"Amend the Constitution so it’s in God’s Standards"

Republican Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee said the following on Monday:

I have opponents in this race who do not want to change the Constitution. But I believe it’s a lot easier to change the Constitution than it would be to change the word of the living God. And that’s what we need to do — to amend the Constitution so it’s in God’s standards rather than try to change God’s standards so it lines up with some contemporary view.

The commentary with the accompanying video suggests that Huckabee was talking about abortion (as in, banning it) and marriage (as in, banning gay marriage).

There was no confusion before — Huckabee is serious about imposing his religious views through force of politics. This latest comment only emphasizes the point. And, as Paul Hsieh recently pointed out (quoting The New York Times,) Huckabee’s religious views conflict with the ideals of economic liberty. All around, he’s a horrible candidate, judged by the standard of liberty.

Tax Cutting for God

Perhaps I was being too optimistic. Earlier today I said that, if he had his act together, Douglas “Bruce could be a strong voice for economic liberty in the state legislature…” But then I remembered this line from The Denver Post:

The bottom line to explain Bruce’s success [with the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights] is that he would not be deterred.

He refused to give up, and he continues to fight because he believes the tax-and-spend-limit cause has an even higher calling than letting taxpayers keep their money.

“Why did I persist after two losses?” Bruce wrote in an e-mail after being interviewed for this story. “(Why do I now persist after 13 years of retribution, jailing, court intimidation, scores of bogus property citations, seizure of real property and vehicle, public attack and scorn, phony fines, etc. etc.?)

“Because I believe God wants us to be free.”

That’s it? That’s his answer? As many evangelicals are discovering, apparently God wants higher taxes. I don’t think Bruce’s claim appeals to many Christians, and it certainly does not appeal to those looking for real-world answers to political questions.

God Wins in Iowa

From The Colorado Freedom Report:

The big winner in the Iowan caucuses is Jesus Christ. Mike Huckabee and Barack Obama are the two most religious — politically religious — candidates of their parties. I’m surprised that those candidates came in first. However, I don’t believe that they’ll win the nominations (though I think it likely that Obama joins somebody else’s ticket). Indeed, I would be stunned if either candidate made it to the general election. If both make it, that will demonstrate that this country is in worse shape than I thought, and that we are likely headed toward more expansive religious-based politics.

Here’s why I don’t think Huckabee or Obama will last. In late 2006, Time published a map titled, “Denomination Nation.” If you select for “Mainline Protestants,” you will find that Iowa is among the states most heavily populated by such Christians. West of Nebraska, the numbers drop off dramatically.

Huckabee’s motto is “Faith. Family. Freedom.” — in that order. Huckabee leaves no doubt that he will interpret “freedom” through the lens of faith, which means that he will sacrifice genuine freedom to faith.

Under his “Issues” page “Faith and Politics,” Huckabee writes, “My faith is my life — it defines me. My faith doesn’t influence my decisions, it drives them. For example, when it comes to the environment, I believe in being a good steward of the earth.”

On the issue of abortion, Huckabee writes,

I support and have always supported passage of a constitutional amendment to protect the right to life. … I have no desire to throw women in jail, I just want us to stop throwing babies in the garbage. … With respect to stem cells, I am opposed to research on embryonic stem cells.

However, if Huckabee passes an amendment outlawing abortion, this will necessarily impose criminal penalties on women and/or their doctors. (I do not imagine that the amendment will read, “Pretty please don’t have abortions; Congress shall pass no law enforcing this amendment.”) Then real police with real guns will arrest real people and throw them into real jails, Huckabee’s disingenuous “desires” notwithstanding.

It is unclear to me what exceptions Huckabee might allow. Would he outlaw all abortions from the moment the sperm enters the egg? What about cases of rape, incest, or dangers to the life of the mother? And who gets to make such calls? How many doctors will be called before the Inquisition to prove that an abortion was necessary to protect the woman’s life? And how many women will be called to prove that their miscarriages were accidental?

