Archive for the ‘liberty’ Tag

How About Declaring Actual Independence?   6 comments

Most of us read the beginning statement of the Declaration of Independence in Government class back in high school. It’s a wonderful statement of political philosophy.

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

Sometimes, it becomes necessary for a people to dissolve the political bands that have connected them to another and to launch out on their own. When they do that, they ought to have a good argument for doing so.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

Government exists for protecting the rights best summed up as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness (John Locke said “property”, but Thomas Jefferson and his editorial committee wanted to avoid that whole discussion of slavery, so they decided upon “pursuit of happiness”). Government derives its power from the people and so, if the people decide government is no longer serving their rights, they have a right to dissolve those bands. It’s not just their right, it’s their obligation to throw off despotic governments and to provide structures to protect their rights going forward. The Colonies have patiently tried to find common ground with the King of Great Britain, but we have failed. Here is our argument, the evidence of his tyranny.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

King George had suspended the provincial laws in the colonies and expected the colonists to wait until he (or Parliament) got around to deciding what laws would replace them, but it had been several years and so far … crickets.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He expected the legislative bodies of the colonies to meet in places where the people they ruled could not easily attend the meetings and influence the outcomes. I’m a long-long way from Washington DC. How about you?

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

Although there have been no state legislatures dissolved, think about Puerto Rico which voted years ago now to become a state, but Congress has refused to take up the issue. Now their government is out of money and about to collapse. Is it possible that one reason for this is that they don’t control their own economic destiny because Congress has refused to allow them to control their own political destiny. And even if they were allowed to become a state, Alaska is a state, but we usually have to ask Congress’ permission for just about anything of value we might want to do. And, let’s remember the 30 state constitutions that were set aside just last week.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

President Obama is not the first president hoping that the legalization of unlawful immigrants will swing voter registration and resultant elections in the direction of his political party. President Reagan tried it too and look how well that worked out.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

King George controlled the colonial judges. Today, someone appears to be buying off the Supreme Court on the issue of health care and for those of you would are so up in arms about the United case, maybe you ought to be asking if money didn’t change hands on that one too.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.

Can we say czars? The ACA has created entire new offices within the Department of Social Services. In fact, the federal administration has grown substantially during the Obama presidency.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

The next time you get pulled over by a plain-brown wrapper and talk to a cop wearing kevlar, ask yourself “is this not a standing army among us that we have no consent over?”

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

When the president of the United States is allowed to sign onto treaties without the consent of Congress that obligate us to change our laws and structures within our own borders, we are subject to jurisdictions foreign to our constitution. Remember that when we’re all living nine to a unit in high-rise apartment blocks because of international global warming regulations written into some UN treaty President Obama thought was a great idea and Congress wasn’t allowed to vote on.

For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us: (I live in a huge military town and military helicopters frequently fly over my house, sometimes really low and really slow.).
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States: (Military personnel can and have killed civilians in my town and then been tried in military courts without any civilian oversight.)
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world: (There’s a new trade law that just gave the president unmatched authority without the advice and consent of Congress).
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent: (The ACA is a tax imposing unconstitutionally because the Senate cannot originate spending bills and the House was never allowed to vote on it).

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury: (The Patriot Act allowed this. The replacement to the Patriot Act pretends not to allow it. Do you believe that? I don’t).

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences (Could we talk about entrapment here? The only terrorist attacks this government has stopped were ones where federal agents solicited the terrorism, provided the plans and the — so far — non-working bombs.)

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies: (Jefferson was alluding to Quebec here, but again, consider Puerto Rico)

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments: (How often in the last few years have you thought “That can’t be constitutional?)

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever. (Congress might as well be a figurehead government for all the power it has these days.)

You should get my point, but there are more examples that I’m sure you could find parallels for in our own times.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

People are trying to petition for redress, with little or no ability to be heard.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We haven’t exactly gotten to this point yet, but maybe we should. Maybe it is time to be honest about the condition of our country and choose independence. Of course, that holds risks.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

I’m not sure how much sacred honor most of us have left today. As a nation, we’ve been here twice before. It worked out the first time. It didn’t work out the second time. Whoever fires the first shot loses is the general consensus. And I don’t disagree. This battle will not be won with armed conflict, but it might be won with civil disobedience.

So what happens if we keep it non-violent and demand our rights? Well, we’ve been there before too and that worked out pretty well, though we should be prepared for worse than water cannon to be directed at us these days.

