Thursday, September 9, 2010

McIntyre's problem: 'When he gets up there in Washington, he votes for the far left'


By Verne Strickland

For years, Doug and Peggy Murray, who are Republicans, voted for Mike McIntyre, a Democrat.

The ties between the two families were more personal than political in the early going.

The Robeson County community of Lumberton was where McIntyre was born and raised, and where he returned to practice law after winning his degree from Wake Forest University. He was a Morehead Scholar and a member of Phi Beta Kappa.

Lumberton was where Doug and Peggy became acquainted with Mike and his family after Doug’s move to Lumberton in 1972. Doug, also an attorney, had established his own practice there as a sole practitioner.

The Murrays and McIntyres attended the same Presbyterian Church in Lumberton. Both Doug and Mike were officers in the church.

When Mike decided to run for Congress, Doug recalls being contacted by Mike, who told Doug he was going to make his announcement.

“He asked if I would join him for that occasion, and I was pleased to do that, by virtue of our long and close relationship. Both Peggy and I supported him from that day with contributions, and attending various of his political gatherings. We supported him through all seven of his races," Doug observed.

The Murrays, a bright, vibrant couple, now make their home in the Magnolia Greens community in Leland, where they moved in 2005.

Doug is retired. Peggy is a spirited wife and soul mate. They have uncompromising beliefs, and this has compelled them to make decisions they knew would come at considerable personal cost.

“About two years ago,” Doug recounted, “it was obvious that liberal and progressive politicians, most of whom were Democrats, were taking over the leadership of the country. Peggy and I were quite dismayed about that. Even though we were quietly participating in the political process, we decided we needed to get more active, not only for our own benefit, but as well for the benefit of generations to come. The country was heading toward what we saw as socialism, if not something more sinister, and neither of us could support that.”

While Doug and Peggy were mulling this over, their attention became riveted by the overblown media coverage of murder charges lodged against a young Marine officer at Camp Lejeune in nearby Jacksonville, NC.

The Murrays were impressed by the sincerity of the young Marine, and they followed the military proceedings on television and in the newspapers.

“We were overjoyed when there was a failure to issue charges arising out of the Article 32 hearing,” said Doug. “They had their day to prove that he should be tried, and failed to do so. One young man who was the only one attempting to substantiate a bogus story about what happened in the deaths of these Iraqis was not believed. Ilario was exonerated.”

A couple of years passed, and the Murrays didn’t hear anything more about Ilario Pantano until he announced a run for Congress in 2009.

“Because we knew about him,” Doug continued, “we started to listen to what he was saying. He was very personable, articulate, and obviously a true patriot. Because of my own military background, I was doubly impressed with Ilario."

Doug served four years of active duty in the Navy as a line officer, followed by attendance at Wake Forest Law School, after which his Reserve designation was changed to JAG. He remained in the Reserves for another 16 years, retiring after 20 years with the rank of Commander.

Other events were moving simultaneously. In 2008, Doug and Peggy had attended a local GOP executive committee precinct meeting in Belville.

“Frank Iler, then chairman of the Brunswick County Republican Party, was presiding. I think Peggy volunteered me to be chairman of the Belville precinct. That’s how I went onto the executive committee of the Brunswick GOP. The more meetings I attended, the more I saw that there were others who felt as deeply and sincerely as we about the direction our country was going. Our enthusiasm was going into full gear,” Doug said.

The Murrays met Pantano for the first time at a meeting of the Brunswick County Republican executive committee. The charismatic young candidate made a deep and lasting impression.

“When you have the opportunity to talk with him, regardless of how many people are around him, he is attentive to you alone, no matter what is going on around you. He is a very engaging individual,” Doug recalls.

In the hearts and minds of Doug and Peggy Murray, an idea – a calling – was emerging, and they both knew it.

Here was Doug’s description of the phenomenon: “Ilario’s military background was attractive to me, and his service as an enlisted man, then as an officer --nobody can doubt his allegiance to his country, his sincerity and his belief that we all have a duty to preserve our independence.”

Peggy, similarly impressed, talked about how her own long-held loyalties in favor of Congressman McIntyre were beginning to falter.

“Mike never had any real competition until he was challenged by Ilario Pantano. For a long time we had never really thought to check on McIntyre’s record. But when we did, we were pretty surprised. He says he’s a conservative but that’s not what his record shows. Someone in Brunswick County said when Mike is talking to us here, he acts like a good old boy. Just one of us. But when he gets up there in Washington he votes for the far left. That offends me,” she asserted.

