The daily Astorian. (Astoria, Or.) 1961-current, July 26, 2022, Page 4, Image 4

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THE ASTORIAN • TuESdAy, July 26, 2022
Founded in 1873
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Hatfield — a cautionary tale
he centennial celebration of
Republican U.S. Sen. Mark O.
Hatfield’s birth provides a cau-
tionary tale for Oregonians.
Hatfield, who also served Oregon as
a state legislator, secretary of state and
governor, was born July 12, 1922, in
the mill town of Dallas. He died Aug. 7,
He remains one of the
most revered and influ-
ential politicians in mod-
ern Oregon history. Dis-
cussing Hatfield’s 100th
birthday, a commenta-
tor on the social media
site Reddit said, “If you
have a Mount Rushmore
of Oregon Politicians, it
would be Tom McCall, Mark Hatfield,
Wayne Morse, and then probably some-
one much earlier like Oswald West.”
Hatfield’s public service amounted
to an argument against stereotypes. His
Los Angeles Times obituary read:
“Mark O. Hatfield, whose (30) years
as Oregon’s U.S. senator illuminated his
conviction that Republicans could be
God-fearing conservatives and also pas-
sionate advocates for ending wars and
racial discrimination, has died. He was
“Hatfield, the bedrock of Oregon’s
once-robust tradition of moderate
Republicanism, was a devout evangeli-
cal Christian who opposed prayer in the
public schools and for years managed
to negotiate common ground among
the contentious environmentalists, log-
gers, anti-abortion activists, death pen-
alty opponents, business owners, farm-
ers and anti-war protesters who were his
constituents in a state famous for its rol-
licking political diversity.”
So why is his centennial celebration
a cautionary tale?
When great men and women pass
on, we subsequently tend to oversim-
plify their strengths, ignore the nuances
of their decisions and sidestep their
flaws. We interpret, or misinterpret,
their words and deeds to back our own
beliefs and desires.
Photographer Charles “Visko” Hat-
field made headlines at the centennial
celebration, hosted by the Oregon His-
torical Society, when he doubted that his
father would recognize today’s Portland,
with its physical and social deteriora-
Associated Press
The late U.S. Sen. Mark Hatfield was fully pro-life — he was anti-abortion, anti-capital
punishment and anti-war.
tion, and Oregon, with its political and
social polarization that has supplanted
rollicking diversity.
Conservatives pounced on Visko
Hatfield’s words as an indictment of the
governing Democratic structure. True.
At least in part. Yet in doing so, they
illustrated the problem. Visko Hatfield
was talking about politicians and gov-
ernment leaders across the board, not
just Democrats.
“Stop fighting each other and start
working with each other,” he said.
Citing his father’s example, he called
for operating from the political mid-
dle ground: “That is where discourse
can be shared, compromise can be cele-
brated. It is what the average Oregonian
Visko Hatfield said later in a radio
interview that his critique, which
included that politicians have abdi-
cated responsibility in favor of their
own self-interests, extends to cities and
towns across the nation. He emphasized
that his father believed in attacking bad
policies, not the politicians themselves.
Hatfield developed effective rap-
port with such Democratic stalwarts as
Robert Byrd, of West Virginia, and the
unabashedly liberal Ted Kennedy, of
Massachusetts. Within the Oregon del-
egation, he was closer to Democratic
U.S. Rep. Les AuCoin than fellow
Republican U.S. Sen. Bob Packwood.
Hatfield’s official Senate biography
says he “legislated to the beat of his
own drum during his three decades of
Senate service. Senator Hatfield often
placed conscience before partisanship
and remained steadfast in his views,
earning him both admiration and criti-
cism from his colleagues.”
That included standing up to his
party by casting what became the decid-
ing vote against the Balanced Budget
It is difficult today to sustain a polit-
ical career as a maverick, as evidenced
by former Democratic state Sen. Betsy
Johnson. Acclaimed for insightful, inde-
pendent thinking while in the Legisla-
ture, she was pilloried by former col-
leagues the moment she launched an
outsider campaign for governor, running
as an unaffiliated candidate.
