When the Supreme Court overturned centuries of law and tradition in ruling that there is a right to same-sex marriage, it also created a huge muddle in which that newly-invented right conflicted with the enumerated First Amendment right of freedom to practice your religious beliefs without government restraint. In handing down that ruling, the SCOTUS made clear that care should be taken that it not infringe on religious beliefs. But the ink was barely dry before Christian bakers, florists and other wedding service providers in blue states were being sued, harassed, hounded, fined, branded as “haters” and driven into bankruptcy simply for declining jobs that would require them to violate their sacred belief in the Biblical definition of marriage.
(Say, remember when same-sex marriage activists questioned why Christians would oppose it when it would never have any effect on them? That seems as long ago as the silent movie era.)
The case of Colorado baker Jack Phillips would have been an excellent opportunity for the SCOTUS to clean up the giant mess it made and issue a broad-based ruling reaffirming that the First Amendment’s protection of religious freedom is #1 for a reason and that it means what it says and is supreme over all other laws. Unfortunately, while today’s 7-2 ruling in favor of Phillips is welcome and long-overdue relief for him, it still only tinkers around the edges of fixing the damage wrought by the original decision. The ruling focuses on the egregious actions of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which was relentlessly and openly hostile to Phillips’ religious beliefs every step of the way, never once according him even the benefit of the doubt that he had a legitimate objection of conscience.
The ruling (again written by the original muddler, Justice Kennedy) still doesn’t clarify the larger issue. Kennedy writes:
“The Court’s precedents make clear that the baker, in his capacity as the owner of a business serving the public, might have his right to the free exercise of religion limited by generally applicable laws. Still, the delicate question of when the free exercise of his religion must yield to an otherwise valid exercise of state power needed to be determined in an adjudication in which religious hostility on the part of the State itself would not be a factor in the balance the State sought to reach. That requirement, however, was not met here.”
So the state can infringe on the free exercise of religion as long as it isn’t hostile to religion? And who will make that subjective determination? State officials, like those on the Colorado Civil Rights Commission?
This ruling is something to celebrate, because the treatment of Jack Phillips was outrageous and unconstitutional. But it still leaves unfinished the untangling of the knot of conflicting rights the SCOTUS created. I expect there will be many more such cases as liberal state officials try to find ways to infringe on religious beliefs while being cagier about hiding their hostility to religion. Maybe someday, a future SCOTUS (possibly one with a Trump-appointed replacement for Kennedy) will get tired of dealing with the endless end-run attempts and finally issue a decisive ruling that the government cannot compel anyone to violate his or her religious beliefs, but it would have been a lot easier for everyone concerned if they’d just done it now.
I’ll bet the Founders thought they were being fairly clear when they wrote, as the very first words of the Bill of Rights, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”
Today marks the 29th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre in China. That peaceful student pro-democracy protest is mostly remembered now for the indelible image of one brave, unarmed protester standing defiantly in front of a Chinese Army tank, as if daring it to roll over him.
But while we all honor the incredible courage of that protester who came to be known as “Tank Man,” the full story of Tiananmen Square is a horror story. It was one of the bloodiest government crackdowns in modern history. Snipers mowed down unarmed protesters, soldiers bayoneted the wounded, and armored vehicles crushed students who tried to block their paths with their bodies. China claims fewer than 300 people were killed, but the Chinese Red Cross estimates it was close to 2,700, while a recently declassified memo by Britain’s ambassador to China put the number of fatalities at 10,454. You can read more details at the link, but I warn you, you’d better steel yourself.
Since that time, China has considered the slaughter to be an embarrassment and done everything in its power to suppress any mention of it. “Tank Man” was later reported to be 19-year-old archaeology student Wang Weilin, but to this day, we don’t know what became of him. The Tiananmen Square uprising is never mentioned in the media nor taught in schools, any mention of it is censored and those who dare to discuss it are punished. China would like nothing more than to erase it from the collective memory.
Thankfully, with the rise of the Internet, that kind of totalitarian control of information is becoming much harder. And with the election of Donald Trump, America’s leadership is no longer willing to go along with other nations’ unconscionable lies just to keep from making waves. Even as Trump is negotiating on trade and North Korea with China, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo took the occasion of the anniversary to publicly demand that China “make a full public accounting of those killed, detained or missing; to release those who have been jailed for striving to keep the memory of Tiananmen Square alive; and to end the continued harassment of demonstration participants and their families.”
Amen to that. China’s leaders need to learn that a tank may be able to crush a human body, but it can’t crush the human spirit -- or the truth.
Mark your calendars, voters: there are primary elections tomorrow in Alabama, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, South Dakota, and the biggest – and naturally, the weirdest – in California.
California has a bizarre primary system: instead of each party picking a candidate, the votes are all counted together, and the top two vote-getters make it to the ballot. Like so many ideas that come out of California, it was meant to promote “fairness,” but in practice, it just gums up the works and makes things less fair. In many areas, both top candidates are from the same party, so the other party has no representation; and instead of focusing on winning their own party’s support, candidates end up trying to influence the other party’s voters as well.
