Religious views matter when it comes to drug policy in this country. That’s why it was significant when Rev. Franklin Graham, who inherited his father’s evangelical network about 15 years ago, came out strongly against marijuana legalization three weeks ago. The timing of his announcement is no surprise. In the last two years, four states have voted to tax and regulate marijuana, thereby eliminating sanctions for low-level possession and use. Voters in five more states (Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada) will consider similar ballot initiatives on election day November 8. Rev. Graham intends to campaign across the nation in the next two months to urge people of faith to vote “No.”
As the political conventions get underway, we have the opportunity to test our tolerance for partisan, sometimes offensive, rhetoric. We also will be able to review the party platforms — which may or may not bear any resemblance to what is being said on the podium. As the platforms are released, we can analyze individual policy recommendations. But perhaps it would be more helpful to consider the underlying assumptions that explain what we hear from each party. Ten Years ago, George Lakoff, a linguist from the University of California, Berkeley, tackled the puzzle of what explains the constellation of issues for each: how can conservatives be simultaneously “pro-life” concerning abortion even as they support the death penalty? Why do liberals support a social safety net, protection of the environment, gun control, and affirmative action, while conservatives argue for just the opposite?
By Rev. Alexander E. Sharp Have you ever known something to be true, and then felt that you were discovering it again for the first time? Grief can be like this: you think you have come to terms with a loss, and then realize you have not. This happened to me last week as I reread Michelle Alexander’s book The New Jim Crow, Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. What struck me was not just the absurdity and cruelty of our drug laws. It was the degree to which we have created an entire criminal justice system that conspires against those who are black, brown, and poor. All parts work in relentless sequence against whoever has been drawn in.
Our guest blogger, Rabbi Dr. Rachel S. Mikva, is the Herman Schaalman Chair in Jewish Studies at Chicago Theological Seminary and Director of the Center for Jewish, Christian and Islamic Studies. Suddenly there’s bipartisan enthusiasm for criminal justice reform. Forty years after liberal and conservative forces joined to restrict discretionary sentencing, thirty years after launching a futile war on drugs, twenty years after a Democratic president signed the “three strikes” law, the winds are shifting. It is still politically dangerous to be seen as soft on crime, but “smart on crime” is in. We now talk about public safety rather than law and order.
Our guest blogger is Jeanne Bishop, assistant public defender at Cook County Public Defender’s Office, adjunct professor of law at Northwestern, author of Change of Heart: Justice, Mercy and Making Peace with My Sister’s Killer (Westminster John Knox Press) and a member of Fourth Presbyterian Church of Chicago. On February 11, 2015, newly-inaugurated Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner did a bold and widely-applauded act: he issued an executive order designed to solve a serious problem facing the State. That problem: mass incarceration.
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