Article VI Blog

"Religion, Politics, the Presidency: Commentary by a Mormon, an Evangelical, and an Orthodox Christian"

United States Constitution — Article VI:

"No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."

  • It Is No Longer About Same Sex Marriage

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 08:05 am, June 29th 2013     &mdash      1 Comment »

    On Thursday we noted that the Prop 8 ruling by SCOTUS was a “baby splitter” and that its effectiveness relied on both sides having mutual respect for each other and the law.  As same sex marriage resumed in California yesterday, it is clear such is not the case.  News about the legal problems are hard to find.  From the article just linked:

    John Eastman, a professor of law at Chapman University and the director of the Center of Constitutional Jurisprudence, told KPCC’s Nick Roman that the appeals court jumped the gun Friday. Under Supreme Court rules, a 25-day period is normally required to allow the losing party to petition for a rehearing.

    “I’ve had a number of people asking me about legal recourse and quite frankly I’ve been telling them it’s hard to recommend legal recourse when what’s happening here is just such utter lawlessness,” Eastman said.

    “There’s a reason we have a petition for rehearing. Sometimes courts get decisions wrong, and a petition for rehearing can point out errors in the court’s decision,” Eastman said.

    And from CNN:

    But there is legal uncertainty whether the high court’s ruling could be enforced statewide, or limited to only a few jurisdictions.

    A bit of explanation may be in order.  Firstly, what cleared the way for the marriages to occur yesterday was that the appeals court lifted the order stopping same-sex marriage, that it issued in the wake of the controversial district court ruling.  This is what Eastman is talking about.  The second point is a bit more complex.  A federal district court has limited jurisdiction, over only part of the state – it has no authority to make a ruling over all of California.  This means that when Jerry Brown ordered the resumption of same sex marriage statewide, those portions of the state not under the jurisdiction of the district court that issued the ruling are technically in violation of the California State constitution.

    What’s going on, effectively, is exactly what Eastman said – lawlessness.  No one is respecting the law right now.  It simply does not matter.

    The closest analogy that I can come up with to where we are right now is Prohibition.  But even then government officials who very well may have had a drink in a speakeasy the night before went through the motions of enforcing and respecting the law – they did not openly defy it.  They may have personally and clandestinely disobeyed it, but their public and office actions DID NOT hold the law in disregard.  What is happening in California right now does just that – it holds the law and legal procedure in utter and complete disregard.

    And bear in mind, the law that has been summarily dismissed here is not mere legislative action, something of which one could reasonably assert the actions of an out-of-touch ruling class.  Rather this is foundational, constitutional law passed by a direct vote of the citizenry.  The proposition process has resulted in all sorts of nonsense over the decades – the legalization of marijuana being the latest.  But ask yourself this question – suppose the sheriff in county x in Colorado decided he disagreed with the proposition as passed and continued to bust dopers with much public fanfare and energy.  Would the state police arrest the sheriff?  What if the governor agreed with the sheriff and ordered no action on the part of state officialdom.  Would the dopers go to war with the sobers in the county?

    The question now is what other law shall we decide, without process, may be disposed of?  Given the parties and issues immediately involved, one fears deeply about the laws regarding religious freedom.

    The nation faces a deep and fundamental crisis.

    I have been reflecting of late on how we got here.  We got here in no small part because conservatives deeply respect reason and the law while our opponents are willing to push the boundaries of those things beyond recognition.  To respond in kind is, on our part, to cease to be conservative.  Meeting our opponents on their own terms, tempting though it is, means they win.  We cannot go there.  And yet, as Eastman points out, legal recourse seems to evade us.  Can we allow mob rule?

    Of course not, but we may very well have to let the energy of this particular mob dissipate of its own accord.  Patience is a virtue, and there may yet be method to the Supreme Court’s seeming madness.  It may be that California will serve, as it has so often in the past, as exemplar for the rest of the nation – even if this time it is in the wrong direction.

