Wednesday, February 25, 2015


Baton Rouge, Louisiana


I guess the good Lord has to put up with politicians.  Nary a week goes by when some governor or other political type is holding a prayer rally and declaring that the ills of the nation can be cured by America being “born again” through embracing a Christian evangelical fervor.  So the question is, do the Gospels need politicians?

Texas Governor Rick Perry seized the mantel of political-religious activism last month when he co-sponsored a prayer rally in Houston that reportedly attracted some 30 thousand fundamentalist Christians.  “Our agenda is a salvation agenda,” he told an admiring crowd.  Perry put aside any constitutional concerns over separation of church and state making it a governor’s certified state sponsored rally, using his official Website, stationary and other resources in the promotion.

 Not to be outdone, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal led a similar rally at LSU’s basketball arena, calling for a national spiritual revival and telling the crowd that “our God wins.”  I guess I’m okay with such a victory as long as everyone shares the same God.  But what if the rally was not evangelical in flavor, but was sponsored by the governor in support of Mormonism (who believe they are the only true form of the Christian religion), Unitarianism, (that perceives Christ as human, rather than divine), Hindu (Jindal’s parents were Hindu), or even, pray tell, Islam?  Would you be okay with a governor sponsoring a prayer meeting dominated by another faith?

The test is not what religious beliefs a politician accepts in private life.  But when that same politician organizes and leads a religious rally in a public capacity, has he or she crossed the line into public endorsement?  And if so, is that the job of a governor in his or her public capacity to validate particular religious beliefs?

Actually, if one reads the New Testament, Jesus is quite clear on religious pontification in public.  “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.”  (Matthew 6:1.)  The scriptures go on to say: “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. They love to stand in prayer in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others.”  Throughout the Gospels, Jesus generally prays alone, and often condemns public prayer.

Now let me be clear.  I am in no way deriding politicians who attend church services, and who even offer a greeting at the request of the presiding pastor.  Elected officials, particularly in the South, often are invited participants in religious gatherings.  During my twenty-eight years of public life as a Louisiana elected official, I attended hundreds of services throughout the state.  Dinner of the grounds following Sunday services at a host of rural country churches was a regular ritual for my family living up in Northeast Louisiana. 

My parents had me baptized in the Church of God, a branch of the Pentecostal church.  Reverend Jimmy Swaggart from my hometown of Ferriday is of the same denomination.  And I wasn’t just “sprinkled” with holy water.  No, I was fully submerged, as was tradition of John the Baptist. So I am in no way denigrating regular church attendance.  But when I attended church as a public official, I went as guest and not as an instigator.  I went to participate and not to initiate.

It’s a question of who does the organizing and who does the preaching.  Performance prayer events that put politicians in the spotlight would seem to run counter to the teachings that come directly from the New Testament.  “When you were praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them,” says Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew.

Masking political rallies as prayer meetings create culture war wedge issues that undermine the legacy of religious liberty. Our nation’s founders did not view religious freedom as some government handout.  But it’s hard to convince some of today’s politicians otherwise.

Peace and Justice

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide.  You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9 am till 11:00 am, central time, on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at

Wednesday, February 18, 2015


Baton Rouge, Louisiana


My Louisiana governor has me puzzled again in his quixotic quest to be a player on the national stage.  I thought Bobby Jindal was part of a Republican Party that tells government to get off our backs and mind its own business.  But he now is apparently on a national pursuit to make us all homogeneous in how we act, live and speak.  And when you come from Louisiana, he’s walking a slippery slope of being way too politically correct.

Jindal has been barnstorming the country with his message that we are all in one big melting pot. Here are Jindal’s words in a recent press release. “We came to America to be Americans. Not Indian-Americans, simply Americans. … If we wanted to be Indians, we would have stayed in India.”  Nothing wrong here.  It all comes downs to how Jindal defines “American.”  Remember that when our forefathers came to America, they did not assimilate or adopt the native Indian language.  Actually, there was a good bit of “ethnic cleansing” going on back in those early days.

Jindal governs a state that is about as culturally diverse as you can get.  Bayou country has a long history as a domestic mix of rednecks, Cajuns, Creoles, Latinos, African Americans, Italians, and Irishmen, just to name the larger ethnic groups.  They weren’t partying at all hours of the night this week down in New Orleans in the “American Quarter.”

Jindal appeared on Washington Watch radio program recently to assert that “we need to insist on English as our language.”  Now I know it’s the political rage throughout the country to demand that English should be the official language.  And quite frankly, I agree.  That is, from the public perspective.  I occasionally get a bit irritated when I’m told to “press one for English, two for Spanish” etc.  If a U.S. governmental body insists on printing forms, giving tests, and processing governmental applications only in English, then that is how the process works.  It’s the law.

