Category archives: Misc.

How Important is Election Day Turnout? Ask Anthony Brown.

by Peter Sprigg

November 11, 2014

On Election Day (or, with early and absentee voting, during election season), not every citizen who is registered to vote will actually vote. There are a variety of reasons. Some have not put in the time and effort to educate themselves about the people and issues on the ballot. Some don’t believe their vote will make a difference. Some may be confident that their favored candidate(s) will win anyway; some may be fatalistic that their favored candidate(s) will lose anyway. Some may have logistical problems getting to the polls; some may simply forget.

Because of all these factors, it is a given for anyone who has ever been involved in a political campaign that “turning out your voters” is a key to victory. Success hinges not just on persuading a majority of your fellow citizens that you are the best candidate; it also hinges on success in motivating those voters to actually vote.

It should be no surprise that the highest voter turnout generally comes in presidential election years. That is when the media coverage of politics is at its most intense. Even people who pay no attention to local or state legislative races, or even races for Congress or Governor, will generally form an opinion on which candidate should be the next President of the United States, and will make an effort to express that view at the ballot box.

That means, however, that in a non-presidential year, like the 2014 mid-term elections, fewer votes will be cast, and therefor “turning out your voters” is even more crucial.

Anthony Brown learned that the hard way.

Brown has served two terms as Lieutenant Governor of Maryland under Gov. Martin O’Malley, the former mayor of Baltimore. O’Malley is leaving office and is considered a dark horse candidate for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination. Brown was his designated successor for the governor’s mansion, easily winning the Democratic nomination.

The election should have been a shoo-in for Brown. Maryland is one of the bluest of deep blue states. President Obama carried the state in 2012 with 61% of the vote.

In one of the biggest (and most under-reported) upsets on election night, however, Brown lost to his Republican opponent, Larry Hogan, 51%-47%.

I was curious as to how big a role turnout played in this surprising outcome, so I went back to look at some vote totals I compiled after the 2012 election. (I had written a blog post then about how even in the four states which did not vote to defend the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman, the pro-marriage vote had well exceeded the vote received by Republican nominee Mitt Romney.)

Comparing those votes with this year’s governor’s race confirmed the importance of turnout. Although Hogan won in 2014 with 51% of the vote, and Romney lost Maryland badly in 2012 with only 36% of the vote, the raw number of votes Hogan received in victory was only 91% of the number of votes Romney received in defeat.

What does that say about Brown? He received less than half as many votes as President Obama did in 2012—only 792,000 compared to Obama’s 1.6 million.

A similar trend probably prevailed across the country. Masses of Obama voters just stayed home on Election Day—leading to the Republican wave we saw on Election Night.

The Ghost on the Wall

by Robert Morrison

November 10, 2014

I remember the incident in August, 1962. It was televised all over the world. A 17-year old carpenter’s assistant named Peter Fechter from East Germany was trying to escape across the plowed earth separating the inner and outer structures of what had become known as the Berlin Wall. Communist border guards known as Volkspolizei (People’s Police, or VoPos, for short) shot Peter in the back. He bled. And he cried. And cried. He begged someone to come and help him. He lay there for hours, whimpering like a child. This video clip says it was as if his life was ebbing away. No, it wasn’t as if. His life was ebbing away. I saw it. I hated Communism because of that. I never wavered in my belief it was fundamentally evil.

Those were happy days in America. I remember the carefree days at the beach that summer, going sailing on the Great South Bay, and the almost new Oldsmobile my parents helped me buy. Like Peter Fechter, I was just 17. Happy as I was then, I never forgot witnessing Peter Fechter’s real-life murder on TV.

Ronald Reagan never forgot Peter Fechter, either. He spoke of the Berlin Wall for many years thereafter. He always personalized that grim gray obscene concrete Wall (“die Mauer”) by including the story of Peter Fechter.

While President Richard Nixon went to Moscow in 1972 and gave Soviet Communist Party boss brand new American-made cars as gifts, Reagan continued to speak out against the inhumanity of a system that could build a Berlin Wall and shoot down teenagers who simply sought to escape Communism’s “Workers’ Paradise.”

After Nixon’s disgrace, President Jimmy Carter went to Vienna to meet with Brezhnev in June, 1979. He let Brezhnev kiss him on their first date! Brezhnev took the measure of the man. Six months later, he kissed off Carter when he sent Soviet troops into Afghanistan.

