Focus on the Family Needs to go Back to the Future

Just prior to the recent presidential election, Focus on the Family Action, the lobbying arm of Focus on the Family, an organization founded by evangelical Christian Dr. James Dobson posted an imaginative letter entitled, “Letter from 2012 in Obama’s America.”  In this hyperbolic letter, the fictional writer lays out a “possible” scenario of what the United States would look like if Senator Barak Obama was elected President of the United States and both houses of Congress were to be run by the Democrats.  Here are some of the proposed scenarios according to Christianity Today:

-The Supreme Court would lean liberal
-Churches that refuse to perform same-sex marriages would lose their tax-exempt status
-“under God” in the Pledge would be declared unconstitutional
-Doctors and nurses who won’t perform abortions will no longer be able to deliver babies
-Pornography would be openly displayed on newsstands
-Inner-city crime increases when gun ownership is restricted
-Homeschooling would become restricted, so thousands of homeschooling parents emigrate to other countries such as Australia and New Zealand.
– “Since 2009, terrorist bombs have exploded in two large and two small U.S. cities, killing
hundreds, and the entire country is fearful, for no place seems safe.”
-Euthanasia is becoming more and more common.
-New carbon emission standards drive many coal-powered electric plants out of business. “The country has less total electric power available than in 2008, and periodic blackouts to conserve energy occur on a regular schedule throughout the nation.”

“After many of these decisions, especially those that restricted religious speech in public places, President Obama publicly expressed strong personal disapproval of the decision and said that the Supreme Court had gone far beyond what he ever expected,” the letter reads.

It suggests that younger evangelicals were the tipping point for Obama’s pretend victory.

“Many Christians voted for Obama – younger evangelicals actually provided him with the needed margin to defeat John McCain – but they didn’t think he would really follow through on the far-Left policies that had marked his career. They were wrong,” the letter says.

The author also proposes that every conservative talk show would have to be followed by an instant rebuttal to the program by a liberal “watchdog” group and eventually shut down by 2010. Another hypothetical scenario is that because no Christian is willing to write books critical of homosexuality, many Christian publishers go out of business.

The author suggests that Bush administration officials who had involvement with the Iraq war would be put in jail.

The author writes, “Many brave Christian men and women tried to resist these laws, and some Christian legal agencies tried to defend them, but they couldn’t resist the power of a 6-3 liberal majority on the Supreme Court. It seems many of the bravest ones went to jail or were driven to bankruptcy. And many of their reputations have been destroyed by a relentless press and the endless repetition of false accusations.”

Upon reading this apocalyptic, I thought it might be good to consider another scenario, based in the same factitious quality and tone.  Using another time machine, I chose to take us back to the year 2000,  specifically on November 6th, the day before the election that saw Texas governor George Bush running against Vice-President Al Gore.  Keeping with the spirit of the recent Focus on the Family letter, just imagine if someone, possibly one of those Democratic operatives, were to have written another pretend letter called, “Letter from 2008 in Bush’s America.”  How would those supporting George Bush have reacted?

Perhaps, the 2000 letter would suggest some crazy scenarios like the following.  Just imagine.

If Republian George W. Bush is elected, America will begin a dramatic decline toward chaos not seen since the Great Depression and an obvious manifestation of God withdrawing His hand of protection and favor from this country.  During the next eight years, if George Bush is elected and reelected, the following conditions will occur:

Within a year of his election, the United States will experience the greatest attack on US soil since Pearl Harbor.  This terrorist attack will be against the symbols of US economic and military might, in New York and in Washington, DC.    In response to these attacks, President Bush will launch a massive propaganda campaign that will propel the nation into two wars resulting in the deaths of over 4,500 troops and over 30,000 wounded service personnel.  Aside from these physical casualties to our men and women in uniform, the US taxpayer will foot the bill to the tune of about $600 Billion directly and by extension, about $3 Trillion. This war will become the longest in US history and least supported since the Vietnam War.

In an attempt to keep their eye on terrorists, the Bush administration will move to allow domestic espionage, opening all kinds of opportunities for spying on citizens, some for their religious affiliations.  This action will allow the National Security Agency and others to conduct secret and illegal wiretapping and spying operation against the people of the United States all in the name of national security.

