Category archives: Government

Abraham Lincoln: “The Judgments of the Lord” March 4, 1865

by Robert Morrison

March 4, 2015

Some might say he was clinging to his guns and religion. Abraham Lincoln began his Second Inaugural Address with a reference to the military situation. Gen. Grant’s powerful army then held the rebel Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia in a death grip, besieging it at Petersburg, with the Confederate capital of Richmond sure to fall to Union forces.

Lincoln expressed his satisfaction with “[t]he progress of our arms, upon which all else chiefly depends…” He moved on to a brief recitation of the causes of the Civil War.He offered no condemnation of his foes as he related in a factual manner the reason for this most terrible of all of America’s wars.

By the time Lincoln spoke, most of the 630,000 lives that would be lost in this struggle had already perished. It was to protect and extend the institution of Negro slavery that white men came to sword points. “And the war came.”

He “would not play the Pharisee,” he often said. Almost alone among Northern leaders, Lincoln did not cloak himself or the Union cause in all righteousness. He knew what the Founders knew. Slavery was largely confined to the Southern States. He had told his dearest friend Joshua Speed how he “crucified his feelings” on seeing shackled slaves conveyed South “like trout on a line.” Now, it was almost as if he were speaking to his slaveholding friend as he acknowledged the sin of the whole nation in the offense of slavery.

Lincoln knew Massachusetts was the home of Abolitionism. But its great ports had also carried on what President Jefferson had called that “execrable traffic.” Great Yankee merchant families had made their fortunes. And some of those fortunes were built on bones.

Lincoln would not now disavow his anti-Slavery convictions. He evinced a decent respect for the opinion of mankind against “wringing one’s bread from the sweat of other man’s faces.” Still, he urged his countrymen to “judge not lest ye be judged.”

He knew how ships might leave West Africa with six hundred souls crammed naked and chained into stinking cargo holds and arrive in the Americas with only two hundred yet living. The worst of Southern plantations, Lincoln knew, could not approach horror of the Atlantic Slavc Trade in the bondsman’s “two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil.”

While Confederate President Jefferson Davis railed against the barbarism of his Yankee foes, Lincoln condemned no one. He never accused. He never sought to pluck the speck from his neighbor’s eye. Instead, he had mused in private and sometimes among small groups how the Almighty might have given victory to either side on a single day during the four-year Golgotha of “this fiery trial.”

What if Pickett’s Charge had succeeded at Gettysburg? What if Vicksburg had held?What if Gen. Sherman had been defeated before Atlanta?

When Jefferson Davis tried to rally his ragged rebels against Sherman’s all-conquering host, he boasted that the grizzled red-haired devil would meet the same fate in Georgia that Napoleon met in Russia. In one of his few recorded jokes, Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant had replied: “And who will supply the snow?”

If we look for a sublime example of American Exceptionalism, we will find it here. What other nation could conclude a four-year bloody Civil War with such an Address? Lincoln called for “malice toward none, charity for all.”

The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether,” Lincoln said of the wholly unexpected bloody, protracted and revolutionary struggle. Not only had the Union been preserved, but the cause of Disunion—human bondage—had perished in the fires.

Abolitionist editor and orator Frederick Douglass that day entered the White House, the first time a black man was an honored guest an Inaugural reception. The President asked him his opinion of the address. “Mr. Lincoln, it was a sacred effort.”

Lincoln called America “the last best hope of man on earth.” Yet in our time, in our land, a thousand unborn children are beheaded daily by an organization that is sheltered and funded by our own taxes. This dread toll deprives our people of genius and industry. Every child born in America has the potential to earn a million dollars.

We know the truth about these unborn millions. “Ultrasound has made it impossible to deny that that thing in the womb is a human being,” writes TIME magazine’s Joe Klein. We agree with Lincoln that “nothing stamped in the divine image was sent into the world to be trod upon.” And yet we proceed as if the judgments of the Lord are not intended for us, and that His justice will sleep forever.

The 150th Anniversary of Lincoln’s Second Inaugural: A Meditation on the Will of God

by Rob Schwarzwalder

March 4, 2015

My brilliant friend Daniel Dreisbach (Ph.D., Oxford), a professor at American University, has written a wonderful piece on the 15oth anniversary of what he rightly calls “among the most eloquent of all presidential utterances.”   

Lincoln’s remarkable, 700-word speech is a meditation on God’s will during a time of national crisis and massive bloodshed, the Civil War.  It also reflects the 16th President’s internalization of the Word of God and how it affected his understanding of this great American trial.

Read Daniel’s perceptive piece, and join with Lincoln in remembering that “the judgments of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether.”

Desperate Times for Christians in Syria

by Chris Gacek

February 26, 2015

Accurate news of the depredations being visited upon Christians by the savage ISIS forces operating in Syria and Iraq is not easy to come by. Fortunately, there are policy specialists in Washington who have established deep ties with Syria’s Christians. One of these experts is Katharine (“Katie”) Gorka, President of the Council on Global Security.

