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Coronavirus First Amendment Liberty

MSM Publishes: The Debate Over Liberties Matters

A Facebook post of mine was referenced in my local newspaper that misrepresented conservative views on the shutdown. In response to that, I wrote a column that the paper published. I’m re-publishing it here.

Rod Thomson

Herald-Tribune political editor Zac Anderson referred to my Facebook post from last week supporting the anti-lockdown movement in a Page 1 Sunday story on the partisan divide over re-opening the economy. Anderson’s story accurately reflects how Democrats and the media writ large define the divide. But alas, that does not make it accurate.

This distorted view is reflected a few pages later on Sunday’s Op/Ed page, where Timothy Egan, a writer for the New York Times, naturally, vilely wrote “a significant slice”  of the Republican Party think “People are disposable.”

None of us who believe in essential liberties passed down through the generations think people are disposable. But it is this defamation of conservatives and Republicans that is part of the narrative: Democrats want to follow the scientists to save lives, but Republicans only care about money. It’s only lives versus money.

It’s a reprehensible calumny slandering millions of freedom-loving Americans. But apparently that is what we do today, rather than engage the merits. Here are the merits.

At core, the protests are about people who want their rights back. It’s driven by people who understand the threat of tyrannical government, and that threat is real and not overstated. Probably the best face of George Orwell’s dystopian 1984 is New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who called on residents to report their neighbors to law enforcement for violations of social distancing protocols. And he made it super easy! To narc out your neighbors who don’t obey government edicts, de Blasio said: “It’s simple: just snap a photo and text it to 311-692….We will make sure that enforcement comes right away.”

That’s the mayor of the nation’s largest, most preeminent city. In 1984, which I imagine is not read much anymore in public schools, this is exactly what Big Brother teaches neighbors and children to do. Everyone is a snitch. People live in terror. In 1984, people  who didn’t follow the government line disappeared. No, we’re certainly not there yet. But this is an astonishing step that few seem to bat an eye at. Shivering.

Here’s some of the overreaches, shall we say, happening around the country. Cops patrolling streets with bullhorns to warn people to stay away from each other. Los Angeles’ mayor threatening to turn off the power to your business if you do not close like you’re told. Michigan’s governor, a close-run second to de Blasio for the Big Brother Award, restricting residents from driving from their own house, in their own car, to another property they own — even if they never leave their car. Drive-in church services being broken up in some jurisdictions — even if, again, people never leave their car.

The last one is a clear violation of two elements of the First Amendment, freedom of religion and the right of assembly. But it’s all OK, just save us from the virus. Have we seen larger constitutional affronts since FDR rounded up Japanese-Americans and interned them in camps during WWII? That was just for our own good, also.

This is to say nothing of the reality that a bad economy equals more deaths. According to one meta-analysis of 42 studies involving 20 million people by the National Institutes of Health, when people lose their job, the risk of death increases 63 percent due to heart attacks, drugs and alcohol, suicides and other stress-related factors. Economists use a rough rule of thumb that for every one percentage point increase in unemployment, 10,000 people die. Dozens of studies bracket that range.

Too many Americans have become complacent about ceding individual rights to government. Save us! they cry out. Take whatever rights you need! Apparently that means drowning out dissent at the direction of the government, which is Facebook’s official stance regarding posts that organize protests — also enshrined in the First Amendment as the right to assemble and right to redress government. 

If we will not fight for our freedoms, for our rights, we won’t have them and we won’t deserve them.

Most Americans don’t need to be told what to do. Voluntary social distancing and private shutdowns from the NBA to Disney parks to chamber meetings were well underway before government action. I’m in the high-risk category as a 60-year-old asthmatic. I stayed home before the orders and probably will long after the re-opening. But I can see a bigger picture, a bigger threat not yet fully realized but looming, when this pandemic is in the history books.  

The debate over individual liberties and freedoms versus a government rights-grab matters. Our forefathers and preceding generations understood that. I’m sorry so many Americans seem to have forgotten that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance. 

It only takes one generation to lose it.

Rod Thomson is an author, past Salem radio host, ABC TV commentator, former journalist and is Founder of The Revolutionary Act. 


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Coronavirus First Amendment Freedom Truth

The Birth Of An American Freedom Movement

Rod Thomson

We may be witnessing the birth of a movement that could be the most important result of the COVID-19 nightmare: the anti-lockdown protests sweeping the country.

Per our usual agreement, the media is totally getting it wrong. It’s not about being able to go to restaurants or movies or even only about going back to work. It’s certainly not about a death cult or not taking the virus seriously.

The protests are, at core, about people who want their rights back — rights that have been snatched in just a few weeks time. It’s driven by people who understand the threat of tyrannical government, and that threat is very, very real. It’s happening right in front of our eyes.