They talked – Doug and Peggy – long bouts of soul-searching, attempting to resolve the tug between uncertainty and a leap into unknown political waters, with treasured personal relationships surely hanging in the balance.

“We had a decision to make,” Doug commented. “How much support do we feel comfortable giving to Ilario insofar as the upcoming election is concerned? In the primary, there was no problem. We are Republicans, and we knew Ilario by far to be the better choice there. But in the general election, where do we come down? We had to look at our good Lumberton friends, and say this is the man we are for, and we are supporting Ilario all the way. Could we do that?”

The words of Doug’s late father came to him, and it was like a key had turned in a lock.

“He used to say to me, ‘Doug, if you’re in for a penny, get in for a pound.’ So we gave it even more consideration, and finally agreed we would do all we could to get Ilario elected.”

One of the first occasions which would signal the Murrays’ change in loyalties would be a “meet and greet” for candidate Pantano at their attractive and inviting home across from the Magnolia Greens golfing links.

Did Mike McIntyre get wind of the upcoming event in late June when he called Doug to ask a favor? Doug wonders.

The congressman contacted Doug approximately two weeks before the meet and greet to discuss strategy issues in North Brunswick.

Doug told Mike at that time that he and Peggy would be supporting Ilario Pantano, although somewhat reluctantly.

“Mike, though gracious, reiterated that he was a moderate and at times conservative, as his record would indicate, and that he looked after his folks at home,” Doug continued.

“He said he needed advice and counsel about how to proceed with gaining some support from people in the Leland area, whom we know well since we live there.

“That’s the way we left it, and there has been no further contact between us since then.”


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

DNC chairman drubs McIntyre for denying who he really is.

Wilmington, NC: On Fox News Sunday, this past Sunday morning, DNC Chairman Tim Kaine called out Congressman Mike McIntyre for running away from who he is, and called McIntyre “foolish” for not admitting that he is a “proud Democrat.” Kaine called out Congressman McIntyre, after Fox News Sunday Host Chris Wallace played a clip from one of McIntyre’s television ads alleging that he doesn’t work for Nancy Pelosi.

Upon learning of Kaine’s statement on Fox News Sunday, Ilario Pantano, Republican Nominee for North Carolina’s Seventh Congressional District, released the following statement:

“For once, I have to agree with Tim Kaine. Congressman McIntyre is just trying to pull one over on the voters of the 7th District by running away from who he is. Everyone in Washington knows the Congressman is a proud Democratic foot soldier. Congressman McIntyre tries to talk like Jesse Helms when he’s in the District, but when he’s in Washington he votes like Nancy Pelosi.

“Congressman McIntyre, throughout this campaign, has tried to declare that he doesn’t work for Pelosi and that he is an ‘independent voice.’ However, as DNC Chairman Tim Kaine noted, that is just McIntyre trying to run away from who he is. The record is clear. Congressman McIntyre votes in lockstep with the Pelosi Agenda in Washington and when he’s not running for reelection Congressman McIntyre is “honored” to be part of the Pelosi Leadership team. (see note below)

“The people of the 7th District deserve a Congressman who is proud of the way he votes in Washington and who won’t run away from who he really he is. They won’t have to worry about me running away from my record in Washington because I’ll never vote for Nancy Pelosi for Speaker and unlike my opponent, I won’t be voting for the liberal Pelosi, Reid, and Obama agenda.”

Note: According to the Washington Post’s Congressional Votes Database (, Congressman McIntyre votes the Democrat Party line 90.5% and when Congressman McIntyre appointed to serve as one of Pelosi’s Senior Whips and as a member of the Majority Leader’s Advisory Council the Congressman said he was “honored” (

Sarah Dankanich
Schedule and Logistics Manager

Campaign mailing address:
PO Box 11280
Wilmington, NC

Friday, September 3, 2010

So money can't buy you love? Tell it to incumbent Congressman Mike McIntyre!


By Verne Strickland

Mike McIntyre, now in his fourteenth year in the U.S. Congress, has become excessively incumbent.

This was made abundantly clear in Debate #2, August 27, at Kenansville, where Ilario Pantano dismantled the congressman’s sketchy claims of bona fide conservative credentials.

