Category Archives: Religious Liberty

Meet Michael Charles Smith

If the 2008 presidential campaign wasn’t about electing the first woman, African American, Hispanic, or Mormon president but rather about ideas, candidates like Ron Paul might have a fighting chance to be the next president. For the purposes of this post, I’ll pretend that this race is about ideas.

Ron Paul seems to be a fan favorite here at The Liberty Papers. I also have a great deal of admiration for Ron Paul. I hope that he draws a great deal of attention in the debates so that certain libertarian issues will be discussed that the G.O.P. front runners wouldn’t touch with a 10’ pole. As far as domestic issues go, I think Paul is right on the money…its some (but not all) of his foreign policy positions I have problems with (the same problems I generally have with the Libertarian Party platform in regard to foreign policy). More specifically, Ron Paul’s inability to understand the very real threats to the U.S. by Islamofascists makes it very difficult for me to endorse him or pull the lever for him.

So what is a liberty and small government minded person who also recognizes the threats of Islamofascim to do? The G.O.P. front runners (Giuliani, McCain, Romney, etc.) all seem to want to combat these threats but will also most likely continue to grow the government in much the same way as President Bush has. Ron Paul would work to decrease the size of government and restore some of our lost liberties but would cut and run in Iraq and leave America vulnerable (as would most if not all of the Democrats who are running). No good can come from a defeat in Iraq. There is at least one candidate who is perhaps even less well known than Ron Paul that might be a reasonable compromise between the G.O.P. front runners and Ron Paul; meet Oregon Republican Michael Charles Smith.

For those of you who are looking for the perfect presidential candidate, I have some bad news: there is no perfect candidate. But as I went through the list of things I am looking for in a candidate, Michael Charles Smith is about as close as I can find who reflects my views. Smith is not your typical Republican and certainly won’t be receiving any support from the Christian Right. Smith calls himself a “fiscal conservative” and “social libertarian.” By fiscal conservative he means that federal spending should only be used for functions specifically mandated in the U.S. Constitution (what a concept!), federal taxing and spending should be reduced in favor of state and local control, and the federal income tax should be abolished and replaced with the Fair Tax. By Social libertarian he means that he is pro choice, that illicit drugs should be de-felonized (not a complete withdraw from the war on drugs but a start), and that gays should have the same rights of marriage and be able to openly serve in the military.

In matters of war and peace Smith was opposed to going to war in Iraq but does not believe the troops should leave until the job is done. Though I did support the reasons for going to war with Iraq and continue to support the war, the president and the congress did not use the constitutional approach and was therefore; reckless and possibly illegal (I’ll leave that up to the lawyers to decide). Smith, on the other hand, actually believes the founders had it right in the first place. Smith explains:

Fundamentally, our approach to military engagement should be reset. The threshold for military commitment should be stringently limited to specific threats to Americans, not American “interests.” Any extended commitment of military force should require a formal declaration of war from the Congress. Discretionary commitments and preemptive justifications are too prone to political motivations and lack sufficient checks and balances.

Let’s honor the sacrifice of those who volunteer to protect our freedom by not carelessly putting them in harm’s way.

While I don’t think Smith would be as strong of a leader in the war on Islamofascism as Giuliani, at least Smith seems to recognize both external and internal threats to liberty in the United States. Most importantly, he wants to restore what he calls “constitutional integrity” by returning to a smaller government, less spending, returning more responsibility to the states, restoring the Bill of Rights by upholding church/state separation, civil liberties, and state’s rights.

Obviously, the chances of Michael Charles Smith being the next POTUS is a long shot (lack of campaign funds, name recognition, the MSM, the G.O.P. establishment, etc.) at best. He probably will not even qualify for the early primaries. Though I’m not prepared to give Smith my endorsement at this moment, I think he deserves some careful consideration by those of us with libertarian leanings. How great would that be to have not one but two ‘true’ Republicans in the Republican debates with the likes of Rudolf Giuliani, John McCain, Mitt Romney, and Duncan Hunter? Is it possible that perhaps one of the front runners might adopt some of the Smith and Paul platforms? In this 2008 beauty contest, this is probably the best we can hope for.

