Category archives: Government

Federal Judge: Revised “Accommodation” for Religious Organizations Still not Good Enough

by Travis Weber

October 29, 2014

For the first time since the Obama Administration “tweaked” its HHS mandate “accommodation” this past August, a federal judge has issued a preliminary injunction blocking the government from enforcing the mandate on certain religious organizations. This is welcome news.

After the Hobby Lobby opinion came down, and after the Supreme Court issued its interim order in Wheaton College v. Burwell, the Administration revised it’s “accommodation” to permit religious objectors to HHS of their objection directly in addition to filling out the EBSA Form 700, if they chose. As we have argued before, however, this alternative step still leaves those with sincere religious objections in the position of having facilitated and played a part in matters which they believe are morally evil. The “revised accommodation” still forces these religious objectors to violate their conscience. Whether one government form is placed between them and the moral evil, they are still forced to take action which sets the objectionable activity in motion.

For this reason, we are heartened to see that Judge James Moody from the Middle District of Florida has blocked the administration from forcing its Interim Final Regulations on Ave Maria University, which had filed suit to avoid being forced to violate deeply held religious beliefs under threat of heavy fines. Judge Moody noted that the same consideration on which the 11th Circuit relied in granting relief for EWTN in Eternal Word Television Network, Inc. v. Sec’y, U.S. Dep’t of Health & Human Services, 756 F.3d 1339 (11th Cir. 2014) earlier this year was at play here – imminent harm to a religious organization which would be forced to violate its principles of conscience once the organization’s insurance plan year kicked in and the HHS mandate applied. Judge Moody thus granted relief for Ave Maria University. The school’s freedom of religion is protected – at least for now.

Fifty Years After

by Robert Morrison

October 27, 2014

Every poll confirmed that the Republican nominee for President in 1964 was headed for a major defeat. Sen. Barry Goldwater (R-Ariz.) had pulled off an amazing victory to gain the GOP nomination in San Francisco. He had soundly defeated such Eastern Establishment figures as Gov. Nelson Rockefeller (R-N.Y.) and Gov. William Scranton (R-Penn.) Goldwater’s campaign for the nomination is seen today as the beginning of the modern conservative movement in politics.

The liberal media was determined to destroy Sen. Goldwater. They depicted him as the “mad bomber.” Their editorial pages ran hostile cartoons. One typical one showed him as a crazed trainman on a San Francisco cable car. “Streetcar Named Disaster” was the caption for that political cartoon, a reference to the play “A Streetcar Named Desire.”

Despite all this, and fully aware that he was about to make his national political debut backing a losing cause, actor and TV personality, and former union president Ronald Reagan went on national television to deliver a 29-minute speech titled: “A Time for Choosing.”

It’s worth watching this speech in its entirety. We see her a younger, edgier Ronald Reagan than we may be used to. He is angry but his righteous indignation is kept under tight control. He clearly believes that his friend, Barry Goldwater, has been savaged by the Lyndon B. Johnson campaign and by their willing accomplices in the press.

Reagan hammers home point after point, but he takes care to use stories to convey his message. My favorite line is about the Cuban exile who tells of his brutal mistreatment under Communist dictator Fidel Castro. When his American businessmen listeners remark how lucky they are to live under freedom, the Cuban says how lucky he is. “I had some place to escape to!” Reagan makes the point: If we lose freedom in America, there will be no place to escape to.”

I was too young to vote in 1964 and I missed this famous speech. In those days, you couldn’t DVR or TiVo TV broadcasts. But I certainly heard about Reagan’s amazing speech. It raised millions of dollars for the doomed Republican campaign. It was perhaps the only bright spot that fall for the outgunned GOP.

President Johnson carried forty-four states that fall and swept thousands of liberal Democrats into office on his coattails. Towns in Vermont and Kansas that had never elected a Democrat to any office at any level went with the Democrats that Election Day.

But within two years, the wheels were coming off the LBJ bandwagon. Within his own party, opponents to U.S. military involvement in Vietnam began to be heard. Inflation took off, leaving millions of Americans—especially retirees on fixed incomes and service members still enduring the military draft—falling further and further behind. By the time of the 1966 mid-term elections, scores of those Johnson had swept into Congress were swept out by voters.

