Monday, July 06, 2015

Republicans Must Defend Freedom of Religion 

The Supreme Court ruling requiring the legalization of same-sex marriage and the attacks on Christians who can not and will not participate in SSMs have made freedom of religion that much more of a presenting issue in this country.  Republicans had better get on the right side of this issue with more than words.  And that not only because it is the right side but also for their own political survival.

The conservative base support of the GOP has again and again seen Republican leadership sell them out, on Obamacare, on illegal immigration, on trade, etc. etc. Really, the GOP Establishment has stabbed conservatives in the back again and again.  Will they do so even on freedom of religion?

It is not for nothing that support for Donald Trump is high, second among GOP candidates at this writing.  He really should not be doing well.  He should be a joke, and he is in some ways.  But he is at least putting on a good show of fighting for conservative American citizens and their values and even getting angry about what is going on in this country.  There are a multitude of Republican candidates for POTUS but how many are so sharing in the anger of the Republican base?  The base is rightly feeling that precious few in politics are fighting for them - and some are desperate enough even to look at Trump.

Patience is running out - the base is fed up with GOP and its quisling establishment leaders.  If now the GOP cannot bring itself to do something as basic and American as defending the religious freedom of its base and of all Americans, that will be the last straw.  Further, if the GOP nominates a candidate for President who is tepid in defense of Freedom of Religion (not to mention the rest of the Constitution), the base will not turn out for him and may even go Third Party as I’ve warned before.

So allow me to amend my headline: Republicans must defend freedom of religion . . . or else.

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Thursday, July 02, 2015

How to Proceed Now 2 – Standing Your Ground Amidst Divisions 

Not unlike Roe v Wade, Friday’s Judicial Coup has already made our divisions worse – which is to be expected.  When one closes off constitutional democratic means to address an issue, the losing side becomes angry and resentful (and rightly so) and the winning side is tempted to become insufferable in victory, to put it nicely, and often gives into said temptation.

As Rebecca Hamilton writes, this has already affected even relationships.  Perhaps I should say this has especially affected relationships:

The Supreme Court sent a number of people my way since last Friday, all of them looking for solace in the face of personal attacks they had suffered because of the decision on gay marriage. They called me on the phone, approached me after mass, in checkout lines and while I was running errands. I also had internet encounters of the same type that went far beyond the boundaries of my community and my personal friends.

Here’s the summarized version of what they told me:

There was a lot of yelling and screaming in certain circles this weekend. It was directed at Christians in their personal, and, heretofore, safe personal relationships. It was also directed at priests who spoke about the decision from the pulpit. One friend, who gave me permission to discuss this, witnessed an ugly blow-up at a longstanding poker game she and her husband go to. The people there hold diverse opinions about matters of faith and morality, but they’ve been meeting for this friendly get-together on a regular basis for years.

This week, the atheists in the group refused to practice civility. They cursed the Lord, called Christians bigots and homophobes and were otherwise verbally insulting. According to my friend, this began with a celebration on the part of the atheists over Obergefell. She said she felt like, “OK, you won your deal, have your celebration.” She said the Christians at the table kept silent.

But when the celebration turned to repeatedly cursing the Lord and calling Christians ugly names, she said one of the Christian men told them to shut up. It devolved from there into two men squaring off to fight one another. At that point, my friend stood up and told them to stop it.

She said, “I’ve never forced my faith on you. I don’t come here with a Bible telling you what to do. But you are disrespecting me and my Jesus and I will not stand for it. You stop this now or my husband and I are leaving and we won’t be back.”

My friend is the most soft-spoken Hispanic woman you’d ever meet. I’ve never heard her raise her voice. Not once. Not ever.

She said the room fell silent and everyone sat back down. But she doesn’t think she and her husband will be back for more fun next week. They are through with the group.

I’ve heard stories of spouses calling one another names and people walking out of mass on their priests.

I, too, may have lost at least one friend of over 15 years.  He posted an obnoxious post on Facebook saying last week was a bad one for bigots.  I let him know that constitutional democracy was the presenting issue and that his post was deeply offensive.  Instead of engaging with me at all, I’ve discovered he’s un-friended me.  I’ve since messaged him that I thought better of him than to act that way.  But I am not very hopeful of reconciliation.

But in times like these, you discover who your real friends are.  And you discover some “friends” really don’t even respect you:

I heard a discussion this weekend in which someone more knowledgeable in these matters than me said that these kinds of attacks on the integrity of another person’s soul are always an indicator of disrespect. They do not respect you and your right to believe as you believe.