The question is — how much do we actually value liberty? It sure looks more like we value comfort and a federal Sugar Daddy to keep us placated more than we value our rights of freedom of speech, religion, self-governance, fair trial, privacy, security in our persons, places and papers … well, pretty much, we have traded liberty for security and getting just about what we deserve.

Independence Day?   1 comment

So today is the day we set aside on our calendar to remember when our ancestors declared our country’s political independence from England. We holds parades, sand-castle building contests, fire works displays, concerts in the parks, and barbecues … lots and lots of barbecues.

But do we ever stop to think about what independence meant and whether we as a nation still exemplify that understanding?

Not really.

That’s obviously in the crap we take from our government. We all say we love freedom, but what freedom do we still have? I’m paying for health insurance regardless of whether in need it or not and paying extra so that people who have a lot of health conditions can pay less. Is that freedom? It doesn’t look like it to me. I’d rather spend that money on other things. If I could pay for catastrophic coverage (like I used to), I’d have a savings account again that I could use for medical expenses as needed or for buying a newer car before the one I have breaks down permanently. If that happens, I will have to incur several hundred dollars a month in payments because I haven’t got a savings account to use to buy a car with cash.

So, I lack basic freedom because in a town where you need to have a car to get around, I can’t afford to buy an affordable car because I’m forced to buy medical insurance I don’t need.

I have ZERO attachment to the Confederate flag. I grew up about as far from the south as you can grow and my great-grandfather was an abolitionist. Like many people I see it as a symbol of racism, but I’m willing to believe southerners I know (yes, Alaska has a lot of ex-pat southerners) who say they see it as a symbol of unbowed enthusiasm for states rights in the face of overwhelming tyranny. I know the acquaintance now driving around town with two of them streaming off the back of his truck is not a racist, so I’m assuming he’s doing it for another reason. Nostalgia, freedom of speech, a statement about states rights, a statement about liberty in general ….

But when I watched him drive by, two women behind me were talking in loud voices about how he ought to be arrested for his “racist” actions, as if they have forgotten that liberty means we all have a right to express opinions.

I stand with Fred Phelps in his refusal to be forced to participate in the pagan mating rituals of same-sex couples by sanctifying them through baking wedding cakes for them. We seem to have forgotten in this country that freedom of religion includes not forcing our neighbors to worship our god against their will. By forcing business owners like Mr. Phelps into catering to same-sex weddings, you are demanding that they kneel at a pagan altar. You may not see it that way, but that is the Biblical understanding of it. You are violating freedom of religion by insisting upon it.

I have very little use for the federal government. I can’t think of many things in this world that the federal government does that benefits me directly. Maybe the money it gives the State of Alaska for roads … but trust me, if the federal government quit doing that, the State of Alaska and the people who live here would figure out how to pay for them ourselves and we’d probably start building roads to the Scandanavian standards so they don’t fall apart every five years, which would reduce road costs in the long-run.

Right now, 25% of my income goes to the federal government for …???? That’s about 23% less liberty than our Founders had because they paid only excise taxes on the goods they purchased.

Like it or not, sooner or later, we will all of us have to pay a whole lot more in taxes because the federal government continues to spend like a drunken sailor. We’re $18 trillion in debt. We owe only a fraction of that to foreign entities, but if they ask for it back …. If we default on the debt owed to Americans, we bankrupt everybody’s retirement accounts. Yeah, so we lose freedom at one end by higher taxes to service the debt I didn’t ask the federal government to run up and then we lose freedom at the other end when they gut our retirement accounts. In the middle there is the increasing real inflation of food and fuel that is largely driven by our debt and the effects of quantitative easing (also known as printing fiat currency).

The freedom to spend the money you earn on what you want to spend it was well understood in the Founding generation. So how much liberty does the tax man take from you? Between the IRS, Social Security and medical insurance, I’m somewhere in the 40%, but people who make more money than me are up in the 60%.

So are we the land of the free anymore?

Perhaps we ought to look at the Declaration of Independence and ask ourselves:

Could we sign it today?

But of course, that’s the dirty little unspoken among us, right? We who celebrate that our ancestors seized their independence from the English know that the US government does not recognize our right to do the same from them.

Does It Have To Be?   5 comments

This is my public policy post on this subject. I’ve actually said this before in different words and the more I hang out with anarchists, the more I find myself agreeing with them.

