Sunday, February 14, 2016

Antonin Scalia

Antonin Scalia died Saturday at the age of 79.   Mr. Scalia was the senior associate justice serving on the Supreme Court. He was appointed by President Reagan in 1986.   Mr.Scalia was no wallflower, and there was little confusion on where he stood on a particular issue or case that was before the court.   His questioning in oral arguments before the court were filled with challenges that were sometimes pointed, sometimes humorous, sometimes condescending, but always focused on his particular reading of a statute and its relation to the Constitution.  A self-described "originalist", Mr. Scalia was at his most aggressive when he saw legislation or a decision by the judiciary as "growing" the meaning of the Constitution as it was originally written.   Mr. Scalia was highly critical of legislation such as the Affordable Care Act.  He was highly critical of the Congress not doing their job when he said that they would essentially "rubber stamp" approval of the Votings Rights Act: "Whenever a society adopts racial entitlements, it is very difficult to get out of them through the normal political processes. I don't think there is anything to be gained by any Senator to vote against continuation of this act. "And I am fairly confident it will be enacted in perpetuity unless -- unless a court can say it does not comport with the Constitution."  He was an avowed opponent of same sex marriage and wrote a scathing dissent in Lawrence v. Texas which affirmed the overturning of Texas' anti-sodomy laws.  Mr. Scalia was a committed Roman Catholic, and it permeated his work on the court with the exception of the death penalty.  His views were consistently conservative, with a tilt towards limiting the role of the Federal Government and promoting States Rights.  In this, he was the darling of the conservative intelligentsia and groups such as The Federalist Society.

Mr. Scalia was one of the most consequential justices in recent history.  His role in Bush v. Gore and other significant arguments in front of the Court have left an indelible mark for aggressive conservatism.  Revile him or revere him, people asked about Scalia were rarely moderate in their opinions about the fiery jurist.   He evoked emotional responses from most people when asked their view on the justice.   I am on the side of revulsion in Mr. Scalia's opinions.  I highly disagreed with his "originalist" perspective on the Constitution and believe as Jefferson suggested that the document was indeed fungible and needed to be upgraded as time progressed:  "Some men look at constitutions with sanctimonious reverence, and deem them like the arc of the covenant, too sacred to be touched; who ascribe to the men of the preceding age a wisdom more than human, and suppose what they did to be beyond amendment. Let us follow no such examples, nor weakly believe that one generation is not as capable as another of taking care of itself, and of ordering its own affairs. Each generation is as independent as the one preceding, as that was of all which had gone before. - ".  It would have been an interesting debate between Justice Scalia and the third President of the United States.

Regardless of what one thinks of Scalia, he was an important figure in the United States history of jurisprudence.  His legacy is one that will be debated for some time, but it is not difficult to say that he influenced the direction of the court towards a highly conservative posture for the last 30 years.

The biggest problem I had with Justice Scalia was his integration of his faith into his work.  To me, that was a violation of his oath and he didn't seem to have a problem with wearing his religious point of view on his chest.  Now, to be clear, it was rare that he invoked religious perspective into his writings on opinions, but his public statements were highly sectarian, whether talking about homosexuals, abortion or many other topics he felt strongly about.   I have a personal problem with this as I expect full objectivity in the Supreme Court.  I know that is naive, but I think unless our judiciary is clean of political and theological perspective, we will always see decisions that are less about objective justice and more about appeasement of an interest group that the maps to the majority's way of thinking rather than interpreting the constitutionality of the law on its merits.

Tell me what you think,


Monday, February 01, 2016

Why We Must Have a Secular Government-Election 2016

We need to get religion out of politics and it should in no way be codified into our government.  That statement is undoubtedly controversial.  We have after all, since the Republic was born, had massive reliance on religion and faith to make our political points.  It seems to be used more for campaigning than governing, which is a very good thing and there is a very good reason for that.  The framers, when writing the constitutions went to great pains to keep religion out of government except to make two specific statements on the topic.  The first, in Article VI, clause 3 says specifically that "...but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."  Indeed, the sentence right after that clause requires the officer holder to take oath of fidelity to the Constitution, and no religious deity or doctrine.  The 2nd mention of religion is probably the most famous:  The first amendment which includes the Establishment Clause says this: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;".   The framers (Madison, et al,) went to great pains to avoid what they had seen from history with respect to a state mandating or supporting on religious faith over another.  Hundreds of years of conflict within the Christian religion between Catholics and Protestants were a warning sign to not allow the State or Religion to interfere too much with one another.   Adams, Jefferson and other founders went to great pains to suggest that America was not governmentally affiliated with any specific religion.  That said, our country is a religious country.   About 80% of the population of the country claims some religious affiliation.   By and large, Christianity and its various denominations and sects make up about 70% of the religious population with Jewish, Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus and others making up the other 10% of the country who claims religious affiliation.  The fact that we have a secular document guiding our governance has been lost on a lot of the people in this country.  Many, who haven't really studied the government or its genesis, are oblivious to the efforts on the founders to create a secular government that would provide protection for the faithful.  So, it is not surprising today, as in almost every campaign season since the country was founded, to see the Almighty invoked in one way or another.   I think this has been and continues to be a dangerous blurring of the lines between that which should be between the person and their god, and the government that must make decisions for all people, believers or non-believers.

 In any election year and campaign, candidates will invariably invoke or be coerced into talking about their religious "faith" and or affiliation.  Usually, if the candidate comes forward and discusses their faith of their on accord, it is to make a point.   An example of this was shown in the last Republican debate when Marco Rubio responded a statement from the moderator that Time Magazine had declared Rubio the "savior" of the Republican party.  Rubio, before speaking to the article had this to say:

Mr. Rubio may have been speaking from genuine conviction.  He may have been playing up to the evangelical community in Iowa as the caucuses are tonight and religion, particularly evangelical Christianity is of significant importance to many Iowans.  We may never know the extent of Mr. Rubio's convictions on the topic and it doesn't really matter.  Many of the candidates vying for the Presidency this go round have made through either volunteered testimony or in the response to a question from the media or interested voters a profession of where they are from a religious perspective. Many of the candidates, such as Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Chris Christie have made overt declarations of faith.  Senator Sanders, has recently told us that he is not particularly religious.  