    In the book “World War Z” (the movie was nothing like the book), it is eventually decided that the only way to save the world is to withdraw to defensible positions, and that they cannot try to take everyone with them.  If people can make it to the safe zones they are welcome, but they get no help in getting there. – all energy must be poured into establishing and maintaining the safe lines.   It is only after years of reorganizing, of re-establishing law in what had become a lawless world, behind the lines that the world can return to the offensive.  One must wonder if SCOTUS has not just drawn such a defensible line at the California border.  (Before everyone abandons California, there were smaller safe zones in the abandoned parts of each nation – outposts that proved invaluable when the world returned to the offensive.)

    This much I do know.  If Justice Roberts is playing a “long game” with the Supreme Court, God’s game is much, much longer.

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    Posted in Culture Wars, News Media Bias, Proposition 8, Same-sex marriage, Social/Religious Trends | 1 Comment » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    Sometimes You Cannot Split The Baby

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 05:34 am, June 27th 2013     &mdash      1 Comment »

    Yesterday, K-Lo at the Corner, quoted Ross Douthat:

    The future of religious liberty on these issues is going to depend in part on the magnanimity of gay marriage supporters — the extent to which they are content with political, legal and cultural victories that leave the traditional view of marriage as a minority perspective with some modest purchase in civil society, versus the extent to which they decide to use every possible lever to make traditionalism as radioactive in the America of 2025 as white supremacism or anti-Semitism are today.

    The Supreme Court tried to split the baby yesterday.  The problem in this case, as opposed to when Solomon threatened it, is that the tactic relies on the good will of both sides.  Yes, he knew the natural mother would save the life of her child, but she would also have lost that had the “adoptive”mother not also had the child’s best interest at heart.  For the ploy to arrive at truth, both sides had to have other than self-interest at heart.   Lopez and Douthat are worried that such goodwill does not exist on the pro-gay-marriage side.  After reading the news this morning, I agree.  Consider this from an “alternative” lifestyle outlet:

    A Ventura County man was ordered to pull the plug on his flashing neon anti-Mitt Romney sign in his front yard today or go to jail.

    Steven Showers, who first put up the sign last August in front of his home in Newbury Park, said he intends to comply with the order issued by a Ventura County Superior Court judge. According to the Ventura County Star, Showers has until 5 p.m. today to take down the sign or he’ll be facing up to 45 days in jail.

    Last week, a jury convicted Showers of eight misdemeanor code violations. Showers, 60, represented himself at the trial.

    Showers insists he has a First Amendment right to display the sign, which says “Romney’s Racist Heart Dotcom. Save the GOP.” He installed it back when Romney was still running for president, and refused to remove it even though the GOP candidate lost the election.

    His issue with Romney is that he’s a Mormon. As Showers said to the Ventura County Star last year, “I was stunned to find out that the Mormon religion is a white supremacist, anti-black, racist ideology.”

    That sounds like a take no prisoners attitude to me.

    We’re in trouble.

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    Posted in Religious Freedom, Same-sex marriage, Social/Religious Trends | 1 Comment » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    Will Churches Be Far Behind?

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 05:54 am, May 31st 2013     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    The Washington Times reports:

    California senators introduced a bill on Thursday that would strip the Boy Scouts of America of its tax-exempt status in the state.

    They’re not happy with the group’s recent vote on gay membership, saying it didn’t go far enough.

    [...]

    The bill passed the Senate 27-9.

    Welcome to the chilling new age.

    Coercion has replaced convincing.  Decades upon decades of good acts and making good people is to be punished over a legitimate disagreement on a single issue!?  This is abuse of government at its absolute worst.  How can a government even dream of singling out an organization in this fashion?  One organization!  The power of government is being used not on a policy basis, but on a punitive, highly aimed basis.  Was it not opposition to such government action that our nation was founded upon?

