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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

A horrible wrong done in the name of Wyomingites

Andrew Johnson of Cheyenne was wrongly imprisoned for 24 years. Yet the Legislature stubbornly refuses to pay for his losses. Some 32 other states compensate those convicted wrongly. But not the Cowboy State.

By Rodger McDaniel 

During the 2017 legislative session, the people of Highlands Presbyterian Church in Cheyenne, where I am the pastor, sent a petition to Republican and Democratic leaders.
Andrew Johnson and his former wife, Annette.
They asked legislators to compensate citizens who have been wrongfully convicted and imprisoned, as do 32 other states and the District of Columbia.

Specifically, they asked Wyoming to pay Andrew Johnson for the nearly 24 years he spent in prison for a crime the state knows he didn’t commit.

Not a single legislator from either party bothered to reply.

You may not remember Andrew and the grave injustices visited upon him by both the criminal justice system and the criminal malpractice of the Legislature.

In 1989, he was convicted of rape. There was no DNA testing then, only false accusations. Before the verdict, he said, “I thought the trial was going in my favor. I knew there was no evidence I had committed a crime.” Andrew was wrong. It took the jury 20 minutes to find him guilty.

Years later, DNA tests provided proof. He was innocent. Andrew was released from prison with little more than the shirt on his back. He had no job, no home, his mother died while he was incarcerated. With the injustices of the legal system corrected, Andrew then faced the injustices of the legislative system.

In 2014, bills compensating Andrew for those lost years passed both houses of the Legislature, in different forms. The bills landed in a conference committee, a well-known playground for mischief. Former Laramie County District Attorney Scott Homar and his accomplice, Cheyenne legislator Bob Nicholas, argued disingenuously that DNA proved nothing. Andrew was, they said, still guilty. And although Homar didn’t have enough evidence to retry Andrew, he used his political influence to further ruin this man’s life.

The late John Schiffer of Kaycee, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, was the bill’s chief proponent. After the bill died in the conference committee, he said, “This is something we need to do in this state; it just wasn’t meant to be this year.” However, more than three years later, legislators seem satisfied with doing nothing ever.

So, Andrew remains uncompensated for those lost two and a half decades. His attorneys threw a “Hail-Mary” pass and filed a federal court lawsuit. That court has now rejected Andrew’s plea for someone, anyone to recognize the enormity of the injustice he has experienced.

He finds himself hemmed in between two Latin terms. One is often employed by courts when they deny justice, i.e., res judicata, meaning “the thing has been decided.” It means that if you look long enough through a bunch of dusty, dead, old law books, you’ll find a reason to deny justice.

The other Latin term explains Wyoming lawmakers. Una sals victis nullam sperare salutem, is intended to tell people like Andrew, “The only hope of the vanquished is not to have any hope at all.”

A year after Nicholas and Homar killed the compensation bill, an Albany County legislator, Charles Pelkey, then a freshman Democrat in the state House, briefly took up the cause. He introduced but then, inexplicably, withdrew a bill to provide compensation to the wrongfully convicted. Since then, nothing.

Criminal prosecutions are undertaken in the name of the people. When the conviction turns out to have been wrong, that wrong is likewise perpetrated in their name as well. The people of Wyoming, through their elected representatives, are guilty of a grave injustice. As the “Innocence Project” explains, “With no money, housing, transportation, health services or insurance, and a criminal record that is rarely cleared despite innocence, the punishment lingers long after innocence has been proven. States have a responsibility to restore the lives of the wrongfully convicted to the best of their abilities.”

Legislators will say the state just doesn’t have the money. Well, the state had enough money to pay the cost of wrongfully convicting Andrew. They had the money to pay for his prison cell for 24 years. Justice and common decency dictate they find the money to make right this terrible wrong.

Rodger McDaniel is the pastor at Highlands Presbyterian Church in Cheyenne. He lives in Laramie.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Be honest, Christians: You DO hate the sinner

Those fundamentalists who oppose giving rights to LGBTQ people say it's really about hating the sin. But they need to be honest with themselves: Depriving people of their livelihoods is all about hating them too.

By Rodger McDaniel 

As the Cheyenne City Council prepares to debate an ordinance prohibiting employers from discriminating against gays, lesbians, transgender or bisexual people, some are making plans to stir Shakespeare’s cauldron. (Editor's note: It now appears the council will delay action on the matter, pending a U.S. Supreme Court decision from Colorado.)