President Carter went on national TV to explain that he had learned more about the USSR in the previous three days than in the previous three years.

I later interviewed Amb. Malcolm Toon, the career diplomat whom Carter had sent to Moscow. Amb. Toon told me that no elected leader in Western Europe could have made such a stunning statement. If he had admitted to such incompetence, that Prime Minister or Chancellor would have been voted out of office the very next day in parliament!

As President, Ronald Reagan remained true to his convictions. In 1987, the American press corps was in its full-gush mode over Soviet Communist Party boss, Mikhail Gorbachev. The chin-pulling opinion writers who pass for serious analysts in our prestige press were all agog over Gorbachev’s new liberalization schemes for the USSR and the Soviet bloc. They repeated Gorbachev’s spin with practiced ease.

President Reagan wasn’t buying it. He went to the Brandenburg Gate, in the shadow of the Berlin Wall, on June 12, 1987.. He took with him the speech text he and Peter Robinson had crafted, the one our State Department had rejected three times. Sec. of State George Schulz, White House Chief of Staff Howard Baker, and National Security Advisor Gen. Colin Powell all tried to dissuade the President from saying anything that might upset U.S.-Soviet relations. Reagan was quiet, but firm, with his staff. “I think I was elected,” he mildly told Peter Robinson and that line “Tear Down this Wall” stayed in the speech.

Today, we are celebrating twenty-five years of freedom for the people of Germany and Eastern Europe. The fall of the Berlin Wall and the crumbling of that Evil Empire began this day in 1989. Reagan never claimed to have been the one who brought about this stunning change. But he was the one Western leader who never lost faith that Soviet Communism could be brought down. He told his aides: We win; they lose.

The Atlantic’s website provides this helpful remembrance of the Berlin Wall. It contains, unfortunately no references to President Kennedy’s great speech there in 1963, or President Reagan’s inspirational address of 1987.

This most interesting monument—is called the “Lichtgrenze” or Light Border. It’s well worth seeing. Thanks to the liberal editors of The Atlantic, the former Soviet dictator, Gorbachev gets a bit part in the photomontage. Thank you, General Secretary Gorbachev for not shooting any more of Peter Fechter’s countrymen!

Today, I will remember the Berlin Wall and the joy of the Germans—and all of us—when we heard young people there exclaim “Die Mauer ist Gefallen!” The Wall is Down!

My friend and colleague, FRC Senior Fellow Peter Sprigg was in Germany when the Wall came down. Then a young liberal, our Peter was honest with himself and his friends. “This is Reagan’s doing,” Peter Sprigg said then. Peter has been a recovering liberal ever since.

Ronald Reagan never claimed credit for the Fall of the Wall. But he did go there and challenge Gorbachev to prove his liberalization schemes by tearing down the Wall. Reagan was the first President since John F. Kennedy to draw a bright line between freedom and tyranny. “Lass’sie nach Berlin kommen” the young President had said—Let them come to Berlin.

President Reagan did something there that even brave young Kennedy did not do. He described a radio tower built by the East German Communists to overshadow all of Berlin’s church steeples. The President noted that the tower had a defect that the atheist rulers of East Germany had desperately tried to etch out with acid, sandblast, or paint over.

Still, Ronald Reagan said, when the sun struck the globe on that tall tower, it reflected the Sign of the Cross.

ISIS: and the New Damascus Road

by Nathan Oppman

November 6, 2014

The New Testament book of Acts tells us that Saul’s persecutions scattered the church throughout Judea and Samaria. Saul later converted to Christianity, on his way to Damascus to eradicate Christians, and began planting churches throughout the Mediterranean region

Today a new scattering in the Middle East has begun and a new group of persecutors on the road to Damascus has risen up. The new so-called caliphate, ISIS, which has emerged in the Middle East is seeking to remove from its borders all those who claim allegiance to the Jesus Christ. The slaughter of Christians has been one of the most troubling aspects of the rise of ISIS among many horrific stories coming out of Iraq and Syria.

While persecution is not new to Christians in the Middle East, many communities which have existed for millennia are in danger of being eradicated. You can read some of the troubling news in a recent article published by the Gatestone Institute.

