Category Archives: Church and State

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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Personal Attack Ad…Against Myself!

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be on the receiving end of a personal attack ad? I have. During the 2006 campaign, I thought it would be fun to write my own personal attack ad…against myself! Like many attack ads, everything I wrote about myself was (is) technically true but lacked context (the full context of each charge can be found by following the links).

I found the exercise to be very cathartic and enjoyable. I highly recommend you try it sometime! Feel free to write your own personal attack ad against yourself or write your own against me in the comments section of this post.

Now, cue the unflattering grainy black and white video with dreary music and enjoy my personal attack ad:

Who is Stephen Littau and why can’t we trust him?

For starters, he often advocates ending the war on drugs, suspending drug raids on suspected dealers, and repealing mandatory minimum sentencing laws for drug offenders. He has even gone as far as to defend a man who shot and killed a police officer who was simply serving a lawful search warrant.

But that’s not all…

Stephen Littau once wrote “Go ahead and call me an infidel, I will readily embrace this label” and that “an end of faith is way overdue.” Do we really want to put our trust in such a Godless heathen?

Not if you want to defend marriage, the flag, and traditional family values. Stephen Littau opposed the Defense of Marriage Amendment and the Flag Desecration Amendment. He also wants to take God off our currency, out of the Pledge of Allegiance, and remove religious monuments such as the Ten Commandments from government property using the tired old “wall of church and state” argument.

Stephen Littau is so morally depraved that he considers selfishness a “virtue” and wants to eliminate social welfare and entitlement programs leaving Americans to fend for themselves. Stephen Littau wants us to believe that such selfish attitudes are actually compassionate by allowing people to suffer from their poor choices.

Let’s be sure not to suffer from this bad choice. This November, send Stephen Littau a clear message:

Yes to the war on drugs!
Yes to religion in government!
Yes to defending marriage, the flag, and the Ten Commandments!
Yes to a compassionate government!
And No to the secular philosophy and dangerous ideas of Stephen Littau!

War Is Peace, Freedom Is Slavery, And We All Love Big Brother

George W. Bush rewrites the Declaration of Independence:

“We need your message to reject this dictatorship of relativism and embrace a culture of justice and truth,” Bush said in brief remarks welcoming Benedict to the White House. “In a world where some see freedom as simply the right to do as they wish, we need your message that true liberty requires us to live our freedom not just for ourselves, but in a spirit of mutual support.”

Sorry, Mr. President, you don’t get to define how I use my freedom, and neither does a foreign religious leader.

Belated H/T: Publius Endures

Separating Marriage And State

A Democratic State Senator in Maryland has come up with an idea that actually makes sense:

Advocates for same-sex marriage plan to introduce legislation in the Maryland General Assembly today that would abolish civil marriage ceremonies now confined to heterosexual unions in the state and replace them with domestic partnerships for all couples.

The bills represent an unusual new tactic in the effort to push legal rights for gay couples through the House and Senate during the legislature’s 90-day session. Sponsors of the measure say they are attempting to address head-on the concerns of lawmakers who oppose same-sex marriage on religious grounds.

Under their proposal, all couples — straight or gay — would be on equal footing with secular unions. Religious marriage in churches, synagogues and mosques would be unaffected, as would existing civil marriages.

The word “marriage” would be replaced with “valid domestic partnership” in the state’s family law code.

“If people want to maintain a religious test for marriage, let’s turn it into a religious institution,” said Sen. Jamie B. Raskin (D-Montgomery), the bill’s Senate sponsor.

This is exactly what I’ve been saying for years now (see here and here). Of course, the Republican opponents of gay marriage aren’t exactly lining up to support this:

“What they’re talking about is an even more radical departure from traditional marriage than even advocates for gay marriage are talking about,” said Del. Christopher B. Shank (R-Washington), the minority whip. “They’re creating a situation for one special interest group that basically diminishes the value of marriage for everyone else.”

Shank and other opponents say that same-sex unions defy religious convictions that marriage is between a man and a woman.

And nobody 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 if you wanted to, just don’t make it the business of the state to codify your religious prejudices.

Unfortunately, I doubt that this proposal will go anywhere, even in Maryland, but it’s refreshing to see that some people recognize that the only way to really solve the gay marriage debate is to get the government out of them marriage business completely.

Mike Huckabee “Clarifies” His Views On The Constitution And God

On Wednesday Jason noted that Mike Huckabee had stated his desire to amend the Constitution to bring it in line with “God’s law.”

Later that day, he appeared on Hannity & Colmes and attempted to clarify what he had said earlier in the day:

On last night’s Hannity & Colmes, Colmes cited Huckabee’s quote about changing the Constitution and said, “That makes people a little worried. It sounds like you’re looking to have a theocratic state when you make statements like that, talking about changing the Constitution in keeping with your view of God.”

Huckabee responded, “Not at all. On two things. The context is two things: Human life amendment, which I support and which has been in the Republican platform since 1980. And, by the way, Fred Thompson doesn’t support it. Nor does John McCain. And yet it’s part of our platform. And it’s a very important part of our platform to say that human life is something we’re going to stand for. And the second thing is traditional marriage. So those are the two areas in which I’m talking about. I’m not suggesting that we rewrite the Constitution to reflect tithing or Sunday school attendance. I want to make that very clear… Except for you, Alan. I think maybe you should, maybe you should obey those things.”

