Category Archives: Religious Liberty

Wayne Allyn Root: Religious Freedom And Property Rights ? Not For Them Muslims !

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I’ve written before about the questionable libertarian allegiances of Wayne Allyn Root, the LP’s 2008 Vice-President nominee and currently an At-Large member of the Libertarian National Committee. Now, Root is out with a blog post about the so-called “Ground Zero” Mosque that is anything but libertarian in it’s sentiments and it’s conclusions, and it should be of concern to anyone who thinks that Root represents the direction the Libertarian Party should take in the future.

Root starts out with the same sort of milquetoast paeans toward religious liberty and property rights that we saw in his book, but he quickly goes off in a direction that makes it clear that, on this issue, he is more in line with Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich than any Libertarian (or libertarian):

This proposed building of a mosque on hallowed ground is an ATROSITY towards America. To build a celebration of Islam within steps of 9/11 does nothing to increase religious freedom…it inspires hatred, divides our cultures, and increases the odds of violence and hate crimes. Common sense suggests this mosque, being built in this specific location, is NOT being built as a sign of friendship between Muslims and Americans…but rather as a sign of the lack of respect…a belief in our weakness…and an attempt to embarrass and belittle us. The financial district of Manhattan is not a residential area with a large number of Muslim residents for the mosque to serve. Therefore common sense suggests that the only possible reason to build it there (rather than in Brooklyn or Queens where there are large Muslim populations) is to show Muslim contempt for Americans by building a monument to Islam in the shadow of the site of their greatest triumph over America.

It is an offense to build a mosque in that location- an offense to all Americans (including Muslim Americans), all Christians and Jews, all relatives of 3000 dead heroes at the World Trade Center.

First of all, Root is just completely wrong on the facts here. The Cordoba House isn’t at all what he and the project’s critics have represented it to be:

The building’s planners, the American Society for Muslim Advancement and the Cordoba Initiative, have said it’s modeled on religious and community centers such as the YMCA, and that the 13-story, $100 million building would also include an arts center, gym and a swimming pool, as well as a mosque. It would be two blocks away from Ground Zero.

Two blocks away and nowhere within line of sight of the area where the attacks actually occurred.

The attempt by Root, Palin, Gingrich, and other opponents of this project to call this a “Ground Zero” mosque are therefore a complete misrepresentation of the location of the project. A misrepresentation obviously intended to lead people to think that a mosque is being built on the location of the World Trade Center rather than being constructed inside an already-existing decades old building as part of a larger project that would be open to the public as a whole. For that reason alone, Root’s appeals to emotionalism and the supposed “atrocity” that this project represents should be rejected as silly and, quite frankly, dishonest.

Root goes on:

Yes, private individuals and organizations have the right to build houses of worship with their own funds. But one has to wonder where the money is coming from to build a 15-story building on some of the most expensive real estate in the country. We Americans believe in the separation of Church and State. If it turns out that this project is sponsored by a foreign government — either directly or through a state-sponsored organization that engages in terrorism — than the idea of this being an issue of religious freedom is a sham and an argument can be made that our Constitution would actually prohibit this mosque from being built.

Except, of course, for the fact that there is no evidence that this is the case. More importantly, there is no connection between the organization that wants to establish the center and anyone associated with the September 11th attacks.

In the end, Root falls into the same anti-Muslim hole that Palin, Gingrich, and others have. All he’s really saying is that we can’t let them scary Muslims build what they want to in a building they own. While he doesn’t go as far as Gingrich and Palin in calling for government action to stop the project, he adopts the same attitude of religious intolerance and, for any libertarian, that’s just unacceptable.

Let’s contrast Root’s paean to fear-of-Muslims with something published this past weekend by Libertarian National Committee Interns Marissa Giannotta and Josh Roll:

The attacks on 9/11 and its victims should not be ignored, however, we cannot lay blame on the entire Islamic community for the terrible acts that occurred on that day. The Islamic cultural center would be a great way for others to learn about Islam and ultimately build bridges between the United States and the Muslim World. Islam by principle is not an extremist religion and not all Muslims should be portrayed in such way.

More importantly, those who have ownership of the site should have the freedom and the right to build what they wish. Property rights should be respected as a right for all citizens, not just a few. Our platform clearly states, “The owners of property have the full right to control, use, dispose of, or in any manner enjoy, their property without interference, until and unless the exercise of their control infringes the valid rights of others.” The Islamic cultural center does not infringe on the rights of others.

As Steven Chapman describes in his article at Reason, “Palin is not a slave to intellectual consistency. Change the church to a mosque, and put it a couple of blocks from the site of the World Trade Center, and she suddenly loses all patience with the rights of religious believers.”

Libertarian Party candidate for New York State Governor, Warren Redlich, also weighed in on the issue stating, “…I have asked some people if they would object if it was a synagogue, church, Jewish community center, or YMCA. All of them say that wouldn’t bother them. So the reason for opposing this facility is because it’s associated with the Muslim religion. That violates freedom of religion under the First Amendment.”

As Thomas Knapp notes, this is a litmus test for all libertarians (Big-L, or small-l):

If you don’t support private property rights and freedom of religion, you aren’t a libertarian.

Period.

Cordoba House, the project being fraudulently referred to as a “mosque” by those attempting to prevent its construction, is planned for construction on private property and with private funds.

The opponents of Cordoba House are attempting to stop its construction by persuading a government board to declare the building currenly standing at the project’s prospective location “historic” so that the owners can be forced to “preserve” it and forbidden to demolish it and build a structure more to their liking there.

The opponents of Cordoba House oppose private property rights. Their opposition to private property rights stems from their opposition to freedom of religion. They are, therefore, not libertarians.

That, Mr. Root, is libertarianism. Perhaps you’re in the wrong party.