In 1966, Ronald Reagan was elected Governor of California. He defeated liberal Democrat Pat Brown (father of the current Gov. Jerry Brown) by more than one million votes. Reagan served two highly successful terms as California’s governor.

His election as President in 1980 was still considered something of a long shot, largely because the liberal media continued to view him as “extreme” and “dangerous.” Reagan, however, never reacted angrily. He learned to keep his temper in check and use his well-developed sense of humor to puncture liberal shibboleths.

Still, it’s well worth remembering that it all began for Ronald Reagan this day in 1964, half a century ago. Reagan was what they call a conviction politician. Or, in more recent computer jargon, WYSIWYG—What you see is what you get.

Here’s an example: I attended a staff conference in the federal education department in 1985. Mrs. Patricia Hines had convened the meeting of Reagan appointees to decide on a policy to pursue about education. Of five options offered us by the career civil service employees, Mrs. Hines opened the meeting by saying: “Options number three and number five are off the table, but let’s look at one, two and four.”

Innocently, I asked why she had ruled out those two choices. As if she was gently chiding a slow student, Mrs. Hines said: “Numbers three and five are specifically condemned in the Republican Platform on which President Reagan was elected. This president may not be able to do all the things the Republican Platform recommends, but he will never do something the platform condemns. That’s basic to government by consent of the governed.”

I was embarrassed that I had not studied the Platform, but I was thrilled to be so corrected. Ronald Reagan believed that the people who nominated him and elected him had done so because they believed in him and trusted him to do what he said he would do. He would not break faith with them.

For thirty years—from this day in 1964 until that day in 1994 when  he wrote his dignified and moving letter telling us he had Alzheimer’s Disease, Ronald Reagan was the acknowledged leader of American conservatism.

I especially like the fact that he quoted Founding Father Alexander Hamilton in his 1964 speech:

The nation that prefers disgrace to danger is ready for a master—and deserves one.”

This quote reminds us that Reagan quoted the timeless wisdom of the Founding Fathers more than any of the four presidents who preceded him (and more, too, than any of the four presidents who have succeeded him.)

America’s leaders have disgraced us all too often in the tumultuous years since President Reagan left us. Strong majorities today tell public opinion pollsters our country is on “the wrong track.” There is deep cynicism about political leadership.

Studying Reagan’s career is not an exercise in nostalgia. It is a necessary task if we would seek to place our beloved country on a better course.

Attacking Canada’s Parliament: “This Changes Everything”

by Robert Morrison

October 23, 2014

John McKay is a Member of Parliament in Canada. Of yesterday’s attack by a recent Muslim convert on the House of Commons, Mr. McKay said “This changes everything.” Just before he entered the Parliament building, the killer had murdered a Canadian Forces soldier at the Ottawa war memorial.

Parliament’s Sergeant-at-Arms, Kevin Vickers, is being hailed as a hero. On a normal day, Vickers’ largely ceremonial role would pass outside the view of Canada and the world. On special occasions, Vickers, a 28-year veteran of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), could be seen bearing the great mace, a symbol of the authority of the people’s elected representatives in North America’s second oldest democracy.

That war memorial is a tribute to Canada’s outstanding contribution to the Allies’strength in the First World War. Just one hundred years ago—while President Woodrow Wilson urged Americans to remain “neutral in thought as well as deed— Canadian soldiers rushed into action Over There. They helped to stave off the brutal German invasion of France. Canada had rallied to the Allied cause within just days of Britain’s declaration of war against Kaiser Germany in August 1914.

When at last President Wilson led America into World War I, he said our effort was “to make the world safe for democracy.” One hundred years later, Sergeant-at-Arms Vickers risked his life to make Canada safe for democracy—Canada and the United States.

What these Islamist killers are seeking is nothing less than an end to freedom in the world. They must be resisted—wherever and whenever necessary. The symbolism of a Sergeant-at-Arms actually using his weapon to take down a determined murderer should not be lost in the media buzz. Freedom must be defended not with words alone, but with deadly force.

