Monday, March 31, 2014

Is the Social Justice Left Abandoning The First Amendment Revisited

I am going to talk about the " Religious Left " and the First Amendment hopefully later today. However I wanted to update my last post A Liberal Academic Concerned " Social Justice " Left Is Threat To First Amendment and Expression .

In that post I link a Academic from the left that has great concerns that social just folks from the left are not giving the First Amendment the attention and respect it deserves. That prompted his discussion was rather outrageous criminal conduct by a University of California, Santa Barbara Feminist Studies Prof on a pro life protester . This was conduct , to make matters worse , that she got her students involved into to some degree

 The Professor so far via her social media seems not to get what she did wrong . Now we have the University of Santa Barbara issuing a statement that leaves a lot to be desired. Free Speech advocates were not pleased . See Free Speech Advocates Unsatisfied with UC Santa Barbara Vice Chancellor’s Mixed Messages .

To say the least that the tones of the University's  response is troubling .

Returning to the Professor in the Feminist Studies Department  that seems wonder what all the fuss is about her actions, there was an interesting post on this subject at the Volokh Conspiracy .See The UC Santa Barbara Department of Feminist Studies . 

To quote a part of that post :

.....In principle, having a Department of Women’s Studies may make good sense for an academic institution. Traditional department boundaries — history, psychology, anthropology, sociology, law, and the like — are often useful, because each field has its own intellectual toolkit that is often worth teaching separately. But at the same time, the department boundaries often make it harder to effectively study a particular subject area. The role of women in society, for instance, is an important question that is raised in many different fields of study. Having a department that’s focused on that subject rather than on a particular academic discipline could be useful, though, as with all such things, it could be implemented poorly.

 But a Department of Feminist Studies, it seems to me, by definition limits itself not just to a single subject of study, but to a single ideology or closely connected bundle of ideologies. It means that the department is guaranteed to exclude faculty and even students of other ideological views. (Ideologically skewing happens to some extent in lots of contexts already, but here it seems to be baked into the definition of the department in a particular sharp way.) And it puts the university’s scholarly imprimatur on one ideology — and perhaps even just particular versions of that ideology — to the exclusion of its rivals. 

 It means that other views are automatically defined to be outside the department’s area of focus — the possibility that there are women who aren’t feminists (or who disagree with most of the modern academic feminist movement on questions such as abortion) who are worth studying and whose arguments are worth considering is defined away. Ideological homogeneity and lack of engagement with contrary views is always a danger in many human institutions. But a department of feminist studies seems to be tailored to maximize these dangers.....

I think this well put . I also wonder if this dynamic we describe here is seen various important religious faith communities in the United States. More on that in my next post


Friday, March 28, 2014

A Liberal Academic Concerned " Social Justice " Left Is Threat To First Amendment and Expression

There is no doubt that as to some core First Amendment issues such as speech and association all of us are not consistent as we might like to be. Part of this is because of the people we ally with that we considered our friends . For instance if you find the issue of LGBT  righat of paramount importance that it cries out to the heavens to be resolved ,  you might be ok with censoring a little campus speech and campus groups

On the flip side you might have certain strong feeling about sexual morality therefore you might  put some blinders on as to those that wish to punish the Univ of Tennessee for Campus Sex week . Another rather horrid example is perhaps you feel so strongly about gun rights that you might support legislation that is a huge wound on the First amendment . This happened in my State of Louisiana last year.

However I do have concerns that as to these issues that both the secular left and indeed the progressive religious left is becoming much more a danger to basic First Amendment freedoms. This is more concerning because such things as " entertainment "and media are often leftward focused. So some traditional guardians of First Amendment freedoms that raise alarm bells to the public will be AWOL .

I am going to hit the progressive " social justice " religious  folks  issue and how they play a role in all this later in another post.

An voice  of the left just brought out these concerns in two blog posts that is where worth your reading time as to what he is seeing. That is perhaps if you thought the real problem with the morality police was on the Right you might be mistaken.

See from Purdue University read Fredrik deBoer two posts is the social justice left really abandoning free speech? and an addendum on social justice and free expression .

I have to say I agree with this observations and it scares me to death  .

Next I will talk the role of the religious left in all this.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Hopeful Hobby Lobby Will Prevail After Supreme Court Arguments

It might seems strange to some that after posting so much the HHS contraception mandate , religious liberty , and the " Hobby Lobby case I have nothing to say yesterday. I wanted to digest the transcript and I hope to have a few posts on it this week.

I am slightly optimistic the Court will rule in  Hobby Lobby's andthe  other parties favor. Still I am little nervous . It seems it will come down to Justice Kennedy though Breyer might be in play on some important issues.

The Government 's case went as I expected. That is the weakest link being the least restrictive means part of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act test . That is can the Government provide all this birth control by some other means without violating those who are bring these RFRA claims. Even Justice Breyer asked about that .

However there were two areas that  I was thrilled the Court got into some detail with one of which might be huge for Justice Kennedy .

For these I recommend a series of post from Law Profs Ann Althouse and Josh Blackman who I think had the best interactions with the SCOTUS oral transcript.