Probably the best face of Orwell’s dystopian 1984 is New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. Although the Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is a close second. Mayor de Blasio is calling on residents to report their neighbors to law enforcement for violations of social distancing protocols. And it’s made super easy. Yay! How do you narc out your neighbors who don’t obey government edicts? “It’s simple: just snap a photo and text it to 311-692.” de Blasio said. “We will make sure that enforcement comes right away.”

Wow, wow, wow. Please read 1984. This is *exactly* what Big Brother teaches neighbors and children to do. Everyone is a snitch. People live in terror. In 1984, they disappear if they don’t follow the government line. We’re not there yet. But this is an astonishing step in the Big Brother direction.

Here’s where we are in different places in the country. Governments dumping tons of sand into the skate parks to keep them from being used. Cops patrolling streets with bullhorns to warn people to stay away from each other. Government threatening to turn off the power to your business if you do not close like you’re told. New “laws” that you may not drive from your house, in your car, to another property you own, even if you never leave your car. You may not go to drive-in church services, again even if you never leave your car. You may not go fishing. You may not assemble together in any way. You will be forcefully pulled off a bus without a face mask. Anti-quarantine protests being organized through Facebook in California, New Jersey, and Nebraska, are being removed from the platform on the orders of governments because they violate stay-at-home orders.

These are constitutional affronts of a level not seen since FDR rounded up Japanese-Americans and placed them in internment camps during WWII. Too many Americans have become complacent in our comforts about ceding individual rights to government. Save us! they demand. Take whatever rights you need! Of course if we will not fight for our freedoms, we won’t have them and we won’t deserve them.

So it is heartening to see the respectful, often social-distancing movement of protests across the country, in Seattle, San Diego, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina. These protesters are peaceful and organic, popping up big and small. And while they are demanding the economy be opened back up, they are also demanding that their rights be returned, First Amendment rights such as freedom of religion and freedom of assembly.

The Tea Party was launched over the financial recklessness of the federal government in responses to the financial crisis of 2008. It was at core a fiscal movement, though it broadened some. The fiscal recklessness today is many times larger. But worse are the overall trampling of rights — which is what makes this potential movement so important. 

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The truth is that a ton of voluntary social distancing and closing was happening long before jackboots like de Blasio decided to crush our rights. Much of the government’s totalitarian response has been unnecessary. And as the virus crests and starts declining, the heavy-handedness is getting worse in areas — such as New York City.

Americans largely don’t need to be told what to do, despite years of schools and colleges teaching us what to think instead of how to think. Common sense still pervades the land. But we need the spine to stand up to an overbearing government. 

The anti-lockdown protests are doing just that.

Rod Thomson is an author, past Salem radio host, ABC TV commentator, former journalist and is Founder of The Revolutionary Act. 


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First Amendment Religious Trump Truth

Trump Could Make History With A Religious Bill Of Rights For The Americas

Rod Thomson

President Trump has the chance to make history in one of the most memorable ways today and tomorrow at, of all places, the United Nations by making the case for religious freedom worldwide, but specifically for calling for a Western Hemisphere Religious Bill of Rights.

The President is sponsoring an event today (Monday morning) at the UN Headquarters in New York entitled a Global Call To Protect Religious Freedom. The goal is to highlight increasing religious persecution around the world and claim the high moral ground for all civilized countries to commit to liberty for all religious adherents. This is something that has not been done by previous U.S. presidents and in breaking this mold, he is doing a marvelous thing.

The religious liberty event is at the same time as another in the endless line of politicized climate change panels that are unceasing. The media will hyperventilate and bring out children to teach us all about having only 18 months before some climate changes are irreversible. But it will all be meaningless gibberish because there is zero consensus on action, because, in truth, the evidence of both severity and cause are just not strong enough.

Not so with religious liberty. The evidence is overwhelming. Here are some stats from the 2019 Open Doors USA report, which tracks Christian persecution — the most persecuted religion in the world.

In the top 50 World Watch List of countries persecuting Christians the most, nearly a quarter billion Christians experience high levels of persecution for their faith; 1 in 9 Christians worldwide experience high levels of persecution; 14% more Christians experience high levels of persecution than did in 2018; 4,136 Christians were killed for being Christians; 1,266 churches or Christian buildings were attacked; In 7 out of the top 9 countries in the World Watch List, the primary cause of persecution is Islamic oppression (the other is North Korea); 11 countries now score as “extreme” for their level of persecution of Christians, compared to only North Korea five years ago.

This is a true crisis. The world’s Jewish population is experiencing it also.

According to the World Jewish Congress: “…the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA)’s December 2018 second comprehensive report on discrimination and hate crimes against Jews in the EU, found that an overwhelming majority… — 89 percent — feel that antisemitism is getting worse…The 2018 report also found that 79% of those who experienced antisemitic harassment in the five years prior to the survey did not report the most serious incident to police, indicating an even darker reality than the official national crime numbers. More than one-third of all respondents said they had considered emigrating in the five years preceding the survey because they did not feel safe as Jews in the country where they live.”