That a determined killer could get into the halls of Parliament should force Canadians to consider how better to secure the seat of government. Congress was attacked in July, 1998, by a crazed gunman who shot and killed two Capitol policemen. That attack and the subsequent 9/11 terrorist attacks led to the building of a vast Capitol Visitors Center complex to restrict access to Congress.

But we need to remember that security barriers and guards alone cannot make us safe. There is probably no more heavily guarded place in America than the White House, and yet an intruder got inside the Executive Mansion several weeks ago when someone failed to lock the front door!

This administration has had an appalling record on national security. President Obama told the world we have 5,113 nuclear weapons. Many of us with military experience were prepared to lay down our lives to keep hostile powers from getting that kind of sensitive information.

As former Sec. of Defense Robert Gates has written, Mr. Obama only seemed interested in the military when he could use it to advance his agenda of radical social experimentation. Sec. Gates cited our Commander-in-Chief’s “absence of passion” about the armed services except when he pressed the Pentagon to recruit gays and persons seeking sex changes.

That “absence of passion” was surely on display yesterday when President Obama coolly and dispassionately spoke of the attack on Canada’s Parliament. He repeated only his time-worn bromides in a world-weary way. His deadpan expression and monotone remarks suggested he didn’t want to do anything that might dampen the ardor of his pacifist base two weeks before a critical mid-term election.

Let us remember: He won the crucial opening chapter in the race for the Democratic nomination for President by appealing to Iowa’s Peace Caucus delegates. Afterward, in state after state, candidate Obama beat Sen. Hillary Clinton by outbidding her in pledges to weaken the U.S. military and to soften the image of the U.S. in the world.

Once elected, he promised to approach the Mullahs of Iran “with an open hand, not a clenched fist.” These Mullahs—whom our own State Department have labeled the Number One state sponsors of terrorism in the world—spurned President Obama’s outstretched hand.

But that hardly seemed to matter. He already had his Nobel Peace Prize.

Let us hope that John McKay, the Canadian Member of Parliament, was correct: This attack in Ottawa should change everything.

Excerpts - Judge Upholds “Principles of Logic and Law” in Backing Natural Marriage in Puerto Rico

by Peter Sprigg

October 23, 2014

U. S. District Court Judge Juan M. Pérez-Giménez issued a ruling on October 21 upholding Puerto Rico’s law defining marriage:

Marriage is a civil institution that emanates from a civil contract by virtue of which a man and a woman are mutually obligated to be husband and wife . . .”

Pérez-Giménez, a Jimmy Carter appointee, was the second District Court judge to stand against the tide of judges who have asserted a constitutional right to “marry” someone of the same sex in the months since the June 2013 ruling of the Supreme Court in United States v. Windsor. (Windsor struck down the portion of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, or “DOMA” which defined marriage for all purposes of federal law as the union of one man and one woman.) Judge Martin L. C. Feldman upheld the Louisiana marriage law on September 3.

The fundamental basis of the opinion by Judge Pérez-Giménez was a simple one, but one that most of the other courts addressing this issue have sidestepped—namely, that there is already binding Supreme Court precedent on whether the U.S. Constitution requires states to permit “marriages” of same-sex couples, and the answer is, “No.”

Following are some excerpts from the strong decision (some citations omitted):

The plaintiffs have brought this challenge alleging a violation of the federal constitution, so the first place to begin is with the text of the Constitution. The text of the Constitution, however, does not directly guarantee a right to same-gender marriage . . .

Without the direct guidance of the Constitution, the next source of authority is relevant Supreme Court precedent interpreting the Constitution. On the question of same-gender marriage, the Supreme Court has issued a decision that directly binds this Court.

The petitioners in Baker v. Nelson [1972] were two men who had been denied a license to marry each other. They argued that Minnesota’s statutory definition of marriage as an opposite-gender relationship violated due process and equal protection – just as the plaintiffs argue here. The Minnesota Supreme Court rejected the petitioners’ claim . . .

