Archive for the 'Religion' Category

How the British Gun Control Program Precipitated the American Revolution

Posted by on May 14 2012 | Constitutional History, guns, History, Militia, Religion, Religious Freedom

I posted a draft of this article a few months ago, and I thank VC readers for some helpful comments in improving it. The final version has been published by the Charleston Law Review, and is available on SSRN. Here’s the abstract:

This Article chronologically reviews the British gun control which precipitated the American Revolution: the 1774 import ban on firearms and gun powder; the 1774-75 confiscations of firearms and gun powder, from individuals and from local governments; and the use of violence to effectuate the confiscations. It was these events which changed a situation of rising political tension into a shooting war. Each of these British abuses provides insights into the scope of the modern Second Amendment.

From the events of 1774-75, we can discern that import restrictions or bans on firearms or ammunition are constitutionally suspect — at least if their purpose is to disarm the public, rather than for the normal purposes of import controls (e.g., raising tax revenue, or protecting domestic industry). We can discern that broad attempts to disarm the people of a town, or to render them defenseless, are anathema to the Second Amendment; such disarmament is what the British tried to impose, and what the Americans fought a war to ensure could never again happen in America. Similarly, gun licensing laws which have the purpose or effect of only allowing a minority of the people to keep and bear arms would be unconstitutional. Finally, we see that government violence, which should always be carefully constrained and controlled, should be especially discouraged when it is used to take firearms away from peaceable citizens. Use of the military for law enforcement is particularly odious to the principles upon which the American Revolution was based.

Readers interested in more detail on the role of gun rights and gun control in period leading up to the Revolution, and in the remainder of 18th century America, are encouraged to read Stephen Halbrook’s excellent book The Founders’ Second Amendment, which is the result of decades of work by Halbrook in finding primary sources of the period, including newspapers, correspondence, and diaries.

On a related topic, some readers might also be interested in my 2005 article The Religious Roots of the American Revolution and the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, detailing the role of Congregationalist and other ministers in inciting the Revolution, by explaining collective self-defense of natural and civil rights as a moral and religious obligation.

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President: “I do not believe in the Divinity of Christ.”

Posted by on Oct 08 2011 | History, Religion

The President also said that he did not believe “in the literal truth of the creed as it is recited in the orthodox evangelical churches.” He did, however, believe that Jesus had set forth an outstanding system of moral precepts.

Although the general views above were shared by Thomas Jefferson, the President quoted above was William Howard Taft, who served from 1909-13, and later as a very good Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

Americans today tend to congratulate themselves for being more tolerant and open-minded than their ancestors of a century or two ago. Yet those earlier Americans elected the great Jefferson twice, and elected Taft once. Taft is not today remembered as a great President, but he at least he did much less harm to the United States than the man who succeeded him, Woodrow Wilson.

I find it disgusting that a Gallup Poll found 22% of Americans (18% of Republicans, 19% of Independents, and 27% of Democrats) say that they would not vote for a well-qualified candidate of their party who happened to be a Mormon. That’s actually an increase compared to 17% who gave the same answer in 1967.

If some Christians want to take the theological view that Unitarians, or Mormons, or, for that matter, Catholics are not true Christians, that’s their privilege, and it’s very legitimate source of religious debate. I don’t think that whether a candidate fits a voter’s definition of orthodox Christianity is a legitimate basis for voting for a public official.

Kudos to Mitt Romney, in his speech today at the Values Voters summit, for denouncing the “poisonous language” of Bryan Fischer, another invited speaker at the event, who makes the idiotic claim that the First Amendment was not intended to protect non-Christians.

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One of These Cases Will Challenge Obamacare

Posted by on Jun 22 2011 | Health Care, health control law, Kopelization, obama, obamacare, PPC, Regulation, Religion, Religion and the Law, Taxes

In one of the most informative op-eds I have ever read, our Research Director and Law guru Dave Kopel discusses the Obamacare cases that could potentially be heard by the Supreme Court in the upcoming session, which begins in October 2011 and will end in June 2012. We’ve got several chances at getting a “writ of certiorari” to challenge Obamacare’s constitutionality and Dave is certain one of them will get the proverbial nod. As Dave explains, a writ of certiorari is the legal term used to describe the Supreme Court’s action in picking up a case to be heard.

Perhaps most interesting to me in the article is when Dave points out that one of the cases addresses an area of constitutionality that none of the others does. In most instances, the legal challenge is meant to take on Obamacare’s individual mandate via the Commerce Power and/or the Necessary and Proper Clause. But in Seven-Sky v. Holder, the plaintiffs are challenging the mandate on First Amendment grounds! Turns out, the mandate to buy “Western style” health insurance infringes on some people’s religious freedoms. I’ll let Dave explain,

All the Seven-Sky plaintiffs are individuals who, for one reason or another, have religious objections to using the standard services of western medicine. The PPACA contains no exemption for such people… They argue that the mandate violates the First Amendment’s guarantee of free exercise of religion, as protected by a federal statute called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). That 1993 law provides that the federal “Government shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability.

