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Republican Religious Extremist Who Sponsored Anti-Gay First Amendment Defense Act Loses Primary

3yrs ago from Raw Story
U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador of Idaho, the anti-gay religious extremist who announced he would retire from Congress at the end of this term to run for governor, lost the Republican gubernatorial primary Tuesday night. Now, he will not become a governor, and will not be a U.S. Congressman next year. A founding member of the uber-conservative House Freedom Caucus, Labrador’s greatest claim to fame was sponsoring the federal “First Amendment Defense Act.”  FADA, in its original form, would have “protected” any person, group, …
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Funeral Home Can’t Fire Transgender Worker on Religious Grounds, Court Rules

3yrs ago from The Blaze
A federal appeals court ruled that a Michigan funeral home broke the law by firing a employee for being transgender. The funeral home director had unsuccessfully attempted to apply the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to this case, arguing that employing a transgender person would violate his Christian religious beliefs about sexuality. The ruling has potentially sweeping consequences for business owners hoping for a religious exemption in similar cases. The former employee now goes by Aimee Stephens, but was originally hired as a man named Anthony Stephens. Stephens was fired from GR & GR Harris Funeral Homes after disclosing the transition. The owner of the funeral home, Thomas Rost, said that continuing to employ Stephens would force him to violate God’s commandments. Rost specifically pointed to his company practice of supplying uniforms to employees, arguing that supplying Stephens with a female uniform instead of a male uniform would be an endorsement of a lifestyle …
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As Ambassador, Sam Brownback Will Defend Religious Freedom

4yrs ago from National Review
President Donald Trump has nominated Kansas governor Sam Brownback to fill the position of ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom. Standing up for religious freedom is an essential part of the United States’ foreign policy, especially in a global environment plagued by extremism and persecution of religious minorities. This ambassadorial position was established by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998. The ambassador-at-large must meet with foreign religious and political leaders to craft programs for safeguarding religious freedom and oversee the Office of Religious Freedom within the State Department ...
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Supremes Signal Deference to Religious Nonprofits

4yrs ago from WND
(WASHINGTON TIMES) The Supreme Court ruled unanimously on Monday that faith-based nonprofits can be treated the same as churches under federal retirement laws, in a decision signaling broad deference to religious institutions. Houses of worship are allowed greater freedom to structure their retirement plans than most corporations under the Employee Retirement Security Act (ERISA), but […]
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Obergefell’s Toxic Judicial Legacy

4yrs ago from National Review
Does the Constitution grant individuals a judicially enforceable right to order the government to combat climate change? Does it contain a right to engage in “BDSM sexual activity”? What about a right to assisted suicide? Unfortunately, these are no longer fanciful hypotheticals. Thanks to Justice Kennedy, cases alleging such rights are currently being litigated and are coming soon to a courthouse near you. The cultural, legal, and political consequences of establishing a right to same-sex marriage have dominated discussions regarding Justice Kennedy’s Obergefell decision. Will religious institutions that oppose same-sex marriage lose their tax-exempt status? What will happen to vendors whose consciences prohibit them from participating in same-sex weddings? How and when will schools address same-sex marriage? Those consequences are important and merit serious discussion. However, another aspect of the case — Justice Kennedy’s instructions regarding judges’ authority to create new “rights” — will prove equally important in the long run. In Obergfell, Justice Kennedy did far more than merely discover a constitutional right to same-sex marriage. He wrote that judges have an ongoing “duty” to identify and protect new “fundamental rights.” He maintained that judges should institute new rights whenever their “reasoned judgment” suggests that it is appropriate to do so. Previously, a Supreme Court precedent titled Washington v. Glucksberg held that judges could recognize constitutional rights only if they were “deeply rooted in” American “history and tradition.” Justice Kennedy dismissed this standard as unduly constraining judges’ power. This has predictably motivated plaintiffs to demand that judges read inventive new rights into the Constitution. Unless and until the Supreme Court curbs Obergefell’s invitation to create new constitutional rights, self-imposed judicial restraint is the only thing preventing a deluge of new “constitutional rights.” And there are indications that the dam is already starting to crack. A cased titled Juliana v. United States presents an ominous warning as to what lies ahead. A district-court judge in Oregon used Obergefell’s license to fashion a new individual right to a “climate system capable of sustaining human life.” The judge adopted Justice Kennedy’s “reasoned judgment” standard and wrote, “Exercising my ‘reasoned judgment,’ . . . I have no doubt that the right to a climate system capable of sustaining human life” is a fundamental constitutional right. The plaintiffs argued that various government officials violated the Constitution by “causing atmospheric CO2 levels to rise” and “knowingly endangering Plaintiffs’ health and welfare by approving and prompting fossil fuel development, including exploration, extraction, production, transportation, importation, exportation, and combustion.” They urged the court to order the government to stop violating their constitutional right to a healthy environment and to require it to “develop a plan to reduce CO2 emissions.” This sounds like a plainly political rather than constitutional question, but under Obergefell’s amorphous “reasoned judgment” standard, anything is possible. The judge explained that under Obergefell, the creation of “new fundamental rights” is not “out of bounds.” The case is ongoing, but the district-court judge has already recognized the existence of the “constitutional right” in question. It would be comforting to view Juliana as an isolated aberration, but similar events have unfolded in other courts. The common thread in every case is a citation to Obergefell. In Hodges v. Schmidt, an appellate court in Kansas cited Obergefell while establishing a right to abortion in Kansas’s constitution. The plaintiffs challenged an abortion restriction under the state constitution, and not under the federal constitution. This required the court to determine, for the first time, whether the Kansas constitution contained its own right to abortion. The court admitted that “the framers of the Kansas constitution . . . surely did not intend to create an abortion right in 1859, when the constitution was adopted.” However, the court found that it had the power to find new constitutional rights “unforeseen” to the drafters of their state constitution. The court was emboldened to make this claim because, as it explained, the Supreme Court “clearly embraced this notion of constitutional interpretation in its Obergefell opinion.” The Kansas court understood Obergefell to mean that “the rights of Kansas Women in 2016 are not limited to those specifically intended by the men who drafted our state’s constitution in 1858.” The reasoning in Obergefell is wrong, but the Kansas court’s understanding of its implications is not. The court applied this newfound right to enjoin a ban on a specific type of second-trimester abortion. The court’s “reasoned judgment” led it to prevent Kansas from enforcing a law that, by its own description, “forbids dismemberment only when it involves ‘a living unborn child.’” Many Kansans may question how reasoned judgment could possibly support such a conclusion. Unfortunately, Obergefell tells such ordinary Kansans to keep quiet because judges have spoken. The Hodges case was decided by an evenly divided court with seven judges in the majority and seven in dissent. It did not require a majority of the people of Kansas, or even the court deciding the case, to effectively amend the state’s constitution to prohibit laws banning the “dismemberment” of “a living unborn child.” The dissenting judges would have applied a “textual and historical approach” to discover the meaning of the Kansas constitution rather than replacing that meaning with their own reasoned judgment. These judges believed that “the question we need to ask . . . is not what rights today’s judges would like to see in our state constitution.” “The proper question to ask,” they claimed, is what rights the people who drafted and adopted the constitution actually protected. Regrettably, Obergefell sides with the majority’s view of judicial preeminence. In Morris v. Brandenburg, a district-level judge in New Mexico discovered a fundamental right to assisted suicide in New Mexico’s constitution — the very “right” that the United States Supreme Court refused to recognize in Glucksberg.  A district-level judge in New Mexico discovered a fundamental right to assisted suicide in New Mexico’s constitution — the very ‘right’ that the United States Supreme Court refused to recognize in Glucksberg.  The New Mexico appellate and supreme courts reversed this judgment. However, a dissenting appellate judge would have relied on Obergefell to uphold the lower court and enshrine a right to assisted suicide in the state constitution. The dissenting judge emphasized that Obergefell had rejected a “rigid historical analysis,” instructing judges to rely on their own “reasoned judgment” instead. In Doe v. Rector & Visitors of George Mason Univ., the plaintiff, a student expelled from the university, claimed that he had a constitutionally protected right to engage in “BDSM sexual activity.” The judge recognized that these arguments would have been futile under the Glucksberg framework because “there is no basis to believe” that a right to BDSM “is deeply rooted in the nation’s history.” However, he concluded that the plaintiff’s argument merited further analysis following Obergefell. The judge eventually decided that, even under Obergefell, there is no constitutional right to BDSM. Unlike the clear-cut Glucksberg analysis, the judge had to consider and balance a range of factors in reaching this conclusion. Making such determinations is more appropriately the job of a legislator than of a judge. One wonders whether the judges who decided Hodges or Juliana would have reached the same conclusion. A district-court judge in Nevada recently stated that Obergefell had “reinvigorated” a “long discredited” method of constitutional interpretation that was “the closest thing of which the Court is aware to a federal judicial power to strike down a state law based on a federal court’s own notions of good policy.” Such power is too awesome for any small group of individuals in a republic to wield responsibly. Obergefell was decided in 2015, and the examples listed above are only a few of the cases in which plaintiffs have already used its reasoning to request the recognition of new constitutional rights. Other rights alleged by plaintiffs have included “the use, possession, manufacture, or delivery of marijuana” and “freedom in action,” which would include “possession of an unsealed container of alcohol in public.” Unless something changes, such claims will continue to proliferate, and it’s impossible to predict which rights will satisfy a particular judge’s “reasoned judgment.” Entirely apart from the question of same-sex marriage, the Supreme Court should act quickly to reverse course and restore the Glucksberg standard for finding new fundamental rights. As Justice Kennedy himself noted in Shuette v. Coalation to Defend Affirmative Action, the sensitive, important, or contentious nature of some policy questions “does not justify removing certain court-determined issues from the voters’ reach.” “Democracy does not presume that some subjects are either too divisive or too profound for public debate.” The default rule in a democracy ought to be that the people, and not the courts, get to decide. — Howard Slugh is an attorney practicing in Washington, D.C.
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The Cross and Healing

