Category archives: Government

Ministers: Beware

by Travis Weber

October 20, 2014

As if the over-stepping Houston major’s office subpoenaing sermons and other private communications of pastors wasn’t enough, we now receive news of two elderly ministers being told by city officials that any refusal to marry a same-sex couple could cause them to face up to 180 days in jail and $1,000 in fines for each day they decline to do so.

For many years, the husband and wife team of Donald and Evelyn Knapp have presided over wedding services across the street from the local county clerk’s office in Coeur d’Alene, a beautiful city in North Idaho. Now, they are told they have to conform to their city’s iron-fisted demand that they “marry” men to men and women to women.

In other words, from the city to the ministers: Your religious liberty doesn’t really mean a thing when it comes to the new sexuality; you must come into line in accord with our views. When the city says something related to human sexuality should be accepted, that’s the final word.

For years, we have also been told by gay-marriage advocates that no harm would come from legalizing same-sex marriages. No one would be forced to participate.

Yet it seems that day has arrived. Court-issued stays have been lifted, and gay marriages have started to proceed in Idaho. Now a minister is being told by his government that he must officiate at these “marriages.”

Now that we are past the point where we were told the gay-rights crusade would stop, should we expect it to just stop here? I’ve grown doubtful of such expectations, as the advocacy and pressure for acceptance continue full steam. No, this crusade will likely continue until all are forced to approve.

These developments have occurred incrementally. As Albert Mohler points out, “[t]his is how religious liberty dies. Liberties die by a thousand cuts. An intimidating letter here, a subpoena there, a warning in yet another place. The message is simple and easily understood. Be quiet or risk trouble.”

How true. We are more in danger of remaining apathetic to threats to our freedom when the individual threats just don’t appear to be a big deal. The danger is in the accumulation, though. Hopefully, for many, this latest “increment” will be too big to ignore.

Snoops on the Stoops of the Church

by Tony Perkins

October 15, 2014

When it comes to illegal surveillance, it looks like the NSA has some competition. In a story that’s making Texans’ heads spin, the Houston P.C. police — the same Council that passed an LGBT ordinance this year — is subpoenaing sermons, emails, and even text messages from local pastors to see if they’re promoting a voter referendum to overturn the measure.

The jaw-dropping move — one in a long line of Houston’s “gotcha” government — is only fanning the flames of outrage over the city’s totalitarian tactics. Even for Houston’s radical leadership, this is an affront to the plain language of the First Amendment, which not only gives churches the right to speak freely but the individuals leading them as well! “City council members are supposed to be public servants, not ‘Big Brother’ overlords who will tolerate no dissent or challenge,”said Alliance Defending Freedom’s Erik Stanley. “In this case, they have embarked upon a witch-hunt, and we are asking the court to put a stop to it.”

Yesterday, ADF filed a motion in court to stop the senseless monitoring of churches. “The message is clear,” they explain, “oppose the decision of city government, and drown in unwarranted burdensome discovery requests… Not only will the pastors be harmed if these discovery requests are allowed, but the People will suffer as well. The referendum process will become toxic and the People will be deprived of an important check on city government.”

It’s a sad commentary on our times that a nation founded by church leaders is trying to muscle those same religious voices out of the political process. Obviously, there’s no limit to how low the Left will stoop, and how many laws it will break, to impose its agenda on unwilling Americans.

 

Islamism and Ferguson: There is No Moral Equivalence Between Them

by Rob Schwarzwalder

September 25, 2014

In his speech yesterday at the United Nations, President Obama used the shooting of an unarmed African-American man in Ferguson, Missouri to note that America indignation at evil is not self-righteousness. Here is what commentator Richard Grenell, a former American U.N. official, said about the President’s comments:

In a summer marked by instability in the Middle East and Eastern Europe, I know the world also took notice of the small American city of Ferguson, Missouri: (said President Obama). Morally equating the events of Ferguson to Islamic terrorism and Russia’s annexation of Crimea gives foreign diplomats from Arab countries and Russia the excuse they need to dismiss America’s condemnation of their actions. For anyone thinking that President Obama didn’t purposefully mean to equate the world’s problems with the events in Ferguson, two sentences later Obama blamed globalization for the public’s outrage in Ferguson: “And like every country, we continually wrestle with how to reconcile the vast changes wrought by globalization.” Overstating America’s issues doesn’t make us relatable; it makes others’ issues easily dismissible.

Equating a single and widely-condemned act of violence in America’s heartland, one that drew the personal attention of the Attorney General of the United States and enough FBI agents to make Al Capone shudder, with the systematic, calculated, and extensive mass murders perpetrated by the Islamic thugs in Iraq is such poor judgment as to be almost beyond belief. I am not diminishing the seriousness of Michael Brown’s killing, but it is not analogous to what so-called “ISIS” is doing in the Middle East.

