Archive for the ‘civil rights’ Tag

Freedom of Speech Should Be Free   Leave a comment

I’m a Duck Dynasty virgin. We don’t have cable, so I’ve never seen the show. I heard about it, but I probably wouldn’t have worked very hard to see it except for the Phil Robertson affair.

Like Mr. Robertson, I believe the Bible is pretty clear that homosexual behavior is a sin. If that offends you, please take it up with God. Somewhat like the law that says we in the United States have to drive on the right-hand side of the road or face manslaughter charges if we hit other cars head on when we drive on the left-hand side of the road – it is governed by forces larger than myself and it is so common-sense that I can’t see a reason to argue about it. God says homosexual behavior is soul-sucking behavior. I see evidence for that. As He is God and I am not, I don’t have a problem with accepting what He says.

This is not to say that gays do not have civil rights in our society. They have the same ones I have. Universal acceptance for their sexual conduct is not a civil right and their demand that it is threatens everyone’s fundamental civil rights. Do we need to list those? Freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, freedom from involuntary servitude, the right to vote, the right to equality in public places, the right to due process of law, the right to equal protection under the law. I think that’s pretty much it. Constitutional civil rights are inalienable, God-given, based ultimately on the teachings of the Bible. They are also individual. Groups do not have rights. Go read the constitution and get back with me if you don’t believe me. If you find a reference to groups anywhere there, let me know.

Satisfied? Let’s move on, then.

In a free society, respectful disagreement should be expected and allowed. Society cannot avoid conflict. Homosexual sex directly contradicts the teachings of the Bible. Acknowledging that does not automatically lead to hatred of or violence toward homosexuals because the Bible is more than just a list of sins. The Bible is also a manual for love. All humans are sinners. I may not be violating God’s law by having sex with a woman, but I know I’m violating His law by being 20 pounds overweight. Like homosexuality, overeating is a sin because it treats God’s temple – the Christian’s body – disrespectfully. Hetrosexuals commit sexual sins themselves when they have sex outside of marriage, lust after those who are not their spouses, and divorce and remarry. A lot of Christians need forgiveness in those areas. There are also evangelicals who are themselves homosexuals who are challenged to reconcile their faith with their sexual urges in much the same way that Christians who are alcoholics must reconcile their faith with their addiction. Hatred and violence are also sins, according to the Bible. It’s a good thing the Bible teaches forgiveness and reconciliation, which is not acceptance of sin, but acceptance of the sinner.

I know, that term “sinner” is hurtful and offensive. Truths often are, as every alcoholic who has ever been confronted with the consequence of their drinking can attest. Phil Robertson was honest about what he believes. He probably should have not had his Carrie Prejean moment while under the scrutiny of GQ magazine. Who knows how much editing his comments underwent between when he spoke them and when they were printed. He’s clarified his thinking following the release of the comments. He’s said he’s an imperfect human being, a product of the 60s who sinned plenty before becoming a Christian and he believes in the power of forgiveness, but he’s not going to compromise his faith to salve society’s flavor-of-the-month cause. I agree with him, for the most part. Sin is not a concept the secular world really understands, so it’s not surprising that the discussion has turned toxic.

It might surprise some people that I have several lesbian friends. Well, not if you’ve been reading the blog for a while, because I’ve discussed it before. I used to work for a social service agency and there were a lot of lesbians working there. A couple became actual friends. When the Robertson affair hit the press, one of them and I engaged in a conversation about it. She knows I consider her lifestyle to be a sin. She also knows that I don’t hate her and that I pray for her salvation. She “gets” that I’m upholding Biblical principle both by acknowledging the sin and caring for the sinner.

On the other hand, a friend of my daughter – a public-school educated millennial – insists that evangelicals will just have to change our beliefs because there is absolutely no tolerating differences of opinion on homosexuality. “Homosexual rights are absolute, even if they violate your beliefs,” she wrote. “If you belief homosexuality is a sin, then you have no place in American society.” Because I like to argue, I managed to gin her up to suggesting reeducation camps for Christians and other fun moral-realignment activities.

Because my daughter cares for her as a friend, I chose not to post our dialogue. It would be one thing if the 20-something set were the only ones thinking this way, but they have loads of company.