4yrs ago from National Review
Are you hurting? Do you know someone who is? Has institutional religion — or people representing it — only made matters worse? If any of these sound familiar, a new book by Father Thomas Berg might be for you. I first met Father Berg back when he was a member of the Legionaries of Christ, a religious order founded by Father Marcial Maciel, who was uncovered to have been a serial abuser; today Father Berg is a priest of the Archdiocese of New York. His new book, Hurting in the Church, tells some of that story. But it is even more an invitation for healing to anyone who has had a close encounter with abuse, sin, and shortcomings in the institution of the Church or people in it. Every time he is standing at a pulpit, he looks out and sees “hurting individuals,” he writes. “We hurt first and foremost because life hurts: hurting is part of the human condition.” He adds, “When pain experienced in and through the Church is layered on what life itself already deals us the suffering can be all the more acute.” He writes as someone with experience on both ends of the pain. We talk about the book and the way forward for a hurting people and a Church that has not always been an exemplar of loving one another as made in the image of Christ. Kathryn Jean Lopez: There were allegations against the founder of the Legionaries as early as 1997, and we were among those who were wrong to believe the denials. What’s the best way to think about those days? What is the best approach to such memories? Should we think “maybe I could have done something”? Now that we know there was abuse and we know we were wrong to believe there wasn’t, are we unintentionally complicit? But there’s nothing we can do now. Father Thomas Berg: We need to invite our Lord to show us how to approach those memories and how to understand that time of our lives. In his light, we might, on the one hand come to serenely understand that, sure — objectively — there were things we might have done differently. In my case, there were questions I might have asked. I might have been more insistent. As I explore in my book, regarding my own case, in hindsight, my initial period of discernment with the Legionaries was far too precipitated, too forced. On the other hand, Christ can help us to see that what “might have been” and what I “could have and should have done” are often two different things. I can only do and carry out as a requirement of conscience what I am able to understand as a true option and am in a position psychologically to carry out with freedom. I think few if any of us — inside or outside of the Legion and Regnum Christi [the lay apostolic movement affiliated with the Legion], so deeply caught up as we were in the morass of deceptions — were ever in a position of such clarity and independence of judgment for the most part that there were things we clearly “should” have done and did not do. So, yes, we, perhaps even the vast majority of Legionary superiors, were unintentionally complicit in those deceptions, errors, and in the cult of personality of Maciel. But while in some sense there is “no way back” to correct those errors (outside of recognizing them and renouncing them now), Christ can also help us to see how, notwithstanding the shadows, errors, and deceptions, he nonetheless used all these events to draw good from them, for ourselves and for the Church. As Megan — a remarkable woman I interview in the book — puts it, God can “make beautiful out of it.” Based on the feedback I am getting on my book, I’ve come to understand that my book itself would not have been possible had I not gone through what I went through; it’s part of the great good he has willed to bring forth from the darkness. Lopez: There are people who look at the Catholic Church and are repulsed by the idea that we would continue on as if nothing evil has happened. The Church is supposed to be a safe haven, a sanctuary, and yet children and teens were abused! This is straight from hell. What does the Church offer in the face of this? This is so obviously a stumbling block to reentry to so many. Berg: We can’t speak, unfortunately, of a uniform response to the crisis of clergy sexual abuse. The Church mystically throughout the world is always at prayer for her hurting members. But institutionally, at the level of each diocese, there is not a uniform response. If there is anything close to uniformity, it is to be found in the programs that have been established to ensure that all persons, clergy and laity alike, who work with minors in Church contexts receive some degree of training in the protection of minors and the creation of safe environments. That’s been a start. The problem is that so many think these programs are the be all end all, and that the crisis has therefore been contained. The crisis is not over for the victims of abuse. But as a Church, broadly speaking, we want to forget this chapter as fast as we can; the wounds will never heal that way. We must accompany the survivors of abuse, and we as local Churches are still often failing to do that. Some bishops are very good in terms of outreach to victims; others still don’t get it. Whether from the Vatican or from the diocese, victims cannot be treated with bureaucratic responses. Persons in leadership in the Church, principally the bishops, have to be tirelessly solicitous of the needs of victims. And we’re just not there yet. We still need a cultural revolution in our chanceries as to how we think about victims and about how we prioritize the protection of children and the prevention of other forms of abuse, beyond merely bureaucratized remedies. We have to really love the victims of abuse. And until we do, the Church’s response to this crisis will not only be perceived as lacking, it will be lacking. That said, we have made some strides, and Catholics in the pew remain largely unaware of this, or of the sharp drop-off in abuse allegations. We need to do a better job of spreading that bit of good news. We need to talk about what we are doing. We need to show that we are repentant. We need to talk about what we’ve learned in the past 15 years since the crisis was unleashed, and we need to humbly recognize that there is still much, much more to be done. Lopez: Knowing what we know about sins in the Church, why should anyone be Christian? Why would American culture want or need Christians, especially Catholics? Berg: True — a lot of people hold the Church up to ridicule and derision. What they have known about the Church are the failures of many of her members. They know the scandals and the profound contradictions that are part of her history. But all that notwithstanding, no less than in the first days after the Resurrection, the Church still has this to offer the world: Christ. What we can offer American culture is the witness of hearts that have been amazed at Jesus Christ, risen and alive, Lord of life and the giver of life’s meaning and truth; hearts amazed at the possibility and reality of Jesus Christ, who have known him, who have been dazzled by his love, amazed by truth, and overcome with the joy of friendship with him, so much so that “we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” That is what American culture desperately needs today, and that is what committed Catholic disciples can and do offer. One of our greatest challenges remains, however, that we must at the same time share this amazement within the Church itself: with our many brothers, sisters, and indeed, with many a priest and even bishops who in reality are not living as disciples, who have not yet in their lives formed a personal relationship with Jesus. Lopez: Why is it important to know that every saint had “shortcomings and failures and quirks,” as you write? Berg: It’s just Christian realism. Before and after baptism — we’re messy. We are a complex, amazing amalgam of flesh and spirit, animals endowed with rational souls, beings, as St. Thomas Aquinas says, caught in the in-between: not simply material beings, not angelic spirits. We’re amazing, beautiful, a mystery unto ourselves, infinitely loved by the God who created us — but also a real mess at times. That is the human material we bring to God’s project of making us holy. Holiness has to be rooted in that kind of realism. If not, it is simply a farce and an exercise in vanity and pride. Lopez: Should holiness be a struggle? Berg: Always has been and always will be. It’s true, of course, that virtue is an acquired habit, which over time makes acts of virtue easier and almost “second nature” to us as the scholastics would say. But it never stops being a challenge because holiness is “yes” one day after another to the Beloved. Holiness is fidelity. Holiness is giving beyond what we think we can give, then giving some more. There will always be struggle, because holiness will ultimately find us nailed to a crucifix next to Jesus. Lopez: You write about the “art” of “healthy solitude.” Could we all benefit from it? How can we practice it? Berg: Oh absolutely. The onslaught of gadgets and new communications and entertainment technology — as useful as it all can be — also opens up some potentially devastating and lasting impacts on our humanity. We are already seeing this in young people who, because of their absorption in gadgets and social media, are losing the very ability to interact; we now have younger generations who often fail to pick up on the kind of non-verbal cues and body language that for older generations were simply intuitive and absorbed into our psyches by continual exposure to the human face and gesticulations. Today we actually have to offer courses on “soft-skills” — human interaction 101, how to looks someone in the eye and shake hands, how to sustain a conversation, how to make small talk, and so on. So, yes, we all can benefit from a healthy solitude: turning off our gadgets, fasting from social media, relishing the beauty of quiet and silence, enjoying good reading that will nurture our imagination and stimulate our ability to think and to reflect on the big questions. When millions of Americans no longer ask the big questions about life — not simply because they don’t care, but now because they have actually forgotten or never learned what those questions are in the first place — we know we have an enormous problem on our hands. Christians have always valued solitude, for these and many other reasons. It’s one of the gems we have to offer to American culture. — Kathryn Jean Lopez is a senior fellow at the National Review Institute and an editor-at-large of National Review. Sign up for her weekly NRI newsletter here. READ MORE: Q&A: Father Paul Scalia, That Nothing May Be Lost Q&A: Anthony Lilles, Fire From Above Q&A: Aurora Griffin, How I Stayed Catholic at Harvard  
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Kaine Can’t Quit Distorting Gorsuch

4yrs ago from National Review
The other day I explained that Senator Kaine, in claiming that Judge Gorsuch had criticized women who use contraception, didn’t have a leg to stand on. Apparently he is willing to stand on his head, if that’s what it takes to keep up his distortion. At CNN, he maintains that Gorsuch is a threat to Griswold v. Connecticut, the 1965 precedent in which the Supreme Court said that the Constitution protects a right to contraception. There’s a reason this argument hasn’t been a major part of the liberal case against Gorsuch: It’s ridiculous. Not even the left-wing law professors you would expect to use low-quality arguments against a conservative nominee have been willing to accuse him of posing a risk to Griswold. If there were even a tiny shred of a plausible argument for that accusation, they’d be making it. But even this blogpost by a left-wing legal activist–whose work centers on “reproductive rights”!–doesn’t say that Gorsuch’s judicial opinions demonstrate an anti-Griswold agenda. Kaine is out there by himself, and it’s not because his fine legal mind has picked up on something no one else has. During his confirmation hearings, Gorsuch told Senator Blumenthal that Griswold has great weight as a precedent and also said, “I cannot imagine a state actually legislating in this area” and “I cannot imagine the Supreme Court taking someone wishing to challenge that precedent seriously.” Senator Kaine, naturally, doesn’t mention these quotes. Once again, Kaine thoroughly botches the discussion of the Hobby Lobby case, where Gorsuch supposedly condemned women for using contraception. In order: 1) Kaine says that Gorsuch “stretched” to find that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act protected Hobby Lobby’s owners as well as the company itself. He doesn’t mention that three other judges on the circuit, including an Obama appointee, reached the same conclusion as Gorsuch. Raise your hands if you think Obama appointed an anti-contraception extremist to the federal bench. 2) Kaine says that Gorsuch called it “wrongdoing” for female employees of Hobby Lobby to want “to make their own choices about using contraception.” No, he didn’t. He said that “All of us must answer for ourselves whether and to what degree we are willing to be involved in the wrongdoing of others” before explaining that the owners of Hobby Lobby consider the use of certain contraceptives to be wrongdoing and their provision of insurance that covers those contraceptives to be an unacceptable degree of involvement in that wrongdoing. None of the judges who voted against Gorsuch’s position took issue with these words of his, as they surely would have done if they meant what Kaine pretends they mean. 3) Kaine writes, “Moral questions of complicity in others’ behavior had nothing to do with the legal question in this case. The only legal issue was whether the owner’s beliefs about contraception conflicted with the ACA. So Judge Gorsuch’s decision to inject his own editorial comment about women’s ‘wrongdoing’ was an insulting characterization of a personal choice protected by the law.” Kaine misstates the legal issue in the case. Everyone on all sides of the case understood that the owners’ beliefs about some forms of contraception “conflicted” with regulations that were issued pursuant to the Affordable Care Act: The regulations required the owners to provide coverage that included contraceptives to which they objected. The case turned on whether the law protected Hobby Lobby or its owners in acting on their beliefs about what constitutes unacceptable complicity with something they oppose on moral grounds. The Supreme Court said so itself. 4) Kaine writes, “His two uses of the phrase ‘all of us’ also suggest that he was making a point far broader than what the parties to the case had presented to him.” Actually, they suggest that he was discussing the general principle that he thought should govern the case: that the religious-freedom law protects religiously-grounded moral views about what constitutes unacceptable complicity in wrongdoing, regardless of the content of those views. “All of us,” he said, have such views, and then he discussed the specific views of Hobby Lobby’s owners. It is possible, I suppose, to review Kaine’s accusations and then defend either his character or his intelligence. But not both.
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Trump Should Press China on Its Support of North Korea

4yrs ago from National Review
With President Xi Jinping of China visiting the U.S. this week, many wish they could be the proverbial fly on the wall at the Mar-a-Lago estate as these two world leaders hash out an array of important issues. President Trump has made it clear that he is unhappy with the status quo of the U.S.–China relationship. For his part, Xi Jinping initially responded to Trump’s aggressive comments by implying that China may “take off its gloves” if Trump continues to antagonize it. Lately, though, Xi Jinping has pivoted to more-conciliatory comments about the value of “free trade.” The trade issue and its link to the hollowing out of the U.S. manufacturing sector (and jobs) is certainly important. However, there is a danger that it will crowd out a host of other issues, including one that I think trumps (sorry) all others: China’s complicity in the torture and murder of tens of thousands of human beings. While China’s own human-rights record is more than troubling, its steadfast support for the Kim regime and its policy of sending back North Koreans who flee is also unconscionable. It’s well known that one way the Kims have retained power is through the use of a massive gulag system in which a sizable percentage of their own population are imprisoned and murdered. Yet Beijing has an almost unique ability to influence the ultra-repressive “hermit kingdom” to its east. For decades, China has provided North Korea with most of its food and energy supplies and accounts for more than 70 percent of its total trade volume. Additionally, Beijing is the provider of most of the direct aid to the DPRK and serves as virtually its sole advocate in foreign-policy disputes. In recent years, even China seems to be growing weary of Kim Jong-un’s antics, but the chances of its seriously addressing human rights in North Korea seem slim. North Korea is a military (and ideological) buffer state that has obvious value for China. On the economic front, if North Korea falls, millions of refugees are likely to flood across the Chinese border. The bill for the humanitarian crisis that would unfold is not one that China is interested in paying, so it continues to kick the can down the road and opt for the devil it knows. President Trump in his meetings with Xi Jinping has the responsibility to bring to light China’s intolerable support of the world’s most oppressive and murderous regime. At my organization, International Christian Concern, we feel a deep and acute sense of urgency about this issue. Christians are routinely singled out for exceptionally poor treatment by the Kim regime. The simple act of owning a Bible can send you and three generations of your family to one of the prison camps where tens of thousands of Christians have died or been executed over the past 70 years. China could drastically change a major human-rights abuse overnight and save thousands of lives by ending its repatriation policy. Chinese officials are well aware that once defectors are returned to North Korea, they are at the whim of the North Korean government. Torture, imprisonment, and even execution of those who are repatriated are common. The repatriation policy makes China complicit in the persecution and death of thousands of North Koreans each year. China is seeking recognition as a global power. That presents a prime opportunity to point out its complicity in human-rights abuses and may make it especially receptive to criticism on the human-rights front. The United States, while not perfect, has for decades been the champion of the repressed and oppressed. Moreover, those who suffer under despotic regimes have often looked to us to champion their cause and denounce their dictators. I am reminded of the Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky and his remarks on President Reagan’s denunciation of the USSR as an “evil empire”: It was the great brilliant moment when we learned that Ronald Reagan had proclaimed the Soviet Union an Evil Empire before the entire world. Finally, a spade had been called a spade. Finally, Orwell’s Newspeak was dead. President Reagan had from that moment made it impossible for anyone in the West to continue closing their eyes to the real nature of the Soviet Union. For us, that was the moment that really marked the end for them and the beginning for us. The lie had been exposed and could never, ever be untold now. Each generation witnesses its own atrocities and unchallenged evils. This week, President Trump has a unique opportunity to call out the North Korean regime for what it is and to challenge China to end its policy of repatriating North Korean defectors. Such a move on the president’s part would find support on both sides of the aisle, demonstrate moral leadership to critics and supporters alike, save thousands from the camps and firing squads of the Kim regime, and be a bold first step in building a legacy as a champion of human rights and freedom. Maybe, if done well, it could even be another “great, brilliant moment” and the beginning of the end for one of the most reprehensible evils of our time. — Jeff King has served as the president of International Christian Concern (ICC) since 2002 and has traveled extensively to meet with victims of religious persecution around the world and to provide assistance.
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Supreme Court Should Strike Down California’s Forced-Advertising Law

4yrs ago from National Review
What if a state forced all of its citizens to display a message on their cars that reads, “Live Free or Die”? George and Maxine Maynard were in just that position and objected to the phrase both politically and religiously, so they didn’t want the government to force them to display it on their vehicle. The Supreme Court agreed and ruled in their favor in 1977’s Wooley v. Maynard decision — an outcome that would have been even easier for the Maynards to achieve if the state of New Hampshire had been foolish enough to require only those who disagree with the message to display it. But what state would ever do that? California would — and does. The Reproductive FACT Act, AB 775, targets pro-life pregnancy-care centers because they “discourage” abortion. That’s not an allegation; the state admits this to be the case. The law forces these centers to advertise for the abortion industry by requiring the display of a message informing women how to obtain a free or low-cost abortion from the state — including a phone number to call. Women who call that number and ask about obtaining an abortion are referred to Planned Parenthood and other organizations that perform abortions. The state claims it is justified in forcing the pro-life centers to present a message that contradicts the very reason they exist because a center somewhere might decide to be deceptive in the counsel it gives to women. But no one ever submitted any proof to the legislature indicating pregnancy care centers in California are actually tricking women. And no one has ever found that any of the more than 100 pregnancy-care centers that are members of the National Institute of Family Life Advocacy have ever deceived women. This demonstrates that California’s likely real motivation is to discourage the pro-life message that these pregnancy-care centers express, so it is coopting them to convey its own pro-abortion message. This is no different than the state of New Hampshire forcing George and Maxine Maynard to advertise its message in an effort to convey state pride, except it’s even more egregious because New Hampshire applied its rules to everyone who owns a car. California has purposely crafted its law to apply only to organizations that disagree with its message. That’s why NIFLA asked Alliance Defending Freedom to file a lawsuit on its behalf to have the law declared unconstitutional. To date, both the federal district court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit have refused to keep the law from being enforced against NIFLA and its pro-life pregnancy-care center members. So now ADF has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to take up NIFLA’s case. The justices may very well decide to review the case because other federal courts in New York, Maryland, and Texas have found similar laws unconstitutional. Supreme Court guidance is needed to provide legal consistency in jurisdictions across the country. California can use its authority — and even tax dollars — to convey its support for abortion through a number of means, including billboards, newspapers, radio, television, and the Internet. There is no need to force non-profit organizations dedicated to offering women alternatives to abortion to advertise for the abortion industry. The Supreme Court should strike down this unjust law just as it struck down New Hampshire’s law that forced citizens, including the Maynards, to advertise the state’s preferred message. If they didn’t have to display the government’s words on their car because they considered it to be a message of death from the mouth of the state, then there’s no reason at all to specifically require a pro-life pregnancy-care center to do the same. — Kevin Theriot is senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, which represents the National Institute of Family Life Advocacy.
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Fifth Ave. and the GOP, Etc.

