Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act

Sunday, March 22nd, 2015

Update: A related view from Daniel O. Conkle, professor, Indiana University Maurer School of Law

The Indiana legislature has passed the Religious Freedom Restoration act, producing the expected mass hysteria among Democrats and other anti-religious progressives. The bill is substantially the same as the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), signed into law in 1993 by that well-known conservative Republican bigot, Bill Clinton. It is worth noting that the Republic has endured and gay activism has flourished in the 21 years since the federal law was enacted.

What the law prohibits

Except as provided in subsection (b) [next paragraph], a governmental entity may not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion, even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability.

(b) A governmental entity may substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion only if the governmental entity demonstrates that application of the burden to the person: (1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and (2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest

In short, governmental entities in Indiana are now compelled to conform to the First Amendment’s guarantee of the free exercise of religion. Indiana courts must now apply the same legal test required in the RFRA, providing essentially the same protection at the state level.

It’s interesting – but hardly surprising – that the same people who attack state definitions of “marriage” in federal courts think states should be empowered to deny related rights guaranteed by the same federal courts.

A “disgusting” law

I was recently told by a friend that this law is “disgusting”. This got me thinking about the mindset of the law’s emotional but not especially reasonable opponents. Why is the guarantee of a cherished right – one that predated the Constitution and is embodied in it – so offensive?

From what I’ve observed in discussions with such people – including my disgusted friend – they seem to be mostly agnostics, atheists, Wiccans, or people with vague Oprah-like spiritual urges. Some have a loose association with orthodox Christianity or another religious tradition which they neither believe in nor practice. Still others identify with a religion but practice only the agreeable parts – usually the parts that don’t get in the way of sexual license or other earthly pleasures.

Whatever ones philosophical framework or world view, we all possess some sort of ethical structure based on it. That ethical structure provides motivation, justification, and evaluative criteria for the choices we make and the things we do or decline to do.

It’s obvious that opponents’ ethical structures do not include respect for the needs and motivations of people with deeply held, systematic religious belief or a moral system derived from that belief. It clearly does not include space to allow religious people to exercise their faith when to do so appears in opposition to the opinions or principles of the opponents.

They also seem to have no systematic approach to balancing compelling public needs and private rights. Or if they do, they are just biased in favor of public needs that don’t bother them personally and don’t interfere what they think are their rights.

This is nothing new, of course. This tension has existed throughout human history, sometimes worse on one side, sometimes worse on the other. The problem was well-known when the Constitution was being written. The First Amendment exists because its authors understood both the tyranny of the King and the tyranny of the majority.

In short, they saw a need to protect people like me from people like the law’s opponents.

The purpose of constitutions 

The Constitution’s writers attempted to solve the problem by differentiating between the public person – that sphere of each citizen’s life subject to the coercive force of government, and the private person – protected from that coercive force administered on behalf of an electoral majority. [This idea was originally articulated by John Schaar.] Constitutions exist for the purpose of delineating the public person, leaving the remainder – whatever it may consist of – to the control of the private person.

Indeed, one of the original objections to the Bill of Rights was that it attempted to specify parts of this remainder that must be reserved for the private person. The fear was that proponents of a powerful national government would claim that a right not specified in the Constitution was not protected and could be trampled at will. But that’s not a problem here where the free exercise of religion is specifically named in the first article of the Bill of Rights.

Our Constitution could be said to do nothing more than to establish a political system with sufficient power to preserve the nation – the sum of all the public persons – while paradoxically guarding the sovereignty and natural rights of each private person. As noted, it explicitly places the free exercise of religion in the realm of the private person. Its authors intended – and, until recently, courts have agreed – that the diminution of the private person is permissible only if it can be shown that leaving the private person intact would impose a heavy and unreasonable burden on the public (i.e., a hardship on the majority of public persons); that is the essence of this disgusting new law’s legal test.