Isn’t that fascinating? Obamacare has some waivers and exemptions – mostly for friends of the White House and some religious groups like the Amish – but none for these folks. It will be interesting to see which of these cases the Supreme Court decides to take up. I will be doubly interested if the SCOTUS decides to take this particular First Amendment case.

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Obama is too a Christian

Posted by on Sep 01 2010 | obama, Religion

(David Kopel)

Ann Coulter’s column today argues that Obama is not a Muslim; rather, he “is obviously an atheist.” The gist of the argument is “The only evidence for Obama’s Christianity is that he faithfully attended the Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s Trinity United Church of Christ for 20 years….Attending Wright’s church is the conscious, calculated decision to immerse yourself in hate-filled demagoguery and call it ‘Christianity.’”

I disagree with both the facts and the conclusion. Coulter is accurate in calling Jeremiah Wright “a racist nut.” However, that does not prove that Wright (and by extension Obama, to whatever extent Obama believes in Wright’s theology) is not a Christian. Some practitioners of “liberation theology” (including the black liberation theology variant) may simply be Marxists looking for some broadly-appealing rhetoric to add to their political program. Other practitioners, however, may be sincerely and otherwise-orthodox Christians who truly believe in both Christianity and Marxism, and in the liberation theology fusion of the two. For example, liberation theology was popular among many Catholics in Latin America from the late 1960s until 1984, when it was condemned by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. I think it is implausible to believe that, pre-1984, the many Latin American American bishops, priests, nuns, and Catholic lay people who embraced  liberation theology were all closet atheists. It seems much more reasonable to conclude that at least some of them were orthodox Catholics who, until 1984, could consider liberation theology to be one legitimate way of expressing the Catholic faith.

Similarly, I would suggest that many of the pastors in slave states in antebellum America who taught that slavery was legitimate because of the slaves’ inherent racial inferiority were also sincere Christians, albeit grossly mistaken in their teachings on this matter.

Ergo, belief in the racist, Marxist philosophy of black liberation theology is not necessarily incompatible with being a Christian who has orthodox beliefs on most matters of Christian doctrine (e.g., the trinity, the resurrection, virgin birth, and so on).

Second, the record of President Obama’s Christianity is not limited to his record of attendance at Reverend Wright’s nut-house. For example, this year, the President spoke at a prayer breakfast on Easter Sunday, on what the resurrection means to him personally. His remarks about “the Easter celebration of our risen Savior…and what lesson I take from Christ’s sacrifice” were entirely straightforward statements of orthodox Christianity. I doubt that any normal Christian, of whatever denomination, could theologically disagree with a single word President Obama said.


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Human Events’ ridiculous “Obama the Muslim” article

Posted by on Jul 29 2010 | obama, Religion

(David Kopel)

Ronald Reagan once said that the conservative D.C. weekly Human Events was his favorite newspaper. And with good reason. Back in the 1970s and 1980s, there were few significant alternatives to the then-hegemonic MSM. Along with National Review, which was Reagan’s favorite magazine, Human Events was an essential source for stories that the MSM refused to cover, and for perspectives that the MSM shut out or marginalized. Unfortunately, a recent article in Human Events falls very far below the solid journalism standards which helped Human Events earn the respect of Reagan and so many others.

Obama The Muslim,” by  Major Gen. Jerry Curry is an article not worthy of a fifth-rate blog, let alone a serious newspaper. The latter two-thirds of the article consists of criticisms of Obama’s policies on Israel and on Arizona border security. I generally agree with those criticisms, but they provide not a shred of evidence that Obama is a Muslim. Former President Jimmy Carter is extremely hostile to Israel, and he is obviously not a Muslim. U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) is extremely hostile to border security, and he is not a Muslim. 

So let’s consider the evidence that Curry deploys in the first third of the article:

“President Obama says there is nothing more beautiful than the Muslim call to prayer in the evening.” “Obama’s father and step-father were Muslims and he spent his childhood living in a Muslim country where his school enrollment records say his religion is Islam.”

–All approximately but not precisely true. Four years of his childhood in Indonesia, plus a school record there. The actual prayer call quote is “one of the prettiest sounds on Earth at sunset,” not “nothing more beautiful.” This is a starting point for Curry’s case, but in itself, not even close to proof that Obama is currently a Muslim.

“He says that the United States was not founded as a Christian nation.”