Disrespect at this level is disrespect of you as a person. You have a responsibility to yourself, to God and to the person attacking you not to accede to this. Mutual respect is the beginning of genuine trust. It is the foundation on which all good human relationships are built.

If I cannot trust you to respect me as a person enough to allow me the dignity of making my own choices in matters as profoundly personal as faith and morality, then I can not trust you at all. There can be no friendship, no true relationship, without this basic level of respect and the trust that comes from it.

And it’s difficult to let friends and family go.  You keep on loving them.  But if they disrespect, even hate you so deeply that they insult you and walk away, then basic dignity requires you to let them go.

As Hamilton writes, you stand your ground regardless.  You do not wimp out on Jesus or on his word.  If that loses friends and family then so be it.

Oh, being a Christian means losing friends and family?  Often, yes.  And Jesus told us so:

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

Matt. 10:34-39

You stand your ground on the truth, take up your cross of rejection and persecution with the rest of God’s faithful Holy Church though the centuries, and follow Him.

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Wednesday, July 01, 2015

How NOT to Proceed Now 

What I am about to say will seem obvious to most.  But, particularly since I do not know who might read this, it needs to be said.

There is a time to be angry.  And Friday’s Judicial Putsch was such a time.  But we are to “be angry but do not sin.” (Eph. 4:26)  There is a time to be angry, but we are not to be consumed by anger.  We are to “fret not . . . it tends only to evil.” (Psalm 37:8)

As any number of Psalms tell us, including that Psalm 37 and the two Psalms I read today for Morning Prayer, 2 and 3 (I find it interesting how providential liturgy can be, but that is another post for another time.), God will deal with evil tyrants – and He knows best how to deal with evil tyrants.  We are not to presume to hasten God’s timing in that regard with our own violence.

Yes, this is a time for anger.  It is not a time for violence.  We Christians are to be the Church Militant.  We are not to be the Church Violent.

But a reader may say they believe neither in God nor in Christ.  (And, who knows, a Christian or two may disregard the above admonition.)  So they themselves will go give tyrants what they deserve, thank you.  I urge any such to sit down, calm down, and think it through.  Has any lasting good come out of violence perpetrated against the Federal Government in the United States in recent decades?  Think about Timothy McVeigh.  Was he right to be angry about Ruby Ridge and Waco.  Yes.  Did any good come out of how he acted on that anger?  No.

Moreover, Bill Clinton and the Left cynically used the Oklahoma City bombing to smear their opponents with not a little political success.  McVeigh’s violence, profoundly evil in itself, also enabled the evil of the Clinton Administration.

Any violence committed now against Obama, the Supreme Court majority, or their supporters will also feed the false Leftist meme that Constitutionalists and the Right are the real danger to Americans.  So far, the Right has exhibited remarkable restraint in the face of anti-constitutional tyranny.  Let’s keep it that way.  And, remember, we won in 2010 and 2014.  Let’s win hearts and minds for the crucial 2016 elections, not repel them with foolishness and worse.

As for Christians, for the sake of the gospel and of our country, what people must see for themselves in the coming months and perhaps years are peaceful Christians being unjustly attacked by the Left and by tyrants and conducting themselves faithfully and well anyway.  What they must not see are Christians being the attackers or even being mean. (Mea culpa.)  Yes, the Left and the Democrat news media will try to portray us as such.  Let us follow St. Peter’s exhortation and give said portrayals no credibility whatsoever:

Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good.  For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.
1 Peter 1:12-15

And, not so by the way, “the emperor” at that time was no sweetheart either.  And there was far less hope of peacefully throwing off his tyranny than we have now.

Will Christians suffer unjustly in the coming time no matter how peacefully they conduct themselves?  Yes.  But again St. Peter exhorts (Emphasis mine.):

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.  But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.  If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.  But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. . . . Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.
I Peter 4:12-19

For God knows how to take care of his people . . . and of those who persecute them.  And if He chooses to be more patient with evil tyrants and persecutors than we are, then thank God for that, too.  Didn’t God have to be patient with us?

Our business as Christians is to be faithful, to be lights in the darkness, not rashly to take matters into our own hands and make the darkness that much worse.