Christians can pray for the persecuted by asking for God’s protection of them and for their boldness in sharing the Gospel. We should also pray that the Lord would change the hearts of the persecutors like He changed the heart of Paul and in so doing stop their evil rampage. May God turn this wave of persecution into one that turns the heart of a great persecutor into the heart of a great missionary, and one that uses the scattering of the faithful to spread new hope in Christ wherever they are driven.

Washington Post asks: “What went wrong for President Obama?”

by Robert Morrison

November 4, 2014

We are all waiting for today’s critical election returns and for the post-mortems that will inevitably follow. But our hometown newspaper, the Washington Post, is not waiting for the ballots to be reported tonight (and maybe some to be cast in Louisiana on December 6th with, perhaps, some even to be brought in by dogsled in Alaska!)

No, the Post is doing a pre-mortem. They printed this headline an amazing headline in this morning’s edition. This reliably liberal house organ is jumping the gun with analysis of the President’s failure and the “many crises [in his second term] and less faith in his [Mr. Obama’s] ability to respond.”

Finally, the liberal editors are asking themselves a question I can answer for them.

Here’s what went wrong for President Obama:

  1. He allowed himself to become the willing accomplice of Planned Parenthood. He told Speaker Boehner he would veto any Continuing Resolution of Congress that takes away even one dollar from this evil enterprise that dismembers a thousand unborn American children every day.
  1. His Obamacare legislation will force millions of Americans to pay for the killing of unborn children. This will be the greatest expansion of abortion since the infamous Roe v. Wade ruling.
  1. He has “evolved” into the nation’s most powerful marriagender. Bill Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, a law we could have passed through Congress without a single Republican vote. Just 18 years ago, Democrats joined Republicans in supporting marriage. As recently as 2008, Barack told voters he believed “marriage is between a man and a woman and God is in the mix.” [emphasis added.]

Apparently, if you like your God you can keep Him. But President Obama has moved on on marriage. He has suddenly become aware that the Constitution all along has required every state to recognize counterfeit marriages. For a man who proudly tells us he taught Constitutional Law, this is an amazing, if tardy, discovery.

  1. He presides over the most anti-Christian administration in U.S. history. Never before have so many churches, pastors, priests and Christian citizens found their religious freedom so gravely endangered. Liberal reporters think this is rightwing hysteria and respond: “What about those Bible riots in Philadelphia in the 1840s?” Gotcha, they say. NO. Those Bible riots—deplorable as they were—were never instigated by the President and backed by the full power of the federal government. Today, Catholic bishops, Lutheran church body leaders, Evangelical pastors, Mormon officials, and rabbinical association spokespersons are united as never before in our nation’s history to push back against President Obama’s threats to religious freedom.
  1. His is the first administration in our history openly hostile to Israel. Woodrow Wilson, Democrat, favored the creation of a Jewish State in Palestine. Democratic President Franklin Roosevelt met with the Saudi king in 1945 in an effort to persuade him to accept a Jewish State. Harry Truman boldly recognized Israel 11 minutes after it declared its independence in 1948. But President Obama is pressuring Israel to permit the creation of a PLO Terroristan on the West Bank of the Jordan River. President Obama refuses to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, but he went to reunited Berlin to bask in the adulation of German crowds.

For these and a host of other, lesser, reasons, this president has lost what the Chinese call “the Mandate of Heaven.”

Barbara Walters spoke to this world-weary sense that liberals have about the Obama Presidency when she sighed: “We thought he was going to be the Messiah.”

And Newsweek editor Evan Thomas cooed early in this administration that President Obama at Normandy “hovered over the nations like a sort of god.”

Can Mr. Thomas tell us what his god said at Normandy? Can President Obama remember what he said there? In 2009? In 2014?

Our God speaks. And through His Word, we learn of his tender concern for children, even those in the womb. We learn that He created marriage because it is not good for man to be alone. And we learn that when it comes to speaking His Word, we are to obey God and not men.

Our Founding Fathers believed that religious freedom was essential for political liberty. That’s why they guaranteed it in the Constitution they gave us. Socialist governments have always been hostile to three institutions—the family, the church, and free enterprise.

So we should not be surprised that President Obama is having mounting difficulty. It is a sign of a healthy body politic that the immune system is starting to reject his ruling philosophy.

Candidate Obama shocked Clinton Democrats when he said, “Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not. And in a way that Bill Clinton did not.”

