U.S. 2021 Report on International Religious Freedom

On June 2, 2022, the U.S. State Department released its 2021 Report on International Religious Freedom. It “describes the status of religious freedom in every country. The report covers government policies violating religious  denominations and individuals, and U.S. policies to promote religious freedom around the world. The U.S. Department of State submits the reports in accordance with the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998.”[1]

The Report includes these sources on the subject: (a) Universal Declaration of Human Rights; (b) International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; (c) Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief; (d) Religious Freedom Provisions, Commitments, and Obligations from Regional Bodies and Instruments; (e) Department of State Training Related to the International Religious Freedom Act-2021; (f) Department of Homeland Security and the International Religious Freedom Act; and (g) Overview of U.S. Refugee Policy—2021.

There is no overall summary of this freedom in 2021 throughout the world. Instead, as the above summary indicates, the report has separate reports for “every country” in the world. After a summary of its report on Cuba, which is chosen because a Minneapolis church, Westminster Presbyterian, has had partnerships with the island’s Presbyterian-Reformed Church since 2002, there will be general comments from that Cuban church and Westminster.

State Department Report on Cuba

Cuban Religious Demography

According to the Report, “The U.S. government estimates the total population at 11 million (midyear 2021).  There is no independent, authoritative source on the overall size or composition of religious groups.  The Catholic Church estimates 60 percent of the population identifies as Catholic.  Membership in Protestant churches is estimated at 5 percent.  According to some observers, Pentecostals and Baptists are likely the largest Protestant denominations.  The Assemblies of God reports approximately 150,000 members; the four Baptist conventions estimate their combined membership at more than 100,000.”

“Jehovah’s Witnesses estimate their members at 95,000; Methodists 50,000; Seventh-day Adventists 36,000; Presbyterians 25,000; Anglicans 22,500; Episcopalians 10,000; Anabaptists 4,387 (mostly Iglesia de Los Hermanos en Cristo, the Brethren of Christ); Quakers 1,000; Moravians 750; and the Church of Jesus Christ 357 members.  There are approximately 4,000 followers of 50 Apostolic churches (an unregistered, loosely affiliated network of Protestant churches, also known as the Apostolic Movement) and a separate New Apostolic Church associated with the New Apostolic Church International.  According to some Christian leaders, evangelical Protestant groups continue to grow in the country.  The Jewish community estimates it has 1,200 members, of whom 1,000 reside in Havana.  According to a representative of the Islamic League, there are approximately 4,000 Muslims in the country, of whom fewer than half are native-born.  The representative also said that the majority of the Muslim population is Sunni.  Immigrants and native-born citizens practice several different Buddhist traditions, with estimates of 6,200 followers.  The largest group of Buddhists is the Japanese Soka Gakkai; its estimated membership is 1,000.  Other religious groups with small numbers of adherents include Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, and Baha’is.”

“Many individuals, particularly Afro-Cubans, practice religions with roots across Africa, including Yoruba groups often referred to by outsiders as Santeria, but by adherents as the order of Lucumi or Orisha worship.  Bantu-influenced groups refer to themselves as Palo Monte.  These religious practices are commonly intermingled with Catholicism and other forms of Christianity, and some require Catholic baptism for full initiation, making it difficult to estimate accurately their total membership.  Rastafarian adherents also have a presence on the island, although the size of the community is unknown.”

Religious Freedom in Cuba

According to the Report’s Executive Summary, “The country’s constitution contains written provisions for religious freedom and prohibitions against discrimination based on religious grounds.  According to the religious freedom advocacy organization Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), the Cuban Communist Party (CCP), through its Office of Religious Affairs (ORA) and the Ministry of Justice (MOJ), continued to control most aspects of religious life.  In its annual Watch List, Open Doors reported a continued rise in persecution of Christians in the country.  According to media, on July 11, security forces (a general term covering military, police, and vigilante forces) committed acts of violence against, detained, and harassed religious leaders from multiple faith communities who were participating in peaceful demonstrations across the country.  According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), security forces beat Roman Catholic priest Jose Castor Alvarez Devesa when he offered aid to an injured person at a protest in Camaguey on July 11.  CSW reported Pastor Lorenzo Rosales Fajardo faced up to a 10-year sentence for participating in a march the same day.  Rosales Fajardo was found guilty of charges in December and awaited sentencing at year’s end.  Sissi Abascal Zamora, a member of the Ladies in White opposition group, received a six-year sentence for participating in the July protests.  Authorities continued to subject members of the Association of Free Yorubas of Cuba (Free Yorubas) to arbitrary detentions, threats, physical violence, and verbal harassment.  The U.S.-based nongovernmental organization (NGO) Global Liberty Alliance reported four members of Free Yorubas faced extended pretrial detention after their arrests following the July protests and prison sentences of up to 10 years.  The Spanish NGO Cuban Observatory of Human Rights registered at least 30 acts against leaders and laypersons from multiple faith communities as the government attempted to suppress public support for peaceful protests called for November 15.  According to NGO and media reports, those actions included the orchestration of demonstrations (acts of repudiation) in front of the homes of Catholic priests, police surveillance, internet cuts, and the harassment of a nun as she left her residence in Havana to meet a friend.  In August, security service officials arrested Apostolic Church pastor Alain Toledano Valiente for ‘propagating the COVID pandemic’ when he held what he said was a socially distanced service.  Religious groups reported the ORA and MOJ continued to deny official registration to certain groups, including to several Apostolic churches, or did not respond to long-pending applications, such as those for the Jehovah’s Witnesses and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Church of Jesus Christ).”

“Some religious groups and organizations, such as the Catholic charity Caritas, continued to gather and distribute relief items, providing humanitarian assistance to individuals regardless of religious belief.  The Catholic-affiliated Community of Sant’Egidio continued to hold prayer and small group meetings in spite of COVID-19 restrictions.”

“Due to a lack of government responsiveness, U.S. embassy officials did not meet with or otherwise engage the ORA during the year.  In public statements and on social media, U.S. government officials, including the Secretary of State, continued to call upon the government to respect the fundamental freedoms of its citizens, including the freedom of religion.  Embassy officials met regularly with a range of religious groups concerning the state of religious freedom and political activities related to religious groups’ beliefs.”

“On November 15, 2021, in accordance with the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, as amended, the Secretary of State again placed Cuba on the Special Watch List for having engaged in or tolerated severe violations of religious freedom.”

Recent Devotion from Cuban Presbyterian-Reformed Church[3]

The Presbyterian Reformed Church in Cuba prepares daily devotions in Spanish (with English translations) that are available on the Internet. Here, for example, is their devotion for June 26, 2022, the 132nd Anniversary of the church: “Following Jesus (Luke 9:51-62).”

“Jesus replied, ‘No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.’”

“A new section of the Gospel of Luke begins with these verses, Jesus’ resolve to travel to Jerusalem.   The three candidates for discipleship illustrate the demands that are implied by following Jesus; they teach that emotional enthusiasm is not sufficient and neither are we capable of abandoning all to follow him.”

“Loyalty to Christ takes precedence over any other loyalties.   In one of the cases the man tried to excuse himself by saying that he had to care for his dead father.   The spiritually dead should bury their dead, but the followers of Jesus should fulfill the urgent work of proclaiming the good news.   This is not an argument in favor of insensitivity but is a lesson against delay in fulfilling an order.”

“Jesus focuses his attention on one truth: to serve his cause demands complete dedication. To not be suitable for the Reign of God means a discipleship through which God is unable to use us in the best way.”

