Currently Browsing: Civil Liberties

Supreme Court Rules in Hobby Lobby’s Favor

This is off topic, but it’s the big case of the year, so I thought it warranted coverage. The Supreme Court issued a narrow 5-4 decision in Hobby Lobby’s favor. Narrow because the decision only applies to closely held corporations, and applies to contraception mandates, but not to all insurance mandates. I tend to agree with the applicability being only to closely held corporations, in it would be difficult to divine the religious views of a widely-held, public corporation. Objections would tend only to reflect the views of management, who are in no respects representing the will of shareholders. It would be interesting to know what affect this would have in a non-profit corporation, say, a Catholic Charity, but I suspect it would apply to them as well. It would be less clear how this would apply to a membership non-profit like the NRA.

I’m more skeptical of the notion that the RFRA doesn’t apply to all insurance mandates. If a Christian Scientist business doesn’t want to offer coverage for “blood transfusions or vaccinations,” who are the courts to come along and say some people’s religious beliefs against contraception or abortion more legitimate than other people’s religious beliefs against blood transfusions or vaccinations? That’s the government deciding some religions are greater religions, while others are less so. It smacks of establishment to me.

Redefining Freedom & Ignoring History

This is where I come to post the things that will get me in trouble on Facebook. :) Today’s topic: redefining freedom & ignoring history.

Someone mentioned a lineage group that I might be interested in for women with ancestors in New England, and I probably should not have laughed at the description to “perpetuate the ideals and spirit of the indomitable men and women of Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut and Massachusetts who laid the foundations of our nation’s civil and religious freedom.” Ahem.

Let’s talk about that “foundation of…religious freedom” from the New England colonies because I’m pretty sure that the foundation isn’t anything like what we consider freedom today. I’m not a historian, but as I recall, those early settlers largely came here for their religious freedom, but not to celebrate or recognize anyone else’s religious freedom. In fact, the New England states were some of the most fierce in trying to force people to a particular religion or into funding religion with taxes whether you wanted to or not. From the Library of Congress:

Religious taxes were laid on all citizens, each of whom was given the option of designating his share to the church of his choice. Such laws took effect in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Hampshire…

In other words, it reminds me of many New England states now – you’re free to live in the way they tell you to live. The New England states, with the exception of Rhode Island, even had official religions into the 19th century. The Congregational Church was the established religion by the government of Massachusetts until 1833, New Hampshire until 1819, and Connecticut until 1818.

Not even Vermont, rated as the least religious state in the union now, had any sort of foundation of what we would call freedom of religion since only men who would “profess the protestant religion” could serve office. In fact, that was pretty much a given across New England even though other states were already cutting back, like Pennsylvania which only asked that you believe in some form of God. From what I’ve read, it’s actually the Southern states that pushed for the separation of church and state that would actually give us something closer to the foundation of the freedom to worship or not worship that we know today.

So, while I have no issue with the particular lineage society, I really, really hope that they aren’t making any significant effort to truly “perpetuate” religious freedom as our New England ancestors of colonial/early statehood days knew it. I, personally, would just like to leave that view of “freedom” behind.


School Bias – Getting Grades for No Dissent

A Connecticut school filters out all Republican and issue group websites that are commonly associated with GOP supporters, including pro-Second Amendment websites while gun control websites were all approved.

Even more interesting is that the student was attempting to look up the material while conducting the research for an assigned classroom debate. It’s awfully interesting that the school, which made it partisan when it opted to ban the official GOP website while allowing the Democratic website, is grading students for their participation in “debates,” but refuses to allow them to see any alternate viewpoints to present to their peers.

It’s even more interesting that the student only reported the incident to the media after notifying school authorities and he noticed that they refused to fix the blatant bias. Even now that the media is on the story, they only say that they “appreciated hearing the comments” and he raised an accusation that might warrant an investigation. But, hey, it’s just the tax dollars of Connecticut voters shutting down access to information from different political views – no big deal and nothing to see here…

Gun Possession in Iraq

Clayton Cramer notes that reports out of Iraq show that the ISIS leaders have declared new rules for those in area they control that include a gun ban for anyone not in their ranks. It’s interesting how that also comes along with a ban on any public gathering not organized by ISIS as well.

It’s almost like those people who use the bumper sticker phrase that their Second Amendment right protects the First Amendment rights of others might possibly be on to something about the importance of both rights.

Yogurt v. Guns

In New York, lawmakers thought it was more important to debate the merits of yogurt being considered the state snack than the potential outcomes that hurt law-abiding people in the massive gun control bill the passed last year.

The time they debated yogurt was 50% longer than the time they spent discussing gun control and the civil liberties of citizens. I guess New Yorkers can be proud of the priorities of their elected officials.

New Search Rule in Pennsylvania

A few people have sent this along, that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has adopted new rules on vehicle searches. My first impression was that I had no idea Pennsylvania instituted a stricter standard on search than the feds. This ruling basically brings Pennsylvania in line with the federal standards, which is what most states follow. It’s frequent that state courts tend to defer to the Supreme Court view on such things. I’m not saying I agree with the ruling, since I generally disagree with the deference state courts give federal court rulings, but it’s not a disaster. The standard for getting a warrant is probable cause anyway, so you still have issues with police manufacturing probable cause (dogs are great for that) even under the old system, but without the requirement to formally obtain a warrant.