Colmes said drily, “Well, thank you for the suggestion.”

And here’s the video:

I don’t buy it. Huckabee meant what he said, his effort to “clarify” the statement seems to be in response to the generally negative reception it got in the press.

The Club for Growth Releases New Anti-Huckabee Ad in Michigan

Clubforgrowth.org

For the life of me, I don’t understand why so many “conservatives” support Mike Huckabee*. He raises taxes, increases spending, his anti-capitalist/populist rhetoric is indistinguishable from that of John Edwards (minus the “Two Americas” b.s.), he wants a national smoking ban in all workplaces, and he once thought that AIDS patients should be quarantined! Democrats traditionally want into our boardrooms while Republicans traditionally want into our bedrooms; Mike Huckabee wants to be in both! Basically, he is the William Jennings Bryan of our time.
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Should Governments Promote Religious Holidays?

A perennial question that comes up this time of the year is the question of how Christmas should be celebrated in public places, with a significant amount of anger and heated accusations being traded between proponents and opponents of the idea.

The Argument For

Christmas is a major part of American culture, especially since it was heavily commercialized in the late nineteenth century by nascent department stores and mail order businesses. Since the majority of the citizenry in nearly every polity on the local, state and federal levels that make up the United States are self-described Christians, governments universally make concessions to their holy day by refusing to conduct public business on or around that day. In order to maintain vital services, fire-fighters and police-men are paid bonuses for working on that day. Since governments are already marking this Christian holy day, since they are spending extra public monies for it, so why not go the extra step? After all, Christmas is a cheerful celebration marking birth and life, and God knows generally when the state shuts down business to mark an anniversary, it usually is about death; the day a war started or ended, or the day some war-maker was born or something.

Argument Against #1

Of course, a substantial minority of Christians don’t celebrate Christmas as it actually has little to do with Christianity itself. Jesus was not born anywhere near the Winter Solstice. The earliest recorded celebration of Christmas on or about the winter solstice as a Christian holiday occurred in Egypt. Their worship of the holiday bears a strong resemblance to the celebration of the resurrection of Osiris, which were also celebrated on the winter solstice. It is very clear that the leaders of the late Roman Empire folded the popular festival of Saturnalia into the new imperial Christian religion. Much like Jews making a big deal about Hanukkah, and black Americans celebrating Kwanzaa, it is clear that the early Christians made up the holiday to basically have an excuse to participate in the holidays of the non-Christian cultures they were embedded within. The Christians who don’t celebrate Christmas and view its observance as a heresy, are quite understandably upset to see it promoted anywhere. This would have included many of the colonists in new England. As frequent Reason Hit and Run commenter joe observed:

Here is Massachusetts, they had a fight a few years ago about whether the Town of Lexington should be paying to put a nativity scene on the town common. One of the arguments often made was, “What would the Minutemen say if they found out we couldn’t have a nativity scene for Christmas?”

The desired answer was, they would be aghast at the hostility of the government towards Christianity.

The correct answer was, they would be aghast at such a blatant display of papist idolatry, and smash it to bits with the butts of their muskets.

Why should people be forced to pay for blasphemy?

Argument Against #2

Some people pay taxes but don’t like to see the money spent on things that they don’t like, including Christmas celebrations. The reason they don’t approve is immaterial, perhaps they are not Christian, perhaps they are but think that Christmas should be a private matter. These folks are, of course, aghast at the misuse of money. It is one thing to compel people to pay for a good like fire-prevention. It is another to force people to pay for something frivolous like a manger scene. They want their tax money spent on other things, perhaps ensuring that children have adequate health care or for more policemen or better radios for firefighters. If they were in charge the public monies would go to those things and not be frittered away on displays.

Argument Against #3

Of course, a significant number of people aren’t Christian, yet they too have their own ways of celebrating the Winter Solstice. Why shouldn’t they have their traditions celebrated as well? Where should one draw the line? At having the 49% of the population who are non-believers subsidize to 51% who are? 25%? 5%?

Again, why should a man be forced to pay for another religion’s celebrations?

Christmas at Disney-world: Where’s the Controversy?

“Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?” [asked Inspector Gregory]

“To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.” [answered Holmes]

“The dog did nothing in the night-time.”

“That was the curious incident,” remarked Sherlock Holmes.

Every year, Disney-world has a massive extravaganza in celebration of Christmas. This celebration elicits little or no controversy. People don’t file lawsuits or get in shouting matches over their choices of how to celebrate the holiday. Why is that? It’s not that a single individual or sect owns the property. Disney’s board of directors answer to the shareholders, and there are millions of shareholders who own Disney, more than the thousands of voting taxpayers living in Lexington, MA. Surely there must be atheists, Jews, or people opposed to ostentatious displays of Christmas cheer in their ranks. Why do these millions not get angry while a mere ten thousand or so get into shouting matches? The answer lies in the fact that people who are unhappy with Disney’s decision are free to end their involvement with the company. They can sell their shares. They can refuse to give their custom to Disney-world.

