The United States was founded by Christians

One thing that always irks me is when atheists use the argument “this country wasn’t founded by Christians”. And the one thing that irks me the most about these arguments, from either side, is how they always argue about the Founding Fathers and the Framers of the Constitution. And the reason it irks me is because it makes it sound like this country didn’t exist in any form before the Constitution.

Okay, technically the United States didn’t exist before the American Revolution, but the colonies did. The foundation for this country was laid by those colonists as well, who were Christians. We just have a government that is supposed to be, by definition of the Constitution, religiously neutral.

Jamestown, Virginia, is recognized as the first successful colonization attempt of North America. Three ships, the Discovery, Godspeed, and Susan Constant, led by Captain Christopher Newport of the Virginia Company, established a settlement at Jamestown Island in the James River.

And guess what religion the crews of the three ships were. That’s right. They were Christians.

Even the majority of those who signed the Constitution were Christians, but that is beside the point. The reason the United States exists to begin with is because of the colonists who came over here and started successful colonies that grew into what would become the United States. And those colonists were Christians.

To say this country was not founded by Christians ignores the colonists who are the reason the United States exists at all. At the time the Constitution was written, there were other faiths than just Christianity in the United States, and those who wrote the Constitution recognized this.

The first Jews didn’t arrive in the New World until 1654, arriving in the already established colony of New Amsterdam, which would later become New York City.

Let me ask you this: was the contribution of the colonists not significant enough because they didn’t sign a piece of paper?

Oh, wait, they did.

The Mayflower Compact was signed by the Plymouth colonists in 1620. And the Mayflower Compact is recognized as the first constitution in the New World, though not a true constitution, and it was signed “In the Name of God, Amen”. And it begins “Having undertaken, for the Glory of God and advancement of the Christian Faith…”

So to all persons who try to say that this country was not founded by Christians, you’re outright wrong. You cannot ignore the fact that the colonists, who are the reason the United States even exists, were Christians.

Oh but what about the Constitution? Okay, let’s go into this.

The majority of those who signed the Constitution were Christians. Of the total who attended the convention, 49 were a denomination of Protestantism, 3 were Roman Catholic (52 total). There were 55 delegates total. Plus how did the Constitution even come into effect?

It would not have mattered if the authors of the Constitution were Jews, Muslims, Christians, Pagans, atheists, or deists if it never went into effect. It would have just waned into history as another piece of paper that crumbled to dust. And even though it was ratified, it still does not matter in the least the religious affiliation of those who drafted the document.

But Constitution had to be ratified… by the States… by their legislatures – legislatures consisting of popularly elected members. And who elected those members? The majority of the populous, who were… Christian.

Ultimately the Constitution was ratified courtesy of the people of the United States. But it all started with the Jamestown settlement and the Plymouth Colony, both of which were founded by Christians.

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Why is the pro-life movement going after contraception?

Back in November I watched a documentary on the pro-life movement in the United States called Unborn in the USA (Rent it on Netflix). It is nothing more than video footage of various interviews with those who are against abortion along with footage of demonstrations, rallies, and confrontations. On Netflix, I rated the documentary 3 stars out of 5.

One thing that is evident in the documentary is what those on both sides of the issue think will work in getting their point of view across to the point where it is the dominant point of view. It should be self-evident by now that shouting down your rival in an argument will not succeed, but aggravate.

I am what would be called “pro-choice”, only because I do not feel abortion should be proscribed by law. I do agree with “pro-life” organizations in that government money should not be subsidizing elected abortions. I certainly would like to see the downward trend in the per-year incidence of abortion continue, but along with that, I also want to see the downward trend in the per-year incidence of unwanted pregnancies continue.

I do not feel that abortion should be proscribed at all, actually. I feel that women who become unexpectedly pregnant should be educated on all available options – abortion included. But the education needs to be fair and balanced, providing information that is accurate instead of information blown out of proportion.

What many in the pro-life movement are doing is not education, but sensationalism. It is gaining them attention, but it is not producing the results they would like to see. In ironic contrast to the pro-life movement, the results the pro-life movement desire are being generated by some of the groups they most detest: family planning clinics, including Planned Parenthood.