“What does Jesus want of us?   Complete dedication, not half delivery.   We don’t have the right to follow him at our convenience; we should accept the cross together with the crown, judgment together with mercy.   One must take into account the cost and to be ready to abandon everything.   We should not allow anything to distract us from the path of living what he calls good and true.”

“Prayer: Lord, allow us to be alert to your call and not continually excuse ourselves.   In the name of Jesus, Amen”

Report from Westminster Presbyterian Church[4]

“For more than 20 years, Westminster has had a partnership with people and institutions in Cuba, making it our longest global partnership. Well over 100 Westminster members and staff have visited Cuba to experience the culture, welcome, and resilience of the Cuban people. The situation in Cuba remains dire due to food shortages, economic despair, and political unrest. Yet, as of January 1, our partner church, El Redentor/Versalles (Versalles) in Matanzas has welcomed a new pastor, the Rev. Anays Noda, and her family. They bring a renewed energy and new members into the church.”

“After building renovation and much hard work, our siblings at Versalles are eagerly readying for visitors from Westminster. A group of five Westminster members plan to travel in July to revisit the seven clean water installations Westminster currently sponsors [on the island] and to assess a potential new site, anticipating installation later this year. A highlight of the trip will be a chance to worship in person again at Versalles. A congregational trip is also being planned for early 2023 offering a unique experience to witness God’s love this whole world over.”

Conclusion[5]

Any discussion of Cuban religious freedom should expressly recognize its enormous economic problems associated with the worldwide COVID pandemic and the resulting severe negative economic impact on Cuba’s market for international tourism and hence Cuban opportunities for employment and entrepreneurial activities. These and other developments, including the continued U.S. embargo of the island, have caused increased numbers of Cuban seeking to flee the island and protests on the island over desperate conditions.

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[1] State Dep’t, 2021 Report on International Religious Freedom (June 2, 2022).

[2] Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church’s Connections with Cuba, dwkcommentaries.com (Jan. 13, 2015}. See generally “Cuban Human Rights” section (with discussions of earlier U.S. reports on Cuban religious freedom) of  List of Posts to dwkcommentaries—Topical: CUBA [as of 5/4/20].

[3]   Daily Devotions of the Presbyterian Reformed Church of Cuba (June 26, 2022).

[4]  Our Global Partners in Cuba, Westminster News (July 2022). This blogger treasures his having been on three Westminster mission trips to Cuba and the friendships he has developed with Cubans. (Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church’s Connections with Cuba, dwkcommentaries.com (Jan. 13, 2015); Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church Celebrates U.S.-Cuba Reconciliation, dwkcommentaries.com (Jan. 4, 2015). See generally List of Posts to dwkcommentaries—Topical: CUBA [as of 5/4/20].

[5] See, e.g., Frank, Cuba sees slow economic recovery at 4% in 2022—Official, Reuters (Dec. 12, 2021); Cubans arriving in record numbers along Mexico border, Wash. Post (April 7, 2022); Cuba economic crisis and political crackdown pushes many to immigrate, Al Jazeera YouTube (May 2022); Cuban Migrants Arrive to U.S. in Record Numbers, on Foot, Not by Boat, N.Y. Times (May 3, 2022); With the world distracted, Cuba cracks down on dissident artists, Wash. Post (June 27, 2022)..

 

 

Resetting State Criminal Trial Date for Kueng and Thao for Killing of George Floyd

On June 6, Hennepin County District Court Judge Peter Cahill, in a well-reasoned opinion, postponed the date for the criminal cases against J. Peter Kueng and Tao Thao  to January 5, 2023.[1]

On June 21, Judge Cahill heard arguments on two motions for changing the date for the start of the trial.

Prosecution’s Motion[2]

The prosecution’s one-page letter merely stated, “On behalf of the family of George Floyd, the state requests a speedy trial as provided in the Victim’s Rights Act, Minn. Stat. sec. 611A.033(a), and Minn. R. Crim. P. 11.09(b).”

Kueng’s Motion[3]

Kueng’s motion requested a continuance to a date after April 3, 2023. For background, his motion stated, “On June 17, 2022 the State entered a speedy trial demand. . . . The State’s demand for a speedy trial followed a teleconference . . . [on June 27] wherein the instant continuance request was discussed [and] Counsel for Mr. Thao has informed the Court that he has no objection to this continuance request.” In addition, “On March 9, 2022 and May 27, 2022 the Court conducted chambers conferences with the parties to discuss plea negotiations, trial scheduling and other matters. During each of those meetings Counsel for Mr. Kueng informed the Court and parties that he was unavailable for trial from January through March 2023. Counsel’s unavailability is due a scheduling conflict of a personal nature.”

The Court’s Decision[4]

After hearing from the attorneys, Judge Cahill apologized to Thomas Plunkett, the attorney for Kueng, that he had forgotten that the attorney previously had told the Judge that he had a personal commitment ‘etched in stone’ in January and that he’d rather give up his law license than miss it. Judge Cahill then announced that he was changing the date for commencement of the trial to October 24, 2022 although he was still weighing the need for publicity from the federal trial and former officer Thomas Lane’s May guilty plea to aiding and abetting manslaughter to die down.

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[1] State Criminal Trial for Thao and Kueng Postponed to January 2023, dwkcommentaries.com (June. 6, 2022); Walsh, State requests speedier start for state trial of ex-officers Thao and Kueng in George Floyd killing, StarTribune (June 20, 2022).

[2] Letter, Frank (Assist. Att. Gen.) to Judge Cahill, June 17, 2022).

[3] Defendant Kueng’s Notice and Motion for Continuance, State v. Kueng, Henn. Cty. Dist. Ct. File No. 27-CR-20-12953 (June 19, 2022).

[4] Olson, Judge agrees to move trial of two former Minneapolis officers to October in George Floyd’s death, StarTribune (June 21, 2022).

State Criminal Trial for Thao and Kueng Postponed to January 2023

On June 6, Hennepin County District Court Judge Peter Cahill granted motions byTou Thao and J. Alexander Kueng to postpone their criminal trials with a new date of January 5 for their commencement. The court also denied the defendants’ motion to change venue and the motion of the Media Coalition to reconsider the court’s previous barring of audio and video coverage of this trial.[1]

The Reasons for Changing the Trial Date

 The Minnesota Supreme Court has recognized that “continuance of a trial date has been recognized as an effective tool to diminish the effect of prejudicial pretrial publicity.” Here, the defendants have cited two such events.

  • First, on May 18, 2022 (less than four week prior to the scheduled start of the trial co-defendant Thomas Lane pled guilty to aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter. [2]
  • Second, on February 24, 2022, Thao, Kueng and Lane were found guilty by a federal jury of violating George Floyd’s civil rights “based largely on the same evidence as will be introduced in Defendants Thao’s and Kueng’s joint state trial.”[3]

“These two recent events and the publicity surrounding them are significant in they . . could make it difficult for jurors to presume Thao and Kueng innocent of the State charges.” A postponement of the trial for nearly seven months should “diminish the impact of this publicity on the Defendants’ right and ability to receive a fair trial from an impartial and unbiased jury.”

The Reasons for Denial of Change of Venue

Although there has been “saturation news coverage in the Twin Cities in print and broadcast media” of the George Floyd killing and subsequent court proceedings, the same is true “throughout the entire State of Minnesota—not to mention nationally.”