Addendum: I am no pacifist for any who wonder about that.  Is there ever a time for violence?  Yes, but only after all peaceful avenues are exhausted, if even then.  Is that now?  Emphatically, no.

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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

How to Proceed Now? 

I should warn that this post may ramble a bit as I am still trying personally to get my arms around what my response should be to Friday’s gay marriage judicial coup.  And not just what my response should be, but the response of states, churches, religious institutions, and all citizens because the ruling undercut the constitutional rights of all of these.

And yet the responses of all these should not all be the same.  For one thing, states are not churches.  Yes, I love Texas, but it is not a church.

Also, there is a difference between what an entity has the right to do and what would be wise to do.  My initial response was that states should defy this ruling.  And states most definitely have the right to refuse to give away their rights under the Constitution.   But now I am not so sure defiance is the wise way to proceed.

If states do attempt to defy or even nullify this ruling, they should beware that it will be misinterpreted as being homophobic (Yes, I hate that word but anyway.…).  The Democrat News Media will be only too eager to portray it as a repeat of the Southern defiance of the 50’s and 60’s.  At the least, state defiance would not unify.  It would further polarize and divide the country and defiant states would likely be on the politically losing side of the divide.

I say this with some reluctance as the lack of defiance of judicial coups such as this one and Roe v Wade enable judicial tyranny.  But I suspect there is a better way at this time.

As much as I hate to agree with establishment Republicans*, I think a better and wiser way for states and concerned public officials to proceed is to buttress protections of freedom of religion.

*(I do think the words of establishment Republicans such as Lindsey Graham and John Kasich advocating protections of freedom of religion are just words.  When the time comes for real action, they will fold like a cheap tent.  See Indiana.)

Although rolling back judicial tyranny is vital, that is a long-term project that cannot be done tomorrow.  But measures to protect freedom of religion can be taken up and passed relatively quickly . . . and should be passed quickly given that attacks on religious freedom have already begun.

Yes, there will be resistance to these measures and vetoes even, but that may be good in the long run.  For the fight for freedom of religion is one that can be won politically.

Although it is questionable whether a majority of Americans really support freedom of religion anymore, it is certain that, say, at least 35 to 40% do so and strongly.  And if the issue is presented to them effectively, they would willing to turn against those opposing freedom of religion.  Yes, I think this could pry many votes from the Democrats and even a few from those who support gay marriage and motivate the conservative base to turn out.

Perhaps that seems optimistic now.  But I expect events will strengthen and motivate support for religious freedom.  There will be more and more attacks on freedom of religion as Pink Shirts and other assorted Leftists attempt to punish those who do not submit to the new gay marriage regime.  Lawsuits against businesses and churches will multiply.  Some governments and regulatory bodies will also demand submission or else, regardless of deeply held religious convictions.  As the heretofore scattered attacks on religious freedom become numerous, more people will be appalled and angered and will see the need to protect freedom of religion.

Think about where this issue would then put someone like Hillary Clinton.  She would have a choice between enraging the Leftist base of the Democrat Party by supporting measures to defend freedom of religion or between enraging Middle American by opposing freedom of religion and not taking up for those under attack.  (By her past record, I think she will choose the latter.)

IF Republicans are not cowards on freedom of religion, they could put Democrats in a bad place.  Yes, that is a big “if”.  A lot will depend on whom they nominate for President.  A Scott Walker would be willing to fight for freedom of religion and lead the GOP in doing so.  A Jeb Bush?  Not so much.

But in short, defending freedom of religion is an issue on which we can succeed – and the need for success here is urgent.

Yes, I have rambled as I warned.  But I think defending freedom of religion is both more urgent and politically wiser than direct defiance of the Supreme Court ruling.  And it could turn out to be a more effective way of eventually rolling back judicial tyranny as defeating Democrats (and establishment Republicans) is necessary to bring that about.

It at least is worth a try, is it not? 

Of course, I am also thinking about how churches and Christians should respond in the non-political sphere.  But this post is too long already.

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Monday, June 29, 2015

What the Supreme Court Did Not Say 

As if what the Supreme Court said last week in its same-sex marriage ruling is not alarming enough for those concerned about freedom of religion, what it did not say is downright chilling.  Note well this passage from Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion:

Finally, it must be emphasized that religions, and those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned. The First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths, and to their own deep aspirations to continue the family structure they have long revered. The same is true of those who oppose same-sex marriage for other reasons. In turn, those who believe allowing same sex marriage is proper or indeed essential, whether as a matter of religious conviction or secular belief, may engage those who disagree with their view in an open and searching debate. The Constitution, however, does not permit the State to bar same-sex couples from marriage on the same terms as accorded to couples of the opposite sex.