The GOP contender didn’t have it all his way, though, as McIntyre pounded away with his now-familiar laundry list of Washington largesse he has brought back to the Seventh District.

But if this is what McIntyre’s handlers view as his greatest strengths, the appearance of being a “money mule” for liberal Democratic insiders has also turned into a campaign liability.

In fact, while one might concede that McIntyre really knows how to get the big bucks, this dubious achievement has been ballyhooed in the debates in a way that subordinated weightier issues, such as the alarming federal deficit, high unemployment, the failed stimulus, term limits, illegal immigration, and a gaggle of other thorny problems.

Money, as the Beatles assured us, can’t buy you love. While Mike has tried valiantly to disprove this, he hasn’t succeeded.

Even in Robeson County, where McIntyre was raised, defections of some of his most ardent supporters are surely proving to be embarrassing and unsettling.

We reported earlier the decision by McIntyre’s long-time friend and ally, Burt Benson III of Lumberton, to withdraw his backing “for the sake of my children and grandchildren” – and throw his considerable influence to the congressman’s Republican foe, Ilario Pantano, who brings solid conservative credentials to Seventh District voters.

Pantano can win the day, says Benson, if enough voters in the Seventh District get to know him, and perceive his character, moral values, commitment to transparency in government and mission to turn America around.

“We know Pantano is the man to carry the banner,” Benson asserted. “He’s a man who has the courage to stand up against the ultra-liberals in Washington. The Democrats are just interested in funding vote-buying programs and trying to get everybody dependent on the government. That way they can count on those votes. But there are more people riding on the wagon now than out there pulling it. This has to change. Ilario Pantano will work to change it.”

Other personal friends – and generous contributors — will announce their decision to leave the McIntyre fold in coming days, and this reporter will have those exclusive stories.

Something big is happening. These defections involve respected community leaders who have found it very painful to quit the McIntyre campaign and announce publicly that they just can’t take it anymore.

None of these departures seem based on lack of appreciation for Mike’s drumbeat of announcements that he’s home with more pork. It’s just that, in this race, at this time, there are simply bigger pork chops to fry.

If Mike is on the money with the money, he is almost out to lunch when it comes to a demonstrated ability to influence America’s future in a positive manner. And this is what most puzzles and concerns the key opinion leaders who are beginning to jump ship.

Toward the end of the evening in the Kenansville gabfest, Ilario Pantano framed the discussion in a way that goes to the heart of McIntyre’s image problem.

Addressing the audience, Pantano posed this question: “Aren’t you getting tired of a congressman who comes home and talks like Jesse Helms in the district, then goes to Washington and votes for Nancy Pelosi?”

There is growing evidence that this is a fair question, and one that deserves a straight answer from Congressman Mike McIntyre.


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

'Mute Mike' is a money mule driven by power-mad Democrats who want to socialize America.


By Verne Strickland

If they never held another debate, the message would still be crystal clear – Mike McIntyre is not right for North Carolina or the Seventh Congressional District.

If political ads were banished from the air, we would still swear by this belief – Mike McIntyre is not right for the people of Southeastern North Carolina.

If the entire campaign were called off immediately, we would still know this – Mike McIntyre is not right for us today nor will he be tomorrow. Or ever again.

But let’s use the most recent debate, as sort of a launching pad for this discussion. It was version #2, staged August 27 in Kenansville.

While the first Pantano/McIntyre talkathon was more of a slugfest, this one featured more finesse, more cerebral content, more fancy footwork.

For example, a front-row observer at the impressive James Sprunt Community College amphitheater noted that, during some of the diciest infighting, a nervous Mike McIntyre did a tap dance under the table that could have put him in a tie for ninth place on ‘Dancing With the Stars’.

It was that kind of a night.

Mike talks the talk. He dances the dance. But he does not walk the walk.

He is not right for America. I think he was at one time. He was a paragon of virtue, devoted to hard work, answering only to his conscience.

Times have changed. Washington does not thrive these days on selfless service, but on manipulating the power structure, where cunning politicians use the federal hog trough to further personal aims.

Mike McIntyre plays the game with aplomb — sidestepping the tough decisions, casting votes of questionable merit, but rarely showing the grit to publicly defend them.

In fact, even in public debate, he denies that he cast those votes, claiming to his constituents that he is a tenacious conservative fighting for solid American values.

