The Danger to Religious Liberty

In all my writing about politics and government, my greatest concern is the encroachments on religious liberty. I’ve often highlighted attacks, both direct and indirect, on the role of religious belief in our nation. The nation, by the way, is not synonymous with the government; the former is the whole people, the latter simply the representative of the voters that is supposed to carry out policies for the good of the whole. We have been too eager to elevate the government to the highest place of allegiance. When we do so, we dethrone God.

I’m indebted today to Matthew Franck, director of the Center on Religion and the Constitution at the Witherspoon Institute, an independent research center housed at Princeton University. In an article published by Hillsdale College, Franck summarizes so well the series of recent attacks on the significance of religious faith.

He begins with the universities:

At the Hastings College of Law in San Francisco, the student chapter of the Christian Legal Society was denied any status on the campus because it would not abandon its requirement that members commit themselves to traditional Christian norms regarding sexual morality. The U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 ruling in 2010, held that the student group’s rights were not violated by a “take all comers” policy. Following this lead, Vanderbilt University has rewritten its student organizations policy and effectively chased every traditionally Christian group off campus, denying them regular access to campus facilities.

In effect, the Supreme Court has said that a Christian organization cannot be limited in membership to those who are Christians. In this instance, the absurd has become the norm.

State and local governments have also taken steps to deny deeply held religious beliefs. In Washington and Illinois, attempts have been made to force pharmacists to dispense “morning after” pills, which cause abortions, even when doing so is a violation of their consciences. In New York City, if you are a church, don’t bother trying to use a public school building for a church function. Churches are banned from using them. A Christian wedding photographer in New Mexico “was fined for violation of a state ‘human rights act’ because she refused to take the business of a same-sex couple who claimed to want her services at the civil union ceremony.” In other states, Catholic charities have been excluded from taking part in adoption or foster care services because they won’t put children with same-sex couples.

One of the more publicized instances of overruling Christian morality occurred in 2010 when Judge Vaughn Walker of the U.S. District Court of San Francisco [naturally] gave his controversial ruling on Proposition 8, a referendum approved by the California electorate to define marriage as between one man and one woman. Walker, who is also an outspoken homosexual, ruled that proposition to be unconstitutional. Franck explains,

He held that the affinity between traditional religion and the moral case against same-sex marriage was reason enough to strike down the popular referendum, and went so far as to say that religious doctrines holding homosexual acts to be sinful are in themselves a form of “harm to gays and lesbians.” In this he followed the lead of the Iowa Supreme Court, which held in 2009 that the state’s law restricting marriage to a man and a woman was an expression of a religious viewpoint, and for that reason unconstitutional.

Then of course there are this year’s HHS mandates for carrying out Obamacare that force religious schools, universities, hospitals, and charitable institutions to violate their consciences with regard to contraception and abortifacients.

What we are witnessing is a shift in the significance of religious beliefs in our nation. They are now being shoved to the periphery, whereas they used to be right at the center of our culture. Two hundred years ago, the Founders recognized the priority that religious faith had in society. When James Madison wrote his famous Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments, he clearly expressed the consensus of the age when he said,

It is the duty of every man to render to the Creator such homage and such only as he believes to be acceptable to him. This duty is precedent, both in order of time and in degree of obligation, to the claims of Civil Society. [emphasis added]

Madison’s perspective was that our allegiance to God and what He requires of us is greater than the allegiance we owe to our government. Today, we are in the process of reversing that. Here, I believe, is where the real battle for the soul of our nation lies. Yes, I’m concerned about the economy, taxes, healthcare, foreign policy, and all the rest. Yes, I speak out constantly about the need to limit the federal government to the authority granted it in the Constitution. But even more than all that, it is imperative that our government not declare itself to be above an individual’s conscience before God. Government is not God; only God Himself can make that claim. We owe our ultimate allegiance to Him, and Him only.

That’s why I write about the dangers of another four years of Barack Obama. His mindset is the new one, the one that subordinates religious beliefs to the dictates of whatever the government deems more important. The danger is real, and it must be met head-on and defeated.

The Case Against Barack Obama: Character

Yesterday I examined Obama’s roots and the worldview he received from others. Just as important in an evaluation of the man is the character he has developed over the years. Each of us is exposed to many influences that help in shaping our character, but it’s always important to recognize that they are influences only—our path is not determined; how we respond to those influences is the key. Therefore, we cannot blame anyone else for whom we have become.