However, even an abortion ban with numerous exceptions and light enforcement would severely violate the rights of pregnant women who do not wish to have a child. (The fact that many abortions result from irresponsible sex does not change this fact.) The sort of abortion ban that many Christians favor would outlaw abortions of fertilized eggs. Thus, the “morning after” pill would be outlawed, and, presumably, manufacture, distribution, possession, and use of such a pill would bring criminal penalties. Yet the position that a fertilized egg or a cluster of cells should be granted the same rights that you have is grounded on the Christian dogma that God infuses a fertilized egg with a soul. Such a policy imposes religion by political force.

Huckabee also wishes to outlaw certain types of medical research based on his religious beliefs. I don’t know where Huckabee stands on issues of censorship and “faith-based” tax subsidies. (For further discussion on religion in politics, see my blog post on Fred Thompson and then link back from there.)

Aside from his rejection of the separation of church and state, Huckabee is a typical “moderate” left-wing statist. He endorses environmentalism through political force and better health through federal controls, as examples. Mark Joseph’s December 31 column about Huckabee is telling:

The stunning and rapid ascendence of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee has shocked prominent old-guard Washington Republicans and conservatives, leaving them shaking their heads, wondering how a social conservative with a fairly liberal record on issues like immigration, education, taxes and spending can possibly be commanding the allegiance of so many Christian conservative voters. …

For Huckabee is an unreconstructed and unapologetic pre-1980 Republican who has more in common with William Jennings Bryan than Ronald Reagan and whose views expose the deep rift that has always existed between social and economic conservatives. …

[T]he emergence of Huckabee and his hybrid conservative/liberal style may finally produce the much ballyhooed conservative crackup that so many commentators have been predicting.

Obama would expand national controls over virtually every aspect of our lives. Yet at least he talks about the separation of church and state. Yet he clearly believes that God has called him to use the power of the national government to carry out religious goals. The document, “Barack Obama on Faith,” states that “God is constantly present in our lives…” And Obama wants to make sure of it. “Faith is a source of action for justice.” In this context, “justice” is a euphemism for political controls to force people to obey Obama’s version of Christian “charity.” For some examples, see Obama’s proposals on poverty. He wants to expand “career” subsidies, “create a green jobs corps,” expand subsidies for “urban planning initiatives,” increase the forced wage rate, etc. Obama also wants to impose “a new national health plan.”

Obama is thus in tune with the socialist tradition. The difference is that he justifies his socialism by faith.

The election of Mike Huckabee or Barack Obama as President of the United States would constitute a national disaster. Fortunately, that’s not likely to happen.

Christianity Versus Liberty

Many Christians proclaim that their religion is responsible for the rise of liberty in the West. They make this claim despite the fact that Christians ruled over centuries of stifling (and sometimes murderous) oppression, despite the fact that liberty did not gain traction until the Enlightenment, an era that seriously challenged religious dogma. Today, some Christians fight to control the economy, while others fight to control our personal lives. Increasingly, these two camps are finding common cause.

In a December 30 column for the conservative Townhall.com, Ken Connor, “a nationally recognized trial lawyer who represented Governor Jeb Bush in the Terri Schiavo case,” argues that the Christian right and the Christian left should come together. He argues that the Christian right should be more sensitive to the egalitarian left’s plans to forcibly transfer wealth:

Perhaps liberal evangelicals will help remind the body of Christ that our greatest obligation is not to be financially successful or politically triumphant, but to love our Lord and our neighbor, even in public life. Perhaps they will also encourage us to develop new political solutions to the timeless problem of material poverty. As conservatives, our policy proposals probably won’t include lots of major Federal programs because our experience shows that solutions rooted in the expansion of governmental bureaucracy often do more harm than good. However, we must not fall prey to the rhetoric of secular conservatives who put worldly financial concerns above all else. As Christians, we have a duty to address the needs of the poor, and it would be wrong for us to fall prey to a radically individualistic mentality. “Dog eat dog” is not a biblical phrase and “the survival of the fittest” is not a Christian concept. Our priority is the common good, with a special concern for those who have the least.