And family planning clinics are producing these results by going after the number one cause of abortion: unplanned, unexpected pregnancies.

By distributing birth control, allowing free and readily available access to condoms, and disseminating comprehensive information on female reproduction and pregnancy, family planning clinics are helping women to prevent pregnancy in the first place, which in turn reduces the number of abortions sought each year.

To accelerate this effort, many States through their Medicaid programs give women access to birth control, health exams, and counseling at little to no out-of-pocket cost.

Yet the pro-life movement is now turning their attention toward contraception, the very thing that is continuing to reduce abortion numbers.

“By outlawing contraception, you’re closer to outlawing surgical abortion. So if, as the pro-life community, you’re trying to outlaw surgical abortion but the court has told us its legal basis is founded on the necessity of abortion, shouldn’t the pro-life community begin to take a look at contraception? We’re trying to overturn Roe v. Wade, but the court is pointing us over here.”

— Matt Sande, Director of Legislative Affairs, Pro-Life Wisconsin 1

In 2005, Pro-Life Wisconsin pushed a bill that would have allowed pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions for contraceptives the pharmacist believes could prevent a fertilized egg from implanting into the uterus, forwarding a belief that pregnancy begins at conception, not implantation.1 This bill would, in short, allow a licensed pharmacist to refuse an order from a physician purely because the prescription alone might offend the pharmacist.

There have even been protests outside family planning clinics that do not even provide abortions. In Wausau, Wisconsin, pickets by pro-lifers, most of whom are Catholic, are apparently a daily sight outside that city’s family planning clinic.

The fight against contraceptives, however, is facing conflict from within, as other pro-life organizations do not feel that going after contraceptives is the right way to go. But it would be in the courtroom where they would face their biggest challenge.

In the landmark case Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 US 479 (1963), the Supreme Court of the United States overturned a Connecticut law that legally proscribed contraceptives by a 7-2 vote:

Any person who uses any drug, medicinal article or instrument for the purpose of preventing conception shall be fined not less than fifty dollars or imprisoned not less than sixty days nor more than one year or be both fined and imprisoned. 2

The Court reasoned that the law, “in forbidding the use of contraceptives, rather than regulating their manufacture or sale, seeks to achieve its goals by means having a maximum destructive impact upon [a marital relationship].” (381 US at 485) The Court then put the nail in the coffin:

Would we allow the police to search the sacred precincts of marital bedrooms for telltale signs of the use of contraceptives? The very idea is repulsive to the notions of privacy surrounding the marriage relationship.

The Court in this decision chiefly applies the Ninth and Fourteenth Amendments. The Ninth Amendment basically says that just because a right isn’t specifically stated in the Constitution does not mean it does not exist. It is with this Amendment, among others, that have allowed the Supreme Court to declare “rights” that otherwise would likely have not been recognized. Griswold is the first case to declare an express right to privacy, albeit a right of marital privacy.

The decision is also uncharacteristically short. The decision itself is only 7 pages (381 US 480-486). But in this short decision, it basically puts a golden nail into the coffin of legally proscribing contraception.

The decision in Griswold, however, was limited only to married individuals. The ruling would be expanded in the 1972 case of Eisenstadt v. Baird, 405 US 438, by a 6-1 ruling, striking down a Massachusetts law proscribing the distribution of contraception to unmarried individuals.

There have as of yet been no direct challenges to Griswold or Eisenstadt.

Other sources:

United States Supreme Court cases:

  1. Davidoff, Judith. (2005, August 1). “Abortion foes take aim at contraceptives“. The Capital Times. [] []
  2. General Statutes of Connecticut, 53-32 (1958 rev.) []
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The Bill of Rights and Immigrants

Question: Does the Bill of Rights apply to immigrants?

Recently I’ve been getting into some interesting discussions with my cousin’s husband. Many of these discussions tend to involve abortion, as he is adamantly “pro-life”, but recently he made some comments regarding the Constitution and its applicability, or lack thereof, to non-citizens.

First, to say the Bill of Rights applies only to citizens of the United States is incorrect. Those who say this do not fully understand the Bill of Rights or the Constitution. But then again, this is not really any surprise.