The United States has a long history of being the global leader in freedoms in general, but specifically in religious freedom — critical, as that has been the lever of most of the world’s atrocities. America is a known refuge for the religiously persecuted and sought to export the concept for many years. But we abdicated that role to the deification of “multiculturalism” where the left paralyzed American leaders’ ability to say our way was better.

Yet our way of religious freedom for all, enshrined in the 1st Amendment, is undeniably superior to any that do not have such protections. People like former President Obama and today’s Democrats are largely incapable of saying even that.

But Trump is fearless on such matters and will thumb his nose at the self-appointed elites in the U.S. and Europe for whom religion is just a pile of myths leveraged to violently oppress. Living in the 13th century apparently, they see white Christians as the primary religious threat. 

Here’s where the political incorrectness must come out, and it is backed by daily news accounts and Open Doors USA’ data: The giant source of religious intolerance and persecution today comes from Muslim dominated countries. In the past 50 years, Christians have been eliminated via forced conversion, displacement and massacre in large swaths of the Middle East. The region is becoming almost 100 percent Muslim, when it was the birthplace of Christianity. This is true in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Lebanon, Egypt, Libya and elsewhere.

And it is the rub at the United Nations, because part of the worthlessness of that body is that almost every scoundrel nation out there is a member. There are 47 Muslim majority countries that are part of the U.N., including those who are the worst persecutors of Christians. They are not all scoundrels, but that weight, along with Europe’s growing return to anti-Semitism, is one of many reasons for the rank anti-Semitism evident in the endless denouncements of Israel, but never of Palestinian terrorists.

Not only do none of those countries have a 1st Amendment, they do not even acknowledge such a concept as good. A resolution would have a hard time at the U.N. But that doesn’t matter because it would be as meaningless as most resolutions at the U.N. Those only have value when powerful and influential countries sign on and agree to enforce them — such as economic sanctions against places like North Korea and Iran.

But by laying the foundation for religious freedom, Trump can not only claim the high moral ground, but can also begin an entirely new effort that encompasses the Western Hemisphere — North and South America. This would be a sort of Western Hemisphere Bill of Religious Rights. Countries that sign on, enact and enforce religious freedom laws could get more favorable relationships with the rest of the Hemisphere, most notably the United States.

This is actually doable in this Hemisphere because there is not much religious persecution at this moment in North or South America, and most of the nations are Catholic, Protestant or maybe secular in the case of Canada. The persecution that does exist, is not by adherents of a different religion, but by militant political leftists operating in countries without a 1st Amendment (again, see Canada.) 

Let leftists, including those in the United States, oppose a Bill of Religious Freedoms, a majority of which will encompass “brown” people.

This may be more than Trump is going for this week. According to the White House statement:

“The President is working to broaden international support for ongoing efforts to protect religious freedom in the wake of increasing persecution of people on the basis of their beliefs and a growing number of attacks on and destruction of houses of worship by state and non-state actors.  The President will call on the international community to take concrete steps to prevent attacks against people on the basis of their religion or beliefs and to ensure the sanctity of houses of worship and all public spaces for all faiths.”

Religious intolerance always ends in terrible places. Using the United States as a model, President Trump could try something totally unique in world history.

Rod Thomson is an author, past Salem radio host, ABC TV commentator, former journalist and is Founder of The Revolutionary Act. 


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Christianity First Amendment Truth

The Left’s War Against Christianity Enters Final Stages

Rod Thomson

The disturbing, coordinated attack on the Covington Catholic School kids, and the school itself, is yet another salvo in the ongoing war against Christians. It pours the footers for what is coming next — an all out attack to cripple Christian schools. That, in turn, will lay the cultural and legal foundation for breaking the organized church.

The direction is now clear. In the days before the Covington Catholic attacks, there were attacks on Karen Pence, the wife of Vice President Mike Pence, for choosing to return to teaching at a Christian school. Both led by the media and followed on by Democrats.

What is just as real is that truth no longer matters to the political left and the media, who are the same people.

Karen Pence is a devout Christian and taught at the Christian school previously. The cudgel used in this case is that the school holds to biblical standards of homosexuality. As that is not acceptable, the attack on Pence and the school — and thus, biblical teaching — was quick and brutal, with media commentators criticizing Pence for, essentially, being a Bible-believing Christian. CNN anchor John King actually asked on air if it was right for her to have Secret Service protection and housing as that is paid for by all taxpayers.

The dust had not settled on that non-story (a Christian woman is teaching at a Christian school) when the even more non-story of the Covington Catholic kids broke. It’s worth remembering that the Pences are evangelicals, which is doctrinally quite far from Catholicism. But both are Christian, and that is what matters, and so the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN and most others ran with unverified, awful journalism to attack these kids. Yes, being white played a role. Being in MAGA hats played a role. But the key, as with Pence, was that they were from a private Christian school.

Disgraceful actress Kathy Griffin tweeted: “Name these kids. I want NAMES. Shame them. If you think these f—ers wouldn’t dox you in a heartbeat, think again.”