The Islamists, as a matter of ideology, political conviction, and religious commitment, are dedicated to executing an agenda of death, including the murder (and beheading) of small children. Here is what Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Diane Feinstein (D-CA) says about what the Islamists are doing:

I have a picture of what I estimate to be a 6-year-old girl in a gingham party dress, white tights, a little red band around her wrist, Mary Janes [shoes], and she’s lying on the ground, and her head is gone,” Feinstein said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “This could be an American child. It could be a European child. It could be a child anywhere,” the chairwoman added. “This is the mentality of the group that we are so concerned with. They have killed thousands; they are marching on; they have an army; they are well organized.”

A spasm of cruelty in Ferguson is not like a comprehensive program of genocide. The Russian invasion of Crimea and its threat to the Ukraine are the policies of a government, not the excesses of a single policeman. The President blurred the line between acknowledging America’s imperfection, in some contexts a good thing, with the outright humiliation of our country before the world.

There is no moral equivalence between America and ISIS. Mr. Obama would affirm this, surely, but in his desperate effort to discourage criticism he plays into our adversaries’ hands. Those who would highlight America’s flaws either to minimize their own evil or, out of envious hostility, to tear down rather than emulate the world’s greatest beacon of liberty, opportunity, and hope — that would be the United States of America — are wrong. President Obama seems to have internalized their criticisms, which says a lot about his approach to American foreign policy over the past nearly six years. A lot that’s disturbing.

All but a relative handful of the countries represented in the United Nations are authoritarian regimes, outright dictatorships, or hereditary (even if benevolent) monarchies. Anti-Semitism, cruel religious persecution, severe political repression, systemic policies that entrench poverty, quenching or abridging all the freedoms “endowed by their Creator” to their citizens: These things constitute the normal course of events in the majority of the world’s nations, all of which, to one degree or another, regularly castigate our country.

To allow such brutes, whether in developing countries, the Communist world, or totalitarian regimes to cow America into Uriah Heepish hand-wringing is maddening. No American, and certainly no American President, should succumb to it.

A Tale of Two (Civil) Senators

by Rob Schwarzwalder

September 18, 2014

This morning, at the kind invitation of House Speaker John Boehner, I attended a Joint Session of Congress to hear courageous Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko describe Russia’s threat to his country and plead for U.S. backing of his embattled nation.

It was moving to hear President Poroshenko, and heartening to see the at least superficial unanimity of Members of Congress as they stood, repeatedly, in ovations of support.

This is, I believe, the eighth time I’ve had the privilege of attending such Joint Sessions, including two State of the Union messages by President Clinton. At all such events, there is a general if perhaps strained sense of bonhomie among the Senators and Members of Congress as they mingle on the House floor. Among some of the Senators, particularly, there is a measure of good humor unseen during testy televised debates or hearings.

Today, for example, I noticed two of the Senators, one a respected conservative, the other a recognized liberal, laughing together as if fraternity brothers who surreptitiously had stolen their professor’s tires. It was fun to see.

Three cheers for camaraderie, for friendship, for civility. But as I’ve written elsewhere, civility becomes a pretext for avoiding hard choices and acknowledging real and sometimes angering divisions when “being nice” supersedes the need for opposition and advocacy. Civility is the oil that prevents the gears of debate from becoming so dry with contention that they grind into civil strife. But it is not itself the purpose for which those gears are driven.

As a Christian, I believe in the depravity of man, for which reason I am grateful to awaken to streets empty of men fighting with knives and tire-irons. Civility is important in a fallen world, no question.

Courtesy and kindness are essential to any well-equipped arsenal of public discourse and action. They can sooth raw tempers and smooth rough discourse, thus making the pursuit and location of common ground possible.

Yet ultimately, civility cannot cover-over the deep chasms between worldviews and priorities existing in our society. The two Senators I noted above are both possible presidential candidates of their respective parties. They disagree on the critical issues of “faith, family, and freedom,” not to mention economics and foreign policy. By virtue of the positions they have taken, Americans will have to choose not just between them as persons but between the sharply different worldviews out of which they operate and the policy conclusions resulting therefrom.

Civility can prevent verbal abuse and physical violence. To decide is to lead and often to divide, and decision-making, especially in an era when the decisions to be made represent two such fundamentally opposite set of values and arguments, is unavoidable.

The Savagery and Horror of ISIS

by FRC Media Office

September 18, 2014

With the continued savagery of ISIS in the news, FRC’s Bob Morrison and Ken Blackwell have two op-eds in American Thinker that examines the stance that the U.S. has taken on this group.   Both Blackwell and Morrison’s recent article looks at how President Obama has dealt with ISIS and the growing threat that this group poses on global security.