    The threats of this action I have understood.  Such threats are powerful rhetoric and policy changes are wrought in rhetoric.  But to actually pull the trigger and act, and to do so based on a compromise action is frightening.  This is political violence, make no mistake.  We are unleashing forces that we may not be able to control.

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    Posted in Religious Bigotry, Same-sex marriage, Social/Religious Trends | Comment on this post » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    Jason Collins Just Made The Supreme Court’s Job A Whole Lot Easier

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 09:33 am, April 30th 2013     &mdash      3 Comments »

    First Fact: Jason Collins “came out” as gay in Sports Illustrated yesterday.

    Fact Two: SCOTUS is currently trying to decide two cases related to same-sex marriage, one on DOMA and one on California’s Prop 8.

    These are essentially discrimination cases.  The claims center on the fact that it is discriminatory to forbid same-sex marriage.  But if you think about it, we discriminate everyday; otherwise, there could be no criminal or non-criminal, no good or bad.  Discrimination is not, of itself, wrong.  It is only wrong to discriminate in certain situations.  Legally, these “certain situations” are defined as a “protected class.”

    Protected class is a term used in United States anti-discrimination law.[1] The term describes characteristics or factors which cannot be targeted for discrimination and harassment.

    So, what are the protected classes in the United States?  Wikipedia (linked above) provides a list.

    Now, examine that list of characteristics carefully.  It can be divided into two categories.  Let’s call one “Attributes” and the other “Choices.”  Attributes are those characteristics that we have no control over – they are essentially accidents of birth.  So, the protected classes in the category of Attributes would be, race, color, national origin, age, sex, disability and genetic information.

    Choices as a category is a different matter.  These are characteristics over which we as individuals do have control. The characteristics on that list that fall into this category are religion, familial status, and veteran.

    Now the first thing we have to ask ourselves is if they we are to judge same sex marriage as discriminatory, into which category would we fit homosexuality?  This is where Jason Collins comes in.  Jason Collins is an identical twin:

    Something in the media guides did not compute.

    Jason Collins is listed at 7-0 and 260 pounds in the New Jersey Nets media guide, while the Utah Jazz media guide lists twin brother Jarron at 6-11 and 255. Aren’t they identical twins?

    Yes, responds Portia Collins, the mother of the first set of identical twins to play in the NBA since Harvey and Horace Grant.

    So, is Jason taller than Jarron?

    After a bemused pause, the answer we knew was coming finally arrived: “Noooo.”

    “They filled out questionnaires and have a media archive at their respective schools [high school and Stanford University]. Jarron and Jason let it continue. I don’t think they let it bother them.”

    His brother Jarron is married, with kids; by all appearances quite heterosexual:

    Late last summer Jason called and said that he was coming over because he had something to tell me. This was nothing new. We speak multiple times a day, always have. He’s Tio Jason to my three kids. He’s like a brother to my wife. He’s my twin, eight minutes older. We live only a few miles apart on the west side of L.A. But while most of our conversations are quick and light, this one was different.

    So, here we have two men, genetically identical, that grew up together, were afforded all the same opportunities, went to high school and college together.  They seem as close as brothers can be.  Yet one is homosexual and one is heterosexual.  Clearly then, Jason’s homosexuality is a choice, or perhaps a series of small choices over the course of many years, but it is certainly not an Attribute, as we defined it above.

    Many are the claims that homosexuals are “just born that way.”  How many times have I heard, “That’s just the way I am.”  Well, clearly it is not, as so well illustrated by the Collins twins.  Physically identical and walking nearly identical paths until well into adulthood,  one made choices that lead to a traditional lifestyle and the other made choices that lead down the path that was exposed yesterday.

    Jason Collins “coming out” should make it crystal clear to SCOTUS that if they are to award “protected class” to homosexuals it will be in the Choices category, not the Attributes one.  But examine carefully that short list in the Choices category.  Religion is set aside as a protected class within the body of the constitution proper, and it is plain letter in the Bill of Rights.  Veteran only makes sense – this is another means of honoring those that have served the nation at the highest risk.  It seems commonsense enough.