Moreover, “a prospective juror’s exposure to pretrial publicity does not alone create a reasonable likelihood of an unfair trial. . . . Instead, the issue is whether a prospective juror can set aside his or her impressions or opinions based on pretrial publicity, be fair and impartial, and render an impartial verdict.” In addition, this court has taken extensive measures in the earlier Chauvin trial and is now implementing those same measures for the trial of Thao and Kueng.

In addition, postponing the trial to January 2023 will put more than two and one-half years since the killing of Mr. Floyd; more than 20 months since the jury verdict in the Chauvin case; [4] almost eleven months since the jury verdict against Thao and Kueng in the federal civil rights trial; and probably four to six months since their upcoming sentencing in that federal trial.

Finally, this court has continued to impose “appropriate steps to ensure the selection of an impartial jury” and Hennepin County is “the most populous and diverse county in the state.”

The Reasons for Denial of Audio/Video Coverage

“With the reduction in the number of defendants, . . . [the trial courtroom] can now be configured, with the relaxed COVID protocols, to accommodate at least eighteen seats for the public . . . [which] does not amount to a courtroom closure.”

However, “if there is a significant rule change in place by [the commencement of this trial next January], the court would reconsider allowing audio and video coverage.”

Another Consideration

Another consideration favoring the postponement of the trial not mentioned by Judge Cahill was providing additional time for these two defendants, especially after their federal sentencing, to consider attempting to negotiate an agreement with the prosecution for their pleading guilty to the state charges.

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[1] Walsh, State Trial for fired Minneapolis officers Thao, Kueng delayed until January, Star Tribune (June 6, 2022); Order and Memorandum Opinion Concerning Trial, State v. Thao & Kueng, Court Files Nos. 27-CR-20-12949 & 27-Cr-20-12953, Hennepin County District Court (June 6, 2022).

[2] Ex-Officer Thomas Lane Pleads Guilty to State Charge of Aiding and Abetting Manslaughter of George Floyd, dwkcommentaries.com (May 18, 2022). Comment: More Details on Lane’s Guilty Plea, dwkcommentaries.com (May 19, 2022).

[3]  Federal Criminal Trial for Killing George Floyd: Jury Deliberations and Verdict, dwkcommentaries.com (Feb. 25, 2022).

[4] Derek Chauvin Trial: Week Seven (Conviction), dwkcommentaries.com (April 21, 2021); Derek Chauvin Trial: Chauvin Sentenced to 22.5 Years Imprisonment, dwkcommentaries.com (June 28, 2021).

 

Derek Chauvin and City of Minneapolis Sued for Alleged Use of Excessive Force in 2017

On May 31, 2022, Derek Chauvin, the City of Minneapolis and certain other Minneapolis police officers were sued in two federal court cases for compensatory and punitive damages for Chauvin’s alleged use of excessive force in 2017.

John Pope Case[1]

In September 2017, John Pope, then 14 years old, alleges that he was alone in his bedroom on the floor using his cellphone when two Minneapolis police officers came into his room and said he was under arrest. When Pope asked why, one of the officers hit him on the head with a flashlight and choked him until he passed out. When he woke up, one of the officers had his knee on the back of Pope’s neck, and Pope asked the officer to move his knee to Pope’s lower back to help him breathe. The officer responded, “Are you going to flounce around,” before he moved his knee. At the time, Pope did not know the name of the officer, but after seeing photos of Chauvin after the killing of George Floyd, Pope believed that Chauvin was the officer in the encounter.

Thereafter Pope, now a soft-spoken bank supervisor and college student studying criminal justice, retained attorneys who investigated the case and with the aid of body-worn camera footage determined the following:

  • “That night Chauvin was acting as a field-training officer for officer Alexander Walls when the two responded to a domestic assault call at 8:45 p.m. to Pope’s home on the 5700 block of Chicago Avenue S. Pope was there with his sister and his mother, Deanna Jenkins.”
  • “Upon arrival, the officers called in a ‘Code 4,’ meaning the situation was under control and no assistance was needed. But Jenkins, who was obviously drunk, the lawsuit said, told Chauvin and Walls she wanted Pope and his sister arrested for using electricity to charge their phones.”
  • Jenkins “claimed Pope had grabbed her from behind, and with Chauvin watching, she filled out domestic assault paperwork.” The officers then went to talk to Pope in his bedroom, according to the lawsuit.
  • “The lawsuit said Chauvin held him down for 15 minutes while Pope was ‘completely subdued and not resisting,’ but crying out that he couldn’t breathe. Citing body-camera footage, the lawsuit said Jenkins asked Chauvin eight times to get off of Pope.”
  • “At least eight officers, including Walls and five others named in the lawsuit, saw Chauvin kneeling on an unmoving Pope but did nothing to stop the restraint. Chauvin was still on Pope when paramedics showed up, the lawsuit said.”
  • “Pope was taken to the hospital for stitches and then the Juvenile Justice Center where he was charged with fifth-degree domestic assault, a misdemeanor, and obstructing the legal process, a gross misdemeanor, but the charges were quickly dropped.”

In addition, the lawsuit alleges that the “kneeing maneuver” Chauvin used on Pope, Floyd and “likely many others” was Chauvin’s “calling card” despite officers knowing it posed serious risk of injury and death from positional asphyxia and that the MPD culture “encourages and enables racist, predatory police officers and unconstitutional force practices.”

Moreover, according to the lawsuit, “Chauvin’s treatment of Pope and [Zoya] Code [the plaintiff in the other new case] was available to MPD supervisors because the city maintains electronic storage of all body-worn camera footage through evidence.com. ‘But the city buried its head in the sand regarding such evidence or even worse, reviewed it and did nothing, in either case continuing to condone such actions by officers.’”

As a result, says the lawsuit, “Chauvin and six other officers violated . . . [Pope’s] constitutional right to be free from excessive force” and “that rather than discipline Chauvin for his treatment of Pope, the officer was “‘left free to prowl for more Black persons to subjugate and torture.’”

More specifically, the Complaint asserts the following claims:

  • Count I: Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment Violations against Chauvin individually for compensatory and punitive damages plus costs, including reasonable attorneys’ fees.
  • Count II: Race Discrimination—Fourteenth Amendment Violation against Chauvin individually for compensatory and punitive damages plus costs, including reasonable attorneys’ fees.
  • Count III: Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment Violations against six other officers individually for compensatory and punitive damages plus costs, including reasonable attorneys’ fees.
  • Count IV: Civil Rights Violations (Monell v. Dept. of Social Services) against the City of Minneapolis for compensatory damages plus costs, including reasonable attorneys’ fees.
  • Count V: Violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 against the City of Minneapolis for compensatory damages plus costs, including reasonable attorneys’ fees.

Zoya Code Case[2]

Code, a 39-year-old mother of five alleges that in 2017 Chauvin held his knee on her back and traumatized her. She said, “I didn’t know his name. All I knew was he was a police officer with Minneapolis Police Department. I didn’t know what precinct he was at. All I knew was his face. [Chauvin] haunted me until I seen him on top of George [Floyd].” The legal bases for the five counts of this Complaint and the claimed relief are the same as the Complaint by Mr. Pope, except the latter’s Count III is only against one other officer.

Plaintiffs’ Attorneys

Mr. Pope and Ms. Code are represented by the prestigious Minneapolis law firm of Robins Kaplan LLP and three of its partners (Robert Bennett, Andrew Noel and Kathryn Bennett) along with Counsel Marc E. Betinsky and Associate Greta Wiessner.