The petitioners’ appealed … The Supreme Court considered both claims and unanimously dismissed the petitioners’ appeal “for want of [a] substantial federal question.”

… The dismissal was a decision on the merits, and it bound all lower courts with regard to the issues presented and necessarily decided, Mandel v. Bradley, … (1977) . . .

This Court is bound by decisions of the Supreme Court that are directly on point; only the Supreme Court may exercise “the prerogative of overruling its own decisions.” Rodriguez de Quijas v. Shearson/Am. Express, Inc., … (1989). This is true even where other cases would seem to undermine the Supreme Court’s prior holdings. Agostini v. Felton, … (1997)(“We do not acknowledge, and we do not hold, that other courts should conclude our more recent cases have, by implication, overruled an earlier precedent…”). After all, the Supreme Court is perfectly capable of stating its intention to overrule a prior case. But absent an express statement saying as much, lower courts must do as precedent requires.

… The Supreme Court, of course, is free to overrule itself as it wishes. But unless and until it does, lower courts are bound by the Supreme Court’s summary decisions “‘until such time as the Court informs [them] that [they] are not.’” Hicks v. Miranda, … (1975) … .

The First Circuit expressly acknowledged – a mere two years ago – that Baker remains binding precedent “unless repudiated by subsequent Supreme Court precedent.” Massachusetts v. U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, … (1st Cir. 2012). According to the First Circuit, Baker prevents the adoption of arguments that “presume or rest on a constitutional right to same-sex marriage.”

. . .

Windsor does not – cannot – change things. Windsor struck down Section 3 of DOMA which imposed a federal definition of marriage, as an impermissible federal intrusion on state power. The Supreme Court’s understanding of the marital relation as “a virtually exclusive province of the States,” (quoting Sosna v. Iowa, … (1975)), led the Supreme Court to conclude that Congress exceeded its power when it refused to recognize state-sanctioned marriages.

The Windsor opinion did not create a fundamental right to same-gender marriage nor did it establish that state opposite-gender marriage regulations are amenable to federal constitutional challenges. If anything, Windsor stands for the opposite proposition: it reaffirms the States’ authority over marriage, buttressing Baker’s conclusion that marriage is simply not a federal question. Contrary to the plaintiffs’ contention, Windsor does not overturn Baker; rather, Windsor and Baker work in tandem to emphasize the States’ “historic and essential authority to define the marital relation” free from “federal intrusion.” It takes inexplicable contortions of the mind or perhaps even willful ignorance – this Court does not venture an answer here – to interpret Windsor’s endorsement of the state control of marriage as eliminating the state control of marriage.

. . .

Lower courts, then, do not have the option of departing from disfavored precedent under a nebulous “doctrinal developments” test. See National Foreign Trade Council v. Natsios, … (1st Cir. 1999) (“[D]ebate about the continuing viability of a Supreme Court opinion does not, of course, excuse the lower federal courts from applying that opinion.”); see also, Scheiber v. Dolby Labs., Inc., … (7th Cir. 2002) (“[W]e have no authority to overrule a Supreme Court decision no matter how dubious its reasoning strikes us, or even how out of touch with the Supreme Court’s current thinking the decision seems.”)(Op. of Posner, J.).

. . .

IVCONCLUSION

That this Court reaches its decision by embracing precedent may prove disappointing. But the role of precedent in our system of adjudication is not simply a matter of binding all succeeding generations to the decision that is first in time. Instead, stare decisis embodies continuity, certainly, but also limitation: there are some principles of logic and law that cannot be forgotten.

Recent affirmances of same-gender marriage seem to suffer from a peculiar inability to recall the principles embodied in existing marriage law. Traditional marriage is “exclusively [an] opposite-sex institution … inextricably linked to procreation and biological kinship,” Windsor, … (Alito, J., dissenting). Traditional marriage is the fundamental unit of the political order. And ultimately the very survival of the political order depends upon the procreative potential embodied in traditional marriage.

Those are the well-tested, well-proven principles on which we have relied for centuries. The question now is whether judicial “wisdom” may contrive methods by which those solid principles can be circumvented or even discarded.