Ann Althouse has a excellent review of yesterday's arguement here .

I dealing with a part of Justice  Kennedy  remarks that I am hoping in part delivers the day in which he said :

Now, what ­­ what kind of constitutional structure do we have if the Congress can give an agency the power to grant or not grant a religious exemption based on what the agency determined? I recognize delegation of powers rules are somewhat more abundant insofar as their enforcement in this Court. But when we have a First Amendment issue of —­­ of this consequence, shouldn't we indicate that it's for the Congress, not the agency to determine that this corporation gets the exemption on that one, and not even for RFRA purposes, for other purposes.

Ann Althouse comments on these remarks at some length :

This is extremely important. The topic finally becomes the role of HHS, which is making the decisions here, not Congress, and Kennedy is disturbed by the agency making some but not other exemptions. This is a problem quite apart from the RFRA claim for an exemption. There is something structurally awry about this lawmaking. Kennedy observes that the agency's exemptions were given "without reference to the policies of RFRA." So "what were the policies that you were implementing?" Churches got exemptions, and businesses with less than 50 employees got exemptions, and then there were the grandfathered plans. How do you argue a compelling interest in no exemptions when the government has made all those exemptions? Roberts badgers Verrilli about how long the grandfathered plans are going to stay grandfathered.

Law Prof Josh Blackman  had a series of post on the oral arguments yesterday.

At his his post The Non-Delegation Doctrine and the First Amendment , Prof Blackman engages more of what Justice Kennedy was thinking on this subject mentioned above :

The aspect lost in the entire Hobby Lobby debate is that Congress did not specify that employers must provide certain types of contraceptives. They required that employers provide “essential care” and delegated to HHS the responsibility for defining what drugs are included.

 HHS then specified that certain products must be provided. Initially only churches were exempt from the mandate, but after an uproar, provided a way for religious organizations, such as the Little Sisters of the Poor, to opt out of the coverage. But this was done as a political compromise. 

HHS did not assert they were required to do so under RFRA, or the First Amendment. As Justice Kennedy noted twice:

 JUSTICE KENNEDY: But you gave this exemption, according to your brief, without reference to the policies of RFRA. What ­­ what were the policies that you were implementing?

 JUSTICE KENNEDY: I still don’t understand how HHS exercised its judgment to grant the exemption to nonreligious corporations if you say it was not compelled by RFRA. 

Justice Kennedy raised the non-delegation doctrine in an interesting context–can we let administrative agencies decide the scope of the First Amendment?

 JUSTICE KENNEDY: Now, what ­­ what kind of constitutional structure do we have if the Congress can give an agency the power to grant or not grant a religious exemption based on what the agency determined? I recognize delegation of powers rules are somewhat more abundant insofar as their enforcement in this Court. But when we have a First Amendment issue of ­­ of this consequence, shouldn’t we indicate that it’s for the Congress, not the agency to determine that this corporation gets the exemption on that one, and not even for RFRA purposes, for other purposes.

 In other words, it may even be outside the ability of Congress to delegate this type of authority to an agency–or at the least, it must be given with some serious guidance.

I think this is a huge issue the media , that perhaps had gotten used to executive rule making run amok , has missed.

There is something downright screwy how this contraception mandate as well as other things have gone down since the ACA was passed. I thought Roberts would bring it up , but I was very pleased to see it high on the radar of Justice Kennedy himself.

The other area where I am glad Justice Breyer got involved was the whole issue of standing  to even be able to bring a claim that your RFRA or First Amendment rights have been violated .

 See Josh Blackman's post Justices Alito, Kennedy, and Breyer Pose My Hypothetical About Ban on Kosher Slaughter and RFRA .

Those that oppose Hobby Lobby position like to go Corporations have no rights they are not people. I don't think they have thought though this ,and very much intentionally ignore many  small business are in the form of a Limit Liability Corporation. In fact I think it is almost malpractice not to urge your typical small business to take this form .In most states most small business owners just download the form , send in the fee , and poof they are a corporation.

Read the whole post of Josh Blackman to see how this KOSHER hypo is based on some real world religious liberty issues.

Getting back to the issue of even being able to have your day in court , Blackman writes says in part

..Could the government’s position really be that no one–not a single incorporated butcher–could bring suit? I raised this question to a lawyer who litigates in the field of religious liberty, though in Hobby Lobby opposed allowing corporations to state a claim under RFRA and the Free Exercise. I found that he hadn’t considered this hypothetical, and would only say that individual people who eat Kosher could bring suit. But that ignores the issues of the hypothetical as posed.

I was thrilled to see Justice Alito pose just this question to General Alito during oral arguments in Hobby Lobby.

JUSTICE ALITO: What about the implications of saying that no for­ profit corporation can raise any sort of free exercise claim at all and nobody associated with the for­ profit corporation can raise any sort of free exercise claim at all? Let me give you this example. According to the media, Denmark recently prohibited kosher and halal slaughter methods because they believe that they are inhumane. Now, suppose Congress enacted something like that here. What would the ­­ what would a corporation that is a kosher or halal slaughterhouse do? They would simply ­­ they would have no recourse whatsoever. They couldn’t even get a day in court. They couldn’t raise a RFRA claim. They couldn’t raise a First Amendment claim.