But when it comes to government, people are denied that freedom. In his wonderful 15+ hour Commentaries, Robert LeFevre recounts the story of an exchange he had with a town commissioner. At the time, he was a newspaperman, and he was asked to publish an announcement on behalf of the town government to the effect that a local park would be closed to public access on a certain night. The commissioner explained that they had invited a youth group from a neighboring town to have a party of some kind in the park. LeFevre, apparently feeling a little mischievous, challenged the commissioner and asked him by what right he could make such a decision. The commissioner explained that he had been appointed by the townspeople who collectively owned the park. “Aha” LeFevre said, “you see, I know something about the guests you have invited, and they are rough customers.” He told the commissioner that he feared the guests would damage the park, and as an owner he would be on the hook for repairs. Since he thought his ownership share in the park was about to become a liability, he told the commissioner that he would like to sell his share. The commissioner, of course was apoplectic at the idea; “you can’t sell your share!” he cried. Regardless or Robert LeFevre’s concerns, he was a prisoner. So long as he lived within the commissioner’s zone of control, he was yoked to the wagon of state, compelled to go where the commissioner directed it, and forced to yield his back to the commissioner’s whip. As LeFevre predicted, the guests caused a significant amount of damage to the park. The damage was repaired at cost to the taxpayers.

Government Action Inevitably Causes Conflict

By forcing people to bear the costs of government, government officials are setting people at each other’s throats. Rather than being a force for peace and civilization, the government becomes a divisive entity, weakening the bonds of fellowship. People who otherwise would get along and have good relations with each other find themselves driven into conflict.

If the fans of Christmas really which to honor the Prince of Peace, they should eschew government-funded displays in favor of privately funded ones. Otherwise they are nudging society in a more conflict-prone, violent direction.

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.

Quote of the Day: Mitt Romney’s Bigotry

Mitt Romney was deluged today with questions about yesterday’s speech on faith, specifically about the statement that: “Freedom requires religion, just as religion requires freedom.” “It was a speech on faith in America, first of all,” Romney said, during a testy exchange with reporters after a town hall forum here. He said he was paraphrasing what John Adams and George Washington once said and added that, “For a nation like ours to be great and to thrive, that our Constitution was written for people of faith, and religion is a very extraordinary element and very necessary foundation for our nation. I believe that’s the case.”

- Hotline On Call December 7, 2007

h/t: Ryan Sager

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.

A Religious Test For Office

Doug has posted over the last day or so about Mitt Romney’s speech on religion and politics… Romney, as a Mormon, is facing some interesting attacks from the evangelical wing of the Republican party, who don’t regard Mormons as “true Christians”. Doug’s opinion is that such a worry is pointless, and that voters should spend more time worrying about his policies than his piety.

Such an idea is echoed by the founding fathers, and enshrined directly into the Constitution.

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

Now, in another comment thread, Doug and I both believe that what’s going on is not a religious test as described in the Constitution.

But should voters consider religion when they decide who to vote for?

In a democracy, I would think that voters would most definitely consider religion when voting. After all, religion is a core belief system tied at the root level to morality for most voters, and putting someone into a position of power who shares your morality is the best way to ensure that your morality is that which is law.

As an example, look at the fight between those who desire sharia law and those who do not. Many Muslims in the mid-east regard Islam as a religion that cannot be separated from law. Even in Western society, artifacts such as blue laws show that there is a desire within human nature to mandate or prohibit that which follows your core beliefs, as described by your religion.

Humans, by their very nature, will gravitate to politicians that agree with their own religious beliefs. I, of course, am no different. I am an atheist, and believe in a secular, reason-based justification for individual liberty and natural rights theory. Thus, my religious test for a candidate is one that puts his own reason and respect for individual rights above that of his religion, at least as it pertains to his goals for governance. I realize that in America in 2007, I am not going to find a candidate in any major party that self-describes as an atheist. But at the same time, in America in 2007 there are many people inside and outside of politics who view their religion as less of a driving force in their lives, and more of a social activity. Thus, I do not fear electing theists to office, but I certainly fear those who I believe would decide policy based on faith, and not on reason, like Mike Huckabee (and George W. Bush).

One may suggest that evangelicals should not automatically rule out Romney due to his Mormon faith, and that is true, if one considers reason and liberty to be the goal of America rather than upholding a Christian society. However, that belies a misunderstanding of the evangelical movement. An evangelical may not be primarily in favor of the sort of liberty someone like I might favor. After all, I’m in favor of civil unions for gays and pro-polygamy. I have no problem with drinking, gambling, or the legalization of drugs. I think that Sunday is a great day to buy beer, because the last thing I want to experience is a Super Bowl party without beer!

For me, I will vote for a politician who I believe will vote for liberty, regardless of whether he’s a Christian or a Scientologist. As long as I believe that a politician will place the value of individual liberty above his personal religious beliefs (given the non-piety of most Americans, usually this is not a difficult test), I can vote for him.

But this says that I value individual liberty more than religious beliefs, not surprising for a self-described atheist. This is not the case for many devoutly religious people. They value piety to the Lord above individual liberty, and thus have a much different calculation when they head to the polls. They would never vote for an atheist, a Muslim, a Wiccan or a Scientologist, because they view the goals those politicians to follow as opposite to the goals they want to achieve.

