How about showing a little respect?

I am disappointed that “students” decided to walk out of a speech by the Vice President of these United States when he spoke at Notre Dame University. But here is something that I do not understand. A major factor in the walkout was anger over Pence’s policies as governor of Indiana, and Pence’s views on abortion and homosexuality. But why would anyone who is angered and “offended” by someone who holds a view consistent with the Roman Catholic Church’s doctrine on abortion and homosexuality ever attend a Catholic university in the first place?

How about showing a little respect? Like him or not, Mike Pence is the Vice President of these United States, the second-in-command of our nation. Previous to that, Pence was elected governor of our state. It should be an honor that the person speaking to you is someone who has held these important offices. Whatever you think of Pence and his policies, you should at least respect the offices of Governor and Vice President that Pence held and holds, respectively.

Why not listen to what he has to say? What is the harm done by respectfully listening to our former governor and current Vice President? I have met Mike Pence in person and he is one of the nicest, most humble men I have ever had the privilege of speaking with. Everyone I know who works with him speaks very highly of him. Who knows? You might hear a perspective you had not considered before and you might even learn something. Is that not the entire purpose of attending a university in the first place? Do you think that because you are graduating, you have no more to learn? I can promise you, nearly 20 years after my own graduation from college, that is not the case.

You have embarrassed your university and your state with this show of disrespect. You do not realize it, but you have embarrassed yourselves too. Behaving in such a disrespectful manner will not endear you to future employers, especially if you continue to behave like this in the real world.

With government money comes government strings

As someone who graduated from a Christian high school twenty-five years ago, I am deeply concerned about vouchers for private schools. This concern was underscored by the Washington Post’s reporting on questions by Rep. Katherine Clark about schools being punished for not enrolling children from families engaged in sexual rebellion.

Rep. Clark targeted Lighthouse Christian Academy in Bloomington, Indiana. This is of special interest to me as I have friends who are administrators, alumni, and parents at that school.

With government money comes government strings. Eventually, those strings will be woven into a rope that will be used to lynch religious liberty. Christian schools are already seeing this threat, as represented by Rep. Clark and others. I fear students being denied the wonderful opportunity I had to get a Biblically sound Christian education due to meddling politicians using government money as a weapon instead of as a tool to enhance educational opportunities.

Rep. Clark’s targeting of Lighthouse is typically dishonest political misdirection. School vouchers in Indiana are a state program, not a federal program. Does Rep. Clark understand the difference between a state program and a federal program, or does she simply not care?

Lighthouse’s standards are boringly normal orthodox Christian doctrine on sexual morality that has been in place for two thousand years. That standard will be in place long after Rep. Clark is gone. The Biblical standard is one man and one woman in a lifetime, monogamous marriage. Lighthouse is right to uphold this standard.

Meat is not murder

Note: I originally posted this on July 29, 2008

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals recently scolded singer Jessica Simpson for wearing the shirt to the right, as a PETA spokesperson proclaimed “Jessica Simpson might have a right to wear what she wants, but she doesn’t have a right to eat what she wants – eating meat is about suffering and death.” PETA supporter and actress Pamela Anderson displayed how tolerant she is of opposing views by calling Simpson obscene names.

I really do not care about what celebrities are doing from moment to moment, but the Simpson/PETA dustup created an interesting window into what the “animal rights” organization believes. By proclaiming that Simpson “doesn’t have a right to eat what she wants”, is PETA saying that eating meat should be illegal? I sent PETA an email on Sunday with a straightforward question: “Does PETA support criminalizing meat?”

The position that “meat is murder” was the reasoning behind a recent protest on the Indiana University campus, where two women, wearing nothing from the waist up and wearing only briefs from the waist down, posed on two huge Styrofoam trays and were covered with plastic wrap and fake blood. This was meant to illustrate that eating animals is, morally speaking, no different that cannibalism. But is it?

PETA believes that human beings are no more special than other mammals, and that animals should have the same rights as human beings. Ingrid Newkirk, President of PETA, once famously said, “a rat is a pig is a dog is a boy.” But anyone with the most basic knowledge of nature knows that animals eat other animals. Some animals, like lions or wolves, instinctively hunt for prey, catching, killing and eating animals that are unable to escape being a meal.

This leads to an obvious question: Is it immoral for a lion to kill and eat another animal? If the answer is “no”, the follow-up question is also obvious: Why is it moral for a lion to eat other animals, but it is not immoral for human beings to do the same thing? There are only two possible answers to those two questions. Either it is just as immoral for animals in the wild to kill and eat other animals as it is for humans to do the same thing, or human beings hold a special status in nature that puts us on a higher moral plane than the animal kingdom. The second option is in direct conflict with the stated beliefs of PETA.