Liberals ignore the downside to pursuing their idealistic visions. Ideally, everyone would believe as I believe, but that takes away the freedom of atheists. Similarly, homosexual rights cannot be absolute without the country sacrificing freedom of conscience, thought and speech. If Phil Robertson must sit down, shut up and be punished because what he believes constitutes “hate speech”, then we no longer have freedom of conscience or speech in this country. No one should want to nullify those freedoms for any reason, but it is a perfect wedge voting issue for the Democratic Party, which has spent the last 30 years using the public schools to proselytize that the gay agenda is civil rights, when in reality it is political manipulation.

Compromise on the issue would cost the Democrats votes because it would make social conservatives look … well, sane. Compromise in the political arena on this issue is possible. Let’s focus on civil rights as opposed to civil control.

Let’s start by getting government out of the marriage business. Whoa! See how easy that was? Government no longer decides who may and may not marry. Civil unions become a matter of contract the particulars of which may be registered with the state, but not decided by the state. Lawyers work out the details between parties who agree to the terms that are acceptable to them. Churches and civic organizations can, if they choose, perform ritualistic ceremonies that solemnize the contract … or not.

If churches don’t want to perform gay “weddings”, then they shouldn’t have to. Secular organizations could provide whatever ritual is desired by those who cannot solemnize their contract in a church. This leaves the individuals in faith communities free to exercise their beliefs while also allowing gays to contract for domestic partnership. Healthy heterosexual families are protected by contract law and homosexual couples are also. Nobody is treated as legal second-class citizens.
While we’re at it, schools (which are paid for by all of us) should get out of the proselytizing business. The viewpoints of GLAAD should not be promoted in public schools anymore than the viewpoints of the Robertson family.

Adoption is a more troubling and difficult problem, but it might be best for government just got out of the whole family business altogether. Let private adoption rule. Religious adoption centers should not be banned from excluding gay couples while secular adoption centers could accept them. The political line, unsupported by evidence, that children are entirely safe and thrive equally well in gay families should not be taught in public schools and should not be supported by the government.

If we got the government out of the way on this issue, we could then have a civil conversation about right, wrong and the role of morality in our society. Maybe if we listened to one another instead of demonizing the other side for political gamesmanship, we’d learn something.

My lesbian friend noted that she didn’t automatically assume Phil Robertson wants to eliminate gays from society because her friendship with me had taught her that I “believe homosexuality is a sin, but you don’t hate me.” That came from talking to one another in a civil manner, exercising our freedom of speech and allowing each other freedom of conscience and association.

Whoa! What an amazing concept! I think they used to call it liberty.

Why Is Government Even Talking About Marriage?   4 comments

Yes, this is germane to what I’ve been talking about because it touches on the administrative state.

 

I’m a Great Commission Baptist Sunday School teacher. Most people call us Southern Baptist. I describe myself as a nonpartisan conservative with libertarian leanings. Today I will be playing the part of a social conservative with libertarian leanings.

I believe marriage involves a man, a woman and God. It does not involve two men, two women, groups of men and women, or humans and animals. It also doesn’t involve a man and a woman without God. I base that belief on the Bible’s teaching. No, you won’t change my mind. Homosexuals can live together, have sex, raise kids, and jointly own property and their civil union is still not a marriage, because marriage is a sacred relationship instituted before and under God before the community. You will never convince me that the government deeming sin to be equal to a sacred relationship is good for society.

So far, I’m playing the role of a social conservative to a T, right? Now for the controversial – libertarian – leanings.

First, history records that we would probably not have an establishment clause if not for the Baptists of Rhode Island, who were tired of being pushed around by other, more politically connected denominations. They demanded the Constitution protect their right not to be Episcopalians. The Southern Baptist Convention has been politically supportive of socially conservative issues, but many of its members oppose theocracy in all its shades, harkening back to our forebears. We introduced separation of church and state to these shores. While we don’t accept that religion has not place in the public square, we know that imposed morality is tyranny.

I am not going to either defend or oppose homosexual marriages because the government being involved in marriage is against the founding principles of the United States. There are proposed constitutional amendments that would put morality under control of government and effectively violate the principles of separation of church and state. Social conservatives who want to make Christianity the official religion of the United States might want to think long and hard on what exactly that means. Government has no role in defining religious values.

A constitutional amendment to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman would put the government, not God, in charge of marriage. It would undermine the separation of church and state and de-sacralize marriage.

