Happy Independence Day

Happy 4th of July, when we celebrate a time when the Tea Party was a symbol of freedom, as opposed to today when the Tea Party has become the symbol of plutocracy, oligarchy, and suppressing religious freedom.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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President Sarah Palin, A Horror Story

Politico describes Christian Nation, a novel by Fred Rich about Sarah Palin becoming president after McCain Palin won in 2008 and John McCain subsequently dying in office:

And although it’s fiction, Rich is dead serious about what a Palin presidency would mean for the country. As the title suggest, Rich is concerned about how religious extremists on the right could upend society.

“If somebody like Sarah Palin, who holds so firmly to this conviction that America is and should be a Christian nation, what would happen if she actually had the power to implement it?” Rich says his book “paints a picture of what that path would look like.”

“How could the federal courts, which are the only defense against all the nonsense you see out of the state legislatures, how could the federal court system be neutralized? What legislative strategies could the Christian right pursue were they in control of the Congress? It shows that it’s not impossible or unthinkable for them to actually be able to implement that agenda.”

What would happen, according to Rich and the book is a government that claims to speak for God and policies based solely on the Bible, which would overwhelming hurt gay Americans.

While we could expect the First Amendment to be ignored in a Palin administration, the problem isn’t limited to Sarah Palin. Rich also looked at the 2012 candidates for the Republican nomination, pointing out that“you had all but two or three who are largely motivated by very strong, very conservative Christian beliefs.” It does not appear that 2016 will be any better.

Rich further warns that we must take what these Republican candidates say seriously, and not write it off as pandering to the base:

“The biggest mistake that we can make is that we don’t believe that they believe what they say. And for many of them, they do mean exactly what they say. If you think that the rapture is going to come in your lifetime, if you believe as many of them do that hell is a physical place where you’re confined to for all eternity, these things motivate you.”

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Happy 4th of July

Today, on Independence Day, we celebrate principles which this country was founded upon, including individual liberty, separation of church and state, self-government by the people, and a broad-based market economy as opposed to the plutocracy promoted by conservatives.

It is a shame that one group, the Tea Party, has appropriated an image from the American Revolution when they definitely would have been Tories if around at the time, and now, like so many conservatives, oppose this American experiment in self-government.

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Rand Paul Making Sense On Civil Liberties–But Where Libertarians Go Wrong

Sometimes Rand Paul makes a lot of sense, such as when saying that the surviving suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing should be tried in civilian as opposed to military courts (which many other Republicans have been advocating):

“You know, I want to congratulate law enforcement for getting and capturing these terrorists, first of all, but what we do with them, I think we can still preserve the Bill of Rights, I see no reason why our Constitution is not strong enough to convict this young man with a jury trial, with the Bill of Rights,” Paul (R-Ky.) said on “Cavuto” on Fox Business Network. “We do it to horrible people all of the time: Rapists and murderers, they get lawyers, they get trials with juries. We seem to do a pretty good job of justice. So I think we can do it with our court system.”

If only Rand Paul and other libertarians would stick more to civil liberties issues. Then they would sound much more rational and we would have more in common with them.

I think that one reason Rand Paul and many other libertarians come across as crackpots is the company they keep. The close affiliation between libertarianism and the conservative movement has been disastrous for libertarianism. You can’t mix a pro-freedom philosophy with the views of the authoritarian right and remain consistently pro-freedom (or make much sense).

The Rand (and Ron) Paul form of libertarianism has many of the negative attributes of the far right. In the case of Ron Paul this has included racism, but this isn’t universal to all libertarians who became influenced by conservative views. This also includes support for states’ rights, which opposes excessive government power at the national level but often allows for far more restrictions on liberty at the state level (frequently at the expense of minorities.)

Many libertarians ignore religious liberty while promoting what they would describe as economic liberty. In some cases they are right to oppose unfair restrictions on business and counter-productive regulations. Far too often this really translates into opposing the types of regulation which are necessary for a free economy to work. They believe that markets are something arising from nature which must be left without restrictions, failing to realize that markets are creations of man which only work with a certain amount of regulation. This must come from government, not always Adam Smith’s invisible hand. In the worst cases, libertarianism is used to justify lack of activity against powerful business interests who exploit the pubic or harm the environment. They universally support business over government. While government is not always right in such disputes, when the system is working government provides a means for the public to work in unison against special interests which are too powerful for individuals to take on.

Many libertarians aligned with the conservative movement  have adopted views of the religious right, failing to realize that mixing religion with government is one of the greatest threats to freedom we face.

Libertarians would be much more consistent supporters of individual liberty (as opposed to being opponents of government action on a national level) if they continued their support of civil liberties but also  recognized the importance of separation of church and state, while giving up racism, state’s rights, and a knee-jerk opposition to economic regulation where it is needed. Of course those who hold this viewpoint are better known as liberals.