The skills of these attorneys are demonstrated by the obviously well researched and written complaints. They are ready for battle if that is needed.

City of Minneapolis’ Reactions

In a statement, Minneapolis City Attorney Peter Ginder called the accounts of Pope and Code “disturbing. “We intend to move forward in negotiations with the Plaintiffs on these two matters and hope we can reach a reasonable settlement. If a settlement cannot be reached on one or both lawsuits, the disputes will have to be resolved through the normal course of litigation.”

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[1]  Complaint, Pope v. Chauvin, U.S. Dist. Ct., D. MN, No.0:22-cv-01434 (May 31, 2022); Olson & Robiou, Chauvin, Minneapolis police named in two federal excessive-force lawsuits dating to 2017, involving teenager, woman, StarTribune (May 31, 2022); Vancleave, [Videotape]: Minneapolis teen recalls violent arrest by Derek Chauvin years before George Floyd, StarTribune (May 31, 2022).

[2]   Complaint, Code v.  Chauvin, U.S. Dist. Ct., D. MN, No. 0:22-cv-01438 (May 31, 2022); Olson & Robiou, Chauvin, Minneapolis police named in two federal excessive-force lawsuits dating to 2017, involving teenager, woman, StarTribune (May 31, 2022).

 

 

 

Remaining Ex-Cops in Criminal Case Over Killing of George Floyd Ask for Delay and Change of Venue for Trial

On May 31st Defendants Tou Thao and J. Alexander Kueng asked Hennepin County District Court Judge Peter Cahill to postpone their criminal trial now scheduled to start on June 13 to after federal sentencing and to change the venue for the trial to another county outside the Twin Cities.[1] They contend that it will be impossible to select an impartial jury in light of the following recent developments: the recent guilty plea from their co-defendant, Thomas Lane;[2] the February guilty verdicts for all three former officers in federal court;[3] the settling of costly civil rights lawsuits and public comments from politicians like Attorney General Keith Ellison; and the May 31st premier of the PBS Frontline/StarTribune documentary of the George Floyd killing and its aftermath.[4]

The prosecution (State of Minnesota) opposes these motions.[5] It states that this is a belated attempt “to move this case to somewhere else in Minnesota or delay proceedings for yet another year. This newest motion—Defendant Kueng’s fourth such request—does not offer new facts that warrant this court revisiting its earlier decisions and changing course at this late hour. . . . [This] latest filing is nothing more than a last-ditch attempt to evade judgment.”

Conclusion

These motions, in the opinion of this blogger, will promptly be denied.

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[1] Defendant’s Fourth Motion for Change of Venue or Continuance, State v. Kueng, Court File No. 27-CR-20-12953 (May 28, 2022); Notice of Motion and Motion for a Change of Venue or in the Alternative a Motion for Continuance, State v. Thao, Hennepin County District Court, Court File No. 27-CR-20-12949 (May 30, 2022); Mannix, Two former Minneapolis officers charged in George Floyd killing ask judge to delay, relocate trial, StarTribune (May 31, 2022).

[2] Ex-Officer Thomas Lane Pleads Guilty to State Charge of Aiding and Abetting Manslaughter of George Floyd, dwkcommentaries.com (May 18, 2022);

[3] Federal Criminal Trial for Killing of George Floyd: Jury Deliberations and Verdict, dwkcommentaries.com (Feb. 25, 2022).

[4] ‘Frontline’ teams up with StarTribune for documentary on Minneapolis police, StarTribune (May 31, 2022).

[5] State’s Opposition to a Change of Venue or a Continuance, State v. Kueng & Thao, Hennepin County District Court, Court File Nos. 27-Cr-20-12953 & 27-CR-20-12949 (May 30, 2022).

President Biden’s Executive Order on Policing

On May 25, 2022, President Joe Biden signed the Executive Order on Advancing Effective, Accountable Policing and Criminal Justice Practices to Enhance Public Trust and Public Safety.[1] This lengthy Order calls for the creation of national standards for the accreditation of police departments and a national database of federal officers with substantiated complaints and disciplinary records, including those fired for misconduct. It also will instruct federal law enforcement agencies to update their use-of-force policies to emphasize de-escalation. The Order also restricts tactics like chokeholds and no-knock warrants and grants incentives to encourage state and local agencies to adopt the same standards while also banning the transfer of most military equipment to police.[2]

The signing was done on the second anniversary of the killing of George Floyd in the presence of members of his family as well as Vice President Harris, members of his Cabinet and lawmakers.

President Biden’s Comments on the Order

This order is “a measure of what we can do together to heal the very soul of this nation; to address the profound fear and trauma, exhaustion that particularly Black Americans have experienced for generations; and to channel that private pain and public outrage into a rare mark of progress for years to come.”

“Two summers ago, in the middle of a pandemic, we saw protests [about the killing of George Floyd] across the nation the likes of which you hadn’t seen since the 1960s.They unified people of every race and generation.  Athletes and sports leagues boycotted and postponed games.  Companies and workers proclaimed ‘Black Lives Matter.’  Students staged solidarity walkouts. From Europe to the Middle East to Asia to Australia, people saw their own fight for justice and equality in what we were trying to do.”

“The message is clear: Enough!”

“[A]lmost a year later, a jury in Minnesota stepped up and they found a police officer guilty of murdering George Floyd, with officers and even a police chief taking the stand to testify against misconduct of their colleagues.  I don’t know any good cop who likes a bad cop.”

But for many people, including many families here, such accountability is all too rare.  That’s why I promised as President I would do everything in my power to enact meaningful police reform that is real and lasting. That’s why I called on Congress to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, to send it to my desk.”

“This is a call to action based on a basic truth: Public trust, as any cop will tell you, is the foundation of public safety.  If they’re not trusted, the population doesn’t contribute, doesn’t cooperate.”

“For the wheels of justice are propelled by the confidence that people have in their system of justice.  Without that confidence, crimes would go unreported.  Witness[es] fear to come forward; cases go unsolved; victims suffer in isolation while perpetrators remain free; and ironically, police are put in greater — greater danger; justice goes undelivered.”

“Without public trust, law enforcement can’t do its job of serving and protecting all of our communities.  But as we’ve seen all too often, public trust is frayed and broken, and that undermines public safety.”

“The families here today and across the country have had to ask why this nation — why so many Black Americans wake up knowing they could lose their life in the course of just living their life today — simply jogging, shopping, sleeping at home.  Whether they made headlines or not, lost souls gone too soon.”

“Members of Congress, including many here today . . . spent countless hours on the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act to find a better answer to that question. The House passed a strong bill.  It failed in the Senate where our Republican colleagues opposed any meaningful reform.”

“So we got to work on this executive order, which is grounded in key elements of the Justice in Policing Act and reflects inputs of a broad coalition represented here today. Families courageously shared their perspectives on what happened to their loved ones and what we could do to make sure it doesn’t happen to somebody else. Civil rights groups and their leaders of every generation who have given their heart and soul to this work provided critical insights and perspectives. The executive order also benefits from the valuable inputs of law enforcement who put their . . . lives on the line every single day to serve.”

“Here today, I want to especially thank the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the Fraternal Order of Police, as well as the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, the Federal Law Enforcement [Officers] Association, the Police Executive Research Forum, Major City Chiefs Association, and others who . . . stepped up and endorsed what we’re talking about today.”