A clear majority of courts have struck down statutes that affirm opposite-gender marriage only. In their ingenuity and imagination they have constructed a seemingly comprehensive legal structure for this new form of marriage. And yet what is lacking and unaccounted for remains: are laws barring polygamy, or, say the marriage of fathers and daughters, now of doubtful validity? Is “minimal marriage”, where “individuals can have legal marital relationships with more than one person, reciprocally or asymmetrically, themselves determining the sex and number of parties” the blueprint for their design? See Elizabeth Brake, Minimal Marriage: What Political Liberalism Implies for Marriage Law, 120 ETHICS 302, 303 (2010). It would seem so, if we follow the plaintiffs’ logic, that the fundamental right to marriage is based on “the constitutional liberty to select the partner of one’s choice.”

Of course, it is all too easy to dismiss such concerns as absurd or of a kind with the cruel discrimination and ridicule that has been shown toward people attracted to members of their own sex. But the truth concealed in these concerns goes to the heart of our system of limited, consent-based government: those seeking sweeping change must render reasons justifying the change and articulate the principles that they claim will limit this newly fashioned right.

For now, one basic principle remains: the people, acting through their elected representatives, may legitimately regulate marriage by law. This principle

is impeded, not advanced, by court decrees based on the proposition that the public cannot have the requisite repose to discuss certain issues. It is demeaning to the democratic process to presume that the voters are not capable of deciding an issue of this sensitivity on decent and rational grounds … Freedom embraces the right, indeed the duty, to engage in a rational, civic discourse in order to determine how best to form a consensus to shape the destiny of the Nation and its people.

Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, … (2014)(Op. of Kennedy, J.).

For the foregoing reasons, we hereby GRANT the defendants’ motion to dismiss. The plaintiffs’ federal law claims are DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.

IT IS SO ORDERED.

San Juan, Puerto Rico, this 21st day of October, 2014.

S/ JUAN M. PÉREZ-GIMÉNEZ

JUAN M. PÉREZ-GIMÉNEZ

UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

Ministers: Beware

by Travis Weber

October 20, 2014

As if the over-stepping Houston major’s office subpoenaing sermons and other private communications of pastors wasn’t enough, we now receive news of two elderly ministers being told by city officials that any refusal to marry a same-sex couple could cause them to face up to 180 days in jail and $1,000 in fines for each day they decline to do so.

For many years, the husband and wife team of Donald and Evelyn Knapp have presided over wedding services across the street from the local county clerk’s office in Coeur d’Alene, a beautiful city in North Idaho. Now, they are told they have to conform to their city’s iron-fisted demand that they “marry” men to men and women to women.

In other words, from the city to the ministers: Your religious liberty doesn’t really mean a thing when it comes to the new sexuality; you must come into line in accord with our views. When the city says something related to human sexuality should be accepted, that’s the final word.

For years, we have also been told by gay-marriage advocates that no harm would come from legalizing same-sex marriages. No one would be forced to participate.

Yet it seems that day has arrived. Court-issued stays have been lifted, and gay marriages have started to proceed in Idaho. Now a minister is being told by his government that he must officiate at these “marriages.”

Now that we are past the point where we were told the gay-rights crusade would stop, should we expect it to just stop here? I’ve grown doubtful of such expectations, as the advocacy and pressure for acceptance continue full steam. No, this crusade will likely continue until all are forced to approve.

These developments have occurred incrementally. As Albert Mohler points out, “[t]his is how religious liberty dies. Liberties die by a thousand cuts. An intimidating letter here, a subpoena there, a warning in yet another place. The message is simple and easily understood. Be quiet or risk trouble.”

How true. We are more in danger of remaining apathetic to threats to our freedom when the individual threats just don’t appear to be a big deal. The danger is in the accumulation, though. Hopefully, for many, this latest “increment” will be too big to ignore.

Snoops on the Stoops of the Church

by Tony Perkins

October 15, 2014

When it comes to illegal surveillance, it looks like the NSA has some competition. In a story that’s making Texans’ heads spin, the Houston P.C. police — the same Council that passed an LGBT ordinance this year — is subpoenaing sermons, emails, and even text messages from local pastors to see if they’re promoting a voter referendum to overturn the measure.