Well, how gracious is Our Overlord Kennedy that he allows us backwards bigots Christians to “advocate” and “teach” against gay marriage.

But - and I pray this does not bring upon this humble subject the wrath of Our Overlord - there is something he did not say.  Kennedy said nothing about protecting the practice of freedom of religion, particularly about refusing to participate in a gay marriage.  And that when the above passage was an obvious opportunity so to do.

Oh, but you can “advocate” and complain all you want about your subjugation, bigots . . . for now.

It at least used to be in the United States that you (with narrow exceptions) had the constitutionally protected freedom to practice one’s religion.  Will it be so in the very near future?

Justice Roberts noticed Kennedy’s omission as well.

The majority graciously [Snicker – Ed.] suggests that religious believers may continue to “advocate” and “teach” their views of marriage. Ante, at 27. The First Amendment guarantees, however, the freedom to “exercise” religion. Ominously, that is not a word the majority uses.

Hard questions arise when people of faith exercise religion in ways that may be seen to conflict with the new right to same-sex marriage—when, for example, a religious college provides married student housing only to opposite-sex married couples, or a religious adoption agency declines to place children with same-sex married couples. Indeed, the Solicitor General candidly acknowledged that the tax exemptions of some religious institutions would be in question if they opposed same-sex marriage. See Tr. of Oral Arg. on Question 1, at 36–38. There is little doubt that these and similar questions will soon be before this Court. Unfortunately, people of faith can take no comfort in the treatment they receive from the majority today.

That is a lawyerly understatement. 

More can be said and will be said as attacks on freedom of religion inevitably increase.  But mark what the Supreme Court majority did not say and prepare.

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Friday, June 26, 2015

“Judicial Putsch” 

As quickly as possible, I want to join in condemning the tyrannical ruling of the Supreme Court this morning on same-sex marriage.  It is a judicial coup against constitutional democracy the likes of which we have not seen since Roe v Wade.

It cries out for resistance and nullification not because of the issue of same-sex marriage (If people of various states decide to recognize gay marriage through a democratic process, that is their political and constitutional right.), but because of the importance of constitutional democratic self-rule.  I have therefore already called on Governor Abbott to resist and defy this ruling.

Justice Scalia’s dissent says it better than I can and is one for the ages.  Justice Scalia on this morning’s “judicial putsch”:

I join THE CHIEF JUSTICE’s opinion in full. I write separately to call attention to this Court’s threat to American democracy.
The substance of today’s decree is not of immense personal importance to me. The law can recognize as marriage whatever sexual attachments and living arrangements it wishes, and can accord them favorable civil consequences, from tax treatment to rights of inheritance….

So it is not of special importance to me what the law says about mar- riage. It is of overwhelming importance, however, who it is that rules me. Today’s decree says that my Ruler, and the Ruler of 320 million Americans coast-to-coast, is a majority of the nine lawyers on the Supreme Court. The opinion in these cases is the furthest extension in fact— and the furthest extension one can even imagine—of the Court’s claimed power to create “liberties” that the Constitution and its Amendments neglect to mention. This practice of constitutional revision by an unelected committee of nine, always accompanied (as it is today) by extravagant praise of liberty, robs the People of the most important liberty they asserted in the Declaration of Independence and won in the Revolution of 1776: the freedom to govern themselves….

Until the courts put a stop to it, public debate over same-sex marriage displayed American democracy at its best. Individuals on both sides of the issue passionately, but respectfully, attempted to persuade their fellow citizens to accept their views. Americans considered the arguments and put the question to a vote. The electorates of 11 States, either directly or through their representatives, chose to expand the traditional definition of mar- riage. Many more decided not to. Win or lose, advocates for both sides continued pressing their cases, secure in the knowledge that an electoral loss can be negated by a later electoral win. That is exactly how our system of government is supposed to work….