The Republican Party was chang-
ing even as Hatfield was exiting public
office. It would be difficult for moder-
ate Hatfield to exist in today’s party, just
as middle-of-the-road former Gov. John
Kitzhaber no longer fits the progressive
Democratic Party.
Hatfield strived for a consistency
of values that seems quaint in contem-
porary times. Fully pro-life, he was
anti-abortion, anti-capital punishment,
He lived his faith, but not blindly. In
a 1979 essay on Christian higher educa-
tion, he praised the education provided
at George Fox College, where he later
“Too many of our churches and col-
leges have been ‘cookie-cutter’ institu-
tions. They have turned out a young per-
son with a predictable, orthodox set of
ideas, but have not created an environ-
ment in which ideas are developed and
tested, so that they can be defended,” he
wrote in the college alumni magazine.
Whereas at George Fox, he said,
“There is the willingness to subject
every concept and idea, even the exis-
tence of God, to discussion and hon-
est doubt. The ‘hot house’ Christian
young person who has never done this
will flounder in the real world, which
is filled with skeptics and practicing
pagans. We do no favors to spoon feed
to our youth the beliefs and ideas which
we hold.”
Yet for all his consistencies, Hatfield
was inconsistent. Undoubtedly with an
eye on becoming vice president, in 1968
he supported presidential candidate
Richard Nixon, who plunged America
deeper into the Vietnam War.
To win his final reelection in 1990,
against Democrat Harry Lonsdale,
he ultimately resorted to negative
Most damning, Hatfield’s certitude
about his own virtuousness eventually
clouded his ethical judgment, an afflic-
tion that besets many a politician. He
had earned the nickname of “St. Mark”
in both admiration and derision. Yet
he fell into several political, personal
and financial issues that created ethical
Alas, the problem with ever putting
anyone on a pedestal is they tend to fall
off. Still, today’s public and today’s pol-
iticians could learn from Hatfield while
keeping the context and totality of his
life in mind. As of his 100th birthday,
his papers at Willamette University and
oral histories at the Oregon Historical
Society are open for research.
Former Hatfield aides Jim Fitzhenry,
Sean O’Hollaren, Doug Pahl and Kerry
Tymchuk, who heads the historical soci-
ety, reflected on the senator’s values in a
July 6 commentary in the Portland Tri-
bune. They cited three essential lessons
worth heeding:
• Respect our system of government.
• Love thy neighbor.
• Your values are more important
than your reelection.
dick Hughes has been covering the
Oregon political scene since 1976.
Prayer ruling raises questions
n first glance, the U.S. Supreme
Court’s decision in the case of a
former Bremerton High School
assistant football coach seems like a rea-
sonable constitutional balancing act.
Yet it is raising questions and concerns
about the court and the role of religion in
public life.
The high court ruled late last month
that Joseph Kennedy legally could offer
a “short, private, personal prayer” on the
field after games. It found that the school
district, by ordering him
to stop, unconstitutionally
deprived him of his right to
practice his faith.
At issue was whether
the Kennedy’s postgame
prayer at midfield vio-
lated this First Amendment
clause: “Congress shall
make no law respecting an
establishment of religion,
or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
This phrase has been interpreted to
mean that public employees cannot engage
in religious activity while on duty. This is
why the Supreme Court ruled in 1962, for
example, that it is unconstitutional for a
teacher to lead a class in prayer at a pub-
lic school.
Conservative critics complained that the
clause has been applied so strictly that it’s
mandating freedom from religion, inter-
fering with people’s right to practice their
faith. However, knowing that innumerable
wars and atrocities have taken place in the
name of faith, the nation’s founders clearly
wanted a wall to separate church and state.
The Kennedy case hinged on whether
he prayed as a private citizen or whether
his act could be construed as government
endorsement of religion.
