Author archives: Rob Schwarzwalder

Barack Obama and Constitutional Originalism

by Rob Schwarzwalder

July 22, 2014

According to the Center for the Study of Constitutional Originalism, “Originalism is the view that the Constitution should be interpreted in accordance with its original meaning — that is, the meaning it had at the time of its enactment.”

Yep — that’s what conservatives believe. The written text had and has a defined meaning, alterable only by amendment. As Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) has written, “The Constitution itself is not a document of convenience. It specifies an onerous process — bicameralism and presentment — to pass legislation. It imposes a system of checks and balances among the branches. Perhaps most important, it limits the types of power the federal government can exercise.”

That’s not what President Obama believes, however. In his article, “A Brief History of Obama’s Biggest Constitutional Flops,” constitutional scholar Damon Root writes, “Despite his training as a former constitutional law lecturer, President Barack Obama continues to push dubious legal theories that fail to persuade even the most liberal justices to vote in his favor.”

Prior to his election to the U.S. Senate, Mr. Obama expressed great frustration with the “constraints” of the Constitution, observing of the Supreme Court under the late Chief Justice Earl Warren, “… the Warren Court, it wasn’t that radical. It didn’t break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the founding fathers in the Constitution, as least as it’s been interpreted, and Warren Court interpreted in the same way that, generally, the Constitution is a charter of negative liberties, says what the states can’t do to you, says what the federal government can’t do to you, but it doesn’t say what the federal government or the state government must do on your behalf. And that hasn’t shifted.”

At least Mr. Obama admits, albeit grudgingly, that the Founders actually meant something definitive when they wrote the Constitution — even though the then-law school lecturer implies we need to “break free” of such limitations.

So it came as a surprise today when his spokesman cited original intent in chiding the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia for issuing a ruling stating that the wording of the Affordable Care Act does not give license to the federal government to “subsidize health insurance premiums for people in three dozen states that use the federal insurance exchange.”

You don’t need a fancy legal degree to understand that Congress intended for every eligible American to have access to tax credits that would lower their health care costs, regardless of whether it was state officials or federal officials who were running the marketplace,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said. “I think that was a pretty clear intent of the congressional law.”

So, now President Obama is concerned with the intention of federal law? Well, that’s great news. I wonder how that will apply to, say, the First and Tenth Amendments of the Constitution, which he has, up to now, only applied at best erratically. Their meaning, and the meaning of the Constitution generally, can be known through the Federalist Papers, James Madison’s “Notes of Debates in the Federal Convention in 1787,” and the ratification debates held in the states as the early Republic wrestled with whether or not to affirm the Constitution itself.

However, the original intent of any document is expressed in its text, not in what we wish it would be. And the text of Obamacare provides no basis for the federal subsidization of health insurance premiums for, again, “people in the three dozen states that use the federal insurance exchange.”

You can’t have it all ways, Mr. President — either originalism based on the clear meaning of the text matters or it doesn’t.

Illiberal Liberalism

by Rob Schwarzwalder

July 21, 2014

Last week, we witnessed the Left’s determination to enforce abortion-on-demand as the highest good of American society. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) held a hearing on his legislation that would “make it harder when not impossible for states to enforce measures that protect women as well as unborn children,” writes Thomas Messner. “In provision after provision S. 1696 puts not a thumb but a fist on the scales in favor of abortion providers and against both unborn children and mothers who face the fear and uncertainty of unexpected pregnancy.”

The Left has been losing the battle for the sanctity of life and the well-being of their mothers. Repeatedly, state and federal courts have upheld the right of states to limit access to elective abortion according to legal precedence, the Tenth Amendment, and simple decency.

Enraged, liberals like Sen. Blumenthal are seeking to vitiate entire bodies of law so as to impose their radical agenda of sexual autonomy and abortion at any stage of pregnancy (subsidized by the federal government, no less) on the American people.

