10th Circuit Rules First Amendment Protections Don’t Apply to Little Sisters of the Poor

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Goat_Girl https://www.flickr.com/photos/112363286@N08/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Goat_Girl https://www.flickr.com/photos/112363286@N08/

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the Little Sisters of the Poor are not affiliated with a specific church and they are a non-profit, so the First Amendment doesn’t apply to them.

Ditto for the Christian Brothers Services and Christian Brothers Employee Benefit Trust, the Catholic organization through which the Little Sisters buy their insurance.

While that may sound a bit off-the cuff, it’s the gist of the ruling.

This is how the on-going war against people of faith is played out. It rides in on the back of the legal sophistry that the First Amendment only applies to recognized churches and then only to what is done within the aegis of that recognized church. The verbiage is to limit “freedom of religion” to “freedom to worship.” This kind of limitation effectively destroys our most cherished freedoms, including freedom of speech as well as freedom of religion.

The 10th Circuit has bought into this fiction big time, because … well … because they are idiots. Or rather, because they are ideologues. But, to paraphrase Mark Twain, I repeat myself.

There is a growing — and I mean rapidly growing — opinion in this country that We the People should begin to ignore the courts. That is a dangerous notion that I will write about at length later. But the public attitude underlying it has its roots in this kind of absurd ruling. This is a re-writing and abrogation of the First Amendment that damages the freedoms and liberties of every American citizen today and into future generations.

The people who support this are throwing away their own freedoms for no other reason than a desire to get at someone whose opinion and beliefs they do not share. The courts are playing fool to this because — and this seems obvious — at least a number of members of the judiciary are ideologues with only a narrow understanding of their responsibilities to our country.

This particular move is a result of the HHS Mandate which is a result of the hubris of a president who seems addicted to an imperial view of himself and his office. How many times has President Obama made statements that he can enact policy without Congress? How many times has Congress answered him in the affirmative?

Congress has always had the power to rescind the HHS Mandate. They did not have to let it go into effect in the first place. They have not used this power in any way except as a campaign tool to win elections. If campaign promises were Congressional action, this would be an entirely different country. It would be a country in which We the People would have some hope of making a difference when we vote.

As it is, most of us have figured out that, no matter who we elect, they end up lying to us, ignoring us and doing things that hurt us. Why should we be surprised when the judges these folks appoint behave in the same way?

The 10th Circuit does not necessarily have the last say on this issue. The Supreme Court can chose to hear the case and overturn this ruling. The question is, will they?

As for the Little Sisters of the Poor, they intend to continue in their ministry and stay faithful to their faith. This is the challenge and the example for each and every one of us.

From CNA Daily News here at Patheos:

Disappointment follows ruling against Little Sisters in mandate case

Denver, Colo., Jul 14, 2015 / 11:29 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Little Sisters of the Poor have reiterated their commitment to following their conscience as they care for the poor and dying, following a federal appeals court ruling that they must obey the federal contraception mandate.

“As Little Sisters of the Poor, we simply cannot choose between our care for the elderly poor and our faith,” said Mother Provincial Sr. Loraine Marie Maguire.

“And we should not have to make that choice, because it violates our nation’s commitment to ensuring that people from diverse faiths can freely follow God’s calling in their lives. For over 175 years, we have served the neediest in society with love and dignity. All we ask is to be able to continue our religious vocation free from government intrusion.”

Sr. Maguire responded to a Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling against the Little Sisters of the Poor on July 14.

The sisters are among several hundred plaintiffs that have challenged the federal contraception mandate, which requires employers to offer health insurance plans covering contraception, sterilization and some drugs that can cause early abortions.

Employers who fail to comply with the mandate face crippling penalties. In the case of the Little Sisters, the fines could amount to around $2.5 million a year, or about 40 percent of the $6 million the Sisters beg for annually to run their ministry.

Met with a wave of protest, the contraception mandate has undergone a number of revisions. However, the sisters say that it still requires them to violate their beliefs.

