at the Meyerson about 40 minutes before the Obamas and Bidens, who had been visiting injured officers at Parkland Hospital before the service. He said while they were waiting backstage, Bush put everyone at ease, asking, “How’s it going everybody?” as he walked in.

“I understood why people like him,” Paley said.

Paley described Mrs. Bush as “classy, composed and refined,” but as they waited for the Obamas, the other memorial participants sat in a circle talking.

“Bush tried to connect with everyone,” Paley said. He didn’t want any formality. “You know, I’m not the president,” Bush told them and sat in the circle with them. To make those participating on the world stage for the first time, along with others who were old hands at it, the former president told some stories as they waited backstage for what would be a very solemn and moving event.

Bush told the group about meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin. When Putin came to the White House, he met Bush’s Scottish terrier Barney. When Bush was in Moscow, he visited Putin’s residence. The Russian leader brought out his dog, Konni, a black Labrador retriever, and said, “My dog’s bigger.”

As they waited for the Obamas and Bidens, the choir sang on stage, but backstage, the group chatted. Paley asked Bush if he was still painting. “Like a madman,” Bush said. Paley told the former president he had seen his series of portraits of world leaders at the Bush Library. “Not my finest work,” Bush told him.

Before going on stage, Paley asked Bush if he’d ever been to Temple Shalom. “Not yet,” Bush told him. Paley invited him, saying, “We’d love to have you.” Bush said jokingly, “I don’t get that far north.” Temple Shalom is just north of LBJ Freeway on Hillcrest at Alpha Road.

Paley described Vice President Joe Biden as very likable. “He’s just like on TV — warm and approachable.”

As they lined up to go on stage, Biden was behind Paley. The rabbi said something about being ahead of the Vice President and Biden joked, “I’m Catholic, but I’d follow the Jews anywhere.”

He called the President and First Lady “genuinely nice people,” and said he left feeling the Obamas were “real humans who were really heartbroken” after all efforts to do anything about gun violence had been thwarted. After the memorial, Paley said, Obama spent about an hour with the families of the slain officers.

—  David Taffet

Obama visits to help Dallas heal

The president was joined by VP Biden, G.W. Bush at a memorial service for fallen officers

President-Obama

President Barack Obama called on Americans to “worry more about joining sides to do right.” (Tammye Nash/ Dallas Voice)

 

David Taffet  |  Senior Staff Writer
President Barack Obama and former President George W. Bush — in Dallas to speak at the Tuesday, July 12 memorial service for the five officers killed July 7 following a Black Lives Matter protest rally — both spoke this week of the need to heal and to unite to bridge the growing chasm between the black community and police departments nationwide

The memorial service, coincidentally, took place on the one-month anniversary of the mass shooting at an Orlando gay bar that left 49 people dead and 53 more wounded. While a congressional committee marked the day by debating new ways to discriminate against the LGBT community, Obama noted the anniversary differently. He said the goal of the killer in Dallas was the same as the shooters’ in Orlando and at Charleston’s Emanual AME Church last year in June — to divide the country.

“With an open heart, we can worry less about which side has been wronged, and worry more about joining sides to do right,” Obama said. “But as Americans, we can decide that people like this killer [in Dallas] will ultimately fail. They will not drive us apart. We can decide to come together and make our country reflect the good inside us, the hopes and simple dreams we share.”

The president was last of the afternoon’s speakers and didn’t go to the podium until after 2:30 p.m. Most people attending arrived by 11 a.m.

Memorial-Service

After George W. Bush and Michelle Obama joined hands for “The Battle Hymn at the Republic,” the rest of those on stage and everyone in the audience did as well. (Tammye Nash/ Dallas Voice)

Outside the hall, Arlington police, assisted by officers from other DFW Metroplex police departments, handled traffic and security. Barricades kept most onlookers across the street from the Meyerson and created a maze for those going into the hall.

But police were friendly and helpful to those trying navigate the labyrinth of barricades.