Note here that Connor finds no principled reason for the national government to refrain from forcibly transferring wealth; he thinks the activity is just fine, so long as it can be shown to do more good than harm (by what standard he does not mention). Apparently, Conner has even fewer reservations about using state and local force to transfer wealth.

Connor explicitly denounces individualism in favor of “the common good,” and he associates a system of liberty, in which people interact voluntarily rather than by force and in which the rights of each individual are consistently protected, with a “dog eat dog… survival of the fittest.” In other words, in his political goals and his evaluation of liberty, Connor’s views are indistinguishable from those of socialists.

Connor also hopes to bring the Christian left on board with the Christian right’s social agenda:

At the same time, perhaps there are ways in which we can help progressives look at things differently. … Al Sharpton… criticized the black church for being too worried about what he called “bedroom issues”: marriage and abortion. He thinks they should mobilize on social justice issues rather than be distracted by abortion. On something like this, we have an obligation to vigorously defend the unborn. Perhaps we can help progressive Christians like Al Sharpton understand that abortion is the greatest social justice issue of our time.

In other words, Connor wants to convince the left that it’s a great idea to subject women and/or the doctors who serve them to criminal penalties for aborting a fertilized egg, based on the Christian doctrine that God infuses a fertilized egg with a soul. And this is just one example for Connor; no doubt he could think of many additional reasons to send out men with guns to arrest and imprison people.

I do not expect a quick convergence of Christian left and right. Instead, what is likely to happen is that the Christian right will become less and less interested in defending any vestige of economic liberty, while the Christian left will show less resistance to social controls. Both sides will “compromise” by allowing the other side its favored controls.

Islamist Violence Against Women

The UK’s Independent published the following report:

‘Westernised’ women being killed in Basra
By Sinan Salaheddin in Baghdad
Published: 11 December 2007

Religious extremists have killed at least 40 women this year in Basra because of their “un-Islamic” dress, according to Iraqi police.

The police said women were being apprehended by men patrolling on motorbikes or in cars with tinted windows before being murdered and dumped in piles of rubbish with notes saying they were killed for “un-Islamic behaviour”. He said men had been victims of similar attacks.

Since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and the rise of Iraq’s Shia-dominated government, armed men have forced women to cover their heads or face punishment. In parts of the predominantly Shia south, even Christian women have been forced to wear headscarves. In some areas of Basra, graffiti warns women that forgoing the headscarf and wearing make-up “will bring you death”.

Where to begin? Such religiously motivated behavior is disgusting, reprehensible, horrible. And the story serves as a reminder that Bush’s “forward strategy for freedom” hasn’t worked out so well.

Romney’s Religion

Recently Mark Udall, candidate for U.S. Senate, sent me a letter in which he endorsed the separation of church and state. Now Mitt Romney has given a speech on the subject of faith. At a superficial level, Romney also endorses the separation of church and state:

“We separate church and state affairs in this country, and for good reason. No religion should dictate to the state nor should the state interfere with the free practice of religion.”

However, generic endorsements of the separation of church and state are inadequate. Just as anyone can proclaim support for a contentless version of “freedom,” so can everyone but an out-and-out theocrat generically proclaim support for the separation of church and state. That is why, in my letter to candidates, I asked for replies to specific questions regarding abortion, stem cell research, and tax funding of religious groups and doctrine.

In his speech, Romney explicitly calls for tax funding of religious teaching:

The founders proscribed the establishment of a state religion, but they did not countenance the elimination of religion from the public square. We are a nation “Under God” and in God, we do indeed trust.

We should acknowledge the Creator as did the Founders — in ceremony and word. He should remain on our currency, in our pledge, in the teaching of our history, and during the holiday season, nativity scenes and menorahs should be welcome in our public places. Our greatness would not long endure without judges who respect the foundation of faith upon which our constitution rests. I will take care to separate the affairs of government from any religion, but I will not separate us from “the God who gave us liberty” (emphasis added).

