My Letter Regarding the IOCC

My letter to the IOCC in response to their selection of Paul Sarbanes as honorary chairman:

Dear Mr. Triantafilou,
I was quite distressed to learn of IOCC’s decision to name Paul Sarbanes as the honorary chairman of its 20th anniversary gala. When an organization, such as IOCC, selects an individual as an honorary chairman, they are holding that individual up as someone who exemplifies the principles for which the organization stands.
In the case of Paul Sarbanes, we can look at his voting record in the Senate to understand the principles he believes in. In deed, for a public official, there is no better way to make that determination. Unfortunately, Mr. Sarbanes has taken extreme positions regarding abortion, such that it is hard to imagine that his views are anything other than unreserved support. He has even gone so far as to oppose laws that would levy additional criminal penalties on those who harm an unborn child during the commission of a crime.
IOCC officially claims that its vision is to respond without discrimination to those in need. Who is in greater need than a baby facing death at its own mother’s hand? How does honoring Paul Sarbanes, and making him the gala chairman, do anything but call into question the stated vision of IOCC? What am I supposed to think about the decision making process of an organization who apparently agrees with Paul Sarbanes that babies are something less than persons, able to be killed off at the whim of their mothers?
My family has supported IOCC extensively over the years, but at this point, our support must end. We have a finite budget, and our money is better spent with other Orthodox charities in whom I can have faith that they will support the dignity and life of all human beings.
I hope, as well, that the Episcopal Assembly will take a closer look at IOCC when it comes time to formally approve various organizations. I am not clear that IOCC is that interested in adhering to the Orthodox faith.

Sincerely yours,

Jeffrey Lee
Member, Sts. Constantine and Helen Orthodox Church, GOArch
Cardiff-by-the-Sea, California


His Eminence, Demetrios, Archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
His Eminence, Gerasimos, Metropolitan of San Francisco, GOArch
His Grace, Andonios, Coordinator for Agencies and Endorsed Organizations, Episcopal Assembly

IOCC, Paul Sarbanes, Faith and Politics

I recently became aware, when a friend sent me this letter, of the IOCC’s plans for its 20th anniversary gala. Part of this gala is the naming of former senator Paul Sarbanes as the honorary chairman. I am not sure why they opted for this selection, but I suspect it is because he is a Greek of some national prominence, as well as, I imagine, a member of the Orthodox Church.

However, his selection creates some significant challenges. The chairman of such an event needs to represent the ideals of that organization- in this case the Orthodox Church taking care of the poor, weak, and vulnerable. How is it then, that a man who has so publicly supported the killing of unborn children, perhaps the weakest and most vulnerable members of our society, can be said to represent the ideals of IOCC? I would hope that every member of the Orthodox Church must hang their head in shame whenever he identifies himself with the Church.

Yes, I know the arguments, and they are hardly worth responding to. The first, that we shouldn’t let his stance get in the way of our support of the IOCC, presumes that they are the only organization helping people in the world. The fact is that they are not. My finite budget for supporting charitable causes can quite easily be spent with other Orthodox charities that don’t honor individuals who so publicly work in opposition to the constant teaching of the Church.

The second argument, that he is merely supporting choice, is insincere. His voting record is so extreme that he can’t even support criminal penalties for those who harm the unborn while committing a crime. No, it’s clear that he views the unborn as somehow not persons. That stands in absolute contradiction to what he claims to hold as an Orthodox Christian. Frankly, even a moderate pro choice position requires that you don’t hold to the sanctity of life and the status of the unborn as persons. One has to assume that IOCC must somehow hold to similar views, and that makes me worry about decisions that the organization might make in a crisis situation. If they don’t value life… Yes, that may come off as a bit harsh, but it is a legitimate concern.

The third argument is the one most often used by politicians who don’t hold to the teachings of the faith they claim to have. I don’t understand why one would belong to a religion with which they disagree on such a fundamental level, but one must imagine it is in the interest of getting votes. With Greeks this is clearly the case. Greek American periodicals come out in support of every Greek candidate regardless of their views. At any rate, the argument, apparently dating from the Kennedy presidency is that they are keeping their personal faith separate from their execution of their public office. The absurdity of this position is handled better in this letter than I could hope to. What I would like to address is my views as a voter. One concern as a voter is how decisions will be made by an office holder. If a politician sincerely holds a specific faith, then I would count on that faith informing their decisions on a wide range of moral issues. If they are Orthodox, then I would hope that they will always act in the best interest of the poor, the weak, and vulnerable.

This has an interesting connection to the current presidential race. Mitt Romney apologists also make the argument that he will keep his Mormonism out of his decisions as a president. The problem is that the one positive for me regarding Romney would be if Mormon morality informed his decisions. If it doesn’t, then he becomes much less interesting. Yes, I agree that Mormonism is in serious error, but that error does not extend to their views on most moral issues.

I think that anyone who can truly keep their personal beliefs separate from their public actions is either extraordinarily double minded or a liar. Either case would make me very concerned.