Update: Jason Pye has weighed in with his own take:

Property rights and religious freedom are among the principles of a free society, basic liberties are supposed to be protected from the mob. To hear of anyone casting them aside is concerning. For a libertarian to do it is a betrayal of these core values that we are supposed to believe in.

Indeed.

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On Islam, A Fine Line Between Criticism and Xenophobia

There are serious concerns about radical Islam and political Islam as a movement. It’s something we should be seriously conscious of. I’ve written about this extensively here at TLP.

Given that, there is a very, very fine line between critiquing the retrograde nature of radical Islam and outright xenophobia. I honestly find it hard to discern this line myself, since I am fully ready to call out efforts by Christians, Muslims or any other group to insert religious dogma into politics. Wherever that line is, it is more than readily apparent that many who are protesting the building of a mosque near Ground Zero in New York have crossed it.

There’s a part of the constitution that I’m especially fond of. It’s called the First Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The “free exercise thereof” doesn’t just mean free exercise of Roman Catholicism, the faith of mosque critic Newt Gingrich, or Lutheranism, the denomination of Michelle Bachmann, another critic. It counts for Muslims, Jews, Christians, Buddhists or Hindus.

Activists Protest Proposed Church Next To NARAL Headquarters

July 22, 2010
WASHINGTON, DC — Picketers holding anti-Christian placards marched near NARAL headquarters in Washington today, denouncing plans to erect a right-wing Christian church within a block of the abortion rights group. Heated words were exchanged between supporters of the place of worship; luckily physical altercations were avoided in this escalating battle.

Tension has been brewing since late last year, when plans for the Lutheran-denomination church were unveiled in planning commission meetings. NARAL-friendly Councilwoman Diana Matthews had been quietly working to stall the plans, requesting additional information about the parking and infrastructure requirements of the planned structure, but the architect and engineer on the project quickly provided evidence that the demands of the new structure would not materially change from the property’s previous structure.

As the project has neared breaking ground, opponents and supporters have taken to the streets. “It’s an affront to the freedom that NARAL protects that these Christo-fascists would try to base their hate so close to our headquarters,” said Susan Colona, a NARAL employee. “It’s clear that they’re moving so close in order to threaten and intimidate the workers here at NARAL. It’s chilling, in the wake of the senseless murder of Dr. George Tiller, that they’re willing to escalate their actions.”

Protesters carrying signs with slogans such as “Go Back To Kansas” and “Keep Your God Out Of My Uterus” marched outside the headquarters. Supporters of the church countered nearby with opposing signs, “Abortion Is Murder — An Eye For An Eye” and “We Protect Those Who Can’t Protect Themselves.”

Pro-choice US Representative Donna Edwards (D-MD) sides with NARAL. “The actions of the picketers in support of this church are a clear example of hate speech. We are a country that values freedom of religion, and I don’t believe we can legally stop this congregation from forming, but I am deeply saddened that the church would choose such a site for their home.”

Pastor Elijah Williams, who would be heading the proposed church, doesn’t understand the fight. “While we as a church are generally against the practice of abortion, many within the ELCA are willing to make exceptions for circumstances such as rape and the health of the mother. In fact, Dr. George Tiller was a member of the ELCA, and we have publicly condemned Scott Roeder for his unconscionable actions. We are a peaceful church, and chose the site of our church because we thought it was the best place for our home, not because of its proximity to NARAL.”

Pastor Williams even suggested that the extremist protestors antagonizing NARAL were not from the ELCA, but rather sent by the Westboro Baptist Church, an organization known for sending protestors to funerals of US Servicemen killed in combat.

The fight doesn’t appear to be waning. NARAL has been searching for legal ways to fight the church, including potentially having the entire block declared a historic landmark due to its age. Stephen Simpson, a lawyer who had previously advised the ELCA on other matters, doesn’t see this as cause for hope. “What should have been a very simple process of building a home for a budding congretation is now likely to be derailed. Once national politics and the legal system become involved, this will become a circus. I hope the church and NARAL can come to some agreement to avoid this outcome.”

Given the contention between the parties, though, this appears unlikely at this time.

Gay Marriage, Religious Liberty, And The Case Of One 8 Year-Old Boy

The latest battleground in the ongoing debate over gay marriage and religious liberty is taking place in Massachusetts:

BOSTON (AP) — A Roman Catholic school in Massachusetts has withdrawn its acceptance of an 8-year-old boy with lesbian parents, saying their relationship was “in discord” with church teachings, according to one of the boys’ mothers.

It’s at least the second time in recent months that students have not been allowed to attend a U.S. Catholic school because of their parents’ sexual orientation, with the other instance occurring in Colorado.

The Massachusetts woman, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of concerns about the effect of publicity on her son, said she planned to send the boy to third grade at St. Paul Elementary School in Hingham in the fall. But she said she learned her son’s acceptance was rescinded during a conference call Monday with Principal Cynthia Duggan and the parish priest, the Rev. James Rafferty.

“I’m accustomed to discrimination, I suppose, at my age and my experience as a gay woman,” the mother said. “But I didn’t expect it against my child.”

Rafferty said her relationship “was in discord with the teachings of the Catholic Church,” which holds marriage is only between a man and woman, the woman said.

She said Duggan told her teachers wouldn’t be prepared to answer questions her son might have because the school’s teachings about marriage conflict with what he sees in his family.

Rafferty and Duggan did not respond to requests for comment.

It’s unfortunately that the Church is choosing to deprive this young boy of the benefits of a Catholic education because of the lifestyle of his parents, but this strikes me as one area where the rights of the Church should trump the rights of the parents, or the child.

In an ideal libertarian world, of course, there would be no laws barring discrimination in private institutions at all. If a business owner wished to refuse service to anyone for any reason. We don’t live in that world, of course, thanks largely to the a history where the power of the state was used to enforce strict racial segregation that was designed to prevent any entire group of people from succeeding economically. That’s no reason, however, to involve the government even more in private decisions like this.

