Category Archives: Uncategorized

Gift of Hospital Chaplaincy

My Dad died when I was 10-I  have few memories of him.

Back in the day- that is 1969- there were  few people  who talked about him to this 10 yr old, and certainly not about his work, etc.  He was a foreman in US Steel Gary works, and 42 was way too young.


Fast forward to 2014. I am making rounds at the hospital where I served as a Chaplain.  I stop to visit an elderly man in his 80’s- he’s frail and tired. In my mind  it looks to be a quick visit.
After I introduce myself he says “Siroky. Rip Siroky.” ( “Rip” was my Dad’s nickname. ) I stammer, yesssss Rip Siroky was my Father.
“So Rip Siroky’s daughter is a Chaplain… (pause).. Your Father was one of the fairest foreman I ever worked for. He died young.”
Yes, he did, I say. And I go back to my role of ministry to him., asking what I could do for him, prayer, etc. But God intervened.
” Your Dad. he was fair. and in those times, it was rare. I was a young man, and your Dad treated all of us the same. Black, white, didnt matter. He respected your work. But dont get him mad…. so Rip Siroky’s little girl is a Chaplain.”

Now this man would  have been in his teens when my Dad was his foreman. Yet he persisted…
and for the next 20 minutes or so, I sat, and he talked about my Dad– and how proud he was of us all, and the pictures we drew in his locker. And then he reminisced as a young man the mill was always busy and you felt connected and the men there felt proud. And he spoke of Gary and his fellow Millrats , and my Dad, With pride.
A grace moment. I hope this patient is enjoying his Father’s Day. he made mine.

UPDATE! Cull approved- Australian wildlife needs our help- Save flying foxes!

Update– The Humane Society International has begun legal action against Australia and New South Wales for permitting the destruction of habitat for endangered flying foxes. Read more here: 

mama babybat

In this photo a Mama Flying Fox desperately tries to find home and food as Australia begins destroying canopy  of fruit trees. (note- the bats would disperse in a few weeks when flowering ends

Bats get a bad rap.They are not harbingers of disease, but are a necessary (and busy) component of our ecosystem.

I follow  Batzilla the Bat  on Facebook. These wonderful folks rescue and rehabilitate. And educate. They need us now, as their politicians are unbelievably ignorant and supporting exterminating an entire species of endangered bats!

2016-05-21 (1)

In brief, the town of Bateman’s Bay  is enjoying their flowering tree event. Weeks long, it attracts visitors of human and animals.. among them the flying fox. No detriment to humans, these awesome creatures are  Australia’s only nocturnal long distance pollinators and seed dispersers of native forests!  Australia will not survive without this keystone species. (think of the Honeybee crisis).

So.. as election time nears, the  Federal Environmental minister is actually approving culling the species. Lifting the protection. Encouraging folks to kill them off.  These bats- and their protectors- need our help

Local activists are trying desperately to bring more awareness. And it works. Of course what happens to the global ecosystem affects us all. Because- global.

There is a petition on Change.Org,  and as Narooma activists defends bats explains, aside from the dispersal being inhumane, it wont work.

Please. help the bats.

Here is a video of them releasing “Gidgee”.


ACTION ALERT- GEO For Profit Prison plans still active Gary, IN

There is something called a Friday afternoon news dump– news items come out at end of day when comments and  statements are impossible to obtain.

Take note: The GEO Group and city officials have been working hard behind the scenes for over two years to build a For Profit detention center . Wednesday May 4th the Common Council is set to hear again, public testimony and vote.  More deals and MOUs are coming to light, despite feigned ignorance of those voting that they had no knowledge.

This weekend all major political candidates will be in Indiana , many in the Region. TAKE ACTION. show up- challenge- ask for public comments where they stand. Call their offices to clarify the information given,  Demand specifics about Indiana and about Gary. It IS Gary’s time.. we have much to offer instead of the empty promises of GEO group and back room dealings.

Bernie Sanders has always maintained he is against For profit prisons, saying at an Indpls rally “it is perverse for us to profit” from incarceration. Demand that Sanders addresses Gary and GEO

Hillary Clinton has taken money from GEO parent companies (or employees) demand she take a stand now, seeing the abuse and the economic havoc these facilities leave on communities when quotas cannot be filled.