4yrs ago from National Review
Yesterday, in the wake of President Trump’s latest tweets, I was thinking about the loyalty of his supporters. It’s an amazing, intense loyalty. I don’t think I’ve seen anything like it in politics, and not much like it in other fields. Trump himself addressed the issue while on the campaign trail, you recall: “I have the most loyal people … where I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters, okay? It’s like incredible.” It is like incredible. In short order, I nicknamed this phenomenon — the phenomenon of loyalty to Trump — “the Fifth Avenue Principle.” Trump Tower, you remember, is on Fifth Avenue in New York City. That’s why the candidate used that street in his example (though he was campaigning in Iowa). This fabled street has played a role in Republican politics before. Have you heard of the “Compact of Fifth Avenue,” also known as the “Treaty of Fifth Avenue”? We’re talking 1960. The compact, or treaty, was an agreement hammered out between Vice President Richard Nixon and Governor Nelson Rockefeller in the latter’s apartment on Fifth Avenue. (What a beaut that must have been.) The agreement, as I understand it, allowed Nixon to proceed with his campaign for president without Rocky, a rival, on his back. To return to the Fifth Avenue Principle — the phenomenal loyalty of Trump supporters: From what I’ve observed, his grievances are their grievances; his causes are their causes; his moods are their moods. When he tells an outright whopper, they agree with it, defend it, or explain it away. When he behaves like his predecessor, or worse, they say, “This is different.” In my column on Wednesday, I noted something that Trump said to a journalist: “I can’t be doing so badly because I’m president and you’re not.” I recalled how we — we righties — knocked President Obama for his arrogance and condescension. Some readers then told me that, no, this was different. And I could understand, to a degree. (Anything is permissible in the name of insulting journalists, such as the Time reporter whom Trump was talking to.) I’ve said that “his grievances are their grievances; his causes are their causes,” etc. I should also have included this, for it is very important: His enemies are their enemies. A loyal base — an intensely loyal core — is priceless in politics. Nixon didn’t have it, when the crunch came in the summer of 1974. We’ll see how the Trump years go. And if Trump moves to the center, opposing conservative Republicans and making deals with Democrats, will his base follow him? I believe it will. One more thing on this subject of loyalty: I was once a die-hard Reagan man (still am). I bled with him. I loved him, yes, but, perhaps even more — this is shameful to admit — I hated his enemies. They were my enemies too, it seemed. I stuck with Reagan through thick and thin, including Iran-contra and Bitburg. My inclination was to defend him on everything (even excuse him). Will I ever feel such intense loyalty to a president, or any other politician, again? I doubt it. But who knows? You will be amazed at a story out of Greenfield, Ind. — or maybe not. A group got together and wanted to donate $50,000 to a new high-school football field. They are an anonymous group. And they wanted the name associated with their donation to be a hashtag: “#BlessTheWorld.” The school board said no — because “bless” had religious connotations. The board cited the separation of church and state (!). So the group declined to give their donation. I have a question: If someone sneezes, what are you supposed to say? Legally? Recently, I was talking with Vladimir Kara-Murza, the Russian democracy leader, and he made a point about young Russians: They have known no rule, no government, but Putin’s. They know that people in other countries enjoy much greater freedom. And they are fed up. Well, youth played an important role in the recent anti-corruption demonstrations — and those demonstrations took place across the country. What we’ve heard, for some years, is: The elites in Moscow and St. Petersburg don’t like Putin, but people in the great Russian heartlands are fine with him. In light of this claim — which I’ve always found credible — an Associated Press report out of Tambov is interesting. Tambov is a city in southeastern Russia. The report cites a woman, 20 years old, who wrote a sentence on a placard: “I want to know the truth.” She was carted away by police. A man was fired from his job — jobs, actually — when he became the local representative of Open Russia, the democracy group of which Kara-Murza is vice-chairman. I am struck by that statement from that young woman, in a society where the media are harassed and censored, and where journalists drop like flies: “I want to know the truth.” This is a human yearning, not one confined to Birmingham (England or Michigan). (Or Alabama!) Let me recommend another report from the AP — this one from Iraq: Why is Mosul so hard to take? Why can’t that important city be wrested from ISIS? The report explains why, clearly and convincingly, and draws on historical parallels (such as the French experience in Algeria). People like me spend a lot of time knocking the “MSM,” or mainstream media. But they can do excellent and indispensable work, and man cannot live on right-wing opinion alone (alas). Have another report, from Afghanistan: What’s it like to be a girl there? Or a young woman? What if you join an orchestra? Very, very bad things can ensue. Isn’t that a wholesome, beautiful, human desire? To join an orchestra? It shouldn’t cost you your family, or your life, should it? Two AP reporters, Karim Sharifi and Rahim Faiez, have written a fascinating, somewhat haunting report. Hats off to them. If you are lucky, you’ve never been a victim of Nazi or Nazi-style trolls on the Internet. There are many of them. They are legion. And what they can do can screw with your head and heart, for a long time to come. I have seen some of their handiwork. Here is a story that talks about them, and their victims. The issue is not to be ignored. Shall we lighten the mood with a little language? Let me quote from my Impromptus of Wednesday: A headline read, “Non merci: French voters reject corruption in politics.” (Story here.) In my understanding, just “Merci,” said in a certain way, says “No, thank you.” Perhaps Frenchmen among us can weigh in … I think you will like this letter, in every respect: Jay, I’m no Frenchman, but I was a Mormon missionary in and around Paris (same mission as ol’ Mitt, by the way, who is still fondly remembered there) about ten years ago. When trying to stop someone on the street to talk, I would often get a simple “Merci!” for the trouble. As you say, this actually meant “No, thanks!” Two things I recall: (1) This always came from women, middle-aged or older. (2) There’s a specific inflection about it. The first syllable is high-pitched and stressed, and the second is lower — about a step and a half down — and drawn out. Very musical indeed. The resulting shout/song is pleasing aurally, even as it’s disappointing to a young missionary trying to converse with the French about religion. (It was a long two years.) A little music? I mean, besides the “Merci” of Frenchwomen trying to avoid missionaries? For my review of a recent Fidelio (Beethoven’s opera) at the Met, go here. Adrianne Pieczonka, the Canadian soprano in the title role, was extraordinary. We were sitting around the editorial table, and Fred Schwarz began a comment with, “As you all remember from your high-school calculus …” I was slightly flattered. But Fred might as well have said, “As you well remember from your dating of Brooke Shields” — with this difference: I could, and surely did, imagine dating Brooke; I could not imagine calculus, and thought algebra was Chinese enough … Have a little appearance coming up — in Midland, Mich., home of Northwood University, where I’ll be speaking. On what? On a strange little history I wrote: Children of Monsters: An Inquiry into the Sons and Daughters of Dictators. The talk is Monday evening. If you’d like to attend — and for further info — go here. Do you remember What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, the movie from 1993? Darlene Cates played the morbidly obese mother. She had never acted before, but the movie’s screenwriter saw her on Sally Jessy Raphael’s talk show. So … Mrs. Cates has died, and I read an obit of her, here. I wanted to share something she said. “Once I did the Sally show, all of a sudden I realized that if I went out and people stared at me, I wouldn’t know if they were staring at me because I was fat or because they recognized me from being on TV. That empowered me.” Thank you, dear readers, and see you later.   A word from the National Review Store: To get Digging In: Further Collected Writings of Jay Nordlinger, go here.
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Religious Trumpians Suffer from Stockholm Syndrome

4yrs ago from National Review
One of the great lies of the last election cycle didn’t come from Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. It came from conservatives. Specifically, the lie came from conservatives who suggested that after Trump was elected — after the Hildebeast had been defeated! — they would go back to holding Trump accountable, pushing for better public policy. Everything had to be put on hold to stop the Democrats from taking power, every heresy tolerated. But once Trump took the White House, conservatives could return to their political philosophy. Nope. It now appears that the cognitive dissonance associated with Trump support has morphed into full-blown Stockholm syndrome, with conservatives now waiving principle not to defeat Hillary Clinton, but to back Trump down the line. Many conservatives now say that Trump’s American Health Care Act was the best available bad option. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and President Trump had presented a crap sandwich, to be sure, but it was the best available crap sandwich. Never mind its 17 percent public-approval rating. Never mind its accelerated death spiral. Never mind its new entitlement, its maintenance of key Obamacare regulations, or its increased premiums for the next few years. Trump wanted it; thus it was good; thus it had to be passed. It was The Best We Were Going To Do™. Except that it wasn’t. It wasn’t the legislative process that required a bill cramdown on the president’s own party within a three-week period. It wasn’t the legislative process that offered an ultimatum to conservatives to embrace the suck. It wasn’t the legislative process that demanded conservatives sign on to all the policies they opposed when Obama promulgated them. It was Trump. And because Ryan thought that his best option involved parlaying with Trump rather than going through the rough business of policymaking, he negotiated with himself to create a one-off bill, hoping that Trump would bring the anti-establishment conservatives and that he’d bring the establishment Republicans. It failed, in part because of Trump’s artificial deadline, in part because Trump would never have pushed a truly conservative piece of legislation that did away with preexisting-conditions regulations, and in part because Ryan decided to go along with Trump’s program in order to push through his long-awaited structural changes to Medicaid. And then, to top it off, Trump deployed famed subtle touch Steve Bannon to scream at Republicans about how they had to get their minds right or they’d spend the night in the box. The bill was bad, and it deserved to go down in flames. The strategy was worse. Barack Obama spent 13 months hammering out Obamacare. Trump spent 17 days. But who gets blamed? The conservatives who actually took their promises about repealing Obamacare seriously. The gaddumed fools thought that it mattered whether they actually got rid of Obamacare. All they had to know was that many conservatives only cared about propping up Trump. And so too many conservatives turned on the Freedom Caucus, which saved Republicans from passing an odious piece of legislation that would have crippled Republicans for years. They argued that Republicans had to go along with Trumpcare, because it was the “lesser of two evils.” They followed Trump’s lead, as Trump outrageously blamed the Freedom Caucus for preserving Planned Parenthood funding and Obamacare. The more to the left Trump moves, the more incompetently he governs, the more unpopular he becomes, the more his election defenders feel the need to defend him beyond the election. There’s been a lot of talk about Never Trumpers dumping on Trump in order to prove they were right during the election cycle. There’s some truth to that — figures such as Evan McMullin seem dedicated to the proposition that everything Trump touches turns to hot garbage. But that case is overstated. Most of those who didn’t vote for Trump or Hillary have praised Trump fulsomely for conservative actions such as the nomination of Judge Gorsuch, his approach to cutting regulation, and most of his cabinet appointments. There’s been far less talk about ardent Trump defenders who are now shifting their arguments about Trump’s supposed brilliance because they wish to avoid the non-brilliant reality of his presidency. Remember when Trump would be a great president because he was a great negotiator? That old chestnut has been discarded in favor of “Trump got played by that Machiavellian Snidely Ryan.” Remember when Trump would know how to work with Congress, because he wasn’t tied down to ideology? That’s been tossed out the window in favor of screaming about conservative obstructionism. Remember when Trump would be the most conservative president ever, and this whole populist shtick would merely be a cover for a Mike Pence policy? That’s gone, and Trump’s now going to be the greatest aisle-reacher in history. Remember when Trump would know how to fix D.C., because only he knew how corrupt it was? Now we hear that Trump didn’t understand the extent of the problem in D.C. Remember when Trump’s toughness would mean that nobody would cross him? That argument now reads, “Trump’s so tough, he knew when to walk away.” In other words, many conservatives have become religious Trumpians. There is nothing Trump can do to lose their love and respect. If he turns to the left, they’ll blame conservatives for failing to kowtow to leftist policy. If he gets nothing done, they’ll blame everybody else on earth for failing to support Trump properly. The god must be appeased. And so the soul-sucking of many conservatives continues apace. This doesn’t mean that Trump won’t give conservatives some wins — he most assuredly will. And those wins deserve celebration. But the question remains: When Trump crosses conservatives, will their allegiance remain with them, or with the philosophy they supposedly sought to uphold in electing him to avoid Hillary Clinton? — Ben Shapiro is the editor in chief of the Daily Wire.
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Taking the Benedict Lead