    Familial status is where the rub lies.  But note, this is not an absolute when it comes to the protections.  The protections are limited purely to housing matters and furthermore, there are notable exceptions.  While it could be argued that same-sex marriage is, in some sense, a “familial status,” it falls so far outside the existing protection limits as to make it plain to the court that they will be creating a whole new protected class should they go that direction with these cases.

    Does the court have the power to create a protected class?  Note that each of the classes on the list above were created by legislative action, as cited.  When it comes to Attributes, it could be argued that the court might create, and/or expand a category based on “…the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them…,” in the Declaration of Independence.  But as the case of the Collins twins makes so transparent – this is no Attributes situation.

    The Court has little choice but to leave existing law in place.  These are choices by the individuals involved and how to deal with such people is a choice for the people generally.  That is why there are elections and legislatures.  If the Court decides otherwise, it will be a clear and undeniable usurpation of power.  It would be a tyrannical act.

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    Posted in Culture Wars, Prejudice, Same-sex marriage, Social/Religious Trends | 3 Comments » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    Economy,Civility – Easter and Passover

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:09 am, March 29th 2013     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    I spent a good bit of yesterday getting people that owe me money, some of them for quite a long time, to pay me the money they owe me.  In business we call this “collections.” Most business like mine is conducted on some sort of limited credit.  When the economy is pumping along, it is usually not an issue.  But when things are down, it can be a huge issue.  People hoard money, they stretch their credit to the limit and if they owe you money, you have to ask to get paid.

    Usually collections are a matter of course, you ask for the money, you get paid.  Lately though it seems like it takes more than just asking.  Threats of, and actually withholding, delivery is becoming something I have to do more and more of to get paid.  Money up-front, C.O.D. terms and other more forceful methods are necessary to keep the receivables in line.

    I find myself wondering why, if the economic signs seem hopeful – as the news proclaims and the market seems to think, am I having such a hard time collecting money?  Is money tighter than we are being lead to believe?  I think that is true in some markets and maybe I am stuck in those markets at the moment.  But I think there is more at play.  If the government is borrowing money at a break-neck pace, with no real plan or seeming intention to pay it back, why shouldn’t my customers?

    The timely payment of debt is a matter of simple civility.  By incurring debt I have pledged to meet that obligation.  I consider myself an honorable man, a man of my word, so such an obligation is not to be taken lightly.  And yet, if my situation is any measure, people are taking that obligation pretty lightly indeed.  This is not a good thing.

    When things are down in this fashion, a society/nation has two ways to turn – on itself or towards something bigger.  America has always been about something bigger.  Our word has always been our bond – we have always worked to improve for all so that things improved for the self.  But one is forced to wonder if the nation is responding that way in the current times.

    James Lileks:

    Empathy is always held up as a great virtue, but it’s remarkable how so few people have empathy with the total sum of the American experience beyond their own self-definition.

    Daniel Greenfield:

    There are two ways to destroy a thing. You can either run it at while swinging a hammer with both hands or you can attack its structure until it no longer means anything.

    The left hasn’t gone all out by outlawing marriage, instead it has deconstructed it, taking apart each of its assumptions, from the economic to the cooperative to the emotional to the social, until it no longer means anything at all. Until there is no way to distinguish marriage from a temporary liaison between members of uncertain sexes for reasons that due to their vagueness cannot be held to have any solemn and meaningful purpose.

    You can abolish democracy by banning the vote or you can do it by letting people vote as many times as they want, by letting small children and foreigners vote, until no one sees the point in counting the votes or taking the process seriously. The same goes for marriage or any other institution. You can destroy it by outlawing it or by eliminating its meaningfulness until it becomes so open that it is absurd.

    Doug Wilson:

    Anyone who has not noticed that “demands for apologies” have become one of the central political tactics of our day has simply not been paying attention. Like many effective tactics, it depends on an impulse that was originally good and right. It is the old Pottery Barn rule — you break it, it’s yours. Everybody knows that. But in our hyper age, we have gotten to the point where old high school pranks can be hauled out in presidential campaigns. This is simply pathological.