Mrs. Gorka has written two significant articles in Breitbart’s national security section on the recent ISIS attacks against these Christians. In the first article she gathered news by directly contacting representatives of the Assyrian community. A summary of the facts is as follows:

Around 4:00 in the morning on Monday, February 23rd, an estimated 1500 ISIS fighters attacked a series of Christian towns in northeast Syria, burning churches, taking as many as 90 hostages, and forcing hundreds to flee from their homes.


Many Christians have fled to the Syrian town of al-Hassaka, but the fear now is that ISIS will overrun the town, kill the men, and kidnap the women and children. After the attacks on Monday, Gorka writes, “According to one source, ISIS has taken 30 Christian young women and plans to distribute them as concubines in the town of Shadadeh.”

In the second article, “ISIS Hammers Christian Towns in Syria for Third Day,” Gorka provides a better sense of the military campaign being waged by ISIS against thirty-five Assyrian towns in northeastern Syria. One source told Gorka “that ISIS is still trying to take control of the region and that they are trying to cross the Khabur River.” Kurdish and Syrian forces have repelled the assaults so far “but it is uncertain how much longer that can last.” ISIS is estimated to have several thousand fighters involved. The Kurds and Christians have fewer, and they are inadequately armed.

Reading between the lines, the American effort has been comically inadequate. For example, DoD put out a press release trumpeting less than a dozen drone strikes in a day. ROLLING THUNDER this is not.

What’s important is the bottom line: the United States is making no commitment or effort to truly help the Christians. Nothing new here. However, the U.S. government appears to be doing something. It is running a disinformation campaign against the American public to make it believe that these Middle Eastern minority populations are not being sacrificed.

(Finally, ISIS is destroying cultural artifacts in Mosul. Read this article describing how it burned down the Mosul Public Library. “Among the many thousands of books it housed, more than 8,000 rare old books and manuscripts were burned.”)

Blinded by Liberalism - Our President and His State Department

by Chris Gacek

February 20, 2015

Marie Harf, spokeswoman for the U.S. Department, has taken a great deal of heat this week for saying this and other things regarding our struggle with the Islamic State (ISIS):

We’re killing a lot of them and we’re going to keep killing more of them. So are the Egyptians, so are the Jordanians. They’re in this fight with us. But we cannot win this war by killing them. We cannot kill our way out of this war. We need in the medium to longer term to go after the root causes that leads people to join these groups, whether it’s lack of opportunity for jobs…”

Root cause” explanations constitute part of the fantasy life of liberals. They lead inevitably to an ever greater fantasy: the belief that poverty lies at the base of almost all malignant human behavior.  If the government can spend lots of money on something somewhere, all will be well. 

It’s interesting to recall that Lyndon Johnson, one of the big-time liberal presidents, exhibited a similar myopia when dealing with Vietnam and North Vietnam’s leader, Ho Chi Minh.  President Johnson delivered his first major speech about Vietnam on April 7, 1965 at Johns Hopkins University.  It is referred to as the “Peace without Conquest” Speech.  The title reveals its high-level content in wishful thinking.

In the speech, Johnson proposed a $1 billion development program for the Mekong River region including North Vietnam.  Johnson thought he could be buy off Ho with a TVA-like development program.  How could it fail?  It worked for FDR, right.  Guys like Johnson always had a price.  You just had to find it.  A water project, a military base, electric power.    As, Johnson told his press secretary, Bill Moyers, “old Ho can’t turn me down.”  Wrong.

Well, Ho was a Marxist ideologue, and he rejected the offer the next day.  Johnson must have been perplexed.  LBJ couldn’t understand a sociopathic Marxist ideologue like Ho, and today’s liberals cannot comprehend the fact that Islam is the driving force in our present-day world-wide struggle with a resurgent, modernized ideology that is replacing the failed Arab socialist nationalism of the twentieth century.

America’s Resilience

by Robert Morrison

February 19, 2015

Many of my friends, not surprisingly, consider these the worst of times. They tell me they fear for the survival of our country and certainly for the survival of civil and religious freedoms we cherish. There is no doubt that under this administration, our liberties have been imperiled. No administration in history has targeted religious freedoms.

For example, in the little-noticed case of Hosanna Tabor v. EEOC (2012), the Obama administration tried to order The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod* (LCMS) to change its 170-year definition of who is and who is not a commissioned minister in that 2.4 million member church body. This was a stunning example of denial of religious freedom, but the Obama administration took its unprecedented interpretation of constitutional law all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Happily for freedom, the Obama administration’s tortured reading of the laws was rejected by the High Court by a vote of 9-0. Such unanimous rulings are very rare in the Supreme Court, as we know. But it is an indication of the radicalism of this administration that it was so determined to crush freedom that it would boldly go where no administration in 223 years had gone before.

Members of our U.S. military—our all-volunteer force—are daily feeling the lash of political correctness. As President Obama seems to make every allowance for Islam at home and abroad, his administration has banned Bibles in military hospitals while covering up Christian symbols at VA hospitals and threatening chaplains with discipline if they even mention faith in Christ as part of suicide prevention programs. The United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC) confirmed for me that the high religiosity of Black women was a major factor in their low rates of suicide.

Several years ago, Coast Guard Admiral Dean Lee courageously stood up for freedom and faith at the National Prayer Breakfast. He said what so many in the military feel: That Christian faith is under attack.