This mentality informs not only the Left’s approach to abortion; it is much broader than that, sweeping across the political horizon: Liberalism’s illiberalism, its insistence on a program of extreme social change through whatever means — the courts, legislation, regulatory and tax policy, etc. — can achieve it, regardless of the will of the people or their elected representatives.

Following are some compelling quotes about illiberal liberalism, about the Left’s tantrum-like emphasis on coercing their fellow citizens into a regime of profound social transformation.

Government leaders routinely ignore laws they are sworn to uphold. This is more than intolerant. It is illiberal. It is a willingness to use coercive methods, from government action to public shaming, to shut down debate and censor those who hold a different opinion as if they have no right to their views at all.” Kim R. Holmes, Distinguished Fellow, Heritage Foundation

In some respects the Obama Democrats want to go further — and are complaining that they’re having a hard time getting there. Their form of liberalism is in danger of standing for something like the very opposite of freedom, for government coercion of those who refuse to behave the way they’d like.” Michael Barone, Resident Fellow, American Enterprise Institute

Why are you expected to abandon your conscience the moment you step into the commercial world? Why is it mandatory to violate your liberty in order to protect the wishes of others? Indeed, why would a gay couple want, say, a Christian opposed to gay marriage to photograph their wedding or prepare their cake? It hardly seems the best way to ensure a satisfactory job. One suspects that it is an exercise in humiliation, an attempt to force those with unfashionable scruples to affirm what they reject. It is, in short, a calculated effort at intolerance.” Doug Bandow, Senior Fellow, Cato Institute

Conservatives are put into awkward positions of critiquing liberal ideas on grounds that they are impractical, unworkable, or counterproductive. Yet rarely, at least outside the religious sphere, do they identify the progressive as often immoral. And the unfortunate result is that they have often ceded moral claims to supposedly dreamy, utopian, and well-meaning progressives, when in fact the latter increasingly have little moral ground to stand upon.” Victor Davis Hanson, Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution

Good Policy More Important Than Good Photos

by Rob Schwarzwalder

July 16, 2014

President Obama is an intellectually curious man, and is to be applauded for this. He follows in the tradition of such giants of the mind as Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt.

Such curiosity is noteworthy both because of its relative rarity and its relevance to the job of President. Our Chief Executive should be intellectually engaged, particularly given the extensive, imperative, and complex problems facing our nation and our world.

That said, it is a bit alarming to read about Mr. Obama’s recent penchant for late night dinners with physicists and soccer team owners. Here’s how the New York Times captured it: “In a summer when the president is traveling across the country meeting with ordinary Americans under highly choreographed conditions, the Rome dinner shows another side of Mr. Obama. As one of an increasing number of late-night dinners in his second term, it offers a glimpse into a president who prefers intellectuals to politicians, and into the rarefied company Mr. Obama may keep after he leaves the White House” .

His preferences for company are perfectly fine; that is, in my view, not an issue. Rather, there is the issue of his disingenuousness. For example, Mr. Obama refuses to visit our border on the pretext he doesn’t want a “photo op,” something so unbelievable that even John Dickerson of Slate writes, “The issue is not his unwillingness to engage in this particular form of presidential art. He’s making a choice: when a photo-op isn’t to his advantage, he elevates avoiding it to a high-minded ideal” .

Every politician likes opportunities to be photographed and filmed to his or her advantage. This is about as radical as saying that water runs downhill: Good visuals are to politics what icing is to cake. So, claiming that he doesn’t want to appear in a crisis-laden region because he doesn’t want to exploit it for political purposes is, frankly, phony. He and his advisors might feel there is no upside to his going to the border politically; I suspect he’s not going because illegal immigration is a terribly difficult issue and he doesn’t want to be photographed anywhere near it. But to claim that he is above “photo-ops?” C’mon, Mr. President.

In addition, in the realm of bad visuals, it looks disturbing to see the President wining and dining with the world’s elite while Latino toddlers languish in wire-fenced cubicles in south Texas, as Israel is on the verge of war, as Russia seems poised to invade Ukraine, as many millions of Americans remain unemployed, underemployed, or too discouraged to look for work , and so on.