And the Solicitor General’s answer confirmed my suspicion. First he hinted at a Church of Lukumi analysis, but this ignored the fact that the law was truly motivated for concerns about animal welfare (which in this case trumps religious liberty).

 GENERAL VERRILLI: Well, I’m not sure they couldn’t raise a First Amendment claim, Justice Alito. I think if you had a targeted law like that, that targeted a specific religious practice, that ­­ I don’t think it is our position that they couldn’t make a free exercise claim in that circumstance and so

JUSTICE KENNEDY: Well, but you’re getting away from the hypothetical. Say ­­ Justice Alito’s hypothetical was that the impetus for this was humane treatment of animals. There was no animus to religion at all, which in the Church animus to the religion. So hypothetical. 


Verrilli, then said that the individual customers can raise this claim.

 JUSTICE ALITO: Well, they say no animal may be slaughtered unless it’s stunned first, unless the animal is rendered unconscious before it is slaughtered. 

GENERAL VERRILLI: Well, I think in that circumstance, you would have, I think, an ability for customers to bring suit. I think you might recognize third party standing on behalf of the corporation ­­ on the corporations, on behalf of customers. So a suit like that could be brought. 

The General then changed the topic and talked about burdens on third parties. But Justice Breyer, getting irate at the General’s dodging of the question, continued the slaughter (rimshot!): 

JUSTICE BREYER: I mean, the point that Justice Alito was making is that ­­ take five Jewish or Muslim butchers and what you’re saying to them is if they choose to work under the corporate form, which is viewed universally, you have to give up on that form the Freedom of Exercise Clause that you’d otherwise have. Now, looked at that way, I don’t think it matters whether they call themselves a corporation or whether they call themselves individuals. I mean, I think that’s the question you’re being asked, and I need to know what your response is to it. 

The General replied around the question, and basically conceded the incorporated butcher could not raise the claim:

GENERAL VERRILLI: Well, I think our response is what the Court said in Part 3 of the Lee opinion, which is that once you make a choice to go into the commercial sphere, which you certainly do when you incorporate as a for ­profit corporation, you are making a choice to live by the rules that govern you and your competitors in the commercial sphere. 

 The government’s position is loud and clear. If you are incorporated, you have no free exercise rights under the First Amendment or RFRA. Such an absolute position didn’t pan out well in Hosannah-Tabor. I don’t think it will win the day here. And what about churches and non-profits that are incorporated?

 GENERAL VERRILLI: No. No. Religious non­profits get an accommodation in which their employees get the contraception. 

But we are not drawing a line between for­profit and profit. They, again, are only given an exemption by the grace of HHS, and not by the requirements of the First Amendment or RFRA.

Again read  all his post . Blackman think Justice Breyer takes this question very serious so watch out for that.

More later on other themes of the Hobby Lobby oral argument day.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Do Louisiana Baptists Care About Louisiana College ?

Cenlamr has a good blog post up about some rather important events that happened at Louisiana College this past week.

 See Louisiana College President Joe Aguillard’s Vainglorious (And Terrifying) Attempts To Stifle Dissent.

There is much controversy at Louisiana College and as a non Baptist I walk carefully in commenting on how a faith community runs their school. For instance there are some issues dealing with academic freedom at Louisiana College that deal with the Calvinism issue that I view as an  internal theological matter.

However Louisiana College is an asset to the State of Louisiana Baptist and non Baptist alike. Thus what appears to be an increasing  level of incompetence , mismanagement , and perhaps well lying by it's President seems to be a concern. The list of grand promises , plans , and grants  that Cenlamr list that have been made but never seem to materialize is not an exclusive one.

The question is does the average Louisiana Southern Baptist ( lay or pastor ) outside the Alexandria area seem to care. The Louisiana Southern Baptist Convention has some degree of oversight and influence over the college. Over the past few years when I have engaged Baptists over the issues at Louisiana College I just get vacant looks. There does not seem to be a connection , a sense of pride , or indeed ownership between the average Louisiana Baptist and their " State " College . This seems different than some other states.

If this disconnect is indeed widespread that probably does not fare well for the future of Louisiana College. Still it is an asset that Louisiana Baptist might want to take advantage of in the future and the need to listen to the students there seems to be becoming more compelling .

Friday, March 21, 2014

IF A Corporation Can Have Race Why Can't It Practice Religion ?

A very good article at Public Discourse . See If a Company Can Be African American, Can’t It Be Religious? The Hobby Lobby cases will be heard next week by the Supreme Court .

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Does LT Governor Jay Dardenne Have Little Choice But To File Suit Against ?

An interesting legal issue has arisen in Louisiana dealing with a wide diverse list of issues from Louisiana tourism , medicare expansion, the First Amendment , and Bobby Jindal.

At issue is is a billboard campaign that takes aim at Governor Bobby Jindal for not expanding the Medicare program in Louisiana. . The problem is that the billboard campaign pretty much just appropriates a Louisiana tourism campaign in which the State of Louisiana has spent nearly 70 million dollars on. In Louisiana one of the duties of the LT Governor is tourism and this campaign is pretty much under the direction of Lt Gov Jay Dardenne. He has filed suit.