The admiral reminded me of my own time in the Coast Guard and his courage encourages me still. It also reminds me of the hope we have for real change in our country.

The ship on which I served was in the news recently for an historic drug bust. The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Boutwell (WHEC-719) seized $423 million worth of cocaine. When we consider that it cost about $20 million ($142 million in 2014 dollars) to build the Boutwell in 1967, and that she has been serving our country every since, it seems in this case, the American taxpayers certainly got their money’s worth.

I’m very proud to have served on the Boutwell. But I certainly wasn’t proud on my last day on that vessel. I was leaving the Coast Guard in Seattle in 1978 when I was given a ride home by some of my enlisted friends. These Quartermasters—highly intelligent guys who made the mid watches in the Bering Sea enjoyable—offered me a joint! I was heartbroken. No wonder we were never able to catch the pot smokers on our ship. They were being tipped off. It depressed me and filled with a sense of betrayal.

Four years later, I was living in Connecticut with my wife, a lieutenant commander in the Navy. She came home from Naval Hospital Groton and said we should take a tour of the Cutter paying a visit to the Coast Guard Academy across the Thames River in New London.

I hesitated. I was concerned as I recalled my last day in the service. But overcame my doubts and proudly accompanied my wife. She received a snappy salute from a “squared away” young Seaman Apprentice standing guard at the brow of the ship. He offered us a tour of the Cutter. From that first encounter through the hour-long visit, we saw nothing but hard-working seamen who seemed proud of their ship and their mission.

What had changed? The Navy and Coast Guard had dropped the lax attitude of the 1970s toward sideburns, mustaches, beer-in-the-barracks and had instituted a Zero Tolerance policy for drugs. I didn’t like the fact that my wife had to take drug tests in the presence of Navy Corps Waves, but the policy worked. It largely eliminated the abuse of drugs in the sea services.

Pride in the uniform was restored. Gone were the sideburns. Gone, too, was the 1970’s policy of requiring civilian attire in Washington, D.C. for military officers going to and from work at Headquarters. Instead, officers and enlisted were required to wear their uniforms.

It almost goes without saying the change in those four years (1978-82) was dramatic. And it reflects in no small way the changes in leadership at the top. President Jimmy Carter had been swept out in a landslide and Ronald Reagan was swept in. Reagan loved and respected our all-volunteer military. He made our troops proud to serve again and proud of their uniforms.

When liberal reporters challenged Reagan the candidate in 1980, they said: “You seem to criticize a lot in the Carter administration, Governor. What would you do differently?”

Everything,” Reagan responded with a smile. And he did change everything.

America has been richly blessed by God. We are a resilient country and our hope for change has not died. All that is needed is a leader who will approach the tasks set before him or her with that same determination: Do everything differently.

*The author’s own denomination.

Does Obama’s Middle-Class Economics “Work”?

by Christina J. Daniels

February 19, 2015

In the 2015 State of the Union Address, President Barack Obama made the argument that middle-class economics “works.” He defined middle-class economics as, “the idea that this country does best when everyone gets their fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules.” But does middle-class economics “work?”

Historically, the idea of a fair chance combined with hard work is at the core of the American Dream. Opportunity, integrity, diligence and effort have combined to make America extraordinarily prosperous. Yet what does Mr. Obama mean by “fair share?”

Apparently he believes this share should include taking money from one segment of the population and transferring it to another – specifically, to those who wish to attend community college. It’s to this end that the President says he wants to make attending community college cost-free.

Yet education funded by redistribution cannot meet the requirements of the real-world job market. In 2009, Time Magazine equated a college degree to a driver’s license, due to its availability. CNN noted that “41% of college graduates from the last two years are stuck in jobs that don’t require a degree.” In March 2014, the liberal news source ThinkProgess also noted that “half a Million People with college degrees are working for (the) minimum wage.” The Huffington Post wrote an article giving seven reasons not to go to college and stated, “The people who sent us down the path of higher education clearly don’t understand basic economics and the law of supply and demand.” Currently, jobs that were once for low-skilled workers are crowded with college students.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, 19% of high school graduates cannot read, 14% of Americans cannot read and 21% of Americans read below a 5th grade level. By proposing policies such as free community college, the President is ignoring facts in favor of untenable proposals. As the Huffington Post notes, “The U.S. Illiteracy Rate Hasn’t changed in 10 Years:”

According to the Department of Justice, the link between academic failure and delinquency, violence, and crime is welded to reading failure.” The stats back up this claim: 85 percent of all juveniles who interface with the juvenile court system are functionally illiterate, and over 70 percent of inmates in America’s prisons cannot read above a fourth grade level.

In addition, Begin to Read compiled statistics showing, “two out of three children that do not learn to read by the fourth grade will end up in jail or on welfare”. The article further stated, “Penal institution records show that inmates have a 16% chance of returning to prison if they receive literacy help, as opposed to 70% who receive no help.” Illiteracy and prison rates plague the poor and are factors which, as Dr. Patrick Fagan of Marriage and Religion Research Institute documents, further heighten the problem of fatherlessness in America.