Eating with the wealthy and powerful in elite international locations is not the photo-op you want, Mr. President, or that America needs. Good visuals should be incidental to good policy. If Mr. Obama takes that to heart, his enduring record will be much more profound than good B-roll.

Blumenthal Pro-Abortion Bill: Going Backward at Full Steam

by Rob Schwarzwalder

July 15, 2014

Various Supreme Court rulings have said that limitations can be placed on access to abortion in the states.

Over the past few years, especially, states have taken the Court up on their offers. According to the Guttmacher Institute, so far in 2014 13 “states have adopted 21 new restrictions designed to limit access to abortion.” Since the beginning of 2011, no less than 226 measures hemming-in elective abortion have been enacted at the state level.

Most of the new laws relate to things the majority of Americans agree are necessary: Sanitary and other health regulations for abortion clinics; requiring that abortion doctors have access to hospitals within 30 miles of their clinics in case of a medical emergency during an abortion; parental notification (note: that’s notification, not consent); requiring that women be shown ultra-sound images of their unborn children prior to having an abortion; bills that prevent abortion once a heartbeat is detected or once we know an unborn child can feel pain.

There is nothing radical about these measures. They better ensure safety for women and provide them with solid medical information concerning what an abortion really is. And they affirm the dignity of the unborn child, among other things recognizing that dismemberment without anesthesia is barbarity.

Now, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) wants to stop the progress, turning the clock back on common-sense protections for women and their unborn children. His “Women’s Health Protection Act of 2013” (S.1696) — an Orwellian title if ever there was one — would in a single scythe-like sweep eliminate hundreds of protections for women and their unborn babies. As Thomas Messner, legal policy fellow at the Charlotte Lozier Institute, says, the Blumenthal measure “would make it harder when not impossible for states to enforce measures that protect women as well as unborn children. In provision after provision S. 1696 puts not a thumb but a fist on the scales in favor of abortion providers and against both unborn children and mothers who face the fear and uncertainty of unexpected pregnancy.”

Increasing abortion and destroying humane safeguards for the unborn are retrograde actions. They pull our culture back toward a darker era when human life was considered cheap and the powerful exploited the weak. Sen. Blumenthal’s march backward is also a march into darkness. Those claiming to be children of the Light should fight it.

Hostility to Religion in America” — new FRC publication

by Rob Schwarzwalder

July 8, 2014

As we have just witnessed in some of the responses to last week’s Supreme Court Hobby Lobby decision, there are those in our country who would not only diminish religious liberty through government coercion but denigrate as an archaism that our culture should jettison. According to C.J. Werleman in Salon, “The hyper-religious conservatives on the bench of the nation’s high court, all of whom were appointed by Republican presidents, see the federal government as being controlled by ‘secular humanists’ who wish to make war against the purity of the Christian belief system. Like the 89 million Americans who count themselves as evangelicals, they seek total cultural and political domination … The American Taliban is on a roll” – and America is a “corporate theocracy.”

Yikes - all that from a decision that says a privately-held company can’t be forced by the government to serve as a conduit for potentially abortifacient drugs. Who knew?

Granted, Werleman’s comments are extreme. Still, they nonetheless reflect the rage of those for whom religious liberty is a matter of ultimate privacy – one’s personal thoughts and occasional, four-walled worship. Rather, religious liberty is the very foundation of all other liberties: If our liberties and dignity do not come from a personal, sovereign Creator, from whence do they come? And if they do come from Him, then government’s role is one of stewardship of those rights, not manipulation or erasure of them.

So, when government seeks to curtail religious liberty, it is affronting the God Who gave it, and asserting its authority to abate all other freedoms. If the ability to believe and practice (in public as well as private life) one’s faith is eroded, what is the foundation of our other rights and liberties? The whim of the state is an unnerving master.

FRC has been at the forefront of the effort to “preserve, protect, and defend” our religious liberty, which is why we wanted you to know about our most recent publication, “Hostility to Religion: The Growing Threat to Religious Liberty in the United States.”

