How to criminalize Christianity

The United States has freedom of religion, and to say Christians are “persecuted” here is surely overblown, compared to how Christians are treated in other parts of the world.  And yet, overt persecution could conceivably break out even in this land of the free.  But how, given this country’s constitutional guarantees of freedom of religion and freedom of speech?

We are seeing some of the ways this could happen and to a degree is already happening.  The right to religious freedom can be played against other rights that are considered more important.  Thus, religious opposition to certain kinds of sinful behavior can be treated as illegal discrimination.  A Christian’s disagreement with other religions can be outlawed as hate speech.

Another legal argument is taking shape in Georgia, where a college is being sued for not permitting a Christian student from preaching the Gospel, even though he had reserved space in one of the two campus “Free Speech Zones.”  (That a college allows free speech only in “zones” is itself a travesty, both of the ideals of higher education and of American law.  According to the Constitution, the whole nation is to be a free speech zone.)

The college is defending itself on the grounds that the preaching constituted “disorderly conduct.”  And that by calling people “sinners,” the preacher was using “fighting words,” which are legally outside the bounds of free speech.

One can envision a time when the freedom of religion applies only to religions that are universalist, permissive, non-proselytzing, and culturally-conforming.  That is to say, hardly any actual religions. [Read more…]

Murder by text

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Seventeen-year-old Michelle Carter had a boyfriend, Conrad Roy, who was 18.  Conrad was plagued by suicidal thoughts, which he talked over with Michelle, particularly via texts.  Michelle urged him to do it.

One night he took a gasoline-powered water pump into his pickup truck and rolled up the windows.  He started it, intending to die of carbon monoxide poisoning.

But then he had second thoughts.  He got out of the vehicle.  He texted Michelle.

She replied, telling him to get back into the truck.  He did.

Michelle has been convicted of manslaughter. [Read more…]

Paying to upgrade your accommodations in prison

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Convicted felons in California can often upgrade their prison cells–for a price.  For $100 a night, the cost of an inexpensive hotel, prisoners can serve their time in a city jail that will offer them a flat screen TV, new beds, and the use of a computer.  Not to mention less brutality.

Letting prisoners pay for improved conditions is not new.  In jolly olde England, those who could pay could be attended by their servants and fed haute cuisine, while lower class criminals rotted in the dismasted ships that served as “prison hulks.”  The nobility could stay in the palatial prisons of the Tower of London, until a courteous Executioner introduced them to Death, that great leveler.

But it’s strange to hear about such arrangements in a nation dedicated to equality before the Law.

Do you think this so-called “pay-to-stay” program is a legitimate way for the criminal justice system to save money on expensive incarcerations?  Or is it a two-tiered justice system favoring the wealthy?

Read about the details after the jump.

[Read more…]

Gunman attacks Republican congressmen

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Seventeen Republican congressmen, two senators, and various staffers, family members, and friends (26 in all) were practicing in an Alexandria park for the annual congressional baseball game.  (After the jump, see the complete list of who was there.)

A man approached, asking a departing lawmaker if the group were Democrats or Republicans.  He then went to the ball field, took out a rifle, and started shooting.

House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-Louisiana) was critically injured.  So was lobbyist Matt Mika.  Also wounded were Zachary Barth, a staffer for Rep. Roger Williams, and two Capitol Police officers, David Bailey and Krystal Griner.

Though wounded, the officers–who were only there because Rep. Scalise as a House leader had a security detail–shot and killed the gunman.  If it weren’t for them, said Sen. Rand Paul who was on the field, it would have been a “massacre.”

The shooter was James T. Hodgkinson, 66, from Belleville, Illinois, was a liberal activist who posted on his FaceBook account, “It’s time to destroy Trump and company.” Details, including his various affiliations, can be found at Smoking Gun. 

 

Photo by  Zennie Abraham,  Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), Flickr, Creative Commons License

[Read more…]

NSA report says Russia hacked voting technology company

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The big news is that a leaker of top secret intelligence information has been arrested.  But what she leaked is unsettling.

The National Security Association report given to a reporter by a 25-year-old intelligence contractor named Reality Leigh Winner documents a Russian hack of a company that provides voting technology software, including systems that handle absentee voting and voter registration lists.  The Russian operation also targeted local election officials.  This took place shortly before election day.

No, nothing implicates Donald Trump, and the effects of the hack, if any, are unknown.  But this would make it appear that the Russians were attempting to wreak havoc with American democracy in a more direct way than was previously thought. [Read more…]

Now someone in the administration is leaking British secrets

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President Trump has been bedeviled by someone in his administration leaking damaging information about him and his staff.  Now someone in his administration is leaking British secrets!  About the Manchester terror attack, no less.

British law enforcement agencies shared photographs of evidence in the terror attack–a bloody backpack, an electronic device, and a piece of shrapnel.  Within hours, the photographs appeared in the New York Times!

The Brits were so angry that they suspended information sharing with the United States because it is no longer secure.  Prime Minister Theresa May went so far as to say that the “special relationship” between the two countries was in jeopardy.

U.S. officials gave assurances and the information sharing was restored.  And President Trump, already on a crusade to stamp out leaks, vowed to find and punish the culprit.

But now the problem of the White House leaking like a sieve is impacting another country and endangering an anti-terrorist investigation!

[Read more…]