4yrs ago from National Review
People are buzzing about things Benedictine lately, particularly with the publication of Rod Dreher’s The Benedict Option, which recommends the rule of St. Benedict as a tool for a well-ordered life and, more important, intentional authenticity among Christians in the world today. On Friday night, the new Benedict Leadership Institute at Belmont Abbey College in Charlotte, N.C., awarded its first Benedict Leadership Award to Carl Anderson, head of the Knights of Columbus, highlighting the work the group does to buttress faith, civil society, and robust religious liberty in the U.S. Conor Gallagher, publisher of TAN Books and Saint Benedict Press, talks about the Institute, the Knights, and religious publishing today. Kathryn Jean Lopez: What’s a book publisher doing running a leadership institute? Does one have to do with the other? What’s your mission as book publisher, and is this institute a natural outgrowth of that? Conor Gallagher: Well, one of the things that happens when you run a family business is that you end up wearing many hats! At Saint Benedict Press, our mission is to help people become saints. Whether it’s through our Saint Benedict Press parish programs, TAN books, or one of our many other imprints, we try to lead people into a deeper and more active Catholic faith. There is certainly an overlap between my work as publisher and the founding of the Benedict Leadership Institute. Our company’s name pays homage to the guiding influence of the Rule of Saint Benedict and particularly the motto of the Benedictine tradition — ora et labora (“pray and work”). Our world needs strong Catholic leaders who are willing to pray and work and ultimately transform society as the result of their faith. The mission of the Benedict Leadership Institute is to develop and inspire Catholic leaders. Lopez: What’s so special about Carl Anderson and the Knights of Columbus? Gallagher: This is the first year we’re presenting the Benedict Leadership Award, and we wanted to set the bar really high. We wanted to go for the best, and that’s how we came up with Carl Anderson — someone who has had an extraordinary impact on the Church and the wider society, not only here in the U.S. but globally. Anderson is the epitome of Catholic leadership. While there are many reasons he is worthy of the Benedict Leadership Award, we chose to honor him for his leadership in one area in particular: His resolute defense of persecuted Christians. This is an area of great concern to me and the rest of the Executive Committee of the Benedict Leadership Institute. Lopez: What do you hope to impart to students and the Belmont Abbey community by honoring him? Gallagher: The Benedict Leadership Institute exists to connect the students at Belmont Abbey with the best Catholic leaders around the globe. We want to give students the opportunity to meet great Catholic leaders, such as Anderson, so they can learn from their examples. I hope they’ll be inspired to go out and become the next generation of leaders the world so desperately needs. Lopez: Why is focusing attention on Christian persecution and genocide so important? Does it suggest that you might care more about Christians than other people? Gallagher: Christians in the Middle East, as well as other at-risk minority groups like the Yazidis, need someone to speak out for them — and we should feel that obligation heavily. If we Christians in the West don’t advocate for our brothers and sisters in the Middle East, who will? ISIS has brought suffering to so many. But Christians and Yazidis have been targeted for genocide — and we need to keep this fact firmly in front of world leaders and the United Nations. They are also uniquely at-risk even in refugee camps, and when they stay away from those camps, they lose the opportunity to be vetted and resettled in the West. Last year, Anderson and the Knights of Columbus succeeded in getting the State Department to end its silence about the ongoing genocide against Christians and other minority groups in Syria and Iraq. Since 2014, the Knights have donated $12 million to help persecuted Christians in the Middle East. It is my hope that honoring Anderson with the Benedict Leadership Award will bring attention and relief to persecuted Christians and move the public to act more decisively on their behalf. Lopez: Has Belmont Abbey benefited from the controversies over religious freedom that it has been enmeshed in recently? Perhaps it has prompted review and renewal of questions about the school’s mission? Gallagher: I think Belmont Abbey has benefited, first of all with the blessing promised in the beatitudes: Blessed are they who are persecuted. Following one’s conscience is not without its cost. Belmont Abbey has had to fight, and pay, to follow its conscience regarding health-care coverage for contraception, abortion, and abortifacients. But the blessings are real. We’ve had tremendous support for our position from faculty, students, and administrators, and tremendous leadership from our president Dr. William Thierfelder. Everyone knows without a doubt what is most important to Belmont Abbey College: following Christ. And that has attracted so many outstanding men and women, students, faculty, benefactors, to join or affiliate with us in some way. Lopez: Do you have an opinion on the “Benedict Option” that Rod Dreher has publicized? Is TAN’s upcoming book on the “Marian Option” intended to compete with Dreher’s idea, or is it a complement and maybe even a compliment? Gallagher: Rod Dreher is dead-on in his call in The Benedict Option for Christians and social conservatives to band together and provide alternative social, cultural, educational, and employment networks and institutions. Large public, corporate, and secular institutions are increasingly imposing upon Christians crises of conscience that may well demand a retreat or withdrawal. Think of the pharmacist compelled by her corporate employer to dispense abortifacients, or the public-school teacher who must assist and affirm his middle-school student in a gender transition, forbidden to bring any concerns to the parents. Part of my job as publisher of TAN Books and Saint Benedict Press is to provide resources for these alternative networks: Curriculums for homeschoolers, continuing home education for adults who were denied a true liberal education in public schools, video programming (like our new Queen of Heaven series) that is as entertaining as anything seen on secular networks, but is also faithful, informative, inspirational. At the same time, Christians can’t stop trying to influence the larger corporate and secular and public institutions, even when we build up our own. We’re called to leaven and transform the wider society. As a Catholic, I believe we have every reason for hope, with the Church’s rich patrimony of art and beauty and scholarship, and above all with the power of the sacraments and the intercession of the Blessed Mother. This is where The Marian Option by Carrie Gress has such a great contribution to make. Carrie documents the fascinating ways that Marian devotion has transformed society in the past and how actual interventions of Mary — as at Lepanto and Guadalupe, and during the Cold War through Fatima — rescued cultures on the brink. The Marian Option offers another way out of a corrupt culture. Not all of us can or should forsake the world for a monastery. But we should all turn to our mother. Lopez: If there is one message you could transmit beyond your event this weekend, what would it be? One message that you could communicate, perhaps, to people who might never read a book you publish? Gallagher: One message? That’s tough. I think it would be what Carl Anderson told our Belmont Abbey students: “Give God permission.” He heard Mother Teresa say this one time, and it stuck with him. He told the students (and it was exactly what I needed to hear) to give God permission to plan your life, to guide you through the journey. He said to “keep the long view” but also to always — always — do the next right thing in front of you. Only God knows if and how the next little step is connected with the long view. We have to let God do His miraculous work in our lives. Anderson never imagined being the Supreme Knight. But somehow, God gets us where He wants us, as long as we give Him permission. This is a beautiful message for anyone — any customer of TAN or Saint Benedict Press. Give God permission. He will work wonders with you. — Kathryn Jean Lopez is a senior fellow at the National Review Institute and an editor-at-large of National Review. Sign up for her weekly NRI newsletter here. She’s currently working on a book for St. Benedict’s Press.
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Jeffrey Toobin Smears Gorsuch

4yrs ago from National Review
The New Yorker’s Jeffrey Toobin has penned a hit piece on Supreme Court nominee that plumbs new depths of incompetence. 1. When I first skimmed the piece, I was struck by Toobin’s discussion of the TransAm trucker case. Here’s his entire account of the positions taken by the majority and by Gorsuch’s dissent: The majority in the case called the dismissal unjustified, but Gorsuch said that the driver was in the wrong. But, as I’ve explained (and as ought to have been obvious to anyone who paid attention to the hearing), the panel wasn’t deciding whether the company’s dismissal of the trucker was generally “unjustified.” Rather, it was deciding whether a specific whistleblower provision, which makes it unlawful for an employer to discharge an employee who “refuses to operate a vehicle” because of safety concerns, barred the firing. Far from maintaining that “the driver was in the wrong,” Gorsuch merely concluded that the whistleblower provision did not apply: [T]hat statute only forbids employers from firing employees who “refuse[] to operate a vehicle” out of safety concerns. And, of course, nothing like that happened here. The trucker in this case wasn’t fired for refusing to operate his vehicle. Indeed, his employer gave him the very option the statute says it must: once he voiced safety concerns, TransAm expressly — and by everyone’s admission — permitted him to sit and remain where he was and wait for help. The trucker was fired only after he declined the statutorily protected option (refuse to operate) and chose instead to operate his vehicle in a manner he thought wise but his employer did not. And there’s simply no law anyone has pointed us to giving employees the right to operate their vehicles in ways their employers forbid. Maybe the Department [of Labor] would like such a law, maybe someday Congress will adorn our federal statute books with such a law. But it isn’t there yet. And it isn’t our job to write one — or to allow the Department to write one in Congress’s place. [Italics in original; underlining added.] Gorsuch didn’t defend the company’s conduct. He simply opined that the company hadn’t violated the whistleblower provision: It might be fair to ask whether TransAm’s decision was a wise or kind one. But it’s not our job to answer questions like that. Our only task is to decide whether the decision was an illegal one. Gorsuch’s dissent, which Toobin mislabels as being “of almost Gothic cruelty,” is all that Toobin offers for his claim that Gorsuch has a “predilection for employers over employees.” 2. As I looked more carefully, I discovered that Toobin’s piece was a cavalcade of folly. Some examples: a. Toobin claims that “Gorsuch portrayed himself as a kind of judicial automaton, obligated to pay mindless obeisance to the Court’s prior rulings.” Did Toobin actually watch any of the hearing? Gorsuch specifically stated that judging is not a matter of applying “algorithms.” Further, he treated precedent only as the starting point, and, far from ever claiming that precedent is sacrosanct, referred repeatedly to the various factors (discussed in the 900-page book on precedent that he recently co-authored) that bear on whether and when precedent should be overturned. b. Toobin asserts that Gorsuch’s “background also includes a dose of pro-corporate, deregulatory libertarianism, as reflected in his close relationship with the billionaire Philip Anschutz, a client turned mentor.” I’ve seen Anschutz described as a conservative Christian, not a libertarian, and if there was anything in Gorsuch’s legal work that advanced the cause of “pro-corporate, deregulatory libertarianism,” I don’t see it in this New York Times account of Gorsuch’s relationship with Anschutz. As a Tenth Circuit judge, Gorsuch has recused himself from all cases involving Anschutz and his companies, and, per NYT, the continuing “close relationship” consists of little more than Gorsuch’s being a “semiregular speaker” at Anschutz’s “dove-hunting retreats.” c. Toobin claims, “A sampling of authoritarianism can be seen in Gorsuch’s service in George W. Bush’s Justice Department, where he helped craft a proposal for the treatment of detainees at Guantánamo.” But the proposal Toobin is referring to was the bipartisan Detainee Treatment Act, which aimed to clarify the handling of detainees suspected of terrorism. The Senate approved the two separate measures that comprise the Act by votes of 90-9 and 84-14. That’s sure some “authoritarianism.” d. Of Gorsuch’s 320-page book against assisted suicide, Toobin claims, “It’s easy to read the book as a coded attack on abortion rights.” Yeah, right: a 320-page code that has a footnote that specifically disclaims addressing the abortion issue. Toobin gives no sign that he’s read a page of the book. e. Toobin claims that “Gorsuch would embrace the deregulation of campaign finance” and, as his sole support for that proposition, states that Gorsuch “argued in an opinion that judges should evaluate limits on political contributions using the same tough standards that they apply to racial discrimination.” But, as he testified (and as I’ve shown), Gorsuch made no such argument but instead highlighted the “conflicting cues” that Supreme Court precedents provided. f. Toobin claims that Gorsuch was “taking a side in the culture wars” when he and his fellow members of the en banc majority in the Hobby Lobby case “ruled that a multibillion-dollar corporation could withhold federally guaranteed rights to birth control from thousands of female employees because of the religious beliefs of the corporation’s owners.” The reader would have no idea that the ruling vindicated the “federally guaranteed rights” of religious liberty that the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act provided, nor that the corporation was closely held (rather than public). Far from “taking a side in the culture wars,” Gorsuch merely enforced the text of federal religious-liberty laws, just as he has done on behalf of a Native American prisoner seeking access to a sweat lodge and a Muslim prisoner seeking halal food. g. Toobin finds it “embarrassing” for Gorsuch that the Supreme Court “unanimously rejected one of his holdings” on the second day of his testimony. Never mind that the actual case before the Court wasn’t Gorsuch’s but a follow-on. Toobin doesn’t inform his readers that liberal Clinton appointee Mary Beck Briscoe joined Gorsuch’s unanimous opinion nor that they were seeking to apply circuit precedent. h. Toobin claims that, by not acting on President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland, “the Republicans denied Obama his constitutional right.” But Obama did not have a “constitutional right” to have Garland confirmed. He had a constitutional power to nominate Garland, and he exercised that power. The Senate had a constitutional power to block that nomination, and it exercised that power. Simple as that.
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Why Baptists Should Support Muslims’ Right to Build Mosques

