Pulpit Freedom Sunday

Yesterday had been declared “Pulpit Freedom Sunday” by a group of activist pastors and a conservative legal organization.  Over a thousand pastors purposefully violated the law by endorsing, by name, a political candidate, something non-profit organizations are not allowed to do.  They recorded their endorsement sermons and are all going to send a copy to the IRS.

The idea is to force the IRS to take action against them, setting up a court challenge on the grounds that the law violates the Constitution’s guarantees of freedom of speech and freedom of religion.  See Pastors to take on IRS in plan to preach politics from the pulpit | Fox News.

Did any of you pastors take part in this act of civil disobedience?  Did any of you attend a church where this happened?  Do you know of any Lutheran churches that participated (which would seem to be a clear violation not only of the secular law but of Lutheran doctrine with its Two Kingdoms theology)?

Doesn’t this violate Romans 13?  Shouldn’t the churches that did this lose their tax exempt status?  After all, civil disobedience includes taking the punishment for violating the law.  If churches want to exercise a political authority–something that the Reformation utterly opposed when the Pope did this sort of thing–shouldn’t they just abandon their tax exempt status so they can function like other political organizations?  Is it really unconstitutional?  Or is there a case to be made for Pulpit Freedom Sunday?  If so, what is it?

How illegal immigrants inflate the electoral college

Illegal immigrants and other non-citizens don’t have the right to vote, of course.  But, as required by the Constitution, they ARE counted in the census that determines the population of states for the allocation of congressional representatives.  That means a state with large numbers of non-citizens can get more electoral votes, which determine presidential elections, than it would have otherwise.  The breakdown favors the Democrats.  Leonard Steinhorn, a professor at American University, gives the analysis:

An Obama victory could hinge on a quirk in the Constitution that gives noncitizens, a group that includes illegal immigrants and legal permanent residents, a say in electing the president of the United States.

As required by Article I and the Fourteenth Amendment, the decennial census, which allocates to each state its congressional seats and Electoral College votes, is based on a count of all people who live in the United States, citizens and noncitizens alike — or as the Constitution phrases it, “the whole number of persons in each state.” That means millions of noncitizens who are ineligible to vote are included in Electoral College calculations, and that benefits some states over others. Most of these noncitizens are here legally; however, the Pew Hispanic Center estimates that about 45 percent of noncitizens are undocumented immigrants.

In 2010 and most previous years, the census did not inquire about citizenship, but the American Community Survey (ACS), which samples our population every month, includes a breakdown of citizens and noncitizens. Plugging the 2010 ACS citizen-only numbers into the Census Bureau’s apportionment formula shows that five states benefit electorally from their noncitizen populations: New York, Florida and Washington each gain one congressional seat and thus one Electoral College vote; Texas gains two; and California — with 5,516,920 noncitizens out of a total population of 37,341,989 — gains five.

Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, North Carolina, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Montana each lose a seat under the official formula as compared with an apportionment that counts citizens only. . . .

Looking at how the states might vote in November, there is no scenario in which Mitt Romney benefits from the inclusion of noncitizens in the Electoral College calculation, but there are several in which Obama could gain three to five Electoral College votes, thus deciding a close election.

via Without voting, noncitizens could swing the election for Obama – The Washington Post.

Prof. Steinhorn gives some reasons why it makes sense to count everybody, citizen or not, though he says the impact on presidential elections needs to be remedied by eliminating the electoral college.

Do you have any other solutions?  Or is this not really a problem?

Why do we even have a president?

Historian Kenneth C. Davis looks at the origin of the office of the President, something our Founders went round and round about at the Constitutional Convention.

In that steamy Philadelphia summer of 1787, as the Constitution was secretly being drafted and the plan for the presidency invented — “improvised” is more apt — the delegates weren’t sure what they wanted this new office to be. To patriots who had fought a war against a king, the thought of one person wielding great power, at the head of a standing army, gave them the willies.

Still, Hamilton asserted in the Federalist Papers that this experimental executive must have “energy” — a quality characterized by “decision, activity, secrecy and dispatch.” Hamilton knew that the times demanded bold action. Operating under the Articles of Confederation, a weak Congress had dithered through crisis and conflict, unable to collect taxes or raise an effective army. And the presidents of Congress — 14 of them from 1774 to 1788 — wielded nothing more threatening than a gavel. They couldn’t even answer a letter without congressional approval.

As the delegates to the Constitutional Convention sweltered behind closed windows, in the same Pennsylvania State House where the Declaration of Independence had been adopted 11 years earlier, they disagreed about many things. But no issue caused greater consternation than establishing an executive office to run the country.

Would this executive department be occupied by one man or a council of three? What powers would the executive have? How long would he hold office? How would the executive be chosen? And how would he be removed, if necessary? (Without an answer to this question, Ben Franklin warned, the only recourse would be assassination.)

On these questions, the record points down a tortuous path filled with uncertainty and sharp division. While some delegates feared creating a presidency that could become a “fetus of monarchy,” others called for an executive who could negotiate treaties and make appointments — or command an army if the nation was threatened. Or at least answer the mail. . . . [Read more…]

“Liking” as free speech

Well, the consensus as to my query about whether you would like a “like” feature in the comments seemed to be “dislike” and “thumbs down.”  (That’s what we need:  a voting plug-in so we can do polls and surveys!   I am curious about someone’s reference to a larger range of responses that someone has put together.  And maybe something to help people keep track of threads and responses.  We’ll look into some possibilities and maybe try some, letting you voice your opinion after the fact to see if you “like” a feature or not.)