Barack Obama was promising liberals he would be their Ronald Reagan. But Reagan quoted the Founding Fathers’ wisdom more than any of his four predecessors and more than any of his four successors.

Perhaps that is why, respecting this country’s foundation and not seeking to “fundamentally transform this nation,” as Mr. Obama has, that Ronald Reagan was a success and this president is not.

FRC Files Amicus Brief in Fifth Circuit Marriage Appeal

by Chris Gacek

November 3, 2014

Today, the Family Research Council filed an amicus, or “friend of the court,” brief in the case of Robicheaux v. Caldwell, an appeal of a marriage definition case arising out of Louisiana. On September 3rd, Judge Martin Feldman of the Eastern District of Louisiana issued a decision upholding the constitutionality of Louisiana’s male-female definition of marriage. Subsequently, the plaintiffs, seven same-sex couples, appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit (“Fifth Circuit”) in New Orleans. It was with the Fifth Circuit that FRC filed its amicus brief today. Paul Linton, a constitutional appellate lawyer from Illinois, wrote the brief. Mr. Linton has worked with FRC previously in numerous marriage-definition cases.

The FRC amicus brief focuses on two main arguments. First, the brief demonstrates that Louisiana’s marriage definition does not contravene the fundamental right to marry that is protected by the Due Process Clause of the U.S. Constitution. After the Supreme Court’s Windsor decision a number of federal courts have attempted to claim that there is a fundamental right to same-sex marriage. As an institution, same-sex marriage is younger than Google and Facebook. It cannot satisfy the requirement the Court laid down in Washington v. Glucksberg, 521 U.S. 702 (1997), that such rights must be firmly rooted in “the Nation’s history, legal traditions, and practices.”

Second, the brief makes clear that Louisiana’s marriage definition does not discriminate on the basis of sex or gender because males and females cannot marry members of the same sex. On the contrary, every male and every female may marry. The requirement, however, is that one’s marriage partner be a member of the opposite sex. There is no “facial” discrimination in Louisiana’s marriage definition that targets either males or females for worse treatment than member of the opposite sex.

Male-female marriage is the bedrock of social life and civilization. It is the institution by which the complementary sexual attractions of males and females are yoked together in an enduring, supportive relationship that has the potential to produce children. Same-sex unions can reproduce neither the relational nor the procreative capacity. As such, the union of one man and one woman for life in marriage is rationally related to these dual purposes.

Does the Sexual Predation of Children Have to be Tolerated and Ignored?

by Chris Gacek

November 3, 2014

Police authorities in Rotherham, U.K.(near Sheffield), allowed at least 1,400 children to be sexually exploited and trafficked by members of the local Pakistani community in a period from 1997 to 2013. The authorities did not properly investigate or stop the crimes for fear of being called racist or Islamophobic. A stunning independent report on the crimes and governmental inaction was released in August 2014.

On October 30th, Helen Pidd, the northern editor of The Guardian (U.K.), noted last week in a powerful article that widespread sexual exploitation is taking place in another major English city:

Sexual exploitation of vulnerable children has become the social norm in some parts of Greater Manchester, fuelled by explicit music videos and quasi-pornographic selfies, an MP has warned.
The systematic grooming of boys and girls remains a “real and ongoing problem”, a year after Greater Manchester police (GMP) was forced to admit it had failed abuse victims in Rochdale, said Ann Coffey, a former social worker who is now the Labour MP for Stockport. “My observations will make painful reading for those who hoped that Rochdale was an isolated case,” she writes in a significant report.

In a related article, Ms. Pidd, quotes the senior Crown prosecutor, Nazir Afzal, for the region as saying:

The Muslim community must accept and address the fact that Asian and Pakistani men are disproportionately involved in “localised, street grooming” of vulnerable girls, one of the UK’s most senior prosecutors has said.

Sheffield-Rotherham are not located in the Greater Manchester area. They are different municipalities with similarly horrifying patterns of criminal sexual behavior. (For more on Rotterham, go to this article from the blog, Legal Insurrection.)

