As I’ve discussed a bit here before, the current legal challenge to Proposition 8 (the measure eliminating homosexual marriage in California) brought by those who unsuccessfully opposed Proposition 8 is not just about homosexual marriage, it is a direct threat to the democratic ideals on which our nation is built.  If the people cannot amend their own constitution, it ceases to be “their” constitution.  The following is an excerpt from the brief filed with the court in defense of Proposition 8 (those who oppose Proposition 8 are known as the “petitioners”):

Brief in Defense of Proposition 8

For this reason, some opponents to Proposition 8 could nevertheless also oppose the legal challenge in recognition of its broad-reaching impact, and instead attempt to persuade the people to pass another constitutional amendment in the next election recognizing homosexual marriage.  At least that would be politically legitimate. 

This highlights the basic problem of judicial activism.  When judges interject themselves into policy-making, they remove issues from realm of public decision-making.  That’s why the people of each state are powerless to decide whether they will allow abortion within their borders: the United States Supreme Court hijacked the federal constitution and used it to subvert the will of the people.  And the more this happens, the more we can question whether we any longer have a democracy.


Identity is Trumps

February 26, 2009

In the comments to a recent post, I came across an assertion that I’ve faced a couple of times in recent weeks.  The assertion is that homosexuality is part of one’s identity.  “It’s who I am” is a favored assertion in our culture today for all sorts of things, not just homosexuality.  As far back as January 1997, Father Richard John Neuhaus observed the development of this argument and its effect on churches (I think the logic extends beyond church life):

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Tonight we also witnessed an Academy Award given to the writer of the screenplay Milk.  That screenwriter told of how his parents moved him away from a conservative Mormon environment where he could learn to accept “who he is”.  While there are plenty of philosophical problems associated with someone claiming “it’s who I am” (about anything), which I won’t go into, I found it interesting that he promised all the homosexuals out there that the marriage license would soon be extended to homosexual “marriages” from a federal level.  I’m guessing that the screenwriter is no lawyer, but he may suspect that the U.S. Congress is largely powerless to regulate state marriage laws (or at least it is supposed to be).  However, the federal judges, none of whom are elected, have been known to strike down state laws by declaring them unconstitutional, whether or not there is any sound reasoning or any text in the Constitution to support such a decision. 

The screenwriter reveals an interesting attitude: we just lost an election, but no matter, we’ll run to the courts to fix it.  And if we lose in the state courts, we’ll go to the federal ones.  And as soon as we get that precedential decision we’re looking for, it won’t matter what people vote for, because judges (by co-opting the constitution) trump democracy (and perhaps can trump the citizens’ attempt to amend their own constitution). 

Of course, setting aside the justice or injustice of the homosexual movement, any democratic process can produce unjust laws.  And yes, it would be nice to have all of those unjust laws overturned by some other governmental entity.  However, that other body can likewise produce unjust decisions.  So, in the end, we must recognize that someone will have the last word, and that person or group may produce unjust laws. 

Thus, the question becomes who should make that last and final decision.  As to the federal level, should it be the unelected Federal Judiciary or a democratically accountable Congress and President?  Of course, the homosexual screenwriter may place tremendous hope in Congress and the President (and that is probably a justified hope), and he may be unaware that the Congress and President are generally not supposed to dictate state laws.  Even so, as of now, it would appear that the California state courts will be the next arena for this debate, regardless of the express will of the people in the state of California.  And if those judges decide that the people of the state of California cannot amend their own state constitution to reflect their will against homosexual marriage, when can we stop calling ourselves a democracy?

Because I am a voter for Proposition 8 (the California ballot measure to restrict marriage to heterosexual monogamous relationships), Sean Penn apparently wishes shame on me and the majority of other California voters, as he said in his best actor Oscar acceptance speech for his role as a gay activist in the movie Milk (I don’t have a video of that speech, but here he is wishing shame on blacks and Mormons for their role in Proposition 8).  However, like every other anti-Proposition 8 activist, he didn’t give me a coherent reason to feel shame. 

