Monday, August 31, 2009

"Coup" in Honduras

I write today about the "coup" that took place in Honduras on June 28, 2009. I place the word "coup" in quotes because many who support the present government claim that the government was properly protecting itself against a potential dictator, albeit in an irregular manner. For reasons that follow, I do not agree. Form matters, and what the government officials did was illegal and unconstitutional according to Honduran law and according to the Rule of Law.

The facts, though somewhat muddled, are not in substantial dispute. Manuel "Mel" Zelaya was elected President in 2005. The Honduran Constitution is very explicit in requiring that the President serve only one term and cannot ever again be President. Indeed, according to Constitution Article 239, anyone proposing a change in the law, and those helping him, will immediately cease office and remain ineligible for ten years. Zelaya was a large landowner and conservative when elected and for about two years afterwards. However, at some point he turned away from the conservative elements that elected him and toward the trade unions and campesinos who had been previously excluded from the political processes. Among other actions, he raised the minimum wage in Honduras by approximately 60%. He also formed favorable relations with Hugo Chavez and other leftist leaders of Nicaragua, Equador and Bolivia. All of his actions infuriated the conservative and propertied interests in Honduras, which included military leaders and most members of the the National Assembly

In early 2009, Zelaya began to talk about a Constitutional Assembly to amend the Constitution. He proposed a referendum, but when objections were voiced, he said the vote would be a non-binding advisory "consultation" on whether there should be a vote in November (during regular elections) on whether to call a National Constituent Assembly to amend the Constitution. He scheduled the "consultation" for June 28th. In preparation, he ordered the distribution of ballot boxes and ballots. The Supreme Court declared the proposeed vote illegal. Zelaya ordered the military to distribute the ballot boxes anyway. When the military refused, citing the Supreme Court opinion, Zelaya fired the commander and the defense minister, and Zelaya and his supporters seized the ballot boxes and prepared to distribute them.

All of this led up to a warrant issued by the Supreme Court ordering the military to arrest Zelaya to face charges. The military arrested Zelaya (some said "in his pajamas")at 5 a.m. on June 28 (which was also the date of the "consultation"). Then, beyond the arrest warrant, the military placed Zelaya on a plane and expelled him to Costa Rica. The military then closed media outlets favorable to Zelaya. There are rumors that arrest warrants were issued for many of his supporters, and they have gone into hiding. There are also reports that demonstrators in favor of Zelaya have been tear-gassed and shot. The military is headed by Gen. Romeo Vasquez, a graduate of the notorious School of the Americas.

After Zelaya had been expelled, the military presented to the Assembly a resignation allegedly signed by Zelaya. The Assembly accepted the "resignation," then for good measure adopted a resolution removing him from office for his misdeeds. The Assembly then named the President of the Congress, Rigoberto Micheletti, as new President. According to at least one authority, if Zelaya's removal was proper, Micheletti was the proper one to succeed him. The new government has continued civilian rule; the military has expressed its subordination to civil authorities.

Later, the "resignation" was clearly shown to be a clumsy forgery and now is ignored as a reason for removal. The Assembly vote likewise is of dubious Constituional validity. Under the Honduran constitution, unlike the United States, the Assembly can only pass a resolution saying there are grounds to bring a case against the President (Art. 205(15)). But the Supreme Court must hold a trial and adjudicate that there are in fact grounds for removal (Art.319(2)) to oust the President. None of that was done here.

Zelaya's removal was unanimously condemned by the OAS (Organization of American States), including by the United States, the United Nations General Assembly and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Under prodding from the U.S. and other countries, President Oscar Arias of Costa Rica undertook to mediate the dispute. He proposed that Zelaya return to finish his term, with no sanctions against those who removed him. However, Micheletti and his followers will not agree to Zelaya's return. There is at least a suggestion that they intend to stall until November, when an election will result in a new President. (The new candidates were nominated before the coup.)

Meanwhile, economic sanctions have begun against the present government. The U.S. has suspended military and other aid. Under U.S. law, if the change in government is declared a "military coup," another $150 million in aid will be suspended. Other Latin American countries have likewise suspended their relations with the present government of Honduras. In the United States, Rep. Delahunt and others have introduced H.Res.630 condemning the coup.