To argue that one should not take this into account when voting is a futile argument. The fact that Romney is or is not a viable candidate is an effect of a change in American society, and not a cause. To argue with current evangelicals whether they should vote for Romney is bound to be fruitless; it’s like arguing with a vegetarian whether you should get your steak medium rare or well done. At best, the argument that many are making to the evangelicals about voting for Romney is like arguing to a vegetarian that eating fish is okay, because fish isn’t quite like a normal animal (and thus that Mormonism is “close enough” to their brand of Christianity to vote for him over some godless heathen Democrat).

The simple fact is that we’re talking about core principles here. I refuse to vote for someone like Mike Huckabee, because I believe that he is guided primarily by his religious principles, and his interpretation of religion guides him far away from individual liberty (as his nationwide smoking ban proposal shows). For an evangelical, someone like Mitt Romney may be simply too far away from their core principles in order to receive a vote, as they view Joseph Smith as a heretic to their true religion, not a prophet.

When you’re talking about core principles, the only way to argue is on the principle level. That can’t be done in the sound-bite world of today’s politics.

Could Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Visit to Columbia University be a Good Thing?

NEW YORK – Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad faced sharp criticism Monday about his opinions on women, gays, Israel, nuclear weapons and the Holocaust in an appearance at Columbia University, where protesters lined the streets bearing signs reading, “Hitler Lives.”

Inside a crowded lecture hall, the university president issued blistering introductory remarks. Ahmadinejad exhibits “all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator,” declared Columbia University President Lee C. Bollinger, who questioned the Iranian leader’s record on human rights and his statements that the Holocaust was a myth.

Ahmadinejad bristled at Bollinger’s comments, calling the introduction “an insult to the knowledge of the audience here.”

At first I was not that fond of the idea of such an evil man visiting an American college campus. Why should we give him the platform? We give him the platform for a couple of reasons: the American people and the free world hear his words and those words are challenged in a free society. In American soil, Ahmadinejad can only condemn Lee Bollinger and other dissenters with words rather than torture or death. On American soil, Ahmadinejad’s words can be challenged. When the despot says that there are no homosexuals in Iran, the audience can laugh and mock him and there isn’t one damn thing he can do about it!

The only one insulting the knowledge of the audience at Columbia University, the American people, and the free world is you, Ahmadinejad. You vile, cruel, evil, sick, man! I’m not afraid of your words. I laugh at them.

http://i2.wp.com/www.coxandforkum.com/archives/07.09.24.Outed-X.gif?w=860

Free speech is perhaps America’s greatest strength. One would only imagine what would have happened to Mr. Bollinger had he called the Iranian despot a “petty and cruel dictator” in Iran.

Contrast this with what is common in America. We criticize our leaders on a daily basis. Sometimes the criticism isn’t even particularly intelligent. Just the other day a student at Colorado State University wrote a particularly intelligent, concise, four-word editorial in the Rocky Mountain Collegian: “Taser this. FUCK BUSH.”

While it is true that the author of this brilliant opinion piece may be fired from the paper (the paper lost $30,000 in advertising within hours of the article’s publication), he does not have to worry about being thrown in prison or executed for criticizing the president. Rather than the government taking action the free market does the job.*

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s visit to Columbia University is a shining example to the world that we support free speech even if we despise the speech. Who knows, maybe the Iranian people who yearn for freedom will be emboldened by this?

Now as for the idea of this animal visiting ground zero…

http://i2.wp.com/www.coxandforkum.com/archives/07.09.20.Violation-X.gif?w=860

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Why Ron Paul Faces An Uphill Battle

It’s hard to win with a campaign based on liberty, when so many Americans don’t seem to really believe in it:

WASHINGTON — Sixty-five percent of Americans believe that the nation’s founders intended the U.S. to be a Christian nation and 55% believe that the Constitution establishes a Christian nation, according to the “State of the First Amendment 2007” national survey released today by the First Amendment Center.

The survey also found that 71% of Americans would limit the amount a corporation or union could contribute to a political campaign, with 64% favoring such a limit on individual contributions. Sixty-two percent would limit the amount a person could contribute to his or her own campaign. Support for such limits increased from the 2000 survey in all three areas: by nine percentage points in favor of limits on self-funding, by seven points concerning limits on individual contributions to someone else; and by three points on limits on corporations and unions.

The First Amendment Center has conducted the annual survey since 1997. This year’s survey, being released to mark both annual Constitution Day (Sept. 17) activities and the sixth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, also found:

  • Just 56% believe that the freedom to worship as one chooses extends to all religious groups, regardless of how extreme — down 16 points from 72% in 2000.
  • 58% of Americans would prevent protests during a funeral procession, even on public streets and sidewalks; and 74% would prevent public school students from wearing a T-shirt with a slogan that might offend others.
  • 34% (lowest since the survey first was done in 1997) think the press “has too much freedom,” but 60% of Americans disagree with the statement that the press tries to report the news without bias, and 62% believe the making up of stories is a widespread problem in the news media — down only slightly from 2006.
  • 25% said “the First Amendment goes too far in the rights it guarantees,” well below the 49% recorded in the 2002 survey that followed the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001, but up from 18% in 2006.