So, it’s clear that middle-class economics, as defined by the President, do not “work.” Providing free community college will further devalue education and hurt the poor. When disadvantaged individuals are locked out of society, they do not have a “fair shot,” they cannot do their “fair share,” and they are not playing by the “same set of rules.” To ensure that disadvantaged families have a “fair shot,” liberal politicians must address our nation’s illiteracy problem and its roots – fatherlessness and family breakdown. We should be focusing on helping children that fail kindergarten, families that are locked in multigenerational illiteracy and government dependency and college students struggling to read.

The use of school choice and reforming public housing policy are steps toward making change possible. Giving parents the freedom to choose the school and neighborhood they desire will help alleviate the negative impact of centralized poverty. In high poverty areas, schools and neighborhoods are disproportionately filled with single mothers and peers from less educated households.[i] As Star Parker from the Center for Urban Renewal and Education (CURE) states, we must “bust up” the “ghettos” that public schools and government housing have created. With education and housing choice, we can be sure that everyone is playing by the “same rules” and receives a “fair shot.”

And there is no substitute for a strong, two-parent family in which a mom and a dad get married, stay married, and worship weekly with their children. No community college can ever provide that kind of security, opportunity or love.



[i] Fram, M. S., J. E. Miller-Cribbs, and L. Van Horn. “Poverty, Race, and the Contexts of Achievement: Examining Educational Experiences of Children in the U.S. South.” Social Work 52, no. 4 (2007): 309-19.South

George Washington: He’s Still There

by Robert Morrison

February 16, 2015

Today is Presidents Day. By Act of Congress it is Washington’s Birthday. President Obama recently invited reporters into his kitchen and told them he the first president since George Washington to brew spirits in the White House. He was quickly corrected: George Washington laid the cornerstone for the White House, but he never lived to set foot in it.

I am more interested in distilling the spirit of George Washington than in his distilling of spirits. George Washington was described in a famous eulogy by Henry “Lighthorse Harry” Lee as “first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.” He was viewed by Americans for most of our 238 years as the greatest of presidents.

Arguably, Lincoln is the only serious competition as our greatest president. But that first great American Chief is always there setting the standard.

It is no exaggeration to say Washington was the most unifying of our presidents. Who else could win the nation’s highest office with back-to-back unanimous votes in the Electoral College? Thomas Jefferson pleaded with Washington to serve for (he never had to run for) a second term.“North and South will hang together if they have you to hang on,” Mr. Jefferson wrote to President Washington. Even that early, in 1792, the specter of disunion loomed.

Abraham Lincoln was the most divisive of our presidents. That does not diminish his standing, And it says more about us than about him. Still, it must be acknowledged. What other presidential election could have sparked a bloody four-year Civil War?

We can certainly thank God it did not come to that in the disputed 1876 election between Tilden and Hayes. In the 1960 cliff-hanger between Kennedy and Nixon, the winner’s margin was only 114,000 in popular votes. In the famous instance of Bush v. Gore in 2000, 537 votes in Florida and a Supreme Court ruling determined the outcome.

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Through all of this, George Washington was the model. He certainly was for Abraham Lincoln. Young Abe read Parson Weems’ biography as a boy. And when as President-elect he departed Springfield for Washington, D.C. in 1861, he told his loving neighbors he knew not when, nor whether, he would see them again.

The task before him, he sadly noted, was greater than that shouldered by great Washington. It was. And that word “whether” proved to be prophetic. Lincoln never again saw his Springfield neighbors.

My favorite image of President Barack Obama remains The New Yorker cover from January 2009 that welcomed his first inauguration. He was hailed as “First.” He was.

[http://news.bbc.co.uk/media/images/47112000/jpg/_47112111_01_26_2009friedman_obama.jpg]

Enslavement of Black Americans has rightly been called our nation’s “original sin.” The Founders struggled with it. How to gradually emancipate the slaves without sparking a race war was a question that haunted them. How could they prepare slaves for freedom so that they did not wind up like sailors suddenly given a wild liberty? How could they persuade white Americans to accept their fellow Americans of African descent as full and equal citizens?

Barack Obama in 2009 had a God-given opportunity to knit together the frayed fabric of America. He might have overcome the bitter divisions of Red State and Blue State, of liberal and conservative. He spoke of Americans in “flyover country” as people who would cling to their guns and their religion. It was for him as cutting a comment as dismissing 47% of the electorate.

He never looked to the Founders, or to Lincoln, for that matter, as a guide. He seems to resent the Founders for their failure to solve the slavery question. He coldly dismissed the Constitutional Convention:

I could not have walked through that front door.”

Most historians agree with that harsh assessment, regrettably. But I am not so sure. If young Barack Obama had arrived in Philadelphia, at the First Continental Congress, as a graduate of Harvard, and walking into the Old State House arm-in-arm with John and Samuel Adams, he might just have gained entry. The Secretary of Continental Congress was the Evangelical, Charles Thomson, an opponent of slavery. Or, had this Columbia University graduate been elected along with the staunchly anti-slavery Alexander Hamilton from New York State, he might have been admitted as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention. An anti-slavery spirit was moving among the delegates from most of the northern states in the 1780s. They might have seen an intelligent and eloquent young Barack Obama as a key ally in their efforts to eradicate what almost all then considered a stumbling block for on our claims to represent “A New Order of the Ages.”