It’s one thing to throw around a word like “shame”, or similar pejoratives like “hate”, “homophobic”, “discriminatory”, or “intolerant”, but it’s another to back those words up with an argument, including a reasonable, respectful acknowledgement of an opponent’s most intelligent reasons for disagreement.  I’d love to see the anti-Prop 8 crowd attempt a defense for their beliefs in the disputational method of Thomas Aquinas (which involves posing a question, then giving the opponents’ answers in the best possible light, and then answering those most powerful objections). 

I would especially like to see someone, instead of arguing against the Proposition 8 movement, argue in favor of homosexual marriage in the abstract.  How is recognition of homosexual marriage good for society?  How does it benefit the society is such a sufficient manner that it’s worth privileging that relationship on a governmental level?

This is not to say that Sean Penn had the time to set forth such an argument in his Oscar speech; I’d just like to see these arguments, and a recognition of the strength of the opponent’s arguments, addressed somewhere in the popular media, without using words more fitting for a soundbite than for an intelligent discussion.  Of course, given the nature of his comments at the Oscars, I doubt Penn is up to such a challenge. 

[Personal note: Slumdog Millionaire was outstanding, and very deserving of its many awards.]

A Nation of Cowards

February 19, 2009

Obama’s newly-appointed attorney general, Eric Holder, says we’re a “nation of cowards” when it comes to race relations:

“Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot in things racial, we have always been, and we, I believe, continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards,” Holder said at the Justice Department in Washington, D.C. “Though race-related issues continue to occupy a significant portion of our political discussion, and though there remain many unresolved racial issues in this nation, we, average Americans, simply do not talk enough with each other about things racial.

In the first place, the “average Americans” were brave enough to elect the first black president in the history of the United States a few months ago.  But Holder is right, when it comes to public life, as opposed to the privacy of a voting booth, Americans are much more tentative.

Is it any wonder why?  Because of the amount of employment litigation in this country, combined with the forces of political correctness, we get all sorts of “diversity training” at our jobs telling us that we dare not say anything that might make a co-worker “uncomfortable.”  The topic of race certainly makes people uncomfortable.  And the more that Holder pursues racial harassment claims on the part of the DOJ, the more tentative Americans will become.  And if people learn that they can’t talk about race (or gender differences, or religion) at work, that is going to spread to other areas of life.  Eventually, political correctness imposes the silence of which Holder complains. 

Incidentally, I had to suffer through one of those diversity training programs at a prior firm.  The funniest part was the incoherency.  The speaker noted that we’d heard of the “golden rule”, where we must treat others as we would have others treat us, but he encouraged us to go “beyond” the golden rule to the “platinum rule”, where we treat others as they would like to be treated.  That, of course, makes no sense.  Consider this hypothetical: I would like everyone to give me all of their money.  If my coworkers are to follow the platinum rule, they must give me all of their money.  If they follow the golden rule, on the other hand, they can tell me I’m being immature or greedy, as some of them no doubt would like to be told that if they were silly enough to make such a demand.  In any event, the members of my firm were unable to follow the platinum rule.  They certainly didn’t treat me the way I (or probably most people) would like to be treated, which is why I left…

A public television station in Columbus pulled a Christian television program from its lineup (it was a special to be aired only once) even though the Christian organization had already paid for the air time.  What’s funny is that the station did so at the request of a few homosexuals to avoid offending them, but in the process proved the substance of the tv special.  The special was about media bias and censorship against Christians.  Something tells me the irony is lost on the station owners. 

This isn’t the first time.  A Catholic group paid for a Superbowl advertisement (the most coveted commercial airtime in the nation) timeslot, but the ad was subsequently yanked by television network NBC:

It’s obviously pro-life, but it never mentions abortion.  Powerful stuff, even though the philosophical underpinnings of the ad have been questioned (I think the criticisms are unwarranted).