 

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Celebrating the Fortnight for Freedom 2015

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Ed Uthman https://www.flickr.com/photos/euthman/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Ed Uthman https://www.flickr.com/photos/euthman/

I’ve overlooked the Fortnight for Freedom this year because of the rush events ranging from Pope Francis’ encyclical to the Supreme Court’s decision on gay marriage.

Let’s take today this weekend to meditate and pray over what it means to have the immense privilege of being a Christian who is also an American.

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The Supreme Court’s War on Government Of, By and For the People

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by david_jones https://www.flickr.com/photos/cloudsoup/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by david_jones https://www.flickr.com/photos/cloudsoup/

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. 

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. 

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Abraham Lincoln
November 19, 1863

 

Can the Republic survive a federal government and a Supreme Court that is both corporatist and nihilist?

That is the question.

The United States Supreme Court has been waging a successful war on government of, by and for the people for several decades now. Roe v Wade and Obergefell v Hodges bookend an almost 50-year-old judicial bypass of democracy and the democratic process.

In both instances, the Supreme Court jumped into an arena where the democratic process was working very well. The Court slashed through the democratic process, ending it abruptly and disastrously. The democratic process was dealing with the question of legal abortion in the always-messy, always-effective way that is democracy in action. One state would legalize abortion in certain circumstances, another state would tighten abortion restrictions. The first state would revise its abortion laws again, and a third state would decide to legalize.

It would have taken time, but the democratic process was working this out according to the will of the people. There is no doubt that, if the Court had allowed the process to work, it would have worked. What we would have ended up with would have been a much more just and — this is crucial — culturally-agreed-upon solution. Our laws would have reflected the will of the people, and for that reason, they would have stood. There would have been a lot of electioneering and speechifying, but there would have been no destructive culture war and the resulting breakdown of the body politic which we have seen since Roe.

The Court, by injecting itself into a healthy, working democratic process, and arbitrarily ending that process by the use of the brute force of fictional “findings” in the Constitution, created an on-going Constitutional crisis such as this country had not seen since the Civil War. Flash forward 50 years, and we arrive at Obergefell v Hodges.

Yesterday’s Supreme Court decision was another slam-dunk of the democratic process on an issue that was being debated and legislated over time. There is no doubt that the democratic process would have resolved this issue had the courts stayed out of it. It would have taken time, and again, it would have been messy. But the end result would have been a solution that We the People accepted and that would not have damaged this country.

The DOMA decision of two years ago set the lower courts on their domino effect overturning of state statutes pertaining to the definition of marriage. That allowed the Supreme Court to do exactly what it intended when it overturned DOMA, which was to issue a draconian ruling. Yesterday’s decision was a judicial one-two punch. Anyone with half a brain could see that the issue had been decided when the Court set up the DOMA decision in the first place.

I suppose the lessons of Roe are why they decided to take this backdoor route to legislating from the bench. That, and the opinion polls which gave them the entirely false notion that they were acting in a manner that the public would accept.

Roe and Obergefell bookend tragic overstepping by the Supreme Court that have done and will do incalculable damage to the Republic. Roe shoved into the Constitution the legal fiction that some human beings are not in fact human and their lives have no value under the law. Obergefell destroys marriage as a legal construct. It enshrines cultural nihilism in the 14th Amendment and sets the Constitution on a collision course with itself.

Obergefell inevitably places the Supreme Court in the position of legislative arbiter on the limits and allowances of all manner of American freedoms which we have held dear and fought wars to preserve since this nation’s founding. We are going to see the Court’s ham-handed fine-tunings of the Bill of Rights on a plethora of challenges that will come from yesterday’s ruling. Each one of these subsequent rulings will do damage to American freedoms. Every ruling will limit the rights of We the People and will strengthen the Court’s power as a legislative body with dictatorial powers and no checks and balances.

Notice that I said that the yesterday’s ruling places the Supreme Court as the legislative arbiter. Obergefell is so destructive to the democratic process that it will inevitably remove whole areas of the law from the democratic process and place them entirely in the hands of the Court. The ruling is so nihilistic that it creates an arbitrary legal option for nihilism in future proceedings.

The Supreme Court has set aside democracy.

