Brewer Vetoes Arizona Bill Legalizing Discrimination Against Gays

In the second of two reports of good news today, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer hasvetoed the bill recently passed by the state legislature to permit discrimination. The law would have allowed businesses to legally practice discrimination against homosexuals. I discussed the bill and conservative cherry picking of religious teachings further here.

Conservatives are promoting similar “religious freedom” bills in other states. To the religious right, “religious freedom” means the freedom to impose their religious views upon others in violation of the Constitutional protection of separation of church and state which this nation was founded upon. A similar bill in Georgia is expected to be defeated.

Please Share

Tom DeLay Says Americans Forgot That God Created This Nation And Wrote The Constitution

“I think we got off that track when we allowed our government to become a secular government, when we stopped realizing that God created this nation, that He wrote the constitution, that’s based on biblical principles.” –Tom DeLay

Video of the interview where DeLay said this in the video above, via Right Wing Watch

Contrary Views From Previous Posts:

Alan Dershowitz Debunks John McCain’s Claim of a Christian Nation

Recently John McCain–whose presidential campaign is in the sewer–declared that “the Constitution established the United States of America as a Christian nation.” What an ignoramus! McCain should go back to school and take Civics 1, where he might learn that the United States Constitution was called “the godless constitution,” by its opponents, because it was the first constitution in history not to include references to God or some dominant religion. The Constitution mentions religion only once, in prohibiting any religious test for holding office under the United States.

The Bill of Rights mentions religion twice, once in prohibiting an establishment of religion (a clear reference to any branch of Protestant Christianity, which was then the dominant religion) and a second time, in guaranteeing the free exercise of all religions. Several years after the ratification, the Senate ratified a treaty with the Barbary regime of Tripoli which expressly proclaimed that “the Government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion.” In fact, many of our Founding Fathers, including the author of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, were not Christians but rather were deists. In other words, they believed in the existence of God, but not in the divinity of Jesus or the divine authorship of the bible. Today they might be called Unitarians; in fact, John Adams, another author of the Declaration, and the President under whom the treaty was ratified, is buried in a Unitarian church, along with his wife Abigail and his son John Quincy.

Roger Williams–the religious leader most responsible for separating church and state in America–put it very well a century earlier: “no civil state or country can be truly called Christian, although the Christians be in it.” That is what is so striking about American history, namely, that a nation of Christians ratified a Constitution that did not in any way establish “the United States as a Christian nation.”

Joseph Ellis On The Creation of A Secular State

[The Founding Fathers] created the first wholly secular state. Before the American Revolution it was broadly assumed that shared religious convictions were the primary basis for the common values that linked together the people of any political community, indeed the ideological glue that made any sense of community possible. By insisting on the complete separation of church and state, the founders successfully overturned this long-standing presumption.

Cross posted at The Moderate Voice

Please Share

Discrimination Versus Personal Property Rights

gay-wedding-cake

Kathy Gill at The Moderate Voice voice (where I am now cross posting many of the posts from Liberal Values) looks at discrimination in 1964 and today, leading me to think about the ramifications of government action in this area. There are certainly parallels, and maybe differences, between discrimination against blacks then and gays today. She looked at some current legal cases:

This week, Tennessee State Sen. Brian Kelsey filed legislation (SB 2566) that would “allow people and businesses to refuse to provide goods and services to homosexuals.” There’s an iPetition in opposition.

And in Oklahoma on Tuesday, a similar bill overwhelmingly passed the House of Representatives: 72-42.

[House Bill 2453] would allow hotels, restaurants and stores in the state to refuse to serve gay couples if “it would be contrary to their sincerely held religious beliefs.” The bill would also allow government clerks to refuse to sign same-sex marriage licenses without threat of a lawsuit.

Up in South Dakota, State Senator Ernie Otten has introduced two bills to protect discrimination on the wedding day; the bills would “protect clergy, church officials and businesspeople who refuse to take part in gay marriages or receptions.”

Don Frankenfeld, of Rapid City, a member of Equality South Dakota, said he believes the bill dealing with clergy is irrelevant because the constitutional separation of church and state protects clergy members from being forced to perform any ceremony that runs counter to their beliefs.

Frankenfeld said the measure dealing with businesses seems to be an assault on the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, which was passed mostly to prevent businesses from refusing service to black people.