My colleague, Cathy Ruse, pulled a few quotes from the executive summary of the August 2014 Rotherham report:

No one knows the true scale of child sexual exploitation (CSE) in Rotherham over the years. Our conservative estimate is that approximately 1400 children were sexually exploited over the full Inquiry period, from 1997 to 2013.
In just over a third of cases, children affected by sexual exploitation were previously known to services because of child protection and neglect. It is hard to describe the appalling nature of the abuse that child victims suffered. They were raped by multiple perpetrators, trafficked to other towns and cities in the north of England, abducted, beaten, and intimidated. There were examples of children who had been doused in petrol and threatened with being set alight, threatened with guns, made to witness brutally violent rapes and threatened they would be next if they told anyone.
Girls as young as 11 were raped by large numbers of male perpetrators.
This abuse is not confined to the past but continues to this day.

Please don’t think that this is not also happening in the United States. Sex trafficking experts tell FRC that activities of this type occur all across America too.

If you don’t believe that the American law enforcement institutions may have little interest or sympathy in sex trafficking, I refer you back a few years to the keelhauling of a young US attorney, Rachel Paulose, in Minneapolis back in 2007. Even an article in a left-wing periodical had to note that Paulose had accomplishments that were typically worthy of praise. The Salon article related an interesting point made by Professor Donna Hughes, one of the leading experts on sex trafficking in America:

But Paulose did have her defenders. For example, there’s Donna Hughes, a professor at the University of Rhode Island, who suggested that Paulose was being attacked because of her prosecution of human trafficking cases.
Asked whether she had any direct evidence that Paulose was targeted because of her office’s efforts against trafficking, Hughes responded, “Rachel Paulose was the leading prosecutor of sex trafficking cases in the U.S. She took over an office where there had previously been no trafficking prosecutions and turned it into the leading one. Therefore, our coalition has serious concerns when a problem erupts that results in her leaving office.”

Let’s all hope that in five to ten years we won’t have to witness the release of a Rotterham-type report on massive, widespread sex-trafficking in the Twin Cities.

Voting from the Bering Sea

by Robert Morrison

November 3, 2014

I’ve never missed voting. I’ve had to fight for it at times, but I have voted in every election since I was old enough. The closest I ever came to not voting was when I was serving in the military.

I was stationed on a Coast Guard Cutter and we were steaming in the Bering Sea. We were patrolling that imaginary line in the sea between the old USSR and the United States. It is the only place on earth where the two nations share a common border. And yes—Gov. Palin was right—you can see Russia from Alaska.

I knew I was going to require an absentee ballot because the Cutter Boutwell* was not scheduled to return from her Alaska Patrol until after Election Day. So I dutifully filled out my request and mailed it in to the King County (Seattle) Election Board.

Well into October I still hadn’t received my absentee ballot. I was the ship’s Communications Officer, so I handled all the incoming mail. Every time we got mail, I was thrilled to get a letter for each day from my fiancée. But no absentee ballot.

I contacted Seattle via teletype: “Where’s my absentee ballot?” I sent several follow-up messages with no response. I was becoming concerned.

One evening, after dinner and a movie, I heard a sharp rap on the door of my stateroom. It was our Executive Officer. He never visited any of us. We were always summoned to his stateroom. This might not be pleasant.

What’s this [same word as a White House official describing an Israeli Prime Minister] about your sending teletype messages back to Seattle?”

Oh, that, ” I said, relieved it was nothing more serious. “Well, Commander,” I responded cheerily, “I have applied for my absentee ballot and have not received it. I need to fill it out and make sure I get it in the outgoing mail so it can arrive at the King County Election Board in time to be counted. We have less than two weeks until Election Day, Sir.”

The XO’s face darkened. He was not soothed by my breezy explanation.

We don’t have time for such things. And I don’t want you sending any more teletype messages to Seattle about voting. Besides, it’s only an off-year election. It’s not that important.”

Sir, respectfully, I have to vote. It’s why we are out here.” He was not happy with my answer and he left the stateroom, slamming the heavy metal door behind him.

Happily, I received my absentee ballot in the next batch of incoming mail. And with it a fistful of letters from my beloved. I quickly filled out the ballot and slipped it—as inconspicuously as I could—in the next day’s outgoing mail.

My Executive Officer was a dedicated career Coast Guardsman with many responsibilities. I didn’t want to make his burden greater. But I was determined to keep my perfect record of never having missed voting.

Every day that autumn, I was part of the boarding inspection team that boarded those Soviet trawlers. Everybody in the old USSR voted, too, and their votes meant nothing. “What counts is not who votes,” said the cynical old Communist dictator of the USSR, Josef Stalin. “What matters is who counts the votes.” That was as true under Stalin as it is under Putin.