But the Court ends this debate, in an opinion lacking even a thin veneer of law. Buried beneath the mummeries and straining-to-be-memorable passages of the opinion is a candid and startling assertion: No matter what it was the People ratified, the Fourteenth Amendment protects those rights that the Judiciary, in its “reasoned judgment,” thinks the Fourteenth Amendment ought to protect. That is so because “[t]he generations that wrote and ratified the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment did not presume to know the extent of freedom in all of its dimensions . . . . ” One would think that sentence would continue: “. . . and therefore they provided for a means by which the People could amend the Constitution,” or perhaps “. . . and therefore they left the creation of additional liberties, such as the freedom to marry someone of the same sex, to the People, through the never-ending process of legislation.” But no. What logically follows, in the majority’s judge-empowering estimation, is: “and so they entrusted to future generations a charter protecting the right of all persons to enjoy liberty as we learn its meaning.”15 The “we,” needless to say, is the nine of us. “History and tradition guide and discipline [our] inquiry but do not set its outer boundaries.”16 Thus, rather than focusing on the People’s understanding of “liberty”—at the time of ratification or even today—the majority focuses on four “principles and traditions” that, in the majority’s view, prohibit States from defining marriage as an institution consisting of one man and one woman.

This is a naked judicial claim to legislative—indeed, super-legislative—power; a claim fundamentally at odds with our system of government. Except as limited by a constitutional prohibition agreed to by the People, the States are free to adopt whatever laws they like, even those that offend the esteemed Justices’ “reasoned judgment.” A system of government that makes the People subordinate to a committee of nine unelected lawyers does not deserve to be called a democracy….

And to allow the policy question of same-sex marriage to be considered and resolved by a select, patrician, highly unrepresentative panel of nine is to violate a principle even more fundamental than no taxation without representation: no social transformation without representation.

But what really astounds is the hubris reflected in today’s judicial Putsch. The five Justices who compose today’s majority are entirely comfortable concluding that every State violated the Constitution for all of the 135 years between the Fourteenth Amendment’s ratification and Massachusetts’ permitting of same-sex marriages in 2003. They have discovered in the Fourteenth Amendment a “fundamental right” overlooked by every person alive at the time of ratification, and almost everyone else in the time since. They see what lesser legal minds— minds like Thomas Cooley, John Marshall Harlan, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., Learned Hand, Louis Brandeis, William Howard Taft, Benjamin Cardozo, Hugo Black, Felix Frankfurter, Robert Jackson, and Henry Friendly— could not. They are certain that the People ratified the Fourteenth Amendment to bestow on them the power to remove questions from the democratic process when that is called for by their “reasoned judgment.” These Justices know that limiting marriage to one man and one woman is contrary to reason; they know that an institution as old as government itself, and accepted by every nation in history until 15 years ago cannot possibly be supported by anything other than ignorance or bigotry. And they are willing to say that any citizen who does not agree with that, who adheres to what was, until 15 years ago, the unanimous judgment of all generations and all societies, stands against the Constitution.

The opinion is couched in a style that is as pretentious as its content is egotistic… The Supreme Court of the United States has descended from the disciplined legal reasoning of John Marshall and Joseph Story to the mystical aphorisms of the fortune cookie.

Hubris is sometimes defined as o’erweening pride; and pride, we know, goeth before a fall. The Judiciary is the “least dangerous” of the federal branches because it has “neither Force nor Will, but merely judgment; and must ultimately depend upon the aid of the executive arm” and the States, “even for the efficacy of its judgments.” With each decision of ours that takes from the People a question properly left to them—with each decision that is unabashedly based not on law, but on the “reasoned judgment” of a bare majority of this Court—we move one step closer to being reminded of our impotence.


Indeed, the Supreme Court with this ruling is asking for a Constitutional crisis, and one it is not guaranteed to win.

But, more likely, we have lost that much more of our constitutional republic – and that to cheers.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

An Encouraging Poll on Same-Sex Marriage 

I was tempted to add “for a change” in the headline.  Polls in recent years have not been encouraging to those of us who support traditional marriage.

But YouGov has a poll out that indicates that Americans do not favor making gay marriage a Constitutional right.  Yes, almost 50% think same-sex marriage should be legal.  But the numbers shrink markedly when people are asked whether the Supreme Court should make it a Constitutional right.  A plurality of 43% say SCOTUS “should not rule same sex marriage is a constitutional right.”

I am heartened that there are thinking people out there who see there is a difference between legalizing gay marriage by democratic means and a Supreme Court ruling overturning democratic processes and legalizing gay marriage in all fifty states by judicial fiat, and that claiming the Constitution requires such a judicial coup. 

The likely SCOTUS ruling doing just that may not be as well received as anticipated. 

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