The Constitutional crisis of the past 70 years or so has resulted from the national government’s insatiable lust to expand the public person and correspondingly shrink the private person. The Framers anticipated this force and took what steps they could to frustrate it. They were naive enough to believe that future generations would grasp the nature and purposes of the Constitution’s protections and would demand their preservation. They did not anticipate the fatal combination of voters who neither know nor value what they have been given and the collusion of well-educated cynics who see the political tide flowing their way and are prepared to toss away permanently any barriers to that temporary flow.

The Constitution has great value, both to the religious and the non-religious, and even to the militantly anti-religious. It created a remarkable country, a nation that despite its flaws and errors has been a beacon of freedom to the entire world for most of its existence. But the light is fading, being slowly snuffed out by the ignorance, pragmatism, and selfishness of its citizens and by the cancerous growth of the government they have chosen to have rule them

A Christian’s temptation

Naturally, there is a part of me that would like to see an orthodox Christian President, Congress, and Supreme Court running the national government with all its newly-acquired power, running it as passionately and ruthlessly as those who usurped that power do now. There is a part of me that would enjoy the squealing of people suddenly feeling the unfamiliar weight of the over-bearing government they had created. There is a part of me that would smirk while they appealed to a Constitution they had rendered impotent, hoping that it could now somehow restore the lost private person and relieve the pain of being the public person the government suddenly requires them to be.

But that part of me is the very part that Jesus wants to root out and destroy. The vengeance of such a government – and the schadenfreude of a Christian who reveled in it – would destroy the best of what he wants of his disciples, not the worst. Jesus ran no government, coerced no one, levied no taxes, sought no earthly kingdom. All he did was die for everyone who would accept his authority over all earthly powers – including themselves.

In the long run, Christians don’t require political protections, including this law. Christianity flourishes where it is most ruthlessly oppressed, whether in ancient Rome or modern China. It offers freedom that no government can guarantee, no matter how liberal (in the classic sense) or well-intended it may have been.

No, the value of this law is not that it may occasionally protect Christians who choose obedience to their consciences. The value is that protects a fundamental right that ultimately profits every citizen.

Yes, it offends me that opponents of this law often endorse – and practice – political and social bullying of Christians and other people of faith. It occasionally surprises me that the bullies can be so lacking in self-awareness that they can’t see the hypocrisy of demanding tolerance while refusing to extend it. But what offends me most is our society’s willingness to abandon its heritage and leave its children to the whim of whatever party comes to power or to the boundless ambition of the next charismatic leader who promises to singlehandedly “transform America”.

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California colors

Sunday, March 15th, 2015

I follow the Real Science blog. The pseudonymous author, “Steven Goddard”, is skeptical, abrasive, iconoclastic, environmentally savvy, and thinks like the engineer he is. A couple of recent posts got me thinking about a state I lived in for a while and most recently visited last year.

I’ve long had mixed feelings about California. It is both a place of astonishing natural beauty and a monument to the hubris of its residents. Messing with Mother Nature has been a way of life for Californians for a hundred years. They seem to honestly believe that there is no feature of the natural world they can’t overcome with enough other peoples’ money, technology, and willful blindness. But at what cost?

Condors and the early days of the Sierra Club aside, California has long been a center of environmental destruction in the U.S. Most of the state is semi-arid, a region where droughts and wildfires have always been common. Yet recent droughts (severe but far from record-breaking) have been trotted out in support of the global warming hoax.

It’s silly to look at the myth of global warming to find the ongoing effects of human activity on the environment. Just look at what humans have done – and continue to do – to transform California into the "golden state". And for all this destruction, they pride themselves on being "green".

Well, yes; gold and green are the colors of money.

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Prayer request: Islamic butchers of ISIS

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

I received this prayer request this morning; I’ve redacted names lest anyone be placed in even greater danger.