On the economic front, the Bush administration will pass a tax cut that will favor the wealthiest taxpayers and at the same time increase spending at an alarming rate.  The surplus he inherited from President Bill Clinton will turn into the biggest deficit in national history and as a result, the national debt will rise dramatically.  During George W. Bush’s presidency, the national debt will grow by more than $4 trillion. It will be the biggest increase under any president in U.S history.  On the day President Bush takes office, the national debt will stand at $5.727 trillion. By his last year in office, the national debt will stand at more than $9.849 trillion. That’s a 71.9 percent increase on Mr. Bush’s watch.

Toward the end of his second term, with two wars still being fought, the US housing and mortgage industry will suffer a huge deflation leading to millions of foreclosures, bankruptcies, and the collapse of many large institutional banks and brokerages.  This will require the US Congress to bailout the lending industry, adding about another trillion dollars of debt to the US Taxpayer. Other world economies will suffer equally. Also, during that time, even though George Bush is an oilman, his expertise will not prevent the cost of gasoline and other oil products from more than doubling in his final year.  George Bush’s friends in the petroleum industry will see record-setting profits, while hundreds of business fail due to the high price of energy.  His slogan, “Compassionate Conservatism” will sound quite hollow.

In the midst of Bush’s terms, natural disasters will occur, but due to the weakness of his government, many will suffer for lack of critical government services.  George Bush will be seen as a reactive president, not prepared for the future.

By the end of George W. Bush’s presidency, he will have garnered the highest disapproval rating in modern history.  Due to that in part, a Democratic candidate will win the 2008 election and will be joined by a large majority of Democrats in the Congress and Senate.  States that are normally seen as safe Republican bets will reject the Republican Party, some for the first time in decades.

Although these predictions are only possible scenarios and may seem far-fetched to the rational mind, there is always the possibility, given the character of George Bush and his running mate, Dick Cheney that such things could, in fact, occur on George Bush’s watch.  Therefore, be prayerful about your vote.

The sad thing is that there are those who would readily consider and actually believe the 2012 Focus letter, but if they were back in 2000 reading the letter above, would call it a hateful, liberal diatribe, or more directly, an absolute, groundless lie.  To them I would say, “Don’t drink the Koolaid.”

I know I shouldn’t have to say anything, but there are those folks who won’t see the obvious.  So let me clean it up.  In the 2012 letter, Focus on the Family Active is predicting some very dire circumstance to an Obama presidency.  All this without the benefit of God’s stamp of approval.  No one is saying, “Thus saith the Lord.”  Therefore, the predictions should be seen as merely the creation of a fearful mind, not one that relies on the scripture that declares that, “All things work together for good, to them who love God and are called to His purpose.”  Christian should fear not, but be courageous.  The 2012 letter on the other hand is a profession of fear, discord, and faithlessness.  Not one of a sound mind, unity, and faith in the living God.

It has become very clear to me that the actions of Focus on the Family Action is evidence of a para-church organization that is set adrift from the Living Word of God.  Winning the culture wars seem to be tactically, an anything-goes methodology instead of being tethered to the moral code of Christ’s example.  I think the 2012 letter is reprehensible and Focus on the Family should repent for its dissemination.

As for my personal prediction for 2012, I see more Christians relying less on the leadership of the likes of James Dobson, and more on the power of real prayer and love for enemies, real and perceived.

Related Articles”

James Dobson, you owe America an apology – Jim Wallis

In Praise of Hate

A few weeks ago I participated in a forum on hate crimes entitled, ““Hate Crimes: What Are They? What Are You Going To Do About It?” Like many other forums of its kind, finding a representative cross-section of church leaders, especially from fundamentalist churches is akin to finding a new planet in our solar system. I think that’s a shame and hardly fits Christ’s edict for the church to be “salt and light” in the world. I’m sure things like choir practice and the quilting club probably have a greater priority. I hate that! Sorry, I digress… Inasmuch as there is a serious need to address hate and the effects on individuals and groups, I think the avalanche of political correctness into the valley of wholesale tolerance has somewhat smothered an honest conversation where the emotion we call hate can appropriately be manifest. Even though almost every discussion on hate is focused on its negative and detrimental aspects, there is a place, as I stated before, for hate that is both constructive and motivationally positive. It is found in the hatred of the underlying forces and thinking that engenders destructive and abusive behaviors. It may seem to border on the oxymoronic, but in channeling a rational hatred toward irrational hatred, the outcomes are ultimately positive and productive.