President Obama is locked in a Westphalian mindset. That seminal 1648 Treaty of Westphalia ended the Thirty Years War in Europe and gave us the nation-state system we see today. Or most of it. What ISIS shows, however, is that the Westphalian definitions really don’t apply in the Mideast. It was an Egyptian diplomat who famously said: “There is only one nation over here; the rest are tribes with flags.”

Fortunately, President Obama realizes that you cannot give credence to a border between Iraq and Syria. He says he will hammer ISIS in Syria. Go to it. (Unfortunately, this president seems not to recognize a border between the Mexico and the U.S., either.)

You can read more from their op-ed here.

Thirty years ago, FRC’s Bob Morrison watched a beheading video. And he has never forgotten the horror of it. Here’s his column that ran in American Thinker on August 30, 2014

America’s Uncertain International Trumpet

by Rob Schwarzwalder

September 8, 2014

A couple of days ago, President Obama commented to “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd that “There are days when I’m not getting enough sleep, because we’ve got a lot on our plate.” According to Jennifer Epstein of Politico, the President went on to say that “You know, when you’re … President of the United States, you’re not just dealing with the United States.” Citing various international military, political, and medical crises, he said, “You know, the inbox gets pretty high.”

Every President says such equally banal things, be he a Republican or a Democrat. What’s troubling is that throughout his presidency, Mr. Obama has repetitively emphasized the value of “partnerships” and international coalitions, as in comments he made during his first presidential trip overseas in 2009: “(America’s) leadership is incumbent, depends on, our ability to create partnerships because we create partnerships because we can’t solve these problems alone.”

Aside from the rather baffling syntax of that sentence, Mr. Obama seems to miss a single, determinative point. America is unique not just because of our moral example or ability to marshal other nations into what President Bush called a “coalition of the willing.” Alliances, partnerships, coalitions, pacts, etc. can be important, even essential, in a number of contexts. Rather, America’s uniqueness is defined not by our being, as it were, first among equals, but the unique coalescence of our values, our power, and our resolve in a violent, unsteady world.

The President is a man of nuance. Nuance can be a valuable trait, insofar as it prevents one from making impulsive, reactive, or excessive decisions. But the presidency is not a graduate seminar in which to express ambivalent opinions in front of a closely-listening world, one that hungers for clear, confident American leadership. When he speaks almost simultaneously of destroying ISIS and “managing” it, the uncertainty of the trumpet Mr. Obama blows reverberates with a chilling echo around the world.

National security and vital interests should determine America’s engagement in given wars, hot-spots, and places of need. Historically, when our security has been jeopardized and our critical interests threatened, we have acted, often in tandem with friends and allies, to defend and secure them. But we have not failed to act alone when singular, bracing action has been needed. Consider Reagan at Reykjavik or Nixon’s unequivocal stand with Israel during the 1973 Arab-Israeli War: These things inspire those who long for our leadership and give great caution to those who wish to diminish it.

One of the paradoxes of American power is that to sustain our position of unique international leadership, our country must be prepared, always, to act promptly, wisely, forcefully, and alone. We are appealing to our friends precisely because we historically have been ready to stand by ourselves, bravely and powerfully. The very independence of our resolve is what has made other countries want to ally with us. When we make partnerships a precondition of bold action, we hem ourselves into a seam of international approval and mincing diplomatic etiquette from which it is hard to disentangle ourselves.

The stance our nation takes on the world stage is not developed to win friends and be well-loved. Of course, many of our actions, such as the Berlin Airlift and the Marshall Plan and our gifts of food and medicine to the developing world have wedded our interests and our moral convictions, which have won us friends and created loyalties from which we have benefitted greatly.

Instead, our objectives should be clear and never in doubt: We want to be respected by our friends and feared by our adversaries. Such respect is the foundation of the international affection for which some politicians seem to long as the chief end of America’s global involvement. Pursuit of “being liked” as an end in itself invites disdain from our enemies and doubt from our allies. As a result, such a pursuit creates the very acrimony and upheaval its proponents say they wish to avoid.

After the Bay of Pigs disaster, young President John F. Kennedy met with Soviet Premier Nikita Kruschev in Vienna. Kennedy was candid about Kruschev’s behavior: the latter “thought that anyone who was so young and inexperienced as to get into that mess could be taken. And anyone who got into it and didn’t see it through had no guts. So he just beat the h**l out of me … I’ve got a real problem.” The Cuban missile crisis was not long to follow, as Kruschev had determined Kennedy was weak.

Would Vladimir Putin have dared to venture into the Ukraine, or would Hamas dared to launch its missile assaults on Israel, if they feared the reaction of the United States? Would ISIS have become so voraciously predatory if its leaders worried about anything but a tepid, slow response from America? Would China have hacked American corporations so assiduously if it feared truly tough retaliation from Washington?

