I hope everyone is having a happy and blessed Easter.
– Rand Paul has officially entered the 2016 presidential race. There’s a long way to go, and at this point there are a number of candidates I could see myself supporting. He is not one of them. There are myriad reasons why, and he gave me another one today.
– Kevin Williamson with a typically brilliant column, which concludes thusly:.
“I expect to die in bed,” Francis Eugene Cardinal George famously remarked. “My successor will die in prison, and his successor will die a martyr in the public square. His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the church has done so often in human history.” Perhaps it will not come to that. But we already are on the precipice of sending men with guns to the homes and businesses of bakers to enforce compliance with dictates undreamt-of the day before yesterday. Yes, render unto Caesar, and all that. But render only what is Caesar’s — and not one mite more.
– Speaking of the Indiana RFRA law, I do have to agree with Andy McCarthy’s analysis. The federal RFRA was an overwrought reaction to what was a correctly decided Supreme Court case. Naturally this does not justify the over-reaction to the Indiana law, but we do need to have some perspective, as McCarthy explains the original legislation’s history:
It should be no surprise, though. RFRA was an unfortunate reaction, by an odd combination of conservative religious leaders and opportunistic statists, to a 1990 Supreme Court decision, Employment Division v. Smith, written by Justice Antonin Scalia, a brilliant conservative jurist (and, for what it’s worth in this context, a devout Catholic). The statute’s enactment was triggered in 1993, when the Court reaffirmed Smith in Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah. These cases stand for the principle that the First Amendment does not provide a religion-based exemption from compliance with a law of general application that is religion-neutral — i.e., a law that applies to everyone equally and does not discriminate against adherents of a particular religion.
Moreover, RFRA does not provide a principled, knowable carapace of religious freedom. Rather, it transfers the power to decide what religious convictions will be respected from where it belongs, in the hands of free people through their elected representatives, to where it should not reside, in the whims of politically unaccountable judges whose sensibilities often differ widely from the community’s sensibilities. When someone claims a law burdens religion, RFRA imposes a test: The government must prove that the law serves a compelling public purpose and represents the least burdensome manner of doing so. There is no reason to believe judges are better equipped to perform that balancing than legislatures; and there is nothing about a law degree that makes a judge a suitable arbiter of which tenets of your faith outweigh the government’s interests, and which do not. Furthermore, if a legislature strikes the wrong balance, its statute can be amended with comparative ease; reversing a court’s error in defining the parameters of a constitutional right is extraordinarily difficult.
As McCarthy explains, the fact that the likes of Ted Kennedy supported the federal RFRA is reason enough to make conservatives suspect the wisdom of it.
– So Rolling Stone has retracted its UVA rape story and is on the cusp of being sued. Good. Let me just add that as the father of three (soon to be four) girls, those who lie about rape are utterly repellent, for they make it that much more difficult for those who were raped.
– Sally Kohn might be one of the dumbest pundits alive, and that’s saying something.
In a column for TPM, liberal media personality Sally Kohn asserted that it makes no sense to say the government is forcing people of faith to violate their consciences, because government can’t force you to do anything:
You may have heard that the government is forcing businesses not to discriminate. It isn’t. If you chose to run a business, you have to follow the laws. If you don’t, that’s a choice—and you choose to suffer the consequences.
Kohn, who has a law degree from NYU, carried her theory even further, stating that members of the police force aren’t really using force to enforce the law unless they put a gun to your head:
This issue of government force is a funny one. You could also argue that the government is forcing you to drive below the speed limit or wear a seatbelt in your car. But it’s not. There isn’t a police officer holding a gun to your head literally forcing you to buckle up. In fact, you are 100 percent free to speed and not wear your seatbelt—and simply deal with the consequences if you’re pulled over. Is the threat of the fine for breaking the law amount to “forcing” you to follow the law? No.
Eric Garner, who was choked by Staten Island police and later died at the scene of his arrest for selling untaxed cigarettes, might disagree with Kohn’s description of what does and doesn’t constitute force. Unfortunately, Kohn fails to see the linguistic hints embedded in the words we use to describe how government compels legal compliance.