The purpose of good government is to create a rule of law that protects people and allows them to live together peacefully. There is an unfortunate desire among some of my friends to see government as a means to force others to believe or pay for something we want. The founders were worried something like this would happen.

Traditionally marriages were blessed by religious officials or elders of a community in public ceremonies that created community recognition of the union. In the U.S., the states did not get involved in marriages until after the Civil War. If a couple did not seek a religious ceremony or blessing by God, a ceremony would be performed by a local justice of the peace. Such justices were local community officials. If couples cohabited for more than seven years, their marriage was often considered a “common law” marriage. States were not involved in marriage.

States became involved in issuing marriage licenses in extreme cases after the Civil War when white and black couples could not get a local religious official or magistrate to perform the ceremony. That problem no longer exists, so why is the government still involved in marriage?

State power grows. It’s rare for it to retreat. No matter how unconstitutional a state power may be, no matter that its purpose has long become invalid, it is rare for it to be eliminated. The Founding Fathers created the Supreme Court to strike down unconstitutional legal practices. The courts have been derelict in this duty, usually succumbing to social fads and seldom striking down unconstitutional legislation or legal practices.

In 1921, the US government became involved in the recognition of marriage when a dispute over miscegenation laws was appealed to the Supreme Court, opening the door for the U.S. to begin suing estates for inheritance taxes. The encroachment on marriage by the states and the Federal government parallels the encroachment on personal property with the passage of the 16th Amendment a few years earlier. These laws represent the process in which a bottom-up flow of power from people to government became replaced by a top-down flow of power where the people were effectively changed from citizens to subjects of the state.

Marriage is a cultural institution based on the love and fidelity of people for one another. It is properly blessed by religious and cultural institutions. The government was brought into marriage originally to provide a vehicle for the expression of this love when no social institution could be found to bless a marriage, or when lower governments sought to deny people rights based on interracial marriage. This was the result of the failure of cultural institutions to exercise responsibilities appropriate for the cultural sphere.

Today there are plenty of cultural groups that are willing to bless interracial and homosexual marriages. If a church won’t do it, you can easily find someone else. In Alaska, we allow pretty much anyone to perform a legally binding marriage ceremony. The need for government involvement to force this issue no longer exists. State and federal governments should withdraw from definitions of marriage and allow people the freedom of marriage and assembly as they choose.

Yes, that will complicate family law for a while. We’ll need to set up new ways of dealing with inheritance, for example. Some lawyers will no doubt make some money until that is settled. Government getting out of marriage will not end the social and religious debate over homosexual activity. It simply removes government from the debate and allows marriage to remain a sacred tradition that does not force Bible believers to violate their conscience.

Do You Think You Own Your Property?   Leave a comment

The Endangered Species Act threatens private property in a myriad of ways. Liberty, our Founders concluded, required private property to be protected from encroachment. It’s essential in a capitalist economic system for people to know that they own and control what they have purchased. Yet the Endangered Species Act thinks nothing of barring private landowners from using their land.

“Under the ESA, individual Americans have been prevented from building homes, plowing fields, cutting trees, clearing brush and repairing fences–all on private land. The federal government has even barred private landowners from clearing firebreaks to protect their homes from fire hazards.” (Jonathan Adler, Director of Environmental Studies at the Competitive Enterprise Institute)

In a speech to the Society of Environmental Journalists, Secretary Babbitt described how the listing of species prohibits the owners of species’ habitat from using their property, at least for some time: “[W]hen a species is listed, there is a freeze across all its habitat for two or three years while we construct a habitat conservation plan which will later free up the land.”

This freeze causes devastating financial loss as it prohibits private landowners from activities like farming, timbering, mining, building homes, or even enhancing their property, for several years. Even the possibility of such losses creates a perverse incentive for property owners to keep endangered species off their land.

What??? Yeah – property owners are actually encouraged by ESA to discourage wildlife from coming onto their property.

The Government Accounting Office notes that ESA also carries a serious legal threat. Between 1988 and 1993, the Fish and Wildlife Service prosecuted 126 alleged violations of ESA on private lands – 86 of them criminally. These prosecutions resulted in fines ranging as high as $50,000, jail sentences of up to 1,170 days and probation of up to 1,825 days.