If the Church feels that it would be in appropriate to admit a student with Lesbian parents, it should be free to make that decision.

Happy Constitution Day

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Two Hundred Twenty Two years ago in Philadelphia, the Constitution Convention in Philadelphia completed it’s work.

At the close of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia on September 18, 1787, a Mrs. Powel anxiously awaited the results, and as Benjamin Franklin emerged from the long task now finished, asked him directly: “Well Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?” “A republic if you can keep it” responded Franklin.

222 years later, Mrs. Powell’s question, and Franklin’s response, remain undecided.

Do yourself a favor — read The Constitution, and then ask whether we’re still following it the way the Founders intended, and whether we’re going to be able to keep the Republic that Franklin was talking about.

Ain’t Nobody’s Business If You Do

THIS BOOK IS BASED on a single idea: You should be allowed to do whatever you want with your own person and property, as long as you don’t physically harm the person or property of a nonconsenting other.

Thus begins a book that everyone interested in politics should read; Ain’t Nobody’s Business If You Do: The Absurdity of Consensual Crimes in a Free Country by Peter McWilliams.  Published in 1998, it is a damning survey of how the United States had become a state composed of “clergymen with billy-clubs”.  It analyzes the consequences of punishing so-called victimless crimes from numerous viewpoints, demonstrating that regardless of what you think is the most important organizing principle or purpose of society the investigation, prosecution and punishment of these non-crimes is harmful to society.

This remarkable book is now posted online, and if one can bear to wade through the awful website design, one will find lots of thought-provoking worthwhile commentary, analysis, theory and history.

His final chapter, on how to change the system, while consisting mainly of pie-in-the-sky, ineffective suggestions of working within the system, starts of with an extremely good bit of advice that I urge all our readers to try:

The single most effective form of change is one-on-one interaction with the people you come into contact with day-by-day. The next time someone condemns a consensual activity in your presence, you can ask the simple question, “Well, isn’t that their own business?” Asking this, of course, may be like hitting a beehive with a baseball bat, and it may seem—after the commotion (and emotion) has died down—that attitudes have not changed. If, however, a beehive is hit often enough, the bees move somewhere else. Of course, you don’t have to hit the same hive every time. If all the people who agree that the laws against consensual crimes should be repealed post haste would go around whacking (or at least firmly tapping) every beehive that presented itself, the bees would buzz less often.

I highly recommend this book.  Even though I have some pretty fundamental disagreements with some of his proposals, I think that this book is a fine addition to the bookshelf of any advocate of freedom and civilization.

Hat Tip: J.D. Tuccille of Disloyal Opposition.

I am an anarcho-capitalist living just west of Boston Massachussetts. I am married, have two children, and am trying to start my own computer consulting company.

Common Ground for the Left and the Right on the Bill of Rights

United Nations Opposes Freedom of Religion

Some group calling itself the United Nations Human Rights Council passed a resolution yesterday opposing what they see as the leading human rights issue of our time. You’re probably thinking, maybe they’re now addressing the situation in Darfur, or perhaps they’re talking about Communist China’s treatment of Tibetians. Perhaps there maybe a resolution about Cuba’s continuing persecution of its citizens. If you guessed any of the above, you were wrong. Instead, this little cabal decided to pass a resolution condemning “defamation of religion”.

A United Nations forum on Thursday passed a resolution condemning “defamation of religion” as a human rights violation, despite wide concerns that it could be used to justify curbs on free speech in Muslim countries.

The U.N. Human Rights Council adopted the non-binding text, proposed by Pakistan on behalf of Islamic states, with a vote of 23 states in favor and 11 against, with 13 abstentions.

Western governments and a broad alliance of activist groups have voiced dismay about the religious defamation text, which adds to recent efforts to broaden the concept of human rights to protect communities of believers rather than individuals.

What exactly is defamation of religion? Is criticizing certain Islamic practices such as stoning adulterers defaming Islam? Is criticizing Sharia law because it is a barbaric, seventh century legal code defaming Islam?

Or is flying jetliners into skyscrapers defaming Islam? Maybe the Pakistani government should answer that instead of handing the Taliban parts of their country and demand we shut up.

Of course this is nothing more than an attempt by the nations of the Islamic conference than to further exempt themselves from the conduct of civilized nations, especially on matters of freedom of speech, thought, and coinscience. Under this resolution, just about anything from criticizing an “Islamic government” to demanding human rights for religious minorities and certain groups such as homosexuals as “defaming religion”. This resolution is nothing more than the criminalization of thought.

Another curious thought, what does the Islamic conference in particular and this cabal in general think about anti-Semitism?

Of course there was some opposition to this resolution by more civilized nations.

India and Canada also took to the floor of the Geneva-based Council to raise objections to the OIC text. Both said the text looked too narrowly at the discrimination issue.

“It is individuals who have rights, not religions,” Ottawa’s representative told the body. “Canada believes that to extend (the notion of) defamation beyond its proper scope would jeopardize the fundamental right to freedom of expression, which includes freedom of expression on religious subjects.”

Perhaps Canada’s objections would have a little more merit if Canada wasn’t engaged in its own war on thoughtcrime.

Finally, a simple question of morality. Why does the world take a body seriously that calls itself the “UN Human Rights Council” that has Nigeria as its president and includes such members as Egypt, Russia, Cuba, China, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan? Isn’t this really letting the fox guard the henhouse?

If these countries won’t protect human rights at home, why would they protect human rights around the world?

I’m one of the original co-founders of The Liberty Papers all the way back in 2005. Since then, I wound up doing this blogging thing professionally. Now I’m running the site now. You can find my other work at IJ Review.com and Rare. You can also find me over at the R Street Institute.