It is not surprising that the candidates speak about  faith.  It generally helps them and in particular when their faith is cut from the same cloth as the voters whose support they covet.  So, we are overtly Christian in our campaigning.  Regardless of how faithful and observant a Hindu, a Muslim, a Buddhist, a Shintoist, a Taoist, etc. might be, they will find minimal support from the electorate should the espouse their particular faith as the guiding principle for their decision making.   This is the problem.  We have a mixture of faiths in this country.   6% of the people in this country, roughly 18 million people, are of a faith or belief system other than Christianity.  A leader of a country with such varied philosophical vies must be the leader of all the people and not just the ones whose faith he or she agrees to.   A Pew Poll conducted in 2014, showed the spread of religious affiliation across the country and describes the variety of faiths that make up our nations population.  When a candidate speaks to a point of their religious faith, they will not do so in a half-hearted manner. They will not generally go out of their way to suggest that other faiths are equivalent in terms of being genuine to the believer.  They will speak to the audience and pander. If they are in Dearborn Michigan, which is home to a large population of Muslim Americans, they will not castigate their faith because they want their votes. If they are in Boston, if they are smart, they will not deride Catholicism because they want their votes.  If they are in Boca Raton, Florida, they will not say anything bad about Israel, will go to synagogue and speak in positive terms about the Jewish faith, because they want their votes.   To be sure, some of them are genuinely respectful of other peoples beliefs and faiths.  Most are not. Most are cynical, likely atheists, or agnostics, and are simply trying to gain trust by illustrating either their piety or at a very minimum, a profound respect for the believer.  

The recent history of the 21st century has inflicted a large amount of religious polarization an intolerance.  Fanatics, acting in accordance to what they believed killed thousands of people in New York on September 11, 2001.   Additional terrorist attacks stemming from radical islamists against other Muslims, other faiths, have been a common occurrence for the past 16 years. It's nothing new, but given the fact that our country was injured so greatly, it has been a common topic of great discussion now for almost two decades.  The West, which is from a majority non-Muslim have countered with military action in an effort to defeat or stop the terrorists from harming us again.  Leaders in the West have been very careful to avoid calling this a war against a faith, rather it is a war against "bad actors" in the faith.  However, we have seen from a political point of view a sharp contrast in that perspective.   We have legislatures in state governments writing anti-Sharia laws on the books. These same legislators, who are so strident against Muslim religious law, attempt to codify Christian religious law on the books and see no level of hypocrisy in those decisions.  Why?  Well, they will say that we are a "Christian Nation" and therefore we should be governed by God's Law. Ted Cruz, a senator from Texas who wants to be President said "I'm a Christian first and an American second".  This statement should immediately disqualify him from the Presidency because it means he will violate his oath of office should he become the Chief Executive.  Why? Because "God's Law", at least the Judeo Christian God's Law, often comes into conflict with the US Constitution, which is what the President is bound to uphold and protect.  The First Amendment is completely counter to the First Commandment, and therein lies the problem.  Which law will the Chief Executive adhere to?   We've been fortunate through our relatively short history that we have not been a theocracy.  Our government has by and large protected religious thought and freedom.  It would be a sad blemish on this country should we regress towards one particular point of view and codify that into our governance.  

For more than casual observers in our politics, we expect to see a certain amount of pandering to religious people, just as we see pandering to other groups, whether they are focused on an ethnic group or on another group such as an industry association or an environmental organization.  With the pandering to the religious community, the motives may be the same, in that they politician is attempting to get elected, but I believe there risks of significant damage to our community as whole.  From just a purely selfish perspective on the part of the politician, there is an enormous amount of energy coming from the religious community on specific issues such as abortion, same sex marriage, and this will drive activism which will drive money and organization which will drive voters to the polls.  Politicians, whether genuine or cynical, have used this energy throughout our history in order to gain election to the positions they desire.

The damage in  of melding religion and politics is that religion is exclusionary.   This is counter to the thought of how our Republic works where we recognize democratic principles, but have put safety nets in place to protect the minority's opinion.   It is hard to do this with religion and especially when religion is turned into law that people of other faiths have to live by.  Because religion is principally a matter of faith, and faith is based on belief, it is hard for the faithful to be true to their beliefs if the laws they live under run counter to them.  So, when a religion gains control of a government as exemplified by Iran or other theocracies, then the minority is generally not protected and is subject to persecution.  Apostates are in danger of losing their lives, religious minorities are subjugated to secondary classes losing rights or having to pay for the right to their faith.  We've seen this throughout history  regardless of which religion it might be.  Jews, have been persecuted by Christians and Muslims alike.  Catholics and Protestants have persecuted each other for centuries. Shia and Sunni Muslims have persecuted each other.  Whether interfaith or intrafaith, when one specific religion or dogma or doctrine gains control over another, bad things usually happen to the group who is not in power.  It is only through secular protections such as our Constitution that a religious minority be somewhat confident that they will be able to believe what they want to believe without fear of harm or ostracizing.

This is why it is important to not only keep the wall of separation intact, but to shore it up and strengthen it.   When a kid is  bullied or mocked by other kids because they are of different faiths, it doesn't serve the religion from the bully well.  When an adult is shunned or condemned for believing in a specific religion counter to the more popular religion it creates a schism between people that are really more alike than different.  When we highlight a flaw in another person's belief without looking hard at our own, we're being hypocrites and complicating the opportunity to understand each other.  It makes it harder for us to go about our daily lives. It makes it frightening for the minority to believe they have just as much right to be an American as the majority.   Suspicion grows, distrust grows, anger grows.   This is not what we espouse as being an American.  We somewhat arrogantly claim this is the greatest country in the world, we have the best opportunity for people to better their lives, etc. etc.  It makes for great speeches, and in most cases we are indeed the benchmark for how a nation should govern itself.  If we maintain a secular society with respect to our governance, there is ample room for faith and religious piety. If we as some want, move towards a governance structure delivered by "God", then we lose one of the characteristics about this nation that has made us in some respects, the best country in history.

Tell me what you think.


Monday, January 25, 2016

2016 Election - Thoughts and Observations

The election year is upon us and it is now becoming clearer who the likely candidates for the two major political parties' nominations will be.  For some time, the four candidates pictured above have been in the conversation as the most probable to be competitive through the primary season.  As to who will win the nominations of their parties, it's still not certain, but what is apparent is that Mr. Trump and Ms. Clinton are the most likely right now to be competing for the Presidency next November.   Certainly, there are things that could derail their campaigns.  This race is unlike any presidential race we have seen in quite a long time.

Looking at several of the polling sites,  Mr. Trump shows a  strong lead in Iowa (11 point lead), while on the Democratic side of the contest, Mr. Sanders and Ms. Clinton are much closer, with the latest poll data suggesting (coming from a CBS/ poll) Mr. Sanders has a 1 point lead.  The web site, RealClearPolitics, is a polling aggregator and this information is as of Sunday, January 24th.   Nate Silver's excellent, has Ms. Clinton's chances of winning in Iowa at 82%.  (Note: their formula for projecting this is a compilation of polling data plus their own projections.).  That said, I don't think we can anoint Ms. Clinton or Mr. Trump just yet.

