Standing In The Way

Standing In The Way

Pennsylvania landowners defend their property

"In 1948, I was an apprentice in a one-man engraving and jewelry shop. My boss worked very hard to establish his small business. One day two Hungarian secret police, dressed like the Gestapo from years before, came in their long leather coats to the shop. They said to my boss, “This shop is now nationalized; you have to leave.” In a few minutes, my boss was gone. The “police” told me to take an inventory of the tools in the shop and they told me I would have a job in the nationalized jewelry and engraving system. By that time all major businesses, banks, and mines, were taken over by the communists. This is the way it was. As a result, I have seen the arbitrary decisions made by both the Nazis and the Communists. In 1956 we Hungarians rebelled against the Soviet Union and the Hungarian Communists.
I wanted you to know all this, because now, the Sunoco Logistics company wants to take over part of our land.

-Stephen Gerhart, March 28, 2016, Letter to Judge George Zanic

The Gerhart family of Huntingdon, PA were model citizens when it came to allowing their land to thrive. As Stephen Gerhart wrote, "ducks, geese, herons, kingfishers, turtles, frogs, and fish have all found homes there. Our century old trees are homes for countless birds and mammals, including the endangered Indiana brown bat. Our forest is teeming with other wildlife, deer, bear, foxes, snakes, turkeys, grouse, that make their homes there." In 1982, the family placed their forests in the Pennsylvania Forest Stewardship Program, under which the property was promised to be kept safe from industrial development and ecological interference from humans.

However, the family's rights to continue this protection were taken away through eminent domain, and while Ellen and Stephen Gerhart were appealing this decision in court, Sunoco Logistics Partners sent tree crews to clear-cut the sections of the forest in the Mariner East 2 Pipeline route. At this time, their daughter Elise Gerhart and other concerned citizens arrived to document violations of the clearing and, in Elise's case, occupying a tree in the hopes of sparing some of the trees around her.

When concerned that some of the falling trees were endangering her daughter, Ellen crossed into "the danger zone" and was arrested for contempt of a court order. After her release on bond on March 30, Ellen returned home.

But the Gerharts' fight was not about to end. On April 7, the tree clearing crews returned to the property with their chainsaws to finish the job, despite an emergency injunction from the court stating all tree clearing must be completed by March 31, in order to comply with the Migratory Birds Treaty Act to protect the endangered Indiana bat. Elise returned to her perch in a tree, despite having read and heard wishes that she would be harmed for her resistance.

Aware of the injunction and concerned that Sunoco's crew was past the March 31 deadline for tree clearing, Ellen Gerhart called the police to report the activity, but when the police arrived, they arrested her a second time. Ellen denied bail and refused to speak or eat while in Centre County Corrections, and accepted bail on April 9 after two days in solitary confinement.

On a Facebook page with live updates on the family's story, Ellen wrote the following: "Rest assured that our fight to protect the environment and private property from Sunoco did not end when they cut down our trees (3 big pines are still standing). This is a 2 pronged fight--1. to protect private property from being taken over by a giant corporation and 2. to protect the environment from needless destruction."

Cover Image Credit: Facebook

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This Is How Your Same-Sex Marriage Affects Me As A Catholic Woman

I hear you over there, Bible Bob.

It won't.

Wait, what?

I promise you did read that right. Not what you were expecting me to say, right? Who another person decides to marry will never in any way affect my own marriage whatsoever. Unless they try to marry the person that I want to, then we might have a few problems.

As a kid, I was raised, baptized, and confirmed into an old school Irish Catholic church in the middle of a small, midwestern town.

Not exactly a place that most people would consider to be very liberal or open-minded. Despite this I was taught to love and accept others as a child, to not cast judgment because the only person fit to judge was God. I learned this from my Grandpa, a man whose love of others was only rivaled by his love of sweets and spoiling his grandkids.

While I learned this at an early age, not everyone else in my hometown — or even within my own church — seemed to get the memo. When same-sex marriage was finally legalized country-wide, I cried tears of joy for some of my closest friends who happen to be members of the LGBTQ community.