Pre-Law Student Suggests State Of California Divorce Marriage Licensing

Language matters. When you call a gigantic pork sandwich a “stimulus”, it becomes a very difficult thing to oppose. When your version of “campaign finance reform” is a big slap in the face of free speech and only increases the ability for moneyed interests to protect their incumbent investments, it is still seen by the majority of Americans as a positive “reform”.

Marriage is a religious concept. Contract is a state concept. To give the name “marriage” to what you get from a church and simultaneously define it as a civil contract, you open the door to very bitter disputes. Few but the extreme bigots in society would suggest that gays not be allowed to enter into civil contracts. But as we saw here in California last year, a majority said they shouldn’t get married. I’ve said that we should do away with civil “marriage” entirely, and use a different term to reduce double meaning.

Two students from SoCal agree, and they’ve decided to do something about it:

Ali Shams, a senior at the University of California-San Diego, was watching a soccer game with a bunch of buddies when his phone started ringing Tuesday, and refused to stop.

Surprising even the 22-year-old pre-law student, his personal project during Christmas break — framing a constitutional amendment initiative to replace the word “marriage” with “domestic partnership” under state law — was cleared by Secretary of State Debra Bowen to gather petition signatures for a potential statewide ballot.

Fox News, NBC, The Associated Press and many of the state’s largest newspapers were on the phone wanting to discuss the unusual initiative launched by Shams and his friend Kaelan Housewright, a 21-year-old senior at the California Institute of the Arts. More to the point was Queerty.com, a gay issues blog which marveled: “Straight Dudes File California Gay Marriage Ballot Initiative.”

The measure would overturn Proposition 8’s ban on same-sex marriage, and have California treat all unions — opposite-sex or same-sex — as domestic partnerships. It would also allow churches, synagogues and mosques to decide whom they want to marry in a social, rather than civil, ceremony.

The domestic partnership initiative might be an extreme long shot to pass — or even make it to the ballot. In what may be a first, the warring sides in the Proposition 8 campaign agree on something — they both hate the idea.

That’s always good. When two bitter rivals are presented with a way to stop fighting, they often hate the idea. Perhaps they’ll come around. It’s difficult to accept the idea that this dispute is largely over a single word rather than a much more important concept, but language matters.

What does this accomplish to truly end this dispute?

“We’re not banning marriage. We’re protecting fundamental rights for minorities and protecting the religious definition of marriage for” religious groups, Shams said.

As I’ve said before, those who are truly concerned about the sanctity of marriage should keep it in church, where it belongs. Let the legal system do what it is designed to do, arbitrate and enforce contracts. Once separated, the issue becomes much easier to argue — and you can see the motives of those for and those against much more clearly.

This, of course, doesn’t mean I think this will pass — but I hope it gets discussed enough to open a few minds.

Hat Tip: Co-contributor Doug @ Below The Beltway

A Good Compromise On Gay Marriage ? Not So Much

David Blankenhorn and Jonathan Rauch, who come from totally opposite sides of the same-sex marriage debate, offer this compromise in a New York Times Op-Ed this morning:

It would work like this: Congress would bestow the status of federal civil unions on same-sex marriages and civil unions granted at the state level, thereby conferring upon them most or all of the federal benefits and rights of marriage. But there would be a condition: Washington would recognize only those unions licensed in states with robust religious-conscience exceptions, which provide that religious organizations need not recognize same-sex unions against their will. The federal government would also enact religious-conscience protections of its own. All of these changes would be enacted in the same bill.

(…)

Linking federal civil unions to guarantees of religious freedom seems a natural way to give the two sides something they would greatly value while heading off a long-term, take-no-prisoners conflict. That should appeal to cooler heads on both sides, and it also ought to appeal to President Obama, who opposes same-sex marriage but has endorsed federal civil unions. A successful template already exists: laws that protect religious conscience in matters pertaining to abortion. These statutes allow Catholic hospitals to refuse to provide abortions, for example. If religious exemptions can be made to work for as vexed a moral issue as abortion, same-sex marriage should be manageable, once reasonable people of good will put their heads together.

The first problem with this proposal seems to be rather self evident to me. Namely, where in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution is Congress granted the power to regulate marriage ? Some might argue that Section 5 of the 14th Amendment creates such a power to the extent that marriage is a “privilege or immunity” contemplated by Section 1 of that Amendment, or that depriving homosexuals of the rights and benefits of civil marriage constitutes a deprivation of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; or that it denies them equal protection of the laws. However, that argument would run head-on into the fact that there’s little evidence that the framers of the 14th Amendment intended it to be such complete a usurpation of state’s rights as this argument would contemplate. Moreover, such an interpretation of the 14th Amendment would effective mean that the 10th Amendment had been repealed by it’s ratification; and there’s no evidence that was the intention back in 1865.

So, at the very least, we’ve got a significant federalism problem that shouldn’t be dismissed.

A second problem with this proposal is that it continues with the idea of creating two separate statuses. What, exactly, would be the difference between marriage and these civil unions ? Unless the differences are in name only, then we’re not talking about real equality. Would heterosexual couples be able to enter into these civil unions instead of marriages ? If not, then you really are creating two different classes of people. And, finally, what would be the rules regarding dissolution of a civil union ? Would it be easier ? Harder ? Would traditional domestic relations law apply ?

If the only difference between “marriage” and “civil union” is the name, then what’s the point of having two different institutions ?

A final problem with this proposal is that it raises what is clearly a straw man in this whole debate. Except in the mind of the truly wacko, the idea that same-sex marriage poses any serious threat to religious liberty. Modern marriage is a civil institution governed by the state, so long as that is the case then the state has no right to discriminate against people when it decides who is and is not entitled to claim the benefits of that relationship. Churches, on the other hand, are free under the First Amendment to confer their religious marriages under any circumstances they deem fit.

