Chatfield Strikes Again; And We All Might Pay

by Mark Pontoni on 3/22/2020

People who have followed my writing in the Petoskey News-Review, the Northern Express, and in this blog, know I have been a vociferous critic of State Representative Lee Chatfield since before he held office.  Everything about Chatfield’s background and performance since screams incompetence and hypocrisy.  Many of the people of northern Michigan, however, have embraced this incompetence and hypocrisy to the extent that Chatfield became Speaker of the Michigan House in 2019. It’s been trouble for our state ever since.

Chatfield’s rise to power in our state was fueled by one thing: his proud hatred of anything LBGT.  While this sounds a little simple-minded on my part, it is, in fact, all you need to know.  When Chatfield decided to run against the incumbent, Frank Foster, in 2014, he did so solely on the grounds that Foster supported an amendment to the civil rights protections in Michigan to include LGBT folks.  That’s it.  Foster, heading toward reelection for the third and final term of an undistinguished career, thought it was already illegal to fire someone because they were gay. (Common sense and basic respect for human dignity would excuse Foster’s misinformation.)  But for some reason, gay people scare “Christians” like Chatfield.  Chatfield contacted Foster, told him he had a deadline to retract support for changes to the Elliott-Larson Civil Rights Act or Foster would have a primary opponent. Foster didn’t back down, and the reactionary Tea Party of northern Michigan mustered enough votes to oust Foster.

Chatfield left his job at his daddy’s “Christian” school where among his duties was the beating of misbehaving children (because apparently the Bible gave him permission to do so.)  I know, I know, this sounds like I’m making shit up because I don’t like the guy.  But it’s all on the record, and you can read many acolytes of Chatfield’s cult defending the child-beating in Letters to the Editor written back when I first raised this issue.

So the single-issue candidate left northern Michigan to start a career to carry out the agenda of his “Christian” backers.  When I met with Chatfield before the election, I asked him what three things he wanted to accomplish when he got to Lansing.  He looked a little confused and replied that he really didn’t know.  He would find out once he got there.  It didn’t take him long to have an agenda handed to him by his backers: attack public education, make life hell for LGBT folks, and make sure women’s rights are defined by Norman Rockwell paintings.

In the five years since he took office, Chatfield has worked tirelessly to run our state back to the 1950’s when life was simple.  Women knew their place. People of color knew their place. And gay folks simply didn’t exist.

All of this is bad enough to hopefully bring Chatfield’s ignominious political career to a quiet end early in 2021.  He certainly has aspirations for higher political office (after all, what does a guy who has never had a real job in his life do after 6 years of being handed orders by his backers?  Simple. He finds another office to help spread their hate and destructive policies.) But it is very hard to imagine his parochial message that plays so well in the Great White North will have much statewide appeal.

(Funny.  I didn’t sit down this morning to write about what a mess Lee Chatfield is and what damage he’s brought to our state in the last five years.  I sat down to raise the alarm about his latest abomination, but sometimes when you start thinking about this guy, the fingers just can’t slow down.)

In the midst of COVID-19 crisis, our slow moving state government has been piecing together a response that will hopefully save some lives.  No one likes their rights restricted by government, but in a crisis, that’s how things work. People have shown themselves unable to avoid crowds on their own.  Given opportunities to make sensible decisions, the bars were full, the casinos were full, the churchgoers were still hugging each other…and the virus was winning.

On March 17, the governor issued Executive Order 2020-11 which said in part: “Beginning on March 17, 2020 at 9:00 am, and continuing through April 5, 2020 at 5:00 pm, all assemblages of more than 50 people in a single indoor shared space and all events of more than 50 people are prohibited in this state. A single indoor shared space includes but is not limited to a room, hall, cafeteria, auditorium, theater, or gallery.”

Fair enough.  People can’t voluntarily stay out of large groups, the state has to step in.  Why it has been so hard for people to understand that when they gather in large groups, it’s not just themselves that they are putting at risk is beyond me.  Somehow they just can’t connect the dots that when they leave that large group they are carrying all the viruses, germs, bacteria, etc. that ANYONE in group brought to the meeting.  So Executive Order 2020-11 was a reasonable, if belated, response to the COVID-19 crisis.

Until it was no longer reasonable.  Enter Lee Chatfield.  Chatfield’s puppeteers quickly realized that banning groups of 50 or more was going to have a disastrous effect on their revenue streams during Sunday services.   Chatfield coerced the governor into putting all of us at risk by amending 2020-11 to exempt churches.  Yup.  Bring your germs to church, pass ‘em around, and send them out into the community.

In defending the amendment, Chatfield issued this convoluted statement:  “People have a God-given right to assemble and worship, and that right is secured by both the United States and Michigan Constitution.”

Well, Lee, your right to assemble does not come from your god.  You actually say it right in your statement.  Your right to assemble comes from the government.  And in times of crisis, those same man-written laws give the government the duty to protect you from yourself in the interest of our entire civilized society.

As soon as someone can explain how being in a church in close quarters with potentially hundreds of people is any more safe than being in a bar, a casino, or an arena, I will concede that churches should be exempt.  But no one can explain that.   Instead, what we have here is our governor once again kowtowing to the “Christian” right and putting us all in danger.

While the danger is certainly less severe in the long run than the attacks on public education, women’s rights, LGBT rights, etc proffered by Chatfield’s backers (except for the people who die of COVID-19), once again we have let the bible thumpers dictate public policy.  Of course, it would be useful if these folks would do more than thump their bibles.  Maybe they could read a few passages about how Jesus wanted us to care for our fellow man.

In the meantime, the rest of us need to remember in November and beyond, how Chatfield endangered the lives of Michiganders to appease his “Christian” backers.  Let’s make sure the only people he can hurt moving forward are the kids in his daddy’s school who talk out of turn.

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One Comment on “Chatfield Strikes Again; And We All Might Pay”

  1. marypc March 22, 2020 at 10:10 am #

    AMEN Dear Brother! Jesus want us to be where a false prophets and so many in our government seem to be playing that role right now by claiming to be Christian and in fact not caring about the fellow man. Jesus did not distinguish between his followers and others – he said to love everyone as he loves us. Loving people means you don’t try to infect your community with a virus that could kill the most vulnerable. Keep talking work. Some people will listen and We will all be better for it! Maggie

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