“This executive order is going to deliver the most significant police reform in decades.  It applies directly, under law, to only 100,000 federal law enforcement officers — all the federal law enforcement officers.  And though federal incentives and best practices they’re attached to, we expect the order to have significant impact on state and local law enforcement agencies as well.”

“Here are the key parts:

“First, the executive order promotes accountability.  It creates a new national law enforcement accountability database to track records of misconduct so that an officer can’t hide the misconduct. It strengthens the pattern-and-practice investigations to address  systemic misconduct in some departments.  It mandates all federal agents wear and activate body cameras while on patrol.”

Second, the executive order raises standards, bans chokeholds, restricts no-knock warrants, tightens use-of-force policies to emphasize de-escalation and the duty to intervene to stop another officer from using excessive force. . . .”

Third, “the executive order modernizes policing.  It calls for a fresh approach to recruit, train, promote, and retain law enforcement that [is] tied to advancing public safety and public trust.
Right now, we don’t systematically collect data, for instance, on instances of police use of force.  This executive order is going to improve that data collection.”

Other Comments on the Order

As an executive order, it is not as comprehensive as a federal statute on these subjects, but because of Republican opposition Congress has refused to adopt such legislation this term. Moreover, as a federal order it cannot and does not compel state and local law enforcement agencies to adopt the policies set forth in the order; instead, as previously noted, it provides incentives for state and local agencies to do so.

“Larry Cosme, president of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, said the order will have the most direct impact on the nation’s 100,000 federal officers, given that Biden’s ability to act unilaterally on policies for local and state police is limited. But Cosme [also] said the document could serve as a ‘national role model for all law enforcement around the country. We’ve engaged in hundreds of hours of discussions, and this can inspire people in the state and local departments to say: ‘This is what we need to do.’”

“Cosme emphasized that the order will include sections aimed at providing more support for officer wellness, including mental health, and officer recruitment and retention at a time when many departments are facing low morale and staffing shortages. ‘No officer wants anyone, not the suspect or the victim, to lose their life. We want the maximum safety for everyone in the country.’”

The order also drew support from other leaders of major policing organizations.

Jim Pasco, the executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police, said he thought the order’s revised use-of-force language would “bring more clarity and better guidance to officers” but without causing them to become so risk-averse that they fail to protect themselves and others when necessary. “It’s not a question of stricter or less strict,” Mr. Pasco said. “It’s a question of better framed. And a better-constructed definition of the use of force.” He added: “It’s not a sea change.”

Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, “It’s the nature of American policing. We don’t have a national police force, no national standards and no way of making every department comply with national standards. What this does is, when you don’t have Congress acting on a police bill, you have the president of the United States setting the tone: ‘Here’s what I expect of federal agencies and, therefore, I think state and local will follow.’”

Another supporter of the order, the NAACP by its President, Derrick Johnson, said, ‘We know full well that an executive order cannot address America’s policing crisis the same way Congress has the ability to, but we’ve got to do everything we can. There’s no better way to honor George Floyd’s legacy than for President Biden to take action by signing a police reform executive order.’”

Marc Morial, a former New Orleans mayor who is president and chief executive of the National Urban League, called the order ‘a very important step. We recognize that this process is not going to be easy. This is a long fight. I’m going to accept this first important step by the president because it’s a powerful statement, and it reflects what he can do with his own executive power.’”

The American Civil Liberties Union by Udi Ofer, its deputy national political director, offered cautious support for the executive order, saying much would depend on how it was carried out. “Correct implementation of this standard will be pivotal for its success,” he said. “We have seen jurisdictions with strong standards where officers still resort to the use of deadly force, so just having these words on paper will not be enough. The entire culture and mentality needs to change to bring these words to life, and to save lives.”

Christy E. Lopez, a Georgetown University Law professor and expert on policing issues, [3] praised the order, but noted, that the order is not self-executing, but “will take an enormous amount of effort and focus, particularly by Attorney General Merrick Garland and the Justice Department, but by other federal agencies as well, to ensure that the mandated guidance, studies, grants, task forces and databases are not only created but remain faithful to the goals of the executive order. And that is going to require advocates to keep persistent pressure on the government.” This order “is not legislation. This means, for example, that those of us who support modifying qualified immunity for officials accused of violating a plaintiff’s rights, or creating direct municipal liability for police misconduct, must still push Congress to pass the necessary laws. An even bigger limitation is that while the executive branch can provide state and local governments support and incentives to reduce the harms of policing, it cannot direct them to do so. The bulk of that work must continue to be done in cities, counties and states across the country.”

======================

[1] White House, Executive Order on Advancing Effective, Accountable Policing and Criminal Justice Practices to Enhance Public Trust and Public Safety (May 25, 2022);

[2] White House, Remarks by President Biden and Vice President Harris at Signing of Executive Order to Advance Effective, Accountable Policing and Strengthen Public Safety (May 25, 2022); Biden Set to Issue Policing Order on Anniversary of George Floyd Killing, N.Y. Times (May 24, 2022); Biden signs executive order on policing on the anniversary of George Floyd’s death, Wash. Post (May 25, 2022); Biden signs police reform executive order on anniversary of George Floyd’s murder, Guardian (May 26, 2022); Lopez, Biden’s order is a good start on police reform, But Congress must also act, Wash. Post (May 27, 2022)

[3] See Importance of Pending Federal Criminal Case Over Killing of George Floyd, dwkcommentaries.com (Jan. 24, 2022).

Ex-Officer Thomas Lane Pleads Guilty to State Charge of Aiding and Abetting Manslaughter of George Floyd   

On May 18, 2022, former Minneapolis Police Officer Thomas Lane in state court pleaded guilty to the charge of aiding and abetting manslaughter of George Floyd on May 25, 2020. [1]

Before Hennepin County District Court Judge Peter Cahill, this guilty plea was part of a plea agreement which dismissed the separate charge of aiding and abetting second-degree murder and for a sentence of three years imprisonment in federal prison to be served concurrently with his upcoming sentence for his February 2022 conviction in federal court for violating Floyd’s civil rights. The state court sentencing is scheduled for September 21.[2]

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison issued a statement saying, “Today my thoughts are once again with the victims, George Floyd and his family. Nothing will bring Floyd back. He should still be with us today.” Ellison then said, “I am pleased Thomas Lane has accepted responsibility for his role in Floyd’s death. His acknowledgment he did something wrong is an important step toward healing the wounds of the Floyd family, our community, and the nation. While accountability is not justice, this is a significant moment in this case and a necessary resolution on our continued journey to justice.”  Lane’s attorney, Earl Gray, however, declined to comment on this development.

Two other ex-MPD officers, Tou Thao and J. Alexander Kueng still face state charges of aiding and abetting second-degree murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s death. That trial is scheduled to commence on June 13. [3]

============================

[1] Olson, Ex-MPD officer Thomas Lane pleads guilty to manslaughter charge for role in George Floyd’s murder, StarTribune (May 18, 2022); Forlitti & Karnowski (AP), Ex-cop pleads guilty to manslaughter in George Floyd killing, Wash. Post (May 18, 2022); Ex-Minneapolis police officer pleads guilty to manslaughter in George Floyd’s death, NBC News (May 18, 2022); Minnesota Attorney General, ‘Pleased Thomas Lane has accepted responsibility ‘: Attorney general Ellison statement on guilty plea in death of George Floyd (May 18, 2022). Apparently in April, Lane, Kueng and Thao rejected a plea deal (details not publicly available) offered by the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office. (Jimenez, 3 former police officers charged in George Floyd’s death reject plea deal, CNN.com (April 13, 2022).