It was no exaggeration to say what I said to the XO. We were on patrol checking on fisheries, to be sure, but the reason the U.S. Coast Guard policed those waters at all was so that American freedom would be preserved. And we served on the frontier of freedom.

Pollsters tell us that only 39% of Americans look forward to voting next Tuesday. I am happy a higher percentage—49% of Evangelical Christians—tell pollsters they are very eager to vote next Tuesday. I only winh 100% of us would exercise this precious right. It was indeed bought for us by the blood of patriots, many of them our fellow Christians.

I pray that all of us who have not yet taken part in early voting or sent in our absentee ballots will make it a point to show up at the polls. Some of my friends tell me they’re not enthusiastic about going to the polls. It may be the case that some candidates in some places have not made their best arguments to earn the support of Values Voters.

My answer to these friends is another lesson I learned in the service: Damage Control. We may not be thrilled with where our ship is headed at the moment, but we have a much better chance of a course correction if the ship hasn’t sunk. Next Tuesday, we can all go out and vote for Damage Control.

And then we can all work to steer a better course.

*Recently, the Coast Guard Cutter Boutwell seized some $480 million worth of cocaine. This was the largest seizure in history. And it was achieved by a ship first launched in 1967.

Though Devils all the World Should Fill

by Robert Morrison

October 31, 2014

For the world, which is to say, for Google, today is a day about witches and ghosts, and not much more. Witchy Wanda is stirring her kettle on today’s webpage. That’s the way the world sees things.

With the headlines this fall, though, the world does seem to be full of devils. ISIS, Ebola, Russian submarines lurking menacingly under Swedish home waters. Obamacare forcing us all to pay for the slaughter of innocents. It’s all enough to give one a real scare.

I recall the story of a young Augustinian monk named Martin Luther in the early Sixteenth Century. He was being urged not to go to that high-level conference chaired by the Emperor. All the leading Electors, princes, and nobility of Germany and the higher clergy would be in attendance. It was called the Diet of Worms.

(When they used to teach world history, we kids in ninth grade got quite a chuckle out of that “Diet of Worms.” I recall one of my classmates saying it would at least be better than what we get in the school cafeteria!)

Young Luther was being summoned before the Holy Roman Emperor to recant his writings. They had been found heretical by church authorities. Luther was warned by his friends not to go to the City of Worms.

They won’t keep their word. They won’t give you protection. Now that they’ve branded your writings heretical, they’ll excommunicate you. Then they’ll hand you over to the temporal rulers and you will be burned at the stake—just as Jan Hus was burned at the stake in Bohemia. That was in 1415.

But Martin Luther would not be deterred. He told his friends he was going to appear before the Emperor Charles V and all the assembled movers and shakers in Germany.

I would go if there were a devil on every roof tile,” the young scholar said.

We don’t often associate scholars with such courage. To be sure, today there are all too many scholars unwilling to take risks. But that bold stand of a Bible teacher inspired me thirty years ago. And it inspires me now. Luther had a Doctorate in Theology when such academic degrees were rarer than Nobel Peace Prizes are today (and more justly awarded, too.)

We continue to debate and wrestle over the doctrines of the Reformation that began this day in 1517. Dr. Timothy George has summarized some of the best thinking on this day in his First Things column here.

Today, I especially want to pay tribute to young Dr. Luther’s courage. And in the spirit of ecumenism, let me also salute my good friend, Hadley Arkes. Hadley is a great academic who has never hesitated to speak out on the most controversial topics of the day, on human life, on same-sex rituals, on the real meaning of our Constitution.

But when he was asked by a Catholic priest why he had not converted to Catholicism yet, Hadley did not respond with a learned citation from the early Church Fathers, or from Wise Rabbis of old. Instead, Hadley quoted the Cowardly Lion in Wizard of Oz.

 

C-c-c-courage!

It’s what puts the Ape in Apricot

It’s what I haven’t got.

Obviously, Hadley did summon the courage to follow his conscience and enter into communion in the Roman Catholic Church.

It may seem odd to describe the conversion of a Jew to Catholicism in the same column with today’s observance of the Reformation. But in both instances, what was required was the courage of conviction.

Another friend has been bidding me to join him in his Catholic faith. I am happy to attend Mass with this friend when we meet. But the last time we went to his church together, the hymn we sang on this day was Luther’s own most famous song: “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.”