George Washington was a slaveholder. He presided over the Constitutional Convention in serene silence as his good friend Gouverneur Morris denounced slavery. Witty, urbane Morris condemned as “a curse of Heaven” upon all those states that continued to be shackled to it. Perhaps Morris’ stinging words moved Washington to free his slaves in his will.

Might the whole horror of the Civil War—with its 630,000 dead and its vast destruction of property—have been avoided if only every slaveholder had followed George Washington’s splendid example and voluntarily freed his slaves? Washington’s own motto—Deeds, not Words—could have been their inspiration. See what he did.

Barack Obama seems unwilling to give a presidential pardon to any of the Founders. He has an idea for “fundamentally transforming this country.” And he’s dead set on achieving it by any means necessary.

I’ve always found the “Progressives’” angry criticisms of the Founders on the slavery question more than a little hypocritical. The Founders tried, failed, and tried again and again to find a way out.

Today’s Progressives know that unborn children are human beings. Joe Klein told them so in TIME Magazine in 2012. “Ultra-sound has made it impossible to deny that that thing in the womb is a human being,” the liberal journalist wrote. Progressives like President Obama, however, live in that denial every day.

George Washington wanted the promise of freedom extended “to millions yet unborn.” He did his best personally and politically to fulfill that promise. When Progressives in the 1920s began their angry assaults on George Washington’s historic reputation, President Calvin Coolidge just pointed out his office window at his Monument: “He’s still there.”

 

Lesson from Obama Deception on Same-Sex “Marriage”: Watch What He Does, Not What He Says

by Peter Sprigg

February 13, 2015

News broke this week that former Obama political strategist David Axelrod has published a book in which he admits that, as Time magazine put it, “Barack Obama misled Americans for his own political benefit when he claimed in the 2008 election to oppose same sex marriage for religious reasons.”

It may well be that adopting this posture was effective in reassuring some moderate to left-leaning evangelicals, and socially conservative pastors and members in African American churches, who were drawn to Obama’s historic candidacy but would not have supported a redefinition of “marriage.”

Mr. Obama continued to publicly oppose a redefinition of marriage until he announced a change of heart in 2012.

The revelation that Mr. Obama’s position was one of convenience rather than conviction comes as no surprise to Family Research Council. President Obama’s actions have always spoken louder than his words, and his actions always belied his claim to oppose same-sex “marriage.”

As early as August of 2008, shortly before then-Senator Obama accepted the Democratic nomination for President, I wrote something that seems to be essentially what Axelrod is now verifying:

. .  [I]t is clear that Obama’s supposed “opposition” to “gay marriage” is a matter of political strategy—nothing more.   All it means is that he is unwilling, for political reasons, to make legalizing it a policy priority for which he will actively campaign.”

Below is reprinted in full the piece that I wrote for FRC Action (which is still available on the web):

Obama Backs Same-Sex “Marriage”

By Peter Sprigg
FRC Action
August 2008
http://www.frcaction.org/get.cfm?i=WX08H01

 

In recent weeks, there has been a spate of stories suggesting that Barack Obama has begun moving to the center.   On issues ranging from the Iraq war to terrorist surveillance to gun control, Obama has been moderating some of his previous liberal positions.

But there is at least one issue on which Obama has been moving steadily to the left.   In fact, it’s now fair to say it—Barack Obama supports same-sex “marriage.” All that’s left is for him to admit it.

You may not find a statement anywhere from Obama in which he comes right out and says, “I support same-sex marriage.”   In fact, on March 2, Obama said, “I will tell you that I don’t believe in gay marriage … . I believe in civil unions … . [but] I don’t think it should be called marriage.”

But when Obama says, “I don’t believe in gay marriage,” what is he really saying?   The evidence suggests that he is not saying what most people would mean by that statement-namely, that there is good reason why marriage, in principle, ought to be defined as the union of one man and one woman.

In fact, when you examine it closely, it is clear that Obama’s supposed “opposition” to “gay marriage” is a matter of political strategy—nothing more.   All it means is that he is unwilling, for political reasons, to make legalizing it a policy priority for which he will actively campaign.

For example, Obama has more than once endorsed the analogy, often used by activists, between homosexual “marriage” and interracial marriage.   He told The Advocate, “I’m the product of a mixed marriage that would have been illegal in 12 states when I was born.   That doesn’t mean that had I been an adviser to Dr. King back then, I would have told him to lead with repealing an antimiscegenation law, because it just might not have been the best strategy in terms of moving broader equality forward.”

Presumably, Obama supports legal recognition of his parents’ marriage-so the comparison would suggest that he supports legal recognition of same-sex “marriage” also, but worries only that the current campaign for it is not “the best strategy.”

When the California Supreme Court legalized same-sex “marriage” in May, it would have been a perfect opportunity for Obama to display “centrist” credentials.   To be consistent with his stated position on the issue, Obama should have condemned the court’s decision, while endorsing the status quo of the generous “domestic partner” benefits already granted under state law.   Instead, his campaign announced that Obama “respects the decision of the California Supreme Court.”