Mike Pence and many GOP have also taken money from GEO- $20k to Pence this year alone. over $85k in the past 9 years. Ask questions!

John Gregg is mute on the issue.

Senatorial Candidates all over the state- some have taken contributions, some profited- some are publicly opposed. Eddie Melton declared his opposition weeks ago, others?

And perhaps most important. Educate yourselves. Don’t believe hype. Hell, don’t believe me –until you read the facts. And trust me, in the Region facts are hard to come by.

Basics: The day after the November 2015 election, the people of Gary first heard about the  GEO group plans for re-zoning land near our expanding airport for a  private prison.  (mind you GEO had been trying in nearby Hobart for years). Within  a few weeks, she  withdrew support .  GEO pulled the variance yet came back after new council seated. Most members  and city officials publicly stated they had no knowledge of any dealings.

Yet, thanks to FOIA, here is the Memorandum of Understanding dated September 23, 2015, before election GEO.

Note: while the numbers may sound good to a job thirsty market, there is NO contract with DOJ for inmates. None.  so it is empty wishful jobs– which is what we all want in the region- jobs.

I wouldn’t  be surprised  if some sort of contract would appear last minute- yet the MOU is based on occupancy rates. Many states have cancelled contracts with GEO, and cities have gone bankrupt as the cities are often on the hook for utilities, the tax increases, and property values diminish.  The Northwest Indiana Gazette, citizen journalism outlines these here. 

In November GEO withdrew their petition as citizens rallied. Blue collar, white collar, clergy collar.But when did they reapply? Who knows. But grab your scorecard.

At the April 12th Zoning Board meeting,  the vote was 3-1 against the variance. Testimony   included the chairman of the Airport Authority Board, former Lake county Sheriff, and Gary Diocesan Bishop Hying, Northwest Federation of Interfaith Clergy  chair Rev. Cheryl Rivera, and former Mayor Richard Hatcher- all against. 

The lone yes was from  BZA President Rinzer Williams.  Now Williams is also the legal counsel for the Gary Common Council.  At he next Common Council meeting, a tie vote on the proposal second reading essentially made it dead.

However, as the video from the April 19th common council meeting shows,  legal counsel, without being asked, approached a council member with information, That member, Herbert Smith, appointed to the council after a vacancy owns a Company that provides electronic monitoring – including to Lake County. Suddenly he brings to light  a section of the bylaws and then is helped word a motion to continue the discussion.

The citation from Atty Rinzer Williams deals with committee votes, not council votes. Williams reads from Bylaws

Sec 2-217.c (below) which states (midway through section)
 “.. in the event any ordinance is not reported favorably by a committee, prior to any meeting, any one member at the council meeting may request that the ordinance be brought out of committee at the next meeting, the ordinance shall be reported out favorably or unfavorably at the next regular meeting.”
This above section pertains to COMMITTEE reports and meetings.  This vote was  not a committee vote.  He states that by not sending the ordinance to committee that is the same as an unfavorable report BY the committee. It is not the same.
Bottom line- we need to maintain vigilance. Our state matters. Our city matters. Our lives matter. Stay connected and stay involved.
There are events and meetings all over the Region this weekend. DO your part-  we must be heard.




Please stop HB1337 in Indiana. It is up to the House.

As early as today, HB1337, titled Abortion Matters, will be back for final vote in the Indiana House. Except it is unrecognizable from the bill they voted through weeks ago.

While they sent #HB1337 to Senate Committee, the Senate voted through #SB313 to House Committee. This  bill was more than the descriptor of abortion matters- it covers miscarriages, remains of both miscarriage and abortion,  removes options for families when the fetus is diagnosed with a lethal fetal anomaly , mandates procedures when a fetal anomaly or potential  for one is discovered,  and addresses perinatal hospice.

The House Committee  chose not to hear this SB313.

Yet the  Senate Committee morphed the language of this extremely full and often vague bill into HB1337.   Mind you SB313  -which is now part of HB1337 was already discussed on the Senate Committe and full chamber for hours over a period of days. And on third reading Tuesday it was discussed for an additional hour and a half.

