Crosses on ASU helmets (follow-up)

Several people have asked me:  “if ASU was correct on the Constitution in the first place, why did they change their position and allow the crosses on the football players’ helmets?”

The University’s entire statement, for the first time, confirms it was ASU that organized, paid for, and put the crosses on the helmets – which was the greater constitutional violation. 

ASU’s public statement says they will let players do the same thing voluntarily – in compliance with NCAA standards – which was what everyone thought was the case in the first place, and which the lawyers for the Liberty Institute (which threated to sue ASU) alleged.

My guess is that the lawyers for both sides also reached a non-public understanding … that if lawyers on the other side of the issue (like the Freedom From Religion Foundation or the ACLU) challenges this compromise … that the Liberty Institute will pay for all the associated legal costs and matters.

As I explained to kids on Constitution Day, you only have to answer for your actions when you are called out on it.  ASU did the right thing; in the first place, and now. 

Meanwhile, both the Constitution’s religious liberty (the government cannot pick a religion for us) – and the religious equality it protects (no one religion is superior to another under the law) – remain intact.

Now, many ASU fans don’t much care about the constitutional nuance … they are just happy that the football team can now voluntarily put the cross memorial stickers on their helmets. 

Me too.

Are You Used By 21st Century Robber Barons?

By Cathy Travis, 25 year Capitol Hill veteran

Author, Constitution Translated for Kids

Are you manipulated by billionaires for their financial benefit?

Billionaires have co-opted many patriots in this country by creating fake news sites that good people believe and share.

Billionaire corporations have co-opted more functions of government since the late 1990s/early 2000s, convincing government to pay them to do the same work (in defense, homeland security, energy, health, etc.)

That lets Congress give the illusion that government is “smaller” - while making it more expensive to taxpayers, lucrative to billionaires, and less accountable to taxpayers and elected representatives. 

With a gigantic financial stake in the operations of government, billionaires need a mass audience to support their corporate view.  The proliferation ofnot-news sites spawned a new word:  astroturfing – masking the sponsors of a message.

To see if an organization is weighted politically, see how they get their money.  Usually the “about” page on a website will hint at it.  When billionaires are behind it, it never mentions it.

There are billionaires on the political left and right, contributing directly to candidates.  Many, many more are on the political right, hidden from public view (by the Supreme Court), lurking behind not-news sites to manipulate people.

Here’s a quick sampling of news and not-news sites; plus their longevity, political affiliations, and credibility (based on who pays the bills.) Hint: when they are brand new and they don’t say who’s paying them, billionaires and their corporations pay for them.

The explosion of crappy research about issues, are the tools of billionaires to manipulate people … people whose confidence they win by miming support on social issues (gays, guns, and abortion).  Given that commonality on social issues, billionaires manipulate people into believing their economic and political crap.

Those good people then rarely question the billionaires’ manipulation about economics, matters of government … and the Constitution.

Nobody has time to vet the funding source of all they read.  Billionaires depend entirely on that. Just running through the orgs listed in the link above, one thing is certain:  these are just a tiny taste.  There are thousands of organizations now spouting not-news, and every month there will be thousands more.

Here’s an example of good reporting.  Using the company’s own documents,Mother Jones, a liberal magazine, took issue with the duplicity of Hobby Lobby in 2012 to start denying 4 types of birth control to employees. 

Whether or not you like HL’s corporate personnel decisions, Mother Jonesmakes their point in this story via Hobby Lobby’s own corporate tax documents.  It’s a liberal magazine, but the information in this story is also credible, using HL’s own corporate records. 

Being labeled liberal or conservative does not mean all of the stories are wrong.  When they provide actual evidence (not just linking to other blogs that share their opinion) in their stories – and are transparent about who pays for them – they can sometimes be a credible source of information.

The nation’s venerable TV news networks (major networks ABC, CBS, NBC) are neither conservative nor liberal, and are paid for by corporate ads in their entertainment divisions.  More often than not, they fear appearing to side with liberals or conservatives … whatever the evidence is. 

