Faith in Statism

Faith in Statism
The Left has turned against religious liberty
By Barbara Joanna Lucas, Organization Trends, August 2015, (PDF here)

On June 26, the Supreme Court by 5 to 4 struck down all state-level bans on same-sex marriage. Since then, a poll found that 19 percent of Americans believe “religious institutions or clergy should be required to perform same-sex marriages.” The survey was conducted by the Barna Group, which studies attitudes toward religion in America. That percentage may seem small, but it means one in five Americans have no problem with the government violating the first freedom of the First Amendment. That number increases to more than a quarter—26 percent—among Americans under the age of 40, who believe churches and pastors should be forced to perform gay marriage ceremonies. (TheBlaze, July 1, 2015)

Reasonable people can disagree on the issue of gay marriage as a public policy, but what should not be questioned are the basic First Amendment principles of the country, rights that were reinforced by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, passed in 1993 by a Democratic administration and Congress.

The majority and dissenting opinions in the same-sex marriage case, Obergefell v. Hodges, addressed the matter of religious freedom. Even President Barack Obama made passing reference to this fundamental liberty when he praised the ruling in the Rose Garden: “All of us who welcome today’s news should be mindful of that fact; recognize different viewpoints; revere our deep commitment to religious freedom.”

For the court’s majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote:

It must be emphasized that religions, and those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned. The First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths, and to their own deep aspirations to continue the family structure they have long revered. The same is true of those who oppose same-sex marriage for other reasons.

It’s good to know Kennedy still thinks Americans have the right to hold private religious views. Yet Chief Justice John Roberts responded that many difficult issues remain:

“Respect for sincere religious conviction has led voters and legislators in every state that has adopted same-sex marriage democratically to include accommodations for religious practice. The majority’s decision imposing same-sex marriage cannot, of course, create any such accommodations. … Hard questions arise when people of faith exercise religion in ways that may be seen to conflict with the new right to same-sex marriage—when, for example, a religious college provides married student housing only to opposite-sex married couples, or a religious adoption agency declines to place children with same-sex married couples.”

Now congressional Republicans are considering taking action to protect the First Amendment right to practice religion, not only for clergy and their congregations, but for private businesses as well.   Continue reading →

Briefly Noted: August 2015

Abortion provider Planned Parenthood was forced to apologize after a video surfaced showing a top official, Deborah Nucatola, callously discussing how to abort a fetus properly in order to preserve marketable organs. “We’ve been very good at getting heart, lung, liver, because we know that, so I’m not gonna crush that part, I’m gonna basically crush below, I’m gonna crush above, and I’m gonna see if I can get it all intact,” she said in a video secretly recorded last year by the pro-life group, Center for Medical Progress. Planned Parenthood Federation of America president Cecile Richards responded: “Our top priority is the compassionate care that we provide. In the video, one of our staff members speaks in a way that does not reflect that compassion. This is unacceptable, and I personally apologize for the staff member’s tone and statements.” Richards claimed her group does not profit from sales of fetal tissues and organs. “Our donation programs—like any other high-quality health care providers—follow all laws and ethical guidelines.”

The murder of young Kate Steinle by an illegal Mexican alien in San Francisco on July 1 has put the ACLU-led “sanctuary city” movement in the national spotlight. The local sheriff, Ross Mirkarimi, a Democrat and convicted wife beater, had previously refused a request from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to hold the foreigner for the feds to arrest, because San Francisco refuses to cooperate in the enforcement of federal immigration law. Soon after being liberated, the man shot Steinle in the back at a popular tourist destination in front of her father. Mirkarimi was unmoved, proudly standing by San Francisco’s sanctuary-city status. “I firmly believe it makes us safer. We’re a world-renowned city with a large immigrant population…. From a law enforcement perspective, we want to build trust with that population.” The Obama administration supports this lawless movement. At a congressional hearing two weeks after the shooting, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson refused to condemn sanctuary cities and said a crackdown on them could be unconstitutional.

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Introducing Love Gov

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Scott “Gov” Govinsky is on the job doing his best to save Americans from themselves.

He’s the central character in Love Gov, a series of brief BuzzFeed-style vignettes produced by the Independent Institute.  Gov, an annoying but super-friendly do-gooding embodiment of the Leviathan, sums himself up in one sentence: “This is a big part of what I do, is to protect the people from choices.”

The Independent Institute describes the series this way:

Love Gov portrays the federal government as an overbearing boyfriend — Scott “Gov” Govinsky — who foists his good intentions on a hapless, idealistic college student, Alexis. Each episode follows Alexis’s relationship with Gov as his intrusions wreak (comic) havoc on her life, professionally, financially, and socially. Alexis’s loyal friend Libby tries to help her see Gov for what he really is — a menace. But will Alexis come to her senses in time? Tune in to find out!

Through comedic skits the big-spending Gov unwittingly demonstrates that government can’t get much of anything right.  The series skewers the sacred policy cows of the pro-big government left.  It explains and elucidates things such as the housing bubble, student loans, healthcare insurance, environmental regulations, and so on.