Are there any policies safeguarding man-woman marriage that Obama will endorse?   Not constitutional amendments, since he has declared, “I oppose the divisive and discriminatory efforts to amend the California Constitution, and similar efforts to amend the U.S. Constitution or those of other states.”

What about the federal Defense of Marriage Act?   This is the 1996 statute, signed into law by President Bill Clinton, which defined marriage for all purposes under federal law as the union of one man and one woman.   It also declared that states would have no obligation to recognize same-sex “marriages” from other states.

Obama favors complete repeal of this law, which would open the door for the federal government to recognize same-sex marriages in Massachusetts and California and grant domestic partner benefits to federal employees, and would in effect allow California to redefine marriage for the entire country.

I haven’t found any evidence that Obama supports statutory provisions at the state level to define marriage as the union of a man and a woman, either.   He joined the Illinois State Senate the year after that state adopted its Defense of Marriage Act.

The final nail in the coffin for Obama’s supposed “opposition” to same-sex marriage can be found in a letter he wrote to a California “LGBT Pride” group on June 29.   Obama concludes the letter by saying, “I want to congratulate all of you who have shown your love for each other by getting married these last few weeks.”

To summarize, Obama supports granting 100% of the legal rights and benefits of marriage to homosexual couples; opposes virtually any legal means available of defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman (calling them “divisive and discriminatory”); “respects” courts that unilaterally overturn the democratically determined definition of marriage; compares legalizing same-sex “marriage” with legalizing interracial marriage; and “congratulates” homosexual couples who have entered into legally-recognized civil marriages.

This is not the description of someone who opposes same-sex “marriage.”   Obama supports same-sex “marriage”—and he should be honest enough to say that to American voters. 

Washington Post Commentator: President Obama’s Prayer Breakfast Remarks “Patronizing in the Extreme”

by Rob Schwarzwalder

February 10, 2015

Eugene Robinson, no social conservative, is a columnist for the Washington Post.  In his op-ed in today’s paper, he offers a thoughtful critique of President Obama’s National Day of Prayer comments about Christians, the Crusades, and slavery.  Titled, “At the prayer breakfast, President Obama struck a patronizing tone,” here are some trenchant excerpts:

… the abolitionist movement grew out of Christian belief and the Christian church. William Wilberforce, the great British activist who spurred the abolition of slavery throughout the empire — and greatly inspired abolitionists in the United States — was a born-again Christian. Long before the Civil War, the religious and moral argument had been won by the anti-slavery side … the civil rights movement never could have triumphed without the Christian churches, both in the South and the North, which served as organizational nodes. The institution led by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was called the Southern Christian Leadership Conference … to compare the depredations of the Islamic State with those of the Crusaders is patronizing in the extreme. Why? Because Muslims are not slow learners who can be held to only a medieval moral standard. Everyone in the world can be expected to know that it is wrong to burn a helpless human being alive, as Islamic State murderers did to a captive Jordanian pilot.”

Tarnishing Freedom in Georgia

by Travis Weber

January 28, 2015

It is reported that down in Georgia, opponents of individual rights and personal freedom are ratcheting up their smear campaign against proposed religious liberty legislation known as the “Preventing Government Overreach on Religious Expression Act,” which is designed to ensure that individuals’ consciences cannot be easily trampled by intrusive government regulation.

A web page titled “Better Georgia” purports to state concerns with the legislation, House Bill 29, but is filled entirely with omissions and misrepresentations regarding H.B. 29 and how religious liberty law actually works. Let’s fact-check some of its ridiculous claims.

Claim:

This bill would open the door to people who would use their religion to opt out of laws from child welfare to discrimination. It would lead to legal chaos over whose religion is more important in the eyes of our courts and lawmakers. The legislation would give criminals who abusetheir children or spouses a new excuse and make it even more difficult for police officers to put abusers behind bars.”

Veracity Level:

False. Child abuse is evil, and no one defends it. However, it is indeed offensive for Better Georgia’s out-of-state backers to imply that religious believers in Georgia are to blame for such abuse. Moreover, no religious freedom laws, including H.B. 29, permit people to “opt out” of child welfare laws, nor do such laws allow people to abuse their children.

Better Georgia had better check its fact-checkers.

The truth is that under H.B. 29, as with any strict scrutiny application to religious claims, an individual first has to prove they have a sincere religious belief, which has been substantially burdened by the government action in question. Only then can the claim move forward. Even then, if the government can show it has compelling interest in burdening the religious practice, and has done so through the least restrictive means, it is allowed to burden the religious exercise in question.

Thus, H.B. 29 does not automatically permit religious claims to win, but does provide a method for sincere conscientious objectors to be protected, while winnowing out those using religion as a pretext to escape application of general laws. This standard has been used in constitutional law for decades, and has been applied to religious claims for over 20 years under the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (“RFRA”), without any of the alleged “concerns” and “fears” RFRA opponents point to.

In its 1990 decision Employment Division v. Smith, the Supreme Court significantly restricted free exercise rights, holding that laws infringing on religious exercise did not violate the First Amendment as long as they were neutral and generally applicable. In Smith, an individual sought and was denied unemployment benefits by the State of Oregon because he used peyote—a criminalized, controlled substance—yet he claimed his use of peyote was a religious practice protected by the Free Exercise Clause. The Supreme Court rejected this claim, holding that if a neutral and generally applicable law (such as the uniformly applicable criminal law in this case) happens to infringes on religious practice, such a law does not violate the Free Exercise Clause.

