Monday, December 05, 2011

Live Nativity Scene Displayed at Supreme Court

Joseph, Mary, the baby Jesus, and the Three Wise Men poured out of the Rev. Rob Schenck's Capitol Hill office and headed down the streets of Washington D.C., Wednesday accompanied by a camel and tiny donkey, carolers, and a harpist. The entourage were all headed for the same destination -- the Supreme Court building.

"The Constitution protects our right to do this. We like to send the message: If we can do this in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, you can certainly do it in your community," said Schenck, president and lead missionary of Faith and Action, a Christian outreach to elected and appointed officials in the nation's capital.

Several years ago, Schenck and his colleague Rev. Pat Mahoney were bemoaning the fact that so many governments and legal groups were taking action against Christians and displays of Christianity.

"We are seeing, tragically, hostility toward open public expressions of faith," Mahoney told CBN News. "When I was younger, all across America, virtually every City Hall, every state capitol, had a Nativity scene, had a manger scene."

They decided to be pro-active, by getting permits to do these processionals and Nativity scenes in prominent places across America, and by asking Christians to do it wherever they live.

"We're going right in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, right in front of the U.S. Capitol. We've been granted a permit, thereby giving everyone in America the knowledge," Mahoney explained.

"They can't say it's unconstitutional, or a court can't say you're not allowed to do it, when we've been given permission to do it in front of the U.S. Supreme Court," he said.

Schenck said it's also important for elected and appointed officials to see such displays of faith and be reminded.

"This is a right. This is really the supreme right of every American citizen," he said. "And they need to protect that right."


Why can't lefties be honest about the First Amendment?

There may be an issue on which leftist advocates like former labor secretary Robert Reich are more blatantly dishonest, but I’ve yet to find it. Consider Reich’s recent Huffington Post piece – “The First Amendment upside down: Why we must occupy democracy.”

Reich is among the more succinct propagandists on the left, so it can sometimes be difficult to ferret out exactly what he’s advocating. So, folks who simply skim this Huffpo piece can easily get the idea that evil corporations are suffocating democracy under billions of dollars of campaign and lobbying money.

This is happening, Reich claims, because “the Supreme Court says money is speech and corporations are people. The Supreme Court's Citizens United decision last year ended all limits on political spending. Millions of dollars are being funneled to politicians without a trace.”

That paragraph is so disingenuous that it is difficult to know where to begin. For starters, the Court said money spent to fund political advocacy is protected advocacy, which is not the same thing as Reich’s simplistic “money is speech.”

Second, the Court said corporations are persons deserving of due process and equal protection of the law, which, again, aren't the same as Reich’s misrepresentation.

I am reminded by Reich’s words here of Mark Twain’s aphorism that “lightning” and “lightning bug” sound quite similar but carry profoundly different meanings.

Third, Reich’s assertion that the Court “ended all limits on political spending” is false on its face. There are in fact 21 limits on individual, party and PAC donations currently enforced by the FEC.

Finally, and most important, leftists like Reich have been apoplectic since the Citizens United decision, which among much else, affirmed the First Amendment rights of individual Americans associating with each other in corporations (and unions, a fact that Reich conveniently forgets to acknowledge).

Leftists like Reich – and President Obama, with his demagogic attack on the high court as the justices sat in the congressional chamber listening to his 2010 state of the union address – endlessly repeat the falsehood that Citizens United created a new corporate right.

In fact, the Supreme Court has held nearly two dozen times since FDR was in the White House that corporations are associated persons who have constitutional rights. In 1978, for example, the Court said in First National Bank of Boston v Bellotti that it found in the context of ballot measures “no support for the proposition that speech that otherwise would be within the protection of the First Amendment loses that protection simply because its source is a corporation.”

Campaign finance regulations have diluted it somewhat, but the Court's core holding has remained for decades that corporations are persons with the constitutional protections of due process and equal standing before the law.

Ken Klukowski, who covers the Supreme Court for The Washington Examiner’s commentary pages, suggests three cases in particular are worth reading on this issue, including First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti, 435 U.S. 765, 784 (1978), Greenbelt Cooperative Publishing Association, Inc. v. Bresler, 398 U.S. 6 (1970), and Grosjean v. American Press Co., 297 U.S. 233, 244 (1936).

To which, I would add the 2003 McConnell v FEC decision, especially the Scalia and Thomas dissents, and, of course, Citizens United in 2010.

The Grosjean decision makes for especially interesting reading because it struck down a Louisiana tax on the state’s five largest newspapers that accepted paid advertising.

Justice George Sutherland – one of the Four Horsemen on the bench who opposed the New Deal – noted in the Court’s decision that English monarchs and parliaments for several centuries prior to the American Revolution had used similar taxes on newspapers and other publications to suppress opinion critical of the government. The First Amendment represented an explicit rejection of such official methods of suppression.

Sutherland said the Louisiana law “is bad because, in the light of its history and of its present setting, it is seen to be a deliberate and calculated device in the guise of a tax to limit the circulation of information to which the public is entitled in virtue of the constitutional guaranties. A free press stands as one of the great interpreters between the government and the people. To allow it to be fettered is to fetter ourselves.”

Just as taxes were often were used in Britain to suppress certain opinions, laws and regulations can be used in America today to restrict speech, which is precisely what leftists like Reich have in mind.

All limits on the amount an individual may give to political candidates, parties or causes represent abridgements on the freedom of speech guaranteed by the First Amendment. (Requiring disclosure of all such expenditures is no limit at all, except upon those who prefer anonymity. This is an issue on which I am as yet conflicted).