The United States Bill of Rights is comprised of the first ten Amendments to the Constitution of the United States. To say they are “rights”, though, actually undermines the purpose of the Constitution, which is to establish a republican form of government, which Article IV of the Constitution requires.

It is called the Bill of Rights to mirror the British Bill of Rights of 1689, in which the people of England received in writing guarantees of certain rights by the King.

In the United States under the Constitution, the government grants no one their rights. You have them, and have always had them. They are inherent and inalienable.

Now if the Bill of Rights applied only to citizens, whether natural born or naturalized, then the government could be absolutely tyrannical toward immigrants. This means the government could:

  • arrest them up for no reason (a violation of Article I, Section 9 requirement for a writ habeas corpus)
  • arrest them if they say anything the government does not like (violating their First Amendment right to free speech)
  • seize their property without cause (a violation of both the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches and seizures and the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of due process)
  • torture them until they are inches from death (a violation of the Eighth Amendment)

Obviously none of this is occurring, because the government is indiscriminately restrained. Regardless of with whom the government is interacting, whether they be a citizen, legal or illegal immigrant, the government must act the same.

The Bill of Rights provides for further express limitations upon the government over what the Constitution provides. Originally they were interpreted to apply to the Federal government – the level ultimately established by the Constitution – but through the Fourteenth Amendment, they have been applied to all States as well.

Even the Supreme Court has interpreted the Bill of Rights as applying to everyone within the jurisdiction of the United States. In the case of Plyler v. Doe, 457 US 202 (1982), the Court found in a 5 to 4 majority that to deny children who are illegal immigrants a public education is a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment unless the State could reasonably justify such discrimination.

In the case of United States v. Brignoni-Ponce, 422 US 873 (1975), the Court ruled unanimously that to

allow roving patrols the broad and unlimited discretion urged by the Government to stop all vehicles in the border area without any reason to suspect that they have violated any law, would not be “reasonable” under the Fourth Amendment.

In other words, before the Border Patrol can detain individuals attempting to cross the border, they must have at a minimum reasonable suspicion that the individuals are attempting to enter or remain in the country illegally. And this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Any person who is in the United States, whether legally or not, is entitled to full rights under the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. The Constitution and Bill of Rights are express limitations on our government, not licenses to citizens. They define the limited circumstances under which the government can do something to a person within her jurisdiction, regardless of whether that person is a citizen, legal resident, or illegal immigrant.

Does the Bill of Rights apply to non-citizens? The answer is an overwhelming Yes.

Follow-up: Please read the article “Revisiting the Constitution and non-citizens” for a more in-depth look at this topic.

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With all this talk about H1N1, what is being missed?

Unfortunately H1N1 has claimed another life:

Article: “Kansas Man, 75, Dies From H1N1 Flu

And this recent death is in line with what I’ve been hearing about H1N1: if you’re in good health, you have nothing about which to worry. Save the vaccines for those at greatest risk.

Why are we a society so concerned about getting sick? It seems that in some households, children are inhaling more Lysol than oxygen. Have we lost touch with common sense? (Wait… on second thought, don’t answer that.)

Trust me, there are diseases out there that are much, much more troublesome than H1N1. Here’s my question: with all of this focus on H1N1, why are we not hearing anything about the rising measles problem in the United States? I guarantee you that measles is a much bigger problem than H1N1, and it’s a problem that is unfortunately growing.

In 1994 the World Health Organization declared that the United Kingdom no longer had an endemic strain of measles, which means that all cases of measles were the result of importation: someone contracting measles elsewhere and bringing it into the UK. The United States would receive a similar declaration 6 years later in 2000.

As a result of the declaration, vaccination of children with the MMR triple vaccine slowed to the point where health officials warned that chains of infection could now be sustainable. Further complicating matters regarding vaccination would the 1998 publication in the journal The Lancet of the since widely discredited study that supposedly showed a link between the MMR vaccine and autism.

Again, that study has since been widely discredited and the official consensus in the global medical community is this: the MMR vaccine does not cause nor aggravate autism.

As a result of misconduct and ethics violations related to the study, Andrew Wakefield has been stripped of his license to practice medicine in the United Kingdom and is completely discredited in the medical community. In 2004 several of the researchers linked to the Wakefield study would publish a retraction of their findings.