Prayer Request from [redacted] missionaries who are in the areas that are being attacked by ISIS are asking to be showered in prayer. ISIS has taken over the town they are in today. He said ISIS is systematically going house to house to all the Christians and asking the children to denounce Jesus. He said so far not one child has. And so far all have consequently been killed. But not the parents. The UN has withdrawn and the missionaries are on their own. They are determined to stick it out for the sake of the families – even if it means their own deaths. They are very afraid, have no idea how to even begin ministering to these families who have had seen their children martyred. Yet he says he knows God has called them for some reason to be His voice and hands at this place at this time. Even so, they are begging for prayers for courage to live out their vocation in such dire circumstances. And like the children, accept martyrdom if they are called to do so.  These brave parents instilled such a fervent faith in their children that they chose martyrdom. Please surround them in their loss with your prayers for hope and perseverance.

One missionary was able to talk to her brother briefly by phone. She didn’t say it, but I believe she believes it will be their last conversation. Pray for her too. She said he just kept asking her to help him know what to do and do it. She told him to tell the families we ARE praying for them and they are not alone or forgotten — no matter what.  Please keep them all in your prayers.
This came this morning… [source redacted] "We lost the city of Queragosh (Qaraqosh). It fell to ISIS and they are beheading children systematically. … ISIS has pushed back Peshmerga (Kurdish forces) and is within 10 minutes of [redacted]. Thousands more fled into the city of Erbil last night. The UN evacuated its staff in Erbil. Our team is unmoved and will stay. Prayer cover needed!" Please pray sincerely for the deliverance of the people of Northern Iraq from the terrible advancement of ISIS and its extreme Islamic goals for mass conversion or death for Christians across this region.

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Mandela: The whole man

Friday, December 6th, 2013

Nelson Mandela deservedly received much of the credit for ridding South Africa of the scourge of Apartheid.  Yet, on the night of his death, I am reminded of the “Masterpiece Theater” series based on R. F. Delderfield’s novel about an English boys’ school, To Serve Them All My Days.  When Alcock, the widely despised headmaster of the Bamfylde School, dies, the masters who suffered under his authoritarian regime gather in the day room to prepare for a respectful farewell.  All, that is, except his bitterest foe, the crusty science master (dare I say curmudgeon?), Carter.  When asked if he wouldn’t join the others, he replied that he would not indulge in “a sentimental regard for the dead simply because they are dead.”

I don’t think we honor a complex, determined, pragmatic realist like Nelson Mandela by indulging ourselves in sentimentality that ignores all but the warm, cuddly parts.  Tonight, the endless tributes are paying homage to half a man.  Let us acknowledge – even if we can’t praise – the whole man.

Mandela was sympathetic to Communists within and without South Africa; he especially admired Fidel Castro.  He led the formation of Umkhonto we Sizwe, (the “Spear of the Nation”), the terrorist arm of the African National Congress in South Africa.  He often expressed solidarity with the Libyan sponsor of terrorism, Muammar Gadhafi, who was responsible for the bombing of Pan Am flight 113 over Lockerbie, Scotland.  He was an admirer of the author of Palestinian terrorism, Yasser Arafat, who introduced such innovations as armed assaults on Israeli school children.

I admire Mandela’s single-minded pursuit of racial justice and equality in South Africa.  That nation, and the world, are better places because of his determined efforts.  But I cannot ignore the end-justifies-the-means mentality that he endorsed, that has resulted in the deaths of thousands of civilians at the hands of the Umkhonto we Sizwe and like-minded terror organizations all around the world.  Mandela did great good.  Along the way, he did great evil.

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Lies, damned lies, and Presidential lies

Saturday, November 2nd, 2013

Presidents lie.  Sometimes they lie during the campaign (“Read my lips – no new taxes”, George H. W. Bush).  Sometimes they lie to avoid impeachment (“I am not a crook”, Richard Nixon).  Sometimes they lie to achieve some international objective (the Bay of Tonkin – Lyndon Johnson).

Sometimes they lie to try to rescue their tattered image – Bill Clinton pointed his index finger at the American people and declared “I did not have sex with that woman”.