Inside the Meyerson, Secret Service took over security, working professionally and quickly to ensure everyone’s safety while at the same time keeping the line of guests waiting to enter moving efficiently. Meyerson staff and volunteers were also on hand to help direct guests to the proper seating areas.

By the time the president and his entourage arrived, 2,500 people had filled the Meyerson. Uniformed officers packed most of the main orchestra section of the symphony hall, with the first five rows reserved for family of the victims. Each time family members arrived, escorted by police, the crowd stood, applauded and wiped away tears.

The Dallas Police Choir was joined on stage by singers from six area church choirs. They began with a powerful rendition of “Love is Stronger than Hate.”

In addition to state and local officials who appeared on stage, governors Jay Nixon of Missouri and Suzanna Martinez of New Mexico attended. Mayors from New Orleans, Oklahoma City, Lewisville and Columbia flew in for the event. A police honor guard from Friendswood, south of Houston, sat upstairs. One Friendswood officer said it was an honor to be there for the families of the fallen officers.

Mayor Mike Rawlings welcomed everyone, noting they were there to comfort the families of the victims and “to honor those who were wounded, not only in body but soul,” acknowledging how hurt everyone on the police force is. Police Chief David Brown said earlier in the day he might require his officers to go through counseling, so that officers don’t have to request it.

The Rev. Sheron Patterson of the United Methodist Church of North Texas, Rabbi Andrew Paley of Temple Shalom and Imam

Omar Suleiman of Valley Ranch Islamic Center each offered prayers for unity, healing and peace.

Before the president spoke, Sen. John Cornyn, Brown and Bush offered some remarks.

Sen. John Cornyn thanked Rawlings and Brown for the strength they’ve shown since the ambush, calling them men of uncommon courage. He praised Dallas police officers for the way they ran toward the bullets, shielded citizens and sacrificed their own lives.

“They put the people of Dallas before themselves,” Cornyn said.

After receiving a standing ovation, Bush said, “Today our nation grieves. Those of us who call Dallas home lost five members of our family.” He said the Dallas Police Department has been an inspiration for the rest of the country, and added, “We are grief stricken, heartbroken and forever grateful.”

Rawlings introduced DART Police Chief James Spiller saying, “Leadership is hard. Great leadership is unique. We experienced that leadership from James Spiller.” As he introduced Brown, whom he called “a rock” and “my friend,” the auditorium erupted into a standing ovation, the longest and loudest of the day, complete with whistles and cheers.

Brown said when he was young, he wasn’t good at asking girls out. So he would memorize lyrics to songs by Al Green and the Isley Brothers. But when he really loved a girl, he’d turned to the music of Stevie Wonder. “Today, I’m going to pull out some Stevie Wonder for these families,” Brown said, proceeding to recite the words to “I’ll Be Lovin You Always.”

The president followed Brown, beginning his speech by saying, “ I’m so glad I met Michelle first, because she loves Stevie Wonder.”

He followed that with a tribute to each of the officers. Before the event, he met with the wounded and he talked about the son of Shetamia Taylor, who brought her children to the demonstration. Her 12-year-old son told the president he wants to become a Dallas police officer someday.

“Despite the fact police conduct was the subject of the protest, the men and women of the Dallas Police Department did their jobs,” Obama said, noting that the officers had posted photos of themselves with demonstrators on social media before the shooting started.

Throughout his speech, the president expressed frustration that he “hugged too many families” of people killed in similar incidents during his eight years in the White House. But he praised the Dallas police, who “didn’t flinch and didn’t act recklessly,” and through their actions, “saved more lives than we will ever know.”

He praised Brown for being at the forefront of improving relations between police and the residents of the city, and called DPD a national model for the way a police department should be run. But he enumerated the shortcomings that too often plague police departments in this country.

“We ask police to do too much and we ask too little of ourselves,” Obama said, echoing frustrations Brown expressed yesterday. “We refuse to fund drug treatment. We flood communities with guns.”