I say that because in Obama’s case it would be easy to blame his father, who didn’t stay with the family. Just as easy to blame would be his mother, who pushed him away from Western values, Christianity in particular. And then there were his grandparents who introduced him to his communist mentor, Frank Marshall Davis. Obama’s formative years were filled with what I would call pernicious influences. I’m sorry he had such an upbringing, but he is still accountable for how he responded to all those influences.

Abandoned by his father, raised by a white mother and grandparents, he can be excused perhaps for feeling out of place and in need of an identity. That’s probably why he created a fantasy image of his natural father. So in one sense he had a deep need for affirmation as a person. Yet, simultaneously, he was really quite the child of privilege. He never lacked for anything materially. He went to a private high school in Hawaii, then on to Columbia and Harvard later. Those are hardly the credentials of someone who is a hardship case. He even became editor of the Harvard Law Review despite no real writing accomplishments of his own. Many have raised the question of just who paid for all this education, but he has not been forthcoming with that information, and his college records have remained sealed.

By his own admission, he was an active drug user in his youth. There’s also no indication he ever had to work hard at any job to help pay for his expenses. All the privileges he received, along with an active imagination about a heroic father, compensated for his loss of identity. He determined to be part of black America even though he lived primarily in a white family and society. This apparently gave his life meaning.

As I noted yesterday, he became a convinced Marxist by the time he went to college, and also latched on to his father’s anti-colonialism, which made him anti-establishment, anti-Western civilization, and even anti-American since it was part of that civilization.

Because everything seemed to be handed to him on the proverbial silver platter, he became self-righteous and arrogant, traits that made it easy for him to slide into the role of political messiah in 2008. He never really discouraged his adoring followers to consider him as simply another flawed human being. After all, as he stated, his election would be the starting point for the lowering of the oceans and the healing of the planet. No lack of self-confidence there. He also proclaimed that we [kind of a royal “we”] were the ones “we” had been waiting for. As if all of history revolved around the coming of the new messiah. The media should have showcased this arrogance, but instead has become his chief enabler, ignoring the fact that the emperor has no clothes and inventing “scandals” for anyone who dares offer a critique of the One.

Since he has been in office, other traits have come to the surface. Even those around him comment that he is aloof. He doesn’t form relationships with anyone outside his own little circle of confidants, all of whom seem to bow to his every whim. He doesn’t even develop solid relationships with congressional Democrats. It’s almost as if they are beneath him and not worth the time. And as for Republicans . . . well, that’s a non-starter. He will talk about compromise, but never do it, and then blame the Republicans for being obstructionists.

Many have commented on his thin skin; he bristles at any hint of disrespect. Often, he is petty, and lets it show publicly. Two examples. First, when he was making overtures to Republicans about budget compromises, he decided to make a speech and invite Paul Ryan to be there. So there was Ryan, sitting in the front row, I believe, and Obama then turned his rhetorical guns on the Ryan plan for getting the nation out of our deficit mess. Ryan, to his credit, took the verbal assault calmly.

But the more famous example was during one of his State of the Union addresses, when he criticized a recent Supreme Court decision as the justices were sitting right in front of him. It was an attempt to humiliate them in the national spotlight. No president has ever used this important address to berate the court while they were honoring him with their presence. The term “mean-spirited” is not too strong for his actions in both of these cases.

I firmly believe Obama is a classic narcissist. He lives to please himself and won’t take any responsibility for anything that goes wrong. The economy? Nearly four years after George Bush has left the office, Obama continues to blame him for the current problems. And his penchant for not paying sufficient attention to his day job—president of the most powerful nation on earth—is becoming painful to watch. He spends an inordinate amount of time playing golf, attending fundraisers, and partying with celebrities. But he seems to get away with it since we are a nation apparently hooked on the celebrity culture. It seems to be hard to get his attention lately:

The most baffling aspect of all this, to me, is that polls show people find him likeable. Reagan was likeable, as even his detractors admitted; Obama is not. He’s the epitome of the anti-Reagan. His arrogance, aloofness, and narcissism are deadly in a leader. And where is he leading us? That will be the subject of the next two posts.

Obamacare & the Future of a Once-Free Society

Obamacare isn’t necessarily here to stay. Some states, like Texas, are refusing to accept it. Republican governors overall are waiting to see what happens in the election. Done deals are not always done deals. Yet the federal government is in full battle array, planning to take over one-sixth of the American economy. The price tag, according to new estimates, is now triple what we were told at the beginning. On top of all that, the IRS is now in charge of enforcing it since the Supreme Court, in its supreme wisdom, has declared it a tax. This really is a burgeoning monstrosity.

