Archive for April, 2015

A Visit with Noam

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On April 10, I met with Noam Chomsky for 1/2 hour at MIT in Boston. Starting in the 1980s, I knew that he had been following the Quixote Center for many years, with special interest in our work in Nicaragua. Before going to Boston for the Catholic Organizations for Renewal meeting, I decided to ask for a meeting with Noam. Although most requests of this kind are refused, and considering the short timeframe, Noam’s response was “I want to meet her.”

Our meeting was warm and refreshingly candid. I shared with him our “Homes of Hope” plan for a sustainable home building program in Nicaragua and our latest QC Chronicles and annual report. I pointed out, with special pride, the offshoots of the Center over the last 40 years. He asked if we were still in touch with the groups, likely asking if the separations were amicable or turbulent. My answer was, yes, we are still in touch, if the organizations still exist. He was also curious to know if we were still in touch with members of the Sandinista government. Answer: “No.”

Noam has been to Nicaragua a number of times. I shared with him the pain the Center experienced following Bill Callahan’s final months and his death, along with the pride I now feel that the Center is back on its feet with strong, vibrant programs in Nicaragua and Haiti.

His assistant, Bev, after a ten minute extension of our allotted time, marched into the office with a bowl of soup for Noam’s lunch, insisting that the meeting was over. “Ok, Ok, it’s time for me to go – right now…” A photo, hugs, and warm handshakes, and I was gone.

Bev walked me to the elevator with her dog who goes to work with her. Noam is lucky to have her. She’s smart and smart-assed, funny, tough and a softie.

When I returned to DC and sent my bread and butter letter, Noam wrote back, “It was a real pleasure to have a chance to talk.  Can’t tell you how much I’ve admired the work of the Center over the years.”

Enough said.

-Dolly Pomerleau

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A Green Spring

The Jean Marie Vincent Formation Center is a sea of green right now. That’s because the technicians have successfully planted and nurtured a new crop of young trees for distribution to local farmers, the Green Schools Network, and the model forest on Tet Mon. The trees in these images are scheduled for planting between June and August of this year, when the supply of water should be most consistent.

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The Meaning of Religious Freedom

The roots of the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (1993) were a surprisingly bipartisan effort to offer protection for Native American religious traditions in particular. The purpose of that act was to prevent government from burdening individuals ability to practice their religion even if that burden resulted from a generally applicable rule. It laid out exemptions to ensure that if indeed a burden was inevitable to guarantee a “compelling government issue” (generally core constitutional rights) then that burden was the least restrictive way to implement the required law. Indiana, Arkansas and other states that passed similar laws in recent weeks have in most cases expanded the law in legally significant ways.

One the most significant differences was in language that grants religious beliefs to private corporations and LLCs. This is a growing trend, as witnessed in the Hobby Lobby decision by the Supreme Court in 2014, which allowed the company to refuse coverage for contraception for its employees based on the religious beliefs of its owners. The growing legal propensity to grant rights traditionally reserved for individuals to corporations and private companies seems to be the culmination of neoliberal economic policies. Opponents of these policies are pushing back against these trends and their voices are gaining traction as the impact of decisions like Citizens United is being felt.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) who introduced the federal RFRA bill with former Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) in 1993 has spoken out against the Indiana law saying it does not resemble the “intent or application” of the federal RFRA. The portion of the bill that has gotten the most press is of course those businesses who object to being a part of same-sex marriages. The distinction here, as in the Hobby Lobby case, is in how the religious beliefs of some are imposed on others. The original law gave no power to individuals to refuse service to others who did not share their beliefs.

The Quixote Center joins other progressive faith based organizations in encouraging Indiana Governor Pence to reform the law to ensure it is not allowed to be used in an oppressive or discriminatory manner. Governor Hutchinson of Arkansas has refused to sign the bill he was scheduled to sign last week, encouraging legislators to frame the law closer to the federal version. We hope to see the same in Indiana.

 

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Contact Us

  • Quixote Center
    7307 Baltimore Ave.
    Ste 214
    College Park, MD 20740
  • Office: 301-699-0042
    Email: info@quixote.org

Direction to office:

For driving: From Baltimore Ave (Route 1) towards University of Maryland, turn right onto Hartwick Rd. Turn immediate right in the office complex.

Look for building 7307. We are located on the 2nd floor.

For public transportation: We are located near the College Park metro station (green line)