[2] Federal Criminal trial for Killing George Floyd: Jury Deliberations and Verdict, dwkcommentareis.com (Feb. 25, 2022).

[3] Hennepin County District Court Enters Order Regarding Trial of Three Former Minneapolis Policemen Over Killing of George Floyd, dwkcommentaries.com (April 30, 2022).

Prayer and Meditation for Walter Mondale by Rev. Dr. Timothy Hart-Andersen

At the May 1, 2022 memorial service for Walter Mondale, Rev. Dr. Timothy Hart-Andersen, the Senior Pastor at Mondale’s Minneapolis church, Westminster Presbyterian, delivered the following prayer and Meditation.

Prayer

“Let us pray:”

 “Gracious God, we gather in this Easter season to give you thanks and   praise for the life and witness of Walter F. Mondale. In remembering him and his legacy of public service, help us recall the source of the values that guided him. You summon us to seek justice, to uphold the full humanity of all, to ensure equal access – and to do so with kindness and humility. Your servant Fritz embraced those gospel ideals.”

“As we face the mystery of death help us, we pray, to see the light of eternity, the light that now shines on Fritz, Joan, and Eleanor. With the power of a love that knows no bounds, hold them close, and comfort and encourage all who continue to struggle for the world you desire for the human community.”

 “ In your name we pray. Amen.”

 Meditation

“Fritz Mondale was born into a home steeped in biblical wisdom and solid, southern Minnesota common sense. Theodore, his Methodist-pastor father, would have trained for the ministry in the time when the social gospel was ascendant. The values of doing good and making the world a better place for all were taught in the Mondale household and in Sunday School by Fritz’s mother, Claribel, who also played the piano at church.”

“’I believe I attended more church services,’ Fritz once said, ‘Sang in more weddings and funerals, attended more Sunday Schools, than any public official in the history of southern Minnesota.’”

“His family drew from the well of Methodist teaching that linked passion, discipline, intellect, and concern for ‘the least of these.’ It was a potent combination of a heart aflame with rigorous commitment to serve the most vulnerable in society. That theological context formed young Fritz, and it would define his character all his life.”

“’My faith and my family have been my greatest blessings in my life,’ he said in a speech not long ago.  ‘I was taught that ours was a faith of decency and social justice, based on the great commandment to love your God and to love your neighbor as yourself.’”

“Like many of us in the Protestant world, Fritz did not wear religion on his sleeve. In fact, he was suspicious of anyone who did. His was a Beatitudes-based faith, drawing on the simple teaching of Jesus: ‘Blessed are those who are meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who are poor, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who make peace, for they will be called children of God.’”

“Fritz found the holy in what Wendell Berry calls ‘the peace of wild things,’ whether at their cabin in the St. Croix Valley or fishing up north. His work in protecting rivers was driven by home-grown Minnesota commitment to stewardship of the earth. ‘Wilderness is a spiritual necessity,’ Sigurd Olson said in words that Fritz lived, ‘A means of regaining serenity and equilibrium.’ An usher at church this morning told me how grateful he and his fishing buddies are for what Fritz did to protect the rivers of this land. He said he never got a chance to thank him in person. So, on his and his buddies’ behalf, Thank you, Fritz.”  (Olson, The Spiritual Aspects of Wilderness (1961))

“Every time Fritz referred to his upbringing – which he did regularly – it was his way of remembering what had shaped his life and formed the person he became.”

“The Mondales were faithful members of the church I serve, Westminster Presbyterian in Minneapolis. Joan’s father was a Presbyterian chaplain at Macalester College, which Fritz attended before the U of M. He met Joan on a blind date at Macalester. It was the start of their beautiful life together.”

“The nation saw and admired Fritz’ public service; I did, too, and as his pastor I also saw the husband and father who deeply loved his family. The loss of Eleanor tore open his heart, and Joan’s death took part of his life, as well. Millions of Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s, two-thirds of whom are women. As Joan declined, Fritz tenderly cared for her right to the end, rarely leaving her side.”

“Toward the end of his life, he said he looked forward to being with them both again. Fritz trusted in the power of God’s love in this life and the next. He was not concerned about the state of his soul.”

“Shortly after his 90th birthday party, held here at the University, I had lunch with him. As I sometimes do with older parishioners, I asked if he ever thought about the end of life. He glanced around the noisy place, leaned forward, and said quietly, ‘In the strict confidentiality of this room, I will tell you that I will be the first person to live forever. I’ve made the arrangements.’”

“I thanked him for letting me in on the secret.”

“’Actually,’ he said, ‘I understand it happens to everyone at some point. Do you think Carter will come?’”

“President Carter has sent words we will hear later, but he was able to be here for Joan’s memorial service in Westminster’s sanctuary and gave a moving tribute to her and to the life partnership she had with Fritz.”

“Walter Mondale may not have been concerned about the state of his soul, but he was concerned about the state of his nation, especially in recent years.”

“The rise of the religious Right as a powerful force in American politics was a source of considerable consternation to him. ‘Tell me what’s going on with these fundamentalist preachers,’ he would say to me – as if I knew.”

“Fritz understood neither the Christianity they espoused nor the politics they practiced. Both were utterly foreign to his way of living out a quiet faith through public policy aimed squarely at justice for those on the receiving end of the cruelties of history. His Christianity was kind and humble. It confounded him when fellow believers were neither.”

“Once when we were at a meal in a restaurant word got out in the kitchen that the vice-president was eating there.  The kitchen door opened and one-by-one the dishwashers and bussers, all of them immigrants, came out to shake his hand and thank him for his service to the nation. Fritz treated each one with respect and dignity.”

“On his office desk, Fritz had taped some lines from Psalm 15. The Hebrew poet provided the scriptural framing of the politics he practiced. As I read these words, contrast them with much of what passes for political leadership today (present company excepted):

Lord, who can be trusted with power, and who may act in your place? Those with a passion for justice, who speak the truth from their hearts; who have let go of selfish interests and grown beyond their own lives; who see the wretched as their family and the poor as their flesh and blood. They alone are impartial and worthy of the people’s trust. Their compassion lights up the whole earth, and their kindness endures forever.”

“Theodore and Claribel’s son, born 94 years ago, grew up and entered political life and served his beloved Minnesota and our nation for decades, never wandering far from his roots.”

Thanks be to God for the life of Fritz Mondale.

“Thanks be to God for love that cannot be taken from us.

 “Thanks be to God.

  “Amen.”

Background on Westminster Presbyterian Church[1]

Westminster was founded in Minneapolis in 1857 by eight people of Scotch, Irish, and Welsh heritage and moved to its current location at 12th Street and Nicollet Avenue in 1883 and its current Sanctuary at that location in 1897. Its latest expansion was in 2018, when a modern two-story  40,000 square-foot wing was added with church bells crafted in France. (Here are photographs of the church.)

With over 3,000 members today, Westminster is “an engaged, urban partner sharing good news with a world in need of God’s peace, love, and justice [as a] vibrant, open-minded congregation.” It “is a place where people of all ages and backgrounds deepen their faith and make a difference in the world.” It “offers ministries in adult, children, and youth education; music and the arts; and social justice, with a highly engaged congregation that welcomes and cares deeply for all people within and beyond its walls.”