It has moved to  the House for final passage. There will be  no input or testimony on all the new  restrictions on a family or individual ‘s choice regarding the pregnancy  No facts, no testimony from physicians, patients,  medical professionals. The people of Indiana deserve better.

HB 1337 will greatly affect not only those who may choose abortion when their fetus has been diagnosed with a fetal anomaly. It has consequences and  restrictions on miscarriages, on mandating burial or cremation of tissue, and of possible felony charges and loss of medical licenses for the providers.

This bill affects so much more than restrictions of abortion providers. It mandates procedures families must choose from at a most traumatic time – when they discover their fetus has  a disability that may very well result in death  within the first year. It interferes with the Doctor patient relationship- when an MD  suggests testing for their  patient- and with this bill what their patient chooses result in a felony or loss of license for the MD.

Senators Young and Becker,  among others, explained on the floor  the contradictions and absurdity of the bills new language. For example  woman in Indiana has the right to abort a healthy baby, but this law means she does not have the right to abort a fetus because it has a prenatal diagnosis of a severe congenital anomaly.(or any of the other 9 criteria they have spelled out.  This makes no sense!  The bill is a pro birth bill- and even there does not provide the families for the medical bills and services the bill mandates they endure.

By banning abortion for fetal anomaly without adding one cent to offset the enormous amount of care that more babies with fetal anomalies will need, this bill will increase Indiana’s infant mortality and suffering.

The scenarios are tragic and numerous. The House deserves to hear testimony on the morphed bill – from physicians, patients, providers, funeral directors,  and  all those affected. Please vote no on this bill.

Will Indiana celebrate Leap Year by voting in discrimination


No, it’s not RFRA part 2.   You see earlier this session Indiana Legislators had the chance to add civil rights protections for LGBT. But they refused to vote on it. So that misnomer of a RFRA “fix” only affects the 11 or so municipalities that have their own Human Rights Ordinances.  And Indiana had the opportunity to enact hate crime legislation- we are one of five states not to have this. But again, our Legislators  think that   Hoosiers value people differently  than those from the other 35 states – so no vote there either.

Let’s see… what discrimination could it possibly be? Actually it is related to RFRA., as RFRA was passed on two prongs- gay weddings with cupcakes and businesses going to hell because they offered health insurance that dared to cover reproductive issues. And so RFRA allows for business to not cover, or not serve people who use fertility drugs, want vasectomies, want birth control, want options,  want to adopt into their same gender family.

And that brings us to Leap year Monday.

HB 1337 “Abortion Matters” The choice to terminate a pregnancy is legal. It is also in a trap.  As in TRAP laws- Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers.  Thee laws put restrictions  on clinics and abortion providers  but exempt  others. Hence the discrimination.

And I am disgusted that Indiana legislators both men and women, Republicans and even some  Democrats  continue to discriminate against those who hold beliefs different than theirs. Especially when it comes to reproduction. THIS bill goes beyond being AntiChoice. It actually adds to the trauma of women who have a miscarriage or receive news that the fetus has an anomaly.

This bill   criminalizes providers who perform an abortion  due to fetal anomaly, sex, or race.

The bill defines fetal tissue. (which one would think is a responsibility of the medial community).The bill mandates that  said fetal remains  from abortion OR  miscarriage – must be buried or cremated. According to the bill  fetal tissue” includes tissue, organs,or  any other part of an aborted fetus. The provider needs to partner with a funeral home. (and no funeral Directors testified either)

It was amended that  if a woman receives diagnosis of fatal fetal anomaly ( meaning die with 3 months) she would be offered perinatal hospice, and all that would be explained. Except paying for this is not addressed.

So to recap- women who have a miscarriage or stillbirth already are counseled on their choice to allow the facility to dispose of the fetal tissue/stillbirth or choose a funeral home. This bill mandates it.