The theme that’s emerged this week in Dallas is unity. People of different religious and political backgrounds have come together. At a memorial service at Thanksgiving Square last Friday, July 8, one pastor even urged straight people to hold the hand of a gay person.

That unity was clear among those on stage, especially between Michelle Obama and George W. Bush. While others were speaking, Bush kept whispering to Michelle Obama and she’d answer. The two were  acting like old friends who hadn’t seen each other in awhile. Laura Bush and, while others were speaking, Barack Obama were continually glancing over at them, smiling or making faces at their interactions.

Everyone stood for the closing of the event as the choirs sang “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

Michelle Obama took Bush’s hand and both began singing along. The president and former first lady then took their spouses’ hands. The three clergy seated directly behind them joined hands. Rawlings took his wife’s hand and she took Brown’s.

Just to emphasize that unity, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson joined hands with Sen. Ted Cruz. Seated above in the choral terrace, the Dallas City Council held hands. The rest of the audience joined them, singing and swaying while all holding hands.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 15, 2016.                    

—  David Taffet

Preparing, protesting, prejudice

As the North Texas LGBT community prepares for Pride, protestors in Orlando call for gun control, and lawmakers in D.C. hold hearings on anti-gay bills

Preparing

 

David Taffet  |  Senior Staff Writer
As families, fellow officers and government leaders gathered Tuesday, July 12, in Dallas for a memorial service honoring the one DART Police and four Dallas Police Department officers shot down Thursday night, July 7, following a peaceful Black Lives Matter rally, activists in Orlando staged a sit-in near U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s office there to demand stricter gun control laws.

And in Washington, D.C., Democrats and LGBT activists clashed with Republicans over a federal version of the “religious freedom law” popular now with state legislatures  that, in effect, gives businesses and individuals free reign to discriminate against LGBT people.

In North Texas
Meanwhile, back in North Texas, LGBT community leaders and law enforcement officials are looking ahead to upcoming Pride celebrations, and other LGBT-related events, pledging to remain mindful of the attacks last month in Orlando and last week in

Dallas, but adding that they already have policies in place to address safety issues.

Jeremy Liebbe heads security for the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade along with Maj. Barbara Hobbs of the Dallas Police.

Liebbe said he had just met with the Dallas Tavern Guild, the association of Dallas LGBT bar owners that puts on Dallas’ Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade each September, about any needed security upgrades for the parade and festival in September.

“We’re looking at some small changes,” Liebbe said. But, he said, bar owners were surprised that most contingencies are already in place.

“We’ve had plans in place for potential tragic [or] criminal events as long as I’ve been involved,” Liebbe said. That includes contingencies to address an active shooter situation, suspicious packages and even a sudden tornado.

Fort Worth PD’s LGBT liaison, Officer Kathi Jones, said the Orlando massacre prompted police in her city to create a schematic of Cowtown’s LGBT bars.

“Four bar owners were very open to that” idea, Jones said.

Fort Worth’s parade, the Tarrant County Gay Pride Parade held each year on the first Saturday in October, is smaller than the Dallas parade. But, Jones said, the potential for an incident is the same.

She said officers are stationed at each corner along the route through downtown, for crowd and traffic control. The department’s intelligence unit has cameras up cameras along the entire route, and a special response team is stationed a block off the route.

Jones said Fort Worth Police will certainly be on heightened alert, but she believes security threats have already been addressed.

About 30 miles east in Dallas, the increased police presence around LGBT events, funded in part through a $1 million donation to the city by Mark Cuban, has eased while police regroup and heal after the July 7 tragedy. That decrease is only temporary.

Liebbe said he didn’t think people need to be concerned about security. But, he warned, “The freedoms we enjoy and deserve create some level of risk.”

In Orlando
On Monday, June 11, a day shy of the one-month anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, gun control advocates started what they intended to be a 49-hour sit-in near Sen. Marco Rubio’s office to remember the 49 victims of the shooting.

Protesters sang songs, held signs that said “#SitForThe49” and laid 49 red roses on white paper inscribed with the names of each victim.