For instance, Democratic gubernatorial frontrunner Gavin Newsom ran attack ads on his chief Democratic rivals, former L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and state Treasurer John Chiang. This angered Democratic Party officials because the ads could help Republican John Cox come in second, and with a Republican actually on the top of the ballot, Republicans who have been as dispirited as castaways on the last island of sanity would have a reason to turn out. That might thwart the expected “blue wave” in local races, which could help keep the US House in GOP hands. Analysts compare all these complicated, inter-related ramifications to 3-D chess, but it’s more like trying to play pool while blindfolded. No matter how good you are at it, there’s no way to predict whether you’re going to sink the ball or rip the table.
I’ll dispense with all the arcane insider hot air and just give California Republicans a direct reason to turn out and vote: because your state depends on it. I know it’s tempting to throw up your hands and give up, but if the lunatics are going to take over the asylum, you don’t have to make it easier by handing them the keys. They think they own California, but there are a lot of Republicans and Independents who are fed up with having leftist “social justice” lunacy shoved down their throats. Democratic turnout in California is often lower than predicted and Republican turnout is depressed by GOP voters being…well, too depressed to bother to vote. The cure for that: show up at the polls!
Consider how many Californians have managed to muster the energy to move to some other state that doesn’t punish people for being productive or holding a non-George Clooney-approved opinion. Now, consider that it’s already assumed the next governor will be Gavin Newsom, the “progressive” former mayor of San Francisco, for gosh sakes. Do you really want to stand idly by and let the entire state be run like San Francisco? Not even the people in San Francisco want to live like that anymore!
A new poll of registered voters in the Bay Area by the Bay Area Council and EMC Research found that nearly half (46%) want to move out within the next few years. While the high cost of living was the #1 reason (liberals would say that shows how successful they are; others would say that tech industry money is distorting the real estate market and making it unaffordable for anyone else), there were many other reasons cited. They include the cost of living, high taxes, income inequality, homelessness, the sanctuary policy for illegal immigrants, crime and diminishing quality of life.
Two other findings are even more telling: 55% think the Bay Area is on the wrong track compared to only 25% who think it’s on the right track. And when those who say they want to move out were asked where they’d move, only 24% said they would move somewhere else in California (so much for it just being a Bay Area problem.) Most want to go to Texas, Nevada, the Midwest, the Southeast, Florida, even Europe…just about anywhere but California. California’s far-left Democrats have actually managed to set off a new Gold Rush, only in reverse. The cry is now, “Go East, young Californian! That is, if you want to keep any of your gold!”
To Republicans in all of tomorrow’s primary states, I urge you to keep ruining the buzz of all those “blue wave” narrative pushers. But I especially urge California Republicans to turn out and vote. You have more power than you might imagine, if you just wield it. Trust me, even in California, electing some Republicans would be easier than moving to Texas (have you seen what U-Haul is charging for a moving truck from California to Texas? Talk about a seller’s market!)
I’ve never really kept up with the Kardashians, but when Kim Kardashian West showed up last week in the West Wing (not named after her husband, Kanye West, by the way), I took note because she was there to discuss real problems in our criminal justice system. Sure, the media had a field day mocking her, but why shouldn’t she have the right to talk to the President, just like any other citizen? I don’t recall any mocking of Obama for hobnobbing with celebrities when he was hanging with Jay-Z and Beyonce. That just added to his coolness points.
I doubt Kim Kardashian is a policy expert, but if her celebrity can help bring attention to reforming a system that sometimes puts a person in prison for life for three relatively small thefts, then God bless her! It’s an issue close to my heart because for the almost 11 years I was a Governor, there wasn’t a day when I didn’t deal with prisons, inmates, clemency requests, sentencing issues, or some other aspect of our criminal justice system. The issue might be a request to issue a pardon to a 40-year-old who at 17 was a passenger in a stolen car, and while he never went to prison, the felony conviction meant he couldn’t even get a job emptying a bed pan in a nursing home because he couldn’t clear a background check. Or the issue could be signing the warrant and issuing the command to carry out an execution.
Changes are needed. A couple of decades ago, a popular policy was “Three Strikes, You’re Out,” which meant a life sentence for three thefts of $400. Meanwhile, some murder sentences were only seven years. Saying “tough on crime” was an applause line in a campaign speech, but many applauding didn’t realize that they were supporting a policy that really doesn’t make sense. As Larry Norris, who headed our corrections system for me, often said, “We lock people up we’re mad at, rather than the ones we’re afraid of.” It meant that some nonviolent offenders of sometimes minor crimes were warehoused in the very expensive prison system, while we let others guilty of violent offenses back onto the streets to maim and kill again.
It costs more money to put a person in prison for a year than to put a person in college and pay full tuition, room and board, buy books, and provide spending money. And prison costs more than it would to provide mental health care for many who are locked up without treatment for what landed them there in the first place. We can educate, medicate, and if necessary, incarcerate, but truth be told, we mostly don’t have a crime problem, we have a drug and alcohol problem.