People are often suspicious of TV networks – trusting a reporter on an individual story one at a time.

While a poll recently found Fox the “most respected” news source, the same poll found them the “least trusted.”  That’s because the large number of Americans – who rely primarily on other news sources – do not trust them, illustrating again the partisan separation of news and not-news.

I have loved journalism (the pursuit of truth) all my life.  Been so sad for a while about the dearth … or maybe death … of it. 

Like Congress and the courts, journalism – once called the “Fourth Estate” – has been largely hijacked by billionaires for their financial benefit.


Cathy Travis, a 25 year veteran of communications on Capitol Hill, left Congress in 2008.  An independent since 2001, she is an author of both fiction and nonfiction.

Christians and the Constitution

In advance of Constitution Day, my alma mater in my hometown offers a timely lesson on the Constitution.

Several football players at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro, AR, wanted to remember a teammate and an equipment manager who passed recently.

A leadership group of ASU football players decided to make and wear a cross with the initials of the players, to be worn voluntarily.  Great young men, creating a sweet remembrance for their friends.

They weren’t lawyers and didn’t recognize there was a small constitutional violation by mixing a religious symbol with a state-sponsored activity (football at a state university).

A lawyer pointed that out to University lawyers, and Arkansas State University did exactly the right thing:  they promptly removed the crosses from players’ helmets.

ASU could have fought about it, they could have made a legal case out of it and taken it all the way to the Supreme Court – and maybe the Justices would have created First Amendment freedoms for state institutions, as they did for the billionaire corporations recently.

But those fights cost money and energy.

ASU did the constitutionally correct thing … not the “politically correct” thing as so many people – in and out of Arkansas – are saying this week.

(I have no idea what “politically correct” means.  I think it means “stuff I disagree with,” but expect it means something different each time it’s said.)

But what of faith in this proud Bible Belt community?

Businesses and ASU football fans who felt their faith was given short shrift in this decision are making free T-shirts and other giveaways bearing the cross with the initials of former player Markel Owens  (killed in a home invasion) and former equipment manager Barry Weyer, Jr. (killed in a car accident).

Expect they will be the standard uniform for many ASU fans for the balance of the season.

Meanwhile, ASU football players have got to be smiling at the wrath their generosity of spirit has unleashed.  They can now focus on learning and football, with the community’s wind at their backs.

Everybody is weighing in on the matter, and people of faith are more than a little angry that ASU followed the Constitution on this matter, rather than fighting the constitutional provision in court.

As a Christian, I’m proud of the football players who wanted to remember their friends this way. 

As a patriot and ASU alumni, I’m proud that ASU acted quickly to be in compliance with the Constitution.

As a Christian and ASU alumni, I’m grateful that Markel Owens and Barry Weyer, Jr. are going to be known and remembered by many – many – more people than even their teammates thought possible.

All it took was the Constitution and committed Christians.


Religious Liberty 101

The Constitution’s Establishment Clause in the First Amendment says two things:  that religion must be separate from government (in this case meaning an entity – college – that gets government funding) … and that nobody is required to belong to a church.

Here’s the genius of our founders:  religious liberty works only if government stays out of the faith business. 

The Constitution made sure – 3 times – to ensure religion and government did not mix:

Article 6, Clause 3: "No religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States."

Plus … 2 Clauses in the 1st Amendment: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion. . . ." … and "Congress shall make no law . . . prohibiting the free exercise thereof."


Our national tug of war over the propriety of mixing prayer and religious symbols with governing has been with us since the beginning of the republic.

When our nation’s Founders gathered for the very first session of Congress after the Constitution was adopted, some delegates wanted to pray … to seek Divine guidance for this giant unique – national – endeavor.  Other delegates wanted to steer clear of a prayer, to be true to the religious liberty they’d just enshrined in their Constitution.