Consider:

  • “[T]he Central Valley of California, Kern County produces huge crops of vegetables, nuts, fruit, and cotton with water that is brought southward from Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta through a series of natural and man-made structures known as the California Water Project. This multi-billion-dollar water project is financed by assessments upon all of those who use the water; in turn, state law allocates the right to receive and use specified quantities of water to farmers, rangers, cities, and industrial users. These water rights are recognized as a property right under California State law. Beginning in 1992, the federal government started limiting the amounts of water which could be sent south to Kern County and other parts of California in order to maintain in-stream flows to protect the habitat of two endangered fish–the delta smelt and the winter run of Chinook salmon. As much as two million acre-feet of water–enough to cover two million acres to a depth of one foot–have been held back annually from municipal and agricultural use in order to maintain certain levels in streams and lakes which constitute the habitat of these fish. Farmers and ranchers have suffered many millions of dollars in lost crops and, in some instances, have lost their property as it has become unproductive.”
  • “In August 1997, U.S. District Judge Michael Hogan issued a moratorium on logging on 94 acres of privately held land near Eugene, Oregon. Two spotted owls actually made their nest about one mile away from the federally permitted logging parcel. Because the land might be part of the owls’ `home range,’ the judge determined that logging should be stopped, though no one was certain if the owls actually used the acreage in question. Eventually Oregon lost 11.6 million acres and approximately 30,000 jobs, devastating the logging industry in the Pacific Northwest and driving up the cost of a new home by 25%. In 2011, an actual scientific study noted that the spotted owl was being killed off, not by human action, but by another native species, the barred owl, that is just bigger and more omnivorous than the spotted variety. Oops! Since the spotted owl is a threatened species and the barred owl is not, environmentalists in 2011 were considering hunting barred owls as a solution.

You cannot make this stuff up!

Anchorage Police No Longer Bother with Trials Now   Leave a comment

I’m in favor of lawful order. I don’t think people should steal other people’s cars and if they do, I think the police should do something about it. And, this story would not have attracted my ire at all except for the second story.

Anchorage cops kill car thief

Okay, maybe I would have wondered why stealing a car warranted execution without a trial, but Alaska has a thriving non-mainstream “trapline” journalism culture, so by the time I read this article today, I’d already heard the story from people who live in Anchorage and saw it a little differently than the cops.

But then comes the second story.

Anchorage cops shoot at driver who rammed patrol car

Yeah, apparently Anchorage police are no longer bothering to arrest, investigate, charge and try crime anymore. They’re going right to shooting the driver, which I’m guessing is quicker than using due process.

As I said, if it weren’t for the second story, the first one would have been just a cop defending himself against a violent thug, but if the SOP for dealing with resisting arrest is shooting the resistor, I’d say it’s time to remove a few cops from the streets and perhaps take their badges away permanently. This is getting out of hand when a city with only 350,000 has two incidents of this sort in less than a week.

Los Angeles Cops Prove Why Citizens Need Guns   Leave a comment

In an all-out-effort to stop a cop-killer, Los Angeles Police opened fire on two newspaper carriers, sending them to the hospital.

http://www.neontommy.com/news/2013/02/dorner-manhunt-beck-admits-shooting-newspaper-carriers-was-case-mistaken-identity

They’re also conducting door-to-door searches against homeowner wishes.

(Jae C. Hong/ Associated Press ) - San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies conduct door-to-door search in Big Bear, Calif, Thursday, Feb. 7, 2013. Thousands of police officers hunted Thursday for one of their own: a former Los Angeles officer angry over his firing and sought in a deadly shooting rampage after warning he would wage “warfare” on those who wronged him, authorities said.   Can anybody besides me spell “tyranny”?

I’m not saying that Christopher Dorner, former LAPD officer and cop killer, is not a bad man who needed to be locked up, but his allegations of police corruption doesn’t sound all that crazy to me and ….

I have a right to be secure in my home without police coming into it without my permission unless there is strong evidence that I have committed a crime. So do the people of Big Bear. And every gun owner knows (should know) that you never fire on someone unless you’re darned sure they mean to hurt you. Talk about not keeping your gun pointed in a safe direction.

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2013/02/swat-team-searching-big-bear-mountain-for-wanted-ex-cop.html

Read the comments on this one. I really think the koolaid is starting to wear off.