Depressing, just utterly, utterly depressing.

H/T: Irish Trojan In Tennessee

That Sam Brownback Sure Can Draw a Crowd!

http://i2.wp.com/x7d.xanga.com/ee3c0210c0c32145919714/m108165385.jpg?w=860

This photo just warms my heart. Here we have the Christian Right’s dream candidate Sam Brownback drawing…let’s just say a less than impressive crowd in New Hampshire. Could it be that his vision of government imposed family values isn’t resonating even within the G.O.P.? Could this be a sign that maybe, just maybe the Christian Right is losing some if its control over the party? That would probably be too optimistic of an assessment but hope springs eternal.

Related:
Not Even to Save the Life of the Mother

One Man’s Freedom of Expression is Another Man’s Hate Crime

We seem to have strayed a long way from our valuing of free speech, perhaps best stated by Voltaire “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” In this age of political correctness, both the Right and the Left has bastardized the idea of free speech to a more politically correct attitude: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend your right to say it until someone else is offended.”

As I was driving in to work, I caught a couple of segments of The Mike Gallagher Show (a show I do not normally listen to). Gallagher brought up a case which happened at Pace University where a 23 year-old man by the name of Stanislav Shmulevich allegedly threw a Quran in a toilet on two separate occasions. The university originally reported the crime as an act of vandalism but later decided to report the act to the NYPD as a hate crime instead. I assumed that Gallagher would go on to criticize this as political correctness run amok but to my astonishment, he said that treating this act as a “hate crime” was completely appropriate. Gallagher went even further to say that certain acts such as desecrating a “holy book” (regardless of the faith), the American flag, or burning crosses should all be exempt from First Amendment protection. In his view, there are just some things which should be held sacred; those who commit “crimes” against what he or others consider “sacred” should be punished criminally.

Gallagher’s arguments got even weaker from there. Several callers challenged him on this notion and Gallagher would ask questions like (paraphrasing) “Should we consider it free speech when someone paints swastikas on a Jewish person’s home?” and “What about burning a cross in the lawn of an African American, is that free speech?” Perhaps his most absurd example was whether or not a person dressed in Nazi uniform goose stepping in a Jewish neighborhood should be protected by the First Amendment.

All of these questions can be easily answered if only we go back to the basic idea that each individual has the natural rights of life, liberty, and property (“your freedom ends where my nose begins”); nowhere in our Constitution is there a right to not be offended. Painting swastikas on a Jewish person’s home or burning a cross in an African American’s yard are both violations of these individuals’ right to property, and therefore, the perpetrator should be prosecuted on those grounds.

So, what about the racist bastard goose stepping in a Jewish neighborhood? Assuming the idiot does so on public property, s/he is protected by the First Amendment. Being an anti-Semitic moron, while infuriating to most sensible people, is not a crime nor should it be.

One could argue that these above acts would be acts of intimidation and could warrant criminal prosecution (certainly in the first two examples would be prosecutable without “hate crimes” laws, the last example would still be a bit of a stretch) but I fail to see how desecrating a book which some people deem as “holy” even rises to this standard. There’s no question that desecrating a holy book is offensive to a great majority of people, but a crime? Thomas Jefferson found fault with much of the Bible and therefore proceeded to physically cut and paste the portions of the Bible that he found to be authentic to create his own interpretation of the Bible and discarded the rest. References to the virgin birth, the resurrection, angels, and other miracles were all omitted from the Jefferson Bible. Clearly, if someone like Gallagher knew of someone doing something like this today, he would regard this person as a hate criminal.

The whole purpose of the First Amendment is to protect speech that can be and often is offensive to the sensibilities of a person, a group, or even a majority. Popular speech does not need to be protected nearly as much. I might not like it if someone chooses to burn an American flag, desecrate a copy of Ayn Rand’s The Virtue of Selfishness, or wishes to write terrible things about me on a post I have written but unless such an individual does these things without threatening my life, liberty, or property, I have to put up with these things. It’s the price I pay for living in a free society and a price I am quite willing to pay.

Cross posted here at Fearless Philosophy for Free Minds

Related Posts:
The First Amendment Explained: Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses (Part 1 of 2)
The First Amendment Explained: Free Speech (Part 2 of 2)

Faith Based Charity Not Open To The Faithless

The Supreme Court ruled today that atheists don’t have standing to challenge their exclusion from President Bush’s faith-based initiatives programs:

The Supreme Court today handed President Bush’s faith-based initiatives program a victory, ruling that federal taxpayers cannot challenge the constitutionality of the White House’s efforts to help religious groups obtain government funding for their social programs.

In a 5-4 decision, the court blocked a lawsuit by a Wisconsin-based group of atheists and agnostics against officials of the Bush administration, including the head of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.

The court ruled that the suit, by the Freedom from Religion Foundation and three of its taxpaying members, could not go forward because ordinary taxpayers do not have standing to challenge the expenditures at issue. The ruling reversed a 2-1 decision in favor of the foundation by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit in January 2006.

Liberal groups blasted the court’s decision in Hein v. Freedom From Religion Foundation as a setback for the First Amendment and a paean to the religious right, while religious conservatives hailed it as a major triumph for the faith-based initiative.