The jaw-dropping move — one in a long line of Houston’s “gotcha” government — is only fanning the flames of outrage over the city’s totalitarian tactics. Even for Houston’s radical leadership, this is an affront to the plain language of the First Amendment, which not only gives churches the right to speak freely but the individuals leading them as well! “City council members are supposed to be public servants, not ‘Big Brother’ overlords who will tolerate no dissent or challenge,”said Alliance Defending Freedom’s Erik Stanley. “In this case, they have embarked upon a witch-hunt, and we are asking the court to put a stop to it.”

Yesterday, ADF filed a motion in court to stop the senseless monitoring of churches. “The message is clear,” they explain, “oppose the decision of city government, and drown in unwarranted burdensome discovery requests… Not only will the pastors be harmed if these discovery requests are allowed, but the People will suffer as well. The referendum process will become toxic and the People will be deprived of an important check on city government.”

It’s a sad commentary on our times that a nation founded by church leaders is trying to muscle those same religious voices out of the political process. Obviously, there’s no limit to how low the Left will stoop, and how many laws it will break, to impose its agenda on unwilling Americans.

 

Islamism and Ferguson: There is No Moral Equivalence Between Them

by Rob Schwarzwalder

September 25, 2014

In his speech yesterday at the United Nations, President Obama used the shooting of an unarmed African-American man in Ferguson, Missouri to note that America indignation at evil is not self-righteousness. Here is what commentator Richard Grenell, a former American U.N. official, said about the President’s comments:

In a summer marked by instability in the Middle East and Eastern Europe, I know the world also took notice of the small American city of Ferguson, Missouri: (said President Obama). Morally equating the events of Ferguson to Islamic terrorism and Russia’s annexation of Crimea gives foreign diplomats from Arab countries and Russia the excuse they need to dismiss America’s condemnation of their actions. For anyone thinking that President Obama didn’t purposefully mean to equate the world’s problems with the events in Ferguson, two sentences later Obama blamed globalization for the public’s outrage in Ferguson: “And like every country, we continually wrestle with how to reconcile the vast changes wrought by globalization.” Overstating America’s issues doesn’t make us relatable; it makes others’ issues easily dismissible.

Equating a single and widely-condemned act of violence in America’s heartland, one that drew the personal attention of the Attorney General of the United States and enough FBI agents to make Al Capone shudder, with the systematic, calculated, and extensive mass murders perpetrated by the Islamic thugs in Iraq is such poor judgment as to be almost beyond belief. I am not diminishing the seriousness of Michael Brown’s killing, but it is not analogous to what so-called “ISIS” is doing in the Middle East.

The Islamists, as a matter of ideology, political conviction, and religious commitment, are dedicated to executing an agenda of death, including the murder (and beheading) of small children. Here is what Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Diane Feinstein (D-CA) says about what the Islamists are doing:

I have a picture of what I estimate to be a 6-year-old girl in a gingham party dress, white tights, a little red band around her wrist, Mary Janes [shoes], and she’s lying on the ground, and her head is gone,” Feinstein said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “This could be an American child. It could be a European child. It could be a child anywhere,” the chairwoman added. “This is the mentality of the group that we are so concerned with. They have killed thousands; they are marching on; they have an army; they are well organized.”

A spasm of cruelty in Ferguson is not like a comprehensive program of genocide. The Russian invasion of Crimea and its threat to the Ukraine are the policies of a government, not the excesses of a single policeman. The President blurred the line between acknowledging America’s imperfection, in some contexts a good thing, with the outright humiliation of our country before the world.

There is no moral equivalence between America and ISIS. Mr. Obama would affirm this, surely, but in his desperate effort to discourage criticism he plays into our adversaries’ hands. Those who would highlight America’s flaws either to minimize their own evil or, out of envious hostility, to tear down rather than emulate the world’s greatest beacon of liberty, opportunity, and hope — that would be the United States of America — are wrong. President Obama seems to have internalized their criticisms, which says a lot about his approach to American foreign policy over the past nearly six years. A lot that’s disturbing.