Thus, Justice Scalia was right in his 2003 dissent in FEC v McConnell when he reminded us that the Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act of 2002 is “a law that cuts to the heart of what the First Amendment is meant to protect: the right to criticize the government. ... We are governed by Congress, and this legislation prohibits the criticism of Members of Congress by those entities most capable of giving such criticism loud voice: national political parties and corporations, both of the commercial and not-for-profit sort."

Worse, the acceptance of government-imposed conditions on such political speech makes it just that much easier to rationalize the imposition of official limits in other contexts, such as the news media.

As Justice Thomas argued in his 2003 dissent to McConnell v FEC, “although today’s opinion does not expressly strip the press of First Amendment protection, there is no principle of law or logic that would prevent the application of the Court’s reasoning in that setting. The press now operates at the whim of Congress.”

Indeed, it is only a short distance between advocating limits on political speech in order to avoid “the appearance of corruption” - or, as Cass Sustein, Obama's regulatory czar, argues, to correct or prevent "conspiracy theories" in the general populace - and endorsing such limits on newspaper editorials, opinion columns, or Talk Radio commentaries because they, too, allegedly create such an appearance.

Judging by the actions of President Obama’s appointees at the Federal Communications Commission regarding "net neutrality" and at the Federal Trade Commission for “reinventing journalism,” that distance is probably even shorter than most friends of either the news media or the First Amendment realize.


PayPal returns frozen funds to pro-family activist following internet protest

The PayPal corporation has returned funds it froze mid-September in pro-life and pro-family activist Julio Severo’s account following a campaign by militant homosexuals to cut Severo off from the company’s service.

Following several weeks of unfavorable articles on PayPal’s actions in LifeSiteNews and other media outlets, as well as a petition drive that gathered more than 10,000 electronic signatures and offers of legal help from multiple groups defending the rights of Christians, PayPal informed Severo that it would make an “exception” and release the funds.

The company had previously claimed that it would hold the money in the account, which constituted most of needed Severo’s funds, for up to nine months before returning it to him.

PayPal shut down Severo’s account and froze his funds after the organization was petitioned by the homosexualist organization All Out to eliminate ten organizations or individuals from its service, for opposing the homosexual political agenda.

Julio Severo and others were accused of peddling “hate,” although Severo makes it clear that he has no animosity towards homosexuals and wants them to be rescued from the self-destructive homosexual lifestyle. In addition to translating and writing for LifeSiteNews, Severo publishes a blog in Portuguese that is one of Brazil’s best-read, and is followed by politicians and other influential individuals in the country. Severo also has blogs in English and Spanish.

In response to the gay activist complaints, PayPal launched an investigation of the targetted groups. It sought to cut off any that could not prove that they were a legally-constituted charity capable of receiving donations, despite the fact that PayPal permits individuals to receive money without reference to membership in any group.

Also targeted by the campaign have been such groups as Tradition, Family, and Property (TFP), a Catholic group that defends the rights and dignity of Christians and opposes sodomy, and Americans for Truth About Homosexuality, which seeks to inform the public about the facts about the “gay” lifestyle. So far, none of these have been cut off by PayPal.

Although LifeSiteNews sent the petition list to a number of PayPal addresses and informed the company of the signatures, no response was ever received.


Long may Jeremy shoot his mouth off

Humourless whiners who complain about Jeremy Clarkson should be taken out and shot. There, I’ve said it too. I’m going down with Jeremy. I’m happy to. I love his brand of humour and I will defend to the death (by shooting) my right to enjoy it.

Those people who deliberately try to take offence by interpreting his jokes literally and who seek to silence him in the name of the ‘rights’ of the people he lampoons are interfering with my right to laugh at life.

I really do fear that if we give in to these sanctimonious idiots we will all end up automatons who dare not speak for fear of being accused of something Orwellian sounding like ‘hate crime’ or ‘verbal assault’.

Mr Clarkson’s comments on the BBC’s One Show about public sector workers may have been bad taste, but there was still no law against bad taste in this country the last time I checked, although admittedly it feels like that day may be coming closer.

He said, and I quote: 'I’d have them all shot. I would take them outside and execute them in front of their families. How dare they go on strike when they’ve got these gilt-edged pensions while the rest of us have to work for a living.'

Here’s the thing: he said it in a funny voice. It was A Joke involving something called ‘exaggeration’.

Often, when constructing A Joke, one exaggerates until an absurd or bizarre concept is created - in this case the idea of shooting striking teachers in public, which, in reality, one would never do. Get it? Oh dear. Maybe they still don’t understand.

Right, let’s try another one. Later Mr Clarkson added: 'I do sometimes use the train to come to London but it always stops in Reading. It's always because somebody has jumped in front of it and somebody has burst.' 'You just think, why have we stopped because we've hit somebody? What's the point of stopping? It won't make them better.'

That is called black humour. Black humour used to be very popular before we all climbed so far up inside our own preciousness that we couldn’t laugh at the dark side of life any more.

But this is a perilous way to go. A joke about people throwing themselves in front of trains is not only darkly funny, it has a very important purpose too. Ask any psychologist and they will tell you that human beings need to laugh at sad or disturbing things in order to process them.

As such, the best comedy often comes from the saddest circumstances. From dark, comes light. Sometimes the jokes work, sometimes they don’t particularly. But we still have to try. We have a proud tradition of this sort of thing, and we should defend it. As the comedian nailed to the cross once said: 'Always look on the bright side of life.'



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


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