See Louisiana sues over Bobby Jindal billboard .

Needless to say we have a First Amendment issue at stake. Under trademark law courts have under the theory of satire and parody have often sided with the defendants in these cases especially when the plantiff is a Government and/or  political actor. So from the outset it is a tough case for the LT Gov to win. Court's default position seem to be allow such parodies and many ways the burden is on the plaintiff to prove otherwise.

However as one New Orleans attorney pointed out to me this morning the Lt. Gov really has a duty to sue in this case. That is if one does not take efforts to defend your copyright or trademark you in fact might lose the right to it later. As he pointed out there is a problem of laches that Lt Jay Dardenne must deal with for instance  . If the State of Louisiana has spent 70 million dollars on this campaign then the Lt. Gov does seem to have a obligation to defend it in Court. states this lawsuit  " frivolous  " . This is not really an area of law I am familiar with , but I am not sure it is right to say this is  frivolous for various reasons.

 Here is the Lt Gov complaint that was filed in Federal Court on Friday . Among  the arguments the Lt. Governor brings ( see Section 25 ) is that under the law " parody " must deal with the authors work. The campaign deals with Jindal opposition to expanding medicare in the state of Louisiana. The Lt. Governor points out that the Jindal is in no way connected with the tourism campaign which is something that comes under his jurisdiction as an elected official. That is it can't be a parody because Jindal  cannot be in anyway seen as an author of this particular work and effort..

I find this argument at the very least legitimate and thus I don't see the suit as frivolous. Thus the Lt Governor does have a duty on behalf of Louisiana that has spent  70 million so far on campaign to protect to their proprietary interest.  Could use a campaign that promotes Louisiana fruit ( under the direction of the Sec of AG another elected office distinct from the Governor or Executive  ) to parody Jindal. What about another State organ that is acting in the stream of commerce? Could they use a  effective LSU marketing campaign to mimic Jindal on medicare .

I don't know how the Court would rule on all these issues but I expect there is some limitations.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Alcoholic Priest and the Souls In Purgatory

Rod Dreher for lent is going through Dante's Purgatorio, the second book in Dante’s Divine Comedy trilogy , for Lent via his blog. He took yesterdays Canto and applied it to a interesting story from the Russian Orthodox tradition.

Friday, March 7, 2014

The Catholic Angle of the NFL Combine

I actually feel a tad in the land of the living today so I can work on my goal of blogging more during lent. I have been far more on twitter lately and I hope to devote more attention to blogging. Unlike some Catholics I am not one to take a social media fast .

Being sick today at home I had an opportunity to listen to former LSU's QB Zach Mettenberger on how INTENSE the NFL combine was . Just by chance I saw a neat little article on a Catholic angle of the NFL Combine . See NFL coaches, team officials gather for Mass, dinner and fellowship

Devout Catholic College Football Player's Career To Continue After LSU

If you have watch LSU games you might have notice the LSU player that does the kickoffs doing the sign of the cross before each kick.

 That person is James Hairston a product of the the Dallas area and a Jesuit grad. It appears he will be extending his college career at another school after graduation in order to try to do field goals. See James Hairston transferring, wants chance to kick field goals .

No matter where he goes it is a blessing that I have no doubt the witness of his Catholic faith will be a benefit to any football program and student body that has him.

See  from the Baton Rouge Catholic Newspaper LSU Tiger kicker deepens faith, gains family through team and Pre-game talks inspire LSU kicker from the Texas Catholic.

The Blessings of Good Health During Lent

Since Tuesday I have been pretty much sidelined by a nasty respiratory infection that has been going around. Bone shattering coughs , fatigue , fever , etc . My main goal since getting this nagging thing is just to do anything to do anything to halt its progression before it becomes something more serious. There has been a lot of bed rest. Needless to say my LENT is off to a slow start.

So for the first time that I can recall I could not go to Ash Wednesday services. Today my mother brought me one of my favorites round steak and rice for Lunch. My mother is not Catholic so had no idea of what my typical Lenten obligation would be as to meat. However being sick I felt exempted and I was not going to deny the effort she made to get me better. Plus at this point anything that make me eat is a priority especially if I have any hope of getting to Mass tomorrow.

All this started to make me think about the blessings of health in general and during Lent . It is a joy to be able to do voluntary prayerful sacrifices . Our fasting is of course little league compared to the Eastern Christians but it is still a beneficial practice. Also I have to admit I have felt a little but out of sync with the Church Universal and Christians from all over the world.

Social media is often a very young enterprise , and I think we are too apt to forget about those in hospitals or those that because of sickness are home bound . Liturgical seasons are important for a Catholic . Its like a cycle of life that repeats every year. Lets recall  and try to be assistance to those that for whatever reason are not able to practice the beloved  rites of their Faith to the same extent they were for decades because of health issues.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

When Opposing Discrimination is Opposing Freedom

I am becoming more and more concerned that the use of discrimination laws are having a dangerous impact on some fundamental civil  liberties. In fact there appears to efforts in some places to use the fight against discrimination as a way to make certain political and social views to go away. We see this as to Campus student groups where that battle is hot right now and where perhaps the ultimate trend of who will win in that battle is in doubt.