Nine hours in, police cut the demonstration short Monday night by arresting 10 protesters who refused to leave the building when it was closing.

The protesters were released later that same night on $250 bond each. They face misdemeanor trespass charges.

The sit-in was part of a larger fight for new gun control measures, but so far the calls for change have yielded no results. The protesters said they were targeting Rubio because of the Florida Republican’s opposition to same-sex marriage and the support he has gotten from the National Rifle Association.

Protester Fausto Cardenas, a University of Central Florida student, said Pulse had been a “safe space” for him and other members of the LGBT community.

“To not feel safe in a space like that was a very impactful thing for us,” said Fausto, who wasn’t arrested. “We want to hold people accountable.”

Ida Eskamani, who was arrested, said that even though sit-in was over, she and other activists will urge voters to call and tweet Rubio, demanding that he act on gun legislation and measures to end discrimination.

“The line has been drawn and you are either standing with us or not,” Eskamani said Tuesday, hours after being released from jail. “The heat is continuing to be turned up.”

The protesters said they wanted all politicians to reject contributions from the NRA, and they wanted tighter restrictions on assault weapons, as well as universal background checks for all gun purchasers.

“It’s not enough for politicians to offer platitudes,” said Rasha Mubarak, an official with the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Florida. “We demand a comprehensive platform for gun control.”

Rubio, a former GOP presidential candidate, was in Washington this week, but his state director listened to the protesters for about five minutes Monday.

“Sen. Rubio respects the views of others on these difficult issues, and he welcomes the continued input he is receiving from people across the political spectrum,” Rubio spokeswoman Kristen Morrell said in an email.

As part of the shooting anniversary, Orlando area officials on Tuesday helped move 49 white crosses, which served as one of the three major memorials to the Pulse victims, from Orlando Regional Medical Center to the Orange County Regional History Center, where the crosses will be preserved.

An official memorial will be designed as a garden near the hospital. Hospital officials said Tuesday that four patients from the Pulse shooting were still being treated, including one in critical condition.

And in Washington, D.C.
Also on Tuesday, Congressional Republicans and Democrats clashed over legislation the GOP described as upholding religious freedom and Democrats insisted was discriminatory, with no sign of consensus.

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform held a three-hour hearing to consider the First Amendment Defense Act, a measure to “prohibit the federal government from taking discriminatory action” against a person whose religious beliefs or moral convictions define marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

The legislation has 171 co-sponsors in the House, but faces opposition from Democrats and outside groups who argue it will result in more discrimination against members of the LGBT community as well as single-parent families.

“Protecting the sacred right to freely exercise your religion is the First Amendment to the Constitution for a reason; it has been and still is fundamental to the foundation of our nation,” said Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, chairman of the committee.

Foes of the bill also criticized the timing of holding the hearing on the one-month anniversary of the shooting at Pulse.

“With everything going on in this country right now, these horrific shootings of gay people, black people, police officers — what we should be doing is coming together as a nation, not tearing each other apart, which is exactly what this bill does,” said

Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, top Democrat on the committee. “To say this hearing is politically tone-deaf is the understatement of the year.”

Jim Obergefell, the lead plaintiff in the 2015 Supreme Court ruling to legalize same-sex marriage in all 50 states, testified as a witness opposing the bill and asked, “What could ever justify such a discriminatory act?”

“As important as it is that same-sex couples like John (his late partner) and I have the right to obtain a civil marriage license in any state of the country,” Obergefell said, “it is also critically important that this constitutional right is not undermined by proposals like this legislation that subject loving couples like me and John, and other LGBT people to discrimination.”

Former Chief of the Atlanta Fire Department Kelvin Cochran, who was terminated from his position because of his opposition to same-sex marriage, advocated for the bill, saying it would have protected his job.

“Equal rights, true tolerance means that, regardless of your position on marriage, you should be able to peacefully live out your beliefs and not suffer discrimination at the hands of the government,” Cochran said.