In other words, Romney does not wish to spend tax funds to promote the particular doctrines of, say, Mormonism or Catholicism; he merely wishes to spend tax funds to teach children in “the public square” about the God common to the Judeo-Christian-Muslim tradition.

This reminds me of the speech delivered by Leonard Peikoff in 1986 (and published as “Religion Versus America” in Ayn Rand’s The Voice of Reason.) Peikoff said:

“If prayer is said aloud [in tax-funded schools],” [Jack Kemp] explains, “it need be no more than a general acknowledgment of the existence, power, authority, and love of God, the Creator.” That’s all — nothing controversial or indoctrinating about that! (page 78)

Romney said, “Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom. Freedom opens the windows of the soul so that man can discover his most profound beliefs and commune with God. Freedom and religion endure together, or perish alone.” For a refutation of Romney’s claim, see Peikoff’s article.

Romney’s comment reminded me of something that Laura Ingraham said at a recent banquet. She said that without a particularly religious virtue, “you can kiss the free market goodbye.” It is obvious that Romney and Ingraham think that religion must come before freedom. Will it then surprise anyone when they and their fellow travelers decide it’s okay to sacrifice “just a little” freedom for the cause of religion?

Elsewhere Romney states that he wishes to outlaw nearly all abortions, restrict medical research, expand censorship of (ambiguously defined) “obscenity,” and spend tax dollars on “faithbased groups.” Various religious leaders in this country have advocated the complete ban of all abortions, more spending of tax dollars on religious groups and instruction, censorship of “pornography,” and so forth.

Romney’s claim that “religion requires freedom” is obviously false; for example, religion thrived for century after century in the brutally oppressive Egyptian empires and Middle Ages. Freedom does not require religion, though it defends freedom of religion — and freedom from religion. What freedom requires is that religious leaders abstain from forcing their theology onto others. Despite his generic statement to the contrary, Romney has demonstrated that he wishes to sacrifice freedom to religion. And that is why I will never cast a vote for Mitt Romney for any office, under any circumstances.

Mark Udall Replies Regarding Church and State

Last month, I mailed a letter to candidates regarding the separation of church and state. The letter stated:

As an advocate of individual rights and free markets, I am deeply concerned about attacks on economic liberty and property rights. However, I also believe that the greater modern threat to individual rights is the attempt by some religious groups to make politics conform to their faith.

In coming election cycles, I will vote against any candidate who does not explicitly and unambiguously endorse the separation of church and state, whether on his or her web page or in direct correspondence. I ask that candidates declare whether they:

1. Endorse the separation of church and state.

2. Oppose the spending of tax dollars on programs with religious affiliations, such as “faith-based” welfare.

3. Oppose the spending of tax dollars to teach creationism and/or intelligent design as science.

4. Oppose efforts to restrict the legal right of adult women to obtain an abortion.

5. Oppose bans on embryonic stem-cell research.

To date, Mark Udall is the only candidate to reply. (Mitt Romney’s campaign sent me a letter, but it was entirely nonresponsive to my letter.) Udall, currently in the U.S. House, is running for U.S. Senate next year. His letter, dated November 21, is “paid and authorized by Udall for Colorado, Inc.” The letter lists http://markudall.org/ as the associated web page. Here’s what Udall has to say:

First, I fully support the continued separation of church and state in this country. As our founding fathers recognized when they made religious freedom a fundamental principle of our Constitution, our nation is home to people of a large variety of religious backgrounds and beliefs. Our government has no role to play in selecting those beliefs, in advocating for one religion over another religion, or in supporting the presence of religion in favor of no religion. I will continue to vote against legislation that compromises our country’s ability to keep religion and government separate. That includes programs that discriminate against people based on their religious belief or that use government funds to support one religion over another.