I mentioned corporatism a few paragraphs back. I am aware that my concern about corporatism confuses many Public Catholic readers. But corporatism, as practiced in America, is government, working entirely for multinational corporations who are like parasites draining every bit of economic vitality out of this country. Corporatism is not only a grave evil, it is the absolute enemy of the Republic.

These twin evils — corporatism and nihilism — are the underlying principles behind many of the Supreme Courts decisions in the past 10 years. The Supreme Court has become anti-democracy and subservient to corporatism.

The Court is not the only institution which serves corporatism and nihilism. Our legislative process is also poisoned by these twin evils, which are, at their root, very similar. Corporatists and nihilists share an absolute contempt for the will of the people. They are bedfellows in their parallel goal of side-stepping and annihilating the democratic process.

Their best friend in this is the United States Supreme Court.

The Court destroyed marriage as a legal entity yesterday. It also created a plethora of avenues by which basic American freedoms can be destroyed.

Advocates of gay marriage may themselves come to rue this decision. It will take time before that happens. A lot of tragedy and excess will have to play out before things get so ripe that everyone can smell the rot. But to the extent that gay marriage advocates value marriage and were simply trying to acquire the good of it for themselves, they have failed. Instead of buying the house, they burned it down.

The question before us is a relatively straightforward one, and the answer, at least to me, is equally straightforward. Can the Republic survive a Supreme Court that is both corporatist and nihilist?

The answer is no.

America may, as Rome did, go on as a great military power long after the Republic is dead. But democracy cannot survive if its own government turns on it and shuts it down. Corporatism, if we do not stop it, will be the death of democracy.

Nihilism, on the other hand, is such an unworkable social construct that it cannot govern at all. No society can survive as a nihilistic society. America will not go on as a great military power shorn of its democracy if nihilism prevails. America will fail horribly and fall into a debacle of ruin if it is governed by the forces of nihilism.

Nihilism and corporatism are very similar. Corporatism, is, at its root profoundly amoral. Nihilism is, at its root, profoundly anti-human.

American civilization was so strong that it has taken these blows and kept on walking. But the Republic cannot operate forever under the governance of corporatism and nihilism. America can be destroyed, not from without, but by the corruption of its institutions.

That is exactly what we are facing with our corporatist/nihilist Supreme Court and its ugly war on government, of, by and for the people.

 

 

For other thoughts on Obergefell v Hodges, read what Kathy Schiffer, Simcha Fischer, Pia de SolenniJane the ActuaryFather Michael Duffy, Frank Weathers, the Anchoress and Deacon Greg have to say.

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Breaking: Federal Court Forces Notre Dame to Follow HHS Mandate

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Scott Gulbransen https://www.flickr.com/photos/sdunlvrebel/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Scott Gulbransen https://www.flickr.com/photos/sdunlvrebel/

The 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the University of Notre Dame’s appeal against the HHS Mandate today.

In a brazen disregard for the First Amendment, the Court argued that the “burden” on the government to re-write the HHS Mandate to allow the Catholic University of Notre Dame to follow the dictates of its faith was too high. The court also said that the “burden” on Notre Dame of being forced to violate its faith and abandon the free exercise of religion which is the guarantee of every American was just not all that important.

They didn’t put it in those words, and I am deliberately writing it in purple prose. But that is the essential meaning.

The court ruled that an agency rule written by a back-room committee of abortion industry insiders trumps the First Amendment guarantee of the free exercise of religion. It based this ruling on the bizarre opinion that abiding by the Constitution of the United States placed an undue burden on the government of the United States.

Here is what they said, without my interpretation and in their own little words:

“The very word ‘accommodation’ implies a balance of competing interests,” the court noted.

“And when we compare the burden on the government or third parties of having to establish some entirely new method of providing contraceptive coverage with the burden on Notre Dame of simply notifying the government that the ball is now in the government’s court, we cannot conclude that Notre Dame has yet established its right to the injunctive relief that it is seeking before trial,” the court said.

