Nullification by campaign statement

blindfolded-2025474_640President Trump’s revised travel ban is before the courts again.

Once more, the main argument against it seems to be that Trump showed an opposition to Muslim immigrants and visitors during the campaign.  Therefore, although president usually have authority in such matters, because of his campaign statements his executive order is invalid.

This makes no sense at all.  How can an action be illegal just because a candidate campaigned on it?   That would prevent politicians from fulfilling their campaign promises and would make representative democracy pretty much impossible.  The argument is that Trump’s campaign statements show that the order is biased against Muslims, but a law has to stand or fall on what it says in its own terms, not in the motivations of the person who proposed it.  My understanding is that this revised order specifically precludes discrimination against Muslims, as such.

Or have liberals been persuaded by conservative legal theorists and adopted an extreme version of “originalism,” whereby the lawmakers’ original intention determines the meaning of a law?  If so, we should expect liberals to stop invoking “the living constitution” and to start agreeing with conservatives on what the constitution means.

In the hearing before the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Virginia, the judge pressed the ACLU attorney on his advocacy of nullification by campaign statement.  The attorney lurched towards an even more extreme version of relativism.  He said, in effect, that if Hillary Clinton had issued the travel restrictions, they could be constitutional.  But since Donald Trump ordered them, they are not constitutional. [Read more…]

Challenges for conservative churches in Scandinavia

ScandinaviaIn Finland, I taped three programs for the Christian television network.  The host, Leif Nummela, is a well-known figure in confessional Lutheran circles and in Scandinavian Christian circles in general.  On his program, Bible Café, we had wonderful discussions of the Bible, Grace, and Vocation (Luther’s three major contributions to Christendom as a whole).  The network goes out not only to Finland but to Sweden, Estonia, and Russia.

Finland is more religiously diverse than I had realized.  There are quite a few Pentecostals–I talked to a campus pastor from that tradition who said that one of his church’s problems is combatting the Prosperity Gospel–and American style evangelicals (Reformed, Baptist, non-denominational, etc.), though that term is mostly used in the old sense to refer to “Lutherans.”  And Emil showed us congregations of Adventists, Baptists, Methodists, Catholics, and Orthodox.  There is even a Mormon Temple in Finland, as well as mosques.  Most of the programming on TV7 is from the Pentecostal and general evangelical perspective.

Leif told me about some of the challenges for conservative congregations and church bodies in Finland and in Scandinavia as a whole. [Read more…]

The Republican defeat on the spending bill they passed

3237249328_4313b14e58_z (2)Republicans control the presidency, the House of Representatives, and the Senate.  And yet, in passing the spending bill to keep the government funded through September, Republicans gave away just about everything they stood for in order to get Democratic votes.

President Trump had proposed major cuts to make up for increased spending in defense and a few other areas.  The spending was increased, but the proposed cuts were dropped.

President Trump wanted to cut out funding for the arts and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.  These survived.  So did funding for Planned Parenthood.

Some agencies that Trump wanted to cut actually had their funding increased.

Are Republicans incapable of governing?  Is their party effective only when it is in opposition?

[Read more…]

The French set-back for global Trumpism

2014.11.17_Emmanuel_Macron_Ministre_de_l_economie_de_lindustrie_et_du_numerique_at_Bercy_for_Global_Entrepreneurship_Week_(7eme_CAE_conference_annuelle_des_entrepreneurs)Many observers thought that the ascendancy of Donald Trump and Great Britain’s vote to leave the European Union heralded a new movement in global politics, with nationalism and anti-immigration sentiment casting out establishment governments.

But in the French presidential election on Sunday, the anti-immigrant, pro-nationalistic Marine LePen was defeated in a landslide by centrist Emmanuel Macron, who won on a pro-immigrant, pro-European Union platform.

And yet there still may be something to the notion that Trump heralds a new anti-establishment political movement.  Macron won as an independent, without the support of any of the established political parties.  Both the leftwing and the rightwing parties that have dominated French politics for decades were shut out of the election.

Maybe the real contribution of the Trump phenomenon is the repudiation of conventional party politics.

[Read more…]

Open communion that includes Muslims

2295355354_e65354babd_zIn Atlanta during Holy Week, the entire diocese of the Episcopal Church held a Mass in which the clergy renewed their ordination vows.  This was also an interfaith service.

The Scripture readings included a text from the Quran.  A Muslim woman gave the sermon.  Then, during the Eucharist, the Bishop communed her.

He later explained that his diocese practices “open communion.”  (Even for the unbaptized?  For non-Christians?)

The Muslim woman received the Host.  But, as a good Muslim, she declined the Wine.

At least someone in the service was faithful to her religion.

 

Illustration: Interfaith Banner, photograph by Sean, Flickr, Creative Commons License
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Trump signs religious liberty order

30279870283_985b3bfa2f_zPresident Trump issued an executive order on religious liberty.  It allows churches and other religious and charitable organizations to carry out political action without worrying about losing their tax-exempt status.  It also exempts religious groups from having to fund contraceptives under Obamacare.

But it does not provide what many religious groups were hoping for and what many secular groups feared:  There is no exemption from anti-discrimination laws for those who object to LGBT issues on moral or religious grounds.

The executive order does not change the law.  It just directs the IRS and the health care system to exercise “maximum enforcement discretion” in levying penalties.

A bill has been introduced in Congress to repeal the Johnson Amendment, which restricts tax-exempt non-profits, including churches, from endorsing candidates and carrying out overt political activity.

Some fear that eliminating the restriction could further politicize religion and turn churches into “dark money shops” for political candidates.  And this religious liberty advocate says the order is “worse than useless.”

Is this the kind of religious liberty protection that is needed today?

 

[Read more…]