I was happy while others I knew were disgusted and even enraged.

"That's not what it says in the bible! Marriage is between a man and a woman!"

"God made Adam and Eve for a reason! Man shall not lie with another man as he would a woman!"

"Homosexuality is a sin! It's bad enough that they're all going to hell, now we're letting them marry?"

Alright, Bible Bob, we get it, you don't agree with same-sex relationships. Honestly, that's not the issue. One of our civil liberties as United States citizens is the freedom of religion. If you believe your religion doesn't support homosexuality that's OK.

What isn't OK is thinking that your religious beliefs should dictate others lives.

What isn't OK is using your religion or your beliefs to take away rights from those who chose to live their life differently than you.

Some members of my church are still convinced that their marriage now means less because people are free to marry whoever they want to. Honestly, I wish I was kidding. Tell me again, Brenda how exactly do Steve and Jason's marriage affect yours and Tom's?

It doesn't. Really, it doesn't affect you at all.

Unless Tom suddenly starts having an affair with Steve their marriage has zero effect on you. You never know Brenda, you and Jason might become best friends by the end of the divorce. (And in that case, Brenda and Tom both need to go to church considering the bible also teaches against adultery and divorce.)

I'll say it one more time for the people in the back: same-sex marriage does not affect you even if you or your religion does not support it. If you don't agree with same-sex marriage then do not marry someone of the same sex. Really, it's a simple concept.

It amazes me that I still actually have to discuss this with some people in 2017. And it amazes me that people use God as a reason to hinder the lives of others.

As a proud young Catholic woman, I wholeheartedly support the LGBTQ community with my entire being.

My God taught me to not hold hate so close to my heart. He told me not to judge and to accept others with open arms. My God taught me to love and I hope yours teaches you the same.

Disclaimer - This article in no way is meant to be an insult to the Bible or religion or the LGBTQ community.

Cover Image Credit: Sushiesque / Flickr

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'Welcome To Class! In Case Of A School Shooting...'

School shootings seem to be the new norm, my professors are supposed to tell us what to do in case it becomes our norm.

The first day of Spring quarter, I was given the usual rundown of the syllabus, we went over all of the normal things professors talk about on the first day, grading policies, attendance, etc. But I was shocked when my instructor explained the protocol for an active shooter situation should one take place on campus. My initial reaction was shocking, the only things running through my head is, that could never happen here, this is a waste of time. But as he continued to speak about it, I realized, that's probably what other students have thought too.

We are now five months into the year, and as of May 18th, there have been 22 school shootings in the United States alone. Some schools are preparing for these situations by updating their school security, making students have clear backpacks, and in our case, having a protocol ready if this occurred on our own campus.

So why aren't all schools doing these things? It does cost money, however, room needs to be made for these extra costs.

School is supposed to be a safe place, not a war-zone.

Clear backpacks may be a little drastic, however, more cameras, intercom systems at main entrances to allow access, and, of course, some type of protocol. Our teachers face enough stress in their day-to-day lives. By not funding these resources, we are saying we don't care about their safety. Dedicated teachers are ready to lose their life if it means they can protect their students.

They shouldn't have to.

Anya Kamenetz with NPR explains a good way to prevent school shootings would be to have more mental health professionals available in the schools themselves, while even creating a social-emotional curriculum. It is not, however, a good idea to target students because they may be introverted or uninterested in everyday activities. Would you enjoy someone being your friend specifically because they were scared you might shoot up a school? I didn't think so. Sadly, it always gets worse, before it gets better.

But the problem has become so widespread it's harder to stop and harder to pinpoint the issue. Stop focusing on politics, this isn't about one side or the other, it's about the loss of lives. Students not wanting to go to school because they fear for their lives, and even about having to worry if you'll make it through the school day.

If both sides of the political agenda could just genuinely focus on how to fix this problem and stop telling each other they're wrong, we may be able to stop this thing.

Cover Image Credit: Pixabay

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