This publication, collated by the Director of FRC’s Center for Religious Liberty, Georgetown-trained lawyer Travis Weber, contains a list of documented accounts of hostility toward faith in the United States today, broken down in the following four definable types of incidents:

  • Section I: Suppression of Religious Expression in the Public Square
  • Section II: Suppression of Religious Expression in Schools and Universities
  • Section III: Censure of Religious Viewpoints Regarding Sexuality
  • Section IV: Suppression of Religious Expression on Sexuality Using Nondiscrimination Laws

Hostility to Religion” can be both downloaded and shared on-line at no charge. Please use this resource in considering the stakes for people of faith in a culture in which articulate religious belief is viewed by some as comic and pathetic and, thus, unimportant and disposable. We need to keep making the argument, graciously but consistently and firmly, that religious liberty matters – to everyone.

The World Cup, Human Dignity, and the Unborn

by Rob Schwarzwalder

July 1, 2014

Last week’s World Cup soccer match between Germany and the U.S. was a loss for Old Glory, which nonetheless advances in World Cup competition.

Of note to pro-lifers are the names and backgrounds of some of the German players, names that would have made the late and unlamented Fuhrer rather unhappy:

Shkodran Mustafi, a Muslim man of Albanian descent who was born and raised in Germany.

Jérôme Agyenim Boateng, born in then-West Berlin to a Ghanian father and German mother.

Mesut Özil, a third-generation German Turk and practicing Muslim known to recite the Quran before games.

Sami Khedira, son of a Tunisian man and German woman. Also a Muslim.

Why should people who care about the sanctity of life be interested in these men? Because within living memory, Germany’s Nazi government operated on the basis of severe racial and ethnic bigotry. “(Hitler) loathed Arabs (and) once described them as ‘lacquered half-apes who ought to be whipped.’”

It is therefore quite gratifying to see that the German national soccer team hosts four men Hitler would have considered sub-human. Why? Because as taught in Scripture and affirmed in America’s charter text, the Declaration of Independence, all men are created equal: Arab or Jew, German or Ghanian, every person has been endowed by his Creator with the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The image and likeness of God exist in all people, whatever their complexion, hair texture, stature, or any external characteristic, racial heritage, or national background. That Germany now seems to have adopted this principle should be welcome news to all of us who care about that most sacred of human rights, the right to life.

Yet like America, abortion is all too available in Deutschland. As one commentator notes, “German abortion laws are not especially restrictive. Abortion is legal during the first trimester of pregnancy and available if medically or psychologically necessary in the later trimesters.”

Two nations with a rich, profound Judeo-Christian heritage affirm the dignity of everyone – except, ironically and tragically, when it comes to the unborn. As Senator Marco Rubio noted in May, “Science is settled, it’s not even a consensus, it is a unanimity, that human life begins at conception.” Don’t the smallest and most vulnerable among us, the unborn, deserve the same protection in law the rest of us enjoy?

Let’s keep working and praying for the day when not only Germany and America but all nations will acknowledge the simple but profound truth articulated by Senator Rubio. When they do, and when they enact laws that ban legalized bigotry not only on the basis of race or ethnicity but on the basis of size or place of residence (in the womb or outside of it), World Cup celebrations will suddenly seem very small.

Human Trafficking: Modern-Day Slavery ¿ Here at Home and Around the World

by Rob Schwarzwalder

June 20, 2014

The State Department has issued its annual report on human trafficking, “Trafficking in Persons – 2014”.  In announcing the release of the report, Secretary of State John Kerry stated that a conservative estimate places the number of trafficked persons at 20 million.

Here at home, it is estimated that up to 300,000 women and girls are at risk of being trafficked – held in bondage to sexual fiefs who use them for prostitution and/or pornography. That estimate was given at FRC by an aide to U.S. Rep. Anne Wagner (R-MO), who has introduced legislation to help combat human trafficking here in the U.S.