4yrs ago from National Review
As previously noted by Paul Crookston at National Review Online (in “Religious Freedom for Me but Not for Thee?”), it is a mistake for Baptists, such as megachurch pastors Dean Haun and Mike Buster, to abandon the cause of religious liberty being led by Russell Moore, the president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC). This is not only because the amicus brief signed onto by the ERLC was both legally sound and ultimately successful, but because the history of Baptists in America demands it. It was not so long ago that Baptists were “the Muslims” fighting for the right to construct their own houses of worship. Moore received mixed responses last summer when he agreed with the ERLC’s position and publicly defended the religious rights of Muslims to construct mosques in the United States. Some at the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) called for the firing of any SBC official who supported the rights of Muslims to build mosques, and they recommended the removal of the ERLC’s name from the amicus brief. Some even went so far as to posit that Muslims do not deserve the same religious freedoms as Christians. Even though the U.S. district court of New Jersey has since ruled in favor of the mosque’s construction in Bernards Township, some corners of the SBC have continued to criticize Moore and the ERLC. Those Baptists continuing to oppose Moore should take time to consider the history of their spiritual forefathers. While today we tend to think of America as the world’s beacon for religious liberty, a city on a hill, 17th- and 18th-century Baptists would have begged to differ. In the colonies, Baptist rejection of infant baptism was considered abhorrent by the established churches. To Anglicans, Congregationalists, and Presbyterians, this deviation from tradition was demonic and divisive. Accordingly, Baptists endured harassment, including, fines, prohibition against their services, flogging, and even jail time. Massachusetts outlawed Baptists altogether in 1645, calling them “the troublers of churches in all places.” As a result of the government’s response, much of the populace developed a distinct hostility toward the Baptists. This motivated many Baptists, and other non-Protestant minorities, to remain loyal to England throughout the American Revolution. It was hard to support a rebellion for “equality” of representation when many of the revolutionaries didn’t regard Baptists as religious equals. Baptists’ loyalist leanings only brought them further political animosity. Isaac Backus, the famous Baptist preacher and statesman, attended the Continental Congress in 1774, seeking relief for his brethren. But most attendees labeled Backus an overly hysterical alarmist. John Adams even told Backus that a shift in the solar system was more likely than an end to the established church of Massachusetts. Thus, persecution against Baptists endured throughout the American Revolution. They continued to be taxed to support the established churches but received none of the revenue for themselves (a.k.a. taxation without representation). Later, with massive Baptist support, Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia Statute for Establishing Religious Freedom (1786) enshrined the principle that “no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever . . . nor shall otherwise suffer, on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion.” Thus began the idea of the wall of separation between civil and ecclesiastical affairs. The 1786 law provided important precedent for Madison’s First Amendment in 1789. Later, in their famous letter in 1801 to then President Jefferson, the Danbury Baptists expressed concern over a lack of explicit protection for their religious liberties in the Connecticut constitution. Jefferson’s reply, which drew heavily on Roger Williams’s formulation of a “hedge of separation,” solidified the “wall of separation” concept based on the establishment clause. Despite these legislative victories, Baptists did not expect politicians to do the church’s work for them. They opposed hostility toward religion, but they did not jockey for government favors. Civil authorities, they believed, should simply protect free exercise of religion for all. They preferred to depend upon the power of God, rather than government, to accomplish the purposes of the church. Isaac Backus and John Leland, another Baptist hero for religious liberty, spoke out for the freedom of the soul in behalf of Jews, Muslims, and atheists alike. The principle was that religious freedom is not a spoil of politics, to be divvied out to — and defined by — the highest bidder. This was the very “sin” of which Backus was accusing Massachusetts. Rather, as Russell Moore has said, religious freedom is a transcendent right, acknowledged by government but impossible to legislate into, or out of, existence. Liberty of conscience was not only a natural right to Backus; it was also a spiritual, nonnegotiable reality that could not be controlled by any earthly institution. People could be forced into outward conformity and compliance, a fact of English history that Backus felt the Massachusetts legislature was too quick to forget, but men’s souls remained free. Anything else would be “lip service and vain worship,” as he called it. Moore echoed Backus at the SBC convention last summer when, responding to criticism regarding the amicus brief, he stated, “What it means to be Baptist is to support soul freedom for everybody.” Coercion by outside forces to disobey one’s conscience would provide no excuse against divine judgment for the disobedient individual. In his 1773 pamphlet “An Appeal to the Public for Religious Liberty,” Backus noted that religion was “a voluntary obedience unto God which therefore force cannot promote.” To control religion is to attempt to hamper the effectual call by God on the souls of men. Men must be allowed to seek reconciliation with the divine. And civil government, acting in just accordance with its ordained function, must protect this process. In this way, government, like the church, is concerned with the souls of its populace. Like Backus, modern Baptists must simultaneously be patriots and Christians, advocates for individual freedom of conscience while appealing to the souls of men to seek reconciliation with God. In this dual role, Baptists recognize that man’s ultimate good is union with Christ, that man is personally responsible before God, and that government is ordained by God. Everyone, including Muslims, is made in the image of God, possessing inherent dignity that is expressed in and through human capacity to hold sincere religious beliefs. This was clearly evident to Backus, and should be more evident to modern Baptists who have enjoyed living in a pluralistic society in existence for centuries. Given the shift in American demographics, it might not be long before the Baptists are once again a powerless minority. And this time, it might be Muslims before whom they are pleading for ‘soul freedom.’ The hypocrisy of those who criticize interfaith alliances for common purposes, like the alliance in the New Jersey mosque case, is that while they accuse such coalitions of putting politics before God, their underlying motive is to use the government to bolster and secure the faith of their choice. In reality, they are dishonoring the Baptist tradition of religious liberty established by those before them. What’s more, their position is short-sighted. Given the present shift in American demographics, it might not be too long before the Baptists are once again a powerless minority. And this time, it might be Muslims before whom they are pleading for “soul freedom.” As the foundation of all our civil liberties, religious freedom is not and cannot be a Christian privilege only. We should eagerly work with our fellow citizens of other faiths to preserve this liberty, not because we agree on who God is, but because we do agree that the government does not get to answer that question for us. The type of coalition-building employed in the New Jersey mosque case mirrors the strange partnership that arguably established religious freedom itself in America (for instance, with Jefferson and the Danbury Baptists). We should commend current leaders like Russell Moore who are furthering this facet of the Baptist tradition. Indeed, their efforts not only honor the Baptists who suffered for the cause of religious freedom, but they also coincide with the SBC doctrinal statement, which says that in order to bring earthly institutions “under the sway of the principles of righteousness, truth, and brotherly love . . . Christians should be ready to work with all men of good will in any good cause.” An earlier version of this article was originally published at Conciliar Post. — Timon Cline is a lifelong Baptist.
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Religious Liberty Isn’t a Government Privilege

4yrs ago from National Review
Thus far there are two unfolding lines of attack on Judge Neil Gorsuch. The first is so intellectually absurd as to be frivolous — that he rules for the wrong people. In other words, the critic ignores the legal reasoning and focuses only on the legal outcome. If a poor person or a person of color loses, the judge is wrong. If a corporation wins, the judge is wrong. Judges are not legislators, however, and critiques that barely even mention (or ignore entirely) applicable legal standards when evaluating case outcomes may sometimes play well on television but prove difficult to sustain in practice. Unless a judge utterly lacks integrity, he or she finds himself ruling against his ideological friends all the time. (Witness the Obama administration’s remarkable number of 9–0 defeats before an ideologically divided Supreme Court.) The second critique is far more philosophically substantial and goes to the heart of how we define our most fundamental rights. Essentially, a number of legal leftists believe that Judge Gorsuch has entirely too much respect for religious freedom. Writing in Slate, Dahlia Lithwick lays out this view at length. First, she claims that “our current religious liberty jurisprudence . . . is extremely deferential toward religious believers.” She claims that “religious dissenters who seek to be exempted from neutral and generally applicable laws are given the benefit of the doubt, even when others are harmed. Sometimes those harms are not even taken into account.” She continues: Gorsuch agrees with all of this and then some. His record reflects a pattern of systematically privileging the rights of religious believers over those of religious minorities and nonbelievers. It is, of course, vital and important to protect religious dissenters; the First Amendment could not be clearer. But the First Amendment is equally anxious about state establishment of religion, an anxiety Gorsuch is less inclined to share. In other words, when Judge Gorsuch examines the religious-liberty claims of, say, Hobby Lobby against the regulatory “right” of free contraceptive coverage, applying any preference to the claims of religious litigants is not only improper, but it may even violate the establishment clause. Yet this fundamentally misunderstands not merely the statutory law at issue but also the history of religious liberty as a constitutional and human right. First, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (the statute at issue in the Hobby Lobby case) mandated that Judge Gorsuch apply a specific legal test to the case that privileged religious liberty claims. Had he not applied that test, he would have been disregarding the law he was charged to interpret. Second, no one should think that all rights exist on equal footing. As our Declaration of Independence acknowledges, we are endowed by our Creator with certain “unalienable rights.” Government doesn’t create those rights. Its role is instead to acknowledge and protect them. While there’s no comprehensive list of unalienable rights, the Bill of Rights is a good place to start. It defines and protects the liberties that were essential to our nation’s founding and indispensable to the protection of a free people. The Founders appropriately resolved the conflict between fundamental rights and government power. In all but the most compelling circumstances, fundamental rights should prevail. A “right” to free birth-control pills is not on that list. Nor are numerous other statutory or regulatory rights that governments give and take away at will. In reality, we often use the word “right” to describe what are actually privileges, and it’s entirely appropriate for a court to give deference to an actual human, natural, and constitutional right when it conflicts with a regulatory privilege. You’ll often see religious-liberty cases wrongly described as if equal rights were in conflict. For example, on college campuses, I’ve litigated cases in which the religious liberty of a student group is said to be in conflict with the “right” of an atheist student to run a Christian group. In other cases, the religious-liberty rights of bakers and florists are said to be in conflict with the alleged “rights” of customers to purchase wedding cakes and floral arrangements from the artist of their choice. Should rights of conscience be on the same footing as acts of college administrators or state regulators? Or should rights of conscience have a built-in advantage, to be overruled only in the most compelling circumstances? Indeed, this question highlights perhaps Justice Antonin Scalia’s worst judicial decision. In Employment Division v. Smith, he stripped the free-exercise clause of much of its legal potency, wrongly relegating it to second-class status in the Bill of Rights, and setting up much of the regulatory and intellectual confusion that followed. Judge Gorsuch, fortunately, appears to have a much sounder view of religious freedom. Lithwick uses the term “suffering” to describe the plight of persons who have to pay for their own birth control. But the hyperbole surrounding the Hobby Lobby case demonstrates exactly why religious liberty merits heightened protection: Minority religious views are often unpopular, especially when confronting state programs designed from the ground up to bestow state benefits. The Founders appropriately resolved the conflict between fundamental rights and government power. In all but the most compelling circumstances, fundamental rights should prevail. This does not mean that asserting a religious-liberty claim means automatic victory. The assertion must be sincere, and even sincere assertions should be overcome when the governmental interests are sufficiently compelling and its action appropriately narrow. But the principle stands: Religious liberty is a right our nation protects, not a right it creates, and it is entirely right and proper for judges to recognize that fundamental moral and constitutional fact. — David French is a staff writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and an attorney.
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Gorsuch, Scalia, and Religious Liberty

4yrs ago from National Review
Nathan Diament tries to show that Neil Gorsuch is a more reliable protector of religious liberty than the late Justice Antonin Scalia was, but he doesn’t even show that they differ on any issue related to religious liberty. Scalia wrote a majority opinion denying that the Constitution compels judges to order governments to exempt religious believers from laws that impose a burden on their faiths. Congress then enacted a law telling judges to grant such exemptions (under certain circumstances). Diament points to instances in which Judge Gorsuch applied this law as though those instances suggest a conflict with Scalia. They don’t. Diament writes: What comes through in these opinions [written by Judge Gorsuch] is a recognition that seems to have eluded Scalia in 1990: The law is meant to be a bulwark against the infringement—whether by government or other powerful entities—upon a person’s religious conscience and practices. It is not enough to allow Americans to believe as they wish; they must also be able, generally, to act in conformity with their beliefs. If by “the law” we mean the Religious Freedom Restoration Act enacted in 1993, then it’s true that the law is exactly the kind of bulwark Diament says it is. But Justice Scalia can’t be faulted for refusing to apply it before it existed. If, on the other hand, by “the law” he means the First Amendment, he has offered no evidence that Judge Gorsuch views it any differently than Scalia did.
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The Baptist Battle Over Russell Moore Really Matters—Here’s Why