This is one of my favorite parts of the Letter:

You speak of our activity in Birmingham as extreme. At first I was rather disappointed that fellow clergymen would see my nonviolent efforts as those of an extremist. I began thinking about the fact that I stand in the middle of two opposing forces in the Negro community. One is a force of complacency, made up in part of Negroes who, as a result of long years of oppression, are so drained of self respect and a sense of “somebodiness” that they have adjusted to segregation; and in part of a few middle-class Negroes who, because of a degree of academic and economic security and because in some ways they profit by segregation, have become insensitive to the problems of the masses. The other force is one of bitterness and hatred, and it comes perilously close to advocating violence. . . . Nourished by the Negro’s frustration over the continued existence of racial discrimination, this movement is made up of people who have lost faith in America, who have absolutely repudiated Christianity, and who have concluded that the white man is an incorrigible “devil.”

I have tried to stand between these two forces, saying that we need emulate neither the “do nothingism” of the complacent nor the hatred and despair of the black nationalist. For there is the more excellent way of love and nonviolent protest. . . .

Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself, and that is what has happened to the American Negro. Something within has reminded him of his birthright of freedom, and something without has reminded him that it can be gained. . . .

But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” Was not Amos an extremist for justice: “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.” Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: “I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” Was not Martin Luther an extremist: “Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God.” And John Bunyan: “I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience.” And Abraham Lincoln: “This nation cannot survive half slave and half free.” And Thomas Jefferson: “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal . . .” So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary’s hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime–the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. Perhaps the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.

Compare this with the rhetoric tossed around by California liberals who probably fancy themselves part of Dr. King’s legacy.  Specifically, one pro-choice women’s group describes Tony Strickland and Tom McClintock, two California Republicans, as “too extreme for California”, noting “There is no other candidate more extreme than Tom McClintock, bar none”.  This was tried in a California attorney general race as well.  Aside from the fact that those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones and all that, I find it remarkable that throwing out a phrase like “too extreme for California” has any persuasive effect at all. 

And it’s not as though liberals are the only ones who try this.  The same rhetoric was tossed around by a California Republican back in 1998 against none other than Barbara Boxer (shocking, eh?).  But the problem with Ms. Boxer isn’t that she’s “extreme.”  It’s that she is, among other things, extremely pro-abortion (not pro-choice, mind you, but pro-abortion).  [As an aside, I loved reading this transcript of her dodging the question whether it would be ok to kill a child with one foot still in the mother while the rest of the child is outside; she obviously couldn’t say that you can kill that child, but she refused to admit when a child is “born” because she supports partial-birth abortion.  The transcript is pure comedy.]

Ever notice that those who accuse someone of being “extreme” on some issue are usually equally “extreme” on the other end of the political spectrum on that same issue?  Those who have run out of intelligent arguments usually resort to name-calling…

In any event, there is no such thing as “too extreme for California”, or “too extreme” for any sort of political office.  I want extremely dedicated, extremely virtuous, extremely wise, extremely effective government leaders.  I’d like to avoid the extremely lazy, evil, stupid, and/or ineffective ones, but it’s not because they’re “extreme”, it’s because of the rest of the attributes listed.  I would hope that the extremely dedicated, virtuous, wise, effective government leaders revel in being labeled “extremist” by their opponents, for it is their “extremism” in these attributes, and a refusal to compromise on foundational principles, that make them great leaders. 

The following section of the Letter makes the case that we should not be terribly worried that our ideas may precipitate violence (as long as we don’t engage in violence), and that there is no time to waste in spreading the message:

In your statement you assert that our actions, even though peaceful, must be condemned because they precipitate violence. But is this a logical assertion? Isn’t this like condemning a robbed man because his possession of money precipitated the evil act of robbery? Isn’t this like condemning Socrates because his unswerving commitment to truth and his philosophical inquiries precipitated the act by the misguided populace in which they made him drink hemlock? Isn’t this like condemning Jesus because his unique God consciousness and never ceasing devotion to God’s will precipitated the evil act of crucifixion? We must come to see that, as the federal courts have consistently affirmed, it is wrong to urge an individual to cease his efforts to gain his basic constitutional rights because the quest may precipitate violence. Society must protect the robbed and punish the robber. I had also hoped that the white moderate would reject the myth concerning time in relation to the struggle for freedom. I have just received a letter from a white brother in Texas. He writes: “All Christians know that the colored people will receive equal rights eventually, but it is possible that you are in too great a religious hurry. It has taken Christianity almost two thousand years to accomplish what it has. The teachings of Christ take time to come to earth.” Such an attitude stems from a tragic misconception of time, from the strangely irrational notion that there is something in the very flow of time that will inevitably cure all ills. Actually, time itself is neutral; it can be used either destructively or constructively. More and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have the people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right. Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy and transform our pending national elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. Now is the time to lift our national policy from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of human dignity.