 

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HHS Mandate Loses Another Round with the Supremes

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons. By Ed Uthman. https://www.flickr.com/photos/euthman/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons. By Ed Uthman. https://www.flickr.com/photos/euthman/

The United States Supreme Court issued an order yesterday that will block the federal government from enforcing the HHS Mandate against a whole range of religious organizations. This follows similar injunctions granted to the Little Sister of the Poor, Hobby Lobby, Wheaton College and Notre Dame.

It is important to remember that this is not a Supreme Court ruling. It is a court order. It requires the government to file a brief with the court defending its position that these organization should be forced to obey the Mandate.

The Obama administration has taken the idiotic position that Catholic Charities and the Little Sisters of the Poor are not “religious employers.” This is a clear attempt to restrict First Amendment Protections to clergy and behind church sanctuary doors. It is in line with the thinking of atheists and militant secularists who have stated that their purpose is to destroy religious influence and religious voices in the larger culture.

I believe that the HHS Mandate could very well become the legacy of the Obama Administration. Whatever else he does, he will always be remembered as the president who waged war on religious freedom.

From LifeNews.com:

The Supreme Court issued an order today preventing the Obama administration from forcing religious groups in Pennsylvania to obey the HHS mandate that requires them to pay for abortion-causing drugs for their employees. This is the fifth time the Supreme Court has rebuked the Obama administration and prevented it from making such a mandate.

In an order issued last night, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito prevented the federal government from enforcing its contraceptive mandate against a range of Pennsylvania-based religious organizations including Catholic Charities and other Catholic schools and social service organizations connected with the Diocese of Erie and the Diocese of Pittsburgh. The Supreme Court has previously protected the Little Sisters of the Poor, Hobby Lobby, Wheaton College, and the University of Notre Dame.

According to the Becket Fund,  Justice Alito’s order is similar to the preliminary order Justice Sotomayor provided to the Little Sisters of the Poor on New Year’s Eve in 2013. The group said order requires the government to brief the Supreme Court next week on why it should be allowed to fine these organizations for refusing to distribute abortion-inducing drugs and devices and other contraceptives.

Lori Windham, Senior Counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, told LifeNews: “How many times must the government lose in court before it gets the message? For years now the government has been claiming that places like Catholic Charities and the Little Sisters of the Poor are not “religious employers” worthy of an exemption.”

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The Difference Between Writing and Legislating Is …

2014 05 23 18 15 05

Copyright: Rebecca Hamilton. All rights reserved.

The difference between writing and legislating is, to put it in Okie parlance, writing don’t matter.

I’ve heard the old canard “The pen is mightier than the sword” all my life. Sounds great, doesn’t it? After all, Marx and Hitler both wrote books that laid waste much of the 20th century and whose insidious damage not only lingers, but is still active, like occult cancer cells in the social bloodstream that just won’t die.

It appears that some people are willing to kill just about anybody and everybody based on what they think is written in the Koran. And other people are willing to die for what is written in the Bible, and still other people (get ready for this) are ready to tear down the structure of society based on what is written by Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, et al.

The pen, is, or a least it can be, mighty. But I can tell you as a former sword holder that there’s nothing like brandishing the bludgeon of law around to scare the you-know-what out of people, including yourself.

The difference between writing as I do it and legislating as I did it is that writing don’t matter.

I can write a different blog post after I finish this one commanding everyone who reads it to go find a bridge and jump off of it. But, it won’t matter if I do.

In the first place, nobody has to read what I write. There’s zero penalty for just taking a pass on reading my words. In the second place, such a command, coming in a blog post, is far more likely to inspire laughter than obedience, because nobody — and I mean nobody — has to do what it says. In the third place, anything I write, whether its drivel or genius, will be forgotten in about 36 hours, max.

Writers are a lot more sensitive and emotional than legislators, and I include myself in that category. I’ve done a couple of things as a writer that I would not have dreamed of doing as a legislator. The reason?

It don’t matter.

The anger of a writer is more like a child, throwing their toys around in a pique. When a lawmaker gets angry, people get scared. Because the anger of a lawmaker can have huge consequences. By the same token, and appearances aside, lawmakers don’t take off after each other in public all the time, again for one simple reason. Such behavior can have consequences.