Many rightly saw Smith as a reduction in the protection afforded religious liberty, and the reaction to the Court’s decision was overwhelming. In 1993, a coalition of groups from across the religious and legal spectrum—from the Southern Baptists to the ACLU—came together to urge Congress to pass a law restoring strong protections for free exercise claims. The political support for such a law was also overwhelming, including strong backing from Democratic Congressional leaders such as Senator Ted Kennedy and Representatives Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, and Jerry Nadler. RFRA was passed unanimously by the U.S. House, 97-3 by the Senate, and signed into law by President Clinton. In over 20 years that the federal RFRA has been in existence, there is been no documented pattern of abuses such as those no claimed by the opponents of H.B. 29. As others have asked, where are these alleged child abusers and discriminators who are supposedly walking away from criminal charges under RFRA? They simply do not exist.

RFRA never was and should not be a partisan issue, as it protects those of all faiths and political persuasions. A review of RFRA and free exercise case law reveals its benefit to everyone from Muslims to Jews, Christians to Santeria adherents, and Native Americans to more obscure sects (among others), as they seek to protect their beliefs and consciences from being burdened by an ever-more intrusive government. Moreover, RFRAs cut across racial and social lines, and apply in a variety of factual scenarios, such as property disputes, restrictions on caring from the homeless, conscience objections to abortion, and restrictions on using controlled substances in religious ceremonies. They are not fact-specific. They are not race-specific. They are not religion-specific. And they are not political party-specific.

Despite this fact, many will attempt to manipulate the clear text of the law for partisan aims. Even a group of law professors writing in opposition to the bill can’t conceal their political agenda. They write:

The Federal RFRA, however, arose in a political context very different from the current one. The Federal RFRA responded directly to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Employment Division v. Smith (1990), which many people perceived as a significant setback in constitutional protection for the religious liberty of vulnerable minority faith groups. The coalition that supported RFRA included Democrats and Republicans, people of all faiths, and groups that cared generally about civil liberties.”

So what these law professors—who might purport to neutrally explain the law and not promote partisan views—openly admit is that they only care about certain religious rights. Moreover, they imply that the people who supported RFRA in 1993 cared about “civil liberties” while those who support it now don’t. The truth is that some of those who supported it then still support it now. Shameful. These professors might as well just admit they are elevating their political preferences over the equal application of a neutral law. In addition, their position purporting high-minded concern that H.B. 29 might “invite” discrimination is contrary to a proper understanding of First Amendment law and its strict scrutiny standard (which RFRA codifies). The Supreme Court has consistently held that First Amendment rights are to be elevated over nondiscrimination principles—in Hurley v. Irish-American Gay, Lesbian, & Bisexual Group of Boston (pertaining to free speech) and in Boy Scouts of America v. Dale (pertaining to freedom of association).

Indeed, the text of H.B. 29 itself reveals an open-mindedness and neutrality which is at opposition to such political posturing, and at odds with the narrow-minded, politically-charged misrepresentations being thrown around on the internet by Better Georgia. Before unquestioningly getting on the bandwagon, everyone needs to take a deep breath and look at what actually is going on.

The alleged “incidents” highlighted by these scaremongers at Better Georgia are exactly that—scaremongering. The case of the toddler in Canada who died after severe application of Seventh-day Adventist dietary rules (aside from the issue that this is anything but a “pattern” of behavior) would not be an issue under H.B. 29 or any similar law—the government has the most compelling of interests in preventing deaths of children. The religious liberty claim would therefore flatly fail in that case. Rather than highlighting one scaremongering scenario which occurred in Canada, these purveyors of smear could focus on instances of suppression of religious practice closer to home. Georgians know better, as they recognize the threats illuminated by Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran’s termination due to his religious views.

Indeed, Chief Cochran’s recent firing clearly illustrates the threat to religious expression which is alive and well at home in Georgia. Despite the city’s assertion that Chief Cochran’s religion is not at issue in his termination (while his “discrimination” allegedly is), the city is trying to disconnect two areas—Chief Cochran’s religious beliefs, and human sexuality—which cannot be disconnected. The chief’s orthodox and faithful Christian views on sexuality are what inform his views of a variety of sexual conduct, including but not limited to homosexual conduct, which he believes (in concert with historic and orthodox Christian teaching) departs from God’s standard. The city is trying to ignore the fact that faithful Christianity directly informs views on sexuality. When the chief is punished for these views, he’s being punished for his religion. His case has everything to do with religion, and reveals the hostility to religion present in Atlanta.

Moreover, Better Georgia’s “example” of the Canadian child abuse scenario reveals a deeper issue—sloppy analysis and a lack of critical thinking. Better Georgia links to a story about a religious believer’s alleged child abuse, yet fails to point out that no religious claim was even brought in the case. Of course, the fact that this “example” took place in Canada with its entirely different legal system was lost on the group too. It’s almost as if Better Georgia has scoured the web for any information it can find which links bad things happening with religion. The group certainly has not come up with a legitimate example showing any serious danger of H.B. 29.