For those in the Judeo-Christian tradition, we are instructed by a word from the prophet Michah, who asserts that, “He (God) has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Implicit in that passage is the charge that we are to hate injustice and lying, hate cruelty and an accusing spirit, and most importantly to hate pride, haughtiness, and arrogance. These things we are to hate are necessary to being “good.”

Although there are many who would profess they don’t hate at all, I would suggest that they are out-of-balance. As Solomon noted, “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven …A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.” There are very legitimate times to hate, and if we are to follow God’s lead there are people and conditions we are to hate as well. For instance it is clear from scripture that there are many things that God hates. Read here… So, if we are to hate what God hates, what is hate? Let’s make sure we’re on the same page as it relates to the word. According to the dictionary reference, I feel pretty comfortable with the definition that suggests that hate is simply “a passionate dislike and a feeling of enmity toward something or someone.” Hate suggests an aversion to something and a need to do something about that feeling. It’s in the doing that requires some careful thought and consideration.

In my view, I have all kinds of license to hate something with reasonable judgment and with degree, but when it comes to hating another person, it’s a bit more tricky. Some believe, and with good argument, that the hatred of certain people is warranted. Others think that you can hate the deed, yet love the person who commits the deed. Such arguments are requisite to critical thinking and I’ve found these perspectives in the diverse writings of Rabbi Shmuel Boteach, formerly of Oxford University, where he proffers conditions that warrant hate toward certain people, and Dave Daubenmire, president of Pass the Salt Ministries, who advocates love for the wrongdoer, yet hate for the wrongdoing. Here’s their views…

By Rabbi Shmuel Boteachformerly the Chabad Rabbi at Oxford Universityhttp://www.arutzsheva.org9-22-1

For everything there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven. A time to love and a time to hate; a time for war and a time for peace (Eccl. 3).One of the most frequent themes of my writings is how we – a generation with a fifty percent divorce rate and a professional singles scene – have forgotten how to love. Today I will surprise you by complaining about how we have forgotten how to hate.

The proper response to the cowardly brutes who perpetrated the horrific attacks against America is to hate them with every fiber of our being and purge ourselves of any morsel of sympathy which might seek to understand their motives.

Forgetting how to hate can be just as damaging as forgetting how to love. I realize that, immersed as we are in a Christian culture that exhorts us to “turn the other cheek,” this can sound quite absurd. Little do we remember, it seems, the aphorism that those who are kind to the cruel end up being cruel to the kind.

Indeed, exhortations to hate all manner of evil abound in the Bible and God Himself hates every form of immorality because of its harm to mankind. Thus the book of Proverbs declares, “The fear of the Lord is to hate evil.” Likewise, King David declares regarding the cruel: “I have hated them with a deep loathing. They are as enemies to me.” Hatred is a valid emotion – an appropriate response – when directed at the truly evil: those who have gone beyond the pale of human decency by committing acts which unweave the basic fabric of civilized living. Contrary to Christianity, which advocates turning the other cheek to belligerence and loving the wicked, Judaism obligates us to despise and resist the wicked at all costs.

About two years ago, I was on the BBC discussing the tragic bombing of a gay pub that left three dead. I referred to the bomber as an abomination, to which Pastor Tony Campalo, President Clinton’s spiritual advisor, replied that we had to love the bomber in the spirit of compassion and forgiveness. Similarly, in my years in Britain I was used to hearing victims of IRA terrorist attacks, after having lost fathers or brothers or sons, immediately announce on air their forgiveness and love for the murderers, in the spirit of Christian love. I disagree vehemently. The individual who, motivated by irrational hatred, chooses to murder innocent victims is irretrievably wicked. He or she has cast off the image of G-d that entitles them to love and has forfeited their place in the human community.

Amid my deep and abiding respect for the Christian faith, I state unequivocally that to love the terrorist who flies a civilian plane into a civilian building or a white supremacist who drags a black man three miles while tied to the back of a car is not just insane, it is deeply sinful. To love evil is itself evil and constitutes a passive form of complicity.

