Posts Tagged truth

Trashing a Self-Evident Truth: Lancaster Atheist launches assault on first amendment rights


As the nation celebrates Independence Day the assault on our rights and freedoms continues on a scale virtually unparalleled in the history of the republic. The Declaration of Independence begins with the premise that “all men are created equal” and that “they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.” Yes, in those days it was politically correct to refer to the Creator. Moreover, the framers of the declaration posited the unique position that our rights are granted to us by that Creator, and not by king, queen or any governmental power.

Erosion of our freedoms is taking many forms. The Supreme Court of the United States has now ruled constitutional the ability of Congress to enact penalizing taxes to force us into compliance with a wildly unpopular health care law.   Closer to home, a Lancaster atheist – backed by an ultra-left wing national group – has taken aim at our religious liberties.

Catalyst for this latest assault is a promotion being run by the Lost Cajun Kitchen restaurant in Columbia, Lancaster County. How, you might ask, could a restaurant in an all-American community like Columbia become embroiled in a religious liberty dispute? It seems the Lost Cajun Kitchen offers customers who show up with a church bulletin a discount on their meals. The restaurant’s co-owner Sharon Prudhomme told a local newspaper the discount was designed to drum up business in that conservative, religiously-oriented county.

Enter John Wolff. Or, rather, not enter John Wolff. Without even having set foot in the establishment the self-professing atheist claims to have been offended by the church bulletin discount offer. He learned about it on the Internet, apparently while surfing the web in search of drumming up a problem that doesn’t exist. Having become so offended by the Lost Cajun Kitchen’s promotion he, with the help of something called the Freedom From Religion Foundation, filed a complaint with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission.

So there you have it: a man who had never heard of a privately-owned restaurant, and who never set foot in it, filing a complaint with a government agency claiming his “freedom from religion” has been violated. This means the Prudhomme’s will have to defend themselves to a state agency. This will take time and money away from running their business all over a person who never was, and likely never will be a customer.

Let’s begin with the obvious: the Lost Cajun Kitchen is a private business. The radical atheist movement has long fought to trample the right of Christians and other those of other religions by limiting our ability to place symbols of our faith or utter prayers in the public square. Having met with considerable success in that effort, they are now moving on to private venues. Could it be much longer before they are “offended” by the Catholic church, the Jewish synagogue or the Muslim mosque on Main Street? The Prudhomme’s own the business, no tax dollars are involved (other than the many layers of taxes their business pays TO the government), and nobody is compelled to enter the restaurant. Dining there is a private transaction between private individuals and they have an absolute constitutional right to market their facility anyway they like.

But deeper and more sinister forces are at play. John Wolff, along with his fellow anti-religion activists, seek not just to secure their right not to worship, but they seek to stamp out the rights of anybody who adheres to a religion. This is based on the fallacy that the constitution erects a “wall of separation” between government and religion. It does not; it merely prohibits the government from establishing an official religion. It is an establishment clause, NOT a separation clause.

Given that the founders recognized our rights come from the “Creator,” and that the right to freely practice (or not to practice) any religion an individual wants was ensconced in the Bill of Rights, such frivolous actions like the Wolff complaint to the Human Relations Commission, represent a trampling of such rights not the enforcement of them.

Thomas Jefferson, primary author of the Declaration of Independence, once observed that “eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.” John Wolff and the Freedom From Religion Foundation are the latest threats to that liberty. More is at stake here than a discount on dinner. It is the latest battle in our “eternal vigilance” over our God-given right to worship as we please.

As for me, the next time I visit Lancaster County, with church bulletin in hand I will stop for dinner at the Lost Cajun Kitchen. I urge you to do the same.

(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal. His e-mail address is lhenry@lincolninstitute.org.)

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The Voter ID Race Card: Common sense, not race-baiting should prevail


A few weeks ago my wife and I travelled to Arizona to visit family for holidays. When we arrived at the airport we were required to show a photo ID to check our luggage. We again had to show photo ID to the TSA (Transportation Safety Administration) agents who then performed more invasive procedures. Upon arriving in Phoenix, we were required to again show a photo ID to pick up our rental car.