The Republican party establishment is beside themselves with an idea that Donald J. Trump, a business man with no governmental experience, and questionable conservative bona fides will become their nominee.   There seems to be a schism in the party between the old guard party of Dole, Bush, Romney and others and the howling mad disaffected supporters of the real estate mogul.  On the social conservative side, Mr. Cruz is enjoying a lot of support from evangelical Christians who want to see a candidate who is more in line with those like Steve King, the anti-immigrant congressman from Iowa who has endorsed Mr. Cruz.   Mssrs, Rubio, Kasich, Christie, Bush and the remainder of the candidates are vying for table scraps at this point in time and just trying to hang on in hopes that Trump or Cruz shoot themselves in the foot.   As to where Mr. Paul, Mr. Carson and Ms. Fiorina are at this point is any one's guess, because they seemingly have disappeared from sight.

On the Democratic side of the ledger, this has been a two person race for some time.  Senator Sanders has ignited a level of excitement among young voters the likes of which we saw in 2007 when then Senator Obama was running.  The question is, is it enough?  Secretary Clinton has built a well organized, and well funded ground game in Iowa. While the race is reportedly close in Iowa, it will be hard to pull the caucuses in Iowa to the firebrand from Vermont.   New Hampshire is entirely another story, with Senator Sanders holding a commanding lead in the polls.   The Democratic path to the nomination is much more rocky than the Republicans, as Mr. Sanders and Ms. Clinton seem to be holding strong leads in different states (see projections for South Carolina as an example for Ms. Clinton), and it make take some time to determine who will eventually get the nomination.

Back to the GOP, it seems like Mr. Trump has a smooth trip to the nomination.  He has commanding leads in the national polls and should he win both Iowa and New Hampshire, it looks like the rest of the primaries will be just icing on the cake for him.   This has a lot of people sweating inside the GOP, as many have come out and said that if Trump gets the nomination, the GOP will be consigned to the dustbin of history as a national party.  I don't know.  I think the people saying this are living in a "bubble" of how the GOP should look, and that is most certainly changing.   I believe the real GOP is now a party of intense anger at pretty much everything that government represents.  The people coming out to Trump's rallies and evidently answering the polls in a manner positive to his cause don't seem to care about his experience.  He has captured a wave of anti-government, anti-incumbent, anti-anything remotely "un-American" sentiment that hasn't been seen in years.   The people supporting him certainly don't care about details. They like the rhetoric. They like the xenophobic comments railing against the "other", who may at certain times be illegal Mexican immigrants, Syrian refugees, Chinese businessmen, and now evidently Canadians (in a backhand to Mr. Cruz' country of birth).   He has brought forward little of substance.  His plans will be "wonderful" with platitudes like "you'll win so much you will get tired of winning", and "Make America Great Again".  He continually castigates anyone he is competing with as either "low energy", "stupid", "weak" or "feckless".   In this manner, he's caught something of a tailwind that for now, will propel those who share his anger to come out heavy for him in the primaries.  Will that continue in November?  Hard to see at this point.  Perhaps there will be some buyer's remorse before the general election, but my friends, it is time to seriously consider the possibility of a Donald J. Trump presidency.    That, I can tell you is a thought that will fester for some time with me.

Should Ms. Clinton win the nomination of the Democrats, she will have to overcome a high level of enthusiasm that is evident with Senator Sanders' followers.  The commentary across social media is astonishingly positive for Bernie and it doesn't seem to map to the polling.  Will the young voter come out and support a 73 year old democratic socialist that is espousing a "political revolution"?  Or, at the end of the day will their attention turn elsewhere and Ms. Clinton be swept into the nomination by her base, and by the impressive organization she has built.  Ms. Clinton is a smart and effective politician, and while she has now caught another enthusiastic and different opponent as a primary challenger, I find it unlikely she will make the same mistakes she made in 2007 and 2008, which was to underestimate her opponent.  She did with Senator Obama and we saw a robust battle where initially all points had Ms. Clinton as "inevitable".  I don't believe she, nor her best weapon, the most effective retail politician in my lifetime; Bill Clinton, will make the same mistake twice.   Assuming Ms. Clinton does indeed win the nomination (Note:  I'm in the tank for Bernie, and have contributed to his campaign. My heart is with him, but my brain tells me it will be a tough sell), then I think the likelihood she will become the next President is very high.   If it is a contest between her and Mr. Trump, then the business side of the Republican party will swing in her direction, because let's face it;  she is not too far away from being a Republican, and Trump scares the hell out of them.  She is pro-business, she is a defense hawk, and she has made connections across the business spectrum to the point that if it is her against  Mr.Trump, she wins.  If, on the other hand, Senator Sanders prevails and wins the nomination, and Mr. Trump wins the GOP tournament, it will assuredly be the strangest presidential election we've seen since Ross Perot jumped into the race in 1992.  Oh, and as an aside, noise is being generated that billionaire Michael Bloomberg, sometime Republican, sometime Democrat, sometime Independent, and former mayor of New York might launch a 3rd party contest.  That would be an interesting wrinkle, but I digress.  If Mr. Sanders is running against Mr. Trump, will the Democratic establishment get behind him?  Do they want Bernie in the White House?  Time will tell, but if Mr. Sanders can win Iowa and then win New Hampshire, the contest becomes more interesting.   The majority of contributors to Mr. Sanders have averaged $27 per contribution, and should he gain momentum with wins in Iowa and New Hampshire, one could see those small donors continue because there would be hope of a victory.  If on the other hand, he loses in Iowa and doesn't do as well in New Hampshire as fore casted, then we may see the enthusiasm for his candidacy wane somewhat.

So, in a sense, with both parties, we have an establishment versus anti-establishment contest, and the outcome in November will be which group will generate more enthusiasm and more importantly, generate voters to the polls.  I believe it is pretty clear that the anger in this country against a government in views in whole cloth as ineffective is real. It's palpable,  The question is, is it lasting?

Tell me what you think.


Sunday, October 25, 2015

We Need More People to Vote

We are a little over one year away from the 2016 elections, which will include deciding who will become the 45th President of the United States   The election coming up will be a consequential election in that like 2008, we will be voting for someone to lead the country who is not an incumbent, a sitting Vice-President, or the clear leader of either political party.   This election will also see two very different forms of populism in action, with the campaigns of Senator Bernie Sanders and businessman Donald Trump both espousing a perspective that has caught the interest of the American people in a way we haven't seen for some time.   The energy from these two non-establishment campaigns is high and garnering much attention from both the general electorate and the media.  The messaging coming from these campaigns and the resulting interest from the populace suggests we may see a high degree of participation in the upcoming election process.   I hope so, because in general we have been rather pathetic in exercising our right to vote.  

The upcoming contest by whomever wins the two parties nominations will of course take center stage in the process, and will likely drive more people to the polls.  In 2012, when President Obama was challenged by former governor Mitt Romney, we saw about 58% of the eligible voters turn out and cast a ballot for their favorite candidate.  That election, like most presidential elections generated a higher than average voter participation than the "off-year" elections like 2014, where a dismal 36% of eligible voters decided it was worth their time to vote.  