And this powerful verse from that five hundred year-old Reformation hymn is a fitting one for today:

Though devils all the world should fill,

All eager to devour us.

We tremble not, we fear no ill,

They shall not overpower us.

This world’s prince may still

Scowl fierce as he will,

He can harm us none,

He’s judged; the deed is done;

One little word can fell him.

7 Points of Reflection: Responding to the Houston Mayor’s Press Conference Announcing the Withdrawal of the Subpoenas Targeting the Five Houston Pastors

by Travis Weber

October 29, 2014
  1. The mayor says the subpoenas were “legal, valid, and appropriate,” but is withdrawing them anyway.

No, they are not legal, valid, and appropriate. They requested irrelevant and privileged material, and had the purpose of harassing the pastors – these very qualities make them quite inappropriate.

  1. She says it is “extremely important” to protect her special rights ordinance.

What about free speech rights so essential to open democracy and religious liberty rights protected by the First Amendment? She didn’t mention it was important to protect these.

  1. She claims the pastors she met with (who were not the subject of the subpoenas nor authorized to speak on behalf of those who were) didn’t plan a “rally” to “attack me” or the city.

While she tries to paint herself as above the political fray, she’s the one who invalidated the signatures. At its heart, this entire situation is a political matter. She tries to separate her subpoena withdrawal from the politics here, but she ultimately can’t do this. It comes down to this – if the pastors had been speaking for the bathroom bill instead of against it, she’d be fine with that. This IS about political intimidation – no matter how much she says it isn’t.

  1. She cares about “broader concerns” implicated here so she dropped the subpoenas.

What about the “concern” of Houston citizens being able to democratically repeal a law they don’t like? That seems pretty “broad” to me.

 

  1. She says she had a good conversation about “rendering unto Caesar” with the pastors she met with (who, again, are not even the pastors who were targeted by the mayor’s office).

This isn’t a determination for her to make. Ultimately, this entire situation arose because the Houston 5 have not rendered unto the City what the City would like for them to – their views on sexuality.

  1. She believes she has “removed that discussion about freedom of religion from the local arena.”

No, she hasn’t. She’d prefer that “religion” have nothing to say about the versions of sexuality protected by HERO – the very thing which is driving the lawsuit – which she has vowed to defend. Thus her logic defeats itself.

  1. She also became defensive when asked why she wouldn’t just allow the citizens to vote on repealing HERO. She was asked a question expressing concern that the Houston 5 may still feel intimidated.

She attempted an answer, but did so unsatisfactorily. If the mayor wants to clear up the intimidation issue, she can allow the citizens she was elected to represent to actually vote on whether to repeal the ordinance – it’s that simple.

Federal Judge: Revised “Accommodation” for Religious Organizations Still not Good Enough

by Travis Weber

October 29, 2014

For the first time since the Obama Administration “tweaked” its HHS mandate “accommodation” this past August, a federal judge has issued a preliminary injunction blocking the government from enforcing the mandate on certain religious organizations. This is welcome news.

After the Hobby Lobby opinion came down, and after the Supreme Court issued its interim order in Wheaton College v. Burwell, the Administration revised it’s “accommodation” to permit religious objectors to HHS of their objection directly in addition to filling out the EBSA Form 700, if they chose. As we have argued before, however, this alternative step still leaves those with sincere religious objections in the position of having facilitated and played a part in matters which they believe are morally evil. The “revised accommodation” still forces these religious objectors to violate their conscience. Whether one government form is placed between them and the moral evil, they are still forced to take action which sets the objectionable activity in motion.

For this reason, we are heartened to see that Judge James Moody from the Middle District of Florida has blocked the administration from forcing its Interim Final Regulations on Ave Maria University, which had filed suit to avoid being forced to violate deeply held religious beliefs under threat of heavy fines. Judge Moody noted that the same consideration on which the 11th Circuit relied in granting relief for EWTN in Eternal Word Television Network, Inc. v. Sec’y, U.S. Dep’t of Health & Human Services, 756 F.3d 1339 (11th Cir. 2014) earlier this year was at play here – imminent harm to a religious organization which would be forced to violate its principles of conscience once the organization’s insurance plan year kicked in and the HHS mandate applied. Judge Moody thus granted relief for Ave Maria University. The school’s freedom of religion is protected – at least for now.

Archives