But the damage was done. Suspicions and fears would be confirmed in 2008, where it was declared by British health officials that a strain of measles was once again endemic in the British population, according to the British newspaper The Independent.

And the case isn’t looking good for the United States.

Between January through April 2008, the United States had more cases of measles through just that 4-month period than was seen for entire years between 2000 and 2007. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would report in the August 22, 2008, report of their MMWR publication that there were 131 reported cases of measles between from January 1 to July 31, 2008. In 7 months, the United States would have more than twice as many measles cases as was typically seen for an entire year.

I have not been able to confirm a total number of cases for the entire year 2008, and the current number of cases of measles for 2009 is not available. I have contacted the CDC to see if this information is available and I will post the response when I receive it.

Measles was once a major health concern, and at the current trend, it will be once again, unless it can be arrested before it grows out of control. At the current rate, the United States is on track to the same situation the UK is currently facing: an endemic strain of measles resident in the population.

Measles is the most infectious virus currently known, second only to smallpox (now extinct except for lab samples). A person who is not immune to measles has greater than a 90% chance of contracting measles when exposed to the virus. And a carrier who aspirates (cough or sneeze) will have created a cloud of measles virus that is viable for up to two hours.

With all of the focus on H1N1 and seasonal influenza, why is no one talking about this? Personally, what I’m hearing about measles concerns me more, because it is a symptom of a greater problem.

If you are a parent, make sure your children’s vaccines are current.

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Maafa 21 – Quote-mining Darwin to forward a political agenda?

It’s not the first time it’s occurred…

But it’s pretty bad when I don’t have to see more than the first 10 minutes of the documentary Maafa 21 to know it’s likely full of crap. They quote-mine Charles Darwin, something until now I thought was typically the realm of the creationist, but thankfully they don’t bastardize the theory of evolution, only suggest it’s one more breeding ground for racism.

Anyway, here is a quote presented attributed to Charles Darwin, and mined from his work The Descent of Man, and Selections in Relation to Sex, published in 1871, not 1890 as the documentary contends (Darwin passed away April 19, 1882):

At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilized races of man will almost certainly exterminate, and replace, the savage races throughout the world…The break between man and his nearest allies will then be wider, for it will intervene between man in a more civilised state…and some ape as low as a baboon, instead of as now between the negro or Australian and the gorilla.

…and here is what Darwin actually says in his book (emphasis added to mark what was omitted):

At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilised races of man will almost certainly exterminate, and replace, the savage races throughout the world. At the same time the anthropomorphous apes, as Professor Schaaffhausen has remarked (18. ‘Anthropological Review,’ April 1867, p. 236.), will no doubt be exterminated. The break between man and his nearest allies will then be wider, for it will intervene between man in a more civilised state, as we may hope, even than the Caucasian, and some ape as low as a baboon, instead of as now between the negro or Australian and the gorilla.

So what is Darwin actually saying here? First of all, one must realize that Darwin is speaking in the language of a 19th century academic, so you cannot apply late 20th and early 21st century connotations to works written 120 years ago.

But to know exactly what Charles Darwin is saying, we need the quote in its full context (bold added to show the original quote from the documentary):

The great break in the organic chain between man and his nearest allies, which cannot be bridged over by any extinct or living species, has often been advanced as a grave objection to the belief that man is descended from some lower form; but this objection will not appear of much weight to those who, from general reasons, believe in the general principle of evolution. Breaks often occur in all parts of the series, some being wide, sharp and defined, others less so in various degrees; as between the orang and its nearest allies–between the Tarsius and the other Lemuridae–between the elephant, and in a more striking manner between the Ornithorhynchus or Echidna, and all other mammals. But these breaks depend merely on the number of related forms which have become extinct. At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilised races of man will almost certainly exterminate, and replace, the savage races throughout the world. At the same time the anthropomorphous apes, as Professor Schaaffhausen has remarked (18. ‘Anthropological Review,’ April 1867, p. 236.), will no doubt be exterminated. The break between man and his nearest allies will then be wider, for it will intervene between man in a more civilised state, as we may hope, even than the Caucasian, and some ape as low as a baboon, instead of as now between the negro or Australian and the gorilla.

