Human Rights in the Dominican

The following is adapted from a sermon I gave on Friday, January 29, 2016 at the Reform Temple of Forest Hills, my synagogue. It reflects in words and pictures the powerful experience I had in the Dominican Republic to challenge the bigotry that exists forcing Dominicans of Haitian Descent into losing their nationality and even their homeland and my amazing opportunity to work with AJWS to challenge it. (Photos look best on computer over a handheld device)

BaseballIt was the Dominican Republic championships. The season of baseball in baseball crazed DR had come to down a best of 9 – yes, a 9 game – playoffs between the two powerhouse Santo Domingo teams – the Tigers and the Lions. On our only evening off during my trip with AJWS, five of us had managed to somehow get tickets.

Because both teams share Juan Marichal Stadium, the fans were divided into sides of blue and red at home plate. The rivalry was strong and we enjoyed empanadas in our seats and an intense game of béisbol.

It was 4-4 in the 6th inning. As I watched the collection of peripheral major leaguers, minor league prospects, and local standouts, I couldn’t help but think of another baseball player: Ignacio Gabriel.2 Baseball Stadium

3 IgnacioIgnacio doesn’t have a baseball card or a ranking as a prospect. He was a 17-year-old I had met a few days earlier. Ignacio was charming, confident, and friendly. The youngest of 4 brothers, his family was too poor to send him school and so he worked thanklessly in the sugar cane fields. But he had a passion. He loved baseball. And he was good. His right handed power arm caught scouts attention and at 14-years-old he was signed by the San Diego Padres to their Dominican training camps. This was a lifeline for his family. The meager signing bonus allowed him to provide food and clothing to his family. His fastball kept getting better and touched 94 MPH. Everything was unfolding like a dream for Ignacio. Except one thing. Ignacio didn’t have his official identity card. Continue reading

The Boy Scouts of America’s Bigotry

This is my sermon from Friday night at Congregation B’nai Tzedek in Fountain Valley, CA. I should have said this a while ago.

“Please accept my resignation. I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept people like me as a member.” Groucho Marx famously opined this in response to being inducted in the Friar’s Club. This week when the Boy Scouts of America affirmed their policy that gay scouts and gay adult leaders were not welcome in the Boy Scouts, Groucho’s words ran through my head.

What do we do about the troubling issue of the Boy Scouts of America and their rejection of all gay people? The BSA is synonymous with the best of our youth. Boy Scouts tie knots, earn badges, help old ladies across the street, and are generally known for helping people as in the retort, “What are you, some kind of boy scout?”[1]

Since their founding in 1910, the Boy Scouts have long been heavily influence by Christianity. Today the Mormons are the largest financial backer of the BSA. Although the troops are not religiously run, the organization encourages religious observance and study including faith based pins and badges and scout sabbaths. The Scout Law requires scouts to be, among other things, trustworthy, loyal, brave, and reverent. [2] Such religious influence has meant that atheists and agnostics have not been welcome as scouts since their founding saying “The Boy Scouts of America maintains that no member can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing an obligation to God.”[3]

A traditional religious undertone of scouting and their backers makes anti-gay policies a natural outcome. As gay rights became a greater national issue, the BSA found itself clarifying its position. In 1991, they shared, “We believe that homosexual conduct is inconsistent with the requirement in the Scout Oath that a Scout be
morally straight and in the Scout Law that a Scout be clean in word and deed, and that homosexuals do not provide a desirable role model for Scouts.”[4] Law suits followed and in 2000 the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, declared that as a private organization the Boy Scouts had the right to determine their own criteria for membership.

Continue reading