–The same position was taken by the United States Senate in 1797 when ratifying the Treaty of Tripoli, and by President John Adams in signing the Treaty. Neither President Adams nor any of the 1797 U.S. Senators were Muslims.  Article 11 of the Treaty stated:

As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion,-as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Musselmen,-and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

“As President of the United States he genuflects to the Muslim King of Saudi Arabia but not the Christian Queen of England. He thumbs his nose at America’s friends and bows to its enemies.”

–I agree that Obama is deferential and obsequious to American enemies such a Hugo Chavez and the Iranian tyrants, and that he has been the most anti-British President of the United States in well over a century, and that he is seriously harming American relations with Poland, the Czech Republic, France, and other allies. But none of that is evidence that he’s a Muslim.

As for the Saudi king: Obama did not “genuflect.” To genuflect, in a literal sense, is to bring at least one knee to the ground, as a sign of respect. Obama did not do that. He gave the Saudi king a deep bow from the waist. I thought this was a disgusting gesture for an American President, but it’s not genuflection. (“Genuflect” can also be used in a looser sense, as behaving in a servile manner. In the article, however, Curry is plainly talking about literal physical actions.)

However, Obama bowed even lower to the Emperor and Empress of Japan. That’s not evidence that Obama is a closet Shinto.

As Curry accurately states, Obama gave only the mildest quasi-bow to Queen Elizabeth II. In light of what 1776 was all about, patriotic Americans should not criticize the American President for insufficient bowing to the British monarch. One can infer from Obama’s bowing patterns that he is anti-British, and one can see that in Japan and Saudi Arabia, he went out of his way to make gestures which made himself and our nation look weak and obsequious. The bowing is evidence that he’s a poor President, but not that he’s a closet Muslim.

According to Curry, “My mother believed in ‘common sense’ testing. She said if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, waddles like a duck and acts like a duck; it’s a duck….In short, Obama quacks like a Muslim, waddles like a Muslim and acts like a Muslim, so is he a Muslim? My mother would say, ‘Yes! He’s a Muslim through and through.’”

I’ll give Mrs. Curry more credit than that. The looks/talks/waddles test for duck identification involves three characteristics are shared by ducks and by no other animals. Mr. Curry, however, listed only characteristics which are common to some Muslims and many non-Muslims: thinks America is not a Christian nation, dislikes the British, acts obsequious around some non-British royals, is anti-Israel, is weak on border security, tries to ingratiate himself with tyrants. Curry might as well have written, “It has two eyes, lives near water, and eats fish.” Sure, it might be a duck, but it also might be a lots of other things. Such as a law school lecturer who agrees with most of the beliefs of the far-left Christian church he attended for twenty years.

Curry’s final item of alleged proof: “Growing up as a Muslim, Obama must have learned that according to the Qur’an it is acceptable to lie, deceive and live by a double standard provided in so doing one advances Islamic goals. Muslims only pretend to trust and be friends with non-Muslims; in the deepest of their Muslim hearts they have been taught that all non-Muslims are infidels.”

–Generally speaking, “must have” conjectures are not evidence of anything. For the sake of argument, let’s temporarily accept the claim that Islamic teaching sanctions lying in certain cases. Even so, there is no evidence that “Obama must have learned” this particular alleged teaching. His Muslim education did not continue past an early age. It might be plausible to presume that he was taught some elementary tenets of Islam (e.g., there is only one God; God spoke to mankind through a series of prophets, culminating in Muhammed; the Qur’an is scripture.) There is simply no evidence that the “lying to infidels is OK” theory of Islam is universally taught in Muslim education for young children, or, for that matter, to all persons who progress through a full course of Muslim religious instruction. That some Muslims teach the acceptability of lying, and that some Muslim scholars endorse this approach, does not prove that Obama “must have” been taught this particular theory.

It would usually be a sign of bad character for any elected official to proclaim his adherence to one religion while secretly adhering to a very different religion. However, Curry’s strongly-stated conclusion is not even remotely supported by the feeble and poorly-researched evidence which he cobbles together. The article should never have been published by Human Events. Of course even eminent publications such as The Atlantic can have a writer who wallows in malicious speculation based on extremely weak and poorly-considered evidence. 

Jerry Curry’s article is not proof that Human Events never produces good articles, nor is Andrew Sullivan’s Trig Trutherism proof that The Atlantic does not publish good articles. However, because reading time is finite, when I choose to read an edited periodical, I try to choose periodicals for which I have confidence that the editors have done a good job in selecting reliable, credible columnists. Accordingly, Human Events’ retention of Curry as a columnist, like The Atlantic’s  retention of Sullivan, often make me choose to prioritize reading other periodicals instead.


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