The Bible is very clear that homosexual behavior is a sin. It follows that the commitment ceremonies gays insist upon calling “weddings” are public declarations of ongoing sexual immorality. The Bible tells Christians to FLEE sexual immorality because it corrupts our relationship with God. It is worse than other sins because it involves our own bodies. From those two facts, I judge that God is telling Christians that we may not encourage the homosexual activity of other humans. For the sake of our own relationship with God AND for the sake of the homosexuals we come in contact with, we must NOT participate in their commitment ceremonies, even as an unwilling caterer, photographer, florist, etc.

The Bible also teaches me that I am responsible only for myself and members of my local church. Nobody becomes a Christian by forced conversion. They may become a Christianist, but that is not a true relationship with Jesus Christ, which is what true Christianity is. My faith teaches me that I should always evangelize wherever I go, but it is not me who brings people to Christ. He does that.

So how does that connect to a public policy statement?

Christians need to recognize that we live in a very secular world and we can’t do anything about that. Stop trying to legislate morality. It doesn’t work and it just hardens people against the gospel. I firmly believe that if we stopped trying to use the government to force people to do things our way and concentrated on being friendly, loving, and firm in our beliefs and practices informed by those belief, we would see a sea change. People would be more willing to come to the Lord because they would understand that He is not a dictator and we are not His minions.

Think about that.

To secularists through the United States – I don’t want to persecute you. Everyone has the right to believe as they want and, to the extent that we are not harming others or depriving them of liberty, to live as they wish.

But …

Tolerance in liberty is a two-way street. Your liberty depends on my liberty and mine depends on yours. If you try to force me to participate in the sin of others, I’m going to say “NO!” My resistance is not a form of hatred, but an expression of love. I may not completely understand why God condemns homosexuality, but it is enough for me to know that He who created mankind does in fact say it is a grievous sin. Just as I would not sit down for a beer with an alcoholic because that would be harming the alcoholic, I won’t attend or cater the commitment ceremonies of same-sex couples. Yes, they have a right to commit to one another, but I have a right to not participate.

When you force your ideology on others, you force them to have an opinion on the subject. You’re welcome to your opinion about the practice of my faith, but you are not welcome to force me to violate it. If you don’t want me to resist your sin, don’t ask me to participate in it. That’s tolerance. We BOTH have the freedom to live our lives without interference from the other. Anything less is tyranny.

And this is where the public policy statement comes in.

Government is not the answer to our problems and it is rapidly becoming the source of tyranny. A marriage license is a secular non-religious document – a contract. It does not create a marriage as God understands marriage.

Christian marriage is an institution of the churches. The 1st Amendment makes clear that the government should have no power to tell churches what they can and cannot do regarding Christian marriage, so why have we given the government that power?  Nothing prevents us from “hand fasting” before our churches and entering into “marital contract” with one another. My parents did … my mom still being unable, because Alaska was still under federal law, to get a divorce from her husband, contracted with my dad to own houses together, to receive his life insurance policies, for power of attorney for end of life decisions and for custody of me. It worked out better for her than a marriage license because with a contract, she had actual rights and he had actual obligations. They weren’t Christians, so theirs was a wholly secular decision, and it worked — in the 1960s when almost nobody was doing it.

But I’m a Christian with libertarian leanings and I want my political philosophy to be in line with God’s laws. It might surprise you to learn that God doesn’t say you have to have a government marriage license. For most of Western history, marriage was a private contract between two families … or two individuals, like my mom and dad. For 16 centuries, Christianity defined marriage based on a couple’s wishes. If you claimed you had exchanged marriage vows, the Catholic Church accepted that as a valid marriage. In 1215 the Church (really an amalgamation of church and state) decreed that a “licit” marriage must take place in church, but people who married illicitly had the same civil rights and obligations as a couple married in church: their children were legitimate, the wife had the same inheritance rights, the couple was subject to the same prohibitions against divorce.

In the 16th century, Europeans began to require that marriages be performed under legal auspices, mainly in an attempt to prevent unions between young adults whose parents opposed the match.

The American colonies officially required marriages to be registered, but until the mid-19th century, state supreme courts routinely rules that public cohabitation was sufficient evidence of a valid marriage, but then the Civil War happened and the United States began to nullify common-law marriages between blacks and whites.

By the 1920s, 38 states prohibited whites from marrying blacks, “mulattos”, or Asians while 12 states would not issue a marriage license if one partner was a drunk, addict or “mental defect”, and 18 states set barriers to remarriage after divorce.