The question of what is just discrimination and what is unjust discrimination is not always clear. Because the fact that it is not always clear that is good reason in my mind to be wary of enforcing Government sanction against without thinking that course through.

Law Prog Greg Sisk over at Mirrors of Justice had two good post over the weeked that are worth reading. See On the Pain of Discrimination and the Role of Law and Government (Part One)  and On the Pain of Discrimination and the Role of Law and Government (Part Two).

In part II Prog Sisk describes a discussion he has been having with other on this question and the areas of agreement. As to the area of disagreement :

....Now, and here I return to the point where consensus has not been reached, I would submit that some of the same or similar characteristics or principles that define this second category of free choice also encompass the case that has been highlighted of the wedding photographer who declines to photograph a ceremony with which she disagrees. 

Similarly, an attorney may choose to represent only plaintiffs who allege they are victims of sexual abuse and simply refuse to represent defendants who are accused of sexual abuse. An advertising agency may refuse to work up a promotional campaign for a Republican politician. A public relations firm may refuse to take on a Catholic archdiocese seeking to counter negative publicity related to priest sexual abuse. A psychologist may specialize in counseling women who have suffered abuse, while choosing not to accept male clients. A couples therapist may focus on gay couples, while not choosing not to work with straight couples. Now each of these examples could be described as involving “discrimination.” But we have also used another term to describe these choices: Freedom. 

What I would argue distinguishes these business choices from the general prohibition on discrimination in goods and services is that the service or good provided is inextricably intertwined with a message or perspective that the provider may or may not wish to endorse. In these examples, the services are being devoted directly or nearly so to the promotion of a message, which thus implicates freedom of thought at its most critical. Moreover, because of the personal nature of these kinds of services, the service-provider necessarily must identify with the client, becoming a partner with the client in directly advancing the client’s goals. The connection between the provider of goods or services here is anything but collateral to the message, ceremony, position, etc.

 To use the law to require the service-provider of this distinctive nature to become involuntarily tethered to a viewpoint that he or she does not endorse is simply not compatible with fundamental liberty principles. That we may not agree with those choices, or even find one or another choice repugnant, cannot be the measure of our response, if freedom is have any purchase. Here at least, we should say that the law may proceed no further.

I think the part I put in bold is where the critical distinction and discussion needs to be focused on these matters.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Want Religious Liberty ? Then Include The Lawyer Aristocracy

In the debates over bakers , wedding photographers and gay weddings there is a constant argument. It goes well did they do a wedding of someone that was divorced , do they sell unhealthy foods to someone that has obvious problems with the sin of gluttony; etc etc . HYPOCRITES ALL OF THEM .

 As Cardinal Newman said conscience has rights because it has duties .In the debate among Christians if Jesus would bake a wedding cake the aspect of the State overriding a person's conscience and putting many people of Faith in hard spot is often overlooked.

There is I have to say among some Christians an amazing lack of empathy in this regard.

 All this made me think about the people , the privileged in our society , that both formally and informally get to discriminate. That is Lawyers !

I have not heard many calls that Christian Lawyers call to " service " involves taking every case that comes through the door even thought they might have moral qualms. Here is a example.

 If someone came to me and said I need your legal work to set up a gay bar I might have a problem. If was it just a bar where likely people of same sex attraction might hang I might have not problems. However if it was a REAL GAY BAR rivaling some famous places on Bourbon Street I very well would object and not take their case. Further regardless of what kind of gay bar it was I might take their case if the City was placing fast and loose with the zoning laws in order to prohibit it being being built.

Now some Christians and non Christians would think this distinctions I make are crazy and inconsistent. However according to my conscience this  iswhere I draw the line. Of course my conscience can be overridden by a compelling state interest. For instance I am free not have to set up a couple civil like union through various means. However in a criminal case I would not be free not to represent a gay person if the court appointed me  . For instance though I oppose gay marriage I would feel obligated to give the best defense including the argument of spousal privilege. We can go on and on.

 For instance a lawyer that is part of the Freedom from Religion crowd should not be compelled to have to set up a Church as a corporation. At least that is my view.

 The fact is in most States as a formal and informal matter Lawyers don't have to take every client that comes through the door that has a valid case. Why then is a lawyer's talent, industry etc so different from a bakers or wedding photographers . Why is a Lawyer objector rights so much more privileged than a bakers ?
Include the Lawyers in this argument and you might see a different attitude .

Thursday, February 27, 2014

If You Like The Religious Freedom Restoration Act Better Fight For It

Last mights veto a bill that did amendments to the the AZ version of the RFRA was maddening on how the AZ bill was characterized. How the media just went along with this is infuriating

See The veto, coverage, and misrepresentation of AZ 1062 by Law Prof Rick Garnett.

There is much more hostility to RFRA law bills than they were in the past. Major voices are even muttering what was unthinkable a couple of years ago.  That  isthe Federal RFRA should be eliminated !