But here’s where states’ rights come in.  If any state feels the need to offer services in another language, that should be its prerogative.  In some areas of my home state of Louisiana, French is the only language spoken by older Cajuns.  Grocery stores in some small south Louisiana communities put up daily specials in French, and the southern part of the state has a number of radio stations that carry French Cajun music. 

Just this week, The New York Times profiled Mamou radio station KVPI that broadcasts to a large listening audience in French.  The popular morning show begins early and is called “La Tasse de Café.” Would the governor want to interfere with this morning ritual that so many of his constituents enjoy?

 In the southeast corner of the state, a number of publications appear in Vietnamese to service the growing Asian community of immigrating fisherman. Louisiana election ballot information is printed not only in English, but also in Spanish and Vietnamese.

The 2010 census found that over 380,000 Louisianans speak another language besides English.  This number, just to name a few, includes French (194,314), Spanish (108,189), Vietnamese (23,326), German (8,047), Chinese (5,732), Arabic (5,489), Italian (3,730), Tagalog (Philipino-3,335), Korean (2,402), and African Languages (2,2278).

But what about “Speak English or Get Out?”  Look, I’ll stay out of your face and you stay out of mine.  Don’t tell me what language I can or cannot speak.  I don’t need some government official telling me what to do.  If I want to go around speaking any foreign language, that’s my right as an American.  I will not voluntarily stand by and let some politician or Big Brother set the parameters as to how I can or cannot communicate.  When you tell me what language to speak, then you start down the path of telling me where I can speak, what I can speak, or whether I can even speak at all.

So to all my friends, redneck like me or otherwise, pick and choose your fights wisely. The real problem is the overspending, money wasting, high taxing, and freedom-limiting bureaucrats in Washington and in our state capitols that lack the courage to set this country in the right direction with a little common sense.  You up there! Take care of the economic chaos you have created.  And for goodness sake, leave Boudreaux, Jinjing, Abdul, Jemarcus, Bubba, poor Pedro, and me alone.


English?  Who needs that?  I’m never going to England!”

Homer Simpson

Peace and Justice

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide.  You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9 am till 11:00 am, central time, on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at

Thursday, February 12, 2015


February 12th, 2015
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


One of the all time great coaches in college basketball passed away this week.  North Carolina’s Dean Smith had retired with more wins than any coach in history, along with capturing two national championships.  But to those who knew him, and I consider myself in that elite number, he was much more than a coach.  He was a teacher, an innovator both on and off the court, a role model, and a real humanitarian.

I was high school senior in 1958, and was hoping to get a college athletic scholarship for either basketball or track, when I first met Coach Smith. He had just been hired away from the Air Force Academy as an assistant at Carolina by then Coach Frank McGuire.  It was common knowledge than Coach Smith was being groomed to be McGuire’s successor.

One spring afternoon, I was called to the principal’s office and told that a Mr. Dean Smith was there to see me. His family waited in an older model Chevrolet with a U-Haul trailer hooked to the back, while Coach Smith told me that he was on his way to Chapel Hill to begin his new coaching career. He had been asked by the coaching staff at Carolina to stop by and recruit me. And in his mild mannered but persuasive way, it didn’t take long to convince me that Chapel Hill should be my new home.

So my “minor” claim to fame in the sports trivia history books would be that I was Coach Smith’s first Carolina recruit.  I ended up being a much better sprinter and hurdler than a basketball player, and I eventually gave up basketball for track. Coach Smith and I joked from then on that even though some guy name Jordan came along a few years later to play pretty well for him, I would always be his “first” college commitment.

When Carolina won its first national championship under Coach Smith in 1982 at the New Orleans Superdome, I was there in that number.  A few weeks after his victory, I received in the mail a blue and white Carolina basketball autographed by Coach Smith, Michael Jordan, James Worthy and the entire Tar Heel team. He told me he had sent it as a special gift to his first recruit.

My son checked on eBay and told me I could sell the ball today for as much as $15,000.  No way, I told him.  It was a gift from Coach Smith.  The ball will stay with me till I die, and then be donated back to the Carolina Basketball Museum in Chapel Hill.

When the state of the art Dean Dome was dedicated as the new Carolina basketball venue in 1986, Carolina kicked off their schedule playing an exhibition game against a Russian all star team.  Coach Smith had great seats waiting at the box office as one of my daughters and I took in this special moment.

Coach Smith brought the Tar Heels to Baton Rouge to play LSU in 1983.  We had coffee before the game, and he was effervescent about how much he enjoyed Cajun Country.  He told me Chapel Hill was the best small town college venue in America, but that Baton Rouge was his favorite bigger college setting. He loved the music, the food, and was a big fan of LSU basketball Coach Dale Brown.