Second, I am a firm believer in protecting an individual’s right to make her own choices with regard to her reproductive health. Such decisions are deeply personal and involve the consideration of many factors within the realm of those held sacred under our constitutional right to privacy. In addition, as we saw when abortion was illegal, denying women their right to choose an option does not eliminate the need for it. That said, we must provide access to reproductive health education, adoption, and contraception to limit, as much as possible, the number of women forced to make the difficult choice of whether or not to have an abortion.

Third, I strongly oppose government bans on embryonic stem-cell research. My father suffered from Parkinson’s disease and I have always wondered whether [his] life could have been saved if the incredible medical advancements now possible through stem-cell research had occurred just a few years earlier. I believe that it is our obligation to prevent future deaths from terminal diseases, like Parkinson’s, if it is possible, and will continue to support stem-cell research.

While I could criticize several details of Udall’s reply, I could hardly ask for a stronger endorsement of the separation of church and state. So far, I have seen no such statement from Udall’s likely opponent, Bob Schaffer. Unless that changes, my vote will go to Udall. If Schaffer offers a similarly strong endorsement of the separation of church and state, then I will vote on other considerations. If I vote for Udall, my vote should not be taken as an endorsement of all of Udall’s policies; I strongly disagree with his environmentalism and welfare statism.

I am impressed by Udall’s answer for another reason: candidates and politicians rarely offer so detailed a reply to letters unaccompanied by checks with large figures. Merely the fact that Udall’s letter responds to my letter in a detailed a thoughtful manner says something good about Udall.

Religious Right, Meet Religious Left

A few days ago, I wrote “that one eventual possibility is for the… religious right and religious left [to] grow closer together.”

The future is now.

In his October 14 blog for the Rocky Mountain News, “Faith in the planet,” M.E. Sprengelmeyer writes:

In American politics, we’re used to hearing Republicans use the language of faith. And we’re used to hearing Democrats talk tough on protecting the environment.

But this year, we’re starting to notice candidates from both sides mixing the two, perhaps hoping that breaking that language barrier can win them cross-over support.

Sprengelmeyer offers quotes from two presidential candidates, Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee.

Obama:

The Bible tells us that when God created the Earth, he entrusted us with the responsibility to take care of that Earth — to exercise stewardship over His creation. … I don’t believe that this separation [of church and state] means that we should leave our religion at the door before entering the public square.

Huckabee:

My faith is my life – it defines me. My faith doesn’t influence my decisions, it drives them. For example, when it comes to the environment, I believe in being a good steward of the earth. I don’t separate my faith from my personal and professional lives.

The difference between the candidates is that Obama is losing out to a secularist, Hillary Clinton, who uses the language of religion strategically, while Huckabee is losing out to a dedicated religionist, Mitt Romney, who believes “we are a religious people.” The left will rally behind Clinton, while the religious right is threatening to leave Giuliani at the altar should he manage to take the lead.

It is indeed interesting that, substantively, the quoted comments of Obama and Huckabee are identical. It is true that the religious left is more interested in expanding the welfare and environmentalist state, while the religious right is more interested in outlawing abortion and promoting religion through government. However, both sides care a lot more about attaining their pet goals than they do about stopping the religionists on the other side of the aisle. The tendency will be for both sides of the religious divide to “compromise” by tolerating the goals of the other side in order to promote their own agendas. Thus, it is not much of a surprise to see the religious right warming up to environmentalism or the religious left downplaying the separation of church and state. The religious right and the religious left are already united in their desire to use the force of government to advance their religious agendas.

Candidates’ Mailing Addresses

So I’m sending a copy of the letter, “Church/State Separation Endorsed by Colorado Voters,” to candidates at the national and state level. Since I’m looking up the addresses, I’d thought I’d pass them along (even though only some of them will be relevant to most voters).

Of course, the 2008 elections are still more than a year away. But I wanted to introduce the letter early in the political season. There’s not much activity in the state legislative races at this point, but next year I’ll mail a copy of the letter to those candidates, too.