Civil Liberties and Cell Phones   Leave a comment

How do cell phone restrictions and bans affect our civil liberties?

http://www.aashtojournal.org/Pages/012513RITAreport.aspx

Nobody wants bad drivers on the road. This survey shows that most of the country agrees with that statement. I personally think there are very few drivers who can even talk on the phone hands-free safely, let alone holding the phone. I see evidence for this on the road every day. And texting while driving is pretty high on the stupidity meter.

That said, I wouldn’t ban those activities anymore than I would ban other driving distractions like talking to your kid in the passenger seat, changing the radio station, monitoring your GPS, or – if you’re wealthy and cutting edge – getting updates from your smart-car computer. None of these activities are particularly conducive to safe driving, yet we do them every day while behind the wheel of our cars. Some of us also apply makeup, eat food, drink sodas and coffee, pet the dog, and ….

These activities are all contributors to distracted driving and are bad ideas. Note that we don’t have laws against most of them. Also know that if you have an accident while doing one of those activities you may face negligent or reckless driving charges. Cops, seeing you weaving through traffic, make a judgment call if your distractions crossed that line. Distracted driving has always been negligent/reckless driving. So why do we need a law specific to cell phones?

It’s a Bandaid to make people similar to me who loath cell phone use while driving feel better, but it’s also a huge moneymaker for cops wanting to write tickets. Stuck in traffic? Decide to check that text? Now you’re a law-breaker and subject to the tyrannical arm of government. You weren’t moving! You were behind the wheel of a car, which is driving, so it doesn’t matter. It’s no longer about endangering other drivers. The focus of control has moved from protecting the public to controlling the public.

The more laws we have, the more opportunity we give the government to oppress us. We have become like Gulliver, bound to the earth by a million tiny, individually-insignificant threads. Today, I restrict the liberty of my neighbor. Tomorrow he restricts mine. Next week we’re both going to restrict yours and the week after that, the three of us will restrict someone else’s liberty. We’ll say it’s for the greater good – we’re protecting someone – but really, isn’t it more about controlling one another?

“They who would give up essential liberty for a little security deserve neither liberty or security,” Benjamin Franklin

You’re Too Stupid to Vote   8 comments

HYPOCRISY ALERT:

“We don’t want to restrict your religious freedoms in any way. Just keep your beliefs in the church.”

That was posted on a Christian’s forum on a writer’s site a while back. Other postings there said “Just keep your religion out of the ballot box” and “Your beliefs have no business outside of your own home and church.” To clarify, although it was not my thread, I asked “So, when I — as a Christian — vote for public officials, what should be my criteria for deciding my vote?” I received various opinions from “Christians shouldn’t vote because their opinion doesn’t support society’s (I mean, my) viewpoint” to “You should support the Democratic candidate because they really understand that Jesus came to feed everybody.” Someone finally got around to saying  “Your beliefs are irrelevant and should have no voice in the public square.” I countered “But yours should?” And it went from there.

For the record, I think everyone should have a say in the public square. I’m a civil libertarian, so I’m fine with idiots stating their opinions. I think the best ideas will usually win out in the marketplace of ideas because as ideas are adopted, we see which ones work and which ones don’t. The problem is when idiots get together to control the government and forget this little thing called the Constitution and the first amendment to that document and start insisting that anyone who doesn’t agree with them should be silenced.

The church is not a cloister. Certain Catholic orders aside, most Christians live in the real world, where we own property, raise children, work or own businesses, spend our money and vote our consciences. Our private beliefs fuel our public acts. That’s as it should be and there’s no shortage of non-Christians doing that.

President Obama (and you can argue with me about whether he’s a Christian or not, if you want, but I have the Bible on my side of the definition) claims he took his public stand on same-sex marriage based on conversations with his daughters and his interpretation of Jesus’ teachings. He brought his private beliefs into the public square. Although his stance and interpretation of Jesus’ teachings were criticized, I can’t recall any of the criticism being directed toward his promoting his private beliefs in public. If we’re going to be fair and equal, shouldn’t everybody hold their private beliefs in their home and not make them public?

Reverend Canon Gary Hall, Dean of the National Cathedral in Washington DC, offered a prayer at the opening of Senator Diane Feinstein’s anti-gun press conference in which he said “Everyone in this city seems to live in terror of the gun lobby, but I believe that the gun lobby is no match for the cross lobby.’”