4yrs ago from National Review
Yesterday, Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, appeared to dodge a bullet. After comprehensive reporting from the Washington Post indicating that Frank Page, head of the SBC’s executive committee, was meeting with Moore and was prepared to ask for Moore’s resignation “if the meeting doesn’t go well,” the two men put out a statement saying they “fully support one another and look forward to working together on behalf of Southern Baptists for years to come.” Yet the question of Moore’s status may not be permanently resolved. The SBC’s executive committee has “launched a study” of decisions the church makes about escrow funds that would ordinarily flow to the ERLC. A number of churches and pastors had publicly declared they were withholding the funds in protest of Moore’s actions during the 2016 election and his policy decisions as head of the ERLC. The committee’s report is due later this year. While it’s almost certainly true that absent the rise of Donald Trump Moore wouldn’t be facing the sheer amount of incoming fire from fellow Baptists that he is, the dispute between Moore and his critics goes beyond the election to echo the political, generational, race divides that are straining the Evangelical church well beyond the nation’s largest Protestant denomination. Not to over-simplify the dispute, but in many ways Moore represented a break from the partisanship of traditional Christian conservatism at the very time when many of his constituents were proving most unwilling to separate themselves either rhetorically or spiritually from the GOP. Moore was an early critic of both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. The core of his critique was simple: that American Christians shouldn’t excuse or rationalize sin for the sake of political victory in any single election. Moreover, the same moral standards one applies to political opponents should also apply to one’s political friends. If sexual misconduct, for example, rendered Bill Clinton unfit for office in the 1990s, how should Christians think about a thrice-married serial adulterer in 2016 — especially one who bragged about grabbing women by the genitals? The core of his critique was simple: that American Christians shouldn’t excuse or rationalize sin for the sake of political victory in any single election. On a broader level, Moore was mapping out a vision for Christians that declared the church to be more than just another interest group. Rather than narrowly seeking its own perceived political interests, it should offer a God-honoring moral voice that is concerned with ends and means. In other words, those who lie to secure power are still liars, even if they prove to be marginally better politicians than the candidates they defeat. The church does not glorify God when it aligns itself with corruption in either party. At the same time, the ERLC was working diligently to try to bridge persistent racial divisions in the SBC and the Evangelical church more broadly and to persuade the public that religious liberty wasn’t just a Christian concern, but a deeply American value. Towards that end, it controversially (to some) signed on to an amicus brief defending the religious liberty of Muslims seeking to build a mosque in New Jersey. (To criticize this decision is particularly odd given the ERLC’s explicit mission to preserve religious liberty. The same legal standards that apply to mosques will also apply to churches.) In other words, Moore was echoing the values and priorities of a large number of younger Evangelicals, men and women who were dispirited by partisanship, weary of persistent racial divisions in the church, and deeply concerned that longtime religious-right leaders had failed to make a compelling case for religious freedom.  But it was politics that truly ticked off Moore’s critics. It was the straw — no, the two-by-four — that broke the camel’s back. Yet in making his critiques and stating his case against Clinton and Trump, Moore was doing little more than quoting the Southern Baptist Convention back to itself. In 1998, as Bill Clinton faced impeachment for his sexual misconduct, the Convention penned a short but powerful Resolution on Moral Character of Public Officials. The resolution laid out a series of key biblical truths, including truths that should prick the conscience of politically involved Christians of both parties. For example, the convention noted that “many Americans are willing to excuse or overlook immoral or illegal conduct by unrepentant public officials so long as economic prosperity prevails.” That is most certainly true, and so is this: “Tolerance of serious wrong by leaders sears the conscience of the culture, spawns unrestrained immorality and lawlessness in the society, and surely results in God’s judgment.” In other words, God is sovereign over our political culture, and He has outlined certain spiritual laws that govern the fate of nations. Among them (as amply illustrated biblically), unrighteousness can bring ruin. This means that selecting leaders involves more than merely comparing tax proposals or presumed judicial nominations. It must include an analysis of character and conduct. As a practical matter, that meant that Moore felt he couldn’t vote for Clinton or for Trump. But he recognized the challenge of 2016 and understood that Christians could (and did) in good faith disagree and could (and did) hold their nose and vote for Trump in spite of his flaws. Moore condemned the “handful of Christian political operatives” that he believed were “excusing immorality and confusing the definition of the gospel.” At the same time, he recognized the “massive difference between someone who enthusiastically excused immorality and someone who felt conflicted, weighed the options based on biblical convictions, and voted their conscience.” Moore (like many of us who opposed both Trump and Clinton) was quite pointed in some of his tweets and other commentary. He pulled no punches in attacking those he saw as compromising biblical truth for the sake of political advantage. And there is no question that he deeply offended a number of prominent Baptist Trump supporters, a number of whom responded to him not so much with a biblical argument but rather with words that echoed the sensitivity and populism of the time. Rather than squarely address the core of his argument, many of his critics describe Moore as either “offensive” or not truly a man of the people. In other words, he was perceived by some as a condescending, beltway (inside Nashville’s beltway) elitist. Mike Huckabee told a Townhall columnist that he was “utterly stunned that Russell Moore is being paid by Southern Baptists to insult him.” He then proceeded to imply that Moore wasn’t committed to the “protection of the unborn, Biblical marriage, or helping people out of poverty,” when the most casual amount of research would show that Moore’s ERLC has been a leader in each of these issues. The ERLC is in fact one of America’s most-respected and eloquent voices for the unborn, for religious freedom, and against the radical and destructive expansion of the sexual revolution. Prominent Southern Baptist pastor William Harrell wrote a widely-shared post that made the case that the ERLC should do little more than “represent the values and opinions of those who are responsible for its existence, the people of the SBC” and accused Moore of being “completely out of touch with how the people felt.” But this is a cramped, dangerous, and unbiblical view of religious leadership. The role of a Christian leader isn’t to put his finger in the air, take the pulse of his constituency, and respond accordingly. It’s to know and do the will of God, and to call the church to do the same — even when the church is making poor choices. The Harrell/Huckabee model of engagement leaves little room for a Jeremiah or Isaiah. For that matter it leaves little room for the apostles, men who were known to sternly call out the people of the young church for indulging in and excusing sin. Moore wasn’t “out of touch” with Baptists. He was very much “in touch,” and that’s precisely why he wrote with such passion. Perhaps the most dispiriting aspect of the Christian role in the 2016 election was the sad absence of faith. It was as if millions of Americans believe that the government is the prime defender of the faith, not Christ, and thus compromising long-held moral positions wasn’t just a painful possibility but an urgent necessity. Yet in far more dire circumstances, believers have looked to God, not government, and God has always been faithful. For the church, every part of its operation is measured against the standard of Christ, not realpolitik or populism. In 1998, the SBC ended its Resolution on Moral Character of Public Officials with this clarion call for integrity and courage: “Be it finally RESOLVED, that we urge all Americans to embrace and act on the conviction that character does count in public office, and to elect those officials and candidates who, although imperfect, demonstrate consistent honesty, moral purity and the highest character.” Did Trump’s zealous supporters “embrace and act” on this conviction in 2016? It’s clear that Moore most certainly did. If the Baptists do fire Moore (or force his resignation), I hope they also have the integrity to revoke and rewrite their 1998 resolution. Insisting on “consistent honesty, moral purity, and the highest character” will be left to the primaries, at best. After that, it’s all partisanship, and the “lesser of two evils” will be the only moral guide that matters. Baptists should consider carefully the consequences of their decisions. Some might say that it’s “just about politics,” and one shouldn’t judge the nation’s largest Protestant denomination on the basis of how it handles what some dismissively call its “lobbying arm.” But for the church, every part of its operation is measured against the standard of Christ, not realpolitik or populism. Moore may have offended with his rhetoric (some of it was harsh, but some Christians are snowflakes). Was he wrong, though, to argue that the church fundamentally should have a more prophetic than partisan role in our culture? How much is God calling Christians to compromise other values for the sake of perceived progress on life and religious liberty? Should the church defend the liberties of others that it would like to exercise itself? Was Moore wrong to cling to the principles outlined in the church’s own resolutions? These are the questions at issue not just for Southern Baptists but for all Christians. Moore’s fate matters because these questions matter. The church is not a partisan interest group. Moore understands this reality. Do his critics? — David French is a staff writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and an attorney. 
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Religious Speech and Action Silenced

4yrs ago from National Review
Decades in the making, Martin Scorsese’s Silence, based on Shūsaku Endō’s 1966 novel, about 17th-century Jesuit missionaries to Japan, is ambitious and alternately gorgeous and horrifying. It is surprising that a film of this magnitude would be all but completely snubbed for Oscar nominations, particularly in the now-expanded category of Best Picture, where the competition is soft indeed. Silence’s sole Oscar nomination is for cinematography, and that is well deserved. With its focus on valleys and mountains shrouded in fog, the film often has the look of the movies of the great Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa. Commentary on the film has focused on the dilemma facing the two Jesuit priest protagonists, Father Cristóvão Ferreira (Liam Neeson) and Father Sebastião Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield): Can renouncing faith ever be a path of faith? Yet the commentary has tended to ignore a more striking issue and perhaps one more relevant to our own time: namely, what happens to religious faith in a totalitarian political environment that actively and violently repudiates any religion that is not perfectly consonant with the dictates of the political regime. Sixteenth-century Jesuit missionaries to Japan were for a time welcomed and had enormous success. Political changes in the country led to growing suspicion of foreign influences and to a fear that the allegiance of the Japanese people would be ssplit between nationalism and the new religion. The governmental response was ruthless and systematic. By the use of bribery and threats, it set ordinary citizens against one another and especially against any priests remaining in the country. The centerpiece of the elimination project was a very public form of repudiation of the faith: the so-called fumi-e (literally, “to step on a picture”), the stepping, and in some cases spitting, on an image of Christ or the Virgin Mary. Around that ritual act, Japanese authorities construct a series of protracted, gruesome inducements to apostasy. Particularly terrifying is the threat that the torture of Japanese converts will cease only after the priests themselves publicly renounce their faith. Suppression was already underway when Father Rodrigues, a priest in Portugal, heard reports that his spiritual mentor, the missionary to Japan, Father Ferreira, had succumbed to Japanese terror and renounced his faith in Christ. Eager to be a missionary himself and to find out the truth about Ferreira, Rodrigues departs for Japan and immediately enters a world of systematic viciousness toward Christians, confronting a horror that he could never have imagined. The only religious film that is remotely akin to Silence is Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. Both are blood-soaked carnivals of torture that explore the way in which violence is the meeting point, the testing ground, in the contest between good and evil or, more precisely, between the witness of holiness and diabolical malevolence. Both films draw out to the point of excess the suffering of those who would maintain their faith in the face of betrayal and persecution. One slight weakness in the film is the performance of Andrew Garfield as the principal vehicle for the exploration of the trials undergone by the would-be faithful priest. With his performances in Silence and in Hacksaw Ridge, Garfield seems headed to stardom as a dramatic lead actor, but he is better suited to the role of the underestimated man of action in Ridge than he is to the brooding, anguished Jesuit in Silence.  The book and the film are much better at holding onto the tragic tensions in the character of Rodrigues than are many of the commentators. One of the film’s consultants, Father James Martin, S.J., editor of America, argues that the film underscores the inadequacy of black-and-white moral theology of the Jesuit priests when confronted with a “world of gray.” But that observation only underscores the inadequacy of the banal categories of contemporary moral theology when applied to a great work of art. The world of Silence is not gray; it is surreal and nightmarish, and its dramatic depiction at the hands of Scorsese moves the film precariously close to the genre of horror. While the priests are generous and sacrificial, they are also rightly accused of arrogance, of desiring primarily the esteem of the people they have come to serve. They are indeed focused on themselves and their tribulations. One of the key questions is whether Rodrigues hears a divine voice urging him, “Trample!” Jesus himself seems to speak from the icon placed before Rodrigues. If He does, then apostasy would seem to be a path of faith, not just an act of betrayal from which one can repent and return to grace. But it is far from clear how we are to interpret this scene. This is a world where nothing is as it seems. The film leaves us with questions: Is this a divine voice? Or is it, given Rodrigues’s mentally strained condition, a hallucination? (How odd that God would break His apparently steadfast silence only to assuage the conscience of a Western Jesuit priest.) Or is it, as any Jesuit who had read Saint Ignatius carefully would know was possible, a communication not from the divine but from a malign spirit whose aim is to destroy souls? To seize, even in the spirit of advancing a moral theology of ambiguity, on any one of these interpretations would violate the tortured ambiguity of the film itself. That is clearly the aim of the Japanese officials who, even as they expend enormous effort to extirpate the Catholic faith, taunt the priests for their failure to realize that Japan is “a swamp” in which Christianity cannot take root. That claim is belied both by the initial spread of the faith and by the lengths to which the Japanese go to rid their country of its presence. While the lives of ordinary Japanese seem primitive indeed, the mechanisms that the officials deploy are far from crude. Instead, they exhibit a complex, diabolical rationality. The methods are totalitarian in both intent and form. The intent is to uproot completely any residue of Christian faith, to eliminate the presence of any force contrary to that of the government. Buddhism is praised but appears in the film only under the guise of a civil religion. The form is capacious, encompassing any expression of the faith, and sustained through time. The intent is to uproot completely any residue of Christian faith, to eliminate the presence of any force contrary to that of the government. The instruments of torture and execution evince the power of totalitarian reason prior to, and in the absence of, modern technology. Torture is designed to work slowly over time and to be a kind of public display of the cost of belief. Public repudiation is as much about humiliation and mockery as it is about officially recanting. These methods deprive the potential martyr of any sense of glory. Both before and after their apostasy, priests are kept alive. Before their desecration of an icon, they are forced to witness the torture and murder of others, whose potential freedom rests, the priests are told, on the willingness of the priests to deny the faith. After their apostasy, the priests are kept around as examples of the falsity and cowardice of Christian leaders. They are given public roles, forced to break their vows, takes wives, and assist the government in its ongoing detection of forbidden Christian elements in the country.  What sort of religion can survive in this setting, where religious liberty is systematically denied? If anything endures, it is minimalist and completely privatized; indeed, what remains is so private that it cannot emerge from the interior of the soul. In everything external to one’s thoughts and feelings, there must be complete conformity to the dictates of the state. Nothing less than public complicity with and docility toward the state is acceptable. If the film raises questions about the silence of God, it draws our attention equally to the silencing of religious speech and action. In the service of a totalitarian ideal, government agents exhibit a kind of enlightenment rationalism. They are meticulous, patient, thorough, articulate, and confident in their control and ultimate victory. One of the more instructive characteristics of Japanese rule in the film is that it is not just a regime of terror, desecration, and destruction. The surrealist nightmare of isolation, torture, and death that it constructs for believers stands in contrast to the world enjoyed by apostates, to whom, the officials offer comfort, work, community, and the esteem of both the elites and the common people. The strategy is smartly designed to suppress memories of, and longing for, any higher calling, any end beyond the scope of the state. — Thomas S. Hibbs, the dean of the Honors College at Baylor University, is the author of Shows about Nothing.
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The Press Is Not the Enemy

4yrs ago from National Review
Mika Brzezinski, co-host of MSNBC’s Morning Joe, had an unfortunate turn of phrase the other day. She said it’s the mission of the press to “control exactly what people think.” My suspicion is that this was less a Freudian slip than a simple slip-up. Brzezinski was referring to her fear that President Trump may be trying to control the way people think by discrediting the media — whom he calls “enemies of the American people” — and she lost her rhetorical footing, stumbling into saying that mind control is “our job.” But the misstatement resonated with a lot of people, as did Trump’s claim that the press is an enemy of the people. The first thing that needs to be said is that whenever you hear a politician talk about “the American people,” either they’re over-generalizing to the point of banality, or they’re referring to only one segment of the American public. “The American people love an underdog” is an example of banality. The press “is the enemy of the American people” is a highly subjective declaration. I don’t blame journalists for taking offense. It was a grossly irresponsible thing for the chief constitutional officer of our government to say. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a point or that people are crazy for seeing it. Which brings me back to Brzezinski’s comment about the media’s controlling how people think. One need not paint with an overly broad brush or accuse the entire press corps of being part of a knowing conspiracy to manipulate the public. Many mainstream journalists sincerely believe they are operating in good faith and doing their job to the best of their abilities. At the same time, it seems patently obvious that the “objective” press is in the business of subjectively shaping attitudes rather than simply reporting facts. Consider the hot topic of the moment: illegal immigration. The syndicate that distributes the column you are reading follows the AP Stylebook, which says that I am not allowed to refer to “illegal immigrants” (i.e., people who migrate illegally), but I can refer to illegal immigration (i.e., the act of migrating illegally). Kathleen Carroll, then the senior vice president and executive editor of the Associated Press, explained that the change was part of the AP’s policy against “labeling people.” Many news outlets followed suit, using such terms as “unauthorized” or “undocumented” to describe immigrants formerly known as illegal. The move was hailed by left-wing immigration activists as a great leap forward. And for good reason: It is part of their agenda to blur the distinctions between legal and illegal immigration, and to make it sound as if objecting to the former is morally equivalent to objecting to the latter. But as a matter of fact and logic, the difference between an “unauthorized immigrant” and an “illegal immigrant” is nonexistent. The media play these kinds of linguistic games all the time. Economics professor Tim Groseclose walks readers through countless examples in his book Left Turn: How Liberal Media Bias Distorts the American Mind. Partial-birth abortion virtually never appears without a “so-called” before it, and the procedure is virtually never described clearly. The word “kill” is almost never used to describe any abortion, despite the fact that this is what happens. Whenever some great sweeping piece of liberal social legislation is passed by Democrats, it’s a “step forward.” Whenever a law is repealed, Republicans are “turning back the clock.” The language games are part of a larger tendency of journalists to follow certain scripts that conform to how coastal elites see the country. Journalists tend to follow certain scripts that conform to how coastal elites see the country. In 2015, during the ridiculous hysteria over Indiana’s religious-freedom law (since revised), a news reporter went around a small town asking business owners about the law. The owner of Memories Pizza, Crystal O’Connor, said anyone could eat there, but they’d probably turn down a job to cater a gay wedding. The story was immediately blown up by national news outlets as proof of some prairie fire of anti-gay discrimination, even though no one had been discriminated against. Memories Pizza had to shut down. My hunch is that O’Connor nodded along when Trump said the press is the enemy of the American people. — Jonah Goldberg is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a senior editor of National Review. © 2017 Tribune Content Agency, LLC  
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Countering Islamist Extremism the Right Way