I know that sounds untrue, given the verbal fisticuffs that lawmakers engage in 24/7, but believe me, there are rules; things you don’t say, things you don’t do and confidences you don’t violate. The consequences are too high.

I went through a long period where I was hated and despised by my colleagues because of the fact that I would run right over them if I had to in order to pass pro life laws. The weakness in all their nasty that they heaped on my head was that I might have been hated and despised, but I was also Representative Hated and Despised. They could — and did — break my heart. But they had to be careful about taking it past the capitol doors, because there could be — would be — consequences.

There’s a saying in politics: Forgive and remember.

Nobody wants to get on the business end of that saying. It’s just stupid to put yourself there.

And it is also what I love most about not being a legislator. I can write whatever I want as a blogger and not get all in a snit about it because It. Don’t. Matter.

Lawmakers can kill people by putting a comma in the wrong place. Not only that, but bad laws don’t go away. They have a shelf life that runs into generations. Make a mistake with a law, and you can ruin people’s lives, even end people’s lives, for decades into the future.

Not only that, but lawmaking is always an exercise in who to hurt. Just about every vote I cast in my 18 years in office was at some level a decision as to who to hurt.

The pressures, the responsibility and the inevitability of making mistakes that will do harm were like living in a pressure cooker with the heat cranked up. Add to that the responsibility for thousands of constituents, and you’ve got a whole mountain on top you.

Nobody calls a blogger at three in the morning because their son was just murdered in the jail. When it rains, I don’t worry if Brock Creek will flood and drown people. The other day when I was taking Mama to the doc, I saw a cloud of smoke in the general area of my district. I looked at it, said a prayer for those involved, and felt grateful with the gratitude of someone who does not have to deal with it and try to make it right.

If a tornado wipes out your neighborhood, you’ve got to rebuild, but you don’t have to put on your boots and hard hat and go out, walking from one smashed home to another, making a list of things that people are needing that you have to figure out how to get for them. Of course, helping them is the good part. Having them cling to you like wounded children is what humbles and drains you to the depths.

I no longer have to convince gangs to stop killing people and work to keep the police and the people on the same congenial page. I look at things like Ferguson and I know that somewhere in all this there were lawmakers who weren’t doing their jobs, who didn’t get these things worked out and taken care of before they got to this pass.

Because legislating isn’t all or even mostly lawmaking. It’s taking care of thousands upon thousands of people. It’s protecting and building community. It’s loving and caring and using yourself up in the service of others.

Writing a blog, on the other hand, is mostly a kind of thinking out loud. A blog has a wide, wide sweep. It gets into the thinking of almost limitless numbers of people all over the globe. It can engage them and give them an opportunity to express their own thoughts and feelings. It can, at its best, help them to develop those thoughts and think things through.

Blogging is a form of teaching and a kind of entertainment.

But it does not — ever — reach the point where it really matters all that much.

Because if I made a law telling people to jump off a bridge, they would have to do it or pay fines, go to prison or find the scratch and spit to take on the government in court. But if I write a blog post telling people to jump off a bridge, they can — and will — laugh at me and turn the page.

On the other hand, if I write a blog post that gets people all worked up and wanting to lynch me, I can shut down the computer and go to a movie. They can’t do anything more than hiss and spit and disagree.

Blogging is fun precisely because It. Don’t. Matter.

It’s taken me a while to “get” that. In fact, I’m working on it still. I have to learn and know and believe what I’m saying to you here does not have the gravitas and will never be as deadly as law. The only consequence it has is what you, of your own free will, chose to give it.

I can help you think. I can provoke you to take ideas and noodle with them, disagree with them, support them, or dissect them. But I can do this only if you chose to do it. The contract between you and me, writer to reader, is our mutual freedom.

That’s the essence of what I’m trying to learn about my new life. I am slowly coming to grips with the sudden and as yet incomprehensible degree of freedom that is mine. I’ve traded a straightjacket for wings. I’ve cashed in my blazer with the target on it for a computer that turns off and an office door that shuts.