Mr. Mike has become a sheep in wolf’s clothing. At his core he is a decent guy. This has to be tearing him apart.

The record tells the true story. Our homegrown congressman is quietly going along with the liberals who own the national Democratic Party, accepting their favors and protection.

Mike has become a money mule, lugging millions in federal (taxpayer) dollars back to the district from whence those dollars came, buying the votes of grateful recipients who obediently keep him in office, where he votes for Nancy Pelosi’s agenda over 90% of the time. But conveniently, unabashedly, he denies it.

Around and around it goes. It’s a lavish pork buffet. And we are picking up the tab.

It has been a sad transformation. The idealistic young Lumberton native first went to the U.S. Congress in 1996 to represent North Carolina’s conservative Seventh Congressional District – then an impregnable Democratic stronghold.

While he pledged to vacate his seat after his sixth term, he is now serving his seventh, and scrambling feverishly to notch an eighth term.

It must be conceded that his longevity and seniority have bought him clout on a number of important Congressional committees, where he has served with dogged determination.

But, if he ever approached the job with passion, the passion is gone. He seems to be constantly in a defensive posture. I don’t feel he really believes in the work he is doing in his job as our congressman. And I somehow surmise that he secretly loathes the people who are leading him around by the nose.

How can Mike claim to be the voice of the Seventh? He never speaks. Many cannot recall the last time – if ever – that he rose to champion his own votes on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.

This is Mute Mike.

We should add that many of the crispy dollars which have gushed into the coffers of the U.S. Treasury have originated in the Peoples Republic of China, increasing the possibility of manipulation of U.S. policies by a scheming foreign power which wants to wreck America.

It’s a dangerous game by any measure.

The McIntyre penchant for deficit spending plays into the hands of Barack Obama and his socialization of our nation, and gives aid and comfort to the arrogant liberal Nancy Pelosi, whose disastrous agenda touts big government – and the bigger and more monolithic the better!

Mike McIntyre conservative? Hardly. You ain’t always what you say you are, especially when you act like you say you ain’t.

America can’t afford Mike McIntyre and his kind anymore.

After the Kenansvile debate ended, I wandered through the crowd, and picked up some interesting interviews, including this little exchange with Melvin Williams, chairman of the Democratic Party in District Seven, who once predicted Mike McIntyre will win this election by a “huge margin.”

Strickland: “Mr. Williams, how do you feel your candidate fared in the debate tonight?”

Williams: “I think Mike did a terrific job. He always is able to explain his ideas.”

Strickland: And what about Ilario Pantano?”

Williams: “I think Mr. Pantano is a very good speaker.”

Strickland: “You left a lot unsaid.”

Williams: “That’s right. I did.”

And so does Mike McIntyre. That’s becoming a relevant issue in this campaign. The incumbent leaves much unsaid.

Maybe he doesn’t need to explain who he is. His constituents are finding out for themselves.

Our Seventh District congressman has become a relic and a Pelosi clone. The man says he’s not a quitter. But he should be.

And if he won’t vacate on his own, it’s time to enforce term limits via the ballot box.

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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Pantano can help fill need in U.S. Congress for lawmakers with military combat experience.

By Verne Strickland

Most members of the U.S. Congress don’t have a clue how battles and wars are fought. They haven’t been there.

The disconnect shows in muddled decision-making, callous calls on Rules of Engagement, dangerous and naive micromanagment, and — perhaps most vital of all — failure to offer up a prescription on how to win, decisively and honorably.

As a result, America — still the most powerful nation on earth, and the most magnanimous – limps through combat situations with its fighting forces hobbled by naive directives from U.S. Congressmen who project a sanitized mentality of life — and death — in the savagery of desperate combat.

In Iraq and Afghanistan, the enemy wears no uniform, squanders its own “soldiers” behind the cowardice of suicide missions, human shields, and wantonly kills innocents at every opportunity to weaken the resolve of the “government” to resist.

Who could understand this war? Who could deal with it? Lawyers? I don’t think so. But these are the ladies and gentlemen who send our fighting forces into combat, then waste their potential, and safety, by imposing military impotence.

According to the Congressional Research Service 170 members of the House and 58 Senators have law degrees.

Is that enough? Or way too many? The troops who fight for our freedom are having their say now about this issue.

The choice is crystal clear in the Seventh Congressional District of North Carolina, where seven-term incumbent Mike McIntyre, an attorney who has never been in uniform, is being challenged by former combat-seasoned Marine officer Ilario Pantano.