Even the group’s touting of an opinion piece by a Georgia district attorney misses the mark. The examples in that piece involve criminal prosecution for child abuse without any discussion of a successful religious defense. Child abuse and other cases involving bodily harm to human beings are prosecuted routinely nationwide every day. These take place in states with laws like H.B. 29. Yet how often have we heard about successful religious freedom defenses to such prosecutions? Why can’t Better Georgia or any of its opponents point to any?

The reason they cannot is that such defenses are not successful. Multiple courts in multiple states have held that preventing child abuse is a compelling government interest. Georgia courts have already held that the state has a compelling interest in the welfare of children. As noted above, under H.B. 29 and similar laws, the government can burden religious beliefs when it has a compelling government interest. In failing to discuss this point while asserting the dangers of H.B. 29, District Attorney Cooke has misrepresented the danger of the bill and needs to revisit his analysis.

Another “case” cited by H.B. 29 opponents is a situation involving parents beating their son to death. According to Better Georgia, these parents might be able to walk away from criminal charges because of H.B. 29. Not only is this an absolute distraction from the issue, but it is an insult to Georgians’ intelligence that they might consider H.B. 29 to legitimately offer a defense to such actions. Better Georgia claims “abusers will be able to hide behind religion in court.” Really? How would they do that under H.B. 29? This group, which is shamefully playing on Georgians’ fears based on cooked-up nonexistent situations, has not pointed to one legitimate explanation of how this scenario would be permitted under the strict scrutiny standard laid out above.

Indeed, Better Georgia does not even highlight any attempted legal defense using a religious freedom claim. The fear that there would be one appears nonexistent. Yet, sadly, this simplistic reduction of how religious freedom law works manipulates human passion and deliberately confuses in order to promote division and hatred of religious people—based entirely on misrepresentations. Better Georgia should be ashamed. Georgia does deserve better.

It’s unclear what Better Georgia is even specifically basing its claims on in these alleged “concerning scenarios.” Perhaps it is looking at language in Section 50-15A-3 to exclude the bill’s application to parental rights regarding “the care and custody of such parent’s minor children.” But any simple reading of this provision reveals that it is stating the area of parental rights as it currently exists is to be left unrestricted by the additional protections of H.B. 29. Therefore, the state will continue to be able to regulate parental rights as it currently does, and this bill does not alter that. Indeed, H.B. 29 notes that these parental rights issues are to be left unrestricted “as provided for under the laws of this state and of the United States.”

Yet the Better Georgia “advocacy” does not stop there. Alas, more fact checking is needed.

Claim:

Georgia House Bill 29 would provide a free pass for business owners who believe homosexuality is a sin to openly deny gay Americans employment or service.”

Veracity Level:

False. Neither H.B. 29 nor other similar laws applying strict scrutiny to claims of religious exercise give anyone a “free pass.” As pointed out above, the religious liberty claim has to go through multiple hurdles before receiving protection under the law. Moreover, the evidence of such “free passes” being permitted is simply nonexistent. A cursory evaluation of how other similar laws have been interpreted reveals no “free passes.” Indeed, it is notable that Better Georgia can’t even cite to one instance of a business owner “openly deny[ing]” such service!

For these same reasons, claims that the Michigan RFRA will “let EMTs refuse to serve gay people” and that the Arizona and Mississippi RFRAs from previous years are “right-to-discriminate” bills are completely misleading. When people are provided with a proper understanding of strict scrutiny’s application to religious claims, they can see that those making these “free pass” arguments are engaged in baseless fabrication.

More fact-checking is needed.

Claim:

A restaurateur could deny service to an out-of-wedlock mother, a cop could refuse to intervene in a domestic dispute if his religion allows for husbands beating their wives, and a hotel chain could refuse to rent rooms to Jews, Hindus or Muslims.”

Veracity Level:

False. Indeed, the opposite is true. The protections in H.B. 29 are the very protections needed to ensure the exercise of all religions—whether Jews, Hindus, or Muslims—is protected. If the smear campaign had cared to accurately represent this point, it would have seen that only this month, the U.S. Supreme Court protected a Muslim inmate’s right to religious practice under the same strict scrutiny standard in RFRA’s cousin—the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act.

Indeed, H.B. 29 and similar laws protect religious exercise regardless of religion. These laws do NOT discriminate, nor do they discriminate between religions, but protect individual religious claims under the framework explained above. Moreover, they protect religious exercise in a variety of situations—such as the Texas RFRA’s protection of those seeking to feed the homeless—which are not cited in this attempt to incite hatred against religion. Any simple reading of the law will reveal all this. But apparently Better Georgia did not even do that.

RFRA never was and should not become a partisan issue, as it protects those of all faiths and political persuasions. Thankfully, some liberal organizations are willing to more fairly represent it. Aside from what Better Georgia thinks, all Americans of political persuasions and religions who care about individual expression should be supporting H.B. 29. The bill’s text and our own judicial system’s well-grounded history of analyzing religious claims lend support to this conclusion. Meanwhile, Better Georgia’s conclusions have no support whatsoever.

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