Because, in the final analysis and at the end of the day when the rubber meets the road and we get to the bottom line all in a collision of cliches and final thoughts, It. Don’t. Matter.

Ladies and gentlemen, put on your reading glasses, fasten your seatbelts and get ready to roll.

I am free.

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Charlie Hebdo Roundup

 Unknown

Book cover photo from Amazon

Some days, the news speaks for itself. 

This is a roundup of stories about and reactions to the terrorist attack on the Paris newspaper Charlie Hebdo yesterday. 

Charlie Hebdo Attack: Man Turns Himself In, Two Brothers Still Sought. 

French Police Converge on small town after Paris attack suspects seen

The Pen vs the Gun

#JeSuisCharlie — Will Clemency and Kindness Prevail over Extremism? 

Muslims segregated from French society in growing Islamist mini-states

Charlie Hebdo and a Broken Europe    … France faces rising tide of Islamophobia 

Charlie Hebdo Enrages French Catholics 

Charlie Hebdo’s history of challenging and angering fundamentalists

Dante: Mohammed in Hell

See Covers Published by Charlie Hebdo

Charlie Hebdo’s Muslim Cartoons

Charlie Hebdo’s Mysterious last tweet before the attack

The author on Charlie Hebdo’s latest cover imagined a France under Islamist rule

‘Islamophobic’ Michel Houellebecq book featured by charlie Hebdo published today.  I don’t speak or read French, but I’m ordering the book, anyway; in support of free speech. 

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President Obama is an Idiot 2

 

I don’t know that I’ve ever used a title that provoked such comment as when I put “President Obama is an Idiot” at the top of a post about his idiotic lawsuit against the Little Sisters of the Poor.

I’ve been huzzahed and tsk, tsked, accused of being a racist and told that I really need to learn how to address my betters. I’ve gotten the full blast of self-righteous, sanctimonious how could you say that??? from people who engage in vendettas, personal attacks, character assassination and name calling as their ordinary means of discussion.

It was one of the most obvious cases of pot and kettle disowning projection I’ve witnessed in my young life. And I spent 18 years in the Oklahoma House of Representatives.

To be honest, it reminded me of Aunt Pitty Pat, reaching for her smelling salts.

All this approbation and excoriation seems to fall (surprise!) along party and ideological lines. If, say, I had written a post called W an idiot, I rather imagine the applauders and the outraged would have switched sides.

The one point of attack that had validity was the simple one based on the fact that I so often call other people down for name calling. I’ve made a big point of not allowing name-calling on this blog, and then here I go, calling someone an “Idiot” in a title. What gives?

I made an exception to my own rule in the case of our president going to court with the Little Sisters of the Poor because any politician, much less the president of the United States, who would do such a totally idiotic thing, is, well, behaving like a political idiot.

From the viewpoint of governance, politics, justice, proportion and common sense going forward with this lawsuit is idiotic.

We are talking about the president of the United States. This is the man who has told us that he’s “got a phone and pen” and he can pretty much govern as a reigning elected monarch from the Oval Office. Congress, (speaking of idiots) to this man is a cypher. He’s the Prez; he’s cool and he rules.

We are discussing the man who has his finger on the nuclear button. He can, with a whim, kill every single thing on this planet. He can melt the mountains down to glass, burn the forests to ash, boil the oceans dry and leave this sweet blue globe a smoking cinder.

He can order troops into any corner of the planet, send the bombers and reduce any city, any nation, any spot to rubble in a matter of hours.

And he’s decided to go mano y mano with the Little Sisters of the Poor.

I said he was an idiot for doing this. I kind of regret that. I think it was too mild.

How stupid does a politician have to be to get into a fight with a bunch of elderly nuns who don’t want to be involved in supplying contraceptives and abortifacients? He’s the most powerful man in the world and he’s maneuvered himself into a lose/lose fight with, of all people, The Little Sisters of the Poor? 

Idiot? Oh yeah.

Because, you see, all this power that President Obama wields, every single smidge of it, comes from we the people. We put him in power.