4yrs ago from National Review
As part of President Trump’s unapologetic promise to defeat “radical Islam,” critics expect an overhaul of the previous administration’s Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) program. Under Obama, officials adopted counter-extremism policies that European politicians tried over a decade ago and have since deeply regretted. To tackle the threat of Islamism, the new administration must identify and challenge the specific groups and networks within American Islam that advocate extremist ideas, or officials may inadvertently repeat Obama’s practice of legitimizing Islamists as leaders of all American Muslims. The British ExperienceIn 2005, a month after the 7/7 London bombings, the British journalist Martin Bright sought answers to a question that, somehow, no one in government or the media had ever thought to ask before: Who exactly were the people in charge of the Muslim community, and what did they believe? After the Salman Rushdie riots in 1988, the British government blindly accepted the claims of self-declared community leaders to be representative voices of British Muslims. The government gave these leaders millions and millions of dollars of community funds, and, after 9/11, counter-extremism grants. Bright’s investigation, however, revealed something quite different from what these Muslim leaders had been telling credulous politicians. The leading recipient of taxpayer funds, the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), was in fact run by a violent Islamist group from South Asia, Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), which had close ties with the Muslim Brotherhood and had been involved in the mass-killing of Bangladeshis during that nation’s 1971 Independence War. The government embraced Islamist groups such as the MCB so tightly that, as Bright revealed in 2005, Britain’s foreign secretary, Jack Straw, and MCB leader Iqbal Sacranie (an early supporter of Iran’s fatwa for the killing of Salman Rushdie) even used the same speechwriter. With the MCB in charge, Muslim organizations could not receive government backing for projects without the MCB’s stamp of approval. Naturally, the Islamists prospered. Moderate Muslims, meanwhile, were left without a voice. Over the next decade, the true extent of Islamism’s grip over British Islam was slowly revealed, thanks to a motley collection of journalists, bloggers, and anti-Islamist Muslims willing to challenge government wisdom. Prison chaplains, it emerged, had been chosen primarily from the Deobandi sect, a hard-line branch of South Asian Islam from which the Taliban had emerged. Taxpayer-funded schools in Birmingham, the U.K.’s second-largest city, had been taken over by a network of Islamists who preached hard-line Islamist rhetoric to young children. Compelling evidence was uncovered to show that prominent Muslim charities controlled by JI and the Muslim Brotherhood were funding terrorism abroad. Counter-extremism funds were being handed to Salafist and Jamaat-e-Islami groups. And in 2009, the Labour government cut off ties completely with the Muslim Council of Britain after its officials were found to be signatories to the Istanbul Declaration, a document that advocated attacks on British troops and Jewish communities. By 2011, the new Conservative prime minister, David Cameron, understood enough to signal a distinct change in government policy, telling the Munich Security Conference: As evidence emerges about the backgrounds of those convicted of terrorist offences, it is clear that many of them were initially influenced by what some have called “non-violent extremists,” and they then took those radical beliefs to the next level by embracing violence. . . . Some organizations that seek to present themselves as a gateway to the Muslim community are showered with public money despite doing little to combat extremism. As others have observed, this is like turning to a right-wing fascist party to fight a violent white supremacist movement. The British government overhauled its counter-extremism programs and cut off dozens of Islamist groups from taxpayer funding. Politicians and journalists learned a very important lesson about Western Islam: It is a diverse mix of dozens of different political and religious sects, which includes both violent and non-violent extremists. No single group could represent all Western Muslims, and it was only by delineating British Islam into its diverse, competing constituents that extremism could be effectively tackled and suitable Muslim allies identified. After all, if policymakers did not know which networks and groups within Western Islam were the bad guys, then how could they learn who the good guys were? As increasingly radicalized Muslim communities across Europe produced eager volunteers for jihad at home and abroad, governments finally began to understand what moderate Muslims had been desperately trying to tell them for years: Non-violent Islamism is not a bulwark against violent Islamism. Extremists are not allies in the fight against extremism. Meanwhile, in America Across the Atlantic, American officials distinctly failed to note the lessons that Europe has learned the hard way. The Obama administration’s foreign policy treated Islamists as forces of democratization, and its domestic policy legitimized Islamists as gatekeepers to the Muslim community. Non-violent Islamism is not a bulwark against violent Islamism. Extremists are not allies in the fight against extremism. First envisioned in 2011, the Obama administration’s Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) program promised to “support and help empower American communities and their local partners in their grassroots efforts to prevent violent extremism.” In February 2015, the government launched CVE pilot programs in Boston, Minneapolis, and Los Angeles. To kick things off, the White House hosted a three-day summit. Writing about the conference in the Los Angeles Times, Obama reiterated that the “focus” of CVE “will be on empowering local communities.” Whom exactly was the White House empowering? Representing the pilot program in Boston, leaders from the Islamic Society of Boston (ISB) and the Islamic Center of New England (ICNE) were invited to the White House summit. The ISB was established by the al-Qaeda operative Abdulrahman Alamoudi, who was jailed in 2004 for his role in a Libyan plot to assassinate a Saudi crown prince. The mosque’s trustees have included prominent Islamist operatives, such as Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the spiritual leader of the global Muslim Brotherhood. According to a report published jointly by Americans for Peace and Tolerance and Muslims Facing Tomorrow, twelve congregants, supporters, staff, and donors of the ISB have been imprisoned, deported, or killed or are on the run — all in relation to terrorism offences. The ICNE was once a moderate local mosque, until its imam was ousted by Abdulbadi Abousamra (the father of ISIS terrorist Ahmad Abousamra) and Muhammad Hafiz Masood, who is now a spokesman for the Pakistani terrorist organization Jamaat-ud-Dawah. Masood’s brother, Hafiz Saeed, is responsible for the 2008 Mumbai attacks and was arrested this month by Pakistani law enforcement. Taking part in the government’s CVE program was not just an opportunity for Islamists to rub shoulders with America’s political elite; it was also a chance to obtain taxpayers’ money. As part of the Boston CVE pilot program, a group based at the ISB named United Somali Youth received over $100,000, despite having initially joined protests against the CVE organized by Islamist groups, which claimed the program was designed to demonize Muslims. In 2016, despite widespread media criticism of the CVE pilot programs, Congress approved a further $10 million of CVE grants. As Obama was leaving office, the Department of Homeland Security awarded $393,800 to the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), an organization with a long history of ties to extremism. MPAC was founded by individuals closely involved with the Muslim Brotherhood. Its founder, Maher Hathout, declared that the Iranian-backed terrorist group Hezbollah was “fighting to liberate their land” and exhibiting “an American value — freedom and liberty.” Before being offered almost half a million dollars, MPAC had also expressed opposition to the CVE program. Another $800,000 of taxpayers’ money was awarded to Bayan Claremont (an Islamic graduate school in Claremont, Calif.), whose president, Jihad Turk, was recently a member of the executive council of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA). In 2008, federal prosecutors named ISNA as an unindicted co-conspirator during the Holy Land Foundation terrorism-financing trial. A judge later ruled that “the government has produced ample evidence” connecting Hamas and ISNA. Bayan Claremont faculty includes Ihsan Bagby, a former senior member of the Council on American–Islamic Relations, which was also designated an unindicted co-conspirator in 2008; Suhaib Webb, a former imam of the ISB who decries the “evil inclination” of homosexuality and “understands . . . animosity” towards Jews; and Edina Lekovic, an MPAC official who was the managing editor of an Islamist student magazine that, in 1999, called on Muslims to “defend” Bin Laden as a “freedom fighter.” If Trump fails to delineate American Islam into its various components, and instead treats all American Muslims as part of the same problem, then the government will find it impossible to tackle extremism effectively. To flaunt its anti-Trump credentials, Bayan Claremont recently returned the $800,000 it received, despite successfully applying for the grant under Obama. Regardless, are these really the “community” leaders that the government’s “countering violent extremism” program should empower? Making America Safe Again? The Trump administration’s plans for CVE are not fully known. Most recently, White House sources announced that CVE would focus solely on Islamic extremism and would be renamed “Countering Islamic Extremism” or “Countering Radical Islamic Extremism.” Under Obama, all White House, Homeland Security, and Justice Department documents concerning CVE conspicuously omitted any mention of “Islam” or “Islamism.” Clearly, we should be pleased that the new administration is prepared to name the issue that occupies headline news almost every day. But we still do not know what Trump’s counter-extremism plans actually entail, although it seems unlikely that Muslim Brotherhood groups will receive more government grants. Among moderate Muslims, however, there is some concern that a ham-fisted approach could be just as ineffective as Obama’s flawed ideas. If Trump fails to delineate American Islam into its various components, and instead treats all American Muslims as part of the same problem, then the government will find it impossible to tackle extremism effectively. By cataloguing and excluding the “lawful” or “non-violent” extremists now in America, and the role they play in the radicalization of American Muslims, the government can work with genuinely moderate Muslim organizations to identify and prevent Islamists from, for example, operating schools and chaplaincy programs, obtaining taxpayer funds under the guise of community work, or using charitable endeavors to fund Islamist terrorism overseas. President Trump’s former national-security adviser, Michael Flynn, reportedly wanted to “wage ideological warfare” against radical Islam using social media. But, as with all attempts to tackle Internet problems, this would be a Sisyphean task, and a distraction from the threat posed by homegrown extremists, who carry out their most dangerous work offline. Islamist groups thrive on legitimacy, which they obtain either by being treated as representatives of ordinary Muslims (as happened under Obama) or by leading unifying protests against the government (which is happening under Trump). American Muslims are not going anywhere, nor should they. Islamism, however, should be fought. To do so, state and federal governments must delegitimize Islamism in political and civic circles. This cannot be achieved without the cooperation of moderate Muslims. Only a considered, intelligent approach to counter-extremism can effectively tackle the Islamists who have gripped American Islam so tightly. At the cost of whole Muslim communities becoming isolated from Western society, tens of thousands of radicalized Muslim youth joining terrorist groups overseas, and civil unrest increasing, Europe has discovered that the pernicious effect of extremism is just as dangerous as an explosive act of terrorism. In America, let’s not learn these lessons too late. — Sam Westrop is a fellow of the Gatestone Institute and a writer for Islamist Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum.
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Federal Funding and Campus Free Speech: a Proposal