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Conservative Opposition To Keeping Government Out Of Our Private Lives

Bert and Ernie Equality

Having arguments brought before the Supreme Court on same sex marriage has highlighted the division in this country over social issues. While liberals respect the rights of individuals to live their lives as they choose, social conservatives demonstrate the fiction of conservative support for small government or individual liberty. It is conservatives who support the use of big government to impose their views upon others.

Differing from conservative views, the posts showing up on my Facebook page are covered with graphics supporting marriage equality, with many people changing their profile pictures to ones such as above and below:

Peanuts Equality

 

There is no rational argument to support using the government to impose one’s religious views upon others. The Founding Fathers certainly frowned upon this when they developed a secular government with separation of church and state. The modern conservative movement, which is both morally bankrupt and out of touch with reality, sees things differently. Here’s the dumb conservative question of the day from  The Brody File: Are Evangelicals Now More Scorned than Homosexuals? Of course Evangelicals who seek to impose their religious views upon others should be scorned. Why does the religious right believe there is a reason that homosexuals should be scorned.

Liberal Family Values

With growing majorities supporting marriage equality, there is even speculation that the Republican Party will give up on this issue. Others will continue to fight modern times and reality. Mike Huckabee responded to the prospect of Republicans supporting same sex marriage: “if they do, they’re going to lose a large part of their base because evangelicals will take a walk.” Of course this would hasten the demise of the Republicans as a national political party.

Some conservatives are supporting continued discrimination based upon biblical reasons, which have no place in our system of government. I’ve even seen some claim that it is their freedom of religion which is being infringed upon. To the religious right, freedom of religion means the “freedom” to impose their religious views upon others.

Drastically Wrong

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Religious Right Fears Losing Influence In GOP

The religious right has always had an awkward relationship with the Republican Party. Prior to the Bush years, party regulars wanted their votes, but also regarded them as the kooks of the party and threw them a limited number of bones when in office. Their influence grew when one of their own became president in 2001. Since then it has become clear that, unless they change their ways, the Republican Party is on a path to extinction outside of the deep south and scattered other bible belts. This became painfully obvious to Republican leaders after the 2012 election. Now that the party is trying to change their appearance (but unfortunately too few policies), the religious right is getting nervous:

Some leaders of the religious right are openly worried this week after a sprawling 98-page report released by the Republican National Committee on how the party can rebuild after its 2012 implosion made no mention of the GOP’s historic alliance with grassroots Christian “value voters.”

Specifically, the word “Christian” does not appear once in the party’s 50,000-word blueprint for renewed electoral success. Nor does the word “church.” Abortion and marriage, the two issues that most animate social conservatives, are nowhere to be found. There is nothing about the need to protect religious liberty, or promote Judeo-Christian values in society. And the few fleeting suggestions that the party coordinate with “faith-based communities” — mostly in the context of minority outreach — receive roughly as much space as the need to become more “inclusive” of gays.

To many religious conservatives, the report was interpreted as a slight against their agenda and the hard work they have done for the party.

“The report didn’t mention religion much, if at all,” said Tim Wildmon, president of the American Family Association. “You cannot grow your party by distancing yourself from your base, and this report doesn’t reinforce the values that attracted me and many other people into the Republican Party in the first place. It just talks about reaching out to other groups.”

Sandy Rios, an Evangelical radio host and Fox News contributor, said the RNC report’s proposals amount to a “namby-pamby” abdication of religious values, and warned that the party could soon lose the grassroots engine that has powered its electoral victories for decades.

The Republicans have  problems both with the viewpoint of the religious right and with the political ramifications of ignoring them. The word “Christian” or any other religious label should not be in a political party’s blueprint, at least if they respect the Founding Fathers and the principle of separation of church and state which this country was founded on. Protecting religious liberty and promoting religious views are mutually exclusive to those who understand what religious liberty means. Of course to the religious right, freedom of religion means their freedom to impose their religious views upon others.

I suspect that even some Republicans understand this, but they also fear what will happen to the party if they lose the grassroots support from the religious right, and if they stay home on election day.

Sean Spicer, communications director for the RNC, said the party had no intention of distancing itself from its religious base.

“They are a critical part of our party, and moving forward, they have to continue to play that essential role,” Spicer said. “The goal of the report was to look at areas where we could do much better, and in areas that needs that substantial improvement [working with conservative Christians] may not be at the top of the list because they’ve always done a fabulous job.”

Spicer also insisted that while the GOP hopes to expand its coalition, “the principles in the party are sound” and would not be abandoned. Asked whether opposition to same-sex marriage was among those principles, he said, “Yes.”

Even if the Republicans tone down social issues during campaigns, this does not mean things will change should they win. Some in the religious right are outraged by the report, but others realize that Republicans will promote the same policies on social issues:

On the other hand, Ralph Reed, director of the Faith and Freedom Coalition and a former campaign adviser to George W. Bush, defended the RNC report, and the establishment leaders who spearheaded it.

“I know most of the members of the committee,” he said. “Some of them are personal friends of mine. I know Reince Priebus. He’s a deeply committed Christian. He’s pro-life, pro-marriage, and pro-family… and the Republican Party is going to stay that way.”

 

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