The foundation had complained that parts of the faith-based initiatives program favored religious groups over secular ones, violating the Establishment Clause of the Constitution’s First Amendment, which says in part that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”

In its suit, filed in 2004, the foundation claimed that the faith-based initiatives office, formed by Bush in January 2001 through an executive order, unfairly used taxpayer money to provide an edge to religious groups seeking federal funding, and effectively endorsed “religious belief over non-belief.”

Under current Establishment Clause precedents, it would seem fairly clear that an expenditure program that explicitly favored religious groups over non-religious groups would be unconstitutional. But the Supreme Court didn’t even reach that issue, they agreed with the Bush Administration’s argument that individual taxpayers do not have standing to challenge an expenditure of money, even if it is unconstitutional:

In an opinion joined by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. wrote that “the payment of taxes is generally not enough to establish standing to challenge an action taken by the federal government.”

Given the size of the federal budget, “it is a complete fiction to argue that an unconstitutional federal expenditure causes an individual federal taxpayer any measurable economic harm,” Alito said. “And if every federal taxpayer could sue to challenge any government expenditure, the federal courts would cease to function as courts of law and would be cast in the role of general complaint bureaus.”

He noted that “Congress did not specifically authorize the use of federal funds to pay for the conferences or speeches that the plaintiffs challenged.” Rather, those activities were funded from “general Executive Branch appropriations,” he wrote.

Not only does that seem to contradict a 1968 Supreme Court decision which the Court did not overturn today, it raises the question of who, if anyone has the right to challenge an unconstitutional expenditure in Court if it isn’t a taxpayer.

Justice Souter puts it best:

In a dissenting opinion, Justice David H. Souter wrote that today’s ruling “closes the door on these taxpayers because the Executive Branch, and not the Legislative Branch, caused their injury.” He added, “I see no basis for this distinction in either logic or precedent. . . .”

In this case, “there is no dispute that taxpayer money in identifiable amounts is funding conferences, and these are alleged to have the purpose of promoting religion,” Souter wrote. “When executive agencies spend identifiable sums of tax money for religious purposes, no less than when Congress authorizes the same thing, taxpayers suffer injury.”

And so does the Constitution.

The Woman Who Refuses to Submit

Cross-posted here at Fearless Philosophy for Free Minds

Ayaan Hirsi Ali is one brave woman who refuses to submit to Islam. Ali grew up in a devout Muslim home in Somalia and witnessed the brutal treatment of women first hand. When her father arranged a marriage to a complete stranger to whom she would be required by Islamic tradition to obey his every command, Ali refused. Ali moved to Holland to pursue her own dreams (an act is strictly forbidden by the Koran).

After some time outside of Islamic culture and after the events of September 11, 2001, Ali rejected her religion of Islam in favor of reason (she is now an atheist). Since that time Ali has worked, at great personal risk, to educate the West of Islam’s subjugation of women and confront the politically correct Western media for its apologetic approach to her former religion.

In 2004, Ali co-produced a short movie with Theo Van Gogh entitled Submission to bring attention to the plight of women in the Islamic world. On November 2, 2004, Theo Van Gogh was murdered by a Muslim man who took offense to the blasphemous film. A note was found on Van Gogh’s body warning that Ali would be next.

Ali now lives under the protection of body guards in the U.S. but continues to speak out for the women who are victims of Islamic society. In April, her book Infidel hit the shelves (I just picked up the book myself; very fascinating what I have read so far).

The first of the 2 videos is a short interview with Ali where she explains the message she was trying to get across in Submission. The second video is the movie itself (Be patient, the video begins in Arabic with some non-English subtitles but the dialogue from that point on is mostly English).

Religious Zealot Fails To Remove Harry Potter From Schools

In Georgia, a holier than thou Christian by the name of Laura Malloy has tried, and failed, for the 5th time to remove Harry Potter from Gwinnett County government school library shelves. Malloy says the books cause children to embrace witchcraft:

A judge gave Laura Mallory 64 minutes Tuesday to argue why the Harry Potter books should be removed from school library shelves.

She didn’t convince him.

Superior Court Judge Ronnie Batchelor instead upheld a decision by the Gwinnett County public schools to reject Mallory’s request and keep the popular J.K. Rowling series in school libraries.

The hearing Tuesday marked the fifth defeat for the Loganville woman, who has children in the Gwinnett schools and who launched her anti-Potter crusade in 2005.

Mallory said she is considering filing “a brand-new case” in federal court and hiring a lawyer to represent her.

“One day, the truth about this is going to come out,” she said.

School system spokeswoman Sloan Roach said the Gwinnett school board is prepared for that possibility. “Obviously, we hope this is the end of it,” Roach said.

As for the argument that the Harry Potter books have gotten children interested in reading:

Supporters of Rowling’s books say the popular stories about boy wizard Potter encourage children to read. Mallory responded that wasn’t sufficient reason to allow the books to remain in school libraries. “I’m sure there are teenagers who read pornography, but that doesn’t make it right,” she said.

So Harry Potter is now equal to Playboy or Hustler…I’m not seeing the similarities.