By the mid-20th century, courts invalidated laws against interracial marriage and other barriers, but governments began relying on marriage licenses as a means to distribute resources to dependents. Social Security survivor benefits require proof of marriage. Employers use marital status to determine whether they will provide health insurance or pension benefits to employees’ dependents. Courts and hospitals required a marriage license before granting couples the privilege of inheriting from each other or receiving medical information. In the 1950s, using a marriage license in this way made some sense because marriage was the default condition of most Americans. Cohabiitation and single parenthood by choice were rare. Today, possession of a marriage license tells us little about people’s interpersonal responsibilities. Half of all Americans aged 25 to 29 are unmarried, but many of them have already incurred obligations as partners, parents or both. Almost 40 percent of America’s children are born to unmarried parents. Many legally married people are in remarriages where their obligations are spread among several households. Children can no longer be denied inheritance rights, parental support or legal standing because their parents are not married.

I favor of reverting back to an older marriage tradition. Let churches decide which marriages they deem “licit”. Let couples write contracts between them for legal protections and obligations. Then just leave each other the hell alone.

Christians understand that the only true marriage is that founded by God. Government need not be involved in that. Our private affairs should be none of its business.

Marriage is a promise made before God with your marriage partner, possibly before a witnessing community. Government is not needed for this to take place.

Souls are not saved by regulating morality. I understand the point of wanting to ban certain behaviors, but it doesn’t work and it is hypocrtical since there are plenty of divorced and remarried Christians in churches and our kids are often sexually active before marriage.

If you want to make a difference in our society, start with your own family and community. God is not surprised by what is happening now with regard to our government. Teach your kids in the way they should go, call your churches to task for where they have strayed. Reach out to friends who claim to be Christians but who are living sinful lifestyles and gently guide them back where they should be. When that fails, churches should consider discipline. Discipline does not make the sin go away. Of the divorced and remarried Christians I know, it’s unlikely any of them could reconstitute their former marriages. But they would be helped immeasurably by confessing their sin and recognizing that they are outside of God’s will before committing more deeply to the relationship they are in currently.

If we want Godly communities, Christians must be leading their families and raising their children in a Godly way. As a whole, we have largely failed at this. If we really want those that are homosexual in our communities to love Jesus, and reconsider their lifestyle as a result, we must first show them the love of Jesus that we claim exists. As a whole, this too we have largely failed at.

To the gay community, please understand that I do not hate you. However, I do encourage you to consider pursuing a relationship with Jesus Christ. Not only for your own sake in this life but in the life to come.

The reality is that Jesus hung on the cross for your sin too.

Liberty, not bigotry   Leave a comment

I frequently don’t agree with Jim Minnery, but when he says something smart, I give him due.
The fact is that there is a difference between discriminating against a person and discriminating against their behavior. The Bible teaches Christians to love people, but to stand against their sin. Christian bakers don’t cease to be Christians when they’re baking cakes. God doesn’t compartmentalize our lives into that which is acceptable when we’re in our jammies and that which is acceptable at work. We are called to serve God at all times.
We can be friends with gays. We can bake them birthday cakes. We can photograph their sporting events. None of these activities promote the sin of sexual immorality. A gay “wedding” however does. And that is where the water hits the wheel. If you’re going to claim that gays have a right to live as they want without discrimination, without being forced to comply to a societal standard, then you must also recognize the right of Christians to live as they want without discrimination and without being forced to comply to a societal standard.
But, of course, the current agenda is to force us to violate our beliefs or be marginalized, stripped of our businesses and treated like pariahs. There is discrimination going on here all right, but it isn’t homosexuals who are free to conduct their businesses however they want, without fear of being forced into “reeducation” programs.
Religious freedom laws provide for liberty, not bigotry

Jim Minnery

OPINION: Rush to judgment on Indiana for religious freedom law shows an intolerance for diversity. Pictured: A Stand Up for Religious Freedom Rally held at Town Square Park in Anchorage in March 2012.BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News

I eat and breathe at the intersection of politics and faith. I have a special appreciation for that line by Sting, who said, “Poets, priests and politicians, have words to thank for their positions.” It’s what I do day in, day out. And recently, it seems like everyone’s on board.

As you might have read, Indiana is in the news. Boy, is it in the news. Gov. Mike Pence has made the Hoosier state more prominent than Larry Bird and John Cougar combined. What did he do?