Reza Aslan, a liberal Muslim American TV host and author tweeted: “Honest question. Have you ever seen a more punchable face than this kid’s?”

And former head of the Democrat National Committee and governor of Vermont Howard Dean tweeted: “#CovingtonCatholic High School seems like a hate factory to me. Why not just close it?”

He’s reflecting a lot of the thinking on the left. Just close it. Close them all!

Of course, it was all based on a lie. The Native American went over and incited it, the media lied about it and the Democrats jumped on it — because they were white Christian males. Further, these deplorables apparently had the temerity to show up in the nation’s capital, where they most certainly are not wanted.

Ignored by the mainstream media were the lies of the Native American and the vulgar racism the Black Hebrew Israelites were spewing at the kids. But they weren’t Christians. They were free to go.

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Too much, you think? Following on the Karen Pence and Covington Catholic School attacks came this tweet from New York Times reporter Dan Levin, whose beat is “young America.”

“I’m a New York Times reporter writing about #exposechristianschools. Are you in your 20s or younger who went to a Christian school? I’d like to hear about your experience and its impact on your life. Please DM me,” wrote Dan Levin, who covers “young America” for the Times.

That hashtag was already trending in Twitter before Levin used it. This is a bigotry-against-Christians snowball rolling downhill and it is in the midst of gathering up Christian schooling as it goes.

“The media, the far left in this country, the increasing mainstream of the Democratic Party, they hate religious people, hate them with a passion,” conservative commentator Ben Shapiro said.

He’s right, but only partially right. Not all religious people. Just Christians (well any that hew to the Bible or traditional Christian teaching) and observant Jews. The rest are free to go.

This is not just politics and law, it is cultural. Lady Gaga interrupted a live performance to criticize President Trump for the government shut down. “There are people who live paycheck to paycheck and need their money,” said the multi-millionaire singer.

Gaga then went after the second family, saying she’s the real Christian because she is tolerant and the Pences are not because they believe the Bible’s teachings. So, yes, you can be a Christian, as long as you are a politically correct secular Christian and don’t go around talking about what Jesus actually says in the Bible.

The high priestess of cultural secular Christianity preached further:

“And to Mike Pence, who thinks it’s acceptable that his wife work at a school that bans LGBTQ, you are wrong. You say we should not discriminate against Christianity; you are the worst representation of what it means to be a Christian. I am a Christian woman and what I do know about Christianity is that we bear no prejudice and everybody is welcome. So you can take all that disgrace Mr. Pence and you can look yourself in the mirror and you’ll find it right there.”

See? Karen Pence reads the Bible, terrible Christian. Lady Gaga strips on stage, great Christian!

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This is a move of progressivism, beyond American borders.

In Canada, the Battle River School Division, near Edmonton, Alberta, asked Cornerstone Christian Academy to cease using two “offensive” Bible verses in the school’s handbook. The Christian Academy is an “alternate school” and receives some government funding.

But that was not enough. The government authorities are now telling Cornerstone Christian Academy teachers and administrators that they must stop studying or reading any part of the Bible that could be considered offensive.

Presumably identifying sinful behavior could be considered offensive. Even the existence of an almighty Deity could be considered offensive. So at that point, there is no Christianity.

And that is the obvious goal.

But there’s more from up north. The Freedom Project reports:

“Recently, the provincial Department of “Education” in Alberta warned sixty private Christian schools that they are in violation of the “Safe and Caring Schools” policy adopted in 2016, Crisis magazine reported. The reason: Their materials still include references to God, the inerrant truth of scripture, the fact that God created people male and female, and so on.

“Among the officially banned phrases are:

  • “We believe men and women were created in the image of God … and therefore have transcendent, intrinsic worth.”
  • “Parents are the primary educators…”
  • “The unchangeable and infallible truth of the Word of God…”
  • “God created mankind as male and female, equal in dignity and worth…”
  • “God’s institution of marriage, a covenant between one man and one woman…”
  • “Obedience to God’s law supersedes subjection to human authority.”
  • “The above doctrines will be taught as truth in our school…”

This is where the left takes it, to the complete eradication of Christianity in any and all forms of schooling, private or public.

And then, as always, there is California.

In 2016, Senate Bill 1146 would have marked the beginning of the end for biblical Christian colleges and universities. Initial versions of this religious-freedom-stripping legislation would have cut California grant money for poor students attending Christian schools and would have allowed students to sue Christian institutions for even perceived LGBT discrimination — essentially for being biblically true. It would have been crippling.

A unified Christian opposition organized to strip the final bill of the worst portions, only requiring religious colleges to notify prospective students and staff that the institutions claim exemptions from Title IX. In a 2016 interview in the Los Angeles Times, backers said they intended to pursue legislation that mirrored his original bill.