The crying need in Washington for American patriots who have fought our wars, and who are doing so now, is powerfully expressed in a statement by Kieran Michael Lalor, founder of Iraq Veterans for Congress. These are excerpts of his comments:

White Plains, NY – August 17, 2010: The number of veterans in Congress has been dwindling since the end of the Cold War. In 1980 more than sixty percent of Congress had served but now barely twenty percent of our leaders in Washington DC spent time in uniform.

The number of combat veterans is even smaller. According to a report by the House Armed Services Committee only five percent of House members served in combat zones and even fewer saw actual combat.

Also quite rare is the member of Congress who served as an enlisted man. Only about forty percent of the veterans in Congress were enlisted despite the fact that eighty-five percent of our military are enlisted rather than commissioned officers.

In short, those who actually fight our wars are severely underrepresented in Congress. For a variety of reasons, it is in the national interest to have in Congress a critical mass of enlisted men with trigger time.

While colonels and generals craft the overall strategy of any conflict, the execution is done primarily by privates, corporals and sergeants of the infantry, artillery and cavalry. Because they operate where the metal hits the meat, enlisted men of the combat arms have valuable insights into equipment, tactics and policies.

The debate over the Rules of Engagement in Afghanistan highlights the desperate need for enlisted combat veterans of the War on Terror in Congress. Someone with a worm’s-eye view of the impact restrictive rules have on morale and a small unit’s ability to accomplish the mission would be invaluable when questioning the Pentagon brass about the wisdom of current and future rules.

Voters in North Carolina need look no further than Wilmington, NC, for a shining example of a patriotic young American who enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps at 17, fought in the First Gulf War as an anti-tank gunner, re-enlisted after 9/11, won his commission at OCS, was deployed to Iraq where he took command of a Infantry Platoon and led them in combat in the “Triangle of Death” Region of Iraq, engaging the enemy in Latayifah, Yusufiyah and Falluja.

That former Marine, Ilario Pantano, was praised today (August 19) by retired Major General James E. Livingston, recipient of the highest military decoration bestowed by the United States – the Medal of Honor — for heroic actions in 1968 during the Vietnam War.

Livingston served on active duty in the Marine Corps over 33 years before retiring on September 1, 1995. He visited Wilmington, NC, Pantano’s hometown, to support the GOP nominee at a campaign news conference.

“Ilario is a true leader, a man of honor and integrity,” said General Livingston. “As a Marine who led men into battle in Vietnam, I understand the challenge of combat leadership, forged in the toughest crucible known to man.

“Ilario has once again decided to heed the call to service, this time to serve as a Congressman to stand up for us in Washington, to return fiscal responsibility to our government, to protect our national security, and preserve our values,” said General Livingston.

He particularly praised Pantano for pledging to limit his service in the U.S. House of Representatives to six terms, or a total of 12 years.

Pantano secured his pledge with a $250,000 personal bond, which will be forfeited to “Step Up for Soldiers”, a 501(c)3 charitable organization, should he fail to honor his commitment.

Meanwhile, Mike McIntyre, seven-term Seventh Congressional District incumbent, a Democrat, is ignoring his own pledge to cap his service at 12 years — a promise he made when first elected in 1996.

“He wasn’t supposed to run for re-election again in 2008. He did it anyway. And, worse than breaking his word, he’s reversed himself and voted sgainst term limits for committee chairmen, thus ensuring a cycle of corruption amongst his peers. Now he’s running again in 2010,” observed GOP candidate Pantano.

Perhaps voters in the conservative Seventh NC District, turned off by McIntyre’s claim of conservatism while voting repeatedly with liberal House Speaker Pelosi, will make the decision for the congressman, to spare him the anguish of retiring voluntarily.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

McIntyre losing loyal followers in home county to GOP's Ilario Pantano

By Verne Strickland

A serious erosion of support for Mike McIntyre is showing up among opinion leaders in the congressman’s home base – Robeson County.

A notable loss for the Democratic incumbent is Burt E. Benson Jr., 70, of Lumberton.

It is telling that Benson, for years an ardent McIntyre supporter and admirer, is not only jumping ship, but talking publicly about it, and urging others to do the same.

He says his switch to the candidacy of Ilario Pantano, GOP nominee for U.S. Congress in the Seventh Congressional District, is for the sake of his children and grandchildren, and his country.