Westminster is “an open and affirming congregation” that “because of our commitment to the love and justice of Jesus Christ, . . .fully welcomes persons of all sexual orientations and gender expressions and identities.” It “was involved in the movement to change the Presbyterian Church’s ordination standards to allow any church member to freely serve and be elected as a minster, elder, or deacon. Our church was a leader in the movement for marriage equality in the State of Minnesota and the Presbyterian Church (USA). Prior to the legalization of marriage equality, Westminster’s pastors celebrated the love and commitment of same-sex couples, and continue now to happily officiate at weddings recognized by the State of Minnesota.”

Westminster has “heightened awareness of the systemic and critical issues affecting our community, brought to greater attention in recent years, most especially in response to the murder of George Floyd. Through [adult education] we will learn about long-standing needs, and become more prepared to support all members of our community. In arriving at this theme, we are guided by the beliefs we share with congregations of the Presbyterian Church (USA), “God sends the Church to work for justice in the world: exercising its power for the common good…seeking dignity and freedom for all people” (Book of Order, W-5.0304). And with this theme we are reconnecting with Westminster’s hope for a just (Micah 6:8), loving (I Corinthians 16:14), joyful (Galatians 5:22), sustainable (Psalm 8), and peaceful (John 14:27) community.”

Since 1980 the church has sponsored the Westminster Town Hall Forum, which is broadcast on Minnesota Public Radio, to discuss “key issues of our day in an ethical perspective.” Speakers have included Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Elie Wiesel, Thomas Friedman, Cornel West, Kathleen Hall Jamieson, David McCullough, Marcus Borg, Marian Wright Edelman, Barbara Brown Taylor, David Brooks, Salman Rushdie, Gwen Ifill, and Bryan Stevenson.

Westminster’s Global Partners Ministry Team nurtures the church’s long-standing relationships with faith communities in Cameroon, Cuba, and Palestine (West Bank). The team plans opportunities for Westminster members to visit sister congregations and related Christian organizations in these communities to share friendship, prayer, worship, and community service. These global partnerships have resulted not only in treasured congregational relationships, but also in deepening of our shared faith.

Most recently Westminster with the assistance of the Minnesota Council of Churches has become a co-sponsor of an Afghan family.

Rev. Hart-Andersen is a member of the Downtown Interfaith Senior Clergy of Minneapolis along with religious leaders of faith traditions that include Judaism, Islam, Roman Catholicism, Protestantism and Humanism. One example of their work was the prompt condemnation of the Minneapolis killing of George Floyd.

Rev. Hart-Andersen has been Westminster’s Senior Pastor since 1999 and “is passionate about Westminster’s mission to be fully engaged in the life of the city and in transforming lives and systems in pursuit of the love and justice of Jesus Christ. ‘Westminster is a community thoroughly engaged in living faithfully in complex times. I am grateful that the church is willing to learn and change, to grow and take risks, all in an effort to fulfill the gospel mandate to ‘love God and neighbor.’”

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[1] Westminster Presbyterian Church, History; Westminster, What we believe; Westminster. Social Justice Forum; Westminster Town Hall Forum; Westminster Global Partners Ministry TeamMinneapolis Religious Leaders Condemn Killing of George Floyd, dwkcommentaries.com (June 8, 2020); Westminster, Rev. Timothy Hart-Andersen. This blogger is a Westminster member and non-ruling elder who has been involved in leading our Global Partners Ministry Team and has been on  mission trips to Cuba and Cameroon and is now involved in our co-sponsorship of an Afghan family. (See these posts about religion, Cuba and Cameroon.)

 

 

 

Presidential Historian Jon Meacham’s Remarks About Walter Mondale at His Memorial Service

At the May 1st Memorial Service for former Vice President Walter Mondale, Presidential Historian Jon Meacham delivered the following remarks.[1]

“The story begins the year before he was even old enough to vote. It was a late July afternoon in 1948, and Fritz Mondale, then all of 20, had been put in charge of the Second Congressional District for Hubert Humphrey’s U.S. Senate campaign. No one knew what second prize was. The annual Martin County Farm Bureau Federation picnic at Fox Lake Park needed a speaker, and Mr. Mondale arranged for Humphrey to headline the event.”

“The political climate was charged and complicated in that American summer. There was anxiety at home, communist aggression abroad, as a Democratic president sought to govern a fractious party and a divided country. As Mark Twain once said, history may not repeat itself, but it does rhyme. Seen as too liberal by the right and too conservative by the left, Harry Truman would say he didn’t give Republicans hell; he just told them the truth and they thought it was hell.”

“In his own party President Truman faced opposition over his desegregation of the military and his push for civil rights. Only weeks before the Martin County picnic, Mayor Humphrey’s civil rights speech at the Democratic convention in Philadelphia had helped send Dixiecrats, segregationist Dixiecrats, out of the hall and back into the Old Confederacy.”

“But far from the Olympian drama of Philadelphia, in Martin County, after the 4-H club band had played, Humphrey took the stage. He was passionate and funny. He said, ‘Kick the rascals out, and vote the new rascals in.’ Afterward Humphrey thanked his young ally, telling Mr. Mondale: ‘Your work is needed. We have so much to do.’”

“Mr. Mondale was over the moon. ‘After that day,’ he recalled, ‘I think I never stopped.’”

“’I think I never stopped.’ And we live in a better, nobler, more perfect Union because Walter Frederick Mondale never stopped.”

“Now, for the politicians in the room — and there might be one or two of you who snuck through customs — an election result: In 1948, Humphrey carried Mondale’s territory, the very Republican Second District, by 8,500 votes. It was Mr. Mondale’s first victory, and it was a sweet one, second only perhaps to his seven dates-in-six-months courtship of Joan Adams.”

“The son of a Methodist minister and farmer, as a child Walter Mondale absorbed a gospel that he never stopped seeking to put into practice: That we are summoned to love our neighbors as ourselves, to lift up the most vulnerable among us — to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to strengthen the weak.”

“There’s nothing more important — nothing more American — than that: To enlist in the perennial battle to make real the founding ideal of this nation, that we are in fact created equal.”

“Now, we can, and we will, and we do disagree about the means of governance. But at our best, Americans have agreed on the end of our common project: To give everyone, in Lincoln’s phrase, ‘an open field and a fair chance.’”

“Walter Mondale devoted his life to that cause. He never stopped seeking a fuller, freer, fairer America. And his years in the arena are testament to a truth of human experience: That the polls and the passions of the moment are just that — of the moment. Headlines come and go; history endures. The tumult of politics rage; true service stands long after the furies of the moment have passed.”

“Walter Mondale understood something fundamental: That we are at our best not when we build walls, but when we build bridges; not when we point fingers, but when we lend a hand; not when we fear, but when we hope. And from age to age, history honors those who put ‘We the People’ above the will to power; the rule of law above the reign of party; and difficult truths above self-serving fictions.”

“Now, the Mondales were a stoic people. His father, Theodore, fought a stutter, struggled to farm, went to seminary, and raised a son, Fritz, who knew hardship but lived in hope.”

“It was a hope that drove him all his life. He was born a year before the stock market crash. His childhood was shaped by the Great Depression. He believed in hard work — he liked to say that he was the only pea-lice inspector to ever become Vice President of the United States. I didn’t check it, but I think he’s on safe ground. Some might have preferred it. He served in the U.S. Army, went to law school on the GI Bill, and always gave back to the country that had made his life possible.”