The ACLU is filing a lawsuit in Missouri today, according to news reports. In Colorado, a baker refused to sell a wedding cake to a gay couple; he was found guilty of discrimination and has appealed the decision.

If we were only looking at isolated cases of a business practicing discrimination, I would have mixed feelings on cases such as this in terms of the role of government. I certainly object to the actions of businesses which refuse discriminate against blacks or gays, and I consider both comparable forms of discrimination.

However the libertarian part of me wonders to what degree someone has the right to decide who they will associate with and do business with, regardless of whether I (and hopefully most others) find their decisions objectionable. I will sometimes refuse to see a patient who repeatedly behaves inappropriately in the office, is non-compliant with treatment recommendations, or is violating policies related to use of controlled substances. That is far different than refusing to see someone based upon race or sexual preference, which I would find totally unjustified. However where do we draw the line for the decisions of others? Plus it is less meaningful to refuse to sell a wedding case than to refuse to allow someone in a medical practice.

In the case of civil rights legislation in the south, the need for government action was clear. Widespread policies turned a group of people into second class citizens and the government had a necessary role in remedying the situation, countering the libertarian position of keeping government out of the decisions of business owners. However, if an isolated restaurant, baker, or photographer discriminates against a group (either blacks or gays) the best thing might simply be for decent people to take their business elsewhere.

It is a different matter when the state goes the other direction to protect the right of people to discriminate. I might have mixed feelings regarding cases such as an individual baker (assuming there are other bakers available). The role of government goes beyond coercive laws. While it is too often not the case, in a society based upon self-government we should be able to look towards our legislative bodies to promote our better selves, not to promote discrimination. There is no question that state laws to “protect” this form of discrimination send the wrong message and will lead to such discrimination becoming more widespread, and this must be avoided.

On a related note, a federal judge has struck down a Kentucky ban on recognition of gay marriages from other states, saying it violates the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection under the law.

Cross posted at The Moderate Voice

Please Share

John Kerry Warns Of A Trend Towards Authoritarianism In Eastern Europe–Don’t Forget Our Problems At Home

John Kerry has warned about a disturbing trend of authoritarianism in Eastern Europe. He is probably right, but what about that trend here? The Republican Party has made voter suppression a major part of their electoral strategy, along with continuing the Southern Strategy based upon racism and now xenophobia. The party of small government increasingly advocates using the power of government to infringe upon the private lives of individuals. They claim to support capitalism while they work to redistribute the nation’s wealth and replace our system with a plutocracy.

An informed electorate is essential to the workings of a democracy but the Republicans use their propaganda machine, such as Fox, to intentionally spread misinformation. They have been preventing the normal workings of a legislative branch, meeting on election night to organize to oppose any measures initiated by Obama, regardless of the merits, how needed they are, or even if they are former Republican positions. They talk of supporting the Constitution, but it is a version of the Constitution which exists only in their heads, and is not what was intended by the Founding Fathers. They totally deny the essential liberties in the First Amendment intended to form a secular state as they promote the agenda of the religious right. Even their so-called libertarians don’t have a very good record with regards to supporting liberty.

Please Share

Pew Survey Finds Nine Point Drop In Republicans Who Believe in Evolution Compared To 2009

Pew Research Center has released a study on public attitudes on evolution versus creationism.   In contrast to a Harris poll released last week, Pew does not find an increase in the number who believe in evolution but shows a significantly higher percentage of people who do:

According to a new Pew Research Center analysis, six-in-ten Americans (60%) say that “humans and other living things have evolved over time,” while a third (33%) reject the idea of evolution, saying that “humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time.” The share of the general public that says that humans have evolved over time is about the same as it was in 2009, when Pew Research last asked the question.

The Harris poll, which was an online poll compared to Pew survey based upon telephone interviews, found that “Forty-seven percent say they believe in Darwin’s theory of evolution, compared to 42 percent in 2005.”

As expected, both polls showed the same partisan breakdown:

There are sizable differences among partisan groups in beliefs about evolution. Republicans are less inclined than either Democrats or political independents to say that humans have evolved over time. Roughly two-thirds of Democrats (67%) and independents (65%) say that humans have evolved over time, compared with less than half of Republicans (43%).

The size of the gap between partisan groups has grown since 2009. Republicans are less inclined today than they were in 2009 to say that humans have evolved over time (43% today vs. 54% in 2009), while opinion among both Democrats and independents has remained about the same.