When my son applied for a job working at a local convenience store, the employer required not just a photo ID, but also a copy of his birth certificate. (Something not required to become President of the United States.) I was with my sister when she made a credit card purchase, the store clerk asked to see her driver’s license, a form of photo ID.

Were any of the folks who asked for our photo identification racists? Likely they were not. They were simply verifying our identity in order to process a transaction. It is a normal, everyday occurrence. Except when we go to a polling place to vote. There, in Pennsylvania as in many other states, no proof of identification is required.

The Pennsylvania Voter Identification Protection Act sponsored by State Representative Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler) has passed the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and is now being considered by the state senate. The new law would require voters to present a photo ID. A driver’s license or other state issued identification card provided free of charge would be accepted.

Voter fraud is a clear and present danger in Pennsylvania. In the last presidential election cycle there were numerous allegations of voter registration abuse and fraud, many involving the radical group known as A.C.O.R.N. The U.S. Department of Justice under President Obama turned a blind eye to the complaints. The system literally lacks competent oversight.

This places the very integrity of our national electoral process in jeopardy. Without appropriate safeguards we cannot be confident that the outcome – especially of close elections – is accurate and fraud-free. Think back to 2000 when a handful of votes in Florida determined who would become President of the United States. We must do everything we can to ensure that the nation would have confidence in the outcome should such a close vote occur in Pennsylvania.

Requiring photo ID to vote makes so much sense it calls into question the motives of those who oppose it. The sad truth is that some benefit from the current lax system of voter verification and believe it to be to their electoral advantage to preserve the status quo. Lacking any valid intellectual argument for their position, they have resorted to playing the race card.

Frankly, it is demeaning to any minority to suggest that they are incompetent to the point of being unable to acquire a simple ID card. Assistance can be rendered through human services agencies for those who are mentally challenged, elderly, or immobile. But it is hardly more racist to require a photo ID to vote than it is to require a photo ID to stay at a motel or use a credit card.

The Obama Justice Department under Attorney General Eric Holder has gone to court fighting a new photo ID law in South Carolina. But such laws have already been upheld as Constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court. The basis for the judicial review was a similar law in the state of Indiana, after which Metcalfe patterned the Pennsylvania statute. Holder is simply trying to delay the implementation of voter fraud prevention efforts already given a stamp of approval from the highest court in the land.

With Pennsylvania’s April primary rapidly approaching and a presidential General Election upcoming in November the time has come for a voter ID law to be put into effect here in Penn’s Woods. Only then can we the people have confidence that our electoral system is free of voter fraud and the winners have been honestly elected.

(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal. His e-mail address is lhenry@lincolninstitute.org.)

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Scott Paterno Commentary: The Uncomfortable Truth


A few weeks before he announced his own run for the White House, Gov. Perry made the following statement: “Our friends in New York six weeks ago passed a statute that said marriage can be between two people of the same sex. And you know what? That’s New York, and that’s their business, and that’s fine with me. That is their call. If you believe in the 10th Amendment, stay out of their business.”
 
It is a simple view of the 10th Amendment and one that certainly has merit: individual states should be left to their own devices on matters that are not, to paraphrase the Amendment, expressly delegated to the Federal Government. As Gov. Perry correctly notes, that includes the definition of marriage, among other things; absent a Constitutional amendment, the States have jurisdiction.
 
The wording of the amendment is important. It reads: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” It is often referred to as “the reserved powers clause” because of its distinct wording; it limited federal constitutional powers to those powers specifically delegated while the remainders – everything else – were “reserved to the States.”
 
The history of the Republic is marked by the battles over the reserved and delegated powers, on issues ranging from slavery to abortion, from apple grading to building codes. The Founders meant it that way, and intentionally left the larger swath of political unknowns to the states. They did this so that new policies could to be tested on a smaller scale while respecting local mores and customs.
 