When the day comes that an American cannot call a president — any president — an idiot, then we’re in big trouble. That’s what we do in this country, and it’s a fine thing. President Obama may be able to melt the mountains down to glass and legislate with his mighty pen. But he’s still a sitting duck for we the people and our right to whittle him down to normal-sized anytime we chose.

So far as I can remember, every president I’ve ever lived under has been called an idiot by somebody. Also, every president I can remember has been called a Communist. And most of them were likened to the Anti-Christ. Is President Obama more disrespected than other presidents? I don’t think so.

I’m old enough to remember thousands of people marching in the streets chanting Hey, Hey LBJ, How Many Kids Did You Kill Today?

I remember Richard Nixon, otherwise known as Tricky Dicky.

And President Clinton, who was Slick Willy.

I’m not old enough to remember Franklin Roosevelt, who was a “traitor to his class,” Thomas Jefferson who was a “destroyer of civil liberties,” or Andrew Jackson who was a “whoremonger.”

I don’t like name-calling, and I do not usually allow it on this blog. But, I would defend without reservation the right of any American to call their president one of these names and a whole lot worse.

President Obama is the Prez. Being called an idiot isn’t specifically named in the Constitution as part of his job description, but the set-up for it is right there at the top of the list in the Bill of Rights. First rattle out of the box, we were given the right to have our say, petition our government, engage in free assembly and (enter the Little Sisters of the Poor, stage left) freely exercise our religious beliefs without government interference.

That’s what has made us who we are. It is who we are.

I was in Taiwan a few years ago with a group of Americans and a high-ranking Taiwanese guide. The Taiwanese man shepherded groups of people from many nations through Taiwan on official visits. Our little group was hard to keep corralled. We kept going off on our own in different directions. At one point, when our guide was particularly exasperated because of this, I said, “I suppose this happens with every group.”

“No,” he answered, “just Americans.”

That’s us. That’s us right down to the ground. We’re so accustomed to doing whatever we want, going wherever we please, saying whatever we think that we stand out among groups from many nations in this regard.

I hope and pray that never changes.

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If You’re a Christian and They Know it, Hire Your Lawyer

On the one hand, we have the Freedom From Religion boors, sending off lawyer letters like a Gatling gun with the purpose of intimidating Christians — their target always seems to be Christians — into silence about their faith in public places. And on the other hand, we have that same FFRF, suing the federal government to force the IRS to “monitor” pastors for possible violations of the law in their sermons.

Enter Mayor Anise Parker of Houston, stage left.

Mayor Parker is embroiled in a fight with Houston residents over an ordinance the city council passed last spring. The ordinance is reputed to provide rather extensive legal “protection” to homosexuals and transgendereds.

That’s all well and good. Mayor Parker is Houston’s first lesbian mayor. Houstonians evidently like the job she’s done up until now. She was re-elected to her third and final term a year ago. Maybe she wanted to do something splendiferous for her mayoral swan song, and this new ordinance is it.

Politicians on the way out can become extraordinarily touchy about their “legacy.” I would guess that the first lesbian mayor of a large city would find no better legacy for herself than passing a land-mark gay rights act.

The trouble is political life is never a gimme. It’s always rough and tumble and, if you’re in office, you have to accept that. From the moment you report to work, the fight is on. Nothing ever comes easy in governing a democracy. Which is part of why it’s the best form of government there is; because elected officials do not get their way by proclamation. They’ve got to earn their victories in the political trenches of getting the votes and then defending the decisions to the pubic.

It appears that Mayor Parker forgot all that when she passed her legacy ordinance. She evidently shut down her ordinary thinking capacities where this ordinance was concerned and went into full-blown this-is-my-precious-legacy mode. I say that because it appears that she thought she could pass what was bound to be a controversial ordinance and there would be no flashback. How a three-term mayor could be so silly, I do not know.

So far, all this falls into the category of a seasoned mayor tossing everything she should have learned about governance aside and deciding to go all simple-minded and addle-pated over her pet mayoral victory. It looks for all the world like Mayor Parker entered the political arena over this ordinance — which was unavoidably going to draw serious push back — like a private citizen holding a dinner party in her own home. If the guests displeased her, she reserved the right to ask them to leave.