Either man is on the same moral level as animals or he is not. It is just that simple. If man is on the same level as animals, then eating meat is not immoral. As a Christian, I believe that man is a special creature, created in the image of God as described in Genesis 1:26-27 and Genesis 9:6. I also believe that we are to be good stewards of what God has given to us, and cruelty to animals is therefore wrong. PETA also (disingenuously) appeals to Christian doctrine, but does so with the blasphemous lie that Jesus was a vegetarian.

PETA does some good things, especially as it relates to exposing the cruelty that takes place in bringing fur to the market. PETA does a public service by bringing to mind images that society often finds uncomfortable. But that good things PETA does are negated by the extremist stances they take, such as the logically unsound position that eating meat is immoral or their opposition to life-saving biomedical research. PETA has even defended eco-terrorists such as the Animal Liberation front, which famously firebombed Sims Poultry in Bloomington. This kind of fanaticism destroys PETA’s credibility as a legitimate animal “rights” organization.

Will "christians" finally admit Trump’s character flaws?

I have been pleased with Donald Trump’s policies as President, especially his pro-life policies and his rollbacks of regulations on business. If the 2020 general election were held today, I would vote to re-elect Trump.

With that said:

Can the “christians” who displayed cult-like devotion to him in 2016 finally admit that Donald Trump has major character flaws? He is arrogant, he is extremely thin skinned, he is prone to lying, he worships money and wealth, and he is very sexually immoral.

We can support the man in the office of President and admit that he is a very flawed, immoral man. And he is most certainly not a Christian. Refusing to admit someone’s faults because he is your political party’s top leader is not party loyalty. It is a cult mentality and it is idolatry. If you are a “christian” refusing to admit to those faults is a betrayal of the Savior who bled and died for you.

Worse yet, many “christians” now say that if a candidate had committed adultery, they would not have a problem voting for him, which is a reversal of what these “christians” believed just a few short years ago and certainly a reversal of Republican criticisms of Bill Clinton. The elevation of Trump to be the Republican Party’s standard bearer is almost certainly the driving force behind this change, which means that “christians” put the Republican Party over God’s Moral Law. Again, this is a cult mentality.

The election is over. Hillary Clinton is politically dead and is completely irrelevant. Therefore, the “Hillary is worse” meme needs to be permanently retired. The “binary choice” meme is dead.

Random observation

As much as I like my smartphone and all of the things it does, I must admit that my old flip phone worked better as a phone than the smartphone does. With the smartphone, I have to look at the screen to answer it. With the flip phone, I just open it up and put it to my ear without looking at it. The flip phone was also easier to dial without looking at the screen because you can dial by touch.

Dorothy Granger should recuse herself

There is no reason that Planned Parenthood clinic escort Dorothy Granger should not recuse herself from the vote to fund Planned Parenthood next month. It is very shady for a member of a legislative body to continually use her position as an elected official to funnel financial resources to the organization where she works.

Because she is a volunteer, Granger is probably not legally required to recuse herself. She does not personally financially benefit from her vote. But does anyone really think that all of the other organizations that apply for funding from the city council are being given a fair shake? Of course not. Planned Parenthood is obviously getting preferential treatment from the city council. This has been the case for 18 years, but has been even more obvious (and more shady) since Granger joined the city council in 2012.

There is literally no reason for Granger not to recuse herself from this vote. There is no downside for her, the council, Planned Parenthood, or the other organizations who are applying for funds. The funding package will pass unanimously as it does every year without even a single dissenting vote. Granger’s vote is not needed to pass anything. If Granger wants to vote for the funding for the other organizations, the council could split the funding package and consider Planned Parenthood separately. This is what the county council does every year.

Recusing herself from voting to fund the organization where she works would be a welcome move to demonstrate a strong commitment to ethics and basic fairness to the other organizations, with no councilor having a conflict of interest. There is a significant upside and no downside. Why is Granger continuing to be so petulant that she refuses to take this ethical step?

Of course there should be limits on home rule

Printed in the Herald-Times, May 23, 2017

Nobody believes in absolute home rule for local government, so we need to stop pretending that home rule is a standard that must be adhered to. Home rule is not the same as state sovereignty, and there are good reasons to limit home rule in certain areas. We need to have the discernment to recognize the reasons for these restrictions.

First, state sovereignty is not the same as home rule. The federal government was created by and is an agent of the states, and the states were very reluctant to give significant power to the federal government – and with good reason. The federal government should be the servant of the states, not vice versa. In Indiana, local government’s authority flows from the state. In both cases, the state is sovereign, so it is not “hypocritical” to demand more state sovereignty while restricting home rule.