You just can’t help wanting Gov to fail.

Philanthropy Notes: July 2015

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While presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was America’s top diplomat the Department of State she oversaw the approval of $165 billion worth of commercial arms sales to 20 nations whose governments had forked over millions of dollars to the now-embattled Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation. According to the International Business Times, “at least seven foreign governments that received State Department clearance for American arms did donate to the Clinton Foundation while Hillary Clinton was serving as secretary.” The article identified the seven nations as Algeria, Australia, Kuwait, Norway, Oman, Qatar, and Thailand. The mainstream media’s surprisingly probing coverage of the unfolding Clinton Foundation donations-for-favors scandal suggests that reporters have turned on the Clintons in the age of Obama.

Some Irishmen are accusing the U.S.-based same-sex marriage movement of “cultural imperialism” after foreign funding helped a same-sex marriage referendum pass by a margin of 62 percent to 38 percent in the socially conservative country. According to NewsBusters, a petition has been launched calling the push “a carefully-orchestrated and massively well-funded assault on the natural family, coming from private American funding,” specifically $28 million in left-wing funding over the past 13 years from the Atlantic Philanthropies, a charity founded by Irish-American entrepreneur Chuck Feeney. As Irish Times columnist Breda O’Brien complained before the balloting, “this is foreign money being systematically invested to change public opinion, to deliver seamlessly a Yes in a referendum that has enormous consequences for family law for generations.” (Feeney and Atlantic were profiled in Foundation Watch, April 2015.)

Continue reading →

Refugee Resettlement: The lucrative business of serving immigrants

Refugee Resettlement:  The lucrative business of serving immigrants

By James Simpson, Foundation Watch, July 2015 (PDF here)

Immigration

Summary:  Surveys of Americans show mixed views on immigration issues, and yet for the Left all immigration is good, no matter what laws or legislatures say.  Major donors on the Left, which normally champion every kind of government regulation, support immigration without limits, and a number of large nonprofits reap not only private funding but millions of tax dollars in the resettlement business.  Most Americans have never even heard of the programs that disburse these monies in their name.  This report sketches the landscape and tracks the money flows.

Left-wing grant-makers have embarked on a campaign aimed at overwhelming America with unprecedented levels of immigration. These foundations underwrite a universe of liberal organizations that are devoted to bringing in ever more people from all over the world, and the organizations’ motives include money. These groups, known as “Volunteer Agencies” (VOLAGs), don’t just receive private dollars from liberal foundations; they also are richly rewarded with your tax dollars when they collaborate with federal government agencies.

Every year, the U.S. government allows approximately 1 million immigrants to establish legal permanent residence in the U.S. This includes people from countries that represent a national security threat to the U.S. About 140,000 emigrate lawfully from majority-Muslim countries and an even greater number do so from the communist countries that still remain –including Cuba and China– more than two decades after the collapse of the Soviet bloc. Far more immigrants come to America illegally.  Last year, almost 140,000 youths and families were welcomed into the U.S. after illegally entering the country through the Southwest border.

But these numbers aren’t high enough to please the foundations that will be profiled in this study.

The Refugee Program
There is another category of newcomer that most Americans have overlooked while our country is distracted by the wave of illegal immigration. This group is having a profound impact on the complexion of our society and is rapidly rising to the level of national security threat.

The group to which I refer are refugees from countries with bloody conflicts. Approximately 3.9 million Syrians have fled civil war and are holed up in refugee camps in surrounding countries. To date, only 700 have been resettled in the U.S., but this may change. On May 21, 14 U.S. senators signed a letter urging President Obama to expand the refugee program to allow 65,000 Syrian refugees into the U.S. by the end of 2016. This would require either a dramatic increase in the current 70,000 annual cap on all refugees, or a policy decision that would force persons from other countries to take a back seat to Syrians.

Because of the chaos in Syria, it will be virtually impossible to vet these people, according to the FBI. How many will be members of ISIS or some other terrorist group? Since ISIS members may already be here; there is little doubt more will come.

A plethora of special programs allow persons into America outside the usual immigration process, including “diversity” visas, the refugee program, asylum seekers (asylees) and their families (“follow to join”). Refugees from Iraq and Afghanistan have their own special program, Special Immigrant Visas (SIV). The table on this page shows the latest data from these various programs.