Yet as the Obama administration gears up for the implementation of the program, it might discover some speed bumps:

Many doctors are contemplating retirement if this does go into operation [no pun intended]. No matter how bureaucratic the current healthcare system may be, and despite complaints we all have about how it is managed, we haven’t seen anything yet. If you feel like you’re just a small cog in a big machine now, wait until Obamacare is in full swing:

Republicans in Congress are telling the American people where they stand on it. Even though they knew it wouldn’t pass in the Senate, the House held a vote this past week on repealing the act, and it passed. Democrats consider it a mere political ploy, but I guess that’s because they really don’t believe the other side of the aisle has a deep philosophical disagreement with the whole approach. Of all the Democrats’ objections to repealing the law, the least compelling one might be this:

Yes, politics was a factor in holding the vote, but the political aspect was a statement to the American people of where the GOP stands on the issue. Many Republicans rightly fear that Obamacare tips the balance for the future of the country in a direction that will make us no different than the failing economies and governments of Europe. They fear it will alter the very character of the nation, and those fears are not without foundation:

We’ve taken far too many steps away from constitutionalism and toward unhealthy dependence on government over the years, starting with FDR’s New Deal through LBJ’s Great Society to Obama’s nebulous Hope and Change. To me, the choice is clear: either roll back this infringement on liberty, both civil and religious, or share the fate of other nations that have followed this foolish path.

The Brave New World?

I normally rest on Saturdays and don’t do any posting, but I’ll go halfway today. I won’t say much, but I’ll put up some cartoon commentary. There’s just so much fallout from the Obamacare Obamatax decision that it may be a public service to make sure you don’t miss some of these. So, here goes:

That last one was for the historian in me. The final one copies Obama’s main theme for the last four years, and this time it may be correct:

 Enjoy our brave new world. Let’s remake it in November.

The Obamacare Ruling: How I See It

Four justices got it right yesterday. Unfortunately, five got it wrong. The most painful part of the divide is that Chief Justice John Roberts led the charge for upholding the clearly unconstitutional Obamacare. Wait a minute, you say, how can I call it unconstitutional when the Supreme Court has declared otherwise. Because it is. The four justices who wrote in dissent, with Anthony Kennedy surprisingly in agreement, declared that the entire law should be thrown out because of its blatant unconstitutionality. Those judges understand the original wording and original intent of the Constitution.

This 5-4 vote would have gone the other way without the disappointing defection of Roberts. There has been speculation—and that’s all it can be at this point—that he was swayed by the White House attack on the integrity of the Court, and that he somehow thought by going in this direction, he was upholding the Court’s image. I don’t know if that is true. I won’t say it is; neither am I going to launch a personal attack on his character. What he has done, though, is deal a blow to the rule of law, which is always one of my main concerns.

Conservative commentators, looking for whatever silver linings they can find, have come up with at least one. Since the Court rejected Obama’s rationale for the law, they say that’s a win. Obama sold this monstrosity as being valid under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution. The majority said that was untenable, thereby hopefully curtailing future attempts to use that clause to do anything the government would like to do. So yes, that is a positive. But it’s the proverbial double-edged sword. Justice Roberts instead called it acceptable as part of the taxing power of the Congress, so now all we have to worry about is IRS enforcement:

If that doesn’t give you the warm fuzzies, you’re not alone.

When the president was “selling” this package at the beginning, he was adamant it was not a tax. He knew the American people would recoil at that. There’s a key interview he did with George Stephanopoulos back in 2009 that’s making the rounds again on the internet. In that interview, Obama absolutely claimed it wasn’t a tax. Yet when his people made their arguments before the Court, they tried to peddle it as a tax there, which reveals the hypocrisy and cynicism behind the law. This time they won a convert in Justice Roberts.

Here’s where I’m going to offer an argument that I saw only one writer even mention yesterday: the Court got it wrong on the power to tax. Although most of the negative comments about the ruling talked about the fear of greater taxation, they weren’t based on the Constitution’s enumerated powers. Rather, they went along with the idea that Congress has the authority to tax whatever it chooses. Wrong. The enumerated powers in Article I are there to limit the areas in which Congress can legislate and collect taxes. I challenge anyone to find a provision for legislating and collecting taxes for healthcare.

Of course, this is nothing new. Ever since the 1937 Helvering case, which declared Social Security constitutional, Congress has acted with little restraint at all. That case essentially said the enumerated powers don’t really exist—they’re just examples of the virtually unlimited power of Congress to legislate as it sees fit. Roberts should know better. I believe he has some background with the Federalist Society, an organization of lawyers and other political types who are trying to revive the concepts of constitutionalism and federalism.