Here’s how it played out.

Opponents of the ordinance responded to its passage with a referendum petition to put the ordinance on the ballot and allow the citizens of Houston to vote on it. The petition garnered 50,000 signatures, which is a lot more than the needed 17,269. However the city threw it out, based on claims that it was “invalid.”

The petition’s backers responded to this with plans to take the city to court. 

The city responded to that with subpoenas, demanding to see the all sermons and speeches given by pastors who had opposed the ordinance that mention Mayor anise Parker, homosexuality or gender identity.

Now, the pastors’ attorneys are seeking to quash the subpoenas on the grounds that, among other things, they request material relating to activities protected by the First Amendment.

“Political and social commentary is not a crime,” their attorney, Christina Holcomb said.

“We don’t comment on litigation,” the city’s spokesperson responded.

There is a problem here that goes a lot deeper than one mayor who’s let her office go to her head. Regardless of the overweening ego delusions elected officials held in the past, no elected official before, say, 2005, would have even considered stepping all over the First Amendment and America’s most cherished freedoms to criticize our government like this.

Now, it’s become a palm-slapping, fist-bumping coup in certain circles to use the law to harass and bully Christians. The underlying problem here is the permission that Christian bashers give themselves to use the law to harass, badger, bully and deliberately try to limit the freedoms of American citizens who happen to be Christian.

Mayor Parker is mis-using her powers big-time on this. She’s also directly violating the Constitutional right of all American citizens to criticize their elected officials and public policy in public forums.

Are these subpoenas an attempt to use governmental power to quash pubic debate about this ordinance?

Or course they are.

Has Mayor Parker abandoned her responsibilities as Houston’s chief governing officer to play gay rights advocate? Perhaps. She certainly appears to have lost every last bit of her political and governing smarts over this issue. She has embroiled the city in a needless lawsuit by refusing to allow citizens the use of their rightful tool, the referendum. She followed that with a ham-handed attempt to silence her critics through government intimidation in the form of outrageous subpoenas.

She has also created another avenue to use government power to attack Christians. Now that the subpoena box has been opened, you can bet that other goodies are going to come out of it.

“Political and social commentary is not a crime,” the pastors’ attorney tells us. I would go a step further and say that political and social commentary are one of America’s greatest gifts to the world. Our forefathers created a government that ran right in the face of those that had preceded it. They grew up in a world where people could be hanged for criticizing the king or his policies, and they turned that on its head.

Americans have the right to criticize their government, their elected officials and public policy pretty much however they wish. There are a few caveats concerning elected officials, but the limits to redress through the courts for slander are so extreme that it’s close to impossible to do it. So far as I know, it is truly impossible to slander a policy or an idea.

The mayor of Houston, whatever her overwrought feelings about a particular ordinance, does not have the right to use her office to intimidate and bully her critics into silence. She can not, as Queen Elizabeth I is reputed to have done, sit in a pew of the church of offending pastors and yell out “By God sir, I will not have this!”

Or rather, I suppose she could do that, but if she did, the pastor would be more likely to fall down laughing than to shake and shiver with fear.

We fought a whole war over this stuff.

And we won.

Now, American Christians are having to fight that war again, this time in the courts. To paraphrase the children’s song, If you’re Christian and they know it, hire your lawyer. You’re probably going to need one.

 

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James Foley’s Home Parish Celebrates His Life with a Memorial Mass


James Foley’s family and friends celebrated a memorial mass for his life in the family’s home parish this weekend. His funeral mass will be in October, on his birthday. His parents said in an interview I posted earlier that they did not expect ISIS to return Mr Foley’s body.

Watching these videos makes me proud to be an American, and a Catholic.

For more details about the memorial mass, check out Deacon Greg Kandra.

This video starts with a small bit from James Foley’s Memorial Mass and moves to a longer discussion about the British Jihadists, one of whom is thought to be the James Foley’s murderer.

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James Foley’s Memorial Mass

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James Foley’s parents speak of praying for other hostages.

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