“Double, double, toil and trouble.” Most of the trouble will come from self-identified Christians.

What is it that causes some Christians to hate LGBTQ people? Please don’t insult our intelligence

with that disingenuous Christian ditty, “We hate the sin but love the sinner.”

Let’s be honest. You hate “the sinner.” You reserve a special hatred for same-sex love and gender identity you don’t understand. You weaponized God’s word for justification and claim your so-called “religious freedom” is at stake in whether they have equal rights under the law. Some of you reject your own daughters and sons when they come out.

You encourage the passage of laws dictating which bathroom they can use and support banning otherwise patriotic Americans from serving our nation in the armed forces. And now, you advocate that they lose their jobs and livelihoods because of the way God made them.

I’m sorry, that’s hating the one you believe to be the “sinner” even more than it is hating the sin.

I’ve heard your justifications. You call it “tough love,” claiming “the Bible tells you so.” You argue that you have to be able to discriminate against them to exercise your religious freedom. You claim you worry about their relationship with your God.

But hate is not that complicated. It has only two components: thought and action. Hate is characterized by extreme ill-will, intense dislike and a passionate aversion to something or someone. But no one cares whether you have extreme ill-will for gays, lesbians, transgender or bisexual people. It’s what you do, not what you think, that makes you a hater.

When you attend a City Council meeting and use your faux-Christian credibility to lobby against nondiscrimination, you cross the line and become a hater. Then you’ve decided to use your beliefs to do damage to the lives of those you deny hating. When you act on your ill-will, you relinquish any plea of innocence to the sin of hating your neighbor.

Anyone of sound moral deportment should agree that no one should lose their job unless the boss has a good reason. That job is all that stands between the worker and poverty and being able to put a roof over the heads of one’s family and food on their dinner table.

There are few legal doctrines in Wyoming as dishonorable as the “at will” doctrine. Created by the Wyoming Supreme Court, not the Legislature, the doctrine allows employers to discharge an employee for no good reason. Regardless of how many years you’ve contributed to the well-being of the employer and his or her business, without a union or personal contract that says otherwise, you can be sent packing with no recourse.

Employees can be fired for no cause, but not an illegal cause. Under the law, illegal causes include discharges based on race, creed, religion and gender. In past debates over nondiscrimination laws, the haters have said no such law is necessary. They asserted that LGBTQ employees are protected under civil rights laws.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions pulled the rug out from under that argument. The case was brought by a gay man who was fired because of his sexual orientation. He told the court civil rights laws prohibit firing employees because of sexual orientation. Sessions says those laws provide no protection to LGBTQ workers.

Thus, Cheyenne City Council’s debate comes down to love and hate. That is always the choice Christians have to make. None of that “we don’t need a new law” or “hate the sin but love the sinner” stuff. Peel back the veneer. See this for what it is.

“Double, double, toil and trouble.” You can either hate LGBTQ people enough to subject them to loss of their livelihoods because of how God created them, or you can love your neighbor as yourself. You can’t do both.

Rodger McDaniel
 is the pastor at Highlands Presbyterian Church in Cheyenne. He resides in Laramie. 

Monday, August 28, 2017

One man's vision has become Cheyenne's as well

Honoring Ronnald Jeffrey by renaming the Youth Alternatives facility in his honor reflects well on him -- and on the city. Few localities in Wyoming choose care over punishment for youth offenders. The Capital City does.

By Roger McDaniel

Cheyenne’s 150th anniversary was a wonderful opportunity to reflect on the ways in which a variety of people made Cheyenne a special community. Ronn Jeffrey is one of them.

On Aug. 18, the Youth Alternatives facility at 1328 Talbot
Cheyenne's Ronnald Jeffrey.
Court was formally dedicated as the Ronnald J. Jeffrey Youth Complex. The Cheyenne City Council authorized the name change in January. It was appropriate recognition for someone who dedicated his life to the cause of serving the young people of Cheyenne.

In 1971, fresh out of college, a youthful Ronn Jeffrey had a vision. His vision became Cheyenne’s, and for the past 46 years the community has benefited from his innovative and insightful approaches to serving juveniles. Ronn would be the first to say he didn’t do it alone. The program has enjoyed the contributions of thousands of volunteers and an incomparable staff and the continuing support of Cheyenne’s city officials.