It is a curious reality that we have such low voter participation, especially when there is so much to be done in our country.  Our nation is still slowly recovering from the financial crisis of 2008. We are still embroiled in conflict overseas.  More than 45 million people are still living at or below the poverty line, which by the way equates to about 1 of every 5 children in this country living in poverty.  Our collective ambivalence towards voting is surprising given the current state of affairs within our county.  The current crop of candidates vying for the Presidency are highlighting these issues in a variety of ways.   We have candidates who have suggested our economic woes are the result of illegal immigration, or criminal bankers and greedy corporations.  We have candidates who have decided that issues like marriage equality have caused us to lose our way as a country and somehow the problems we're facing are retribution from an angry God.  We have candidates who suggest that anyone who is a Muslim is not to be trusted and they would go so far to limit the 1st Amendment protections of freedom of religion to those who are of the Christian faith. We have candidates who will never suggest that the gun violence in this country might have anything to do with the fact that there are over 300 million guns within our borders.    Each has put their marker out there and suggested that they have a solution to put us on the right path.  This is expected. Each Presidential election is ripe with allegations that we're somehow "broken" and it's the fault of the other party, the other person, or the the other political philosophy. Each candidate offers a solution that usually is the opposite of what the other side is doing. There are very few people running for office today suggesting that we have to find a way to work together to solve problems.  The best strategy, according to the political operatives and pundits, are to divide and highlight the differences in order to garner as much energy as possible against the other side.

It is understandable. We've made our election process into sport. Our campaigns look like pep rallies for our favorite football team. The objective is to win, and then to govern in a manner that makes the other side look silly.   The hard work of governing comes after the conventions, the elections and the inaugurations, and then is often given a back seat to fund raising and preparation for the next election.  Some estimates from people who look at this process for a living, suggest that over 2 Billion dollars will be spent to find out who the next President of the United States will be.  There is big money to be made in our election process, and the more money brought in, the longer the process becomes.  It seems we are now in a round-the-clock campaign posture.  It is not surprising to hear that when a member of the House of Representatives is elected today, the moment after he or she is sworn in, they have to give a disproportionate percentage of their time to getting re-elected.  This takes them away from the business at hand which is to legislate on behalf of the people who sent them to Washington.   Today, a member of Congress will spend roughly 40-50% of their time getting reelected. They will, on average have to raise about $10,000 per week in order to run a viable campaign to hold their job.  That means, that with the 435 members of the House, each has to generate about $1.2 million in campaign funds and spend almost half their time fund raising and campaigning for an election that occurs every two years.  The numbers are mind boggling, especially when we consider how evidently little we Americans care about this.   If we cannot get more than 50% of the eligible voters to the polls with all of this campaigning and spending, then one must ask What's the point?   Well, the point is, if we don't get more people to the polls then we'll continue on as we are, which is dysfunctional, and we'll keep kicking the hard problems down the road.  I don't see that as a recipe for a good future. Indeed, should we continue to be as ho hum about voting as we are, we might soon see a government that is very different than what we are accustomed to.  By virtue of apathy, we could see massive change occur and it will likely be change we do not necessarily want.  Nature abhors a vacuum, the saying goes, and if we aren't there to decide how we want our government to behave, someone else will.

We have a right to participate in our government.  We have a democratic republic.  We are supposed to be serious about who we want to elect to represent us and decide the rules we all will live by.  Most people (at least 64% in the 2014 election) cannot be bothered to vote.   We have a right to vote.  We also have an obligation to vote.   The election in 2016 will see a higher voter turnout than 2014 because of the Presidential campaign.  That's to be expected. But it is curious and somewhat disheartening to expect less than 60% of the eligible voters in the nation will bother to cast a ballot.  If we don't participate, then we are relegated to accept what is given us.  It seems to me that no one, Democratic or Republican, liberal or conservative, religious or non-religious should want to just accept what is given.  

There is an opportunity for us as a nation to get off of our collective backsides and do our jobs.  We need to get informed on who best represents our values, who best resolves our issues, and who best represents what we think how the country should be governed.  If we put ourselves into the process as seriously as we can, get as knowledgeable on the candidates and issues as we can, then we can say we've done our part.  If we don't and we are unhappy with the outcomes or still believe that it doesn't matter who is elected, then the fault does not lie with who gets to go to Washington, the fault lies with us.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Game Over

Well folks,  It's all over except for the crying;  and the backlash by some state government officials to refuse to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples; and the cries of apocalyptic doom from some religious leaders that God is going to smite the crap out of us for this terrible decision by the Supreme Court.

It's been 14 days since the Supreme Court declared that same sex couples are protected by the 14th Amendment and gay and lesbian couples have a constitutionally protected right to marry and that states must recognize those marriages.  Since the decision, several states have complied and their counties and cities are issuing marriage licenses and people are moving on with their lives.  There are a few however, who are holding fast or at least attempting to make it very difficult for people to obtain their license to marry.   Texas, which is the state I was born and is the state where I currently live, is one of those (others include Louisiana and Mississippi, although as of today, they seem to have given up the fight) who are attempting to circumvent the ruling.  Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has said that County Clerks may refuse to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples on religious grounds. Mr. Paxton said that if it violates the free exercise of the Clerk's religion to issue the license, then they can refuse to do so. Of course, this is in direct violation of the Supreme Court's mandate, and states must comply with decisions from the court.  This is a stalling tactic, and Mr. Paxton knows, eventually he will have to give up the effort.  It's good theater now and certainly it in Texas, where no one misses an opportunity to bash the Federal Government.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, one of the several hundred candidates for the Republican nomination for the Presidency in 2016 has been incredibly strident in his objections to the decisions signed an executive order called the Marriage and Conscience order, which not only allowed for business discrimination against same sex couples (he says it doesn't), but also provides protections for parish clerks if they refuse to issue marriage licenses.  The order has resulted in a lawsuit from marriage equality supporters who made the discrimination claim.  The response from the Governor was not surprising:  “This Executive Order protects religious liberty. The ACLU used to defend civil liberties, now it appears they attack them. The Left likes to pick and choose which liberties they support at any given time, and it seems to me that religious liberty has fallen out of favor with them," he said. "Well, I’m not going to be swayed by the latest opinion poll or left wing lawsuit. Religious liberty is fundamental to our freedom as Americans and I will not back down from defending it.”  

Religious discrimination claims are coming out like a plague of frogs falling from the sky now.  In several states such as Kentucky, people, whose job it is to provide marriage licenses are refusing to do so because it violates their "religious freedom".   Religious Freedom?  The claim is weak tea.  It does not violate a persons religious freedom.  The individual is free to believe what he wants. What it does is tell that person that they may not act on their belief if it violates the law.  A devout Jew or Christian, who literally believes the Bible is the ordained word of God and all commandments and directives are law from the Almighty herself, cannot stone an adulteress to death in this country. Can't do it.  Why? because we have laws that tell us we can't do that.  So, if one exercised their "freedom of religion" to stone said adulteress to death, then they would be escorted to the nearest facility that houses those who break the law.