They really left out a lot, didn’t they? Take a moment and read through it before I summarize it, and see if you agree with my summation.

Taken fully in context, Darwin’s words are talking about the evolution of life and man over time. He is addressing and responding to the criticisms of the theory of evolution, as it existed at the time he first published it and in the years immediately following, and the fact that the fossil record will never show a complete lineage of one species to another: the so-called “gaps” in the fossil record.

In the next paragraph, Darwin continues:

With respect to the absence of fossil remains, serving to connect man with his ape-like progenitors, no one will lay much stress on this fact who reads Sir C. Lyell’s discussion (19. ‘Elements of Geology,’ 1865, pp. 583-585. ‘Antiquity of Man,’ 1863, p. 145.), where he shews that in all the vertebrate classes the discovery of fossil remains has been a very slow and fortuitous process. Nor should it be forgotten that those regions which are the most likely to afford remains connecting man with some extinct ape-like creature, have not as yet been searched by geologists.

Again, Darwin is addressing his critics and the criticisms that the fossil record does not support his theory. This is one concern that many scientists today find themselves still trying to defend, despite the plethora of fossils that do, without any doubt, support a much more advanced version of evolutionary theory.

In fact, it’s been said that if Darwin were able to see the theory of evolution as it stands today, he would not recognize it, but he would, without a doubt, be completely mesmorized by it.

But one thing that is also without a doubt is that the quote that was mined from one of Darwin’s books had nothing to do with racism or advancing racism. It had everything to do with science, evolution, and addressing the endless supply of critics.

The speaker in the documentary also makes one big implication from the full title of Charles Darwin’s famous book The Origin of Species. The full title is this: On the Origin of Species, by means of Natural Selection; or, The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. Their implication is that the title was shortened to avoid political issues.

This is partly true. The title was originally shortened in future editions because the original title is quite long. As the book and its ideas were discussed, it tended to be referred to by its better-known shorter title. Now as language changed over time, the shorter title became preferred as the use of the phrase “favoured races” certainly would have been controversial, and a scientific text explaining a theory has no place in political or social arenas.

One thing that few realize is that before negative connotations became associated with the word “race”, that word tended to be used interchangeably with either “species” or “breeds”. By the phrase “preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life”, Darwin means the same as another common interpretation of natural selection, “survival of the fittest”.

Further, the documentary tries to tie Darwin to eugenics, the bastardization of evolution by Darwin’s half-cousin Francis Galton. Eugenics is based on an argument, born in 1865 by Galton, that statistical analysis showed that moral and mental traits could be inherited (only partly true, according to more modern research) and that principles of animal breeding could apply to humans.

While Darwin agreed that compassion for the less fortunate, weak, and sick in society plays against natural selection and the population benefits natural selection provides, he also said that withholding such compassion and aid could endanger us further by “breeding away” (my words, not Darwin’s) the instinct of sympathy and our willingness to educate each other, two things which have, undoubtedly, advanced human civilization much faster and farther than the forces of evolution alone could have taken us.

If I can point out these falsehoods in the documentary even before it has lapsed 10 minutes, what else might I find if I were to analyze the entire 2:20 minutes of footage and commentary? Given just this, the rest of the documentary should obviously be taken with a grain of salt and a hurricane’s air of skepticism — i.e. research what they present and see how accurate it is for yourself.

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Where are our priorities?

I’m wondering more and more where our priorities have gone. Look around and you will find…

…advisers telling individuals to not spend far beyond their means, as that is a surefire way to get into trouble, but we have a government which does this and more, and the people not only don’t question that practice, they call it “good”.

…individuals more concerned about whether they will have money today than whether they will have it tomorrow.

…individuals expecting someone, even the government, to be the insurer of last resort against their bad decisions.

…individuals more immediately concerned with the actions and views of others which have no bearing on their well-being than the actions of others that do.

…individuals feeling that their disagreements should result in the vacation of landmark Supreme Court rulings and new laws proscribing actions with which they disagree without fully examining the ramifications of such proscriptions.

…individuals referring to peaceful dissent and protest by millions of Americans as “illegitimate”, “astroturfing”, “anti-government”, yet violent protest that results in arrests, bodily harm, and property damage is called “legitimate”.