Why does Ms. (since I know this probably irritates her) Mallory hate Harry Potter so much:

Mallory restated many of her previous complaints about the Harry Potter series. She argued the books lure children into practicing witchcraft. Mallory said the school board’s decision to offer the books in taxpayer-funded libraries violates the U.S. Constitution because, she claims, they promote the Wiccan religion. Mallory also argued the books are too violent for children.

Mallory has acknowledged that she hasn’t read any of the Harry Potter books in their entirety, but Tuesday she recited excerpts of at least three of the books to illustrate her points.

Mallory, sometimes breaking into tears, read testimony from a teenager who said reading the books led her to contemplate suicide. Quoting a counselor who testified at a previous hearing, Mallory said the Potter movies and books led one boy into high-risk behaviors, such as dangerous motorcycle stunts and bungee jumping.

So is Mallory bring this case because she’s a type that believes in separate church and state? Not quite:

“I have a dream that God will be welcomed back into our schools,” Mallory said.

So she wants to get rid of a book series that she alleges (with little merit if she knew anything about the Wiccan sect) promotes a religion in order to get her religious viewpoints in the government schools. What does the Bible say about hypocrites again?

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.

Somebody’s Gotta Say It (Book Review)

(Cross posted here at Fearless Philosophy for Free Minds)

As a regular listener of The Neal Boortz Show, I find this book every bit as hard-hitting, insensitive, informative, and entertaining as his show. The High Priest of the Painful Truth pulls no punches in his assault on ignorance whether from the Right, the Left, or Center. The Libertarian Party (the party that most closely reflects his views) is even skewered on a number of fronts.

It’s difficult to know how people who do not listen to his show will respond. You will likely find this book near books with a conservative political bent but conservatives who expect to find yet another book which relentlessly attacks the Left while keeping their sacred cows protected will be sorely disappointed. While Boortz dedicates a significant portion of the book to the lunacy of the Left, the Right is criticized for pushing their religious anti-science agenda on the American public (especially in government schools), their homophobia, and their continuous chipping away at the limited government platform they claim to embrace.

Boortz has many targets in this book but none receive more of his ire than government schools. Teacher’s unions exist solely to keep mediocre to incompetent teachers in a job; they will fight tooth and nail to prevent any kind of competition from private schools. But government schools are even more harmful that what we can see on the surface. Want to know why the American public has lost its love for freedom in exchange for security from an ever expanding government? According to Boortz, government schools are to blame. Government schools teach school children from a very young age that government is good and is the solution to every problem. There is even a chapter dedicated to how school children learn their first lesson in communism. Have you ever taken your child to the store and bought school supplies on a list only to have the teacher take those supplies away from your child to be donated to the class? If you don’t believe this to be a big deal consider the lesson your child is learning: he or she must give up his or her private property (school supplies in this case) for “the greater good” of the whole society (the classroom in this case).

Is it any coincidence that most Americans erroneously believe that America’s government is a democracy rather than a constitutional representative republic? Is it any coincidence that most Americans don’t know the difference or know why this distinction is important? Boortz contends that this is not by accident but by design. The purpose of government schools is not to educate students but to indoctrinate them into obedient citizens subjects.

Eventually, these school children grow up to be voters (Did I mention that the author finds no constitutional guarantee to the right to vote? Sounds crazy but once you read his arguments and consult the U.S. Constitution, he makes a compelling case). After thirteen years of government indoctrination, many of these adults see no problem with wealth redistribution, the welfare state, the nanny state, and have no genuine appreciation for liberty. This makes it very easy for politicians to pander to the American public to meet all of these needs which far too many people believe to be birthrights. Those who believe this the most tend to vote Democrat which leads me to his chapter “The Democrats’ Secret Plan for America.”

Boortz mockingly calls the Democrat plan a “secret plan” because of how Democrats typically scare various constituencies about Republican secret plans to kick old people into the street, burn black churches, and starve babies. Much of the secret plan is no secret at all however. So what do the Democrats have in store for America should they retain congress and win the presidency? According to the author we can expect the entire tax burden to be shifted to the wealthy, imputed income (which would put most all home owners in a higher tax bracket), place caps on income for those who “make too much,” add taxes to 401k and other investment vehicles which are not currently taxed, womb to the tomb universal government healthcare, the reinstatement of the “fairness doctrine” (which would effectively put an end to talk radio), the repeal of the Second Amendment, and several other such wet dreams of the far Left. If you don’t read any other chapter in this book, read this chapter.

Certainly, this book isn’t one which will leave the reader thinking “Its morning in America” but it does offer a fair amount of humor, positive solutions (such as what should be taught in government schools; provides his own citizenship test), and an inside peek of the talk radio business. Boortz opens the book by introducing himself, his interests and how he got into talk radio (under rather tragic circumstances). Even in the chapters that contain a discouraging outlook have a healthy dose of humor. But if you are overly outraged after reading the chapter about government funded art or the Democrat Party’s war on the individual, skip to “Chasing Cats” or “Terrorizing the Mailroom.” I won’t give away what these chapters are about but I assure you that you are in for a good belly laugh (that Boortz is quite the prankster).