Much of the hostility about the RFRA comes down because its viewed as a threat to the march of " positive liberty " . See the Hobby Law like cases where there is much sound and fury by many.

Expect more of this.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Respecting Now Dead Snake Handling Preacher Jamie Coots

The death of a rather famous snake handling preacher has been in the news. I find my self in sort of the same position as this writer in having some awe and respect as to him . See THEY WILL TAKE UP SERPENTS via First Thoughts.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Animal Rights Used As Pretext To Run Over Religious Liberty ?

Robert Delahunty's , Associate Professor at University of St. Thomas in Minnesota , has a rather disturbing article about events in Denmark . See Animal Rights Trump Religious Rights

Things likes this seem to be a growing trend in part of Europe and its seem such things as " animal rights " are being used as a pretext to run over religious liberty. I do agree with him that Americans should contact the Danish Embassy and lodge a complaint.

Hobby Lobby And Inmate Religious Liberty Rights

Ann Althouse highlighted a interesting case  that is being considered to Supreme Court Review. See "[W]atching his hair fall to the floor during a mandated haircut in prison led him to feel that 'most of me was laying on the floor.'" . This of course deals with the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act .

I left this comment :

I think personally this dispute is pretty easy under the 3 prong test. The Indian wins.

 Its interesting to see how this case and the legislative history of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act ( Hobby Lobby ) are related. The language between Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act and the RFRA are similar. 

In fact in one brief that is in front of the Court as to Hobby Lobby the legislative debate of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized act is used to help illuminate what the RFRA means. 

Both had a coalition of conservatives , evangelicals, liberals , ACLU types that joined with the respective administration to overturn a Fed Court opinion. 

 In the Hobby Lobby cases there is a segment that wants the entire RFRA declared Unconst ! See recent NYT Op - Ed. It needs to be remembered such logic on the RFRA would have dire results on people protected under the law mentioned here. Including but not limited to Prisoners .

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Louisiana Catholic Bishop on Sports Illustrated and Our Porn Problem

I am a general fan of Southern Baptist Russell Moore whose columns have engaged me on various spiritual , political , and social levels. One column that still sticks in my minds was What’s at Stake with Internet Pornography . He said in part :

There’s a situation in counseling I come across all too often: a couple will typically tell me first about how stressful their lives are. Maybe he’s lost his job. Perhaps she’s working two. Maybe their children are rowdy or the house is chaotic. But usually, if we talk long enough about their fracturing marriage, there is a sense that something else is afoot. The couple will tell me about how their sex life is near extinction. The man, she’ll tell me, is an emotional wraith, dead to intimacy with his wife. The woman will be frustrated, with what seems to him to be a wild mixture of rage and humiliation. They just don’t know what’s wrong, but they know a Christian marriage isn’t supposed to feel like this.

 It’s at this point that I interrupt the discussion, look at the man, and ask, “So how long has the porn been going on?” The couple will look at each other, and then look at me, with a kind of fearful incredulity that communicates the question, “How do you know?” For a few minutes, they seek to reorient themselves to this exposure, wondering, I suppose, if I’m an Old Testament prophet or a New Age psychic. But I’m not either. One doesn’t have to be to sense the spirit of this age. In our time, pornography is the destroying angel of (especially male) Eros, and it’s time the Church faced the horror of this truth.

Which brings us to an occasion where I can talk about my  little Diocese in the Sticks that is led by a very competent Shepherd. See Louisiana Catholic Bishop Compares Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition to Child Abuse, Sex Trade

I guess some reaction will be oh there goes Catholic Bishops obsessed about sex again what about the poor the unemployed etc. For those that say that they don't know Bishop Duca very well who in his tenure has brought Catholic Charities to the Diocese and has done a good bit to upgrade our immigration related services..

Bishop Duca uses this as an lead in to the problem of porn addiction.

Porn is a problem no one wants to talk about though study after study shows its a serious problem. This is seen everywhere among Christians.  It is rare I see a column from LGBT Christian activist on the problem of gay porn. It is rare I see the cool Christian progressives talk about it. It is rare that I see the " conservative " Orthodox Christians talk about it.  Why is that ? Because I expect a good many Christians that want to serve God are dealing with this addiction and often fall and fail in trying to overcome it.

It is a tricky problem. It is very vogue to throw out the word hypocrite and Pharisee in today's world.  Thus people that are dealing with a serious sin / addiction like Porn but have a mission to comment on other matters just keep the subject off the table. It is a very lonely place when dealing with this problem.

Which leads me to this to rather mind blowing column by a Catholic group that wonder if the Bishops are wasting their time on an upcoming Pastoral on Porn and the Family. The fact that the poster for this group is writing for a group that proclaims itself  to " amplify the voices of a younger generation and provide insight and analysis on the issues that matter to this generation " is even more troubling. 

The fact is for most Catholic men ( and women ) the only counseling they get on their porn addiction is 5 minutes in the confessional. Porn addiction  like AA groups are rare in Catholic Dioceses which lead Catholisc to have to find some program in an Evangelical Church that in the big scheme of things are even rare there. I am sort of Debbie Downer on American Bishop Pastorals since it seems few people read them and just pull them out when they want to cherry pick a point. However if this pastoral can lead some Bishops to get programs in their Diocese to really deal with this problem well God love them.