This is consistent with the increased polarization between the two parties. Belief in creationism corresponds with Republican attitudes of hostility towards science along with the tendency of Republicans to accept an entire world view which is divorced from reality. Often belief in creationism can be seen as a marker that someone has been taken in by the right-wing narrative and accepts the many other falsehoods they spread.

There are other demographic differences, such as the young and more educated being more likely to believe in evolution. Taking additional factors into account did not explain the partisan differences. If is far more likely that this is a sign of the basic differences between the two parties, even if I remain disappointed that a sizable number of Democrats also believe in creationism. This is partially due to the Democrats being more of a big tent party which might be good from the perspective of long-term political potential, but which also shows that there are limitations to the Democratic Party’s ability to be a force for liberal change. While I would like to see Democratic candidates more forcefully defend separation of church and state and be able to use disbelief in evolution as an argument against Republicans, the overall degree of both social conservatism and scientific ignorance in this country makes this unlikely to happen in the near future. As the next generation ages and gets out to vote, this could change.

Please Share

Why Conservatism Has Failed

The Republican Party and the conservative movement operate in a Bizzaro World where whatever they say is frequently the opposite of fact. Republicans claim to be the party of individual liberty and small government while promoting a government which is more intrusive in the private lives of individuals and the party which is far more responsible for increasing the deficit. They regularly deny the racism which is a major component of their views and the manner in which they promote create fear of minorities with their arguments against a social safety net.  This conservative lack of awareness is fully on display in John Hawkin’s arguments on Why Liberalism Is On The Wrong Side Of History.

Hawkins began with the usual erroneous claim that liberals, who have historically been the party of defending liberty, stand for the opposite:

Liberals dream of one day seeing all Americans permanently locked in the smothering, cradle-to-grave death grip of the nanny state. Nothing excites a liberal more than the idea of controlling where you go to school, regulating your work and play, deciding what type of health care you’re going to have and then deciding when you get to retire and how much money you have when you do. Even if you want to choose, you can’t. Even if you want to break free, you’re stuck. You’re not allowed to make different choices because liberals have made it illegal.

Such projection of conservative views is seen throughout the article which distorts liberal beliefs while ignoring the fact that it is the conservatives who have been promoting restrictions on reproductive rights and using the power of the state to tell people who they may or may not marry. It is Republicans who seek to use the power of government to impose their religious views on everyone.  Melissa McEwan has discussed this further.

Conservative views on liberty become more understandable when we understand that to conservatives, freedom frequently means the freedom to impose their religious views upon others, the freedom to avoid contributing to the social safety net, and the freedom from even necessary government economic regulations.

Lacking reality-based arguments, Hawkins resorted to an imaginary mischaracterization of liberal views:

The problem with that is not so much liberals living how they want to live; it’s that liberals want to force everyone else to live how they want to live. They don’t like guns; so no one should have guns. They like gay marriage; so everyone must be forced to like gay marriage. They like PBS; so everyone should be forced to pay for PBS…

If Justin Bieber is at the top of the pop charts, should EVERYONE be forced to listen to Justin Bieber? If Duck Dynasty is popular, should EVERYONE be forced to watch Duck Dynasty? If the two most popular foods in America turn out to be hotdogs and chocolate ice cream, should EVERYONE have to eat those two foods at every meal? We laugh at this sort of thinking in the marketplace, but that’s exactly the philosophy liberals have with government.

In reality, liberals believe in a system which results in a wide variety of views. Unlike many conservative, liberals encourage and support a wide variety individual choice–not only in popular culture but in life styles.

Considering recent headlines, it is not surprising that Hawkins distorts the Affordable Care Act with no recognition that the individual mandate was an option of a position long-promoted by conservatives, and that Obamacare provides people with more choices in health care. While liberalism has promoted a market economy, liberals recognize that there are areas where the market fails, such as in the financing of health care. The Affordable Care Act is giving choices to people who were denied health care coverage due to having medical problems–a fundamental failing of the old system. Supporting a solution using government in such situations is far different from conservative use of government to try to ban abortions, impose vaginal probes on women, restrict access to contraception, ban same-sex marriage, and prevent the use of marijuana, even for medical needs.

The historical trend has been towards liberalism. Some liberal gains of the past when government did impose restrictions, such as prohibiting child labor, are now widely accepted. Social Security and Medicare are considered essential portions of the social safety net by most people. We have reached a tipping point in which same-sex marriage is rapidly being accepted, and ending marijuana prohibition will probably follow soon after. Conservatives are on the wrong side of history–and their problem is only exacerbated when they show how they are out of touch with reality when they claim to be the party which supports liberty.