But it’s another thing entirely to extend your middle finger to the American people and say “If you like your insurance, you can keep your insurance.”  0bama uttered and repeated this deliberate lie to prop up waning public support for his assault on private health care and, ultimately, on the American economy (a war he is largely winning with help from some Republicans).

We know that the lie was deliberate and that it was part of his plan all along.  When he told the lie, many private insurance policies would have survived the attack of 0bamacare.  But he went on to ensure that HHS would add more restrictions that would keep more and more existing policies from being grandfathered.  The result was exactly what he wanted – cancellation of millions of policies and forcing millions of people into his vision of socialized medicine.

When the employer mandate (which 0bama unilaterally and illegally suspended to satisfy his corporate sycophants) goes into effect next year, millions more will be driven into the loving, suffocating arms of 0bama’s nanny state.

The Culpability of the Democrats

Democrat Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is justly reviled for saying that it was necessary to pass 0bamacare to find out what was in it.  Yet, in a twisted and revealing way, she was right.

The “Affordable” Care Act was written at the direction of the newly-elected Democrat President.  It was written by unelected Democrat staffers and lobbyists, its 1000+ pages unread by most Democrat Representatives and Senators.  It passed into law by the Democrats who controlled both houses of Congress.  With great fanfare, it was signed by the Democrat President who got exactly what he wanted.

It was not until the 11,000+ pages of regulations written at the direction of Democrat cabinet secretaries and lower-level Democrat appointees that the full scope of the disaster was known.

To their everlasting shame, Democrats in Congress, only now cognizant of the monster they had created, supported and defended every provision.  They have cravenly repeated every lie this President has told – about 0bamacare, about Benghazi, about Fast and Furious, about IRS targeting of political opponents.

Why?  Because every one of them is far more interested in protecting their own prerogatives and their fellow Democrat 0bama than they are in protecting the American people or even their own constituents.

Disclaimer:  I am not a Republican and vote for Republicans only when it is utterly impractical to do otherwise – i.e. when the only alternative is a Democrat.

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Why I Joined the NRA

Monday, April 29th, 2013

When the news broke that Lance Armstrong would cop to doping, some commenters started to call the organization that he founded, the LIVESTRONG Foundation, into question.  Bloggers, talking heads, and bloviating pundits love to demonize both people and organizations. 

It’s true that some people and organizations are thoroughly bad and have no redeeming qualities, but you don’t get any Internet buzz by calling them evil.  The demonization industry depends on hiding or denying the good side of its targets.

At the time of Armstrong’s confession, I briefly commented that he was both a hero and a villain.  His bad deeds didn’t cancel the enormous service that LIVESTRONG has provided to cancer survivors.  I didn’t mention that I also made a contribution to LIVESTRONG that day.  One reason I donated was to make a tiny but useful (to LIVESTRONG) statement that the demonization industry can be ignored.

Ultimately, it was one of MSNBC’s ample stable of resident fools, Lawrence O’Donnell, who convinced me to join the NRA.  The demonization industry (of which Obama is the honorary President) has made the NRA its favorite target.  And there are times the NRA has made the demonizers’ job too easy.  Then O’Donnell claimed that

[the NRA is] in the business of helping bombers get away with their crimes [because their] effort to guarantee that American mass murderers are the best-equipped mass murderers in the world is not limited to murderers who use assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

I knew I had to join and make my tiny but useful (to the NRA) statement.  I don’t know if O’Donnell decided to be utterly ignorant of what the NRA actually does or if he decided to cynically ignore it in order get some cheap pub from equally ignorant/cynical fans.  In the end, it worked – both for him and, in a small way, for the NRA.

I don’t think I’m demonizing MSNBC or O’Donnell.  I honestly don’t know of any redeeming qualities possessed by either one.

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No More Monuments

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

Every time someone speaks or writes the name of the evil little worm who turned our attention to Sandy Hook Elementary School, a stone is added to his monument.  One day, another evil little worm, who is as willing to violate gun control laws as he to violate laws against murder, will decide he wants a bigger monument.  God help us all.

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