So, a clergyman opens a Senate-related press conference with prayer, invoking the cross and calling on Americans to fulfill their moral duty, and the secular media does not howl in protest. What about “separation of Church and State”? Can you imagine what the reaction would have been if, hypothetically, Senator Tom Coburn had invited Rev. Franklin Graham to pray and offer comments before a press conference defending the right to bear arms? How long would it have taken for shrill cries of “Religious Jihadists!” to ring through the airwaves?

The hypocritical double standard is so thick you need a chainsaw to cut it.

In America today, there is a vocal minority that believes that those with spiritual or moral convictions are welcome to their beliefs so long as they don’t vote or act based on those beliefs. They have deemed our convictions immoral and wrong, therefore, we must submit to tyranny (governed without representation or even voice in public) and since we can’t be trusted not to vote our convictions we shouldn’t be allowed to vote. 

http://atheistcamel.blogspot.com/2008/08/delusional-christians-shouldnt-be.html

http://www.pbs.org/wnet/need-to-know/the-daily-need/are-bad-voters-like-drunk-drivers-new-book-says-they-are-and-that-they-should-stay-home-on-election-day/8609/

I particularly enjoyed the PBS article that said “misinformed” voters shouldn’t be allowed to vote when the writer himself put forth misinformation in his article. How will our society make the determination of who is misinformed? And what if the disenfranchised voter doesn’t agree that he is misinformed? How do our atheists intend to decide which Christians are delusional and which are sane?

America has worked for 230 years based upon the idea — modified over time — that reasonable people can govern themselves. We have never agreed with one another, but we’ve always given our opposition the right to speak their minds and — if they have a good argument — win the public to their way of thinking. Yet, today, we have those who would silence anyone holding an opinion that they disagree with.

How did we get here? Really, liberals, please explain why you think this is a good idea?

Localized Tyranny   6 comments

Have you ever noticed that when you try to have a reasonable conversation about gun control, someone always spouts off that it’s ridiculous to think American government is or would become tyrannical and, even if it did, a handful of people would have no chance against the US Army? Practically speaking, that’s true. The semi-autos that civilians have access to, even the “assault style” ones, are not the same as the fully-automatic weapons our military carries into combat. While I submit that this is an unconstitutional usurpation of the right of the people to be at least as well armed as the standing army “…but if circumstances should at any time oblige the government to form an army of any magnitude, that army can never be formidable to the liberties of the people, while there is a large body of citizens, little if at all inferior to them in discipline and use of arms, who stand ready to defend their rights…” (Alexander Hamilton speaking of standing armies in Federalist 29.))”  Alexander Hamilton, perhaps the most government-friendly of our founders, recognized that the people needed to be as well armed as the standing army or the standing army could easily abuse the people. We’re already past that point, but let’s recognize that resistance started small in the Revolution and it will start, if it starts at all, at the local level, in the 21st century. If it ever comes down to American citizens fighting against government it’s not likely we’re going to storm Washington DC or even Ft. Wainwright. It’s more likely the first battles will take place locally, against local governments that have overstepped their bounds.

I’ll preface this by saying — I am not advocating violence. I am pointing out that it is sometimes necessary for the people to stand against their government and that the right to bear arms was enshrined in the constitution because our Founders believed liberty sometimes required the people to bring the government back into line. And there is precedence in the last 100 years for such actions being necessary.

———

On 2 August 1946, some Americans, brutalized by their county government, used armed force to overturn it because they wanted honest, open elections. After years of asking state and federal election monitors to prevent vote fraud — forged ballots, secret ballot counts, and intimidation by armed sheriff’s deputies — by the local political boss and receiving no help, they took matters into their own hands.

The Tennesseans of McMinn County, which is located between Chattanooga and Knoxville in the eastern part of the state, had long been independent political thinkers, but for more than a decade they had accepted bribe-taking by politicians, primarily the Sheriff, to overlook illicit bootlegging and gambling. The Sheriff’s department was financed from fines, usually for speeding or public drunkenness, promoting false arrests and harassment of citizens and especially visitors. The voting fraud extended to both Democrats and Republicans. This was despite Tennessee laws barring voting fraud, requiring that ballot boxes be certified as empty before voting, poll-watchers be in attendance, armed law enforcement officers were barred from polling stations, and ballots had to be counted publicly.