The religious community who are so ardently against this decision have come out in full force warning us that God will unleash a might truckload of wrath on us and that we are doomed as a society.  Here's a few examples of the dire warnings those closed to God have brought forward:

Franklin Graham, evangelical pastor and head of Graham ministries is "deeply saddened" because the Supreme Court has "endorsed sin".  He says we better be prepared for Christian persecution and wrath from God as punishment for our violation of God's standards.  Here's the link to the video where the good reverend suggests we need to repent:

John Haqee, pastor of the Cornerstone Church in San Antonio says we can kiss the country goodbye because of our progress toward gay marriage:

Dr. Robert Jeffress, head of Pathway to Victory had this to say about the decision:  "The Supreme Court said in essence, “We know better than God how to define marriage.” For thousands of years both Christians and Jews have believed in both the Old and New Testament definition of marriage that was written by Moses and affirmed by Jesus Himself when He said that God “made them male and female … For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” (Matthew 19:4-5)".  Here's a video for those who want to hear it from the "horse's ass", oops, sorry, meant to say "horse's mouth":

Many of the faith that are followers of the good reverends above are ironically heartened that God will rain down his wrath on this nation because of that despicable decision.  Unless we change our ways, the God that loves us so much will cause terrible things to befall us because we are so naughty.

It's not just our religious community who have decided we've lost our way.  To date, none of the 13 or 14 or 17 (I can't keep count) of the candidates for the Republican nomination for the Presidency have done anything except complain and whine about the decision.  Some have accused the court once again of being an "activist court", full of people hell bent on legislating from the bench.   Here's a sample of the politician's perspectives on the decision:

Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin - The ruling was “a grave mistake,” the Republican governor said, touting his support for amending his state’s constitution “to protect the institution of marriage from exactly this type of judicial activism. As a result of this decision, the only alternative left for the American people is to support an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to reaffirm the ability of the states to continue to define marriage,” Walker said in the statement.

Former Governor Jeb Bush - “Guided by my faith, I believe in traditional marriage,” he wrote in a statement. “I believe the Supreme Court should have allowed the states to make this decision.

Texas Senator Ted Cruz on the Court's ruling:  "It was the darkest 24 hours in our nation’s history.”

And finally, the most over the top response to the ruling from the pack of GOP Presidential Candidates:  Former Governor Mike Huckabee:  ‘God had to bless America or we would not exist … But will God continue to bless America without our repentance,’ he asked.
‘1975, the wife of evangelist Billy Graham said that “if God does not bring his judgment upon this land, He will have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah,’ he continued.
‘She said that 40 years ago. What would she say today if she was still alive? When the Supreme Court just two weeks ago, or as I call them, the Extreme Court, made the most radical decision when it comes to the definition of marriage, it truly was a remarkable day in which they did not vote for equality of something, they voted for the redefinition of something.’'
With all of the woeful portents of ecclesiastical smiting, plea for repentance and aggressive anti-gay backlash in either acts of over refusal from state and local governments to comply with the ruling you'd think the country at large is dead set against the idea of same sex marriage.  You'd be wrong.  Since the Stonewall Riots of 1969, slowly, but surely, the idea that gay people were not diseased or perverted or just flat "icky" has been slowly falling away.  We all know gay people.  We've known gay people that were in the closet living lives of quiet desperation and those who were flamboyant and out and proud of who they are.  Sure, it has been a process of acceptance, but guess what?  We've generally made our peace with this. Few people (other than the zealots out there) have a problem with people being gay.  Here's an interesting chart that shows the progress relative to acceptance of the idea of same sex marriage since just 1996:  
In just 19 short years, the country has decided instead of gay marriage being a bad idea to more than half of the population saying it should be legalized.   This should put the matter to bed.  But, know it won't. Not for a while at least. The reason?  We love to hold on to some warped idea of how well things were in the past.  Yes, the "Good Old Days". Don't you miss them?  Don't you miss Jim Crow?  Don't you miss polio? Don't you miss those days when Men were Men, Women were Women, Black people were something else altogether and obviously gay people like Liberace were "confirmed bachelor's" that just hadn't found the right woman yet?   Come on folks, the good old days stunk to high heaven.  No, this backlash and idiotic cries of persecution on the part of "religious leaders" will be around for a while, but it is dying and hopefully within my lifetime we'll look back on this period and say "What the hell was wrong with us"?  Why did it take until 2015 to finally get the protections for people to be treated equally?
This last swell of anguish and anger about allowing them to get married are the dying throes of a arcane point of view that is better consigned to the ash heap of history of bad ideas and beliefs.  The anger comes from religion. Religion is such a large part of political life that the politicians that must cater to that crowd are cowering in their Saville Row suits and telling the faithful what they want to hear.  Charlatans who claim to be representatives of God but are more interested in their bank accounts and political power are trumpeting the pending ass whipping that God will bring to us because of our wicked ways. 
Those who believe that "God" will unleash a fury of Biblical revenge on us for this aren't paying attention.  Same sex marriage has been legal in this country in at least two states since 2004.  Those states were Massachusetts and Vermont.  God's wrath, if its coming is certainly slow.  Not So!, some say.  They say what about Hurricane Katrina or Hurricane Sandy? Surely that's God's punishment for our evil ways.  (editorial note: Why is God always punishing us with Hurricanes?).  Well, if Katrina and Sandy are God's punishment for Vermont and Massachusetts allowing Gay marriage, then you have to wonder 1. Why did it take her until 2005 to unleash Katrina and 2., How come Vermont and Massachusetts weren't demolished as a result?  No, Mississippi, Louisiana, parts of Texas and Alabama bore the brunt of God's wrath with Katrina, and they are four of the most ardently anti-gay states in the union.  What about Hurricane Sandy?  Well, certainly hitting New Jersey and New York are closer to the target, but you have to wonder if the Almighty was taking lessons from George W.Bush on deciding to unleash revenge:  Two states launch the same sex marriage actions and God decides to take out states that had nothing to do with the decision.  Sound familiar?
Look, for you of the faith attempting to figure out what God has in store for us as a nation because of this "darkest 24 hours in our history" according to Ted Cruz, you need to think about this:  Why didn't God smite us when we exterminated 90% of the indigenous population in this country during the first 130 years of our existence?  Why didn't She bring down the plagues and torments with our atrocious history of slavery and Jim Crow?  Here's the reason.  God, if she does indeed exists is likely about as interested in gay marriage as to who will win the World Series or Superbowl.  That's to say, not at all.  It's time for the those who think God really gives a damn about this issue to give it a rest. It's time for the politicians who are catering, manipulating and using the faithful for their own purposes to shut the hell up.  The die is cast, the song is over, the deal is done.  Get over it and move on to something more relevant today, like denying climate change.

