Oafish O’Connor orders obedience or ouster
Disputes over the propriety of God being removed from Invocations at Legislative District 28 meetings was first reported in this post in early December. The matter has now escalated, with a petty letter sent by Chairman Scott O’Connor to Precinct Committeeman Rob Haney. A popular former two-term Maricopa County Republican Chairman, Haney also previously served as the district’s chairman.
Scott O’Connor’s January 8, 2014 threatening letter to Haney:
I appreciate your right to disagree, and I gave you plenty of opportunities to do so last night.
However, your tendency to interrupt and play games with the chair and the agenda is a pattern that must end. If you do it again, you will be removed.
Adding vocal God Bless and Amens during a moment of silence clearly vocalized your opposition to the suspension of formal prayer at the meeting, but not in a respectful way or time. Do it again and you will be removed.
Personally, I don’t really care if we have the prayers or not, but the executive committee and I are respecting the wishes of those who are offended by the practice.
I will respect you when you start showing some respect. If you want to change a policy, request it formally and it will be considered, but do not disrupt the meeting again with your antics. Maybe you should attend the classes at the Center for Self Governance on how to be more effective in your engagement with political officials.
Scott H. O’Connor
Rob Haney’s January 9, 2014 response to O‘Connor:
I am taking the liberty of publishing our exchange of emails in an open forum because I view removal of the Invocation from our LD 28 meetings at the sole discretion of the executive board as a continuance of the attack on religion in our country. Other districts need to be made aware of how easily they can lose the rights they took for granted through the actions of a few anonymous complaints brought to a receptive executive board. To have a universally accepted, decades long practice within the Republican Party ended by fiat of the executive board without even debate or a vote of the body, is the height of arrogance and is reminiscent of Obama’s executive orders.
I would suggest to other LDs that they take preventative action, possibly through a bylaw addition which states that the Invocation and Pledge cannot be remove from the opening proceedings of a district meeting without a vote of the LD precinct committeemen.
And, although it should not be necessary to tell you in advance of a motion to be offered in the next meeting to rescind the executive board’s edict to do away with the invocation, please add that motion to your agenda.
Now to your other points:
1) I find it disingenuous that after the meeting you took the time to compliment me on adding to the debate, but now you are critical of my doing so.
2) You state that I have a tendency to interrupt and play games with the chair and the agenda and if I do so again, I will be removed. Responsible citizenship requires objections to unilateral dictates. Also, when you began the meeting with an uncalled for ad hominem attack on Russell Pearce, I felt it necessary to call you on it since you had called this unscheduled meeting to discuss the resolutions, not to attack the sponsors of the resolutions. This action was uncalled for and unprofessional. In your call letter you stated that we were going to discuss “no less than 11 resolutions put forth by Russell Pearce.” That statement alone was denigrating and you proceeded to expound upon it at the meeting. To those of us who admire and respect Russell Pearce for his long record of unselfish service to our state and country, the attack was a “red flag,” warranting immediate rebuttal.
3) You state that you do not care if we have the prayer or not but you and the executive committee were respecting the wishes of those who were offended by the practice. You appear to have been biased in favor of removal to begin with or you would have brought the matter before the body of PCs for open discussion and a vote. My guess is that you have offended far more by removing the Invocation without a discussion than were offended by its inclusion.
4) The Preamble to the Republican Platform ends with the sentence, “May God continue to shed his grace on the United States of America.” Do you and the executive committee of LD 28 now place yourselves above the Republican Platform?
5) Your last attack paragraph is too immature to warrant a response.
More from O’Connor:
I chastise you in private, for a legitimate reason, and you go off on a crusade with a list of secret trolls. And you want me to favor your requests? Seriously? You represent everything that is wrong with the Arizona GOP.
So how about sending me your list so that I can defend myself and the LD?
The letter I sent you was shared only with the executive committee, who was involved in the policy discussion. I decided not to call you out during the meeting, as that would have veered off the agenda and caused too much of a distraction. Your other input during the meeting, when you were called on, was as welcome as anyone else’s. It was that input I referred to at the end of the meeting.
Scott H. O’Connor
You want my email roster? Lots of luck.
It has been sent to hundreds of email addresses but I would not post email addresses to be picked up by a junk mail gatherer.
From: Precinct Committeeman Florence Smith
To: Rob Haney
Sent: Sunday, January 12, 2014 8:29 PM
Subject: Re: Disruption of LD 28 meetings
This is Florence here.
Thank you for your stand and your letter to Scott. I wrote him also. I am attaching the letters below in case any of it can add to your case.
Part of my first email said:
Both this meeting and the last one were started without prayer. (I wasn’t at the June meeting, since my husband was in the hospital; so I am not sure about that meeting.) I know some people just see it as a formality, but as a Christian I feel we presently need more prayer not less. I have always seen it as a good way to open the meetings asking for God’s guidance. If we make efforts to do things in a way pleasing to God, the results should be better than promoting our own agendas. I sincerely hope that we can have the prayer back in future meetings.
Scott O’Connor replied:
Thanks, Florence. We have several pc’s who have requested we do not offer prayers at the LD meetings since we are doing government work and not religious work, separating the two as per the Constitution. I respect their requests. Several other pc’s have asked, and been upset with my answer. My suggestion is that those who wish to pray do so in silence or before coming to the meeting. This issue has been discussed with our executive committee and we are in agreement on the matter.
On Nov 4, 2013, Florence Smith wrote the following to Scott O‘Connor:
Actually if you read the Constitution there is nothing stating the separation of church and state. That was a quote taken from a letter of Thomas Jefferson’s to the Danbury Baptist association. His letter used the term the separation of church and state to show that it protected the church from the state (not the other way around).
During the Constitutional Convention of 1787 when delegates had failed to reach an agreement, Ben Franklin stated, “I therefore beg leave to move that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business.”
Both the Senate and the House are opened each day with prayer. Both bodies have chaplains. The Founding Fathers prayed publicly while drafting our Constitution and its Bill of Rights. Prayer is included as part of the presidential inauguration. Each session of the Supreme Court opens with “God save the United Sates and this honorable court.”
As a Judeo-Christian country we have offered a lot of tolerance in our country. There is no one in our country that will be put in jail or be told they can’t have a job because they are Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, etc. Yet in atheistic, Muslim, and socialist countries as a Christian you can be jailed, banned from working, or even killed. We need to see the value of what the faith of our founders has made this country into. Noah Webster said, “No truth is more evident than that the Christian religion must be the basis of any government intended to secure the rights and privileges of a free people.”
Ronald Reagan said, “…prayer is one of the few things in this world that hurts no one and sustains the spirit of millions.”
George Washington stated, “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness.”
He also stated, “It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor.”
The Supreme Court ruling of 1983 clearly affirmed the right of legislative bodies to open sessions with prayer. The justices said that such prayer was in keeping with the history and tradition of this country.
I would hope that you would take these facts into consideration.
Scott O’Connor replied:
Florence, the issue is in the federal and state courts again, and is not settled. I will forward an article on the subject. For me, religion is intensely personal, and I do not appreciate those who must demonstrate theirs while I am attending and event for another purpose. Sorry I do not agree with you on this.
Florence Smith responded:
Pat and I plan to attend the next meeting, and if there is a motion to keep prayer in the meetings we will vote for it.