The Great Depression had ravaged McMinn County and federal patronage was successfully secured by electing Paul Cantrell, a local wealthy supporter of Franklin D Roosevelt in 1932. County fortunes improved and Cantrell was reelected to Sheriff (the principle political position in the county) in 1936, 1938 and 1940. He was elected to the State Senate in 1942 and his chief deputy, Pat Mansfield, was elected sheriff. In 1946, Cantrell against sought the office of Sheriff. However, several veterans returning to McMinn County from World War II observed how Mansfield’s deputies had brutalized the population. Holding Cantrell politically responsible for Mansfield’s policies (which apparently were a continuation of his own), they decided to challenge Cantrell politically by offering an all ex-GI, non-partisan ticket and promising a fraud-free election followed by reform of the county government if they won.

These Americans’ absolute refusal to knuckle-under had been hardened by service in World War II. Having fought to free other countries from murderous regimes, they rejected vicious abuse by their county government. These Americans had a choice. Their state’s Constitution – Article 1, Section 26 – recorded their right to keep and bear arms for the common defense. No federal or state “gun control” laws had been enacted.

“‘The principals that we fought for in this past war do not exist in McMinn County. We fought for democracy because we believe in democracy but not the form we live under in this county.'” (Daily Post-Athenian, 17 June 1946, p. 1).

At end-July 1946, 159 McMinn County GIs petitioned the FBI to send election monitors. There was no response. The Department of Justice had not responded to McMinn Countians’ complaints of election fraud in 1940, 1942, and 1944.

The election was held on 1 August. To intimidate voters, Mansfield brought in some 200 armed “deputies”. When the polls closed, perhaps fearing the growing crowd of concerned voters, took the ballot boxes to the jail — in violation of the rule requiring a public count.

Mansfield took the ballot boxes to the jail for counting, barred the doors and armed deputies with weapons including a submachine “Tommy” gun.

Short of firearms and ammunition, the GIs scoured the county to find them. By borrowing keys to the National Guard and State Guard Armories, they got three M-1 rifles, five .45 semi-automatic pistols, and 24 British Enfield rifles. The armories were nearly empty after the war’s end. They headed for the jail to get the ballot boxes. Occupying high ground they initiated a fire fight while deliberately leaving the back door unguarded to give the jail’s defenders an easy way out.

Running low on ammunition, the GIs eventually forced the issue by dynamiting the jail’s porch, which breached the barred door. The panicked deputies surrendered. GIs quickly secured the building.

In five precincts free of vote fraud, the GI candidate for Sheriff, Knox Henry, won 1,168 votes to Cantrell’s 789. Other GI candidates won by similar margins. McMinn Countians, having restored the Rule of Law, returned to their daily lives.

The Battle of Athens, as it became known, made national headlines. Most outsiders’ reports had the errors usual in coverage of large-scale, night-time events. A New York Times editorialist on 3 August savaged the GIs, who:

“…quite obviously – though we hope erroneously – felt that there was no city, county, or State agency to whom they could turn for justice.

… “There is a warning for all of us in the occurrence…and above all a warning for the veterans of McMinn County, who also violated a fundamental principle of democracy when they arrogated to themselves the right of law enforcement for which they had no election mandate. Corruption, when and where it exists, demands reform, and even in the most corrupt and boss-ridden communities there are peaceful means by which reform can be achieved. But there is no substitute, in a democracy, for orderly process.” (NYT, 3 Aug 1946, p. 14.)

Those who took up arms in Athens, Tennessee:

  • wanted honest elections, a cornerstone of our Constitutional order;
  • had repeatedly tried to get Federal or State election monitors — to no avail;
  • used armed force so as to minimize harm to the law-breakers;
  • showed little malice to the defeated law-breakers, who were allowed to go home to their lives without arrest (Paul Cantrell lived the rest of his life in the county as a successful auto dealership owner);
  • restored lawful government.

The Battle of Athens clearly shows:

  • how Americans can and should lawfully use armed force;
  • why the Rule of Law requires unrestricted access to firearms;
  • how civilians with military-type firearms can beat the forces of “law and order”.

Dictators believe that public order is more important than the Rule of Law. Americans have historically rejected that idea. Brutal political repression – as practiced by Cantrell and Mansfield – is lethal to many. An individual criminal can harm a handful of people, but governments alone can brutalize thousands, or millions. The world saw as many as 60 million people killed under brutal genocidal regimes in the 20th century.