Despite the ideological disagreements, the main focus of the hearing became the language used in the legislation and whether or not the bill would undermine the Fair Housing Act, the Civil Rights Act or other pre-existing equality acts.

“We have had very robust conversations that disagree. What my concern is is that we are at times missing each other on misinformation,” Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., said.

Associated Press writers Mike Schneider and Sarah Grace Taylor contributed to this report.  

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 15, 2016.

 

—  David Taffet

DPD a model of de-escalation training

But the rest of the country has a long way to go to catch up to Big D’s spirit of unity

Sit-in

Dozens of activists participate on Monday, June 11 in a sit-in outside U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s Orlando office, protesting for stricter gun control laws. The sit-in, intended to last 49 hours, was planned to honor the 49 victims of the June 12 Pulse Nightclub shooting and to pressure Rubio to take action on gun violence. (John Raoux/Associated Press)


David Taffet  |  Senior Staff Writer

Although the ambush of Dallas police officers took place barely a week ago, law enforcement is already using the event to examine its tactics, plans and community relations.

President Barack Obama said in remarks to police in Dallas this week that “the Dallas Police Department has been at the forefront of improving relations between police and the community.”

“The murder rate here has fallen,” Obama said. “Complaints of excessive force have been cut by 64 percent. The Dallas Police Department has been doing it the right way.”

When David Brown became police chief in 2010, he stepped up a policy of using de-escalation tactics that have shown dramatic results: Dallas has the lowest rate of police shootings of any major city in the U.S.

The number of excessive force complaints has dropped dramatically. In 2009, 147 complaints were filed against Dallas officers for excessive force. That’s almost three complaints a week. By 2014, complaints were down to 53 or one a week and by last year there were only 13 — about one a month.

Although it was controversial at the time, one of the first steps Brown took after becoming chief was to fire officers who couldn’t conform to new standards. Since taking office, 70 officers have been let go.

De-escalation tactics have taken a number of forms: When a high-speed chase caused a fatal accident, Brown limited high-speed chases. Officers show up for demonstrations in their squad cars dressed in police uniforms, not wearing riot gear riding in military vehicles.

Dallas officers receive training in de-escalation procedures. They’re taught to listen and express empathy. They’re taught communication skills.

At the Black Lives Matter demonstration on July 7, police were interacting with demonstrators, talking to them and taking selfies with them before a gunman opened fire, killing four DPD officers and one DART officer, and wounding seven other officers and two civilians.

Lynn Walters, who attended the demonstration said there was a large police presence and a good mix of people from all races and backgrounds.

“Certainly people were angry about what happened in Baton Rouge and Minneapolis,” she said.

They were angry about the practice and pattern of targeting people of color, she said, but the protesters weren’t targeting those officers there to protect them. And officers didn’t feel threatened or targeted by the demonstrators.

Not so lucky elsewhere
But that same spirit of unity doesn’t exist elsewhere. Tensions appear to be rising between Black Lives Matter advocates and proponents of Blue Lives Matter, the name of a movement focusing on the safety of law enforcement officers.

Kelly Orians, a 30-year-old white public defender who attended a die-in protest in New Orleans, said the two movements are not — and should not be — equal.

“I don’t believe in a Blue Lives Matter movement in the same way that I don’t believe in a White Lives Matter movement or a Men’s Lives Matter movement,” she said. “Because we’re pretty clear that those lives matter and our institutions are built to protect those lives, whereas our institutions are not built … to protect black lives.”

Tracie Washington, a black civil rights lawyer in New Orleans, expressed the same frustration with the Blue Lives Matter movement, as well as with a law Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards recently signed extending hate crime status to crimes targeting police and other emergency responders.

“It tries to marginalize Black Lives Matter,” Washington said. “And it pits two equally important interests against each other that weren’t against each other.”

William Colarulo, the white police superintendent of Radnor Township, Pennsylvania, is equally opposed to the Black Lives Matter movement, which he called a “violent, hateful organization that condones violence against police.”