Somebody’s Gotta Say It is a refreshingly honest, sober view of the body politic, American culture, and state of our world. Boortz presents a variety of original controversial ideas on a variety of issues. Such proposals would certainly make the political debate more productive if not more interesting (a number of these proposals can be found toward the end of the book in a chapter entitled “No Way in Hell.”). I highly recommend this book for anyone who is not easily offended. Anyone who is easily offended should skip this book in favor of a selection from the Oprah Book Club.

Civil Unions and Multiple Wives

In the wake of the post Chris put up, which gathered a fair bit of attention, I felt that it might be a good time to re-post this, which I posted at my personal blog back in 2005.

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Jackie Passey posted yesterday about a topic I feel is pretty much unassailable, Civil Unions for Everybody. The idea, which I fully agree with, is that marriage is a religious concept, that happens to bear the same name as a legal concept. Most of the uproar over the gay marriage issue is based upon the contention that it will somehow damage the “sanctity of marriage”. This claim underscores the fact that church and state have become much more intertwined on the issue of marriage than is needed. We would be much better off if the government never broached the subject of marriage, and instead gave any consenting adults who wanted one a “civil union”.

Of course, that leads to the slippery slope argument. Many have claimed that if we allowed same-sex marriage, we would then have no moral argument against polygamy. In fact, in Utah, the legal abolition of polygamy has just been challenged in the courts, but remained illegal.

To them I say, what of it? A civil union, which the state calls “marriage”, is just a legal agreement on ways to divide property, provide “group” legal benefits based upon a mutual contract, and help to handle things such as next-of-kin issues. Who’s to say that this needs to be limited to two people? After all, how is it that much different from a legal partnership in a business? It is multiple people contractually binding themselves to one another for the perceived benefits of the arrangement. As long as all members bound by the agreement are consenting adults, I fail to see the problem.

I’ve said that people who scream about the “sanctity of marriage” don’t understand that the best way to preserve it is for the government to butt out of the deal. Marriage has become a legal arrangement, and as such, the government cannot discriminate as to who is acceptable to meet that legal arrangement. Marriage and religion will both be better served by extricating them from the government. If we then still allow the government to endorse and protect civil unions for anybody who wants one, all parties are better off.

Is Islamofascism a Legitimate Threat to Liberty?

In my recent post about Michael Charles Smith, I received a response from a reader by the name of Carl Deen regarding my support for the war against terror Islamofascism (Not the war on terror. Terrorism is the method the Islamofascist uses to accomplish his political-religious goals). I think his challenge is worth a post of its own so rather than responding in the original post, I have decided to answer him here.

Deen writes:

Let’s see if I understand the author. Without provocation, much like Germany did to Poland, the USA invaded Iraq, a country that was no threat to us; however, because, we did, we cannot admit our mistakes and withdraw. I suppose, by that reasoning, we must stay there forever at a cost of $500 billion and the lives of several hundred solders a year.

According to the author, Islam is a threat to us; therefore, we must attack and meddle in their affairs. It doesn’t occur to the author that if you attack and meddle in their affairs, you make more enemies than if you leave them alone.

Oh, I forgot; they hate us for our freedoms. Therefore, by using the war as reasons to turn the USA into a police state, they will stop hating us because we will have lost our remaining freedoms.

Was Iraq a threat to the United States?

First of all, the comparisons of the U.S. to Nazi Germany are getting very tiresome. Whatever ‘atrocities’ the U.S. has committed pale in comparison to the Holocaust. I also reject the premise that Iraq was no threat to the U.S. Regardless of whether or not Saddam had WMD, he was a threat to the U.S. Saddam did in fact invade Kuwait in the early 1990’s to steal the Kuwait’s oil. Had Saddam been allowed to proceed, there would have been national security threats as well as economic threats to the U.S. and the world.

When Saddam surrendered to the international coalition, there were certain conditions that he agreed to so that he could continue to be in power. Among those conditions were that he was not to reconstitute his WMD program and was restricted from flying in the ‘no fly zones.’ To enforce the agreement, coalition fighters patrolled the no fly zones from the time of the surrender to the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Saddam routinely fired with anti-aircraft weapons on the coalition fighters patrolling the no fly zones, directly putting the lives of U.S. and coalition pilots at risk. These attacks were provocative acts of war.

Let’s also not forget that Saddam attempted to assassinate former President Bush. Regardless of how you feel about President Bush, he was a president of the United States. An attack on the president—any American president is a provocative act of war against the United States.

And then there were the families of the suicide bombers who Saddam paid to spread terrorism throughout Israel. Sure, he was not paying suicide bombers to make attacks in American cities (as far as we know anyway), but this still proved that he was not above such tactics. Though the 9/11 commission found no links between Saddam Hussein and the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, the commission did find that attempts were made between Saddam and Bin Laden to form an alliance. Their ties however, were non-operational. Had Saddam been as far along in his WMD program as most of the world’s intelligence agencies and world leaders had thought, it is not out of the realm of possibility to believe that those ties could have eventually become operational making it possible for Islamofascits to gain access to this material and carry out an attack on the U.S. Based on Saddam’s track record (his use of chemical and biological weapons on his own people, for example), there was no reason to believe that he did not have WMD. U.S. intelligence had underestimated Saddam’s progress in his WMD programs in the past. If left unchecked, he would have.

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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.

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