Memo: The Earth Doesn’t Move

Cross posted here at Fearless Philosophy for Free Minds

Kansas’ government school science curriculum is no longer the laughing stock of the nation and the world; the dubious honor may next be bestowed on Georgia. Georgia state representative Ben Bridges has circulated a memo to other state lawmakers around the country encouraging his colleagues to challenge the teaching of evolution (while promoting of I.D. creation “science”) in court by stating that evolution is not science but part of another religion thus violating the separation of church and state. This in itself is nothing too unusual; those who promote I.D. have made that argument before. Bridges memo goes even further: evolution is part of an ancient Jewish conspiracy! Obviously, this did not sit well with the Anti-defamation League.

Just when I thought this story couldn’t get nuttier, the memo has links to a site called fixedearth.com as its authority. Fixedearth.com not only takes on well-established scientific theories of evolution and the big bang (what the site calls “big bangism”) but the very fact that…the earth revolves around the sun! According to the site the earth DOES NOT MOVE and the sun REVOLVES AROUND THE EARTH. No shit.

Marshall Hall, the sites creator and former government school teacher (scary), believes that the idea that the earth revolves around the sun is also a giant conspiracy to discredit the bible. Hall references two bible verses “The world is established and cannot move” (Psalm 93:1) and “He hangeth the Earth upon nothing” (Job 26:7). Following these verses, Hall goes on to say:

The Bible and all real evidence confirms that this is precisely what He did, and indeed:

The Earth is not rotating…nor is it going around the sun.

The universe is not one ten trillionth the size we are told.

Today’s cosmology fulfills an anti-Bible religious plan disguised as “science”.

The whole scheme from Copernicanism to Big Bangism is a factless lie.

Those lies have planted the Truth-killing virus of evolutionism in every aspect of man’s “knowledge” about the Universe, the Earth, and Himself.

I can’t say that I am all that surprised that there are such people out there who have not left the dark ages. What is a little surprising and very disturbing is the idea that a U.S. lawmaker on any level would listen to moon bats such as Marshall Hall to put forward an agenda in government schools. Had I stumbled across this site myself, I would have thought it to be a spoof to mock creationists because I know that most creationists would never question the idea that the earth revolves around the sun. Most creationists would not take Psalm 93:1 and Job 26:7 literally and would say that the descriptions made in these verses were based on the understanding people had of the universe at that time (which is a lame explanation if you ask me seeing that they were supposedly authored by the creator of the universe). In a previous post, I wrote the following statement:

Since we don’t want to offend the fragile faith of the fundies, why not allow them to substitute their own version of reality in all the other sciences? Clearly the astronomers don’t know what they are talking about either because the Bible clearly stated that the earth was flat and that the sun revolves around the earth. We ought to burn all books written which contradict the Bible. This will be no small task: we pretty much have to rid ourselves of everything we have learned about biology, geology, astronomy, anthropology, psychiatry, history, mathematics, medicine, and more.

Little did I know at the time I wrote that statement that there were fundies with influence setting out to do just that. Could there ever be a better argument for school privatization and school choice than this?

Hat tip: Nealz Nuze

Related Posts:
Sunday School Science Lesson
The End of Faith (Book Review)
Can Mysticism Co-Exist with Reason and Liberty?
The Battle for Young Minds

Thomas Paine: More Harm than Good?

Thomas Paine is one of the least respected figures of the American Revolution and early American history. Many of Paine’s compatriots believed that his anti-religious ideas found in The Age of Reason were so dangerous that they would undermine the moral character of America (Keane 475). Paine further caught the ire of the American public with his open letter to President George Washington in which Paine called Washington “a cold blooded traitor” (Keane 429-33). Upon Paine’s death, The New York Citizen had eulogized: “He had lived long, did some good and much harm.” Criticism for Paine and his works continued long after his death. Theodore Roosevelt once referred to Thomas Paine as a “filthy little atheist” (Stade 382). There has never been a shortage of criticism of Paine or his work whether in his own time or since. Certainly, some of the criticism is warranted, but the notion that Paine “did some good and much harm” is hardly fair for a man who sacrificed his wealth, risked his life, and inspired countless others in the cause of America’s independence from England.

When Thomas Paine arrived for the first time in America on November 30, 1774, no one could have predicted the enormous influence he and his writings would have on citizens of every class. Paine was not well known at this time, but Benjamin Franklin’s letter of introduction to Philadelphia’s movers and shakers would soon change that. As Paine became comfortable with his new surroundings, he spent many hours in book stores and conversing with others about his literary interests. One day, Paine was in one of his favorite stores visiting with the store’s owner, Robert Aitken. Aitken was so impressed with Paine that he offered Paine a job as the editor of the upstart periodical Pennsylvania Magazine (Kaye 49-50).