Contrary to those religious figures who deny Solomon’s proverb and preach that religion is about unconditional love and forgiveness for all, I believe there is a point of no return for the mass-murderers of this world. The Talmud certainly teaches that the true object of proper hatred is the sin, not the sinner, whose life must be respected and whose repentance effected. The Talmud also teaches that it is forbidden to rejoice at the downfall of even those sinners whom it is proper to hate: “Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth.” However, this attitude does not apply to impenitent and hardened monsters who pay no heed to correction. For us to extend forgiveness and compassion to them in the name of religion is not just insidious, it is an act of mocking G-d, who has mercy for all, yet demands justice for the innocent.

I have an a typical Christian artist friend who showed me a picture he painted of Jesus embracing Hitler. I felt the picture to be obscene, “How can you have Jesus holding Hitler?” I objected.

“That’s the whole point. That’s how far Jesus’ love extends.”

“But that’s not love,” I corrected him, “it’s disgust. It’s like saying that Jesus loves cancerous cells. If you love Hitler, than you are showing contempt for the good and decent people whom he turned into ash and lampshades. The only response to Hitler is utter contempt and violent hatred. The only way to react to incorrigible evil is to wage an incessant war against it until it is utterly eradicated from the earth.”

I maintain that any culture that does not hate Hitler and his ilk is a non-compassionate society. Indeed, to show kindness to the murderer is to violate the victim yet again. Thus, in the interest of justice, the appropriate response to the evil person is to hate him with every fiber of our being and to hope they find no rest, neither in this world nor in the next.

The pacifist will respond that fighting hatred with hatred accomplishes nothing, that, as in the old Bob Dylan song, “if we take an eye for an eye we all just end up blind.” This is poppycock because the purpose of our hatred is not revenge, but preservation of justice. To this end I wholeheartedly embrace the example of Simon Wiesenthal, one of the most inspirational men of the twentieth century, who has devoted his life to the pursuit of justice by not allowing Nazi murderers go to their graves in peace. We do not hunt Nazis in order to take revenge. We Jews have better things to do with our time than chase a bunch of pathetic, murderous thugs. Besides, our Torah prevents us from taking retribution. Rather, we track them down because G-d at Sinai entrusted us with the promotion of justice, turning the jungle into a civilized society. We seek them out on behalf of all humanity so that all of the world may know that for genocide there is no apology. In the words of Aristotle, “All virtue is summed up in dealing justly.”

Justice is not a cultural construct. Neither is it a human invention imposed upon the members of society in order that they treat each other with decency and respect. Justice was not created for some utilitarian end. Rather, justice is intrinsic to human nature. We do not teach our children to refrain from stealing because they might get caught. Rather, we teach them that theft is intrinsically wrong, even if they could get away with it.

In the Hebrew language there are three words for forgiveness: selicha, mechila and kapparah. The essence of the forgiveness is that an individual is so valuable that we allow them the opportunity to start afresh after error. But since repentance is based on recognizing the infinite value of human life, its premise cannot be simultaneously undermined by offering it to those who have irretrievably debased human life. For a murderer to cry in public and achieve instant absolution is an affront to everything forgiveness stands for and that’s why we should feel no guilt for our feelings of revulsion and hatred toward these terrorists.

The bottom line is that there are some offenses for which there is no forgiveness, some borders whose transgression society cannot tolerate under any circumstances, and mass murder is foremost among them.

Only if we hate the truly evil passionately will we summon the determination to fight them fervently. Odd and uncomfortable as it may seem, hatred has its place. Although they referred to a different era in history, the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., still ring true today: “We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people.”

Let us make sure, therefore, that we never make the mistake of forgiving those whose sin is so inextricably woven with their rotten character that the two can never be separate. Let us love the righteous and fight the wicked. ___

Rabbi Boteach, formerly the Chabad Rabbi at Oxford University, is a well-known author and lecturer on Judaism. http://www.arutzsheva.org/


Now, for Dave Daubenmire’s view:

Coach Dave Daubenmire
June 15, 2006
NewsWithViews.com

I can honestly and unequivocally say that there isn’t a person on this planet that I hate. Many rub me the wrong way, but I usually write them off as misdirected or uninformed!