Benson is a prominent businessman in the area – co-founder and CEO of Benson Construction, Inc., a family owned and operated business launched in 1968. His wife, Jan, also a co-founder, is president of the successful and highly-respected grading, paving and site utility operation serving Southeastern North Carolina. Sons Bucky Benson III and Stephen Benson are on the firm’s executive team as vice presidents.

Benson was asked what effects on his family’s future he sees in the country’s lurch to the political left.

“The erosion of our American values and our business climate are foremost on my mind. I have three children and four grandchildren, and I’m very concerned as a business owner that, when it comes time for me to hand over the reins of our family corporation, the high taxes and federal regulations won’t give them a fair chance to continue on with what we’ve built.”

He emphasized that he is not alone in this predicament. “Every business owner in America, large or small, is facing the same dim future,” he said.

The elder Benson is not one to offer his loyalty and his word lightly. He has a rock-solid sense of responsibility and honor, and it permeates his relationship with his family, his business, his country, and his God.

So he realizes that when he has a public break with a man he has trusted and called his friend, it is a matter which he has given serious consideration.

But even this personal belief system could not deter him from splitting politically with Mike McIntyre.

“I had to do it, and I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t take a stand,” he explained, almost ruefully.

For years, Mr. Benson has seen Mike McIntyre as a kindred soul. And to this day, Benson says he has a high degree of personal affection for this man who has gone so far in Washington. But it is fair to say that he is deeply disappointed in McIntyre’s actions in the U.S. Congress.

“Early on I served with him on a city committee, and I knew him as a very good Christian, good family-oriented gentleman, industrious and a very good representative when he first went to Congress,” said Benson.

“I didn’t pay too much attention to how he was voting up there. I assumed he was voting conservative, in a way that would be helpful for businesses here, and for the most part he did in the early years.”

But Burt Benson III began to realize that things were not what they seemed, and that U.S. Congressman Mike McIntyre, who put on a conservative veneer for the home folks, was betraying them with his loyalties in Washington.

“Recently, we found out, when we got the ratings, Mike is voting with the unions 80 percent of the time, and with Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House, over 70 percent of the time. That is not Robeson County. That doesn’t reflect our values at all. They are tilting this country toward socialism.

“If you look deep enough, you’ll see what’s happening to the freedoms and opportunities we’ve had. We’ve seen more burdens on the small businesses than ever. We can’t get people to work, although we offer jobs. We have one of the highest unemployment rates (11.6% May 2010), and are one of the poorest counties in the State. There’s no way we can be proud of that, or tolerant of it,” he observed.

There’s another important reason why Benson has stuck with Mike McIntyre. He has had no other choice. Although he could see that the 14-year incumbent was running off the philosophical rails more frequently, McIntyre did have some seniority, and key positions on committees and subcommittees important to Robeson and the Seventh District. But until a viable candidate came along, turning away from his friend Mike McIntyre was a solution of questionable value.

Until now.

“This is the first time in years we have had a good alternative. Ilario Pantano has his priorities set, he is a patriot, has fought for his country, and he’s a man we can trust and support. When the time comes to say ‘No’ to this outrageous, reckless spending, and all these earmarks, we know that Ilario will get the job done.”

Benson has gotten to know GOP candidate Pantano, and feels this candidate deserves his trust and support. Pantano can win the day, says Benson, if enough voters in the Seventh District get to know him, and perceive his character, moral values, commitment to transparency in government and mission to return America around.

“We know Pantano is the man to carry the banner. He’s a man who has the courage to stand up against the ultra-liberals in Washington. The Democrats are just interested in funding vote-buying programs and trying to get everybody dependent on the government. That way they can count on those votes. But there are more people riding on the wagon now than out there pulling it.

“This has to change. Ilario Pantano will work to change it.”


**Phillip Stephens is chairman of the Robeson County GOP. He writes a hard-hitting blog of his own concentrating on Robeson County politics -- from the inside. See his posts at this Web address:

Saturday, July 24, 2010



Our recent posts on the action by NC House Speaker Joe Hackney, banning mention of the name of Jesus in prayer on the House floor, attracted some interesting mail from readers.