The problem, of course, is that marriage today is still a hybrid institution.

Is it a civil relationship governed by the state, or a religious one governed by the laws of whatever deity(ies) you happen to worship, or, is it a combination of both ?

The solution, as I’ve mentioned before, seems rather obvious:

If that’s what you believe a marriage is, the union of a man and woman before God and man, then what does the state have to do with so fundamentally a religious institution ? Why does the state need to recognize it at all and why does it need to grant that religious institution preferntial benefits in the form of tax breaks and a protected legal status that is not available to unmarried persons ?

Kellie and I were married in the Roman Catholic Church, which has requirements for marriage that exceed, and are different from, those of civil marriage. That wedding ceremony is what made the marriage official in the eyes of God, not the little piece of paper we got from Cuyahoga County, Ohio the day before.

Here’s my proposal. Get rid of civil marriage licenses entirely. Let people decide for themselves what they believe about marriage and let them, if they wish solemnize that union in a church of their choice. We are hundreds of years past the day where the state was involved in religious affairs, it doesn’t need to be involved in this matter either.

It’s really not as radical an idea as you might think. Contrary to what some of the “traditional marriage” advocates would have you think, state involvement in marriage is a relatively recent thing historically:

For 16 centuries, Christianity also defined the validity of a marriage on the basis of a couple’s wishes. If two people claimed they had exchanged marital vows — even out alone by the haystack — the Catholic Church accepted that they were validly married.

In 1215, the church decreed that a “licit” marriage must take place in church. But people who married illictly had the same rights and obligations as a couple married in church: their children were legitimate; the wife had the same inheritance rights; the couple was subject to the same prohibitions against divorce.

Not until the 16th century did European states begin to require that marriages be performed under legal auspices. In part, this was an attempt to prevent unions between young adults whose parents opposed their match.

That practice carried over to the American colonies and, later, the United States, where marriage licensing laws quickly became a way to prevent socially disapproved inter-racial marriages and to limit the rights of women:

By the 1920s, 38 states prohibited whites from marrying blacks, “mulattos,” Japanese, Chinese, Indians, “Mongolians,” “Malays” or Filipinos. Twelve states would not issue a marriage license if one partner was a drunk, an addict or a “mental defect.” Eighteen states set barriers to remarriage after divorce.

So, the idea that the marriage must be something defined by the state isn’t as historically grounded as some would have you think.

And what about the supposed threat to religious liberty if homosexuals were allow to declare themselves married ?

Well, it ain’t there:

[N]obody is saying that your church has to approve or consecrate same-sex unions. Heck, you could have a religion that said people with different hair colors can’t get married if you wanted to, just don’t make it the business of the state to codify your religious prejudices.

Exactly.

Blankehorn and Rauch make a good effort at trying to find some middle ground on this issue. And that alone I take as a sign that the rigid opposition to same-sex unions that we’ve seen in the past is melting away far quicker than anyone anticipated (just look at Utah for more proof of that assertion). As a practical, Constitutional solution to the problem, though, I’m afraid they’ve fallen short.

Originally posted at Below The Beltway

Che, Mao, and Pop Culture

One thing that disturbs me to no end is the way despotic Communist serial killers like Ernesto “Che” Guevara and Mao Zedong are iconic figures in American pop culture. When I see someone wearing Che’s ugly mug on his/her chest, I want to ask him/her: “Do you really have any idea who this man was or what he did?” I suspect that if I were to ask, I’d get a blank stare.

This short video below from reason.tv features interviews with two individuals who lived under the thumbs of Che and Mao. Neither are what you would call fans of these pop culture icons.

Is It Time To Take “Under God” Out Of The Pledge Of Allegiance ?

A writer at The Washington Post says the answer is yes:

First, it isn’t the 1950s anymore. As religion scholar Will Herberg noted in his influential 1955 essay “Protestant-Catholic-Jew,” at that time 68 percent of Americans were Protestant, 23 percent Catholic, and 4 percent Jewish. (The remaining 5 percent expressed no religious preference.) “Not to be a Catholic, a Protestant, or a Jew today is, for increasing numbers of American people, not to be anything.”

According to a recent Pew report, those figures have declined to 51, 23 and 2. The remaining 20+ percent express plenty of preferences, including Mormon, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Atheist and Agnostic. Not to be a Catholic, a Protestant, or a Jew today is, for increasing numbers of American people, to be something else just as worthy of citizenship.

Second, the greatest threat to American freedom is no longer godless communism but “godly” terrorism — people who pledge their allegiance to God. Docherty noted that even Stalin’s Soviet Union could claim to be “one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” Today, even a Taliban-led Afghanistan could claim to be “one nation, under God.”

In his 1954 sermon, Docherty argued that Judeo-Christian America was engaged in “mortal combat against modern, secularized, godless humanity.” Today, pluralistic America is engaged in mortal combat against anti-modern, fundamentalist, religionized humanity.

It isn’t our belief in God that makes us different. It’s our belief in the liberties (religious and other) enshrined in the Constitution. The American creed is faith in liberty for all, not the religion of most.

On some level, Waters is absolutely correct but he misses the most important reason why claiming that the United States is a “nation, under God” is inappropriate. It was expressed by America’s Third President:

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man & his god, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state. [Congress thus inhibited from acts respecting religion, and the Executive authorised only to execute their acts, I have refrained from presenting even occasional performances of devotion presented indeed legally where an Executive is the legal head of a national church, but subject here, as religious exercises only to the voluntary regulations and discipline of each respective sect.] Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.

America, as Jefferson noted, is not a nation founded on a specific set of religious beliefs, but on the belief in the natural rights of man, from whatever source those rights are derived.