Tell me what you think.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

A Decision To Be Proud Of

“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice and family.  In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were.  As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death.  It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage.  Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves.  Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions.  They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law.  The Constitution grants them that right.” – Justice Anthony Kennedy writing on behalf of the majority in Obergefell v. Hodges. Decision rendered June 26, 2015.

 Indeed.   The decision by the Supreme Court to affirm same sex couples the rights to be equal in terms of marriage is a watershed moment in the growth of our nation toward that "more perfect union" described in the preamble to our Constitution.  This is what I love about our country.   We move forward.  It's hard generally to see us get better, and certainly we see evidence of regression that informs us we have much work to do.  But, in this case, we can all hold our heads up a little bit more and be satisfied that while it has taken some time, we have finally recognized that same sex couples in this country shouldn't be relegated to second class status with regards to the right to marry the person that they love.

I've found it difficult  to understand the arguments against marriage equality from a rationale perspective.  I get the emotional objection that is typically driven from some theological perspective but have never understood or bought into the claim that by allowing same-sex couples the right to marry it would somehow "destroy the sanctity of marriage".  To my point of view this is simply nonsense.  It's like when we were boys telling girls they couldn't play football or baseball with us on the sandlot because they were girls.  

The ruling by the court which affirmed the right to marry was a 5-4 decision with Anthony Kennedy being the swing vote on the decision.  It's a a point of interest to me that Justice Kennedy has been on the right side of this issue since his appoint to the Court.  The first opinion he wrote as a new justice was on this issue, and with every single movement forward towards granting same sex people equal protection under the law, he has been the deciding vote on the matter.   So, kudos to Justice Kennedy, and of course to the other justices who saw the logic in throwing the arcane idea that somehow marriage is defined as between one man and one woman into the dustbin of history.  It goes there along with the notion of arranged marriage between the parents of children for economic purposes.  It goes there along with the Old Testament (and recent religious organization's) support of polygamy.  It goes there with the admonition of New Testament perspective that a wife is not equal to a husband and must submit to him.  It goes there with the repugnant notion that women shouldn't own property, vote, or be able to divorce.  

Marriage is an important commitment that people should take seriously.  Most people do.  We also know that marriage provides benefits that until yesterday's decision, same sex couples could not enjoy in certain states and from the Federal Government at large.  Now, same sex couples don't have to worry about survivor's benefits, or be barred from making decisions for their spouse should they be incapacitated by a health issue.   The ability to take care of the people we love in times of great pain or illness is vitally important and this decision has paved the way for that prohibition to be negated.  

The movement toward enlightenment and achievement of those lofty goals outlined in the Constitution has progressed significantly.  We have a long way to go as a country, but we continue to see examples such as this and it fuels the idea that we can indeed make the place better than we found it.  I'm glad also, that it was a conservative justice who wrote this decision for the majority.  Mr. Kennedy's no wild eyed liberal (like me), and perhaps it will make those who opposed this decision stop and think for a moment.  We've become much too partisan in our views on issues such as this.  The detractors and opponents of marriage equality are already screaming from the roof-tops about "Judicial Activism",  and an Imperial Presidency that is colluding with the court for legacy purposes.  Declared Presidential candidates such as Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee and others have come out with positions that suggest Constitutional Amendments to overturn the decision.  Governors, judges, attorneys general from several states have already made statements of willful disobedience to the decision.   Religious "leaders" like Franklin Graham, Pat Robertson and others have suggested that God will smite us with punishment for this terrible decision.    Of course, we live in a country where one can disagree with the government and can by virtue of Constitutional protections that were affirmed by earlier "Judicial Activists" say what they want without fear of governmental reprisal.  That's the beauty and genius of this 230 year old experiment in democracy.  We can voice our support or opposition without fear of being thrown in prison or killed outright by our government.  

We made a great stride as a country and a community on Friday.  Winston Churchill once said when discussing the Americans finally joining the fight during World War II: "The Americans will always do the right thing...after they have exhausted all the alternatives".   We did the right thing yesterday.  Let's keep it up.

I'm proud of this country and it's growth.  

Tell me what you think.


Sunday, June 21, 2015

Father's Day Thoughts

Like many of my fellow fathers out there, I get a chance to get my ego stroked today.  My kids, all three of them will give me a hug, a card, maybe a nice cigar or so and for a short period of time they'll overlook all the mistakes I made in raising them.  So, today, when I'm the "World's Best Dad",  I will get to revel in the well meaning accolades that will also be repeated in home after home across our country. 

It's interesting that typically the day is one-sided.  Sure, we all like to have our good points called out.  We like the stories of being the super-hero when the kids were young and saved them from the monster under the bed.  We like the stories of teaching our kids how to swim or throw a curve ball or fix a broken something. We like being told how good we are.  It's logical. Most people would rather hear about the good stuff than the bad.  But, while all the attention is on us for a day, then perhaps we should touch on the not-so-good stuff.  I'm not talking about the mistakes we make with our kids in terms of missing a ball-game or a play.  Or, being too busy to have a tea-party with your young daughter and 5 or 6 of her favorite dolls and stuffed animals.  Those are normal, common and all of us have committed those errors from time to time.  I'm talking about a more fundamental mistake that is made between a Dad and his kids.  That mistake is not taking your role as a teacher seriously enough, or perhaps even more egregious, taking it serious enough to teach the wrong things.

Being a father is a serious responsibility.  To paraphrase a popular HBO Show "The way is dark and full of terror".  It's a scary business.  I think anyone who has walked in our shoes can attest to the abject terror when your kid is hurt, sick,  or missing (even for a few minutes).  The disappointment we feel when our kid does something stupid or wrong or mean.  The helplessness we feel when our kids are unhappy and we can't fix it.  Those feelings are the counter-balance to the joy, pride and hope we feel most of the time.  There seems to be a yin and yang to this experience of being the patriarch of our little family units.  Most of us go through our time as a parent with an equal mixture of worry, hope, sadness and joy.  I experience all of these feelings every day, and I'm a veteran Dad of some 28 years.   It doesn't go away, and, as time progresses, some of us (at least I do on a regular basis) reflect about how we could have been a better Dad.  I am compelled toward this thinking because there is not a day that goes by that I don't think about my own Dad and the lessons he taught me, and the nuanced approach he had on making sure I would be up to the task of fatherhood when my time came.  I wonder often, if he would think I am doing OK or if I've made a hash of things.   I believe I've done fairly well, my kids seem to be generally in good shape and overall happy.  But, I don't know how much of that is really me or their mother, or simply circumstance at large.   Why I do know, is that I've made it a point over the last couple of decades with my kids to try and teach them not to hate.  This fundamental lesson was passed down to me by my Dad.   He told me over and over that "If you allow yourself to hate, then you're only harming yourself and the people around you"; "Don't give into it, it will make you sick";  "Hatred leads to violence and feeds on itself" and "You can't hate things into love".   