I suppose there are a few folks that hate me. I get emails every time I write a commentary. Many call me hateful. But I really can’t control the emotions of another person. As teenagers like to say–it’s on them.

While running the risk of being “Coultered,” I have to be faithful to what I know to be true. So I have to ask, is it wrong to be a hatemonger?

In our ongoing struggle with the PC crowd we usually find ourselves behind the eight ball because we continually allow them to frame the agenda. They have redefined the English language, and as a result, most mainstream Americans no longer know what is acceptable to say. Hate speech, hate crimes, and hatemonger are terms that have been created to silence the Truth. The enemies of God are trying to make hate obsolete.

You may think I’m nuts, that I am playing right into their hands, but I have to ask, is hate a bad thing?

Hatethe emotion of hate; a feeling of dislike so strong that it demands action.

You see it is OK–even necessary–to hate THINGS……but not PEOPLE. I wish more people hated some things.

What would America be like if more people were spurred into action because they hated:

  • Porn
  • Divorce
  • Lies
  • Dishonesty
  • Adultery
  • Broken homes
  • Child abuse
  • Lawbreaking
  • Injustice
  • Abortion
  • Evil
  • Thievery

Instead, we are taught to tolerate it, to accept it, and to even codify into law things that we should hate.

Perhaps I’m still not clear.

  • I hate what homosexuality does to people. Not homosexuals.
  • I hate what adultery does to families. Not the adulterer.
  • I hate the fact porn destroys lives. Not those who look at it.
  • I hate the lie that gays are born gay. Not those who believe the lie.
  • I hate abortion for the destruction it brings. Not the woman who is victimized.
  • I hate evolution-only education. Not those who teach it.
  • I hate laws that keep people poor. Not poor people.
  • I hate racism. Not those who practice it.
  • I hate lies. Not those who tell/teach them.
  • I hate suicide bombing. Not the bombers.
  • I hate evil. Not those who practice it.

I wonder, does America need more hate?

I saw a t-shirt the other day that read: Truth Is Hate To Those Who Hate Truth! “Have I now become your enemy by telling the truth?” Galatians 4:16

That’s it, isn’t it? Truth. No one wants to hear the Truth. Truth brings conviction. Conviction brings guilt. Guilt brings shame. Shame brings remorse, remorse brings repentance. Truth is hate, to those who hate Truth.

I know it is hard to believe, but the God who IS love, also hates. That’s right. God hates. In fact He goes further. He calls some things an abomination, which is a much more powerful type of hate. According to the dictionary abomination means “hate coupled with disgust,” and abomination occurs 174 times in the Bible.

I know you want to argue. But the proof is in the pudding. Check it out for yourself. Here is a list of 43 things God hates.

So where does that leave us? If hate is so wrong, why does God tell us that “there is a time for hate” (Ecclesiastes 3:8). “Hate what is evil, cling to what is good” (Romans 12:9)

Yes, folks, God hates. And His hatred forced Him into action. He hated sin so much that He willingly sacrificed His beloved Son to eliminate it. If God hated sin, shouldn’t we?

Someone was once asked when all of the suicide bombing would stop in the Middle East. The response was chilling. “The bombing will stop when Muslims love their children more than they hate the Jews.”

Is hate really the problem in America? Could the problem be what we hate….and what we love?

So, let’s ask ourselves a few hard questions.

  • Do you love the pornographer more than you hate pornography? • Do you love the woman getting the abortion more than you hate the abortion?
  • Do you love the adulterer more than you hate adultery?
  • Do you love the homosexual more than you hate homosexuality?
  • Do you love the pedophile more than you hate pedophilia?
  • Do you love the sinner more than you hate the sin?

Misapplied and misappropriated love is destroying America. “Have I now become your enemy by telling the truth?” Galatians 4:16

If we are ever to recover our moral equilibrium in America, then we are going to have to make the decision to love the things that God loves and hate the things that God hates. Because of the ongoing confusion in the Church, America loves the things that God hates.

I have a window sticker on the back of my car. “For God so loved the world, He did something!”

He hated sin….it spurred Him to action…..He gave his Son. I’m so glad He did.

John Lennon changed America with the mantra, “All you need is love.” He didn’t know God, therefore, he didn’t understand. Many in America love the wrong things.