    There is no civility here, there is only the desire to destroy what you have for the sake of what I want – whether it is destroying marriage of failing to pay debts, or forcing apology as a means of avoiding responsibility.  Why, after 200 years of pitching in and working together towards a compromise solution to any dilemma are we turning on ourselves and devouring one another?

    Like the unleavened bread of this Passover season, we are missing an ingredient.  God, something bigger than all of us, is no longer a normal part of our thinking and discussion.

    It’s Good Friday, the world is a dark, dark place.  At church, Easter is coming, the light will return.  But will it return to the nation?  Only a future more distant than Sunday will say for sure.  However, this I know – if we accept things as they are, if we keep our Passover and Easter celebrations within the confines of our Synagogues and Churches it will not.

    I hate doing collections.  I hate having to point out to people that they are being dishonorable and uncivil.  I hate having to find a way to be nice to them when they are being so hard on me.  But I have found through long years of experience that such is just what I have to do.  Withdrawing means I never get paid.  Becoming completely adversarial just costs me more money.

    So it is with putting our faith back in its place as the leaven of our society.  We have to undertake the unpleasant task of pointing out, and enduring, incivility while remaining civil.  We have got to step out of our ghettos.

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    The Religious Message In The Political Space

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:29 am, March 5th 2013     &mdash      2 Comments »

    Chris Cillizza took Ann Romney “to task” yesterday:

    While the media is a convenient (and common) scapegoat, Ann Romney is simply wrong when she says: “I believe it was the media’s fault as well, is that he was not giv[en] — being given a fair shake, that people weren’t allowed to see him for who he was.”

    Here’s why. (Make sure to read WaPo’s Erik Wemple’s piece on Ann Romney too. It’s here.)

    Mitt Romney had two great positive selling points when it came to introducing himself to the American public: his business record and his faith. He talked about neither at any great length — or on the sort of terms that might have helped his chances.

    Let’s start with Romney’s Mormon faith. It was no secret that many within Romneyworld viewed the fact that he was a Mormon as a major reason for why his campaign never caught on among social conservatives in places like Iowa and South Carolina in 2008.

    And so, coming into the 2012 race,  it was clear from very early on that Romney would not speak extensively (or really at all) about his Mormonism. Romney avoided talking about his faith even in openly religious settings; in his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, Romney gave his faith only a passing mention.

    We understand why Romney was worried about putting his faith at the center (or somewhere close to it) of his campaign. Mormonism is still a religion with single digit percentages of adherents in the United States and its newness — within the broader scale of spiritual movements — has led to widespread skepticism.

    Still, what Romney never could prove to people during the campaign was that he had a core set of beliefs — that he was something more than just a politician’s politician, willing to bend whichever way the prevailing wind was blowing. And, what’s evident from the stories that were written about Romney’s work with the Mormon church is a) it was and is a huge part of his life and b) his actions were, by and large, quite admirable, and would have endeared him to the general public.

    I am not sure Cillizza’s political math adds up here.  He acknowledges, even if he does not admit, that Romney’s Mormon faith would have been a huge issue, had Romney brought it to the fore in the primary.  And there is evidence that it hurt him significantly in the general.  (Regular readers will recall that in the month or so after the election we looked at numbers indicating that the Evangelical vote did a lot of staying home last November.)  Cillizza seems to think that Romney’s unwillingness to tie this stone around his neck and jump in the water indicated a lack of a core, but what would happened if he had?  Would he have appealed to those that Cillizza seems to think he would have?

    I doubt it seriously.  For Evangelicals, the lack of conviction charge was rooted in and code for Romney’s faith, not a result of his failure to discuss it.  Cillizza clearly does not understand the Evangelical mind, such as it is.  To the average Evangelical, Mormonism is precisely a lack of a core – in the hardcore Evangelical world, if Romney had a core he would be an Evangelical.  So with the base, the move Cillizza proposes would have served only in more stay-at-homes on election day.