Is Atheism Really Threatening?

These signs have been popping up lately in the Denver area…

…and some folks are none too happy about it.

The hate mail and nasty, threatening phone messages began almost immediately.

John Matson, of Denver, was so mad after seeing the Santa Fe Drive sign that he dashed off an angry letter to the billboard’s owner.

“It is a despicable act to allow that sign,” the 60-year-old man said in an interview, “and for just a few pieces of silver.”

He went on COCORE’s Web site, and it made him even angrier, John Matson said. It is trying to gather, he said, “a constituency of what I call mob rule.”

“I know they’re atheists, and my opinion is they want others to believe the same thing. The billboard misrepresents their purpose,” he said. “Their agenda is wolf-in-sheep’s clothing political. Why don’t they just say it.”

Yes, he is a Christian, John Matson said.

Perhaps it’s simply that I’m a godless heathen myself, but I have yet to see any way that these billboards, as some of their detractors have claimed, “denigrate Christians”. As far as I can tell, this is simply an advertising campaign for their group. Given the number of billboards I’ve seen throughout my life advertising for various churches, I don’t quite understand why this would create such an uproar. I’m not surprised, mind you, but I don’t understand.

While I don’t necessarily agree with Matson’s statement that “they want others to believe the same thing” — not that I’d find anything wrong with that — this is clearly an advertising campaign. In many ways, being an atheist is very similar to being a libertarian: nobody understands you, you’re often finding yourself unable to admit your beliefs in public, and thus you have a very difficult time finding others like yourself. While church members have a natural venue to meet like-minded folks, the very lack of belief makes it very difficult for atheists to do the same. Thus, it can be a lonely existence, and the knowledge that there are others who at least share your belief is a small comfort.

Matson, of course, does have a point. A group like COCORE may, through campaigns like this, slowly legitimize atheism in the general public. That will allow people of weak faith who might naturally tend towards atheism make the complete leap. But such at attitude by Christians would only make clear that they are against one of those central tenets of Christianity, the idea that accepting Christ is a choice to be made freely and with all the information laid out.

Instead of knee-jerk reaction, perhaps those who believe would do better if they spent their time working towards conversion based upon the positive aspects of their faith, not by trying to silence their opposition. To do such a thing would be respectful of freedom, and would earn my respect*. It may not spur me to believe, but it would certainly temper my disgust at some of the behavior of the more vocal and least-tolerant believers.
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The Un-American Pledge of Allegiance

One aspect common to totalitarian regimes is the forced loyalty oath. Nazi Germany, for example, forced all pastors, civil servants and soldiers to take an oath of loyalty to Adolf Hitler. In the Soviet Union, in Communist China, and numerous other nations, the state demanded that people swear loyalty to the government as a condition for a jobs, for education, or to receive any service that the state had arrogated for itself. Typically regimes demand routine public displays of loyalty before everyday events such as sporting events, theater performances, or the beginning of the school or work day.

Why do totalitarian regimes demand that people publicly announce their loyalty and subservience? The answer is simple – the totalitarian regime typically does not have the people’s willing loyalty. Rather, they must compel the people’s loyalty. And, if they can’t have the real thing, a fake version is just fine. The forced loyalty oath is a sign of a unpopular regime, that fears the people because it acts in a manner that not in the people’s interest.

Is the forced loyalty oath ineffective? Are totalitarian regimes fooling themselves, making people say empty words that the people don’t believe? To the contrary, the forced loyalty oath is common because it is very effective, being one of the cruelest attacks on freedom.

The forced loyalty oath attacks the freedom of speech. With it, the regime seizes control of a person’s mouth, and compels that mouth to say words that its rightful owner wishes not to say. The monstrosity of the crime arises from the fact that it is through our words that we construct society. It is with our words that we build our bonds with our fellow men. We are social animals, we need to talk to our fellows for our basic sanity. That is why one of the cruelest punishments that men visit upon each other is solitary confinement. Seize control of a man’s words, and you have effectively imprisoned him in his skull. That is why I feel that the right to speech is second to the right to life.

While most people recognize that that the freedom of speech is the right of every person to say whatever he or she wants to say, they often forget that it also includes the right of every person to not say things that he or she does not want to say. Forcing a person to say what he does not want to say is as bad as gagging him and silencing him.

We can decry pictures of children standing at attention wearing the red scarf of the Young Pioneers uniforms or the shorts of the Hitler Jugend as adults order them to pledge their undying loyalty to a state that plunders them and enslaves them. However, the sad fact is that while many Americans who would condemn other nations in a heartbeat for demanding such false displays of loyalty are supporters to a systematic version of it being practiced here at home.

Every day, millions of children living in the U.S. are compelled to utter the following words:

“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands: one Nation under God, indivisible, With Liberty and Justice for all.”

Allegiance is a state of loyalty or devotion. A declaration of allegiance is not something to be taken lightly. It is a modern form of a declaration of fealty, the oath that a person took under feudalism that bound him to obey his lord’s commands, even unto death. The oath these children are ordered to make is loyalty not to any idea or set of principles, but to a flag, a symbol of the state. Change three words, and a Cuban child could utter it in devotion to Castro, a North Korean to the government of Kim Il Sung, a Scottish child to the British Queen or a French child to the Republic. This emptiness did not go unnoticed to the public who demanded that politicians correct the matter. They did not want to give it any principle that would challenge the legitimacy of the state, so they decided to add a loyalty oath to God to distinguish it. Of course, God is conveniently very lax in enforcing such oaths and so no practical impediment to the power of the state. Furthermore, I am told that the champions of adding a religious component to the oath carried the day by arguing that no “godless communist” could take the oath, marking them for ostracism.