Maybe. But maybe not. Whether a conservative or a liberal, the American president must be someone who realizes that the surest way to avoid having to use our power is a willingness to use it, prudently but decisively, when and where it is needed for the sake of our security and crucial interests.

The View from my Adirondack Chair

by Robert Morrison

August 29, 2014

I am very much looking forward to the upcoming Labor Day Weekend. I’m getting a head start today by having lunch in my back yard with a good friend.

Working from home has its decided benefits. It’s been a good and productive week for me. (I hope my boss agrees). My friend and I will be sitting in my favorite birthday gift — my new Adirondack chairs. This very American invention seems to symbolize peace, order, creativity. Sitting side-by-side with a friend, in animated conversation, is one of life’s joys.

But there is a certain bittersweet quality to these days. We have never had a nicer summer in Maryland. Blue skies, low humidity, picnic suppers at the sea wall in Annapolis, watching red sails in the sunset, enjoying a summer of peace.

Yet the world has seemingly never been in worse shape, but here at home, peace is precious. The Mideast is exploding. War between Israel and Hamas brings condemnation — as usual — of those who are defending themselves from terrorists. From Gaza, Hamas has been tunneling under the Israeli primary schools and staging rocket attacks on their hospitals. The French have an old expression for this: “This animal is very wicked; when you attack it, it defends itself.”

The president this week announced to the world: “We have no strategy yet for dealing with ISIS.” Truth be told, this president has no strategy yet for dealing with ISIS, Iran, the PLO, Russia, or China, or Boko Haram. Not since Jimmy Carter’s uncertain course has the Ship of State been so obviously adrift.

I had the honor of interviewing President Carter’s own choice for Ambassador to the Soviet Union. Malcolm Toon had been a thirty-year diplomat. He told me in 1982 that the only time in his career that he feared for the United States was when Carter was president. “I had never seen the Soviets so contemptuous of American weakness,” Amb. Toon told me then.

President Bush erred, badly, in saying he had looked into Vladimir Putin’s eyes and had seen “a good man.” He looked into the Russian strong man’s soul, Mr. Bush announced. Russian dissident writer Vladimir Bukovsky spoke to a Victims of Communism Dinner shortly thereafter. Asked about George W. Bush’s statement, Bukovsky deadpanned, with his lugubrious Slavic intonations: “I have looked into eyes of many KGB agents. I have never found it a particularly soulful experience.”

It took years for George Bush to gain a better understanding of Putin and his conduct. But at least he got it. Not so this administration. Vice President Joe Biden related how he had told Putin “I don’t think you have a soul at all.” This prompts one to ask: Is there a Nobel Prize for Jackassery?

The Obama administration’s UN Ambassador, Samantha Power, is famous for her evoking of “Soft Power,” whatever that is. But in the UN this week, she declaimed that the Russians had to stop “lying” about their activities in Ukraine. Why, Madame Ambassador, must they stop lying? Are you going to invoke Soft Power against them? Liberalizing Czech Communists tried Soft Power in 1968. The Kremlin crushed that Prague Spring under the tank treads of their T-34’s. So much for Soft Power.

We in America can thank God for our safety — and thank the U.S. military, too. There’s a quote — probably misattributed to the great English writer George Orwell — that says “people sleep safely in their beds because rough men are ready to do violence in their behalf.”

What the U.S. military does is not violence. The U.S. military has always been a force for peace. When obliged to use force, even deadly force, it is not engaged in violence. The “authorized use of deadly force” is what distinguishes legitimate and civilized nations from those — like Russia under the Communists, like the Nazis in Germany, like Hamas, Iran, or ISIS today — whose use of force is always violence, never legitimate.

Every Sunday, my wife and I join in prayers at Chapel for the families of young Americans who have died the previous week defending us. We thank God for the sacrifice of these heroes. They are not rough men ready to do violence. But they are brave men, capable men, men and women ready to defend our peace, our freedom, our laws and our Constitution, with their very lives.

To my friends and dear readers enjoying this last breath of summer may I share this poem?

The Last Rose of Summer

Tis the last rose of summer,

Left blooming alone;

All her lovely companions

Are faded and gone;

No flower of her kindred,

No rosebud is nigh,

To reflect back her blushes,

Or give sigh for sigh.

I’ll not leave thee, thou lone one!

To pine on the stem;

Since the lovely are sleeping,

Go, sleep thou with them.

Thus kindly I scatter,

Thy leaves o’er the bed,

Where thy mates of the garden

Lie scentless and dead.

So soon may I follow,

When friendships decay,

And from Love’s shining circle

The gems drop away.

When true hearts lie withered,

And fond ones are flown,

Oh! who would inhabit

This bleak world alone?

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