The system is genius. As Franklin noted, it set up each state as an incubator of policy ideas, allowing failures to be limited in scope while the very best policies could be replicated by other states.
 
That is why Governor Perry’s position on the 10th Amendment is correct – but it is also why his attack on Romneycare rings so hollow.
 
This is not a specific defense of Romneycare; on the contrary, I dislike the law and there are many aspects that were failures. But, bluntly, that is exactly what is supposed to happen – states are supposed to try and fail in the hopes that they will occasionally succeed. This allows our society to benefit from the testing of any number of new policy ideas while significantly limiting national risk in the event an attempt does fail.
 
Think about it in these terms: does anyone think that uninsured people aren’t an issue we, as a society, should try and address? The cost of mandatory treatment for uninsured people at hospitals makes the economics alone a sufficient basis for the attempt. In 2006 most of us – myself included – wanted to see states try new options to mitigate this obvious problem.
 
When then Gov. Romney took a swing at the problem he did so with the right intentions – he built a plan that fit his constituency in the hopes of solving a problem all but the most cynical see. It was not a plan for Pennsylvania, Hawaii or Texas – it was a plan for Massachusetts. 
 
The legislation’s results were mixed; fewer children are uninsured but the plan was unwieldy and expensive. The country learned from the experience, even if the Obama administration did not; state governments did not adopt the Massachusetts plan. And it is hardly the fault of the former Governor of Massachusetts if a subsequent President tried to force a state plan on the entire nation while dramatically expanding the original plan’s scope.
 
No one – not even Perry – is arguing that the people of Massachusetts didn’t get what they wanted when the legislature adopted a version of universal care. And, at the same time Massachusetts was setting its policy, the people from “the State of Texas” were able to keep their system – a result 10th amendment purists should applaud. The system worked exactly as the Founders intended.
 
Governor Perry, as his remarks on gay marriage demonstrate, knows this. His attacks on Governor Romney over a valid state issue are therefore politically crass and disingenuous.
 
But even more than that, the attempt to score cheap points shows the lack of perspective many sense in the current governor of Texas. After all, we want states to experiment with new ideas and ways to try and solve problems we all know exist. If we make the price of such failure the end of later ambition aren’t we dooming ourselves to repeating the same problems again and again? Put another way, if we place such a huge disincentive on trying new things, aren’t we simply limiting ourselves to the failed ideas of the past?
 
The 10th Amendment encourages the opposite. Governor Romney understood this and was willing to take a chance and see if there wasn’t something better than the status quo.
 
Did it work? Not the way he’d hoped. But the attempt was and remains important, as does the critical lesson – that the states are the place to try these new solutions. Let the states try and fail (until we succeed) as the constitution intended. One size does not fit all.
 
That is why Governor Perry is in such a bind – he needs to attack Gov. Romney for passing universal healthcare when in reality he knows that this is exactly what the 10th Amendment he champions contemplates. He understands the fundamental difference between Romneycare and Obamacare has always been this simple: Romneycare is a state level solution envisioned by the 10th Amendment and welcomed by the constituents it serves; Obamacare is a federal mess imposed through questionably democratic means on a populace who doesn’t want it.
 
The next 4-8 years will present any number of new and nearly intractable problems, ranging from emerging threats to economic upheaval. Solutions will be proposed at all levels of government – exactly as our federal system envisioned. Some of these ideas will succeed while even more will likely fail. But the attempts are desperately needed, and the solution to our big problems will remain elusive as long as we don’t have encourage and foster those attempts.
 
That is what the 10th Amendment envisioned. Do we really want a leader so hidebound by rhetoric that he cannot see the larger principle? Can we afford a leader who will only “stick to his guns” when circumstances ultimately (and inevitably) change? And can we truly call such a person a “leader?”
 
After all, isn’t that what we have now, and isn’t that what we are seeking to replace?
 
I’m Scott Paterno, and that is the uncomfortable truth.

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