He signed a bill passed by the Legislature known as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a law similar to one passed by the U.S. Congress, signed by President Bill Clinton and on the books in 20 other states. RFRAs were implemented basically to provide a referee when a government mandate comes up against the religious beliefs of an American.

RFRAs require that before someone’s religious freedom can be overridden, government has to demonstrate a compelling and legitimate interest in doing so and that it’s using the least restrictive means possible.

Those who’ve gone apoplectic calling the Indiana RFRA an “anti-gay” weapon businesses will use to turn away customers are missing some very basic points. RFRAs are in place (did I mention the U.S. Congress and 20 states) as shields — not swords. They cannot be used affirmatively to deprive others of the protections of law. In fact, in 22 years, no RFRA has ever been used successfully to defend anti-gay discrimination.

So what’s really going on?

The LGBTQ community successfully convinced enough judges that the rights of individuals holding natural views on marriage should be trumped by those with evolving morals and standards. Thus, you have wedding vendors like photographers, bakers and florists actually being forced out of business if they don’t partake in same-sex wedding ceremonies.

In nearly all the cases I’m familiar with, these vendors had no problems whatsoever serving gay customers. They did it all the time. They simply weren’t comfortable participating in a wedding ceremony that didn’t actually have a bride and groom. In a case in Oregon, the labor commissioner said his goal was to “rehabilitate” the baker — not close her doors. If you’re cozy with that kind of government language, you need to catch up on some history.

In another real-life case, a Christian graduate student is literally kicked out of her counseling degree program at Eastern Michigan University because she was reluctant to provide relationship counseling to a gay client. Apparently in today’s university setting, you either support the LGBTQ movement or you get out of the counseling vocation. This is surreal.

How about this example opponents of RFRAs need to answer. If you are an adoption attorney with a belief that children inherently need a mother and a father, a thought that used to not be so divisive, should you be required by law to place a child in a household led by a lesbian or gay couple? Mind you, most adoption attorneys today would have no problem doing so. This is about the attorney whose convictions tell her she can’t. Should she be forced to find employment elsewhere?

Can you imagine the Westboro Baptist Church, the despicably anti-Christ-like group in their disdain for homosexuals, using the full force of government to require a gay-owned printing shop to make their signs? How about the head of a local Ku Klux Klan using the attorney general to close down a tuxedo shop owned by an African-American family for refusing to do the Klan head’s wedding?

Everyone needs to breathe deeply. We live in a pluralistic society, and differing views are what make our cultural fabric so rich and textured. Just because hyperbolic voices scream that RFRAs are about making gays and lesbians drink from separate water fountains, sit on different parts of the bus and allow restaurants to post “No Gays Allowed” sign in their windows doesn’t make it so.

Alternative lifestyles are embraced in our world today more than at any other time in history. That is simple, basic truth.

What we’re seeing today is something entirely different. Some, not all, in activist circles essentially want to “rehabilitate” the remaining parts of society who don’t “evolve” on fundamental truths about human sexuality. Let’s all say it together — “It’s OK to disagree. It’s okay for some people to be uncomfortable with others.”

If you really want everyone to think and feel the same in a country that has E Pluribus Unum as its motto, you risk sounding a bit like that same song by Sting — de do do do de da da da.

Jim Minnery is president of Alaska Family Action, a public policy and advocacy group.

The views expressed here are the writer’s own and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, emailcommentary(at)


Posted April 10, 2015 by aurorawatcherak in Christianity

Tagged with , , ,

On Being a Racist   10 comments

(Hubby Brad is making one of his rare guest appearances. Lela)


Hello, my name is Brad and I am a racist.

I must be a racist because the barista at Starbuck’s scribbled “Race Together” on the side of my cup. Apparently I look like a racist. Apparently Lela does not because her cup just had her name scrawled on the side along with the secret code for how she likes her coffee. Her friend Susan, who looks very Alaska Native, was also not blessed with the invitation to have a conversation with a white coffee-dispensing college student about race. My friend PJ — RACIST!

Lela and I are generally opposed to putting our images out on social media. It’s not like the NSA doesn’t know who we are or what we look like, but we don’t want to make it any easier for them. You’ll just have to take my word for it — I’m white. My eyes are blue-green, my hair is sort of honey brown and my skin — well, this time of year, it’s blindingly white. We don’t get a lot of sun in Alaska in the winter and since it rained all last summer, it’s been about 18 months since I’ve tanned. So I think this is the whitest I’ve ever been.