It is not surprising that public schools make this demand of children. From their inception in 1642 in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, U.S. government schools have had on main purpose: to indoctrinate children in the religion or mores that the state feels most useful. Useful skills like reading and writing, critical thinking, knowledge of the arts and sciences are all secondary to the goal of indoctrination. In the case of Massachusetts, the schools were originally intended to induct the children into the state’s official version of Protestant Christianity rather than the heresies of their parents. In modern times, the religion is not some strain of Christianity, but rather the worship of the state. One can see this in the original version of the pledge, which is short and to the point:

Text Meaning
I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands: I will be loyal to the state and obey it’s commands.
one Nation The state is the people
indivisible People are not allowed to secede or withdraw from the state.
With Liberty and Justice for all.
Standard boilerplate conditions that all states, from Iceland to the People’s Republic of North Korea, claim to establish for the people under their control.

The details of the pledge are damning. The person who makes it is claiming not only loyalty to the state, but a loyalty that is devoid of any principles and irrevocable under any conditions.

The change to add “under God” does nothing to lessen the totalitarian nature of the pledge other than to make the laughable claim that the state is subservient to God.

The United States was originally founded as a nation of conscience. We can see this in an odd passage early in the Treaty of Amity, Commerce and Navigation, signed in 1794. This was the treaty which reestablished diplomatic relations between Britain and the United States of America. In it the U.S. government made the following pledge towards British subjects remaining in the former colonies after the British Army evacuated it:

“All settlers and traders, within the precincts or jurisdiction of the said posts, shall continue to enjoy, unmolested, all their property of every kind, and shall be protected therein. They shall be at full liberty to remain there, or to remove with all or any part of their effects; and it shall also be free to them to sell their lands, houses or effects, or to retain the property thereof, at their discretion; such of them as shall continue to reside within the said boundary lines, shall not be compelled to become citizens of the United States, or to take any oath of allegiance to the Government thereof; but they shall be at full liberty so to do if they think proper.”

Every few years, some organization sues a school district because it compels children to state the pledge with the clause “under God”. These suits invariably claim that it violates the clause in the U.S. Constitution forbidding the establishment of a state religion. Unfortunately, these lawsuits miss the main point. The human rights violation is not that children are forced to pledge their loyalty to God – t is the fact that the children are forced to make any loyalty oath at all!

The pledge of allegiance is not compatible with a free country. Written by a socialist who sought to indoctrinate children with the idea that they should be servants of the state, it opposes the very principles underlying the Declaration of Independence. It is the duty of every patriotic American, whose loyalties are to those principles rather than some flag or body of men, to oppose it. Let the enemies of freedom distinguish themselves by compelling people to take oaths against their will. Let us once again embrace freedom and expel the rotten pledge of allegiance from our schools.

I am an anarcho-capitalist living just west of Boston Massachussetts. I am married, have two children, and am trying to start my own computer consulting company.

Gay Marriage, Religious Rights, and Freedom of Association

California’s Proposition 8, the ballot measure aiming to outlaw same sex marriage, passed on a very close vote. Prop 8’s supporters* pushed a campaign of fear, misinformation, and a complete distortion of the meaning of individual liberty. This campaign commercial is typical of the intolerance and hysteria being promoted from the “yes” campaign.

Argument #1: Churches could be forced to marry gay people.

Argument #2: Religious adoption agencies could be forced to allow gay couples to adopt children; some adoption agencies would close their doors as a result.

Argument #3: Those who speak out against gay marriage on religious grounds will be labeled “intolerant” and subjected to legal penalties or social ridicule. Careers could be threatened.

Argument #4: Schools will teach students that marriage is between “party a” and “party b” regardless of gender. Schools also teach health and sexuality and would now include discussions of homosexuality.

Argument #5: There will be “serious clashes” between public schools and parents who wish to teach their children their values concerning marriage.

Argument #6: Allowing gays to marry will restrict or eliminate liberties of “everyone.” (Example: Photographers who do not want to work at same sex weddings)

Argument #7: If Prop 8 fails, religious liberty and free speech rights will be adversely affected.

My response to these arguments is that we should be advocating for more freedom for everyone rather than restrict freedom of a group or class of people. The state should recognize the same contract rights** for a gay couple as it would between a man and a woman. To get around the whole definition of marriage issue, I would propose that as far as the state is concerned, any legally recognized intimate relationship between consenting adults should be called a “domestic partnership.” From there the churches or secular equivalent to churches should have the right to decide who they will marry and who they will not (just as they do now).

Rather than subject an individual’s rights to a vote or either party forcing their values on the other, we should instead advocate freedom of association and less government in our everyday lives. Somewhere along the way, we as a people decided that the government should involve itself more and more into the relationships of private actors. The government now has the ability to dictate to business owners quotas of who they must hire, family leave requirements, how much their employees must be paid, and how many hours they work (among other requirements). For the most part, businesses which serve the public cannot deny service to individuals for fear of a lawsuit.

A return to a freedom of association society would remedy arguments 1, 2, 6, and 7 from this ad. As to Argument #3, the anti-gay marriage folks are going to have to realize that in a free society, they are going to have to deal with “social ridicule”*** or being called intolerant. Anyone who takes a stand on any issue is going to be criticized and called names. In a freedom of association society, an employer would have every right to decide to layoff individuals who hold views or lifestyles they disagree with.

While we’re on the subject of intolerance, perhaps we should take a moment to consider if people who would deny equivalent rights which come with marriage are intolerant. This ad is exactly the same as the previous ad except that the words “same sex” and “gays” have been replaced with “interracial.”

Believe it or not, there was a time in this country when there were such laws against interracial marriage. Those who argued against interracial marriage made very similar arguments to what the anti-gay marriage people are making now. Today most of us would say those people were intolerant.