The justices found that the district had
punished Kennedy in 2015 for “engaging
in a personal religious observance, based
on a mistaken view that it has a duty to
suppress religious observances even as it
allows comparable secular speech.”
Fair enough. But what if Kennedy had
been a Muslim instead of a Christian and
had spread a blanket on the grass and
prayed toward Mecca? Would he have had
much public backing — like when 500
people rushed the field in support when
Kennedy announced in 2015 that he would
pray in defiance of a school district order
to stop? Would he have had the support of
a conservative organization that assisted
his fight all the way to the Supreme
The justices — and the public — need
to understand that the ruling applies to
people of all faiths.
And there’s new fodder for debate here:
When does a prominent public employee
shed his or her official role? What else can
be construed as “private” prayer if its OK
for a coach to pray in the hubbub of a post-
game football field?
More troubling, however, is an issue
highlighted by Seattle Times colum-
nist Danny Westneat. Kennedy’s lawyers
described Kennedy as “a lone and silent
sentinel, joined only by his convictions”
during his postgame prayer, according to
Trouble is, Kennedy himself has said he
prayed with students to help them. He took
his inspiration from an evangelical Chris-
tian movie called “Facing the Giants,” in
which a losing team wins a state champi-
onship after finding God.
Kennedy “has held his postgame ritual
at midfield after each game for a motiva-
tional talk and prayer ever since,” a Times
story recounted.
An appellate court judge — a Presi-
dent George W. Bush appointee — called
out the whole case last year as built on a
“deceitful narrative.”
“The facts in the record utterly belie
(Kennedy’s) contention that the prayer was
personal and private,” according to Judge
Milan Smith.
However, the Supreme Court bought
the distorted narrative, prompting West-
neat to write of the high court’s “origi-
nalist” bent: “If they’re going to parse
250-year-old histories, it’s worrisome how
much trouble they had getting a seven-
year-old story straight.”
Win McNamee/Getty Images
Some public high school coaches are cheering a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of
Joseph Kennedy, a former Bremerton High School assistant football coach who had been fired
for participating in a prayer with his team on the field.
Unfortunately, facts don’t seem to mat-
ter in politics these days, but it’s especially
frightening when the nation’s highest court
ignores them. Facts are the heart of justice.
The Kennedy ruling suggests the court
majority will dodge or skew them in order
to fit an ideological bias.
Critics of the Kennedy decision say it
indicates that a conservative majority on
the high court is pushing a conservative
Christian agenda. They make the same
claim about the Dobbs ruling reversing the
1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which said
women have a right to obtain abortions.
This all raises the questions of what
role religion should play in politics and
society. Certainly, it’s clear that govern-
ments cannot endorse any specific faith or
take marching orders from religious lead-
ers. But, regarding Dobbs, how do you
disentangle the abortion debate from reli-
gious and spiritual values?
The public overwhelmingly believes
strongly in the separation of church and
state. Nearly two-thirds of Americans
in a 2019 Pew Research Center survey
say houses of worship should keep out
of political matters, while 36% say they
should express their views on day-to-day
social and political questions. Three-quar-
ters of the public said churches should not
endorse candidates for elective office
Certainly, faith should inform our deci-
sions, serving as moral, spiritual and eth-
ical guides. Many deeply regarded reli-
gious leaders have led heroic political
causes. Martin Luther King Jr. fought seg-
regation. Catholic priests opposed the
Vietnam War. German theologian Dietrich
Bonhoeffer was martyred for opposing the
Our ethics and values are shaped by
many sources, including religion, and they
inevitably influence our political decisions.
This nation’s founders viewed religion as
key to forming enlightened, virtuous citi-
zens that are essential to democracy. None,
however, wanted political leaders sub-
ject to sectarian rule any more than they
wanted to interfere with religious faith.
There is tension here, and deciding
where and how to draw the line continues
to be a challenge.
Andre Stepankowsky is the retired city
editor of The daily News of longview,