The relationship between abortion, pornography, prostitution, and trafficking is acute and extensive. Here are some resources to help better acquaint you with this rats’ nest of evil – and how you can work, in practical ways, to fight it, here at home and abroad (all of these resources are available and accessible at no cost):

FRC Online lecture: “Stopping Online Advertisers of Trafficking Victims: the ‘SAVE’ Act

FRC Brochure: “How to Fight Human Trafficking in Your Community

FRC Webcast: “Human Trafficking: Modern-Day Slavery

FRC Blog/Op-Ed: “How China’s ‘One Child’ Policy Fosters Human Trafficking

Think About What You Are Seeing

by Rob Schwarzwalder

June 17, 2014

Two ironic but related headlines in today’s news:

(1) From U.S. News and World Report: “Iraqi Christians flee homes as Sunni militants seize land; many say they’re not going back.” Quote: “During the past 11 years, at least half of the country’s Christian population has fled the country (Iraq), according to some estimates, to escape frequent attacks by Sunni Muslim militants targeting them and their churches. Now many of those who held out and remained may be giving up completely after fighters belonging to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant swept over the city of Mosul and a broad swath of the country the past week.”

(2) From The Chicago Tribune: “Met Opera cancels live transmission due to anti-Semitism concerns.” Quote: “New York’s Metropolitan Opera announced on Tuesday that it has cancelled its plans for a live transmission of the opera ‘The Death of Klinghoffer’ in movie theaters because of concerns that it could fan global anti-Semitism.”

Christians around the world are under pressure, if not overt persecution. Jews are the subjects of a growing, noxious anti-Semitism that threatens the very existence of the State of Israel, let alone the lives of individual Jews around the world.

So, consider the unique irony of this story: old-line Protestant denominations are getting into the act.

United Methodists: “The pension board of the nation’s largest mainline Protestant denomination, the United Methodist Church, has decided to divest its shares in a British company that supplies security equipment to Israel for use in prisons and in the occupied West Bank.”

United Church of Christ: “The United Church of Christ (has) called for a boycott of goods produced in Israeli settlements, including eastern Jerusalem. In a new report released a few days ago in Canada, which will have severe consequences for the congregation in North America, the Church calls for an economic divestment against the Jewish State.”

Presbyterian Church USA: “The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) appears to be on the brink of handing a major victory to a movement that wants institutions to wield their investment dollars against Israel over its treatment of the Palestinians. The Presbyterian General Assembly, gathering in Detroit through next week, will consider withdrawing its investments from some companies whose products are used by the Israeli government in the Palestinian territories. Divestment advocates were narrowly outmaneuvered at the last Presbyterian convention in 2012, losing a crucial ballot by just two votes. They enter this year’s fight with signs of increasing momentum, within and outside the church.”

So, to be clear: Professed heralds of the Gospel of Jesus – a Jew – decide with great moral unction to jettison investments in companies that are in or do business with Israel.

As FRC has documented, religious liberty in the U.S. is being pressed and diminished. Internationally, the Jewish people and/or the State of Israel are being marginalized, often by professing Western Christians.

There is no space to go into all the theological, historical, or political ironies of these actions. Is the modern State of Israel flawless? Of course not – no human government or institution is untainted by sin and short-sightedness. But is Israel the one beacon of hope, decency, and liberty in the Middle East? Yes, without question. And has Israel been victimized, and the Jewish people brutalized, in ways we dislike even considering? Yes. And yes.

Every morning, I drive past the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. and observe a sign that says, “Think about what you saw.” The memory of the Holocaust should burn in our memories. It’s freakish evil should be an ongoing reminder of the rapidity with which gross malevolence can erupt. Yet in the ostensibly free and sophisticated West, our failure to think about what we know is deliberate, and chilling.

Christians, are you thinking about what you’re reading?

The “Top Ten” Countries for Violence Against Christians

by Rob Schwarzwalder

June 12, 2014

The respected anti-persecution ministry Open Doors has released its annual “Top Ten Violence List of countries in which Christians have experienced the most violent incidents for their faith in Jesus Christ.”