“They chant, ‘Pigs in a blanket, fry them like bacon,”’ he was quoted by Philly.com as saying. “I give no credit to that organization. They tend to instigate rather than heal and find solutions to the problem.”

Comedian Trevor Noah, host of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” and a biracial native of South Africa, said people “shouldn’t have to choose between the police and the citizens that they are sworn to protect.”

“It always feels like in America … if you take a stand for something, you automatically are against something else. It’s such a strange world to be in,” he said last week on the show.

In an editorial published Monday in The New York Times, Brooklyn Borough President and former NYPD Captain Eric L. Adams, who is black, said police and black citizens share the concern that they may be in the line of fire.

“My solution to the tension between the police and the people — which I recognize as my own inner tension — is to seek unity, not find division,” he wrote, adding that community education and police reforms are also needed.

Neither side should stereotype the other, said Gregory Thomas, president of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives. The Dallas shooter and others who fired at police in retaliation for the deaths of the black men are not “reflective of the vast majority of citizens who are engaged with and supportive of the law enforcement community,” Thomas said.

Likewise, he added, the police shootings are not “reflective of the professional work that members of the law enforcement community conduct dutifully every day.”

Philadelphia Police Department Commissioner Richard Ross said the terms Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter should not be mutually exclusive, but he acknowledges the growing divisions between the two groups.

“It’s this either-or proposition,” said Ross, who is black. “This is where we’re stuck. … It’s gotten so far down the tracks that I’m afraid even people who want things to be resolved don’t have a loud enough voice.”

Associated Press writer Jesse J. Holland and Errin Haines Whack along with several other AP writers, contributed to this report.  

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 15, 2016.

—  David Taffet

Tucker’s Gift

New group provides food and vet services for pets of low income people with HIV

Tucker

The organizers of Tucker’s Gift. (Courtesy Cody Dustin)

 

David Taffet  |  Senior Staff Writer

Pamper-your-Pet-logoA DFW Sisters novice wanted to raise some money to help people with HIV take care of their pets, but was unable to find a group doing that. Seeing a need, Cody and Christopher Dustin decided to take up the cause.

“If there’s a need, we have to do something,” Cody Dustin said.

So they started a new organization called Tucker’s Gift, named after their own dog. Within weeks, they had put together a board and had their nonprofit status in place.

By January, they were in business and by May they were serving clients under the banner, “preserving the bond between warm hearts and wet noses.”

Tucker’s Gift helps provide food and veterinary care for pets of people with HIV. Clients may be referred by an agency or apply directly on the group’s website. AIDS Arms, AIDS Interfaith Network, Health Services of North Texas and Resource Center are already working with Tucker’s Gift and it was named a partner agency of LifeWalk this year.

They have also formed a partnership with the North Texas Pet Food Pantry to provide food for pets.

Dustin said people should never have to face the choice of “Do I eat or do I feed my pet?”

Once a person is approved for pet food assistance, Tucker’s Gift delivers a three-month supply.

They’ve made arrangements with several veterinarians to spay and neuter clients’ pets and to provide vaccinations and wellness checks for those animals. A client makes an appointment and then Tucker’s Gift calls in a payment for services provided. If the client needs transportation to the vet, Tucker’s Gift provides that as well.

“A bootblack from Dallas Eagle did a huge fundraiser for us,” Dustin said, and more fundraising efforts are planned.

Tucker’s Gift will have its next fundraiser, Top Dog Couture, on Aug. 14 in The Rose Room. It will be an evening of high canine fashion, with prizes for best in show, best friends — the “most creative six-legged pair” — and Tucker’s Choice, the crowd favorite.

Registration to enter the event is limited to the first 25 applicants. Go to the group’s website to enter.

Top Dog. 6-9 p.m. at The Rose Room, 3911 Cedar Springs Road. $5 admission or $15 VIP. Enter at topdog.tuckersgift.org.