I know — disgraceful! How can I have any understanding of what darker-skinned people feel when my skin is this white? And I was buying coffee with another white guy at a bookstore! Can’t you just smell the white privilege?  White men who can read at a 6th grade level and afford designer coffee! Obviously we need to discuss race relations in America with our barista! I mean, she has dreds. She can’t possibly be a racist!

So here’s something to know about the inner workings of my mind. Like most human beings on the planet, I do have some prejudices. I prefer vanilla over chocolate ice cream, for example. I discriminate against flavorless Lower 48 blueberries in favor of tart Alaska blueberries. I like Jeeps better than Subarus which I prefer over Fords. If given a choice, I will choose movies that feature explosions over romantic comedies. I don’t like some people and love to hang out with others. I discriminate all of the time. We all do and that is not necessarily an evil thing. Trust me on this — Alaska blueberries — WAY better than Lower 48 blueberries!!!!

Ah, but is my choice of coffee companions an indication that I discriminate in favor of white people? Could be. I grew up in a rough New York City neighborhood during the bussing era of the 1970s. In the 5th grade, I was stabbed by a Puerto Rican girl for no reason I ever knew and I haven’t really had much use for Puerto Ricans since, but if you are a friendly Puerto Rican and don’t try to stab me, I’ll eventually warm up to you. You know the saying — once stabbed, twice shy, but you can prove to me that I can trust you. And, then I was once beaten up by two drunk (Alaska) Native men, so if you’re a drunk Alaska Native man harassing people in downtown Fairbanks Alaska, you might want to steer clear of me. I’ve learned to growl and threaten to bite rather than get kicked in the ribs again.

See — RACIST! Or maybe the Puerto Rican chick and the Native guys hurt me and I learned the lesson they were trying to teach me.

In high school, I was smitten by a black girl in my history class who would never give me the time of day. My best friend is an Alaskan Eskimo. My wife is part-American Indian. My very beloved daughter actually looks more Indian than her mother. Once I was the only white man on a remote job site and three of my black coworkers announced I could call them the “n-word”. I guess these non-whites have f failed to notice that I’m a bigot, huh?

I’m Irish American and like most American whites, I am uncomfortable with this topic. In fact, I feel like I don’t have a right to have a contrarian opinion on this subject. The only reason I’m posting this is that Lela insisted. It was about 17 years ago that my coworkers honored me by trying to let me into their group. I couldn’t say the “n-word” without blushing and choking. They thought it was funny and tried to get me to practice it, but I never could do it. Finally, they took pity on me and said I didn’t have to. But why was it hard for me to say it? They called each other “nigga” all the time. It appeared to be a term of endearment and camaraderie. I was honored that they gave me permission, but I couldn’t say it. Since then, I’ve asked quite a few white people if they could say “n-word”. I haven’t found any that could. They are absolutely embarrassed by the term.

Why?Because we’ve all been indoctrinated to never have bigoted thoughts about people of color and to never, ever say the n-word. I’m not sure that’s a bad thing, but I want to just point out that there’s a double standard. White people have been taught to be careful of the sensitivities of non-whites, but non-whites are not necessarily held to the same standard.

Have you ever seen an Indian fella wearing a “Native Pride” hat? You see it a lot here in Alaska. I’ve often wondered what would happen if I wore a “white pride” T-shirt, but I fear getting beat up again, so I’ve never run that experiment. This week in Fairbanks, we’re having the Festival of Native Arts, where Native people get together for Native dancing and eating ethnic foods (muktuk and seal oil, yummo!) and non-Natives are expected to plunk down big money to go watch this, but they aren’t permitted to participate. We’re supposed to respect this exhibit as healthy cultural pride. What if Irish people were to get together for jig dancing or Germans were to get together for beer drinking and glockenspieling and say it’s okay for non-Irish to pay money to watch, but they can’t participate — what would be the reaction?


But what really bugs me is that 17 years ago, I could say “nigga” to a black man and he would call me friend, but today I don’t think those same men would honor me with that privilege because black people today are no longer judging white people by the content of their character, but by the color of our skin. White people are expected to apologize for being white, as if that is anything we can control any more than a black person can control being born black.

Doesn’t that sound a lot like racism to you? It sure sounds a lot like racism to me.