Yesterday’s decision does tremendous damage to the future of freedom in this nation:

This brings me to another silver lining, though. When freedom is threatened, people awake and rise up to defend their freedom. Already this awful ruling has awakened a sleeping giant. The Romney campaign, in the hours just after the decision was made public, received an immediate influx of cash—the last I heard the amount was close to $2 million. And that was without any prodding, except for the Court’s ruling. Tea Party faithful are already organizing; the Republican Governor’s Association has declared that Republican governors are not going to go along with this ruling until they see what happens in November. Now that Obamacare has been called a tax by the highest court in the land, it has become the largest tax increase in American history. Somehow, the president has to defend that after famously claiming that no one, under his administration, making less than $250,000 per year would see their taxes raised.

One comment Roberts made in his ruling was quite accurate. He said the Court’s job is not to protect the people from the political decisions they make. By choosing Obama, the people brought this on themselves. They have no one to blame but themselves. But the nice thing is that they can change their minds. Just because the Supreme Court wrongly issued a decision saying Obamacare is constitutional, that doesn’t mean we have to live with it. Obamacare is the creation of Congress, and a new Congress can repeal it. In fact, the House has already scheduled a vote on that very thing after the Fourth of July. It will pass, and then die in the Democrat Senate. It will be symbolic, but it also may be a harbinger of what will happen if the Republicans can recapture the Senate and the presidency.

Back in 1857, the Supreme Court said that no black person was a citizen of the United States. It was wrong, and a Civil War corrected that wrong decision. In 1896, it declared the doctrine of separate-but-equal to be valid in racial matters. The nation eventually rejected that rationale as well. There is hope that yesterday’s abominable decision will also be cast into the dustbin of foolish Supreme Court pronouncements.

But it depends on the intelligence and vigilance of the electorate. How determined are we to protect our liberty?

D-Day–The New Version

As I write this, we are less than three hours away from the Supreme Court decision on Obamacare. Most of you reading this will already know what was decided. I’ll examine what transpires today and offer some thoughts on it tomorrow. This is probably one of the most anticipated and historic Supreme Court decisions in my lifetime, aside from all the bad decisions on abortion. If Obamacare is allowed to stand, it will go down as the worst decision since Roe v. Wade. A decision to uphold this unconstitutional nightmare will follow in the infamous footsteps of the Dred Scott decision before the Civil War that declared no black person was a citizen and the Plessy v. Ferguson segregation ruling of 1896.

Well, that lets you know where I stand.

The other big event of the day will be the House vote on the contempt of Congress charges against Eric Holder. There’s not nearly the suspense for that one. Even some Democrats are going to vote for those charges, especially those who represent Republican-leaning districts in the upcoming election. So much is at stake in this as well: immigration policy, border security enforcement, states’ rights, possible misuse of executive privilege. If these charges pass, will the courts then do their job and force the attorney general to do his? I wish I had more confidence in the public’s grasp of the importance of the issues in this case. Well, at least some of the cartoonists have a good handle on it:

For me, seeing cartoons like this on a daily basis provides hope that rational thought and common sense may yet prevail. November will tell if my hope is illusory or if we still have a future as a nation.

Punishing Arizona

The media naturally focused on the Supreme Court’s decision on the Arizona illegal immigration law, but apparently it’s missing the other story: the abandonment of Arizona by the federal government. From what I’ve read, none of the network morning programs—not Today or Good Morning America, or whatever CBS has currently—even mentioned the astounding change announced by the Department of Homeland Security. I haven’t yet heard a report on how the evening news shows handled it, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they downplayed it as well. It’s what they do.

Consider: the federal government no longer will work with state and local law enforcement in Arizona on the illegal immigrant problem. If state or local law enforcement wants to check on the immigration status of someone being held for any other crime, the federal government will not respond to their request for information. As I said yesterday, it’s as if Arizona is the criminal in the eyes of the Obama administration. Of course, that should not startle anyone familiar with this administration’s approach to enforcing laws it doesn’t like:

It’s kind of like this:

They say immigration enforcement is a federal job, not that of the states, yet they don’t help the states being overwhelmed by a flood of illegal immigration. How can they have it both ways? Oh, that’s right, lawyers are in charge:

Given the attitude displayed by Obama’s DOJ and DHS, they might as well act as tour guides:

At least then they might be doing something useful.