Hatred is not genetic. We're certainly encoded to develop feelings and thoughts and points of view, but no one is born hating something or some one.   This is learned behavior.  Where is it learned?  Oh, many places I suppose, but the primary place of learning for all of us is not in the schools, not in the churches, not in the streets, not in the libraries. It's at home.  We learn more from our parents in terms of how we develop our character and how we look at the world than probably anywhere else.  Yes, we can get our minds corrupted later, we can by virtue of experience change our perspective on many things, but our fundamental education on how we treat other people is taught at home, and here's the kicker guys.  It's usually taught by Dads.  We are (especially with respect to sons) the "Organic Wikipedia".  They come to us for answers, look to us for example, mirror our behavior, and generally, until they are about 11 or 12 want to be like us.  By the time they are 13 or 14, they've usually decided they're adopted because there is no way they could have biological parents as stupid as us.  By the way, that period of disclaiming heritage passes about the time they have their first mortgage payment and Voila! we become smart again.    But, I digress.  Back to the education.  How many of you have been a little shocked or ashamed when something you may have said gets repeated back to you by your 3 or 4 year old?  Maybe you were swearing at the guy that cut you off, or frustrated because the lawn-mower wouldn't start and you launched into a stream of profanity that would make a sailor blush. Then, you're at the grocery store and for the eleventh time you've said no to the request for the candy bar only to hear your beautiful son or daughter repeat those same profanities while you're standing in the check-out line. Of course all of that is over heard by imperious looking people who would never raise kids like that.  It makes you want to put a bag on your head and slink out the door never to shop their again. We've all done this.  We've seen it over and over again with our friends and neighbors and for the most part, it's a little funny even though we know, it's a living reminder of when we stepped into it.

Sometimes though, and perhaps even subconsciously, we teach things that are more dark. We teach bigotry, prejudice, hatred.  Some do it on purpose, with overt derision toward people who don't look like them, act like them, worship like them, love like them, or think like them.  These are the lessons that leave permanent scars on humanity, because they are easily learned, often never re-directed, and by the time our pupils become adults are so thoroughly entrenched that it's almost impossible for the lessons to be unlearned.

The shooting in Charleston that was committed by an admitted racist, who is quite obviously insane, strikes me as a graduate of the school of hatred.  Where did he learn this?  Was it his Father and Mother? Grandparents? Was it his environment? Was it his friends? His school? The Internet?   Who knows, but he learned this somewhere.  And at 21 years old, he acted on his hatred and now nine people are dead.  Where was the Dad in this?  What lessons did he teach?  How active was he during  the formative years of this young murderer?  Did he teach the son right from wrong? Did he teach him love or hate?  Where exactly was he?  Now, I do not want to paint this Dad with a brush that suggest the child's actions are his fault.  There is no evidence to suggest that.  This could all have been an act of a horrible mental illness gaining control over his son.  But, I would think that a Dad, if he is in tune with what is going on in his kids life (even if the kid doesn't live with him), would pick up on these signals, and attempt to do something about it.   Perhaps the Dad had no clue.   But, unless this act of violence came from a recent conversion of this killer towards a race based murder, the hatred was there for awhile and had to be learned.

We fathers are part of a wonderful fraternity.  We get massive benefits from saying "That's my kid, look how great he/she is at (fill in the blank).  It fills us with pride, and gives us a sense that our life had a purpose.   It's important that we recognize our role in this fraternity as one that requires active participation, not passive observation.  The Dad who overtly encourages their kids to hate, to be bigoted, to find every difference to them that someone has as a fault is dooming their kids, and perhaps their kid's kids to a series of experiences that only ends in pain.  We have to take our role as fathers seriously. We have to know that the lessons we teach, whether by example or by word, are the most lasting.  We have a chance to make the place better for our kids and grand kids and it starts with what we teach.  So, let's think about this and talk about it and become better teachers.

Now, back to the ego-pumping praising of how great we are today!  We're #1! We're #1, etc. etc...

Happy Father's Day


Monday, May 25, 2015

Take a Moment

This article has no axe to grind or political statement to be made.  Just a request:

Take a moment and reflect.

And finally,

Those casualties that are still living and with us deserve our support.  Help if you can.  Here's a link to a network of veteran's service organizations:


Sunday, April 26, 2015

War on Christianity in the US? - I think not

Full disclosure:  The article you are about to read (or not), is written by an atheist.   So, if that's enough to turn you off from the rest of the column, then so be it. I can respect that.  I only disclose my atheism to establish a baseline up front from where my perspective on the topic of the article comes from.  If that tells you I'm bias, o.k., but I'd just ask that you give the article some consideration and think about it a bit.  This article will not slam people of faith. I don't do that. I have no axe to grind with people who believe in a God or Gods as long as they don't attempt to impose those beliefs on me through coercion, legislation, or force. I will in turn not ask you to substantiate your beliefs, because while I know that is as impossible as proving that there's not a ceramic teapot orbiting the earth at this very moment it is irrelevant to me.  Believe what you want to believe. I respect many people of faith and appreciate the way they live their faith through their actions.   I also do not respect many people of faith because of their actions and words.  That is what this article is about as well as the "Twilight Zone" reality that many of the people quoted seem to reside in.  So, here goes, and I'd like to get your comments and opinion. 
Ah yes, the political silly season has started again (actually, does it ever end? I'd like a break in the foolishness sometimes.  Maybe just a day or two.)in full force and along with that, we now see cries from folks such as Mike Huckabee that there is a literal "war" on Christians in this country.   Mr. Huckabee said this past week that "The United States is moving toward "criminalization of Christianity" as a result of legalizing same-sex marriage."   He went on to say "I think it's fair to say that Christian convictions are under attack as never before, Not just in our lifetime, but ever before in the history of this great nation."  The article, published in Politico (click the link for the full text) suggest that because of a movement towards same-sex marriage equality, we are at war with Mr. Huckabee and those who believe what he believes.  Well, I would suggest that the term "war" is a bit over the top.  No one is launching cruise missiles at Mr. Huckabee or for that matter any Christian church in the nation as far as I know.  But, that aside, Mr. Huckabee has decided that Christians are under attack because people are beginning to come to the conclusion that same-sex marriage isn't the evil it has been purported to be, and that in the interest of fairness, gay people should have the same rights relative to marriage as non-gay people.  Mr. Huckabee is an ordained minister, and oh yes, a former Governor of Arkansas, and oh yes, a former presidential candidate who won a primary in Iowa in 2008, and finally, oh yes, a likely candidate for president again in 2016.   So, is Mr. Huckabee's assertion one from deeply believed convictions or is it a straw-man argument to gain support from the more fundamentally religious voters?  I'll let you be the judge of that.  However,   This "movement towards criminalization of Christianity" that Mr. Huckabee is on about seems to me to be more about being against same-sex marriage than it is persecuting people's religious beliefs. 