…lawsuits that result in 6- and 7-figure damages because individuals will not exercise self-restraint and personal responsibility.

…individuals and organizations blaming a particular scientific theory for all the ills of the world, while actively using deceitful and dishonest tactics to see the removal of said theory from public education for the preservation of “morality”.

…voters more concerned about whether a politician will pander to their particular political ideology than whether those same politicians will uphold and act only within the boundaries established by the Constitution.

Christopher Hitchens, in a lecture he gave before the University of Toronto, talked about how people, both Americans and Canadians alike, were willing to allow their personal freedoms to be eroded to avoid pissing off Muslims. In response to that observation, he asked a single, pointed question, “Where are your priorities, ladies and gentlemen?”

Pat Condell, another famous British atheist, famous for his uninhibited attacks on Muslims and Islam, has said in a video posted to YouTube on March 8, 2008, that we do not own the freedom we have, we are custodians of it and it is not ours to give away. It was earned for us with the blood and sweat of those who pre-date all of us.

Both men were talking about how we seem to be willingly giving up our freedom, and it is something that other parties are catering to and hoping will continue. We cannot let this happen.

We have much personal liberty and freedom, but with it comes the necessity of responsibility. There is no way around this. When you negate your own personal responsibility, you necessarily negate your own liberty. You cannot have one without the other.

You are responsible for your own liberty. So where are your priorities?

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I’m really starting to hate Tuesdays

Here’s my typical route to work: US-169 SB transition to I-70 EB for a 1/4 mi before merging to US-71 SB en route to Bannister Rd. Typical travel time: 20 min on a good morning, 25 to 30 typically.

This morning: accident on US-169 SB before I-70, accident on I-70 EB before the US-71 transition, plus accident on I-35 SB around the new bridge. So my main route *and* alternate route were backed up… Luckily I was able to divert to MO-9 SB to avoid the 169 accident, but I couldn’t avoid the I-70 accident. Travel time: 45 min, and I was 10 min late for a meeting I was hosting.

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“Reduce your debt”? Bullshit.

You’ve probably seen ads all over the place saying “you can reduce your debt and settle for a fraction of what you owe”. Some even go so far as to call this a “right”. I’ve been doing a lot of research on debt and debt collection laws, and let me tell you that you are being misled by them.

If you have a debt account that is in the hands of a debt collector, you can certainly negotiate a settlement, and that settlement can be for a fraction of the balance. But they don’t have to accept your offer. Standard laws and rules regarding contracts come into play here.

Don’t be misled into thinking that you can offer to settle a $10,000 debt for $5,000 and the debt collectors must accept that offer. They don’t.

And they typically will not accept it unless you’re including a check for $5,000 along with your offer or you provide some other kind of consideration in the offer, such as a short payment schedule (read: 1 or 2 fiscal quarters at most, depending on the balance). Of course about the only thing you can offer is a lump sum or accelerated payment schedule.

They don’t have to reverse any assessed interest and penalties, reduce or eliminate the interest rate, allow for a reduced monthly payment, or any of the other glorious and sensational claims that some of these “debt consolidation” and “debt relief” firms are spouting. Again, the only way they’ll do any of that is if you offer something in return that they find appetizing, such as a short payment schedule or a lump sum payment.

Instead if you have accounts that are with debt collectors, do some research so you know what your rights actually are.

For example if you are receiving a first communication from a debt collector regarding an account, one tool that might stop them cold is called debt validation [15 USC 1692g(b)], but you have a limited amount of time to exercise this right. I could probably write a long, long dissertation on what your rights are with regard to debt collection (yes, I’m that well read on the topic), and given how much misinformation is out there, I just might consider it.

Here is the reality behind debt collection.

First, a debt collector cannot sue you without first contacting you attempting to collect on a debt. After that initial contact, you can send a debt validation request to them (if you want a hand in drafting one of these, let me know), but they must receive it within 30 days after you receive their initial communication by mail. The 30-day clock doesn’t start with the first phone call, only the first mailed communication, and the clock doesn’t begin until you receive it.

After that 30 day period, the debt collector can assume the debt is valid and can pursue it further. But the actions they take must be within the boundaries stipulated first by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), second by any applicable State laws. Other State laws and local ordinances may come into play with regard to collection activities.