But there are more bills constantly popping up in California, most notably, AB 888, which was sponsored by an LGBT Caucus member requiring private colleges receiving California grants to report expulsion statistics to the state — most importantly, including where LGBT students are disciplined. The bill would create an in for the state to closely monitor private religious institutions to gather up statistical ammo for use in future bills and lawsuits against Christian higher education.

Prayer was removed from public schools in the ’60s. Most Christian colleges have steadily secularized. Marriage has been redefined in opposition to biblical teaching. Private companies are compelled to provide services that violate their Christian beliefs. It’s been a steady drumbeat.

Once Christian schools have been neutered, there will be only one frontier left. The church.

Christianity, of course, will survive until the book of Revelation is fulfilled. But there are no guarantees it survives in any public way in the United States or the Western World. Consider: America could be headed towards an underground church — unless we fight back.

Rod Thomson is an author, host of Tampa Bay Business with Rod Thomson on the Salem Radio Network, TV commentator and former journalist, and is Founder of The Revolutionary Act. Rod also is co-host of Right Talk America With Julio and Rod on the Salem Radio Network.


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First Amendment Freedom of Religion Truth

The Peace Cross And Restoring Religious Freedom

by Julio Gonzalez, M.D., J.D.

Once again, the U.S. Supreme Court is being tasked with tackling the most significant of societal issues: our freedom to worship.

This time, the argument is embodied in The American Legion v. American Humanist Association. Familiarly enough, the legal action pits the American people’s abilities to have a longstanding religious symbol remain in the public square against those of secular activists to have them forcibly removed.

The present controversy involves a cross that sits at the center of an intersection in Bladensburg, Maryland dating back to 1922 when local residents set out to build a structure honoring 49 local soldiers who died serving the United States in World War I.  The plan called for the construction of a 40-foot tall cross as homage to the fallen heroes.

The Peace Cross, as it eventually came to be known, was completed in 1925, where it has stood as a symbol of the city’s reverence and respect for those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our great country. As the nation’s history progressed and America suffered through other conflicts, the Cross served as a natural gathering place to honor the fallen heroes from World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and Gulf Storm, among other conflicts.

As things progressed, Bladensburg grew, and the property upon which the Peace Cross stood came to rest at the intersection of multiple growing thoroughfares. Eventually, the state bought the land upon which the Cross stood in 1961, instantly transforming it into the public domain.

Despite the change in the Peace Cross’s status, there was still no objection to its continued presence; that is until the American Humanitarian Association came along.

The Association is made up of a group of individuals who claim to be offended by the Cross’s presence and want it removed. Its argument is that the Cross represents an unconstitutional intermingling between church and state, since, according to the Association, its presence on public land represents the adoption or approval of religion by the government.

In keeping with its strong objection to the Peace Cross, the Association, along with a group of local residents, brought an action against the Maryland National Park And Planning Commission to have the cross removed. The Planning Commission fought back and was eventually granted summary judgment by the district court and told that the Cross could remain. The case was subsequently appealed to the Fourth Circuit, which disagreed and ordered that the Cross be removed. The case is now being argued before the Supreme Court.

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The Peace Cross case is a manifestation of the many problems of American jurisprudence in the way it handles cases of religious freedom.

The issue of public worship and respect for our religious freedoms is of elemental importance to all Americans. Religious liberty is at the very root of the nation’s foundation, and its scope and ramifications are fundamental to what it means to be human. Without the direct relationship between our Creator and each one of us, there is no limit to the intrusion government can theoretically have upon the individual. In fact, the only factor placing a limit upon government’s authority over each person is the individual’s greater allegiance to God. Absent this, government may logically run rampant over man.

It is for this reason that the acknowledgment of man’s divinity is so important in a democratic society as it is a constant reminder that both government and man are limited in their scope and power by a greater being, our Creator. Conversely, removing such reminders, like the Cross, serve to diminish the role of religion and worship in people’s daily lives and makes it that much easier for government to intrude upon our freedoms.

Sadly, whereas symbols like the Peace Cross were rarely disturbed during the nineteenth century, beginning in the middle of the twentieth century, they were openly assaulted, not only culturally, but by jurists and advocates.

One of the defining moments of the assault came in a case called Lemon v. Kurtzman involving a state’s ability to apply tax money in support of private schools, many of them religious. Here, the Court prohibited such an association as an intrusion upon the wall of separation between church and state. More importantly, the Court created a three-pronged test it would apply in order to determine whether an action or a law offended the Constitution. In short, the Court said that in order to have a law stand constitutional scrutiny related to religious freedom, the government would have to show three things: 1) a secular purpose; 2) that the law or act did not act principally to advance or inhibit religion; and 3) it did not create an “excessive entanglement with religion.”

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Under these requirements, secularists have met with great success in attacking public expressions of worship, religious symbols, and prayer.  Since the Lemon test, secularists have been able to force courts to order the removal of crosses and Ten Commandment tablets from public lands, prevent prayer in schools, keep people from praying at commencement ceremonies, and erase Christmas symbols from municipal seasonal celebrations. If your city no longer calls its December tree a Christmas tree, or now calls its Christmas parade a Holiday parade, there is a big chance it is due to the fear of the Lemon test.