Indiana Legislators believe Hoosier women and families are incapable of making a moral and  informed choice on their bodies.  They may indeed have their own values and religious beliefs, but Legislators are putting into law their values and morality. Legis as Senators Liz  Brown, Young, Holdman and Banks, along with Rep. Cox, Macon, Bates and Judy feel women need to pay – literally- to bury a miscarriage.  It is a fact miscarriages can  resemble a  large blood clot. After a women miscarries at home, a surgical procedure is needed to insure no tissue remains. And now that will need to be buried or cremated via licensed Funeral Director.

People of faith realize the added trauma this bill will cause- the threat of prosecution for providers who know their patients history and respect their legal and civil right to choose termination.

And the bill is just bad legislation. During the one hearing which allowed public testimony, questions were asked . Sen. Stoops said “we have constitutional right” to abortion, yet we have religious mandates being proposed as law”,  There are many unknowns in the bill. There are aspects of the bill that have been enacted by other states, and are currently in litigation towards Supreme Court.

Scenario: TaySachs is a disease that affects the nervous system. Babies born with this will probably “live” past 3 months, but most die by ages 3-4 yrs. They become paralyzed, cannot respond to stimulation, go blind. It  can be diagnosed In Utero . Yet with this bill a woman would be forced to carry to term.  Sen Grooms said Hoosiers have exceptional Christianity. Forcing a woman and family to carry a baby for 40 weeks that will die within months when she prefers to terminate is not the Christianity of many clergy or Hoosiers.

And so again, Indiana Legislators talk about values and the “preborn”and will mandate their own values and beliefs on all of us. They will discriminate and trap women who have a civil and legal right to their health decisions. They will ignore the woman who testified about the trauma of this bill as well as ignore people of faith who who hold differing views.

Unless they hear from us. Unless we speak up.

Follow #HB1337 on twitter, Email your legislator. Call. Educate.












Does Clinton’s latest soundbyte on Wall Street mirror what she said to Goldman Sachs?

As the campaigns tightens, HRC said Friday “I take a backseat to nobody in being very clear about what I will do to make sure Wall Street never crashes Main Street again, and that you can count on.”

But does this match what she has said in speeches to Goldman Sachs?

We don’t know.  For over a year, she has been asked by different media and citizens at Town Halls about releasing the transcripts. Like  many in politics, her answer has evolved.

In January she laughed when a  a reporter asked her about releasing them

On Feb. 6th when asked, she said she” would look into it”

And now she says  “I’m happy to release anything I have when everybody else does the same, because every other candidate in this race has given speeches to private groups, including Senator Sanders.”

(For the record, Sanders received less than $2,000 for two speeches and donated money to charity. Clinton made  three speeches and was paid over $675,000.)


Clinton insisted and paid a stenographer for transcribing. She has the power to release them.

Whether she does or not,.. well  who am I kidding, she will not release them. And she doesn’t have to.

But  trust is a huge issue for her candidacy. It always has been. It is why she didn’t win the nomination in 2008. it may be why she won’t win now.  In my mind, better to say from the get go that “No, I’m not releasing them till everyone else does.” Instead she is parroting Bernie Sanders line about main street and wall street.

Not sure if it works.



It’s here!! 219Day in da Region ((( (fans face with hands))))


219Enjoy the day.. and be safe Region Rats



WHEREAS, 219 is the second month of the year, February, and the 19th day of said month, and;

WHEREAS, 219 is the North American telephone area code for the Chicago metropolitan area of northwest Indiana that includes Lake, Porter, LaPorte, Newton and Jasper counties, which constitute the area known as “DA REGION,” and

WHEREAS, living in the 219 Region entitles its residents to cheer for the Blackhawks, Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox, and favor the Bears over the Colts and the Bulls over the Pacers no matter what the odds; and


WHEREAS, living in the 219 Region entitles people to wear shorts when its 40 degrees outside and mow their lawns wearing socks and sandals; and

WHEREAS, living in the 219 Region insures that your residential block will speak at least four different ethnic languages and all residents will gather around to celebrate whichever groups music and food is the focus of an annual celebration; and

WHEREAS, living in the 219 Region insures that everyone knows how much better drivers they are than people coming from other area codes because we know how to drive around potholes and in snow; and

WHEREAS, living in the 219 Region entitles people to celebrate July 4th as long and as loud as they want; and

WHEREAS, living in the 219 Region enables its citizen to know what a “gapers block,” “dibs chair,” “Indianapolis time,” and “mill traffic” means in normal conversations; and

WHEREAS, living in the 219 Region makes us all the stepchild of the State of Indiana

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that I, Thomas M. McDermott, Mayor of the City of Hammond, Indiana do hereby proclaim February 19, 2015 as “219” Region Day in the City of Hammond.