So, which is worse, loving the wrong things, or hating the right things?

Is hate a bad thing?

I don’t think so. I believe that hatred of social and private sins have led to ever-expanding cultural and personal growth and progress. In fact, the history of the United States is a great example of how hatred against hatred is an avenue to liberty.

At our nation’s founding, much of the content of the Declaration of Independence was a accounting of colonial hatred against the repressive policies of the English king. Ever since that moment (JULY 4, 1776) our history has been an social evolution with “redress of grievances” as the catalyst for positive change. So hate, the intense and passionate dislike of personal and social evils, has driven the vehicle of politics and social behavior toward mostly, positive and progressive change.

As a last point I want to take an opposing view of something Rabbi Shmuel Boteach said. He argues that “the individual who, motivated by irrational hatred, chooses to murder innocent victims is irretrievably wicked” and “he or she has cast off the image of G-d that entitles them to love and has forfeited their place in the human community.” I think he is way wrong. The whole point of the Christian faith is based on the principles that God/Jesus is love and as the scriptures asserts, ” God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:8 This verse and others provide a stark contrast to the view that man is entitled to God’s love. You can’t earn it. It is a gift of God to those who are already lost. We are to forgive in our hearts, and by extension, forgive by our actions as a reflection of what God has done for us. Yes, there are consequences for doing wrong, but God never tells us to not forgive. As the apostle Paul said, “be kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:32) Even Jesus, on his “Sermon on the Mount” said, “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matt. 6:14-15)

Christians are taught to love as God loves. We are also taught that the “vengeance” we feel and often wish to exact should be left to God, the Eternal Judge. We are called to love our enemies, that’s the way of God’s Kingdom. Even though everyone should bear the earthly consequences of their earthly actions, for good or not, the heart of the offended should, however, embrace love for the offender. When Rabbi Boteach says that those who choose to murder innocent victims are “irretrievably wicked,” he has missed the whole point of redemption. Redemption is for those that have indeed “cast off the image of G-d” and have even, in some instances, “forfeited their place in the human community.” Nevertheless, we as redeemed members of the human community are to continue in the ministry of Jesus who seeks to save those that are lost, through love and forgiveness.

As a parting shot, I’d like to share a great story of love, forgiveness, and freedom. It’s a story of how a family chose to forgive and love someone who killed their family member. It’s a powerful story that truly reflects the image of God. Read on….

Presenting him with a Bible signed by the family of the woman he helped kill three years ago in Lake Vista, the victim’s daughter in court Friday told a convicted murderer that she forgives him.

After all, the daughter said, that’s what her mother, the slain 70-year-old Myra Centanni Mehrtens, taught her.

“Mr. Foreman, this is for you,” Sharon Giambrone said to Nathan Foreman from the witness stand, holding up a brand-new copy of the Bible, with a personal message to him from the family. “Jesus said, ‘I am the way.’ It says to Nathan, keep your eye focused on Jesus. Seek him. Our prayers are with you.”

Foreman was 18 when he drove the getaway car after his friend Jonathan Bailey, then 19, fired a single fatal gunshot into Mehrtens’ neck.

On Friday at Orleans Parish Criminal District Court, 21-year-old Foreman was sentenced to the state’s mandatory punishment for second-degree murder: life without the chance of parole. But first, he heard a statement from the victim’s family and received their gift.

Assistant District Attorney Tanya Faia passed the Bible to the defense attorneys, who placed it on the table in front of Foreman.

“I pray for you every Sunday,” said Giambrone, who three years ago rode in the ambulance as medical technicians worked on her bleeding mother as a priest sat watch. “And my family prays for you each time we think of you, because, Nathan, you have a choice.”

Faia and prosecutor Mary Glass had helped secure the guilty-as-charged murder verdict last month even though Foreman never touched the gun used to kill Mehrtens. Louisiana law provides that anyone who participates in a murder may be charged with the same crime as the one who pulls the trigger.

Triggerman testifies

Jonathan Bailey, who robbed the widow at gunpoint as she had just arrived home the evening of March 6, 2005, pleaded guilty last year to first-degree murder and is serving life in prison. Prosecutors offered him this as a plea bargain: Plead to life and escape the lethal injection needle.