What will now be known as the “Ronnald J. Jeffrey Youth Complex” is itself the product of volunteers. In 1980, Marv Gertsch, a general contractor, and Randy Pouppirt, an architect, volunteered their services. Others pitched in, and what they created has housed Youth Alternatives since 1982.

In 1990, Youth Alternatives was honored by then-President George H.W. Bush. The program was named “A Point of Light” for its outstanding volunteer participation.

If you don’t think Youth Alternatives has made a difference, take a trip around Wyoming. You’ll see many communities struggling to deal with juvenile offenders. There are not many who have made the choice Cheyenne made to be innovative and supportive to these kids and their families. Across the state, most kids who get into trouble with the law find themselves in adult courts, treated like miniature adults. They plead guilty and start to create a criminal record that will haunt them for life, while their real-life needs for counseling and other services are ignored.

Because of Ronn’s vision, Cheyenne made a different choice. The difference is evident in the name change the program experienced in its early years. First opened in 1971, it was “the Office of Juvenile Probation.” By 1974, it became “Youth Alternatives” and was made a department within Cheyenne’s city government. Those changes were visionary and gave the program the support it needed to set a successful course.

Since then, Youth Alternatives has collaborated with Laramie County School District 1, the Wyoming Department of Family Services, Peak Wellness, Laramie County Community Partnership and others to serve children and families.

A kinship program assists caregivers seeking guardianship. A “Girls and Guys” group helps young people develop coping skills to deal with gender-specific issues. Youth Alternatives provides counseling and mentoring to keep young people in school and to help those who have been suspended or expelled. Together with Laramie County Community Partnership, Youth Alternatives offers after-school programs at Johnson and Carey junior high schools. Youth Alternatives provides parenting tips weekly on KGWN-TV.

One of the most successful innovations spurred by Youth Alternatives is the Municipal Court program serving juveniles. Ronn is not a lawyer and yet, in 2006, the mayor appointed him a judge in the Municipal Court. That happened only in Cheyenne, where officials had seen the successes of the Youth Alternatives programs. They were persuaded that when young people find themselves in court, it’s not necessarily a law-trained judge they need. What these youngsters need is someone who understands them, their stages of development and family dynamics.

When youngsters appear in Judge Jeffrey’s court, they are not processed as adults. Needs are assessed, and efforts are made to work with the family and community programs to help these kids succeed. As a result, most of these young people avoid a criminal record while receiving the services they need to successfully move on with their lives.

Congratulations to Jeffrey, but give credit also to the city of Cheyenne for seeing what can be accomplished by supporting a thoughtful and research-based approach to the needs of young people.

Rodger McDaniel is the pastor at Highlands Presbyterian Church in Cheyenne. He lives in Laramie.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Mediocre ACT scores from Wyoming's kids again

The state's young people continue to languish in education mediocrity. Yet the problem is not the high levels of funding; those are needed. Rather, it's the fault of legislators for not enforcing rigorous reforms on the school system.

By D. Reed Eckhardt

Given the recently released results of Wyoming students on the ACT test, it is little wonder that lawmakers have been looking at cuts in education spending.

This state's young people continue to languish on this test, which is one of the few nationally normed challenges they face each year. Yet Wyoming continues to be
This chart is from the Wyoming Dept. of Education.
one of the top-spending states on education in the nation. Thus, lawmakers' logic is that since high spending is not working, then certainly the schools can do with less. Of course, that is just silly, especially given that the Legislature's unwillingness to enforce high standards on school districts is the real source of the problem. (More on that in a moment.)

Consider this: Not only are ACT scores not rising in Wyoming; they are falling. The statewide composite for 2016 was 20.0, which is 1 percent below 2015's score of 20.2. The score for 2014 was 20.1. So statistically speaking, scores have remained flat over the past three years.

One of the excuses Wyoming officials always give for these mediocre scores when compared to elsewhere is that all Cowboy State juniors take the test, not just the college-bound. But that actually is a good thing because it shows how this state's students are doing compared to national standards. The results are not pretty (see chart above). Every parent and taxpayer should be shocked, for example, to see that just 34.3 percent of this state's high school juniors are proficient or better in reading and just 37.0 percent are proficient or above in math. That means nearly two-thirds of Wyoming students are graduating without the math and reading skills needed to succeed in modern society.