Eighty-eight percent of the inmates in the Arkansas system were there for a drug or alcohol related crime - they committed a crime while drunk or high, or committed the crime to get drunk or high. To be clear: some of those folks absolutely are dangerous and need to be imprisoned. But many would do better in treatment centers and community restitution centers that address the root problems and often cost as little as 10% of the cost of full-blown lockup. Without addressing why people ended up in prison, our corrections system is mostly a place where greater criminal skills are learned. Upon release, the inmate who can’t find a job ends up committing more elaborate crimes.
While the government can’t force people into faith-based programs, my experience was that only the faith-based programs had long-term success rates. Programs like Inner-Change, launched by the late Chuck Colson’s group Prison Fellowship, had a less than 20% recidivism rate compared to the more than 80% recidivism of traditional approaches. I spent a day in the Angola Prison in Louisiana, once considered the most violent and hopeless institution in America. Now, it’s a model for changing inmate behavior by changing the inmate from the inside out through a process that is about repentance, forgiveness, restitution, and redemption by faith in God. Some inmates will never get out because of what they did, but while their bodies may not be freed, their souls have been.
So let me say here what few others will dare say: thanks, Kim Kardashian, for using your notoriety and celebrity for something other than showing us how large your backside is, and instead showing us how large your heart is by trying to fix a system that is broken. Sure, the cynics sneered at your meeting with the President. But I salute you and the President for putting this issue front and center. America can and must do better. And if that means “Keeping Up With the Kardashians,” then count me in!
Well, that didn’t take long. Just one day after apologizing for launching a filthy, sexist slur at the President’s daughter, Ivanka – with the kind of heartfelt statement that reeked of being composed by a network committee and signed with an Autopen - TBS’ Samantha Bee was accepting an award from the Television Academy for promoting “social change” related to women’s issues (!) And behind closed doors (the press was conveniently barred from the ceremony), Bee reportedly defended her show in a way that made it pretty clear the apology was just insincere lip service. But unlike Roseanne Barr, she hates Trump, so patently insincere lip service is sufficient to keep her from losing her show.
Meanwhile, female celebrities such as Sally Field and Minnie Driver took to Twitter, trying to come up with rationalizations for why it’s okay to use the “C-word” to attack certain women. As some conservative commentators noted, after eight months of the MeToo movement, prominent Hollywood women are now suggesting that if you don’t agree with a woman’s politics, it’s okay to denigrate her and reduce her to an obscene sexist slur because she “has it coming.” I wonder if Harvey Weinstein's lawyer will use that as part of his defense.
Of course, there was also the claim that Donald Trump is to blame for Bee’s outburst because he's personally “lowered the tone of public discourse.” I had no idea he had so much control over the culture back in 2008, when “Chimpy McBushHitler,” as I believe they called him, was President, and Democrats were wearing T-shirts calling Sarah Palin the exact same sexist slur Ms Bee used against Ivanka.
And before we leave this latest example of double standards, there’s one more twist worthy of mention. Over the weekend, I interviewed rising conservative star Ben Shapiro on my TBN TV show. Like me, he agreed that Roseanne should have lost her show over her racist tweet about Valerie Jarrett. But he pointed out (and even her friend Bill Maher made the same observation) that Roseanne is admittedly mentally ill. She’s discussed having multiple personality disorder (seven at last count), and once accused her parents of incest and then later reeled that back, revealing she’d been on psychiatric drugs at the time.
That’s no excuse for the tweet, but she did sincerely apologize for making a dumb mistake on Twitter when she was alone at 2 a.m., while Bee insincerely apologized for launching an attack on national TV that had to have been vetted by dozens of network staffers. Yet Roseanne is immediately fired and becomes a non-person while Bee keeps her show and gets an award for advancing the cause of women.
I guess the obvious question for Hollywood liberals is this: Why do you hate mentally ill people?
As someone who flies two or three times a week, I was not thrilled, to say the least, to discover that the last Administration decided that diversity was a more important factor for hiring air traffic controllers than competence or aviation experience.
A real estate broker in Massachusetts thought he and his 11-year-old daughter were just showing patriotism and honoring veterans when they put 200 tiny American flags on his firm’s lawn for Memorial Day. But Chelmsford city officials thought otherwise. They left a note threatening the company with a code violation for having an “excessive” number of flags. They claim it’s a safety issue (the flags might be a distraction at a busy intersection) and the city prohibits the use of the flag in commercial promotions.
But the real estate agent said this wasn’t a commercial promotion, it was just a show of patriotism. In one of the more defiant acts of patriotism Massachusetts has seen since the 1700s, he not only refused to remove the flags, he added 200 more. Fox News’ Todd Starnes reported that the city also made the same charge of “excessive flags” against a local church, which isn’t even a commercial enterprise.
The sentiment of the townspeople seems to be firmly with the patriots, not the bureaucrats. A word of advice to the government: the last time someone tried to punish Massachusetts patriots for being too pro-American, it was at Lexington and Concord. It didn’t turn out well in the long run for the anti-American flag side.