But the Lemon test has not escaped criticism. Many, including renowned law professors and jurists have argued that the test allows absurd outcomes and does not properly reflect the wishes of the American people. Some have even called for the test to be displaced. In fact, in a case questioning whether the Ten Commandments should be removed from the Texas Capitol, Justice Stephen Breyer opted not to use the test. In upholding the ability of the tablets to remain, Breyer suggested an approach different from the one used in Lemon. Breyer acknowledged that the Ten Commandments were openly religious, but despite that, he maintained that the tablets should remain because it was “part of what is a broader moral and historical message reflective of a cultural heritage.”

The fact is that if Breyer had employed the Lemon test, his conclusion would likely have been opposite of what he felt was the more correct posture, and we would have witnessed yet another situation where religion and religious freedom would have been beaten down.

Enter the 2018 conservative Supreme Court. It is interesting that the Supreme Court decided to hear the Peace Cross case. Indeed, the lower court applied the Lemon test and arrived at the conventional position. The Supreme Court could have passed on this case and let it stand. But it did not.

The fact that the Court opted to hear this case is an opportunity for it to enter the arena of religious freedom and religious worship. What the Court actually does with this case, of course, remains to be seen. In the end, it could use the Lemon test and provide further clarification on its application.

It could, on the other hand, do something truly innovative. It could review the assault that has taken place upon religious freedom with the Lemon sword and take the future of the First Amendment in a more permissive direction.

For our posterity’s sake, let’s hope that it does the latter.

Dr. Julio Gonzalez is an orthopaedic surgeon and lawyer living in Venice, Florida. He is the author of The Federalist Pages and cohost of Right Talk America With Julio and Rod. Dr. Gonzalez is presently serving in the Florida House of Representatives. He can be reached through www.thefederalistpages.com to arrange a lecture or book signing.


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Constitution First Amendment Media Trump Truth

Trump Must Appeal Acosta Ruling Based On Separation Of Powers

by Julio Gonzalez, M.D., J.D.

Judge Timothy Kelly, a Trump appointee, verbally ordered the President of the United States to reinstate CCN Reporter Jim Acosta’s hard pass to access the White House on Friday. The judge, who sits in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, has not actually posted his ruling yet, forcing us, at least temporarily, to rely on press reports for details.

Predictably, CNN has called the ruling a huge victory for the First Amendment. However, according to numerous press reports, Judge Kelly took issue, not with any alleged affronts upon the First Amendment, but rather, the process used to revoke Acosta’s hard pass. According to one news outlet, the judge said that Sarah Huckabee Sander’s “belated efforts at [answering Acosta’s concerns] were hardly sufficient to satisfy due process.” Additionally, according to Breitbart, the judge found that in creating press conferences, the President created a public forum to which limited due process rights attach.

I disagree.

Contrary to Judge Kelly’s view, the White House press conference is an internal working of the executive branch done solely for a public relations and communications purpose and at the pleasure of the President of the United States. As such, and as reported previously by The Federalist Pageswhen the Court interferes with how the President conducts his press conferences, it is essentially intruding into the rightful powers of the President of the United States, as Chief Executive, in conducting the internal dealings of the executive branch.

Seen from this angle, which is the dominant issue in this matter, it becomes clear that the President must zealously pursue this case for the sake of the preservation of the autonomy of the executive branch.

Let’s be clear. There is no finality to Friday’s ruling.

The judge’s order was the implementation of a temporary restraining order against the President until such time that the case actually goes to trial. Strategically, the President now has a couple of opportunities available to him.

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First, he can let the case play it out at the District Court, and if the judge should rule against him at the trial, he can appeal. Alternatively, the President may appeal the temporary injunction as a matter of law, right now. Either way, it is imperative that the President take the case to the next level. If he does so, it is likely that a higher court would not accept the invitation for the judiciary to intrude into the inner workings of another branch of government.

If argued as a matter of separation of powers and the comity between the branches of government, it is likely the district court’s position will not be upheld. If it does, I am equally confident the Supreme Court will take this case because of the constitutional implications it carries to the inner workings of government, and will reverse it.

Make no mistake, although this case is being painted with a brush held by Acosta and the media, it actually represents yet another small but significant intrusion onto the proper balance of powers; an intrusion with which the Framers would be in total disagreement.

Dr. Julio Gonzalez is an orthopaedic surgeon and lawyer living in Venice, Florida. He is the author of The Federalist Pages and cohost of Right Talk America With Julio and Rod. Dr. Gonzalez is presently serving in the Florida House of Representatives. He can be reached through www.thefederalistpages.com to arrange a lecture or book signing.