I know for a fact, though, that some of you “dislike” some of the comments, enough to contact me offline about them.  Which means that it is probably time for another of my exhortations:  Don’t hijack topics!  Don’t resort to insults or name-calling!  Don’t be vicious!  And, for heaven’s sake, at some point, just let it rest.  You don’t need to have the last word.  I mean, what more can be said after 200 comments on William Tell, though notice that after 100 or so comments , we typically have drifted far away from the topic of William Tell or whatever it is.

But, in honor of the original topic, I offer this, showing the power and the vast constitutional implications of just hitting a “like” button:

Daniel Ray Carter Jr. logged on to Facebook and did what millions do each day: He “liked” a page by clicking the site’s thumbs up icon. The problem was that the page was for a candidate who was challenging his boss, the sheriff of Hampton, Va.

That simple mouse click, Carter says, caused the sheriff to fire him from his job as a deputy and put him at the center of an emerging First Amendment debate over the ubiquitous digital seal of approval: Is liking something on Facebook protected free speech?

Carter filed a lawsuit claiming that his First Amendment rights had been violated, and his case has reached the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit. This week, Facebook and the ACLU filed briefs supporting what they say is Carter’s constitutional right to express his opinion, signaling the case’s potentially precedent-setting nature.

The interest was sparked by a lower court’s ruling that “liking” a page does not warrant protection because it does not involve “actual statements.” If the ruling is upheld, the ACLU and others worry, a host of Web-based, mouse-click actions, such as re-tweeting (hitting a button to post someone else’s tweet on your Twitter account), won’t be protected as free speech.

via A Facebook court battle: Is ‘liking’ something protected free speech? – The Washington Post.

Do you think hitting a “like” button should count as free speech?  And while free speech means that the government must not punish people for expressing what they think, does free speech mean that individual citizens have to tolerate whatever someone says or symbolizes and that their bosses shouldn’t be allowed to fire them for it?

When Taft saved the Constitution from Teddy Roosevelt

In the course of a column on Tea Party candidate Ted Cruz’s victory in Texas for the Republican senate nomination, George Will recounts a time one hundred years ago this Sunday when Republicans purposefully lost an election to preserve the Constitution.  I did not know these things about Teddy Roosevelt:

After leaving the presidency in 1909, TR went haywire. He had always chafed under constitutional restraints, but he had remained a Hamiltonian, construing the Constitution expansively but respectfully. By 1912, however, he had become what the Democratic nominee, Woodrow Wilson, was — an anti-Madisonian. Both thought the Constitution, the enumeration and separation of powers, intolerably crippled government.

Espousing unconstrained majoritarianism, TR disdained James Madison’s belief that the ultimate danger is wherever ultimate power resides, which in a democracy is with the majority. He endorsed the recall of state judicial decisions and by September 1912 favored the power to recall all public officials, including the president.

TR’s anti-constitutional excesses moved two political heroes to subordinate personal affection to the public interest. New York Sen. Elihu Root had served TR as secretary of war and secretary of state, and he was Roosevelt’s first choice to succeed him in 1908. Massachusetts Sen. Henry Cabot Lodge had long been one of TR’s closest friends. Both sided with Taft.

As the Hudson Institute’s William Schambra says (in “The Saviors of the Constitution,” National Affairs, Winter 2012, and elsewhere), by their “lonely, principled” stand, Root and Lodge, along with Taft, “denied TR the powerful electoral machinery of the Republican Party, which would almost surely have elected him, and then been turned to securing sweeping alterations” of the Constitution.

Wilson won with 41.8 percent of the vote (to TR’s 27.4 percent). Taft won 23.2 percent, carrying only Vermont and Utah, but achieved something far grander than a second term: the preservation of the GOP as an intellectual counterbalance to the Democrats’ thorough embrace of progressivism and the “living” — actually, disappearing — Constitution.

via George Will: Texas’s Ted Cruz gives tea party a Madisonian flair – The Washington Post.

Government persecution of Chick-fil-A

Michael Barone summarizes a number of pundits criticizing the mayors of Boston and now Chicago for seeking to deny business licenses to Chick-fil-A because its owners don’t believe in gay marriage.

Their point is simple, and based on Supreme Court rulings: it’s wrong and unconstitutional under the First Amendment for government to deny business licenses because of an applicant’s speech and beliefs. As the Globe rightly notes, “If the mayor of a conservative town tried to keep out gay-friendly Starbucks or Apple, it would be an outrage.”

As a conservative on most issues and a supporter of same-sex marriage, I find it fascinating that liberal politicians are so ready to clamp down on others’ speech. It’s certainly permissible to refuse to patronize a restaurant because you dislike the owner’s beliefs and to encourage, by means short of violence or intimidation, others to do so. It’s also kind of foolish and in my view would be a waste of time to have to research owners’ or managers’ political views before going somewhere to eat. But for public officials to penalize people because of their expressed beliefs—well, I wouldn’t go as far as blogger Elizabeth Scalia does when she titles a blogpost “this is how fascism works,” but it’s pretty nasty stuff.

via Liberal officials penalizing free speech | WashingtonExaminer.com.

UPDATE:  The Boston mayor has backed down from his effort.