Thom Stark: Lela on Liberty   Leave a comment

Last week’s conversation with Thom Stark ended with him asking me if I’d ever read Plato’s Republic and giving us his take on it. This is my reply. Lela

DSC01494Thom, you and I have agreed on more things than we disagreed so far. For instance, we both view Plato’s Republic negatively. Correct me if I’m misjudging you, but I think you were disgusted by the elitism espoused there. I agree, but I would carry it further. Plato appears to have been the first (recorded) government planner – deciding who will have and have-not and fill what roles in society, regardless of what their personal choices might be. That sounds a lot like Marxian socialism to me. It is a world where individual choice is completely subjgated to the perceived “good” of humanity and so far, real-world examples have always led to totalitarianism because, I think, people just aren’t made to live in that sort of top-down world.

Which is why I hung up on the phrase “elected officials in a democracy have a duty to strive for political solutions that provide the greatest benefit for the largest number of their fellow citizens.” You coated it with some honey by saying “without thereby infringing on the rights of the minority.”

Shouldn’t I be a good American and wax poetic about the rights of the minority? I guess it depends on the definition of minority. I’m definitely all about the rights of the individual as the smallest minority. The idea that you must protect the rights of a select minority group through the infringement of the rights of individuals who are not members of those special groups reads like tyranny to me.

And that’s where I stumbled over your phrase because when people start talking about democracy striving for greatest benefit, I start hearing a voice-over of Leonard Nemoy saying “The needs of the many must outweigh the needs of the few … or the one.”

Chuck that! It’s a great-sounding death scene in a sci-fi movie, but it’s also the argument of tyrants everywhere. I like democracy in theory, but in practice it is more often than not two lions and a lamb voting on what’s for dinner. It never works out well for the lamb. We can say we’re instituting some infringement of individual liberty for the protection of this or that group, but it really comes down to a coalition of minority groups (thus forming a statistical majority) subjugating the individual to its voter-approved will. Tyranny by any other name is still a steaming pile of stink. Explain what you mean by the phrase and we may find we agree and it’s all a matter of semantics.

Thom StarkSo, when you used the term “radical centrist”, I was thinking centrist in the left-right spectrum manner of speaking (ala Bill Clinton), sort of forgetting that libertarians use the phrase to mean “liberal” in the classical sense — in a nutshell, the consistent presumption of liberty in human affairs. I would not chose to be a centrist in the left-right spectrum because it would mean constantly shifting between ideologies of tyranny, but I definitely have strong libertarian and voluntaryanist viewpoints. Some would say that’s an ideology of the right, but I think it may actually stand outside of the left left-right spectrum.

So which type of centricism are we talking about here?

Thom Stark: In Praise of Open Minds   1 comment

Thom Stark and I continue our conversation on various topics. 

So, Thom, when you checked out my blog preparatory to the author interview, you noted immediately that we appear to be at extreme opposites of the political philosophy spectrum. That must have intrigued you, because we started this conversation.

Thom StarkI definitely was intrigued. I’m not certain, though, that we’re in complete opposition, politically. For instance, I’d bet a shiny, new, Ohio quarter that you’re a dedicated civil libertarian. So am I. I strongly believe that people ought to be free to do any damned fool thing they please, as long as it doesn’t harm anyone else (at least, not without the other person’s freely-given consent). That includes taking drugs, participating in prostitution, advocating alternative lifestyles, wedding anyone to whom they’re sufficiently attracted to be willing to enter into a contract of marriage, or engaging in any form of advocacy that appeals to them. I’d be surprised to discover we disagree on any of those principles.

I can pray for your soul, but I have no right to dictate how you live your life unless it affects me personally and negatively. My faith dictates my morality, not yours. Morality (however we define that these days) shouldn’t be some arbitrary standard held by one slice of society (any slice of society) imposed upon society as a whole. As a Christian, I have it from God that drugs, prostitution or alternative lifestyles are not benefits to any society, but I think the state (government) should stay the hell out of the individual’s decisions because if I try to impose my morality on you, I risk having you trying to impose your morality on me. An example from headlines today —  I would abolish marriage by government entirely, so that we don’t ask individuals to affirm the actions of others that they don’t agree with. I think it is deplorable that a supposedly free society made laws against homosexual activity between consenting adults, but I also think it is tyranny for a supposedly free society to demand that I violate my religious beliefs to perform services at gay weddings against my will. Neither is right and a society that can’t see that is, in my opinion, tyrannical. The only workable solution I can conceive is for us to abolish government-sponsored marriage altogether and let groups and individuals make their own decisions. Of course, society would also need to stay the heck out of my decision to not rent an apartment to an unmarried couple or bake a cake for a gay wedding. Unfortunately, I don’t think American society at this juncture in history understand that liberty for all means actually freedom to make personal choices that someone else might not agree with.