We need to quit being in denial. People are hurting and lives are being affected. So while people can debate what role SI has in all this I hope people get Bishop Duca's bigger point.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Does White Privilege Exist ? You Bet !

During the recent Duck Dynasty episode one of the main character said some things about racial relations in his youth that had many people scratching their heads. It is too bad in the internet social media damning culture an opportunity was lost for the most part to discuss that.

On one level I sort of get what I think Phil Robertson was trying to talk about .See In Praise Of Phil Robertson’s American Wilderness .

Some of what I THINK Robertson was trying to get at I have seen discussed by  many black people of his generation.

I also get that Phil Robertson like all of us at a certain age start having a good bit of confirmation bias about the good ole days. Add to this there appears to be some real wounds dealing with class and economics as to Phil Robertson. that no doubt really play a part. In fact I think that play a huge role in many of us thinking any concept of white privilege is a myth.

Those complex issues got swept aside and in this overly political world yet another opportunity was lost to talk about issues from both a Christian and secular actor point of view.

It does not help matters that SOME  that bring up the issue of " white privilege " are causing more damage than good. Instead of a opportunity for discussion it is used as a hammer  of raw power. Sit down shut up as it were your views are not valid .

This gets more troublesome when the issue of white , Christian , or religious , or male , or heterosexual ( the list seems never ending ) is used to try to blacklist as illegitimate a wide variety of political, social , and indeed economic theory  or views. To be blunt some use the invocation of " x " privilege to take a lot off the table of discourse and possible solutions,.

It fact what is perhaps the most troubling is often  invocation of the " x " privilege argument by is causing some major damage to civil rights protections , due process protections  ,  and First Amendment protections and values.

Still it exist and Christians have a special responsibility to deal with it. We should not  let abuses of the complaints about " privilege " blind us to the fact that in many cases it exists.

Which brings me to an excellent post by Anthony Bradley an African American Professor at Kings College  and who blogs at the Action Inst. See his post No Racial Reconciliation Without Intersectionality and Privilege

I think Prof Bradley hits some points right on  and I think especially as people of Faith  we need to look at them.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

A Reminder To LGBT Leadership Of Importance of the First Amendment In Their History

One of the extreme ironies of American Catholic history happened in Colonial Maryland. Maryland was established in part to give a great degree of religious toleration to Catholics . Many dissident Protestants came to Maryland to take advantage of this state of affairs. Soon however the welcoming that these Catholics gave was turned on its head as these same folks played a part in disenfranchising Catholic Civil Rights in Maryland to a great degree.

 This dire situation can be seen by the distress of the Father of Charles Carroll of Carrollton . Charles Carroll of Carrollton of course was a Catholic Signer of the Declaration of Independence.

Charles Carroll of Annapolis was perhaps the richest man in Colonial America at the time and had great influence. However the fact that Colonial Assembly would have to exempt him from various anti Catholic laws each year really started to grate on him. It was of such distress to him that he wrote his son studying abroad that he wanted to give up everything and start up again in what is now Arkansas. His son having faith in what he viewed as the unique emerging American experience that has happening in this British Possession happily for all of us opposed this move.

 Jonathan Rauch , who is Jewish and Gay ,  had an interesting post yesterday called The unknown Supreme Court decision that changed everything for gays .It is an example of how First Amendment rights of speech and association played a role in giving cvil rights to those that have various degrees of same sex attraction.

As they often say history repeats itself and those that benefited from Civil Rights gains then use their influence to deny others. The college campus is ground zero in this as can be seen just last week in the State of Colorado .

I say leadership of LGBT because I am not convinced how many actual LGBT folks are on board with all this. Just like I am not sure that many are fully on board by making those have objections to gay marriage have to service gay wedding ceremonies which also has compelled speech issues.

Anyway I thought a interesting article by Mr Rauch.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Mark Silk Says Pro Lifers Should Support Contraception Mandate - A Response

Prof Mark Silk has a column up at Religion News Service called Anti-abortion movement should support contraception mandate.

He says in part :

 But Catholics consider abortion a far greater evil than contraception. And most other religious opponents of the mandate think contraception is just fine, at least for married women. So if there’s strong empirical evidence that contraception use reduces abortion, why fight the mandate all the way to the Supreme Court? Isn’t the anti-abortion cause worth a little religious liberty?

First Prof Silk just bypasses the fact that a part of the dispute is that many think a few of the drugs and procedures mandated actually cause a termination of a life. However lets skip that rather glaring omission.

Has Prof Silk been listening to the legal  arguments for the HHS contraception mandate recently ? The arguments being an employer has no  right to make choices as to private matters involving a woman's reproductive health for instance. That a employee's religious liberty is being interfered with by of the employers religious views. In essence some wish to make a  business a state actor.

No matter what you think about the Affordable Care Act ,  aka Obamacare , there is no doubt that what it did was very novel in many ways as a matter of law . This has implications here.

As Law Prof Josh Blackman recently stated in his post Is Hobby Lobby Imposing its Religious Beliefs on Its Employers?

