Dickinson, TX Discriminates Against its Most Compassionate and Informed Citizens
In this, the year of category 4 hurricanes, Dickinson, Texas, population 20,000, a small town south of Houston, was among the most battered victims of Hurricane Harvey. With speeds reaching 130 mph, the hurricane made landfall in the Houston area on August 25, where it carried out its devastation over the next seven days. By the time Harvey moved on, 7,000 of Dickinson’s homes and 88 of its businesses were destroyed or seriously damaged. Most were not covered by flood insurance
Thankfully, the United States and local governments go to great lengths to assist victims of natural disaster. In addition to government aid, the generosity of individuals, organizations and corporations also contributes to mitigating the suffering.
The city of Dickinson has received generous donations for its rebuilding efforts. By making these funds available to individuals and businesses that reside within city limits, the local government hopes to maintain property values as well as sales tax revenue. Residents are, therefore, encouraged to apply for assistance.
However, the application contains a clause not normally seen when seeking assistance for the injuries that often stem from impersonal acts of God. Titled “Verification not to Boycott Israel,” the offending clause requires that “By executing this Agreement below, the Applicant verifies that the Applicant: (1) does not boycott Israel; and (2) will not boycott Israel during the term of this Agreement.”
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has called this requirement an egregious violation of the First Amendment, reminiscent of McCarthy-era loyalty oaths. . .”
The ACLU is correct, but what is particularly egregious is that a leadership that prides itself on the “American values,” that are imbedded within the “greatest democracy on Earth,” is so willing to violate those values. I am speaking here of willful blindness. For example, if I were to ask the mayor of Dickinson or the congregants of one of the Houston area’s Christian megachurches to tell me what they know about the Israel-Palestine problem, I am certain they would respond in one of two ways. They would avoid the question and insist that the Jews must populate the promised land as a mandatory step toward the Second Coming of Christ, or they would accuse the Palestinians, with their stones and slingshots, of fomenting violence against the world’s third or fourth most militarily powerful nation on earth.
If I were to describe Israel’s relentless seizure of Palestinian land, its blatant contempt for international law, its deliberate dismissal of numerous international agreements that it is signatory to and its fifty year occupation of the Palestinian people, 20% of whom are Christian, I am sure these good Christians would dismiss as ignorance any evidence that does not reinforce their unresearched and self-serving views.
The city’s suppression of free speech against a terrible injustice and the support the city and the many churches in the area provide Israel is itself in violation of basic norms of decency and heartfelt concern toward fellow human beings. Turning away from the light of truth, this support is solely based upon interpretations of Christian scripture that betray Jesus’s teachings on love, tolerance, and inclusion.
Although I can’t prove it, the offending clause in the application for assistance is not only a violation of the first amendment’s right to free speech, it is a violation of the constitution’s implied separation of church and state. The leadership of Dickinson is attempting to suppress the right to free speech by imposing its religious beliefs onto a humanitarian situation and onto the most compassionate and well-informed victims of this situation. Citizens who exercise their right to speak out against injustice are being penalized by a government that enables injustice in the name of justice. This is the unexamined mind that projects its own suffering onto the other and then blames or scapegoats the other for its suffering.