“Now, he was often caricatured, as you all know, as a big-government liberal. But he’s better understood as a Cold War liberal — a man devoted, at home and abroad, to freedom and to fairness.”

“Freedom and fairness: Bear those words in mind. For they are the words that shaped Walter Mondale’s consequential life — and Lord knows they are the words that must guide us still.”

“In the struggle between democracy and dictatorship in the 20th century, Fritz Mondale cast his lot with neither the utopians of the left nor the reactionaries of the right. He stood, instead, for the centrality of the individual, for the sanctity of liberty, and for the pursuit of possibility against the totalitarian impulse.”

“As attorney general of Minnesota he was instrumental in the Gideon case that gave indigent defendants the right to counsel. He brokered the deal that would end segregation forever in the Democratic Party, long the bastion of Jim Crow.”

“And then, he came to the Senate. In the mid-1960s, in the seat that Hubert Humphrey had won the year of that Farm Bureau picnic, Sen. Mondale sensed a vital intersection of forces. To him, as he put it, it was ‘as if we took the intellectual heritage of Franklin Roosevelt, the moral inspiration of John Kennedy, and a decade of pent-up demand for social change and converted them into social reality.’ As a senator he was a crucial voice for the Voting Rights Act of 1965. He led the battle for fair housing in 1968, mastering the Senate in that essential hour.”

“And he never stopped. His causes included Title IX to open opportunities for women. Head Start and elementary and secondary education. Filibuster reform. Nutrition and antipoverty programs. Workers’ rights. Environmental protections. Consumer protections. Early attention to the crisis of climate change. The domestic side of the Church Committee, which revealed the FBI’s wiretapping and harassment of Martin Luther King Jr. The transformation of the vice-presidency in the Carter years. A challenge to apartheid that ignited the chain of events that led to the release of Nelson Mandela. And the nomination of a woman, Geraldine Ferraro, to run with him on a national ticket.”

“Walter Mondale was a giant of the Senate, a formidable vice president, and a truth-telling presidential nominee of his party who never stopped standing by principle.”

“To be sure, it was not always the smoothest of rides. Fritz Mondale knew the vicissitudes of politics as well as any American ever has. When he explored a run for president in 1976, he recalled that ‘after a year I was running six points behind ‘I Don’t Know’ … and I wanted to challenge him to a debate.’ Mr. Mondale would tell the story of Sam Donaldson’s asking Ronald Reagan in 1984, ‘What do you want for Christmas?’ And Reagan: ‘Minnesota.’ When Mondale went to ask George McGovern when did it stop hurting to lose the presidency, Sen. McGovern said, ‘I don’t know. I’ll tell you when it happens.’”

“Walter Mondale loved his family. He loved fishing, Shakespeare, Dairy Queen, the United States Senate, Hubert Humphrey, cigars and the state of Minnesota.”

“And most of all he loved America — its complexities and its hopes, its promise and its possibilities. He thought of himself as a public servant, as a citizen with an obligation to the common good. To him, government was not the enemy, or the problem, but rather a manifestation of love of neighbor and of country.”

“On the night of his defeat in 1984 he spoke not only to the moment, as painful as it was, but to history, saying: ‘Let us continue to seek an America that is just and fair. That has been my fight … I’m confident that history will judge us honorably.’”

“And so it has.”

“One of Mr. Mondale’s favorite verses of scripture tells us much. ‘I have fought the good fight,’ St. Paul said; ‘I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.’” [2 Timothy 4:7]

The first part of that chapter of Second Timothy is quoted less often, but is worth remembering. ‘Preach the word,’ the apostle wrote; ‘be prepared in season and out of season.’” [2 Timothy 4: 1-2]

“In season and out of season — justice knows no season. Truth knows no season. Freedom knows no season. Fairness knows no season. Walter Mondale knew that. He lived by that. And today we salute him for that.”

“There are children in America today who will not go hungry because of Fritz Mondale. There are Black people in America today who can vote, and work, and live more freely and fairly because of Fritz Mondale. There are women in America today who see no limit to their dreams because of Fritz Mondale. There are safer cars in America, there are rivers of clean water in America, there are enclaves of untouched wildlife in America today because of Fritz Mondale.”

“He never stopped believing in this country. He never stopped fighting for its people. And thankfully, he never stopped defending democracy.”

“He never stopped. And nor, in his memory, must we.”

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[1] Read presidential historian Jon Mecham’s remarks at Walter Mondale’s memorial service, StarTribune (May 2, 2022). Professor Meacham is the Carolyn T. and Robert M. Rogers Chair in American Presidency at Vanderbilt University.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Former U.S. Presidents’ Statements at Walter Mondale Memorial Service

At the May 1, 2022, memorial service for Walter Mondale, former U.S. Presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama submitted letters of tribute for Mr. Mondale that were read. Here are excerpts from those letters (substituting Carter’s April 19, 2021, letter on Mondale’s passing due to this blogger’s inability to find the complete one for the memorial service).[1]

President Jimmy Carter

“Today [April 19, 2021] I mourn the passing of my dear friend Walter Mondale, who I consider the best vice president in our country’s history. During our administration, Fritz used his political skill and personal integrity to transform the vice presidency into a dynamic, policy-driving force that had never been seen before and still exists today. He was an invaluable partner and an able servant of the people of Minnesota, the United States, and the world. Fritz Mondale provided us all with a model for public service and private behavior.”

In his statement that was read at the memorial service, Carter said Mondale’s “ideas and energy changed the office he held forever, and his intelligence, experience, humor and determination made me better at mine.”

President Bill Clinton

“Throughout his long life, Fritz never stopped believing in the power of public service to make a difference in people’s lives. As Minnesota Attorney General, Senator, Vice President, Democratic nominee for President, Ambassador, and private citizen, he put his deep policy knowledge, tireless work ethic, and uncommon decency and kindness to work — to expand civil rights and defend civil liberties; create more educational and economic opportunities for all Americans; and fulfill our Founders’ charge to form a more perfect union. And he did it all, in sunshine and storms, with humility, grace, and a wonderful sense of humor.”

“I will always be grateful for the more than 40 years of friendship he gave Hillary and me, and his fine service as both Ambassador to Japan and Special Envoy to Indonesia when I was President. Although those were the last public offices he held, his public service continued for another two decades, always fighting for the causes he loved and the country he believed in, and having a good time doing it.”

“As you gather to celebrate Fritz’s remarkable life, I’m thinking of his joyful spiritual reunion with Joan and Eleanor, and his characteristic conviction that surely there is something he can do to make the universe better. My heart goes out to Ted, William, his entire family, and all the people who were blessed by his friendship, inspired by his service, and enriched by his example.”

President Barack Obama

“I’m honored to pay tribute to Fritz, a man who dedicated his life to making government work for the American people.”

“In championing causes like fair housing and women’s rights, he helped put the promise of America within reach for more people. And he changed the role of vice president, so President Biden could be the last in the room for decisions during my administration — something I will always be grateful for.”

“Fritz’s lifetime of service was an incredible gift to our country. As we reflect on his legacy, may we all strive to embody his integrity, his humility, and his unwavering drive to do right by Minnesotans and people everywhere.”

==============================

[1] Excerpts from speeches and letters read at Walter Mondale’s memorial, StarTribune (May 1, 2022); Leaders, family and friends remember ‘Fritz’ Mondale, StarTribune (May 1, 2022); Statement from Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter on the Passing of Walter Mondale, The Carter Center (Apr. 19, 2021).