What to Do When You Disagree With the Official

Fans of SEC football (at least those NOT cheering for Florida or Alabama) have wrung their hands in dismay at the poor calls on the field and from the replay booth this year. What if, instead of going to the replay official, every fan watching the Jumbotron, or even watching ESPN for that matter, had a little device by which they could vote on what the correct call was? You might think that the calls would always go the home team’s way, but I wonder if consciences and group shame would lead fans to vote properly. Total depravity reminds us that consciences can be seared and that idolatry overcomes guilt/shame; but it would be an interesting test nonetheless.

Well, in parliamentary procedure (aka Robert’s Rules of Order), there is a way that those who disagree with the call by the official can vote – although it’s not the fans who vote, it’s the players themselves: those who are participating in a debate can challenge a ruling by the chair/moderator, and the ruling goes to a vote of the assembly. In this case, there isn’t a “home” and “visiting” team, and so the situation is more objective. It’s called an appeal, and you can read about it in section 24 of Robert’s Rules: “By electing a presiding officer, the assembly delegates to him the authority and duty to make necessary rulings on questions of parliamentary law. But any two members have the right to Appeal from his decision on such a question. By one member making the appeal and another seconding it, the question is taken from the chair and vested in the assembly for final decision” (p. 247).

If more people knew about this, moderators wouldn’t get away with outrageous or foolish rulings, and the assembly would be more in control. There would be less grumbling. “Members have no right to criticize a ruling of the chair unless they appeal from his decision” (247). Too many people are ignorant of this provision, and just sit there frustrated with the rulings of the chair. IF WE KNEW ROBERT’S RULES BETTER, OUR MEETINGS WOULD PROCEED MORE SMOOTHLY, EFFICIENTLY, AND LOVINGLY.

This provision protects Moderators as well: “In the case of serious questions when proponents and opponents appear nearly equal, a presiding officer may welcome an appeal from his decision. By relieving the chair of responsibility in a strongly contested situation and placing it on the assembly itself, better relationships are often preserved” (250).

One interesting use of the appeal is the following: “If, in answer to a parliamentary inquiry, the chair states that a certain motion would be out of order at the time, this reply is not subject to appeal [since it is merely an opinion, and not a ruling on a question that has actually arisen]. But the point can be put at issue before the assembly by making the motion despite the chair’s opinion, and, when he rules the motion out of order, appealing from the chair’s decision” (250). I call that one of the rules of Robert’s evil twin, Tricky Ricky.

The Farmer


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