President

It turns out that there are a ridiculous number of people who think they’re running for president. The number just for Republicans approaches 100. So I’m going to send the letter only to candidates who are leading. I’m working from Vote Smart.

Rudolph W. Giuliani
1585 Broadway
New York, NY 10036

Mike Huckabee
Carter Wamp
Policy
Post Office Box 2008
Little Rock, AR 72203

John McCain
241 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Mitt Romney
585 Commercial Street
Boston, MA 02109

Fred Thompson
Friends of Fred Thompson
Incorporated Post Office Box 128349
Nashville, TN 37212-8349

Joe Biden
201 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Hillary Clinton
476 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

John Edwards
1201 Old Greensboro Road
Chapel Hill, NC 27516

Barack Obama
713 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Bill Richardson
490 Old Santa Fe Trail Room 400
Santa Fe, NM 87501

U.S. Senate for Colorado

Bob Schaffer (I couldn’t easily find a mailing address.)
team@BobSchaffer.org

Mark Udall
8690 Wolff Court, #200
Westminster, CO 80031

U.S. Congress for Colorado’s Second District

(The following two candidates are Democrats, as Democrats always win this Boulder-centered race.)

Joan Fitz-Gerald
9975 Wadsworth Parkway – Unit K2 #401
Westminster, CO 80021-6814

Jared Polis
PO Box 4572
Boulder, CO 80306

Colorado Republicans and Democrats

Republican Party of Colorado
5950 S. Willow Drive, Suite 220
Greenwood Village, CO 80111

Democratic Party of Colorado
777 Santa Fe Drive
Denver, CO 80204

Church/State Separation Endorsed by Colorado Voters

Church/State Separation Endorsed by Colorado Voters

The signatories offer the following announcement as a non-exclusive letter to the editor.

As advocates of individual rights and free markets, we are deeply concerned about attacks on economic liberty and property rights. However, we also believe that the greater modern threat to individual rights is the attempt by some religious groups to make politics conform to their faith.

In coming election cycles, we will vote against any candidate who does not explicitly and unambiguously endorse the separation of church and state. We ask that candidates declare whether they:

1. Endorse the separation of church and state.

2. Oppose the spending of tax dollars on programs with religious affiliations, such as “faith-based” welfare.

3. Oppose the spending of tax dollars to teach creationism and/or intelligent design as science.

4. Oppose efforts to restrict the legal right of adult women to obtain an abortion.

5. Oppose bans on embryonic stem-cell research.

Signed,
Ari Armstrong, Westminster
Tom Hall, Louisville
Diana Hsieh, Sedalia
Paul Hsieh, Sedalia
Mike Williams, Denver
Leonard Peikoff, Colorado Springs
Richard Watts, Hayden
Cara Thompson, Denver
Hannah Krening, Larkspur
Erika Hanson Brown, Denver
Bill Faulkner, Broomfield
Cameron Craig, Denver
Bryan Armentrout, Erie

Version for Individual Voters

Note: Voters have permission to reproduce and distribute the following declaration. The document may be signed by individual voters and sent to the candidates for whom they will have an opportunity to vote. The names and addresses of candidates generally can be found through regional newspapers and Secretaries of State.

Dear Candidate,

I hereby add my name to the following declaration:

As an advocate of individual rights and free markets, I am deeply concerned about attacks on economic liberty and property rights. However, I also believe that the greater modern threat to individual rights is the attempt by some religious groups to make politics conform to their faith.

In coming election cycles, I will vote against any candidate who does not explicitly and unambiguously endorse the separation of church and state, whether on his or her web page or in direct correspondence. I ask that candidates declare whether they:

1. Endorse the separation of church and state.

2. Oppose the spending of tax dollars on programs with religious affiliations, such as “faith-based” welfare.

3. Oppose the spending of tax dollars to teach creationism and/or intelligent design as science.

4. Oppose efforts to restrict the legal right of adult women to obtain an abortion.

5. Oppose bans on embryonic stem-cell research.

Signed,