Shuck and Jive

Opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of the congregation I joyfully serve. But my congregation loves me!

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Dirty Tricks at Indian Nations Presbytery

Update March 10: A commenter took issue with my assumption of motivation of what went down at Indian Nations. I agree with that. I don't know the motivation. It would be good to know exactly what happened.

Regardless of motivation (which we do not know--yet), voting on a measure without debate is against both Robert's Rules of Order and our historic Presbyterian process of discernment.

The anti-amendment B crowd has decided to play dirty.

At the Presbytery of Indian Nations, the anti-B crowd fearful of open and honest debate voted to suppress debate before it even began. They mustered up enough Spirit squelchers to move directly to a vote on the amendment without presentations or discussion. Bruce has the story and the week's wrap:

What should have been a no-to-yes flip this year turned into a 3% anti-equality shift due to the use of the "stifle the Spirit" tactic used during the presbytery meeting. Thanks for reminding us that you don't play fair, anti-08B people. Your use of this tactic suggests that you don't feel that your arguments can stand the sunlight of open discussion, as mandated by Presbyterian polity. If you think that the PCUSA should discriminate against gay people, at least have the guts to stand up in your presbytery meeting and say so. Cowards.
What is the deal? What about discernment and debate? Listening to the Spirit? That means nothing to this crowd. Don't let this happen in your presbytery. Back to Bruce:
I should be clear about the impact of what we've learned from the past week. If you're in a presbytery which has a good chance of a vote flip this year, YOUR PRESBYTERY IS A TARGET FOR VOTING PROCESS ABUSE during your presbytery meeting. You should do what you can both before and during your presbytery meeting to ensure that 08-B is given a fair, deliberative discussion and a fair vote. If you feel that the process isn't fair, at the very least please make some noise about it, under the "sunlight is the best disinfectant" principle.

Here are some popular tactics that can be used by anti-equality groups to game the voting system so that pro-equality overtures have a reduced probability of success at the presbytery level:

- "Stifle the Spirit" tactic: Don't allow discussion of the equality overture, just go directly to a vote. Variation: schedule only a token time interval for discussion.

- "Public intimidation" tactic: Don't use secret ballots -- make people stand up in the middle of presbytery meeting to have their vote counted. Works particularly well in presbyteries with a strong majority on either side.

- "Endurance test" tactic: Schedule the vote on the overture at the end of a 7-hour meeting so that younger voters with kids at home have to leave before the vote.

- "Consent calendar" tactic: Put a "no" vote on the overture onto the consent calendar to try to sneak it through. Even if pro-equality supporters catch this trick, they then have to go through procedural hoops on the floor of presbytery to get the item removed from the consent calendar.

This is just my off-the-cuff list -- I'm confident that there are other tactics that can be, and have been, used to create an unfair context for voting.
It was a predictably tough week. Thirteen presbyteries voted and out of those thirteen, ten have been historically anti-equality. Indian Nations was the one that should have flipped.

Yes 2
No 11

The vote count is 36 yes and 57 no.

It is a long way from over!