Trump bans citizens from seven countries from entering U.S.

President Donald Trump is unique from past presidents in that he seems to keep his campaign promises. I’m still waiting for President Obama to shut down the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.

Our new commander in chief signed an executive order that bars citizens of seven countries from entering the United States. This ban will remain in effect for the next 90 days.

These seven countries are:

  • Iran
  • Iraq
  • Syria
  • Sudan
  • Libya
  • Yemen
  • Somalia

The Department of Homeland Security classified these countries as “countries of concern.” President Obama signed this classification into law on December 18, 2015, as part of the Omnibus Appropriations Act of FY2016.

This list was an augmentation to an earlier list of countries contained in the Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015. It added the countries of Libya, Somalia, and Yemen.

This temporary travel ban is being referred to in the media as Trump’s Muslim ban. That’s not correct. It was the Obama administration that crafted this list. Were countries added to this list because they have a majority of people who practice Islam? It wouldn’t appear so. There are other countries with far more Muslim people that didn’t make this list.

If I wanted to ban Muslims from traveling to the United States, I’d include the most populated Islamic countries to this list.

I don’t care if folks from these seven countries cannot come to the United States. Not once in my life have I wished my community had more Iranians or Yemenis in it.

Traveling to the United States is a privilege, not a right.

Even if the goal of the Obama administration’s list was to curtail Muslims from coming to the United States, I couldn’t care less. Not really. The religion you practice is a choice. Nobody is born Muslim. A person’s DNA does not decide what religion they practice. Religion is always a choice. People are no more born Muslim than they are born Pentecostal, Mormon, or Southern Baptist.

Religion, or the lack thereof, is always a matter of personal choice. It’s about time we stop pretending otherwise.

The First Amendment to our Constitution includes the words, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

I’m not a lawyer, but I have watched many episodes of Judge Judy. What these words in the Constitution mean to me is that you’re free to practice whatever kooky religion you wish without the government stepping in and endorsing it or condemning it. The government will not respect your chosen religion. The government will not prohibit your chosen religion.

That sounds swell to me.

I don’t support Donald Trump. I don’t like Donald Trump. I didn’t vote for Donald Trump. I reluctantly voted for Hillary Clinton. Is Donald Trump my president? According to the U.S. Constitution, yes he is.

Christmas Satanic symbol causes outrage

The city of Boca Raton is allowing religious groups to erect displays promoting their chosen religion at Sanborn Square, an area owned by the city.  Included in the displays is a Satanic symbol. It honors Satan, former angel and enemy number one in the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim faiths. It turns out, some people in Boca Raton have a problem with the Satanic symbol displayed near a Christmas nativity scene.

The pentagram display was put up by Preston Smith. He obtained a permit to erect the display. The pentagram display is located near a nativity scene, depicting the birth of Jesus Christ. Along with the pentagram is a banner provided by the Freedom from Religion Foundation.

The banner reads:

At this season of the Winter Solstice, we celebrate the Birth of the Unconquered Sun — the TRUE reason for the season. As Americans, let us also honor the birth of our Bill of Rights, which reminds us there can be no freedom OF religion, without freedom FROM religion in government.

Christmas Satanic symbol causes outrage - Bent Corner
Merry Christmas!

The first night the pentagram and accompanying banner were erected in Sanborn Square, someone armed with spray paint vandalized them. How surprising that someone or someones in Florida spray painted over a banner that promoted the Bill of Rights, one of our most treasured documents. I wonder, what offended them more: the Satanic symbol or the Bill of Rights?

The mayor of Boca Raton and area clergy are pretty upset over the Satanic display. Pastor Andrew Sherman with the Boca Raton Interfaith Clergy Association said:

They’re using a religious symbol and an inflammatory one at that, a Satanic symbol, to make their point. And we felt it was hypocritical and shameful.

Hypocritical and shameful? How so?

When asked about the vandalism, Pastor Sherman had this to say:

This was deliberately provocative and I’m not surprised it provoked a reaction even though I completely reject that reaction.

Sure. I wouldn’t be surprised one bit if the good Pastor Sherman had spray paint stains on his index fingers.

Preston Smith believes the act of vandalism is a hate crime. He issued the following statement:

I have filed a police report with BRPD for this hate crime, which only proves that religion and government don’t mix.  The Freedom From Religion Foundation is offering a monetary reward for info leading to the arrest and conviction of the perpetrator(s).  FFRF is also sending replacement banners via overnight delivery.  Freethinkers have been targeted for thousands of years by religious folks, although counter-viewpoints are becoming more visible as this nation’s demographics shift away from organized religion.  We will not be silenced by the those who fear freedom of speech in America.  We will not be persecuted by religious zealots intolerant of diverse viewpoints.  We are not going away, but are instead ready to make this an annual tradition.  The Constitution protects the minority from the tyranny of the majority.  The mayor and city council should immediately take notice — public parks must be free from all ancient myths and superstitions in order to preserve the well-being of the community at large.

I agree with Preston Smith. It was a hate crime.

Our Founding Fathers might have been slave-owning assholes, but they were correct when it came to the First Amendment. I love a good nativity scene, but it has no place on taxpayer-funded property. If you’re going to allow religious displays on public land, you’re going to have to allow all religious displays.

Bryton Mellott did nothing wrong

Bryton Mellott, 22, of Urbana, Illinois, burned an American flag and posted a photo of the act to his Facebook page. People reacting to the photo sent him death threats and reportedly even made threats against him employer, Walmart.

Police reviewed the photo Mr. Mellott posted on Facebook. They then went to Walmart to investigate the threats and to speak to Mr. Mellott. Because he declined to remove the Facebook post to “deescalate” the situation, the police arrested him.

They used a 2013 Illinois flag desecration law as grounds for the arrest.

Bryson Mellott's mug shot.
Bryson Mellott’s mug shot

Mellott was then released from custody after State’s Attorney Julia Rietz declined to file charges. She questioned the validity of the 2013 Illinois desecration law, pointing out that burning a flag is protected free speech.

Of course it is.

Some people want to treat the flag like an Islamist treats the Quran. If you value the flag than you should value the U.S. Constitution and the First Amendment. If you don’t support Mr. Mellott’s right to free speech, even if you find how he expressed himself repulsive than you’ve helped make the flag meaningless.

Personally, I’m not a fan of flag burning. That’s why I choose not to do it. I have an American Flag displayed 24 hours a day in from of my home. I value the American flag because of what it represents.

The police really screwed up. They arrested Mr. Mellott because he would not do what they asked him to do, to remove the image from Facebook. They were wrong to ask him to remove the post and they were wrong to arrest him. They not only arrested him, they even published his personal information online, including his home address. What’s worse than getting online death threats? Having your local police then publish your home address.

My guess is that this will result in a civil rights lawsuit, a lawsuit Mr. Mellott will surely win. Good for him.

If the police were in the mood to arrest anyone, they should have arrested the people making threats against Mr. Mellott and his employer. Those people are the criminals, not Mr. Mellott. That might take some real police work. I guess it’s just easier to arrest some dumb unpatriotic kid working at Walmart.