What specifically motivated me to approach you about holding this conversation was an essay you published on religion as the key to culture:

In it, you talked about Philip Reiff’s analysis of the relationship between religion and culture. While you ended up rejecting his thesis on the grounds that he left out what to you, as a born-again Christian, is a central tenet of your philosophy – that God takes an active role in human affairs – I was impressed that you based your short essay on what was essentially a response to an obscure atheist philosopher’s view of the formative influence of religion on human cultures.

It might surprise you to know that I picked up Reiff’s book at my friend RV’s house. RV is a 70-some-year-old Baptist deacon and former pastor who reads absolutely everything — philosophy, politics, religion, science (he’s a retired chemist) — and you never know what you’ll find if you poke around in his bookshelves. I’ve got a history with finding obscure books in unexpected places. RV has been one of my mentors in Christian life, encouraging me to explore alternative ways of thinking as a means for strengthening my faith. One of his sons calls it “spiritual weight lifting”.

Down here in the Lower 48, it’s pretty unusual for someone of your religious profession to read the works of any non-Christian philosopher, much less an atheist of whom 99% of your readers probably have never heard. So that willingness to engage philosophies other than your own struck me as an earnest of an open and inquiring mind.

DSC01494I think it may be an Alaskan thing. I find a lot of people here are comfortable with pushing their own comfort zones. That might be what attracted them to Alaska in the first place.

I was raised in a very secular family in a very secular state. I don’t know what the percentage of atheists is here, but the percentage of regular churchgoers is tiny — less than 10 percent.  I grew up with a sort of rational deism. I wasn’t hostile to Christianity, but I didn’t give it a whole lot of thought. I believed that science more or less provided all the answers to most of the questions we might ask, so why look elsewhere? There might have been a little bit of transcendentalism in there — that’s kind of a common religion-adjacent viewpoint among Alaskans. I identified with On Walden Pond way more than I did the 23rd Psalm, which was the only Bible passage I knew at the time. My first step toward a faith profession actually started with reading a philosopher who presented something I had not considered before. Fog trapped me in a remote cabin and the only English reading material available was Francis Schaeffer’s The God Who Is There, which had been published just months before. The miner-trapper fellow who lived in the cabin had been to L’Abri the winter before. Schaeffer encouraged me to reevaluate what I had been taught to believe in school — that science had all the answers for a reasonable person and, therefore, there was really no need to think much about God. That set off a 16-month journey to find out if Christianity was really a reasonable response to the world. In the end, I became a Christian because I had an open mind. 

I approve of open minds.

I approve of open minds too and don’t find that many of them. I know that people consider Christians to be close-minded because we believe we know the Truth and there are Christians who have never looked deeper than what they were taught in grade school Sunday School class. I know some of them. Their faith is based on a close-minded refusal to explore beyond that elementary belief. In my opinion, that makes their faith vulnerable to questions they can’t easily answer. My faith, perhaps because it didn’t start there, is not built on a stubborn refusal to explore beyond what I feel confident is true, but on a relationship with Jesus Christ that is as real and personal to me as the relationship I have with my husband. So I can explore the opinions of others and feel my faith being strengthened rather than threatened. There’s that idea of “spiritual weight lifting” again.

Reiff’s book just happened to deal with a subject I wanted to explore on the blog — moralistic therapeutic deism — the idea that Christianity (or any religion for that matter) is good for society if it suffuses us with warm-fuzzy feelings about ourselves. Reiff posited that religion is the mechanism for culture’s civilizing effects. It teaches kids not to lie and men and women not to cheat on their spouses in a way so that we hold it as a self-governing structure rather than as a mere philosophy. Although he was an atheist, he asserted that Christianity’s loss of influence in Western culture would have detrimental effects if not replaced with something else. I contend that traditional Christianity has largely been replaced with Moralistic Therapeutic Deism — the idea that Jesus is just all right with me, so as long as religion doesn’t burden us too much. We can indulge in it to make us feel good about ourselves, but we don’t really need to believe it. It’s about feeling good, but not about actually believing in an actual God Who Is There. From my perspective, that is not faith. It’s barely religion.

So, next week, let’s discuss what you believe, Thom!


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