All but a relative handful of the countries represented in the United Nations are authoritarian regimes, outright dictatorships, or hereditary (even if benevolent) monarchies. Anti-Semitism, cruel religious persecution, severe political repression, systemic policies that entrench poverty, quenching or abridging all the freedoms “endowed by their Creator” to their citizens: These things constitute the normal course of events in the majority of the world’s nations, all of which, to one degree or another, regularly castigate our country.

To allow such brutes, whether in developing countries, the Communist world, or totalitarian regimes to cow America into Uriah Heepish hand-wringing is maddening. No American, and certainly no American President, should succumb to it.

A Tale of Two (Civil) Senators

by Rob Schwarzwalder

September 18, 2014

This morning, at the kind invitation of House Speaker John Boehner, I attended a Joint Session of Congress to hear courageous Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko describe Russia’s threat to his country and plead for U.S. backing of his embattled nation.

It was moving to hear President Poroshenko, and heartening to see the at least superficial unanimity of Members of Congress as they stood, repeatedly, in ovations of support.

This is, I believe, the eighth time I’ve had the privilege of attending such Joint Sessions, including two State of the Union messages by President Clinton. At all such events, there is a general if perhaps strained sense of bonhomie among the Senators and Members of Congress as they mingle on the House floor. Among some of the Senators, particularly, there is a measure of good humor unseen during testy televised debates or hearings.

Today, for example, I noticed two of the Senators, one a respected conservative, the other a recognized liberal, laughing together as if fraternity brothers who surreptitiously had stolen their professor’s tires. It was fun to see.

Three cheers for camaraderie, for friendship, for civility. But as I’ve written elsewhere, civility becomes a pretext for avoiding hard choices and acknowledging real and sometimes angering divisions when “being nice” supersedes the need for opposition and advocacy. Civility is the oil that prevents the gears of debate from becoming so dry with contention that they grind into civil strife. But it is not itself the purpose for which those gears are driven.

As a Christian, I believe in the depravity of man, for which reason I am grateful to awaken to streets empty of men fighting with knives and tire-irons. Civility is important in a fallen world, no question.

Courtesy and kindness are essential to any well-equipped arsenal of public discourse and action. They can sooth raw tempers and smooth rough discourse, thus making the pursuit and location of common ground possible.

Yet ultimately, civility cannot cover-over the deep chasms between worldviews and priorities existing in our society. The two Senators I noted above are both possible presidential candidates of their respective parties. They disagree on the critical issues of “faith, family, and freedom,” not to mention economics and foreign policy. By virtue of the positions they have taken, Americans will have to choose not just between them as persons but between the sharply different worldviews out of which they operate and the policy conclusions resulting therefrom.

Civility can prevent verbal abuse and physical violence. To decide is to lead and often to divide, and decision-making, especially in an era when the decisions to be made represent two such fundamentally opposite set of values and arguments, is unavoidable.

The Savagery and Horror of ISIS

by FRC Media Office

September 18, 2014

With the continued savagery of ISIS in the news, FRC’s Bob Morrison and Ken Blackwell have two op-eds in American Thinker that examines the stance that the U.S. has taken on this group.   Both Blackwell and Morrison’s recent article looks at how President Obama has dealt with ISIS and the growing threat that this group poses on global security.

President Obama is locked in a Westphalian mindset. That seminal 1648 Treaty of Westphalia ended the Thirty Years War in Europe and gave us the nation-state system we see today. Or most of it. What ISIS shows, however, is that the Westphalian definitions really don’t apply in the Mideast. It was an Egyptian diplomat who famously said: “There is only one nation over here; the rest are tribes with flags.”

Fortunately, President Obama realizes that you cannot give credence to a border between Iraq and Syria. He says he will hammer ISIS in Syria. Go to it. (Unfortunately, this president seems not to recognize a border between the Mexico and the U.S., either.)

You can read more from their op-ed here.

Thirty years ago, FRC’s Bob Morrison watched a beheading video. And he has never forgotten the horror of it. Here’s his column that ran in American Thinker on August 30, 2014

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