Nigeria, thanks to be vicious actions of the Islamist “Boko Haram” group, ranks first on the list. The others, in order, are: Syria, Egypt, Central African Republic (CAR), Mexico, Pakistan, Colombia, India, Kenya and Iraq. For a complete country summary of the Top 10 Violence List, click here.

Today, FRC President Tony Perkins and a host of FRC staffers went to the White House to call on President Obama to work for the release of Meriam Ibrahim from a fetid Sudanese prison, in which she is being held with her toddler son and newborn daughter. Her crime? Her refusal to jettison her lifelong Christian faith. FRC joined 40 other groups in calling on the President at least to make a public statement of support for this woman, who is married to an American citizen and whose children arguably are thus themselves American citizens. Meriam and her little ones should be released — now — and the U.S. government should take the lead in making this happen.

You can read Tony’s remarks and learn more about this tragic situation here.

Alliance Defending Freedom: Open Letter to Planned Parenthood

by Rob Schwarzwalder

June 9, 2014

When Planned Parenthood opined recently that the Bible is silent about abortion, the surprise and dismay of Evangelical Protestants and traditional Catholics was — rightly — exceptionally high. The reason? OF COURSE the Bible speaks, at length, about the sanctity of human life within the womb.

My friend Casey Mattox of FRC’s ally Alliance Defending Freedom has written a short but decisive refutation of Planned Parenthood’s complete misstatement of the Bible’s teaching; it is copied below. Let’s pray for Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards and those in her circle of influence who assert that Scripture is silent on the personhood of the unborn child.

Dear Ms. Richards:

I recently learned that Planned Parenthood has published a “Pastoral Letter” which tells women:

“The truth is that abortion is not even mentioned in the Scriptures — Jewish or Christian — and there are clergy and people of faith from all denominations who support women making this complex decision.”

It appears that this letter is no longer available on your website, but an archived version can be found here for your reference (page 3). While I disagree with Planned Parenthood’s exegesis of Scripture, I am not writing to debate that point. Instead, I write to express my agreement with Planned Parenthood, reflected in the publication of this pastoral letter, that for many women their religious beliefs will be very relevant to their decision about whether to have an abortion.

On that common ground, on behalf of Alliance Defending Freedom, I would like to offer Planned Parenthood one free copy of the Bible for every Planned Parenthood facility in the country. Planned Parenthood could place these Bibles in their waiting rooms and permit women the opportunity to explore for themselves what the Jewish and Christian Scriptures have to say about abortion. There is no doubt that we are on opposite sides of this theological and moral question. But as we are in apparent agreement that Scripture and its teachings (or lack thereof in your view) on abortion would be relevant to many women’s abortion decisions, making these Bibles available to those women would certainly benefit your potential customers.

To allay any concerns you might have, the Bibles Alliance Defending Freedom would provide to Planned Parenthood would be new unmarked copies. For instance, we would not highlight Psalm 127:3 (“Truly children are a gift from the Lord; the fruit of the womb is a reward”), Psalm 139:13 (“You knit me together in my mother’s womb…”), Psalm 22:10-11 (“You have been my guide since I was first formed … from my mother’s womb you are my God”) or Jeremiah 1:5 (“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart”).

We would not dog-ear Exodus 20:13 (“You shall not kill”). Nor would we even place a bookmark at Luke 1:41, 44 (where the “baby [John the Baptist] … leapt for joy” in his mother’s womb when the baby Jesus was nearby in Mary’s womb).

Rather, we would make these Bibles available, unedited and without emphasis of any kind, allowing those women visiting a Planned Parenthood facility to review them themselves.

We look forward to assisting you in this effort to ensure that women are empowered to decide for themselves what the Bible teaches on this important question. Please let me know at your earliest convenience the addresses to which each Bible should be sent.

Sincerely,
Casey Mattox
Senior Counsel, Alliance Defending Freedom

Archives