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The “dignity” of no job

Anti-jobs crusaders believe that no job is better than a job that requires long hours, or that doesn’t provide the right set of benefits, or that is too messy or too menial or otherwise unsuitable for people like themselves. From the point of view of privileged, comfortable elites, it’s clear: If you take such a job, you’re being exploited by some greedy businessman. Why take a job like that when you could live off welfare, food stamps, and a myriad of other programs for low-income people? Continue reading →

Environmental Disaster: The Renewable Fuel Standard

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Environmental Disaster: The Renewable Fuel Standard
Washington politicians mandate fake “gasoline” made from plants.  What could possibly go wrong? [PDF here]

By Marlo Lewis

Summary: The bipartisan disaster called the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) has all the usual characteristics of bureaucratic central planning: It features unrealistic (actually, impossible) goals, hidden taxes and regulatory burdens, and costly “unintended” consequences, and it’s carried out by anonymous, unelected, unaccountable government officials. Meanwhile, RFS reduces the mileage of motor vehicles, funnels money from consumers to well-connected “crony capitalists,” raises the price of food for the world’s poor, destroys rain forest and wetlands, and expands a dead zone the size of Connecticut in the Gulf of Mexico. It was supposed to make us more energy independent. It was supposed to protect the environment, yet it is responsible for converting millions of acres of wetlands and wildlife habitat to corn plantations. Even the “greens” have turned against it. And, like many a horror-movie villain, it’s immortal. … Or is it?

The Renewable Fuel Standard program was created by the Energy Policy Act of 2005, at a time when Republicans controlled Congress and the White House, and expanded by the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007, with Democrats in control on Capitol Hill. Both parties are responsible for the policy disaster that is the RFS.

The RFS requires that certain volumes of biofuel—corn ethanol, biodiesel (from vegetable oil and animal fat), and so-called advanced biofuel such as cellulosic ethanol (from wood, grass, and inedible parts of plants)—must be blended into motor fuels sold in the United States. A throwback to Soviet-style central planning, Continue reading →

The POW unhingement

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In 1980, I was a political reporter in Alabama, covering the U.S. Senate race. The candidates were Jim Folsom Jr., son of a former governor, and Jeremiah Denton, who had spent seven years, seven months as a Prisoner of War in North Vietnam.

Alabama hadn’t sent a Republican to the U.S. Senate since George Spencer, husband of famous Latina actress “May” Nunez. After Spencer left office in 1879, no Republican had ever won a statewide office in Alabama (not counting a Senate seat in 1962 that a Republican won but the Democrats managed to steal).

As the election neared, Democrats became frantic that Denton might break the Democrats’ century-old monopoly on the state’s major offices. So the state Democratic Party chairman, George Lewis Bailes, went after Denton’s war record. Denton, Bailes said, was “dumb” to get himself shot down.

Right up ’til the election, the campaign was dominated with talk about what Bailes had said.

Denton won with 50.15 percent of the vote. Bailes resigned as Democratic chairman.

There’s something about POW heroes that unhinges some people. Continue reading →

The waters of the Sahara, and how Google handles the truth

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[Continuing our series on deception in politics and public policy.]

Google is considering ways to rank websites by “trustworthiness” rather than by (relatively) objective standards such as frequency of keywords, upload speed, the average length of visits to a site, and the number of other sites linking to that site (along with the number of sites that link to those sites, and so on).

It’s important. Highly ranked sites appear first in Google results and, obviously, get a lot more visitors. Getting downlisted by Google could kill a website. At the very least it would cripple Continue reading →

Making Divorce Pay

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Making Divorce Pay:  The Association of Family and Conciliation Courts takes back -scratching to a new level

By Michael Volpe, Organization Trends, July 2015 (PDF here)

Summary:  You’ve probably never heard of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts, but its 5,000-plus members are lawyers, judges, and family court professionals who have enormous power in family legal disputes.  The group claims to be guided by “the best interest of the child,” but it is beyond dispute that it serves well the financial interests of its members, who are able to require the use of each other’s services and force parents to pay.  Members also make use of dubious psychological theories that can do injustice to parents as well as children.

What if George Orwell had written a sequel to Nineteen Eighty-Four called Twenty-Fifteen? In it, nefarious puppeteers use the family court system to usurp decisions traditionally left to parents. They justify infringing parental rights by using noble-sounding phrases like “in the best interest of the child” to take away more and more decision-making authority from parents. Americans’ First, Second, Fourth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights seem certain to be trampled routinely, and the reason given will always be because the decision was “in the best interest of the child.” This group of manipulators is bold and brazen because it knows the media will have no appetite for any story of this kind, but will deem it a case of “he said/she said” and a private matter best left unchronicled. Motivated by profit and sometimes by ideology, these busybodies have figured out that controlling parental decisions is profitable.

Unfortunately, this scenario is not a dystopian society in a science fiction novel; it is the way things really are in the family court system nowadays.

“It’s an American holocaust,” said Susan Skipp. She should know. Though she was the victim of domestic violence, she hasn’t seen either of her two children in nearly three years. The judge and many other players in Skipp’s family court nightmare are all affiliated with the same group: the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC).

The History of AFCC
In 1963 in Los Angeles, Meyer Elkin, a social worker who specialized in treating child molesters in prison, along with Los Angeles Judge Roger Alton Pfaff set up what Elkin initially called the California Conciliation Courts (CCC) in a room inside the L.A. family court house. Even as CCC began collecting fees, nearly two decades would pass before the group was formally registered as a nonprofit. Its name would eventually change to the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts.

Continue reading →