Intolerance aside, Arguments 4 and 5 can also be answered by reducing the role of government in our lives. What the “yes” people should be arguing for is a separation of school and state. While we as a nation are trending toward more government involvement in K-12 education, those who do not want the government schools to teach their children the birds and the bees or enter into discussions of homosexuality can put their children in private schools which share their values or home school. School Choice is the obvious answers to these concerns.

Prop 8’s supporters have turned the whole idea of individual liberty on its head. They claim that in order to preserve the rights of the greatest number of people a minority of people necessarily must sacrifice their rights. This is absurd and dangerous. Perhaps it is this complete misunderstanding of individual rights among Californians which contributed to Prop 8’s passage.

When explained properly, the rights of life, liberty, and property is the easiest concept to understand.

Hat Tip: The Friendly Atheist

Posted Elsewhere:

Dan Melson @ Searchlight Crusade has written a very thought provoking post on this issue. Some of his arguments I agree with, others I don’t but all of his points are well argued.

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If The Government Recognizes One Religion, Must It Recognize All Religions ?

An interesting religious liberty case is pending before the Supreme Court that opens an entirely new front in the war over the public display of religious symbols:

PLEASANT GROVE CITY, Utah — Across the street from City Hall here sits a small park with about a dozen donated buildings and objects — a wishing well, a millstone from the city’s first flour mill and an imposing red granite monument inscribed with the Ten Commandments.

Thirty miles to the north, in Salt Lake City, adherents of a religion called Summum gather in a wood and metal pyramid hard by Interstate 15 to meditate on their Seven Aphorisms, fortified by an alcoholic sacramental nectar they produce and surrounded by mummified animals.

In 2003, the president of the Summum church wrote to the mayor here with a proposal: the church wanted to erect a monument inscribed with the Seven Aphorisms in the city park, “similar in size and nature” to the one devoted to the Ten Commandments.

The city declined, a lawsuit followed and a federal appeals court ruled that the First Amendment required the city to display the Summum monument. The Supreme Court on Wednesday will hear arguments in the case, which could produce the most important free speech decision of the term.

The justices will consider whether a public park open to some donations must accept others as well. In cases involving speeches and leaflets, the courts have generally said that public parks are public forums where the government cannot discriminate among speakers on the basis of what they propose to say. The question of how donated objects should be treated is, however, an open one.

The city has tried to justify the distinction between the two statutes by saying they are meant to represent history, not religion:

Only donations concerning the city’s history are eligible for display in the park as a matter of longstanding policy, he said, and only when donated by groups with a long association with the city. The Fraternal Order of Eagles, a national civic organization, donated the Ten Commandments monument in 1971.

The donations, Mr. Daniels went on, are transformed when the city accepts them. “Monuments on government property become government speech,” he said.

Under the First Amendment, the government can generally say what it likes without giving equal time to opposing views; it has much less latitude to choose among private speakers.

Asked what the government is saying when it displays the Ten Commandments, Mr. Daniels talked about law and history. He did not mention religion.

Pressed a little, he retreated.

“The fact that we own the monument doesn’t mean that what is on the monument is something we are espousing, promoting, establishing, embracing,” Mr. Daniels said. “We’re looking at, Does it fit with the heritage of the people of this area?”

Lawyers for the Summum’s, however, say that it is a clear example of government preferring one form of religious expression over another:

Brian M. Barnard, a lawyer for the Summum church, said the city’s distinctions were cooked up after the fact as a way to reject his client’s monument. The local chapter of the Eagles, Mr. Barnard added, had only been in town two years when it donated the Ten Commandments monument.

“We have a city that will allow one organization to put up its religious ideals and principles,” Mr. Barnard said. “When the next group comes along, they won’t allow it to put up its religious ideals and principles.”

And those differing views have continued before the Supreme Court:

The city, supported by more than 20 cities and states, along with the federal government, has told the Supreme Court that the upshot of affirming the appeals court decision would be to clutter public parks across the nation with offensive nonsense.

A town accepting a Sept. 11 memorial would also have to display a donated tribute to Al Qaeda, the briefs said. “Accepting a Statue of Liberty,” the city’s brief said, should not “compel a government to accept a Statue of Tyranny.”

The brief for the Summum church said the relevant dispute was much narrower. “The government,” it said, “may not take sides in a theological debate.”

That, it seems, is exactly what the city is going in this case and it seems to be exactly what the First Amendment prohibits.

Third Party Debate

The City Club of Cleveland extended an invitation to the top six presidential candidates*. Of the six candidates, Libertarian Party candidate Bob Barr, Constitution Party candidate Chuck Baldwin, and independent candidate Ralph Nader participated; Democrat Barack Obama, Republican John McCain, and Green Party candidate Cynthia McKinney were no-shows.

Unlike the debates we have already seen in this cycle, the candidates in this debate actually debated the issues!

*The candidates who could theoretically receive the requisite electoral vote to win the presidency

In fact, let me say unequivocally, I’m OK with more people dying, so long as we have more freedom; be it with drugs, or guns, or sex, or anything else.

Are there limits? Of course there are; at the very least, my fist is limited by your nose… but doing immoral, unethical, and unconstitutional things (and I include setting arbitrary limits on freedom in that list) in service of “a good cause”, does not make those things right.

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

Quote Of The Day

Jerry Pournelle on the Texas polygamy case:

Punishing people without charging them with any crime or allowing them any defense is a pretty serious thing. I would say that protection from that kind of arbitrary authority is more important than the alleged protection of no more than a dozen kids among the 400 from the allegations of sexual abuse — allegations, by the way, that now turn out to have been made by an anonymous accuser who may not even exist. It may have been a malicious neighbor.

If we are going to establish that precedent — that I can call the police and allege that you are abusing me and your children — and never come forward to confront you, or give any real specifications, but they will come and take your children for their own protection, I have the power to ruin your life.

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