Another way of looking at it is: Are Wyoming schools preparing their kids for college? Again, the ACT's answers are ugly. Just 33 percent of this state's graduates are college-ready in math and 38 percent in reading. It's a little better -- but nothing to brag about -- in English (58 percent) and worse in science (31 percent). And only one in five students (20 percent) is ready in all four subjects.

These numbers are sickening. Wyoming has been enforcing state standards at least since the turn of the 21st century, and its students continue to languish in mediocrity. Thus, it's no wonder that tax-averse legislators are throwing their hands up in frustration -- or at least pretending to do so as they look for ways to cut into a looming $400 million annual funding deficit for education.

But there is no way the Legislature can cut its way to success in the schools; that is counter-intuitive. Slashing teachers and support staff, increasing class sizes, delaying school buildings or holding off on the purchases of new books and other materials are recipes for further declines in scores and for making the state even less competitive in the new economy.

The problem with Wyoming's schools is not that they are over-funded. Rather, it is that lawmakers have refused to attach strings to the funding. Rather than setting high state standards for success, and enforcing those standards on districts, school and teachers, legislators have fled from the idea of education reform, abdicating the responsibility of quality results to the localities. And since there has been no one to demand excellence with the money, little of that has been produced.

Similarly, the state Department of Education has chosen to sit on the sidelines, adopting the role of happy cheerleader rather than demanding coach. Did agency officials decry the poor performance on the ACT? Nope. Did they put forth programs to raise the bar for the local schools? Nope. They blithely accepted the results, reported them and went on their way. Their lack of concern should trouble every taxpayer as well as every business in Wyoming that has to deal with the less-than-adequate raw material that the school system produces.

If lawmakers are serious about getting more for their education bucks rather than just dodging tax hikes, it is the time to demand success and enforce real reforms on the system. Yes, Wyoming's children are more than worth the money that this state spends on them, including new taxes. But unless rigorous change is imposed on the system, that money will go to waste. It's true that the Legislature can't cut its way to education success. However, until it finds the gumption to demand greater returns -- including jettisoning the concept of "local control" -- it can't spend its way to excellent results either.

D. Reed Eckhardt is the former executive editor of the Wyoming Tribune Eagle. He has been writing about education issues in the state for almost two decades.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Crossing the rubicon

With his birthday on Aug. 14, blogger Rodger McDaniel now has joined Wyoming's burgeoning 70-and-over crowd. He says this gives him the chance to celebrate "the freedom that comes with growing older."

By Rodger McDaniel 

This past Monday, I joined a few thousand Wyoming folks who will celebrate the end of their 60s this year.

The Census Bureau says there are 12,000 of us between the ages of 67 and 69. The numbers rise to more than 16,000 for those 70 to 74, before taking a steep decline from estimates your life expectancy
there till the end. Only 7,681 of our Wyoming neighbors are older than 85.

There is a rather involuntary nature to birthdays. They just keep coming until one day they don’t. And yet there seems to be something bold and optimistic about having one more. You don’t know what or how much time is ahead, which makes it all the more engaging.

It’s like driving down an old dirt road in the middle of the night. You can see only as far as your headlights allow, but every year that seems more and more OK. It’s probably healthy not to be able to see any further.

At this age, there are few certainties. Former Gov. Ed Herschler used to joke, “I don’t even buy green bananas anymore.” We aren’t guaranteed another birthday. Each passing year makes the likelihood of another one less likely, although there is a curious statistical increase in life expectancy as we age.

When I celebrated my 59th birthday, I had a life expectancy of more than 22 years. Now that I have lived 10 of those years, the actuaries say I can expect another 14.

At, you get an even more precise calculation of the “Estimated Time of Arrival” of the Grim Reaper. The website wants to know not just current age and gender, but also your lifestyle. Do you smoke, drink in excess, what is your body-mass index, and in what country do you live?

After plugging in the requested data, I was told, “Based on our calculations, you will die on Monday, 17 March 2031.” The death clock shows that I have 4,984 days, 3 hours, 43 minutes and an ever-declining number of seconds left.

That works for me. I’d be 82. That seems like a “long enough” life. It would give me the great satisfaction of seeing the last of my grandchildren graduate from high school and perhaps the older of the five earning a college diploma. Pat and I would have celebrated more than half a century of marriage and, knock on wood, I’d still be preaching at Highlands Presbyterian and tweaking local conservatives with weekly Tribune Eagle columns.