Faia and Glass, veteran prosecutors who returned to Orleans Parish last year as part of the newly formed Violent Offenders Unit, asked Bailey to testify for the state just days before Foreman’s trial opened. He agreed, saying he wanted to clear his conscience.

In exchange for a sentence of probation and his testimony at trial, a third man, Christopher Cavalier, admitted to supplying Bailey and Foreman with the gun used to kill Mehrtens.

On Friday, defense attorney Robert Jenkins said that Cavalier had a felony indictment for theft out of Texas — for which he had received probation — and that since the Foreman jury didn’t hear of this at trial, his testimony was flawed and grounds for a new trial.

But Buras denied the request. Cavalier wasn’t the state’s key witness; that title belonged to the gunman who owned up to the crime in open court, fingering Foreman as his driver that night.

Bailey told jurors that he and Foreman had decided to borrow a gun and drive around New Orleans in search of someone to rob.

The only car they saw was the Lincoln Continental that Mehrtens was driving home that evening, after having supper at a daughter’s home. Mehrtens, who raised five children in Lakeview and Lake Vista and attended daily Mass at nearby St. Pius, begged Bailey not to hurt her, Bailey recalled.

Bailey said the gun went off as he flinched when his victim set off her car alarm to alert her neighbors. She died hours later at Charity Hospital, having bled to death from the wound to her neck. Her relatives waited outside the operating room, praying on their knees that she would survive the trauma, Giambrone testified.

‘We prayed for you’

On Friday, Giambrone addressed a packed courtroom where the audience included Foreman’s parents, the Mehrtens family and District Attorney Keva Landrum-Johnson, among other inmates awaiting their turn before Buras.

The night before the jury returned to hear closing arguments and then begin deliberations over Foreman’s fate, Giambrone said she spent the entire night weeping and praying to God to spare Foreman from prison if he were indeed not guilty of murder.

“We prayed for you,” she told Foreman, who was silent during the hearing and appeared in jail-issued clothes and handcuffs. “God, don’t let it come back guilty unless you know this man is guilty.” Giambrone, a local dentist, said that her family forgives Foreman and Bailey, and prays for their parents, who have also lost a loved one now.

Buras, who handed down the life sentence to Foreman after denying several motions by Jenkins for a new trial, also made a statement to the convict. Buras didn’t buy the testimony from Bailey that Mehrtens’ murder was a completely random act.

“This court feels Ms. Mehrtens was targeted because she was elderly and alone and it was night,” Buras said. “It was a carefully planned and executed crime.”

Police arrested all three men after an anonymous tip came in to Crimestoppers. The caller reported that Bailey and Foreman were bragging about having killed the woman, and laughing about their deed.

$10, crawfish bisque

As they sped away in Foreman’s mother’s car that night, the pair fished through Mehrtens’ purse, tossing items they deemed useless out the car’s windows. Detectives later walked along the neutral ground of Robert E. Lee Boulevard, following a trail of the widow’s belongings, which included an Elmwood Fitness Center membership card.

Bailey and Foreman had only made off with $10 in cash and some leftover crawfish bisque, which Mehrtens had carried home in a plastic bag from her daughter’s house.

Mehrtens, known for her gardening talents, was a member of local garden clubs and personally delivered many floral arrangements to weddings across New Orleans.

But Bailey and Foreman denied Mehrtens the pleasure of watching her first granddaughter get married, Giambrone said.

“My mother was a woman of dignity, of strength and compassion,” Giambrone said. “Nathan, my mother showed us how to forgive.”

Foreman nodded politely when Giambrone addressed him by name. She spoke for at least 15 minutes, without notes, in a statement that Buras called “most eloquent.”

Giambrone said that the violence plaguing New Orleans cannot be blamed solely on the city’s historically failed public school system and other neglected institutions.

“You drove the car,” she told Foreman. “We all have a choice between good and evil.”

Giambrone told Foreman’s parents that they too know sorrow and that she believes they tried the best they could to raise their son right. She then told the entire courtroom, including those awaiting trial for crimes, that violence will not go unpunished.

“They will get caught,” Giambrone said. “God is watching.”

Submitted by Gwen Filosa, Times-Picayune, March 7, 2008