It is indeed a “tragic misconception of time” that prevents a lot of needed change from happening.  “[T]he appalling silence of the good people” often enables many important issues to go unnoticed, though the “good people” of course get to live their comfortable lives in peace.  And as one who believes that Christian values and truths are the ideal, I note that too often the excuses proffered by the inactive Christians are particularly lame

Additionally, as an aside, note that the people who criticized MLK for “precipitating violence” have a kinship with the authors of various university campus speech codes (examples of which are provided here), all of whom prefer to avoid offending sensibilities notwithstanding the need to discuss public issues.  The fact that someone might react to a message improperly is certainly no reason to censor the message.

Taking a break from the MLK theme for a moment…  This story raises interesting questions:

Unable to remain seated [in the abortion clinic waiting area], Williams braced herself with the arms of the recliner chair she was sitting on. As she lifted herself, her water broke and she delivered a live baby girl onto the seat of the recliner. The baby writhed and gasped for air, still connected to Williams by the umbilical cord. Immobilized by shock, Williams watched [the abortion clinic owner] Gonzalez run into the room, cut the umbilical cord with a pair of orange-handled shears, stuff the baby and afterbirth into a red biohazard bag and throw the bag into a garbage can. Shortly thereafter, the doctor arrived at the clinic and sedated Williams, who remained in total confusion and shock. The doctor’s medical records failed to indicate that Williams had delivered a live baby that was killed by the clinic.

Although not the focus of my comment here, the story tells of Williams’ lawsuit against the abortion clinic, abortion clinic owner, and doctors, for the incident, err, murder.  Governmental authorities have thus far refused to press charges (although the treating doctor apparently lost his license). 

This raises interesting questions to me.  Williams entered the clinic presumably intending to end her child’s life.  Now she is suing the people that she hired to end that life.  The difference is they killed the child after she gave birth.  Murder?  Infanticide?  If the line isn’t at childbirth, where is it?  Can a mother “abort an abortion” and suddenly endow a child with rights based on her change of mind?

Now, I have always presumed that the reason people think abortion should be left to the mother’s decision is in large part because the woman should purportedly be able to decide whether to “have a baby”, which I always interpreted to mean, “go through childbirth” (“have” = “deliver”).  Of course, Williams went through childbirth, and I believe (perhaps errantly) that she was going to go through childbirth whether the child was dead or alive.  At that point, there is no “choice” whether to go through childbirth: it’s going to happen one way or another.  So what justifies killing the child in this scenario?

But perhaps the pro-abortion crowd, when they say it’s a woman’s decision to “have a baby”, actually mean “be a parent” (“have” = “possess”).  Nevermind that no father has any control whatever over whether to become a father (outside of the choice to have sex or not); his choice to “be a parent” is in the hands of the woman.  But the argument for choice to “have a baby” or not (in the sense of “be a parent”) presumes that the mother does not already “have a baby”.  Why would the choice to “be a parent” be contingent on being pregnant vs. possessing an infant?  Is killing one’s child a permissible way to cease “being a parent”?  Perhaps, some will argue, the parent of the infant should give him/her up for adoption.  But why wouldn’t that apply to the unborn, especially when the mother is going to have to go through something as painful or invasive as childbirth anyway (such as, for instance, so-called “partial birth abortion”)? 

If the above story strikes you as traumatic or awful, why do you think the ever-so-popular President of the United States opposed protection for born-alive infants (aka unintended survivors of attempted abortion) and opposes the prohibition of partial birth abortion?