So step 1 after receiving an initial communication from a debt collector is this: send a validation request, and try to send it within two weeks after receiving that initial letter. In that validation request, include this statement:

I request in accordance with 15 USC 1692c(a) that you not attempt to contact me at my place of employment, as my employer does not allow such communications, nor should you attempt to contact me at any time or place, except in writing, as no other time or place is convenient.

Absent that statement (which must be provided in writing to have any legal effect), they can contact you by phone only between 8am and 9pm for your timezone, or they can confront you publicly, such as by physically showing up at your home or place of employment. They cannot, however, confront you at any “unusual” place, and if they confront you publicly, other local and state laws come into play, and they are still restricted by the 8am to 9pm time block.

With this statement, they cannot contact by by phone or confront you publicly without permission from the Court. Note that they can still confront you publicly to serve you with papers for a lawsuit, but they cannot do anything more than that without permission from the Court.

And if you read around about debt validation, you might find some sites that provide lengthy letters requesting all kinds of information while claiming that all of that information must be provided or the debt is not considered validated. Bullshit.

To validate the debt, the collector must show only a small amount of information. In Chaudhry v. Gallerizzo, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit adopted a relatively lenient standard:

Verification of a debt involves nothing more than the debt collector confirming in writing that the amount being demanded is what the creditor is claiming is owed; the debt collector is not required to keep detailed files of the alleged debt. [174 F.3d 394 (4th Cir. 1999)]

In Clark v. Capital Credit & Collection Servs., the Ninth Circuit adopted the same standard [460 F.3d 1162 (9th Cir. 2006)]. At a minimum, the debt must be confirmed with the original creditor, and to satisfy a validation request, many collectors will attempt to obtain and provide the last statement for the account, and their ability to obtain that statement also verifies that they are authorized to collect the debt. One debt collector with whom I’m currently under a payment agreement provided a two-year statement history in response to a validation request.

Of course, keep detailed and accurate records of all communications, written or otherwise, between you and the collector. If they confront you publicly and you have a cell phone with a camera, use it. Anything you mail to the debt collector should be sent via Certified Mail, return receipt is your choice, but recommended if you are sending a settlement offer. Be sure to photocopy or digitally scan and save the Certified Mail receipt.

If you retain an attorney to represent you in regard to the debt or all of your debts, and you or the attorney informs them you have retained counsel, the debt collector cannot contact you directly. All communication must be tunneled through the attorney.

And bear in mind that they can sue you at any time after that 30-day statutory period has lapsed.

The best way to defend yourself against debt collectors is by knowing your rights. Practically all debt collectors bank on you not knowing what your rights are under federal and state laws. They may also bank on you not knowing what a debt collector can and cannot do. And if they do sue you, they bank on you not showing up so they can get a default judgment.

And while you’re at it, look up your state’s laws or send a letter to your Attorney General asking what maximum amount can be garnished from your wages, just in case they threaten a lawsuit. Knowing that number in relation to what you make could give you some leverage in negotiating with them, but never tell any debt collector how much you make.

But knowing your rights is the best way to knock a debt collector on their ass while keeping them on their toes at the same time. Don’t be misled into thinking that you have a “right” to settle your debts for fractions on the dollar, because you don’t. It doesn’t matter if you owe $1,000, $10,000 or $50,000, you don’t have any right to settle it for any amount. You can attempt to settle it, but you don’t have a right to settle it because they don’t have to accept any offer you make.

Oh, and one last little bit: if you settle a debt for more than $600 less than what is owed, the remainder is treated as income and is taxable. One thing to keep in mind when you start drafting settlement offers. Note that the $600 applies to only one debt and is not cumulative across all of your debts.

And one last note: any payments you send to a debt collector should always be by money order or cashier’s check.

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Madeline, you are not alone

FoxNews: Deliberations to Begin in Wisconsin Dad’s Faith-Healing Death Trial

I am not a religious person. Anyone who knows me is aware of this. However when someone makes an irrational decision based either in entirety or in plurality on their religious beliefs, I become visibly and justifiably angered.