A couple of years ago, I took part in an informal gathering of ministers. All of us were in the same age range, i.e., older than average. We went around the table, taking turns answering this question: “What do you find to be optimistic about at this stage of your life?”

For me, it is the freedom that comes with growing older. This is a time when you can afford to be who God meant you to be. You can say what you mean and mean what you say. It’s not so easy in younger years, when starting a career means being careful about what you say and to whom you say it. It’s not so easy in younger years, when many of us are still grappling with understanding who we are and what we are being called to do or become. Older folks have the opportunity to be honest.

This is also the time of life when you get a more complete sense of how your path in life has prepared you for these years. I think of it regarding theologian Joan Chittister’s book, “The Gift of Years.” She writes about the stages of our lives.

“Each period of life has its own purpose. The latter one,” Ms. Chittister says, “gives me the time to assimilate all the others.”

Thus, nearing the end of 70 years of life is not a time to just “endure the coming ending of time.” It is time to come alive in ways we may never have “been alive before.”

Rodger McDaniel is the pastor at Highlands Presbyterian Church in Cheyenne. He resides in Laramie.

Monday, August 14, 2017

It's time for our senators to hear the people

As they have fought to get rid of Obamacare, U.S. Sens. John Barrasso and Mike Enzi, both R-Wyo., have failed to heed the voters who put them into office. It is time to meet the needs of Wyoming, not continue to serve party bosses.

By D. Reed Eckhardt

Now that our U.S. senators are on recess and back in the state, perhaps they will take some time to talk to their everyday constituents about their continued efforts to repeal Obamacare.

But probably not.

There is no good reason to think that U.S. Sens. Mike Enzi and John Barrasso,
U.S. Sen. John Barrasso and Mike Enzi, R-Wyo, in a 2013 photo.
both R-Wyo., who played key roles in crafting the latest effort to "replace" the national health insurance program, will veer even one step from their recent vows to continue to fight to get rid of Obamacare. As for listening, they refuse to hold town meetings for fear of what they might hear.

"I remain committed to passing a law that actually fulfills the promise of affordable and quality health care," a defiant Barrasso said last month as a seven-year effort to repeal Obamacare fell flat in the Senate.

A blind commitment to partisan politics apparently causes one's nose to grow. Despite Barrasso's assertion, the bill brought forth in the Senate was neither affordable -- it would have sent premiums soaring -- nor would it have provided quality care. Indeed, it would have robbed thousands of Wyoming residents of access to the Medicaid program. Repeating a lie, Mr. Senator, does not make it the truth.

It is past time that both Enzi and Barrasso stop listening to their party's leadership as well as their close friends and supporters, and actually hear what the people of this state are saying. The senators could start with the woman behind the counter at a local pharmacy who cornered me last weekend. She knows I used to work as editor at the Wyoming Tribune Eagle, and she wanted to know how she could get in contact with the senators.

"If my premiums go up any higher, I won't be able to afford health insurance at all," she told me. "They have to know that. I already can't afford care because my deductibles are so high. They are going to make it worse."

There are hundreds, nay thousands, of Wyoming residents who feel the same way. Indeed, polls before the July repeal effort showed that only one in three Wyomingites supported the measure pushed by Enzi and Barrasso while 46 percent were opposed. And recent data show that the vast majority of Americans -- no doubt including Wyomingites -- do not support the repeal effort; they want Obamacare repaired, not replaced.

There was a time when Enzi was known for reaching across the aisle to his Democratic peers to solve problems. Indeed, he and the late U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., joined hands years ago on an education bill. Now Enzi has become part of the problem. He has moved steadily into the arms of party leadership, where he has found Barrasso already firmly ensconced.

And if you asked either of these men, they would tell you that they love the people of Wyoming. Yet their actions speak louder than their words. The bill they supported would have kicked many Wyomingites, included the elderly and military veterans, off Medicaid and cranked premiums beyond the reach of many. Now they seem willing to let premiums rise ever higher in hopes that Obamacare will collapse of its own weight.

Both Barrasso and Enzi have the juice to get the health care debate headed in the right direction. How much better they would serve the people of this state if they joined hands with moderate Republicans and -- gasp! -- moderate Democrats to craft a measure that would meet their obligations to lead and serve rather than to pander to party bigwigs and slap down those who really need their help.