Some of it opposed Speaker Hackney's action (examples):

• Mr. Hackney, I don't know who it offends but I will tell you that I will never have to stand before the Lord and say I denied Him. Anyone who doesn't like the word Jesus doesn't need to be in our pressence. You have made me ashamed to be a tarheel but I will get over it and keep fighting you socialist progressive communists till death do I depart this world.

• Mr. Hackney: You should be ashamed of yourself. This country was founded on God. Many people still and will have God in their hearts. You cannot force Christians to leave what they believe, just because you don't think it is right.

• EXCELLENT article, Verne. Keep hammering the truth home!

Some of it supported Speaker Joe Hackney (examples):

• A religion over any other has no place in our government. As a Jew, I certainly don't need anyone to pray for me in Jesus' name. My wife and children are Christians. I encourage them in their choice of religion, but religion belongs in church, the home, and the heart; not government.

• Speaker Joe Hackney has demonstrated his courage and his compassion both. He honors, with the sensativity of Solomon, all the pastors (and rabbis, and imams) who deliver a daily invocation. At the same time, Rep. Hackney is welcoming and including those who can appreciate a prayer without a specific "deity" named. All who cry "blasphemy," ask yourselves: Would you also be so supportive should a prayer be given in Hebrew by a rabbi, or in Arabic by an imam? WWJD? I think speak to the entire gathering, offering fishes and loaves rather than thorns and bile. A thought: Worship in your own homes as you wish, but in the homes of others, pray with peace of heart rather than a chip on the shoulder.

• Isn't this just an official following the US Constitution, 1st Amendment - written by the founding fathers."Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . .". So government cannot, or be seen to, promote one religion over another. Also the Constitution itself says in Article VI, Section 3: "The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States". Religious belief is not a pre-requisite for officials, so there will always be someone who does not want to pray to Jesus, Jehovah, Allah, Buddha, or whoever. Hackney was just doing his job. There is no need to vilify this man - even if we don't like it.


All the comments were thoughtful, welcomed, and sincere, I’m certain. These writers spoke from the heart, and expressed what they believe.

But what do constitutional scholars say? For an answer, I went to Mr. Andy Yates, campaign manager for 7th Congressional District GOP nominee Ilario Pantano, who found Speaker Hackney’s actions shocking and unwarranted.

Here is what Mr. Yates found in his research –


I think this might be helpful. It is from the Pastor who was fired's attorney. It is a violation of the first amendment right of free exercise of religion and also a violation of the first amendment right to freedom of expression ot restrict how the pastor may pray. Hackney was violating the pastor's constitutional rights.
Pastor Ron Baity’s legal representative, David Gibbs of the Christian Law Association, argues that Baity has a right to pray in Jesus name as long as he does not proselytize or speak negatively about another faith.

“The First Amendment promises all Americans the free exercise of their religion, which includes the right to pray as their faith requires, even when they are invited to open state legislative sessions with prayer,” remarked Gibbs.

“There is no authority in American history, tradition or Supreme Court precedent that requires a legislature to censor a private citizen’s prayers in order to participate in a benefit or privilege that is offered to other citizens of the state,” he added.

Gibbs contends that government agencies must have policies that allow representatives of all faiths to pray freely, but he adds that voters can also have an impact.

"Encourage your legislators at your city, your county meetings, your school board or others that prayer does matter [and] that asking for divine blessing and guidance, asking for God's help is something that's been done since the founding of our nation, and it shouldn't be just disbanded with," the CLA attorney requests.

Also you have this ruling from the US 4th Judicial Circuit Court of Appeals:

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals specifically authorized legislatures to allow Jesus-prayers in Turner v. Fredericksburg, when Justice O'Connor wrote: "the Establishment Clause does not absolutely dictate the form of legislative prayer. In Marsh, the legislature employed a single chaplain…the legislature in Simpson allowed a diverse group of church leaders from around the community to give prayers at open meetings. Both varieties of legislative prayer were found constitutional."

Hope this helps!

Andy Yates
Campaign Manager
Pantano for Congress
(704) 467-0795 cell

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So, dear readers, I know what I believe, and I benefit from Mr. Yates’ thorough research on the realities and the legalities focusing on this thorny issue.

Perhaps no minds or hearts have been changed.

I know mine haven’t.

But I do pray that the cynical and the unbelievers will be moved to learn who Jesus Christ is, and experience His Saving Grace.

And it is in His Precious Name, our Savior Jesus Christ, that I offer this prayer. Amen.

Respectfully, Verne Strickland.