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Categories
Christianity Constitution First Amendment Freedom Freedom of Religion Liberty

Supreme Court’s Christian Baker Opinion Is No Win For Freedom Of Religion

By KrisAnne Hall, JD

The U.S. Supreme Court rendered its opinion on a highly anticipated case regarding the right of a baker to refuse to design and create a wedding cake for a gay marriage ceremony based upon his religious convictions. However, for the SCOTUS, this appears not to be a case of religious freedom, but one of unjust government discrimination.  

Jack Phillips, a practicing Christian, often refused to design and create baked goods based upon his religious beliefs. His store was closed on Sundays and other Christian holidays, he refused to create or design desserts for Halloween, and he refused to make desserts that contained alcohol. Phillips did not refuse to serve the same-sex couple who later filed a complaint. He only refused to design and create a cake for their wedding. He remarked that he would be happy to design and create cookies, birthday cakes, shower cakes, or brownies — just not a wedding cake due to religious objections.

The same-sex couple filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission and the commission, after several hearings, decided that Phillips violated Colorado’s public accommodation laws by refusing to create and design this wedding cake for the same-sex couple. The Colorado commission did not accept Phillip’s defense of religious conviction.

Members of the commission, on record and as justification for their decision, mocked Phillip’s beliefs and compared his religious convictions to slavery and to the Holocaust. The Supreme Court found in favor of Phillips in a 7-2 opinion, based particularly on the statements of the Colorado commissioners.

There are some very significant points that must be made to clarify this carefully written opinion.  Because of the great public anticipation over this case, there will be a tendency to make more of what was said than was actually said, and mischaracterize the magnitude of this decision.

 

  1.  Not a Matter of Freedom of Religion

The court did not render its opinion on the basis of religious freedom. They did not declare that private business owners are free to discriminate based upon religious beliefs. As a matter of fact, they said the opposite.

“It is the general rule that [religious and philosophical] objections do not allow business owners and other actors in the economy and in society to deny protected persons equal access to goods and public services under a neutral and generally applicable public accommodations law.” (Page 9)

“Colorado law can protect gay persons, just as it can protect other classes of individuals, in acquiring whatever products and services they choose on the same terms and conditions as are offered to other members of the public.” (Page 10)

Phillips made multiple statements asserting his refusal to make the cake was based upon religious conviction. However, it seems the Court only references these objections for the purpose of condemning the Colorado commissioners’ apparent discriminatory statements voiced against Phillips. This Court never asserted that Phillips was justified in his refusal based upon his right to religious freedom.

It is not clear that this is an overall victory for private business owners or Christians to publicly maintain their convictions.

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  1.  Clergy Cannot be Compelled

The court took time to clarify that it should be “assumed” that “when it comes to weddings”, “a member of the clergy who objects to gay marriage on moral and religious grounds could not be compelled to perform that ceremony without denial of his or her right to the free exercise of religion.”  (Page 10)

It’s interesting that the Court feels that it should be obvious and therefore not questioned that a professional clergy maintains full right to expression of their freedom of religion, but a baker does not. It would seem that the court sees the possession and expression of fundamental rights like freedom of religion as inherent in a profession rather inherent to all persons.

 

  1.  It’s Not Freedom of Religion, It’s Freedom from Discrimination

This Court did not declare that Phillips’ personal objections justified his refusal to bake this cake. Instead they took a safer and more politically correct approach by finding that the Colorado commissioners’ statements applied the Colorado public accommodation law in a discriminating and biased manner.

The Court says “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.” (Page 3) However, the government cannot use Phillips’ religious beliefs as the basis for the application of their laws.

Justice Kennedy points out that when commissioners on the Colorado commission made statements describing Phillips’ faith as “one of the most despicable pieces of rhetoric that people can use,” and equating his refusal to design and create a wedding cake for a same-sex marriage to the acts of slavery and the holocaust, they began down the path of discriminating against him. In addition to these condemning statements, the Colorado commission had, at the same time, determined that three other bakers could refuse to bake cakes critical of gay marriage, contrary to their secular convictions, making clear their bias and discriminatory application of this otherwise “neutral” law.

The majority opinion determined that it was this discriminatory act by the Colorado commission that required the court to overturn this case. Again, for the majority opinion, this appears not to be a case of religious freedom of expression, but one of unjust government discrimination.

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  1.  Gay Marriage Was Not Legal Yet

The Court, almost in passing, also mentioned that Phillips’ may have been justified in his refusal to design and create this wedding cake, because Colorado had not legalized gay marriage yet. His refusal, at that time, was not only in compliance with State law, but also a refusal to participate in an illegal activity.  Perhaps Kennedy added this point of fact as a way of publicly saying to business owners in States who have legalized gay marriage, you have no argument to withhold your services if State law compels service.

 

  1.  What About Freedom of Speech?

There is one aspect of personal rights the majority opinion mentions but strangely never fleshes out: the matter of freedom of speech.

The majority court introduces the question: Is the government’s law forcing Phillips to design and create a cake contrary to his personal message, a violation of freedom of speech? But then, in what seems to be a lapse of concentration, the majority opinion never answers this question definitively. It isn’t until we get to Justice Thomas’ concurrence that we find a truly worthy discussion of this important element.