Let's get a little context before we go on.  There is indeed religious persecution in this world. There are countries who sanction it.  One of them is Saudi Arabia, who will lock you up for proselytizing faiths other than the state sanctioned religion.  In many countries in Africa, Syria, Iraq, Iran, China, and many other countries, you can be considered criminal for practicing a faith that is not sanctioned by the state.  There is no doubt that Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, and many other religions are seeing their followers attacked, killed or imprisoned and this is simply flat wrong.   However, there is no such activity going on in this country nor will there ever be.  Why?  Because we are a nation of multiples.  The core make up of this country is one of infused thoughts and ideas from many places across the world.  Different religious beliefs abound in the United States.  There are thousands of different sects of Christians practicing their religion in the United States.  There are Muslims, Jews, Wiccans, Pagans, Scientologists, Native Americans who have multiple faiths, and on, and on and on.  We have a as a country gone to great lengths to respect the religious religious beliefs of our fellow Americans.  I see no overt attempt to deny any one's right to worship or believe in what they choose to believe, until it begins to invade another person's rights.   The maxim that "your right to swing your fist ends before it hits my nose" is appropriate here.  You're faith can inform you, it can comfort you, it can provide strength or peace.  What it should never do is put the people that do not share your beliefs or whose lifestyle you find repugnant into a situation where they are denied the same legal protection of rights and privileges you hold dear.

The sticking point here is about a person's "faith" informing them that pizzeria owners can decide not to serve you a pizza if you're gay.  They believe that a business, which while maybe a private business, but must still abide by the laws of this land and utilizes the "commons" (roads, bridges, and other services paid for by the tax payers without which they could not do business) can discriminate based on their beliefs.  

Governor Bobby Jindal, Louisiana's chief executive and he himself perhaps a presidential contender in 2016, recently penned an op-ed in the New York Times titled 'I'm Holding Firm Against Gay Marriage" has suggested that because "Our country was founded on the principle of religious liberty, enshrined in the Bill of Rights. Why shouldn't an individual or business have the right to cite, in a court proceeding, religious liberty as a reason for not participating in a same-sex marriage ceremony that violates a sincerely held religious belief?" businesses should be allowed to discriminate against same sex couples in the normal course of their business operations.  OK, Governor Jindal's state, like many others have adopted over the last few years laws such as Louisiana's "Religious Freedom Restoration Act", which essentially codifies discrimination.   The governor will tell you that it doesn't, it simply protects businesses from legal action because of their religious beliefs.  So, essentially while you're not supposed to discriminate, the legislation provides a "fire-wall" of defense in case you get sued in a civil action that will protect you.   As long as your religious beliefs could have been violated if you were forced to sell a gay couple that pizza, when you refused to do so, and the couple sued you, you would be protected.  

This type of subversive legislation is being passed by many states (see Indiana's recent imbroglio as an example) as a measure of "protecting religious liberty".  Suppose, then if  I'm a follower of Jack Lalane, the exercise guru in the 1960s and 1970's, and my fellow followers petitioned the federal government and got affirmation that yes we were indeed a religion (see Scientology). My religion is called Lalanisty. Now, I run a donut shop  in Baton Rouge.  I should be able to deny a fat person a donut because my religious beliefs inform me that I should only be required to sell donuts to healthy, skinny people. This is basically the basis of Governor Jindal's and those who support these types of legislation arguments.  Because they find what you do repugnant, they shouldn't have to serve you.   

The idea of this of course is not new.  It's been around a long time.  When reason begins to take hold, and fear and ignorance fall by the way side, issues like same-sex marriage start to gain acceptance.  The more ardent believers that the issue is wrong begins to justify continuing it's bigotry with religious justifications or "natural law" justifications.  Here's an example of the thinking about another issue that when you read them are easily transported into the 21st century in discussions around same-sex marriage:
  1.  "They cannot possibly have any progeny, and such a fact sufficiently justifies those laws which forbid the intermarriage of blacks and whites" - State v. Jackson, Missouri (1883)
  2.  "The amalgamation of the races is not only unnatural, but is always productive of deplorable results. Our daily observation shows us, that the offspring of these unnatural connections are generally sickly and effeminate (...)They are productive of evil, and evil only, without any corresponding good." - Scott v. Georgia (1869)
  3.  "The law's stated purpose was to prevent abominable mixture and spurious issue."  It "forbade miscegenation on the grounds that racial mixing was scientifically unsound and would 'pollute' America with mixed-blood offspring." - Virginia's Racial Integrity Act of 1924
  4. . "By the laws of Massachusetts intermarriages between these races are forbidden as criminal.  Why forbidden? Simply because natural instinct revolts as it as wrong." - Senator James R. Doolittle (D-WI), (1863)
  5.  "Intermarriages between white persons and Negroes or mulattoes were regarded as unnatural and immoral."  - Scott v. Sandford (1857)
  6.  "Although there is no verse in the Bible that dogmatically says the races should not intermarry, the whole plan of God as He has dealt with the races down through the ages indicate that interracial marriage is not best for man." - Bob Jones University (1998), yes, you read that right.  1998.
All of these citations of course are about the thinking around interracial marriage.  It wasn't until the Supreme Court put this issue to rest in 1967 in Loving v. Virginia, that the matter was given legal protection by the United States, and it became illegal for those people who objected on religious grounds to perform a civil marriage, or even a sectarian marriage between interracial couples.
Guess what?  The Republic stands.  The "immorality and unnaturalness" of interracial marriages was based on fear and ignorance, and when finally the prohibitions were done away with, we recognize as a society that the views, however faithfully subscribed to, on this topic were wrong.  During this time frame, there were similar cries of religious persecution against those who believed in their heart of hearts that racial integration through marriage was wrong.  It's time for us as a country to do the same with the issue of same-sex marriage equality.  There are 36 states who have legalized marriage between same-sex couples.  Guess what?  The Republic stands.
I would suggest to you that the notion of a war on Christianity is simply false.  The idea is being pushed by politicians and certain religious leaders as a way of dividing people and ginning up votes or money.  By the way, why is it that several religious leaders in the Christian family of denominations have no problem with homosexuality or marrying same sex couples?  They preach from the same Bible that those who find it "un-Christian", as Mr. Huckabee evidently does.  They worship the same Jesus. They keep the same commandments.   It's curious to me.

I'd like to hear from those who disagree, and actually believe that somehow Christians are being persecuted.  I'm not interested in ad hominem attacks, but a serious discussion on how you see the issue.   

Tell me what you think.