It should be clear from the foregoing that I believe Zelaya's removal and expulsion from Honduras was contrary to Honduran law. Under Article 102, no Honduran may be expatriated or delivered to an authority of a foreign state. Further, the order of the Supreme Court is itself suspect, as noted above. At the very least, Zelaya should be permitted to return and resume his Constitutional functions. Until that happens, the country will exist under an illegal military and civil coup, and its government should be subject to the full array of sanctions available to the United States and other countries.

Those interested in more information, and a more scholarly treatment than mine, may consult Geoff Thale, "Behind the Honduran Coup," in Foreign Policy in Focus, July 1, 2009, available at <>, and Doug Cassel, "Honduras: Coup d'Etat in Constitutional Clothing," published by American Society of International Law, v. 13, no. 9, July 29, 2009 available at <>. The text and co-sponsors of H.Res. 630 are available at <>.

Frank Schneider

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Don't Put a Period on Health Care: God is still speaking

The United Church of Christ is calling its members to participate in the national health care debate. The United Church of Christ has stated that any health care proposal must include the following: Coverage of all persons; access regardless of ability to pay; a full set of benefits; a choice of physicians and other providers; Elimination of racial and ethnic and other health care disparities; waiver of pre-existing conditions exclusions without any age limits; a public option.

If you would like to contact your lawmaker, you can call the Capitol switchboard at 888-797-8717.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Dr. Gates

In response to Maria Haberfeld’s comments on, defending the police officers actions because of the potential danger that are a part of the day to day life of officers I wrote to CNN saying: While it is true that police officers come with stories and life experience that inform their judgments and actions, so would Dr. Gates “make decisions based not just on a given situation but also based on his prior experience.” Dr. Gates as an African American would know all too well the statistics around profiling and harassment that has been a long history of the interactions between law enforcement officers and African Americans. Dr. Gates knows the dangers and even the deadly potential these encounters carry. Therefore, both men came to the encounter informed by their life experience – each I would imagine, mistrustful of the other. These encounters demonstrate that we have much work to do within our society to build bridges of trust – racism continues to divide us and keep us specious of the other – a sad reality.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Violence erupts across the world – a shooting in a church in Illinois – a shooting rampage in Alabama - a shooting in a high school in German: over the past two days, the violence from guns floods our consciousness. One wonders – what would drive anyone to deny the sacredness of human life to the point of pushing them to pull the trigger on their weapons of death.
Surrounded by this news of violence it seems fortuitous that Bishop Desmond Tutu was in Chicago yesterday supporting Mayor Daley’s move to have new gun laws passed in Illinois. But on the same day, I heard on the news that the gun lobbyists are gathering in Washington to work toward passing laws that would be favorable to their constituents. Their argument often starts something like this: “it is not the gun that does the violence, but people.” That is a weak argument in my opinion, for without the gun the act cannot take place. I support Mayor Daley’s efforts in passing more restrictive laws and commend him for his courage in advocating for those laws.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Monday, February 2, 2009

Web postings for Brian Parker's study

Below the web addresses for posting for Brian Parker’s study. I am also going to post them on our blog:

An example of the conservative mindset on a contemporary issue:

A background on the size, location and history of growth of different denominations:

A geographic breakdown of the concentration of different major denominations:

A background article on the

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Day of Celebration

As Dr. Joseph Lowery, a United Methodist minister, gave the concluding prayer at the Inaugural ceremony today, I felt an instant connection. He began by quoting the words from Lift Every Voice and Sing, the hymn we sang at Church of the Three Crosses on Sunday: “God of our weary years, God of our silent tears, thou who hast brought us thus far on the way.” It has been a song of inspiration and hope for so many who have struggled for equality and justice in our country. When I heard the words, the spirits of Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglass, Dr. Mark Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks and so many others who helped pave the pathway to today, stood beside Dr. Lowery on the platform. Today, I celebrate the journey that so many before us have made possible, and my hopes run high that as we continue this journey, we might be led deeper into the light and that we will be “forever in the path” of justice, love and compassion, “where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.”