On our way into the Maravich Center for the game, he stopped at the door as we were entering the Tiger’s basketball arena.  “You better go in first Jim,” he told me.  “ I might lose you some votes if you are seen with me.”  I laughed and told him that escorting America’s premiere college coach into the arena was both a treat and an honor for me.

I hadn’t seen Coach Smith in recent years. Few of his friends have. In his declining age, he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.  At my Carolina class reunion a few years back, an old fraternity brother, who was a neighbor of Coach Smith, said that he had gone by to visit but he really didn’t think Coach Smith recognized him.  But then another visitor played the Carolina alma mater and fight song.  Coach Smith got to his feet, put his hand over his heart, and sang along.  The Tar Heal spirit and memory were still in him.

They say in Chapel Hill that God is surely a Tar Heal, because he made the sky Carolina blue.  It’s nice to know the Good Lord is looking after a great coach, a spiritual man, and a special person who touched so many lives in such a positive way.  His legacy will leave a simple imprint.  He just made the world a better place for everyone around him. We will long remember Coach Dean Smith.

Peace and Justice

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide.  You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9 am till 11:00 am, central time, on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at

Thursday, February 05, 2015


Thursday, February 5th, 2014
New Orleans, Louisiana


If you haven’t been following the Benson family soap opera that has dominated news across the state, you are missing a billion dollar power play that’s much better than fiction.  New Orleans automobile tycoon and sports icon Tom Benson is in a fight with family heirs over his competency to run two of the nation’s premier sports franchises, the New Orleans football Saints and the basketball NBA Pelicans.  And the family quarrel could put the continuing presence of these sports goldmines at risk of leaving New Orleans.

Benson, an astute businessman, made a fortune in real estate and owning numerous car dealerships.  He swooped in at the last minute to buy both the Saints and the Pelicans at a time when local buyers were nowhere to be found.  Without him, both teams would be long gone from the Crescent City.  But Benson’s a shrewd businessman and he cut a heck of a deal with the state, gaining financial benefits unheard of in any other NFL city.

He had put in place a line of family succession for the teams’ ownership, grooming his granddaughter for years to step in. By all accounts, she was difficult for many in the franchises to deal with, but granddad had her back.  Enter wife number three for the boss.  Current wife Gale Benson had Tom’s ear, and he announced that she would now be the heir apparent to take over management of the Benson sport empire. Then granddaughter Rita and the other heirs cried foul, and the lawsuits have been flying in recent weeks.

Outside of good local gossip, such a family spat would not be cause for taxpayer concern.  But the state has made a huge financial commitment to both teams.  No other state appropriates money directly to a sports franchise. Louisiana has opened the state treasury, and has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into the Benson coffers.

Forbes Magazine recently reported that Saints owner Tom Benson will receive almost $400 million from state subsidies through 2025.  “He negotiated one of the most complex — and lucrative — stadium lease agreements in the NFL, adding to his fortune as his team was bringing in estimated yearly profits of $31 million. Over the 15 year term of the lease, the state will pay Benson at least $198 million in increased revenue from the Superdome, $142 million in rental payments on property Benson owns, $10 million in bonuses for bringing the Super Bowl to New Orleans and $2.6 million in tax breaks.”

Then there is the agreement for the state to lease space in a downtown office building being purchased by the Saints’ owner.  The building is adjacent to the Superdome and the state is leasing more than 320,000 feet at $24 dollars square foot, which is one of the highest rental rates in the city. So Louisiana taxpayers are basically paying the cost of the building the Saints ownership is buying.

“That’s incredible. I‘ve never heard of that one before,” said Robert Baade, an economist at Lake Forest University who studies stadium financing. “That’s just another form of subsidy.”  And this is just the deal for the Saints.  There is an additional list of similar incentives that were given to the basketball Pelicans.

New Orleans is listed as the smallest media market of any NFL team, with a 75-mile radius population of 2,635,000.  Since NFL TV revenues are split equally, other team owners would like to see all teams have a wider viewer market.  And a number of other cities, with a much larger population radius base, are chomping for a team, including Los Angeles (18 million), San Antonio (4 million) and Birmingham (3.5 million).

So if the controversy continues to smolder and stay tied up in court for years as it well could, pressure could come from the NFL for Benson to sell out.  And with local potential buyers few and far between, a move by either team would be a huge financial hit for an already troubled Louisiana state treasury.

Hopefully, the Benson family will sensibly settle their differences.  But their problems are far from just a family affair, as Louisiana has a major financial stake in the ultimate outcome.


The pride and the presence of a professional football team
is far more important than 30 libraries.”
Former Cleveland Browns owner Art Modell

Peace and Justice

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide.  You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9 am till 11:00 am, central time, on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at