So … they talked about it.  Then they prayed.

Our Founders knew religious wars were a destructive force in nations from which they immigrated.  They didn’t want to repeat the mistakes of the old world … still, they bowed heads.

Our national contradiction over faith’s interaction with governmental matters has been with us since our founding. 

And still.

Cathy Travis, a 25 year veteran of Capitol Hill is an author of several books, including the acclaimed CONSTITUTION TRANSLATED FOR KIDS.  She is from Jonesboro, Arkansas, and is a graduate of Arkansas State University. 

The view from inside …

By Cathy Travis, 25 year veteran of Capitol Hill

Author, Constitution Translated for Kids

   One certainty in the babble after the government shutdown/brink of default is that citizens largely have no idea how Congress is supposed to work … the process of putting laws together.  Congress’ most basic job is to choose what to spend money on, and to pay those bills.

   The founders wanted the path to a law – to government spending – to be difficult and multi-tiered. 

   Congress is two parts:  a House of Representatives and a Senate.  House members serve for two years and represent populations in their states, as carved out by the state legislature.  Senators serve for six years and represent the entire state.

   There are two components for spending money:

    * permission to spend it (through the 18 authorization committees) and

    * actually spending it, (through the appropriations committee, which has 12 subcommittees, two of which are for defense spending).


   A bill must be authorized before it can be funded.  Bills begin in a subcommittee, where members hear testimony, and they improve on it.  Then they pass it along to the full committee, where they improve on it.

   Then it goes to the House Floor where members can amend it and vote on it.

   This is going on in the authorizing committees and appropriations committees in the House, largely at the same time.  This – THIS – is where the bulk of negotiations among members of Congress are conducted, where lobbyists have the broadest success.

   Meanwhile, the entire two-tier process is going on simultaneously in the Senate … with staffers on the appropriating committees and appropriations subcommittees staying in touch on what’s in bills from each body.

   Once bills have been passed out of the House and the Senate (they are never the same bill language), leaders in both chambers will appoint members to a “conference committee” that resolves the differences in bill language.  Identical bills are sent to both the House and the Senate for a final vote on it.

   When the final bill is passed in both House and Senate, it goes to the president for veto or signature.

   All appropriations bills are supposed to be passed by Oct 1 each year.  One of the things congressional staff/congressional correspondents refer to in keeping up with how many appropriations bills are finished is the “Status of Appropriations.”

   This is how it is supposed to look, a grid of who did what on each individual appropriations bill:

   Here is what it looks like now:

   The Hill community knows that all that white space at the top and the far right of the page represents a remarkable fiasco in how this Congress has failed at the most fundamental thing Congress is instructed to do by the Constitution.

   Already this is long and boring.  LOTS more nuance, but as an overview … that’s how Congress works.  Supposed to work.

   It’s messed up in the House because hyper-partisan redistricting heavily favors electing the most beyond-conservative members, which skews regular order and compromise in the House. 

   In the Senate, the self-imposed 60 vote rule to pass spending bills is undemocratic.  The nation’s Founders believed in majority rule.  To review, a majority is 51 in the 100-member Senate. Their 60-vote rule is not a constitutional requirement.  The Senate made that up.

   Of the two, the only body that could fix itself is the Senate.  The redistricting scheme now in place is there till 2021 … so it’s hard to see a way through the mess of the House of Representatives.

   Americans hear people talk about negotiating, but it is largely a tactic in the current climate, not an actual negotiation.  Negotiations include people of opposite opinions and have results over time.  I expect Congress will continue passing short term extensions on the eve of default for the foreseeable future.

   The Founders would have been awfully disappointed … but they would have been blown away by the 20 women in the Senate who got together to futz the way through this brink-of-default deal.    They mighta been most surprised that women ever got the right to vote … but they would have loved the everybody-sit-together and figure-it-out ethos of patriots.

   Real patriots, in the tradition of our nation’s Founding Fathers.