Free Surplus Machine Guns!

Sorry fellow gun owners, but that kind of “hanging out on the limb” positioning is only offered to the neo-puritans in the religious fundamentalist movement. Surplussing machine guns to civilians? Well, that’s just crazy talk! I agree with Ace of Spades on this count:

He wants to make oral sex with a minor a felony in all cases — including in the case of minors having sex with minors. 15-17 year olds are allowed to have sex with each other (no crime), but if they have oral sex with each other, that would be a crime.

There is a certain contingent in the Republican Party that insists on defending this nonsense. Not everyone who defends it actually supports it; I think the idea is rather that just as the left observes the rule No Enemies to the Left, so should we refrain from knocking allies on the right.

I don’t support this rule. I used to see in the value in it but I no longer do. Things like this are embarrassing and counterproductive. I am tired of being associated with the Party That Really Wants To Patrol Your Private Sexual Choices Because We Know Better Because It’s In the Bible.

Read the whole thing. I think there can be arguments made on originalist grounds that Lawrence was wrongly decided, but this kind of behavior strikes me as no better than what the powers that be in New York and Chicago engage in with regard to the Second Amendment. They’ll restrict it any way they can, just because they think they can get away with it, regardless of whether it really makes sense or not, or lands people who are otherwise no threat to society in prison.

Vague Political Speech Restrictions on Government Property

There’s a gun-related case in the Arizona Court of Appeals today that deals with overly vague content-based speech restrictions on government property. The Goldwater Institute and ACLU are siding with pro-Second Amendment folks who submitted various advertisements for the Phoenix mass transit system only to see some of them turned down on content restrictions against politically-related advertising and others with similar messages and links accepted.

It’s a case that isn’t just about considering federal First Amendment protections/restrictions on speech, but also may define the state’s constitutional limits on the freedom of speech. The ACLU has apparently argued that state courts have never ruled on the issue of content-based restrictions on government property or provided legal tests to determine when such regulations may be allowed.

The pro-speech/gun side is arguing that the rules are so vague and arbitrary that a reasonable person could not be expected to know when their advertisements may be approved or might be turned down. Attorneys for the city claim that if they can’t have these vague rules that apparently only city bureaucrats understand, then they will be forced into an “all-or-nothing approach — allow no advertising or allow all advertising.”

Know Your Rights, Even When the ACLU May Not

Yesterday, a story popped up on Photography is Not a Crime (another great blog highlighting rights of the law-abiding that are frequently trampled) about a low level ACLU representative getting angry at a photographer for taking photos on a public Massachusetts street that she just happened to be working on that day.

The girl decked out in her ACLU gear didn’t just inform the photographer that she’d rather not have him take her photo, she tried to claim trumped up charges that he was engaged in a criminal act by taking a photo that just happened to have her in it.

This doesn’t surprise me coming from ACLU representatives because I witnessed a group of ACLU “volunteer observers” at the 2004 Pittsburgh NRA meeting trying to intimidate NRA supporters who were snapping photos of the anti-gun protests taking place on the public space outside of the convention center with similar threats.

One girl in particular, probably an older college student or recent graduate, was particularly aggressive in claiming that gun rights supporters had no right to take any photos at all on the public sidewalk and that she would report us to the police if she thought we took any photos of her sitting on the sidewalk.

I just point out this story because it’s useful to understand that the underlings who may be representing ACLU in some form at any gun-related events may try to use the same false charges that photography in public places is a crime against gun owners to try and intimidate them from documenting an event or participating one way or the other in public protests. I have never seen another ACLU volunteer observer team at an NRA meeting again, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen again.

It’s Not Just the Policies, It’s Your People

Reading a bit more about the situation in California that broke yesterday with a girl being ordered to take off her NRA t-shirt by a public school official, it appears that there are consistent issues of late with this particular school and its officials.

The first piece of evidence is the NRA shirt case, where the district now admits that the shirt never violated any policies at all. However, these are the same people who specifically wrote the policy to state that if anything a student wears is declared “divisive or offensive to a staff member,” then it is banned. In other words, expressing an opinion contrary to any staff member in the school on your t-shirt is banned for being divisive. Needless to say, that’s not remotely constitutional since it gives staff the power to ban political expression they consider divisive or anything they don’t like for personal reasons.

The same school, apparently under a different principal, but largely the same staff, had to apologize last year and undergo more training on policies when they endorsed “Seniores” and “Señoritas” events that encouraged the overwhelmingly white school kids to dress up to fit ethnic stereotypes. Some kids apparently opted to dress as gang members and pregnant chicks. Gee, who couldn’t see that kind of poor decision-making coming from a mile away? But the school district promised that more training and more policies would keep the school out of trouble.

While the two incidents seem pretty different, there is one common theme to both of them. Perhaps it’s time to admit that policies aren’t the only problem here. Perhaps it is time to admit that the people incapable of making reasonable decisions, even after they’ve been given all of these policies and all of this training, are the problem. In fact, I would say that the fact the new principal, appointed after the “Seniores” and “Señoritas” snafu made headlines, is the one defending the unconstitutional t-shirt policy, it really just goes to show that no one in the school really learned anything in all of their “training.”

Sadly, even if the school district leaders did admit that no amount of training will fix the situation, there’s not really much they would do to change it.

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