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Misconception about Religious Liberty

Written By Kenneth Brooks on 02-24-2014 | in Democracy, Human Relations, Critical Thinking, Freedom,

Religious liberty includes the legal right of Christian business owners to discriminate against same-gender couples. Republican Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Republicans in ten state legislatures assert religious liberty extends to business decisions of business owners based on the religious convictions. Jindal claims a silent war against Religious Liberty in America, because Christian business owners face discrimination charges for refusing to sell product to same-gender couples.

Contrary to the common belief of conservatives and liberals alike, the Constitution denies government authority to protect or to interfere with religious freedom. The First Amendment says, "Congress shall make no law respecting any establishment of religion, or prohibit the free exercise thereof." This means that in the Constitution the people refused government authority over religious expression. No support or interference in religion by government means zero involvement of government. Federal Internal Revenue Service codes granting tax exemptions for religion expression that meets a government standard is a blatant violation of the First Amendment.

This First Amendment exclusion of government authority over religion is a sensible check given the personal nature of religious expression. The free exercise of religion combines the thoughts, conduct, and morality of the individual. In other words, religious convictions are internal qualities of the person and not authority to decide other people's conduct. Therefore, government would not have a real-world standard of law to settle disputes among personal religious convictions.

For example, a bakery refused to make or sell a wedding cake to a gay couple based on the owners asserted First Amendment right of religious expression. However, as discussed above, the First Amendment does not protect an individual's right of religious expression over rights of other people. It only denies government the power to interfere in that expression.

Americans do have government protected human and civil rights including the right to decide their associations. However, government can protect this right only if the person sets out a clear personal standard of associations that someone or some group violated.

The bakery business owner announced a retail policy inclusive of all public members as paying customers when he or she sought a retail business license from the government agency. Therefore, the business owner had no legal grounds to refuse service to certain couples based on the owner's personal convictions about their sexual orientation or other personal traits. The Gay couple only wanted to buy a special cake. All else about them was not the business owners' concern.

Someone may ask if the bakery owner could deny service to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transsexual (LGBT) individuals based on religious convictions if he or she indicated this restriction on the business license application. Rules of logic dictate the answer must be no, because the business owner could not hold those religious convictions and operate a retail business.

Obviously, government agencies, power companies, and business suppliers employ LGBT individuals. Religious convictions allegedly prevent some Christian business owners from associating with LGBT individuals as paying customers. If so, those same religious convictions should prevent those business owners from buying products and services of government and businesses that employ LGBT individuals. Therefore, the practical requirements of retail business operation offer prospective business owners two choices. They can apply their religious convictions only to them. They can apply their religious convictions to other peoples conduct and refuse to buy the services and products their business needs to operate.

Congress must not agree to a military strike against Syria

Written By Kenneth Brooks on 09-03-2013 | in Political, Government, Democracy, Human Relations, Critical Thinking, Freedom,

President Barack Obama decided the United States must make a military strike against Syria, because President Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons against his people. The conclusion displays poor reasoning about a complex international problem. Congress must vote against Obama misusing America’s Armed Forces for an international problem that is more properly within the domain of the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). The “Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling, and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction,” common called Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), is an arms control agreement between the parties that ratified it. It outlaws the production, stockpiling, and use of chemical weapons. It set schedules for nations with chemical weapons to destroy them. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) administers the agreement.

President Obama said, “This attack is an assault on human dignity. It also presents a serious danger to our national security. It risks making a mockery of the global prohibition on the use of chemical weapons. It endangers our friends and our partners along Syria’s borders, including Israel, Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon and Iraq. It could lead to escalating use of chemical weapons, or their proliferation to terrorist groups who would do our people harm.”

Obama managed to fit many appeals to emotion in his statement and few of reason. He makes the slippery-slope type argument–if we allow this event without a reaction then a chain of evils will follow. Previous presidents used this argument to justify the Vietnam War, the War on drugs, and the invasion of Iraq. I agree that some enforcement authority must act against nations that stockpile and use chemical weapons. However, international organizations like the United Nations and OPCW should exercise that authority and not the President of the United States by an act of war.

Obama also said, “Make no mistake -- this has implications beyond chemical warfare. If we won't enforce accountability in the face of this heinous act, what does it say about our resolve to stand up to others who flout fundamental international rules? To governments who would choose to build nuclear arms? To terrorist who would spread biological weapons? To armies who carry out genocide?”

Obama's statement about the chemical weapons crisis shows why he and the United States lack credibility in this crisis. Dishonestly, he refers to Israel as a nation threatened by the misuse of chemical weapons as if it were among the nations supporting the prohibition against chemical weapons. However, only 189 of 196 nations were party to the CWC on June 2013. Israel was not one of them. Israel and Myanmar are two nations that signed the agreement in 1993, but never ratified the convention. They remain outside the convention with Angola, Egypt, North Korea, South Sudan, and Syria. The United States also signed the agreement in 1993 and ratified the convention in 1997. Therefore, President Obama misleads Americans when he fails to list all nations that provide themselves the alternative of using chemical weapons.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon more honestly sets out the status of nations in the chemical weapon’s crisis. Recently, he appealed to Israel, Syria and all nations outside the CWC to ratify their membership. Until they do, all of them preserve the equally loathsome alternative to create, store and use chemical weapons against their citizens or against people of other nations. Unlike President Obama, the Secretary-General held all nations accountability that refuse to support the international prohibitions of chemical weapons. Even some nations in the CWC have failed to meet their schedule to destroy all chemical weapons.

Obama’s statement suggests the world is the domain of the United States of America and the U.S. President is its emperor with authority and duty to hold other nations accountable for violating international rules. He said, “Yet, while I believe I have the authority to carry out this military action without specific congressional authorization, I know that the country will be stronger if we take this course, and our actions will be even more effective.” Americans and Congress should pay close attention to those remarks that suggests an imperial presidency free of restrains of Congress or the people.

I read the Constitution many times. I have not found the place in Article II that gives the president authority as Commander in chief of American Armed Forces authority to attack another nation without the consent of Congress. It does not name the President the Commander of the International Police Force.

The fast developing imperial presidency the past forty years threatens freedom and the American republic more than foreign forces do. Commonsense should warn any free people the threat to freedom of concentrating power in the presidency during crisis or war. This is a critical period for American freedom. The president already has extraordinary powers bestowed on the Executive Branch by a panicked Congress after the 9/11 attacks on the homeland. Now, Obama asks Congress to grant him the authority to attack another nation based only on its loathsome domestic conduct and its violation of an international rule that does not directly threaten the United States. A “yes” vote by Congress will complete the imperial presidency with monarchical war-making powers.

This approval by Congress would be an abandonment of duty for no good reason given Obama's admission, “And the American people have the good sense to know we cannot resolve the underlying conflict in Syria with our military. In that part of the world, there are ancient sectarian differences, and the hopes of the Arab Spring have unleashed forces of change that are going to take many years to resolve. And that's why we’re not contemplating putting our troops in the middle of someone else’s war.”

Paradoxically, Obama who plans a military strike against Syria for breaking an international rule fails to cite the international law that authorizes this unilateral action by the United States or by any nation. He appears to make the argument that power is its own authority for action. Congress must dispute this assertion by telling President Obama, “No, we do not agree to a military strike against Syria.”


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