Rather than writing directly about controversial issues, Paine used allegory and the increasingly popular medium of the fable to express his ideas. The fables opened up the world of politics to the general public; something which was not done in literature prior to Paine’s writing and editorship of Pennsylvania Magazine. Paine’s impact on the magazine was immediate. Circulation of the fledgling magazine more than doubled in the first month of Aitken’s hiring of Paine as contributing editor. The magazine would sell more copies than any other magazine up to that time (Larkin 261).
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New Blue Law in Georgia

In a surprising turn, new legislation in Georgia has made it illegal to sell meat on Fridays during Lent. While it has been seen as an unchangeable practice for years to ban Sunday sales of alcohol, Georgia has now become the first state to expand the practice to non-alcohol goods.

The move is a surprise to most people, both in Georgia and around the country. No other states have suggested plans to follow suit, but analysts expect a ripple throughout the South as other evangelical-dominated states consider similar legislation.

The justification for the law, by the legislators, seems unclear. Most have taken a silent approach when asked, but it is largely thought that a small minority of Christians convinced Georgia’s legislators that it was their role to enforce dietary rules of religious observance. Pastor Bobby Smith, of the New Life Church of Atlanta, did suggest that the rules were not intended to bind people to religious observance, but purely as a restriction of commerce:

“I’m not saying that people can’t eat meat on Fridays during Lent,” Smith said, “I just think that we as a society should not be encouraging it. If they want to buy their meat on Thursday, and eat it on Friday, that’s just fine. This isn’t an infringement on anyone’s rights. After all, we’re not making it illegal every day during Lent, just on Fridays. But America was founded on Christian ideals, and I think we should respect the Lord’s wishes on our observance of his laws.”

The new law has drawn ire from many sides. The ACLU issued a joint statement with the American Atheists, threatening lawsuits based on the separation of church and state. Most alcohol-related blue laws have survived such challenges based on the 21st Amendment, but it’s unclear whether the measure will have other legal cover. One Georgia legislator, though, speaking on condition of anonymity, suggested that the court may be the only option to fight this law:

“We’ve learned from the unpopularity of blue laws that very few people are in favor of the law. However, it’s not enough of an imposition that they take the energy to fight the law. The supporters, however, are rabid, and will withhold their vote, as a group, from any politician who endorses the end of blue laws.”

Legal fights are expected to take years. In the meantime, however, Georgia shoppers should hope they remember to buy their meat on Thursday.
» Read more

Virgil Goode Still Doesn’t Get It

Virgil Goode has a piece on the USA Today blog about his statements last month condemning Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison’s plan to use the Koran in his symbolic swearing-in later this week. Once again, Goode proves he really doesn’t get it:

My letter did not call for a religious test for prospective members of Congress, as some have charged. Americans have the right to elect any person of their choosing to represent them. I indicated to my constituents that I did not subscribe to the Quran in any way, and I intended to use the Bible in connection with my swearing-in. I also stated that the Ten Commandments and “In God We Trust” are on the wall of my office, and I have no intention of displaying the Quran in my office. That is my choice, and I stand by my position and do not apologize for it.

And, Congressman, you have every right to make that choice. What about someone who chooses to do something different, though ? Whether it’s using another religious book, or as Teddy Roosevelt did, using no book at all, they have as much right to their choice and acknowledgment of their faith as you do.

But, of course, that’s not enough, because we must bring up the specter of 9/11:

Let us remember that we were not attacked by a nation on 9/11; we were attacked by extremists who acted in the name of the Islamic religion. I believe that if we do not stop illegal immigration totally, reduce legal immigration and end diversity visas, we are leaving ourselves vulnerable to infiltration by those who want to mold the United States into the image of their religion, rather than working within the Judeo-Christian principles that have made us a beacon for freedom-loving persons around the world.

The only problem with this is that Representative Ellison is an American citizen, not an immigrant. He converted to Islam and, whether you agree with his politics or not, he has as much right to his religious beliefs as Virgil Goode does. If he chooses to acknowledge that faith when he becomes a Member of Congress, what business does Virgil Goode have saying he can’t do it ?

Related Posts:

Much Ado About Nothing
Republican Religious Bigotry

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