Please Share

Almost Two Thirds Of Conservative Republicans Support Basing Policy Decisions On Religious Views

There’s a lot of other issues in this poll, but here’s the question I was most interested in from this ABC News/Fusion poll:

Fewer than half of all adults, 45 percent, say political leaders should rely somewhat or a great deal on their religious beliefs when making policy decisions. But again the range is wide: Six in 10 conservatives, as many Republicans and 65 percent of conservative Republicans hold this view. That falls sharply to 39 percent of Democrats and independents alike, four in 10 moderates and 32 percent of liberals.

Not much of a surprise, showing both the theocratic viewpoint of the Republican Party and how their view on this differs from the views of Democrats, independents, and the founding fathers of the United States.

Please Share

The New American Center Is Socially Liberal

I would take the exact numbers in this NBC News-Equire Poll with a grain of salt but the overall trend is what we would have expected. The country is more liberal on social issues and conservatives are losing the culture wars. Results are more mixed in some other areas. From their summary of results:

The new American center has a socially progressive streak, supporting gay marriage (64 percent), the right to an abortion for any reason within the first trimester (63 percent), and legalized marijuana (52 percent). Women, workers and the marginal would also benefit if the center had its way, supporting paid sick leave (62 percent); paid maternity leave (70 percent); tax-subsidized childcare to help women return to work (57 percent); and a federal minimum wage hike to no less than $10 per hour (67 percent).

But the center leans rightward on the environment, capital punishment, and diversity programs. Majorities support offshore drilling (81 percent) and the death penalty (90 percent), and the end of affirmative action in hiring and education (57 percent). Most people in the center believe respect for minority rights has gone overboard, in general, harming the majority in the process (63 percent). And just one in four support immigration reforms that would provide a path to citizenship for those who came here illegally.

They found the following results regarding religion and guns:

Religion is not a major part of the Center’s life, and it firmly believes that religion has no place in the public sphere. Meanwhile: Even though about a third of those in the Center own guns, an overwhelming plurality have no problem with background checks…

The Center is less religious than the Right, and—surprise!—it’s less religious than the Left, too, and here’s why: Members of the Gospel Left (the ones who broke 99 to 1 for Obama in 2012) are second only to the Righteous Right for how important religion is to them. Unlike their fellow believers on the Right, though, more than half of the Gospel Left feels that religion should not play a role in public life.

Please Share

Nick Gillespie’s Five Myths About Libertarians

Nick Gillespie of Reason had an op-ed in The Washington Post yesterday on Five Myths About Libertarians. Here’s my take on these alleged myths, which generally have some degree of truth but are not necessarily completely true:

1. Libertarians are a fringe band of “hippies of the right.”

The classic description that libertarians who have smoked marijuana is true (even if simplistic) about many but certainly not all. There are libertarians on the left and right, but this doesn’t have as much electoral significance as Gillespie suggests when writing:

Libertarians are found across the political spectrum and in both major parties. In September 2012, the Reason-Rupe Poll found that about one-quarter of Americans fall into the roughly libertarian category of wanting to reduce the government’s roles in economic and social affairs. That’s in the same ballpark as what other surveys have found and more than enough to swing an election.

Looking beyond the likelihood that a Reason poll might tilt the questions and definitions towards such a finding, there are vast differences between right-libertarians and left-libertarians. Sure, if there was a Democratic candidate who is terrible (as very many are) on civil liberties and social issues it is conceivable I might vote for a libertarian Republican for the Senate who might provide a strong voice for some issues I support. Of course this would not include someone like Rand Paul. Left-libertarians see the issues which impact individual liberty far differently from right-libertarians, many of whom don’t even support abortion rights. Left-libertarians disagree with right-libertarians as to the importance of some regulation of the economy, realizing that markets are human inventions which require regulation to function. Many of the left-libertarians who are not thrilled with ObamaCare prefer a single payer system which directly conflicts with the core values of right libertarians. There is simply a huge gap between different people who might be lumped together as libertarians in such a poll.

Left-libertarians and right-libertarians are unlikely to join together to swing an election, but there is hope that the two could exert pressure on both Republicans and Democrats to change some of their policies in areas where the two groups agree.