IN TESTIMONY WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and caused to be affixed the Great Seal of Hammond, Indiana, on this, the 19th day of February, 2015.

Thomas M. McDermott, Jr.

Mayor, City of Hammond

Civil Rights still under attack in Indiana- Especially Abortion

Abortion IS a Civil Right- even though folks *whisper* it sometimes


Civil rights refer to personal liberty. As in legal medical procedures. Abortion is heavily regulated in our country, and States keep trying to outlaw it. (See the movie “Trapped”  and realize how many laws have been passed).

And no state has tried more to infringe their version of religious beliefs via laws restricting Choice. You may have heard that the Indiana General Assembly is not voting on LGBT protections.  Well, not for this year. It will be back. It has been in General Assembly for the past decade in varying degrees. But there is that other civil right which is still being debated, with two laws already passing from one house to the other.


SB 313 passed the Senate and is now in the House Committee on Public Policy. Basically this bill criminalizes legal abortion for the reason of disability race, or sex. According to the bills, “a “lethal fetal anomaly” means a fetal condition diagnosed before birth that, if the pregnancy results in a live birth, will with reasonable certainty result in the death of he child not more than three (3) months after the child’s birth.” Yet a disability or disease where the infant will die within a few years is not considered lethal.The bill also provides for Perinatal hospice to supposedly help the woman who wanted to have a legal abortion cope with the emotions of carrying and birthing a baby that will die after 3 months or have a permanent disability.. (No funding for this provided).

So if one of the partners has a genetic marker for a disease, and despite best efforts becomes pregnant, sorry, no legal abortion for you.  So choice is taken away. Legal. Medical. Procedure.  Here is the link for the committee on Public Policy     .


Then there is HB 1337. Which is now in the Health and Provider Services. Included in this bill is verification of credentials and admitting privileges. (admitting Privileges usually demand X amount of admissions—MDs who perform abortions usually admit few patients). But the bill also states that     remains of abortions AND miscarriages must be interred or cremated. Most facilities have these in place already. But think about it. A woman miscarries early- less than 10 wks. Non-viable non survivable. But the law now says you need burial arrangements. Senate Committee on Health and Provider services will be voting this week.

The Indiana General Assembly and Governor Pence are quick to use buzzwords: respect, dignity, commitment to life, dedication to protecting religious freedom. RFRA passed on 2 prongs- cupcakes at gay weddings and birth control /fertility/abortion.  Please make your voices heard regarding a woman’s autonomy in choosing legal medical options. Time to stop whispering and shaming Choice.

Fool me once… Indiana and discrimination

You know the adage “Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice…”? Well when it comes to the State of Indiana the fools are those who truly thought the Legislature would protect the rights of all GLBT. Wednesday January 27, 2016 there will be yet more legislation introduced to discriminate against  human rights  in the name of religion. Make no mistake- it is not binary. It is not religious rights vs. GLBT rights. It is the bigotry of certain legislators and organizations that are making their doctrinal views not only law, but some sort of skewed moral compass.

The sad thing is I could simply cut and paste any of my blogs and OP-Eds from the past decade and it would still be relevant.  THAT is how long my home state has been trying, and succeeding in discrimination. Though hundreds of faith leaders, myself included, have visited legislators, written letters, rallied, held prayer vigils, or testified in the General Assembly, it is to no avail as each year this bigotry and fear-mongering returns.

Last year RFRA was passed and then public outcry brought Indiana to the National Stage. Celebrities like George Takei  and Wilco took to social media to Boycott Indiana, GenCon threatened to  pull out of conventions, states banned travel to  our state. Major corporations such as Lilly, Cummins,  NBA and NCAA offered statements, even Disciples of Christ threatened to halt their conventions.