—  David Taffet

Second North Texas UMC church votes for same-sex marriage

 

eston_williams

Rev. Eston Williams

A second North Texas conference Methodist Church has voted for same-sex weddings, according to the United Methodist Church website.

The article doesn’t refer to the first — Northaven UMC in North Dallas — and expresses some surprise that the second was rural Aley UMC, located outside Seven Points.

Seven Points is on Cedar Creek Lake, which has a large LGBT weekend and retirement community. Celebration Church on the Lake in neighboring Mabank was established with an outreach to the LGBT community, with help from the Rev. Carol West of Celebration Church in Fort Worth.

About 80 percent of Aley’s congregation voted to support its pastor, the Rev. Eston Williams, in his intention to conduct same-sex weddings, including Jim Braswell, mayor of nearby Gun Barrel City.

Williams, 67, who has been with the church 18 years, said he has opposed the Methodist position that homosexuality is incompatible with Christianity for years, but was persuaded to ask for a vote when his two daughters said they didn’t want to be affiliated with “a denomination that isn’t fully inclusive.”

The resolution voted on by the congregation ends with the statement, “We support our pastor to hold same-gender weddings in the sanctuary of Aley United Methodist Church.”

Aley, which rhymes with “daily,” is an unincorporated area of Henderson County west of Seven Points. The city of Seven Points has annexed West Cedar Creek Parkway for several miles west of town into the area known as Aley. Aley UMC is at 1215 W. Cedar Creek Parkway.

—  David Taffet

Log Cabin calls Republican platform the most anti-LGBT ever

Gregory-Angelo

Gregory Angelo

Log Cabin Republicans President Gregory Angelo has condemned the Republican Party platform as “the most anti-LGBT platform in the Party’s 162-year history.” Here’s an excerpt from the letter he sent out following passage of the platform:

“There’s no way to sugar-coat this: I’m mad as hell — and I know you are, too.

“Moments ago, the Republican Party passed the most anti-LGBT Platform in the Party’s 162-year history.

“Opposition to marriage equality, nonsense about bathrooms, an endorsement of the debunked psychological practice of ‘pray the gay away — it’s all in there.

“This isn’t my GOP, and I know it’s not yours either. Heck, it’s not even Donald Trump’s! When given a chance to follow the lead of our presumptive presidential nominee and reach out to the LGBT community in the wake of the awful terrorist massacre in Orlando on the gay nightclub Pulse, the Platform Committee said NO.”

Angelo then went on to ask for donations to allow Log Cabin to run ads in the Cleveland newspapers during the convention next week.

—  David Taffet

Obama, Bush address DPD officers at Meyerson event

Obama

President Barack Obama addresses Dallas Police officers at the Meyerson (Tammye Nash/Dallas Voice)

President Barack Obama and former President George W. Bush spoke to Dallas police officers and the families of the victims of the ambush that took place on July 7 at the Meyerson Symphony Center this afternoon (Tuesday, July 12).

The Arlington Police Department filled in for Dallas police to provide security around the Meyerson to allow DPD officers to attend.

The Dallas Police Choir was joined on stage by choirs from six church choirs from around the city. They began with a powerful rendition of “Love is Stronger than Hate.”

In addition to state and local officials, governors Jay Nixon of Missouri and Suzanna Martinez of New Mexico attended. Mayors from New Orleans, Oklahoma City, Lewisville and Columbia also flew in for the event.

Mayor Mike Rawlings welcomed the crowd and said they were there to comfort the families of the victims and “to honor those who were wounded, not only in body but soul,” acknowledging how hurt everyone on the police force is.

Police Chief David Brown said earlier today he may require his officers to go through counseling, so that they don’t have to request it.

The Rev. Sheron Patterson of the United Methodist Church of North Texas, Rabbi Andrew Paley of Temple Shalom and Imam Omar Suleiman on Valley Ranch Islamic Center offered a prayer for unity, healing and peace.

Sen. John Cornyn thanked Rawlings and Brown for the strength they’ve shown since the ambush, calling them men of uncommon courage.