Law-abiding McMinn Countians won the Battle of Athens because they were not hamstrung by “gun control”. McMinn Countians showed us when citizens can and should use armed force to support the Rule of Law. We are all in their debt.

We don’t think it can happen in America, but it already has. We think there’ll never be a need to stand up to an American government that has grown tyrannical, but there has already been that need. We think that ordinary citizens cannot stand up to armed government agents, but they already have. We’re not arguing theory here. We’re arguing history. Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it and Americans in the 21st century apparently are wholly ignorant of our own history.

Do We Still Have the Dream?   2 comments

It’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day and that seems like an appropriate time to declare my mind-crush on Walter E. Williams. Normally, I like him for his down-to-earth explanations of economics, but he also speaks sense in a number of areas. Amid all the mainstream civil rights lobby speeches, I find his common sense and ethical treatment of the human race to be well-worth some attention. The title of this particular article resonates with me. There are a lot of things I can’t say because my grandmother’s Indian blood skipped my eyes, but Walter Williams can say what needs to be said, so I’ll let him.

What You Can’t Say

by Walter E. Williams

Jon Hubbard, a Republican member of the Arkansas House of Representatives, has a book, titled Letters to the Editor: Confessions of a Frustrated Conservative. Among its statements for which Hubbard has been criticized and disavowed by the Republican Party is, “The institution of slavery that the black race has long believed to be an abomination upon its people may actually have been a blessing in disguise. The blacks who could endure those conditions and circumstances would someday be rewarded with citizenship in the greatest nation ever established upon the face of the Earth.”

Hubbard’s observation reminded me of my 1972 job interview at the University of Massachusetts. During a reception, one of the Marxist professors asked me what I thought about the relationship between capitalism and slavery. My response was that slavery has existed everywhere in the world, under every political and economic system, and was by no means unique to capitalism or the United States. Perturbed by my response, he asked me what my feelings were about the enslavement of my ancestors. I answered that slavery is a despicable violation of human rights but that the enslavement of my ancestors is history, and one of the immutable facts of history is that nothing can be done to change it.

The matter could have been left there, but I volunteered that today’s American blacks have benefited enormously from the horrible suffering of our ancestors. Why? I said the standard of living and personal liberty of black Americans are better than what blacks living anywhere in Africa have. I then asked the professor what it was that explained how tens of millions of blacks came to be born in the U.S. instead of Africa. He wouldn’t answer, but an answer other than slavery would have been sheer idiocy. I attempted to assuage the professor’s and his colleagues’ shock by explaining to them that to morally condemn a practice such as slavery does not require one to also deny its effects.

My yet-to-be-learned lesson – and perhaps that of Rep. Hubbard – is that there are certain topics or arguments that one should not bring up in the presence of children or those with little understanding. Both might see that explaining a phenomenon is the same as giving it moral sanction or justification. It’s as if one’s explanation that the independent influence of gravity on a falling object is to cause it to accelerate at 32 feet per second per second could be interpreted as giving moral sanction and justification to gravity.

Slavery is widely misunderstood, and as such has been a tool for hustlers and demagogues. Slavery has been part of the human condition throughout recorded history and everywhere on the globe. Romans enslaved other Europeans; Greeks enslaved other Greeks; Asians enslaved Asians; Africans enslaved Africans; and in the New World, Aztecs enslaved Aztecs and other native groups. Even the word slave is derived from the fact that Slavic people were among the early European slaves.

Though racism has been used to justify slavery, the origins of slavery had little to do with racism. In recent history, the major slave traders and slave owners have been Arabs, who enslaved Europeans, black Africans and Asians. A unique aspect of slavery in the Western world was the moral outrage against it, which began to emerge in the 18th century and led to massive efforts to eliminate it. It was Britain’s military might and the sight of the Union Jack on the high seas that ultimately put an end to the slave trade.

Unfortunately, the facts about slavery are not the lessons taught in our schools and colleges. The gross misrepresentation and suggestion in textbooks and lectures is that slavery was a uniquely American practice done by racist white people to black people. Despite abundant historical evidence, youngsters are taught nothing about how the Founding Fathers quarreled, debated and agonized over the slave issue.

October 23, 2012

Walter E. Williams is the John M. Olin distinguished professor of economics at George Mason University, and a nationally syndicated columnist. To find out more about Walter E. Williams and read features by other Creators Syndicate columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page.

Copyright © 2012 Creators Syndicate, Inc.

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