But nowhere did I see any mention of a really important fact–the state action doctrine! All of these cases involve laws passed by the government that burdens religion. Here, we are talking about the actions of Hobby Lobby, a private corporation, that owes absolutely zero constitutional duty to the religious beliefs of its employees. Zip. None. They have to comply with any applicable nondiscrimination laws, and cannot discriminate against employees based on their religion, and must make reasonable accommodations for religion. But this does not translate to some sort of constitutional protection against establishing a religion in a craft store.
Another point not mentioned in this debate is that no one is forced to work for Hobby Lobby. If the package of benefits (and that’s what we are talking about) at Hobby Lobby is so insufficient, the employees are free to work anywhere else. In contrast, of course, one cannot avoid the long arm of the government if you do not like its policies (other than foot voting).
What’s lurking underneath this column is a point made several times at Balkinzation. That the ACA changed everything! That we have a new “baseline.” Now healthcare is not merely some fringe benefit, but a legal right. And to deny employees this right is so significant. Specifically, as Joey Fishkin argued, in the “post-ACA world,” Hobby Lobby is “acting partly on behalf of the federal government.”
You see what happened there? This logic makes the WaPo argument work. Hobby Lobby is not some mere private actor, but is in essence a cog in the federal machinery that guarantees healthcare to anyone. Employees should no longer treat health insurance as some sort of benefit, but now must demand it–and the employers’ religious liberty should not stand in that way.
I see strong parallels to arguments concerning the ability of religious employers to terminate non-religious employees for religious reasons. Though, employment in that context is not (yet) viewed as some sort of right that the employer must offer. (In many countries in Europe, this is the prevailing wisdom).
The significance of Hobby Lobby, I have come to realize, goes far beyond RFRA or birth control pills. Instead, the ruling would either legitimize or challenge the consolidation of the relationship between the individual, the employer, and the state, under the auspices of the ACA, in a way we have not yet seen.
That I think is very correct. Be sure to his follow up post here on the vast implications of creating a Private Establishment Clause . Despite Prof Silk assertions  we are dealing with more than just " a little " religious liberty that could be lost .

The legal and political winds of abortion politics are very much in flux.  The Pro Life movement correctly understands that if a certain precedent is set in the HHS contraception mandate cases it could very well open up the door to employers having to pay for abortions. That I don't think is an absurd slippery slope argument when we consider many of the LEGAL  arguments for the HHS contraception mandate that are being made now.

The real fear the anti abortion movement is what happens after the HHS Contraception mandate. I think its very reasonable the forces of " reproductive justice " will seek both legal and political means to expand this mandate to abortion.

Last but not least Prof Silk ends his piece with this little parting shot.

You’ve got to think that it’s not just the termination of fetal life that concerns those opposed to abortion rights. It’s anything that gives freer rein to women’s libidos. Like Mike Huckabee said.

We shall let pass that Prof Silk is not really giving the Huckabee quote in context.

 However it should be noted that the majority of non Catholic plaintiffs in these suits have no problem covering most forms of birth control. In fact Hobby Lobby covered and still has no objection to most forms of FDA approved birth control. The fact is public opinion polls shows a vast number of people have huge reservations about the HHS Contraception mandate. No doubt a vast number of these people and families that have objections  have used or currently use birth control.

While Prof Silks parting shot is a great one liner  it is not very illuminating of reality.

Vatican Releases Pope Francis 2014 Lenten Message

HERE IS THE ENGLISH TRANSLATION. Nice message by our Pontiff .

Monday, February 3, 2014

Saturday, February 1, 2014

SNAP Wants Religious Freedom Restoration Act Declared Unconstitutional !

SNAP of course is the organization that advocates for survivors of clergy sexual abuse . They filed a friend of the court brief that was joined by similar orgs as well as the Freedom from Religion Foundation..

See Bold challenge to a law on religion .

Indeed I find it a bold move to advocate that an important piece of civil rights legislation that passed by huge majorities  should be overturned. I will try to read the brief later today.

So We Can't Say Vagina Anymore ?

It is so hard to keep up nowadays about what is off limits. Saying vagina who knew ?

Ann Althouse has Online feminism is full of "essays by people who feel emotionally savaged by their involvement in it — not because of sexist trolls, but because of the slashing righteousness of other feminists."  

Thursday, January 30, 2014

A Divorce And A Confession Caused Engineer To Have New Life and Career In the Church

This is a pretty uplifting story both as to the power of just one confession and the fact that something as traumatic and regrettable as a divorce can lead to good things. See A change he didn’t see coming .

Cajun Catholic Youth Revel In Snow For First Time & March For Life in D.C.

I was reading another article from the Diocese of Arlington newspaper and just happened to see this article with some pics . See Wintry wonder: Louisiana pro-lifers delight in snow which involves youth that made the long trip from the Diocese of Houma - Thibodaux .

On Party Line Vote Efforts to Protect First Amendment Rights of College Students in Colorado Fail

This is a shame. This involves religious liberty but it also involves some core rights of association rights that people faith or no faith should be concerned about.

Monday, January 27, 2014