2. Libertarians don’t care about minorities or the poor.

Few outside the libertarian movement really buy their claims that libertarianism helps the poor. Democratic economic policies may not be libertarian (nor are they socialist) but the historical fact remains that the economy does better under Democrats. As opposed to the right wing view of trickle-down economics, a rising tide under Democrats is more likely to raise all ships. Where this doesn’t work, the social safety-net which libertarians oppose remains necessary. On the other hand I do agree with Gillespie to a degree that there are areas where it would be beneficial to reduce regulations on small business. That said, I run a small business and do manage to survive with all the regulations in place.

Gillespie is right about the drug war, which is largely a war on poor minorities. What other result is possible after you imprison minorities for drug possession, and then release them from prison with a criminal record which makes it very difficult to ever get a  job?

3. Libertarianism is a boys’ club.

He is right here. There have been prominent libertarians among libertarian intellectual leaders. I have known female libertarians. They do exist.

4. Libertarians are pro-drug, pro-abortion and anti-religion.

As I mentioned above, it is a favorable characteristic that libertarians oppose the drug war (which is not the same as supporting drug use). Having thirty percent of libertarians opposing abortion rights is a negative.

Saying any political group is anti-religion is likely to be fallacious. Republicans have often claimed Democrats are anti-religion but the percentage of atheists among Democrats is fairly low (even if  higher than among Republicans). The difference is that liberals who are religious see religion far differently than conservatives, and do not have the desire to use government to impose their religious views upon others.

Some libertarians are quite hostile to religion. Ayn Rand (who didn’t actually consider herself part of the libertarian movement) has writings as  hostile towards religion as to socialism (which in her mind would include the views of Democrats). On the other hand, there are some called libertarians such as Ron Paul and Rand Paul who support many of the views of the religious right, and whose  philosophy is not one I would consider to be pro-freedom. I have discussed Ron Paul’s anti-freedom views at length here. People of the old right such as Ron Paul also carry much of their baggage including racism, creating further problems when considering libertarians and minorities.

5. Libertarians are destroying the Republican Party.

On the one hand Republicans do need a reboot in their ideas. It is a good sign when some Republicans join some Democrats on issues such as opposing violations of privacy rights from NSA surveillance programs. On the other hand, opposing all government activity regardless of importance just pulls Republicans further from mainstream views.

 

Please Share

Republicans Win Another Battle In War Against Women But Will Lose The War

Texas shirt hanger

The old Republican Party would talk about abortion during elections but wouldn’t dream of actually trying to restrict abortions and the issue was forgotten between elections. Country Club Republicans didn’t really want to lose this option should their own daughters get pregnant. Republican strategists were wary of the outcome, realizing that making abortion a true political issue would turn their party into a regional party without chance of success beyond the conservative areas of the country. That has already occurred, so perhaps they have nothing more to lose.  In the old days, Republican leaders considered the religious right a bunch of kooks as they sought their votes and contributions. Now the kooks are in control of the Republican Party.

Texas today passed harsh restrictions on abortion rights, contrary to the right to privacy inherent in the Constitution as upheld by the Supreme Court.  Of course the conservative activist judges who have been working to change the United States into a right wing Bizarro World which our Founding Fathers would not recognize might go along with these Republican attempts to restrict the basic human right to control one’s own body. Conservatives have been spreading a revisionist history for the past several years denying the separation of church and state which this nation was founded upon.

Placing these restrictions on abortion rights is part of a trend:

In the first six months of this year, a total of 47 line items restricting abortion have been enacted in 18 states, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a New York-based research group that supports abortion rights. Perry’s signing of the Texas legislation would bring the 2013 count to 52 restrictions in 19 states.

That midyear tally is the second-highest of all time, surpassed only by 2011, when 80 line-item restrictions were enacted in 19 states.

The Republicans will enjoy such political victories in the short run. They are aided in many states by advantages gained in 2010 when voters were conned into thinking they were voting for jobs, not the agenda of the religious right. In the long run, this will just accelerate the trend for Republicans to be unable to be elected outside of the most authoritarian portions of the country. Demographic trends may make even victories in some Republican areas more difficult. The authoritarians of the Republican Party share the tendency of authoritarian groups to support racism and xenophobia. Even Texas might not be a safe Republican state in another decade. Look at the electoral map and try to figure out how Republicans have any chance of winning a national election without Texas, after losing other large states such as Ohio and Florida.

Please Share