Since state sovereignty and local home rule are different issues, the same arguments do not apply to both. It demonstrates an unfortunate ignorance of history and our system of government to be applying the same arguments on state sovereignty and federal power to issues of local government’s authority.

The law is a blunt instrument, often unable to deal with nuance and unable to predict destructive consequences of policy. But to politicians, the law is the primary instrument they have, and when you have a hammer everything looks like a nail. This is why politicians at all levels of government tend to embrace restricting our liberty and regulating our behavior at home and at work. They may be trying to solve problems in good faith, but harmful policy is still harmful.

This is where a greater magistrate must sometimes step in to protect the rights of the people, especially when the tyranny of the majority threatens the livelihood, property, or basic rights of the minority. No city in Indiana is allowed to ban racial minorities from their city limits, yet no one complains about this violation of home rule. We all support restrictions on home rule, so the question is not whether there should be limits on home rule. The question is what those limits should be.

If our local civil magistrate will not listen to our voices, or if the majority of the local population supports increased restrictions on our liberty, then we must sometimes appeal to the state legislature to restrict the authority of local government to protect the basic rights of our state’s citizens. In either case, democracy is working. These restrictions on home rule, then, are examples of libertarian governance.

In fact, every county and city must submit their financial records to the state for audit. This protects the taxpayers by ensuring that money is being spent legally.

There are a number of good policy reasons for the state legislature to limit the authority of local government. If certain communities pass burdensome regulations on businesses that operate statewide, it makes it more difficult for that business to know the rules community to community. Either they will avoid the regulation-happy community or, worse yet, they may not expand in the state at all. This harms all of us through lost economic opportunity and lost consumer choice.

It is true that the government that is most responsive to the needs of the people is the government that is closest to the people. Local officials live in our communities, they are our neighbors, they are the most accessible, and they see our community’s problems up close. Therefore, they should have authority to govern locally. That power is not and must not be unlimited, however.

Thoughts on racism and criminal justice reform

We badly need criminal justice reform, and one of the areas where we need reform is mandatory minimum sentences for various crimes. As Rand Paul pointed out, we have seen far too many injustices resulting from mandatory minimums. This is why we are not only seeing bipartisan agreement on reforming mandatory minimums, but agreement across the ideological spectrum, from right to left and everywhere in between. Not everyone agrees, including President Donald Trump’s attorney general.

We should not ignore the context for mandatory minimums though. These laws came about at least in part because of concern that judges were far too lenient with some criminals. When judges fail in their duty to protect the general public by letting murderers and psychopaths walk free to kill, maim and rape again, there is going to be a reaction against that failure. Mandatory minimums are that reaction.

The problem is that the law is a very blunt instrument. Some cases require a harsher punishment, but in other cases a less severe punishment is called for. A judge with wisdom and discernment would be able to make those distinctions, but harsh mandatory minimums take away this discretion and put people behind bars for far longer than they should be there. This doesn’t just unjustly harm the person going to prison, but unjustly harms their families and communities.

That said, this is not necessarily racism. A disparate impact is not proof that the goal is to harm blacks, or that supporters of mandatory minimums believe blacks are inherently more violent or dangerous.

Some have argued the War on Drugs itself (which produced so many of the mandatory minimums) is thinly-veiled racism. It is not. Much of the concern over drugs (especially among black leaders) is the destruction drugs and drug-fueled violence did to black communities. That is the opposite of racism.

But while the War on Drugs itself is not racist, Are there aspects of the war on drugs that are heavily tinged with racism? Of course there are. Marijuana criminalization was pushed by appealing to racist fears of blacks and Hispanics, and more myths of black “cocaine fiends” were used to push harsher punishments (especially for crack cocaine) in the 1980’s. We should not be blind to this history.

But after decades of the War on Drugs and mandatory minimums being so common that many just reflexively support them, we need to be very careful in assigning nefarious motivations that make bipartisan reforms more difficult by inflaming partisan divisions. When you call someone a racist, the opportunity for dialogue is over as they switch into self-defense mode. You cannot convince someone when you attack in that manner.

Donald Trump threatens to reverse, derail or at least stall efforts at reforming the War on Drugs generally and mandatory minimum sentences specifically. But there is still enough support for reform on the Right to keep moving forward. Making the issue needlessly partisan and launching needless assaults on people’s character is not the way to maintain that support.

Are Leftists genuinely committed to criminal justice reform? If so, they need to resist the urge to play the “racism” card. The federal government is controlled by Republicans and most of the states are controlled by Republicans. It is simply not possible to get reforms through without help from conservative and libertarian-leaning Republicans who recognize the harm that these policies have caused.

Can we please not waste this opportunity? Lives are at stake here!