He said Dallas police officers ran toward the bullets, shielded citizens and sacrificed their own lives.

“They put the people of Dallas before themselves,” Cornyn said.

After receiving a standing ovation, Bush said, “Today our nation grieves. Those of us who call Dallas home lost five members of our family.”

He said the Dallas Police Department has been an inspiration for the rest of the country.

“We are grief stricken, heartbroken and forever grateful,” Bush said.

Rawlings introduced DART police chief James Spiller saying, “Leadership is hard. Great leadership is unique. We experienced that leadership from James Spiller.”

As he introduced Brown, whom he called “a rock” and “my friend,” police gave an ovation with whistles and cheers.

When the president stood at the podium, he began with a tribute to each of the officers. Before the event, he met with the wounded and he talked about the son of Shetamia Taylor, who brought her children to the demonstration. Her 12-year-old son told the president he wants to become a Dallas police officer.

“Despite the fact police conduct was the subject of the protest, the men and women of the Dallas Police Department did their jobs,” Obama said.

They posted photos of themselves with demonstrators on social media, he said.

Throughout his speech, the president expressed frustration that he “hugged too many families.”

But he praised the Dallas police who “didn’t flinch and didn’t act recklessly,” and because of their actions, “saved more lives than we will ever know.”

He praised Brown for being at the forefront of improving relations between police and the city and called DPD a national model for the way a police department should be run. But he enumerated the shortcomings.

“We ask police to do too much and we ask too little of ourselves,” Obama said, echoing frustrations Brown expressed yesterday.

“We refuse to fund drug treatment,” he said. “We flood communities with guns.”

The event closed with the choirs singing “Glory Hallelujah.” When Michelle Obama took Bush’s hand and both began singing along with the choir, the others on stage held hands. That included Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, in whose district the shooting took place, who held hands with Sen. Ted Cruz. Then the entire audience stood, held hands and joined the singing.

Outside, we encountered one protester, a white woman, whose scribbled sign read, “Obama’s a racist.” We weren’t sure if she actually knows what the word means.

More details in Friday’s Dallas Voice.

—  David Taffet

Funeral services set for three officers killed in ambush

police memorial

The memorial to ambushed police officers set up in front of DPD headquarters on July 9

Funeral services for three of the police officers killed in an ambush in downtown Dallas on July 7 have been set. Details are below.

Westboro Baptist Church announced on its webpage that it plans to be in Dallas to protest during this week. The “church,” listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, usually lists its protest plans here. As of this writing, Dallas is not on the schedule, but organizers want to be ready to shield family members from having to see the group’s hate signs. Members of the DFW Sisters have expressed interest in being angels who block the view of protesters from family.

Funeral services have been set for Lorne B. Ahrens, Michael J. Smith and Brent Thompson. Services for officers Patricio Zamarripa and Michael Krol are pending.

Smith

Ahrens

Thompson

 

—  David Taffet

Petition to remove Lt. Gov Dan Patrick from office circulates

Rawlings and Patrick

Dan Patrick could only look on as Mayor Rawlings brought the city together

Petitions to remove Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick from office have been circulating, including this latest one on Change.org, posted in response to Patrick’s comments about the ambush of Dallas police officers.

The morning after the Orlando shootings, Patrick posted on his Twitter account, “Do not be deceived. God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.”

While Patrick claims that tweet was not in response to the massacre or about the victims of the mass murder, he removed the tweet and never apologized to the victims’ families.

After the Dallas police shootings, Patrick blamed the demonstrators and called them hypocrites for running from the gun fire.

“All those protesters last night, they ran the other way, expecting the men and women in blue to turn around and protect them,” Patrick said. “What hypocrites!”

Demonstrators were following police directions when they ran.

Patrick never blamed the shooter for the shooting.

During an event a Thanksgiving Square on Friday, just hours after the murder of five officers, Patrick attended but was not invited to speak. Instead, he stood directly behind each of the speakers who appealed for a sense of unity in the city.

—  David Taffet