4yrs ago from National Review
The first duty of a legislature is to protect the rights of its citizens. Speech at public colleges and universities already falls under the protection of the First Amendment, while most private colleges explicitly promise a high level of free speech rights to prospective applicants (which courts generally take as a contractual pledge). Yet in today’s academy, First Amendment rights, however guaranteed or promised, are regularly ignored and infringed. On its face, then, legislative remedies at the level of the state need to be considered. If a legislator is obligated to defend anything, it is our most basic individual rights. Equally important, intellectual freedom and free expression are essential prerequisites to the fulfillment of a university’s core functions of the discovery, improvement, transmission, and dissemination of knowledge. Given all this, and given the fact that the federal government provides tens of billions of dollars in student financial aid and university research grants each year, it is incumbent upon Congress to make the protection of First Amendment rights a prerequisite of its financial assistance to America’s colleges and universities. If this has not been done in the past, it is because the American academy could once be relied upon to safeguard free speech rights on its own. For the past several decades, however, culminating in the free speech crisis of our time, the academy has ceased to be a reliable defender of the First Amendment. It is true that that, in recent years, the federal government has greatly abused the leverage it holds over American higher education through its financial aid. Yet this abuse often consists in issuing rules or using letters of “guidance” (“Dear Colleague Letters”) that go far beyond the legislative intent of Congress. One remedy for this is for Congress to specify its aims in sufficient detail that administrative agencies will find it difficult to either shirk their enforcement obligations, on the one hand, or to abuse their power, on the other. Nor can we allow past abuses to prevent Congress from fulfilling its core function of safeguarding the most fundamental individual rights of America’s citizens. Neither is the taxpayer obligated to subsidize, to the tune of billions of dollars, assaults on basic free speech rights and First Amendment freedoms at America’s public or private colleges and universities. The Higher Education Act (HEA), enacted in 1965 and last reauthorized in 2008, provides the primary framework for the federal government’s involvement in higher education. With HEA due to be reauthorized this year, the National Association of Scholars (NAS) has offered a preliminary draft of The Freedom to Learn Amendments, by which it intends to stimulate competition, reduce unnecessary regulation, and counter rampant politicization in American higher education. Included in the Freedom to Learn Amendments are the NAS’s recommendations for ways to ensure that colleges and universities benefiting from federal aid respect and protect the free speech rights of their students. The NAS’s preliminary suggestions for amending HEA provide an excellent foundation for any congressional effort to protect campus free speech. I intend to build upon NAS’s ideas here, expanding on some of its recommendations, adding new ones, and suggesting a solution to the delicate but critical problem of how a cutoff of federal funds to institutions that fail to protect free speech would actually work. Like the NAS’s initial foray into this issue, my proposal is preliminary and designed to elicit comments and suggestions for further revision. To begin with, NAS has helpfully identified a largely forgotten section of HEA in which Congress affirms the importance of protecting “student speech and association rights.” (Title I, Part B, Section 112 of HEA, pp. 22-23) As I read it, this section effectively bars university policies that restrict speech. That is Title I, Section 112 of HEA effectively bars restrictive campus speech codes. (“no student…should, on the basis of participation in protected speech…be subjected to…official sanction,” where “protected speech” is defined as “speech protected under the First and 14th amendments to the Constitution.”) And while Title I, Section 112 of HEA does not directly call for disciplining students who have interfered with the free-speech rights of others, it does assume that such discipline policies will be enacted, since this section explicitly permits colleges to sanction students who willfully disrupt ”a lecture, class, speech, presentation, or performance.” Title I, Section 112 of HEA also upholds the traditional ability of private religious colleges, under the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious liberty, to impose certain limits on speech. It does so by affirming that its definition of protected speech shall not “be construed to modify, change, or infringe upon any constitutionally protected religious liberty, freedom, expression, or association.” Although the provisions in Title I, Section 112 of HEA express only the “sense of Congress,” NAS proposes to give these provisions force by adding enforcement mechanisms to HEA. These mechanisms would work, first of all, by expanding the definition of “protected speech” to include things like “the right of invited speakers to speak and be heard,” and “rigorous and effective defense of free speech against intimidation, threats of violence, actual violence, and reprisals.” NAS would then require a college seeking to qualify for federal student loans under Title IV of HEA to file a pledge with the Department of Education to uphold student speech and association rights as laid out in the expanded definition of protected speech. NAS would also require colleges receiving federal aid to submit an annual report to the Department of Education detailing any instances in which their pledge to uphold speech and association rights as defined by HEA “has been violated by students or faculty and how the institution has taken steps to punish offenders and better protect the rights of speech and association in the future.” Finally, NAS would have Congress create an independent commission with the power to investigate how universities are fulfilling their pledges to uphold student speech and association rights. The commission would report annually to Congress and: “list non-feasant and mal-feasant colleges and universities,” any of which may then be denied eligibility for Title IV student aid by majority vote of Congress (with the concurrence of the president). Building on these excellent ideas, I will suggest a broader set of commitments to be included in the pledge signed by any college or university that wishes to be eligible for federal aid. I will also suggest a mechanism for fund cut-offs (arguably the most complex and politically challenging part of any effort to link federal funding to campus free speech), and will speak to the issue of who decides when a university is in violation, and to the question of religious exemptions as well. Regarding the pledge, I propose that colleges and universities seeking eligibility for federal student aid under Title IV of HEA should: First: Agree not to maintain any regulation or policy that prohibits expression that would be permitted by the First Amendment in society at large. (This would effectively ban restrictive “speech codes.”) Second: Agree that their campus is open to any speaker whom students, student groups, or members of the faculty have invited. (This would prevent most speaker disinvitations.) Third: Agree to establish, maintain, and utilize a system of sanctions to discipline students, or anyone else under the jurisdiction of the college or university, who interferes with the expressive rights of others. The accused shall be provided with robust due process rights. (Subsequent guidance from the Secretary can lay out parameters.) Fourth: Agree to inform all students, faculty members, and employees annually of the university policies on free speech and on the discipline of those who interfere with the expressive rights of others (thereby deterring shout-downs). Fifth: Agree not to impose excessive security fees on campus groups hosting visiting speakers as a means of censoring speech (thereby discouraging the heckler’s veto). (Subsequent guidance from the Secretary of Education can help define “excessive.”) Sixth: Agree to submit an annual report on steps taken to uphold their speech and association commitments, detailing any instances in which such speech and association rights have been violated by administrative actions or policies, by students, or by faculty, and detailing steps taken to punish intentional disruptions of speech, and to better protect the rights of speech and association in the future. This report shall be made public. Seventh: Agree to inform all student applicants in the event that the institution is certified by Congress or the Secretary of Education as out of compliance with its obligations under the pledge. (To be discussed further below.) I would also suggest that several additional provisions be added by amendment to HEA: First: Instruct the Secretary of Education to create a reporting procedure whereby students, faculty, employees or any member of the public who believes that an institution has violated their protected speech or association rights can report the problem to the Department of Education. Second: Authorize the Secretary of Education to investigate any college or university that has signed the pledge to see if they are in compliance with their obligations under the pledge. Third: Authorize the Secretary of Education to certify that a given institution, upon investigation, has fallen out of compliance with its obligations under the pledge, or has returned to compliance. Fourth: Authorize the Secretary of Education to withhold federal funding from institutions found to be out of compliance with their obligations under the pledge. (The Secretary’s independent authority to withhold funds would be in addition to the mechanism of the congressional commission suggested by NAS.) Perhaps the thorniest problem facing such a system is the mechanics of an actual funding cut-off. Unlike state aid, which generally goes directly to colleges and universities, federal aid under Title IV of HEA is channeled through grants to individual students. To precipitously cut off aid would disrupt the education of those students and create a bureaucratic and political mess. So the danger is that no congress or administration would ever dare to actually withhold federal aid. The solution, I believe, is a two-year period of probation prior to an actual funding cut-off, following a declaration by either Congress or the Secretary of Education that a given college or university is out of compliance with its obligations under the pledge. Keep in mind that colleges already bend over backwards to avoid any possibility of a funding cut-off under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act or Title IX of HEA (i.e. their obligations to avoid racial or sexual discrimination). Simply placing a university on probation for being in violation of its obligation to protect free speech would have enormous impact. First, it would represent a significant embarrassment to the institution. Second, the warning of an imminent funding cut-off would have almost any university scrambling to get back into compliance as quickly as possible. The two-year probationary lead-time would give prospective student applicants ample warning that a given institution may soon become ineligible to receive their federal aid. This would minimize disruption to student planning. At the same time, any student enrolled in an institution prior to a funding cut-off would have their federal aid grandfathered in. The result would be that in the second year of the probation period, applications to the institution in question would plunge (harming the school’s selectivity rating), yet without threatening the financial position of current students. This would be powerful motivation indeed for the institution to get back into compliance. Yet it would all happen well before a single federal dollar had been withheld. It’s unclear whether federal research grants could be included in a funding cutoff strictly by means of amending HEA. Most federal research dollars are authorized by other laws. But whether federal research grants can be incorporated into this system strictly by an amendment to HEA, or whether other laws would need to be amended as well, ultimately research grants should become a part of this system. I would suggest that they be cut-off only in the second year of probation, giving an institution a full year to get back into compliance prior to any disruption of research. While there is a danger that universities on probation may be on good behavior for a year, yet quickly revert to suppressing speech after being recertified, the system may not be so easy to game. When visiting speakers are shouted down or disinvited, all of that is very public. Nowadays, incidents are often recorded on video. Campus speech codes are open and public, by definition. And a university’s annual report will be public and open to criticism and refutation. All this will make it difficult for timid public officials to pretend that an institution is upholding its pledge to protect free speech when the opposite is clearly the case. Finally, while Title I, Section 112 of HEA already includes an exemption for private religious colleges, this exemption should be clearly reiterated and spelled out in even greater detail in the provisions on the pledge, on the Secretary’s powers of investigation and certification, and on the congressional commission. Through direct and indirect legal mechanisms, the First Amendment and freedom of speech have long applied to the lion’s share of America’s colleges and universities. Similarly, the Higher Education Act has long included language affirming the centrality to colleges and universities of our First Amendment rights. Private secular colleges that wish to exempt themselves from traditional free speech norms are free to reject federal aid. The American taxpayer is under no obligation to subsidize speech codes, speaker disinvitations, or shout-downs. It’s past time that Congress took steps to ensure that taxpayer dollars no long underwrite campus assaults on freedom of speech. Stanley Kurtz is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. He can be reached at comments.kurtz@nationalreview.com
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Amid Mounting Bomb Threats Against U.S. Jewish Centers, Vandals Hit Jewish Cemetery

4yrs ago from The Week
On Monday, 11 Jewish community centers (JCCs) across the U.S. received bomb threats, the latest in a wave of 69 coordinated threats against 54 JCCs in 27 states and one Canadian province since early January, according to the JCCA, an association of JCCs. The community centers are a place for Jewish people of all religious and political beliefs to gather, as well as child care centers for children of all faiths. In one recorded bomb threat, the caller, voice disguised, says "a large number of Jews are going to be slaughtered" by an explosive device. No bombs have been found yet, but each time a threat is phoned in, teachers have to evacuate babies and young children, and some parents are pulling their kids from local JCCs, hitting budget. Also on Monday, police in St. Louis said that over the weekend, vandals had damaged dozens of headstones at a Jewish cemetery in the city's University City neighborhood. Anita Feigenbaum, director of the Chesed Shel Emeth Society, told The Washington Post that more than 170 graves were vandalized in the cemetery's oldest section, a "horrific act of cowardice" unlike the Chesed Shel Emeth cemetery had seen in its 125-year-history. The FBI said it and the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division "are investigating possible civil rights violations in connection with threats to Jewish community centers across the country." The FBI recorded more than 1,270 hate crime incidents against Jews in 2014 and 2015 — far more than any other religious group — and the problem has gotten worse since. "I've been in the business for 20-plus years, and this is unprecedented," security consultant Paul Goldenberg tells CNN. "It's more methodical than meets the eye." Jewish reporters asked President Trump last week about the apparent rise in anti-Semitic attacks and incidents, and Trump responded by talking about his electoral victory, claiming he is the "least anti-Semitic person you have ever seen in your entire life," and noting that his daughter Ivanka converted to Judaism. On Monday evening, Ivanka Trump became the first member of the Trump family to comment on the wave of bomb threats, tweeting: "America is a nation built on the principle of religious tolerance. We must protect our houses of worship & religious centers. #JCC." The White House, when asked for comment by NBC News, said "hatred and hate-motivated violence of any kind have no place in a country founded on the promise of individual freedom," but did not mention threats against Jewish targets. Peter Weber
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Washington’s Supreme Court Imposes Its Progressive Faith on a Christian Florist

4yrs ago from National Review
If you care about the Bill of Rights, the rights of conscience, or even the English language, there’s a chance that this morning you felt a disturbance in the Force — as if the Founders cried out in rage and were suddenly silenced. That disturbance was the Washington Supreme Court’s oppressive ruling in State of Washington v. Arlene’s Flowers, a case holding that a florist was bound by state law to use her artistic talents to design floral arrangements to celebrate what she viewed as an immoral event: a gay wedding. The pretext for overriding the florist’s rights to free speech and religious liberty was Washington’s so-called “public accommodations law,” which required the owner, Barronelle Stutzman, to provide goods and services to customers “regardless” of their sexual orientation. Let’s be clear, according to the plain language of the law and the undisputed facts of the case, Stutzman did nothing illegal. She had always consistently and joyfully served gay clients, including the man who ultimately decided to bring potentially ruinous legal claims against her. On each of those prior occasions, however, she was not using her artistic talents to help her clients celebrate an occasion she considered immoral. In other words, she was not discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation. She was making a decision not to help celebrate an action, a form of expression. She would no more celebrate a gay wedding than she would any form of immorality, gay or straight. To dispense with her argument, the court did what numerous progressive courts have done: It rewrote the law. It rejected what it called the “status/conduct” distinction, and essentially interpreted the word “orientation” to also mean “action.” To understand how nonsensical and dangerous this is, one need merely apply it to other categories of expression. Is it now racial discrimination to refuse to bake a cake with Confederate flag icing, since the person asking for such a cake will almost always be white? Is it gender discrimination for fashion designers to refuse to “dress” Ivanka or Melania Trump? They’re women, after all. But this is the sexual revolution we’re talking about, so it’s necessary for the court to make a statement declaring the government’s allegiances. Indeed, late in the opinion its author gave the game away. Picking up on the absurd and historically ignorant comparison of the modern gay-rights movement with the civil-rights movement in the segregationist South, the judge wrote, “This case is no more about access to flowers than civil rights cases in the 1960s were about access to sandwiches.” This is the sexual revolution we’re talking about, so it’s necessary for the court to make a statement declaring the government’s allegiances. What are they talking about? The federal government took the extraordinary step of passing the civil-rights acts to give black Americans access not just to sandwiches but to hotel rooms, jobs, voting rights, and all the other things they were systematically denied as southern states and communities continually and oppressively imposed the “badges and incidents of slavery” on them. In the pre-civil-rights South, black citizens often had trouble finding places to eat or sleep. They couldn’t vote. They couldn’t get justice in state courts. Civil rights was about access, at its most elementary and necessary level. But that’s not the case any longer. The gay couple in this case had no trouble finding flowers. Stutzman even recommended other florists who would have been happy to help them celebrate their wedding. So, given the absence of any real harm, the court said that the state had a compelling state interest in punishing the “independent social evil” of discrimination toward a “broader societal purpose: eradicating barriers to equal treatment of all citizens in the commercial marketplace.” That’s it right there: the state religion. It reserves for itself the exclusive ability to name, define, and eradicate “social evils,” and heaven help the individual citizen who disagrees. There is no need to show a traditional, legally recognized harm. There is no need to prove lack of access to alternative artistic expressions. There is only the need to show that the business owner won’t use her unique talents to help celebrate the sexual revolution. Finally, if you doubt the court’s malice, look only to its last ruling — that Stutzman can be held personally liable for her allegedly discriminatory act. In other words, the court is willing to pierce the corporate veil to impose individual liability even in the absence of the traditional justifications for that drastic step. Stutzman didn’t commit fraud. She didn’t commingle her personal and corporate funds. She kept her private and professional affairs separate. But she still faces personal financial ruin. Social-justice warriors will no doubt celebrate the breaking of another egg for their cultural omelet. Meanwhile, Stutzman’s lawyers — my friends and former colleagues at the Alliance Defending Freedom — are appealing her case to the Supreme Court. Once again, eyes will be fixed on Justice Kennedy. Will he continue to impose his own version of the state religion, the one he so enthusiastically articulated in Obergefell? Or will he remember that words have meaning, orientation doesn’t mean action, and the state can’t compel citizens to condone what they consider immoral. It’s time for the Supreme Court to take a deep breath, abandon its revolutionary crusade, and remember the great wisdom of its predecessors: If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion, or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein. If there are any circumstances which permit an exception, they do not now occur to us. What say you, Justice Kennedy? Do those who oppose the sexual revolution forfeit that fundamental protection? I suppose we’ll soon find out. — David French is a staff writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and an attorney.
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