Both of these men should think about the woman that I spoke with at the pharmacy as well as the many others like her. In Wyoming, we help our neighbors; we don't ignore their cries. Now that our senators are home for a few weeks, perhaps they will be reminded of that.

D. Reed Eckhardt is the former executive editor of the Wyoming Tribune Eagle.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

John Barrasso has sold his soul to the devil

Wyoming's junior senator is more interested in serving party leadership than he is taking care of the people who elected him. Cowboy State residents deserve a leader who watches out for their interests. They won't get that from Barrasso.

By Rodger McDaniel 

The “repeal and replace” Obamacare fiasco is over for the moment. Now we need to talk about our junior senator.

John Barrasso reminds me of Stephen Vincent Benet’s story “The Devil and Daniel Webster.”

“There was a man named Jabez Stone, lived at Cross Corners, New Hampshire.
U.S. Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo, addresses the media last year.
He wasn’t a bad man to start with, but he was an unlucky man. If he planted corn, he got borers; if he planted potatoes, he got blight. He had good enough land, but it didn’t prosper him.

“He’d been plowing that morning and he’d just broken the plowshare on a rock that he could have sworn wasn’t there yesterday.” His horse began coughing. At home, his children and wife were ailing. It was the last straw.

“I vow it’s enough to make a man want to sell his soul to the devil. And I would, too, for 2 cents.” The next day, the devil arrived to cut the deal.

You’ve seen that ubiquitous photo of Barrasso photo-bombing Mitch McConnell? It costs Wyoming more than you realize. Inclusion in that photo is not free. In order to be at the right hand of the Senate leader, you must sell your soul to the party leadership. Inclusion comes with more “terms and conditions” than benefits.

Wyoming pays a price. Being part of that photo means never questioning the party, regardless of what it costs your state. Don’t believe it? Ask yourself why independent Republicans like Maine Sen. Susan Collins or Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski are never in the photo. They prefer representing constituents to photo-bombing McConnell.

They are busy negotiating better deals with the majority leader rather than standing at his side. Not Wyoming’s junior senator. Barrasso is so reliably in McConnell’s pocket that the GOP leadership never bothers to ask what Wyoming needs. Taken for granted, Barrasso goes along to get along. Wyoming pays a price.

Truthfully, Barrasso hasn’t received the credit he deserves for the failure of the Obamacare “repeal and replace” bills. He led the GOP chorus demanding the ACA’s repeal but produced nothing but bad ideas that would have damaged the lives of those he was elected to care about. Need proof that Wyoming voters don’t matter to Barrasso? Exhibit A was the bill he helped draft secretly, which would have taken health care from approximately 50,000 Wyoming citizens. He thought we wouldn’t notice his attempt to slash Medicaid. He’d have been gleeful to have destroyed people’s lives on a 51-50 vote.

Three courageous Republicans saved us from Barrasso’s folly. Independent GOP senators, worried more about constituents than themselves, saved millions of Americans from losing health insurance while the devil collected his due from Barrasso.

In Benet’s story, Farmer Stone lived at “Cross Corners.” It’s the place where members of Congress make choices. It’s where lawmakers with empathy choose to help their hurting constituents and those with political ambition don’t. Stone, like Barrasso, made the wrong choice. He sold his soul for seven years. Barrasso sells his six years at a time.

Unlike Wyoming folks, Stone had an empathetic advocate. Daniel Webster represented his constituent with passion. Webster argued that Stone was the victim. He’s no Barrasso. He’s Barrasso’s constituents. Webster told the jury of “the early days of America and the men who had made those days.”

Stone was, according to his advocate, “an ordinary man who’d had hard luck and wanted to change it.” Webster argued his client represented those who “got tricked and trapped and bamboozled.” The jury agreed. Stone won. The devil lost.

Applying Benet’s story to Barrasso’s sold soul doesn’t allow the senator to be “an ordinary man who’d had hard luck and wanted to change it.” Barrasso is a politician who could have offered his soul to his constituents. They are Jabez Stone. They’ve been “tricked and trapped and bamboozled” into voting for people like Barrasso.

Jesus warned we cannot serve two masters. Barrasso agrees. He chose to serve the powerful over the powerless. Great photo, Mr. Senator, but Wyoming deserves better.

Rodger McDaniel is the pastor at Highlands Presbyterian Church in Cheyenne. He lives in Laramie.