    Given the massive burst on same-sex marriage we have seen post election I think it is safe to say that during the general campaign a move to more strongly embrace his faith would have resulted,  as it seems Mormons are enemy #1 for the LGBT crowd, in such vitriolic and spiteful attacks from the left that he would have been forced off message.  The undercurrent from that community was immense as it was.

    I truly believe we have reached a point where overt religious messaging will simply not play in the political space.

    So, what is our message?  Well, let me pull together a few thing and suggest something.

    Conor Friedersdorf has been hosting a bit of a discussion over at The Atlantic on religion and same sex marriage.  The latest entry in the discussion contains this:

    In the ’60s and ’70s I was told and believed I was a deviant. In the ’80s I was told the AIDS epidemic was God’s judgment upon people like me. In the ’90s, DOMA and DADT became law to keep me in “my place.” Today my place is in Congress, on the school board, in the military and yes, at City Hall, applying for a marriage license. My personal struggle for equal treatment has done more than defined my life, it has made me whole.

    “I…me…my…,” is what justifies this person’s political action.  Not “we,” not “us,” not “society or culture.”

    I also ran across this at First Things:

    In Habits of the Heart, written almost thirty years ago, sociologist Robert Bellah and his co-authors came up with a term to describe a new American religion: “Sheilaism.” The phrase comes from an interview Bellah conducted with a woman called Sheila, who described her religion as follows:

    I believe in God. I am not a fanatic. I can’t remember the last time I went to church. My faith has carried me a long way. It’s Sheilaism. Just my own little voice. . . . My own Sheilaism . . . is just to try to love yourself and be gentle with yourself. You know, I guess, take care of each other.

    You don’t have to be a sociologist to appreciate how well Sheila’s comments reflect the mindset of millions of Americans. You can dismiss that mindset as empty and self-indulgent, but in the land of postmodern individualism, Sheilaism has powerful rhetorical appeal.

    Now, if you put those things together, there is no core to appeal to.  Ask yourself this, “What’s Obama’s core?”  From a campaign rhetoric standpoint (his philosophical/ideological core described n his writings aside) it is simple “feed your need” and “”protect you from the boogie man.”  That’s not a core, that’s pandering, but it appeals precisely to the “I…me…my…” crowd.

    Do you remember a couple of weeks ago when we mentioned a Dennis Prager interview with an author?:

    Here is a link to John J Miller’s NRO Interview with Jonathon Last on his new book, “What To Expect When No One’s Expecting.”  I have not had time to watch the Miller interview, but I did hear Last interviewed by Dennis Prager and Last has a startling conclusion.  Of course, the book is about declining birth rates.  Last found that the highest birth rates were amongst the religious.  He pointed to statistics that having a child makes couples demonstrably unhappier and more financially burdened and concluded that only a frame of reference that included something larger than self, which is something only religion can provide, is the only thing that can motivate reproduction.  He went out of his way to say it was not a matter of theological formulation, but simply the understanding that there is more than our individual wants and desires.

    I think it is this “larger than self” message that is the only one that can propel us forward.  That can be religious, it can be civic duty, it can be a simple appeal to the common good is good for the individual, but it is the essential point.

    Romney lives that idea and then some.  The press did not talk about it and Romney did not sell it.  And perhaps that’s the real issue here.  In the end, Cillizza seems to be saying it is not up to the press to investigate and report, but it is up to the candidate to message.  Someone who really understands the idea of “larger than self” takes from it a humility that should prevent “messaging” about it – for to do so would make it appear that even that charity was self-serving.

    So, I think Ann Romney was right after all – and the press is self-serving.

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    Posted in Religious Freedom, Same-sex marriage, Social/Religious Trends, The Way Forward, Understanding Religion | 2 Comments » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

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