Thomas’ opinion on the matter of freedom of speech is so thorough and so supported by precedent it makes one wonder why the majority court refused to give this topic its due consideration. Justice Thomas points out that it is well within the history of the Supreme Court to support the expression of offensive beliefs in the name of freedom of speech. After all, he reminds us, if the burning of a flag or a 25-foot cross (Virginia v. Black), or designing and creating “a film featuring Klan members brandishing weapons and threatening to ‘Bury the niggers,’ (Brandenburg v. Ohio) are all protected speech, then surely designing and creating a cake ought to fit these categories as well.

By the terms laid out by Justice Thomas, this case should have absolutely been decided in favor of Phillips on the merits of freedom of speech. Why the majority court would introduce this element, and then not complete its thought on the matter is puzzling. Why the majority court would choose a single justification for their opinion when they could have had two compelling arguments is equally puzzling.

 

  1. The Dissent

One final matter worth discussing is the dissent written by Justice Ginsburg, joined by Justice Sotomayor. Not surprisingly, Ginsburg feels that this case should have been decided in favor of the same-sex couple.  However, her argument against the majority opinion is so weak it makes clear her bias.

She does not address the fact that gay marriage was illegal at the time Phillips refused to design and create the cake. She does not even broach the freedom of speech aspect. Instead she asserts that the biased statements of a few commissioners against Phillips, during a government hearing in judgment of Phillips, do not rise to the level of “hostility” toward Phillips and therefore cannot be the justification for overturning this case.

Apparently, Ginsburg believes in a lower standard of discrimination for government than private citizens by claiming that these clear and impermissible words of hostility placed on the record by members of the commission and used as justification for their decision were not an exercise of content discrimination, yet the baker refusing to make a wedding cake for a gay marriage, that was currently against the law, and violated his religious beliefs, was discrimination.

KrisAnne Hall is a former biochemist, Russian linguist for the U.S. Army, and former prosecutor for the State of Florida. KrisAnne also practiced First Amendment Law for a prominent Florida non-profit Law firm. KrisAnne now travels the country teaching the foundational principles of Liberty and our Constitutional Republic. She is the author of 6 books on the Constitution and Bill of Rights, and has an internationally popular radio and television show. Her books and classes have been featured on C-SPAN TV. KrisAnne can be found at www.KrisAnneHall.com. Get the book “Sovereign Duty” to learn what the designers of our Constitution wanted Americans to do when their federal government became bloated and out of control. Find this book on Amazon, Barns & Noble, Wal-Mart, and many other merchants.


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Categories
Constitution First Amendment Free Speech Truth

KrisAnne Hall On President Trump, Twitter And The First Amendment

By KrisAnne Hall, JD

President Trump has been blocking people from his @realDonaldTrump account. A federal judge says Trump is violating the First Amendment. Is the right to freedom of speech being violated by Trump through his actions on Twitter? The answer to this question requires a two-step Constitutional review process.

First, Twitter is a private forum, run by a private company. Something becomes a violation of rights when the government is the offender. People do not have their rights violated when Twitter, as a private company, censors and blocks persons from their forum. Private businesses still retain the right to refuse to do business with customers, regardless of the confusion created by the recent issues with photographers and cake bakers. Additionally, people do not have their rights violated when they are blocked on Twitter by another private individual. The principle here is: No government actor, no violations of rights.

But this is not only a question of Twitter blocking customers. This is a question of the President of the United States, a government actor, blocking discussion from his Twitter feed. So the question is: Is Donald Trump a private citizen or a government actor?

The argument could be made that the @realDonaldTrump account is Trump’s personal account and as a private account maintained by a private citizen, people being blocked do not have their rights being violated. However that argument fails the moment Donald Trump discusses “presidential business” on this “private” account. 

Trump transforms his private account into the account of a government agent through his own choice of topics discussed. Since Trump is president, he is a government agent. Since Trump uses his Twitter account to discuss presidential business the account is not private, it becomes a public forum. Therefore, those blocked by Trump on his @realDonaldTrump account are having their voice silenced by a government actor regarding public affairs. This is a clear violation of the right to freedom of speech.

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The quick fix for Mr. Trump is to not block anyone, or to stop using the @realDonaldTrump account to discuss public business and confine that conversation to the @POTUS account. That way he may maintain control over his truly private account and leave government business to the government account.

KrisAnne Hall is a former biochemist, Russian linguist for the US Army, and former prosecutor for the State of Florida. KrisAnne also practiced First Amendment Law for a prominent Florida non-profit Law firm. KrisAnne now travels the country teaching the foundational principles of Liberty and our Constitutional Republic. KrisAnne is the author of 6 books on the Constitution and Bill of Rights, she also has an internationally popular radio and television show and her books and classes have been featured on C-SPAN TV. KrisAnne can be found at www.KrisAnneHall.com.


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