Such was the case last year when I, like much of the rest of the nation, learned of the death of 11 year-old Madeline Kara Neumann. I became visibly angered reading of this case to the point where I was shedding tears reading about it — because I know she’s not alone.

Madeline died from juvenile onset diabetes. It is relatively easy to bring under control, but it requires medical attention to do so. Madeline’s parents refused to seek medical treatment for her on account of their religious beliefs. This was the frustrating part: Madeline had no say in whether she would be taken to the ER. The medical attention she desperately needed and her body visibly craved was withheld because her parents felt it would go against their religious beliefs.

Madeline’s parents were charged with “reckless homicide” with her death. Her mother, Leilani Neumann, was convicted in May, and her father’s fate is currently before a jury.

I’ve encountered quite a number of cases of children who’ve died because their religiously-motivated parents refused to seek medical attention. In all of the cases I’ve read, the most common cause of death is…. juvenile onset diabetes.

Madeline’s case overshadowed the case of 15 month old Ava Worthington of Oregon City, Oregon, who died March 2, 2008, from complications of pneumonia along with a blood infection. Ava’s parents were charged with her death, but were acquitted.

Oregon faced some major embarrassment in 1998 when an investigation revealed that hundreds of children, if not more, had died due to religious exemption laws. Most of the offenders in Oregon belonged to the Followers of Christ Church, of which Ava Worthington parents’ were members. In light of this, Oregon’s state legislature acted quickly to remove “religion defense” from its books, as with that defense in place, Oregon was near-powerless to act on hundreds of cases they had discovered. Had they acted, it would’ve resulted in the waste of a lot of taxpayer dollars on a lot of cases that would’ve knowingly resulted in acquittal.

What prompted the investigation? The death of an 11 year-old child from… juvenile onset diabetes.

Along with Followers of Christ, other churches and religious organizations have been implicated in the deaths of other children. I’ve seen one popular religious organization labeled as the worse offender in this regard: the First Church of Christ, Scientist, also known as Christian Science. They actually run hospices where your only medicine is prayer. Look up the case of 12 year-old Elizabeth Ashley King to learn how good those places are.

So if Oregon had closed the loopholes in 1998, how was it that Ava’s parents were acquitted? After all, the Worthingtons were legally prohibited from offering their religious beliefs as an affirmative defense. What happened? The jury sympathized with the parents.

Oregon corrected their problem. Unfortunately, legislative response is not enough, as Oregon has also shown. The only thing a legislative response can do is ensure that those charged with letting their children die will have one less defense. So what needs to happen to prevent on a further scale tragedies like Ava and Madeline?

For those of you who are religious who happen to be reading this, no I’m not so atheistic extremist that I want to see religion outlawed. Only certain aspects of religion need to go, and the parents need to understand that medical attention is necessary in certain situations. It can even be phrased in a religious context: God has already given us the ability to heal your children, so you don’t need to ask Him for help when help is literally a phone call away.

It’s similar to another anecdote I’ve seen others use as an analogy in regard to Madeline’s case. A man was trapped on his home while flood waters were rising around him. Three times rescue was attempted, and three times he turned everyone away, saying, “Don’t worry. God will help me.” When the waters become too much and he drowns, he asks God, “Why did you not help me?” God replies, “I tried three times to help you, and you three times said No.”

In one episode of Futurama, “God” tells Bender something similar to this: a God who has too much influence will cause his creation to become dependent upon him, whereas one who does too little will have a creation of non-believers. Only a gentle touch is needed. And any believer should recognize that it is only this gentle touch that is given, meaning God will not give you what you can already obtain on your own.

Now many have said that these cases fall within a person’s religious freedoms, that if a parent’s religion commands that they pray instead of seeking medical help, then it is not only their freedom to do so, it is their duty. Thankfully the Courts have disagreed in States where religion cannot be used as a defense to child neglect or negligent homicide charges. Unfortunately too many States still have such laws on the books, and they need to be repealed.

Your religious freedom ends where another person’s right to live begins. You do not have the right to compromise the health of your child by refusing to seek medical attention simply because your religion commands it. As the number of cases of which I’ve read, along with the number of cases Oregon authorities discovered in 1998 can attest, prayer does not work!!! If it did, Madeline, Ava, and thousands of other children would still be alive!

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