Then came the “fix”, and everyone disappeared.  Conventions returned. Boycott off.  Even some of the larger GLBT organizations claimed victory. Victory?? Seriously?  The “RFRA fix” only applied if you  lived in one of the  Indiana’s eleven municipalities with a Human Rights Ordinance regarding sexual orientation. And the majority of Hoosiers do not live with a HRO.

More importantly and virtually nonexistent in the RFRA discussion  is the discrimination of religious views on other aspects of life aside from sexual orientation. RFRA was passed on two prongs- GLBT human rights AND religious rights concerning the gamut of life.  The  RFRA fix didn’t touch on views of fertility, birth control, termination of pregnancy (for ANY reason- including ectopic pregnancies, rape, endangering the mother), vasectomy, vaccinations, end of life decisions..etc.

So here we are. In 2016. And new legislation is introduced. And it’s the same bigotry. The same binary thinking. That one’s religious views is equal to law. And it isn’t.

Respect religious views.  Our constitution doesn’t allow to mandate religious views.

But it’s Indiana. And if you are one of those surprised to see these bills being debated again—where did you go?  Have you not been paying attention?




Note to Gov. Pence- LGBT are also religious

Indiana and Gov. Pence- LGBT are also religious – its’ not mutually exclusive


Indiana Governor Mike Pence continued his delusional doublespeak during his State of the State address this week.  While there are many examples where he contradicted himself from one sentence to the next, I need to address not only his, but some in the media who insist on repeating “religious rights vs LGBT rights”. It is distressing to see headlines and hear politicians use terminology that separates religion from LGBT.

Stop it. Many good women and men of religion affirm those who are LGBT. Clergy and religious ARE LGBT. This is not new nor recent.  Even in Indiana. For almost two decades clergy and religious leaders have taken out newspaper ads, delivered petitions, sent letters to each legislator outlining their support for religious freedom. The freedom to practice their own denomination’s polity and doctrines to marry, bless, and affirm individuals and couples for who they are.

What Indiana wants to do is place religious rights not ahead of LGBT rights, but ahead of human rights.  Because that is what LGBT rights are. Human rights.

One of the first public acts I did as clergy was to sign my name, alone with over 150 other clergy and religious leaders in Indiana, to a clergy letter-a full page ad that outlined support for LGBT.  This original letter was signed by faith LEADERS throughout Indiana- seminary presidents and professors, Rabbis, Imams, Pastors, Conference Ministers representing over twenty- six faith denominations.  This was in 2001. That today, in 2016   Gov. Pence, politicians, and media perpetuate RFRA and other legislations as a religious vs LGBT right is ludicrous.  To be sure, it is the narrow view of some religions that attempt to dehumanize LGBT. Despite their right to practice these doctrines of faith they cannot trump human rights

Back home in Indiana, clergy and faith leaders have made their religious views affirming LGBT known to Governors and elected officials each year since 1998.  That means Governors, O’Bannon. Kernan. Daniels, and Pence.

Any Indiana Legislator from the past 15 years who states she or he has not heard from religious leaders who support LGBT rights specifically in matters of faith is simply not telling the truth.

As past president of Interfaith Coalition on Nondiscrimination(ICON) I know the work of the many faith leaders who gathered at the statehouse, held prayer rallies, met with Legislators, and testified when discriminatory bills came up year after year after year.  At the beginning of each session we delivered letters to every Legislator and asked for meetings.  The work has intensified in recent years as other coalitions have joined in the work of ICON and the grassroots organizations of the 90’s.

Do not insult us and all the people of faith who affirm the dignity and respect the religious freedoms of THESE denominations by perpetuating it is as religion vs LGBT.  Call it what it is – SOME narrow religious views vs Human rights.   Back to Gov. Pence- while he regularly meets with, and addresses certain clergy groups, he has continued to refuse to meet with clergy leaders who affirm LGBT rights to  marry.

In 2004 my denomination, the UCC, began the “Still Speaking Campaign”- never place a period where God has placed a comma. Their four words and a comma campaign is for human rights and affirms the dignity of each person. It is time the Governor and General Assembly of Indiana stop discriminating against people of faith- especially those of us who affirm LGBT.ICON