First and Foremost

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

The first thing you read on this page is the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.  It’s pretty straightforward if you ask me, but others seem to have allowed confusion to set in.

The confusion I am referencing surrounds the suspension by A&E of “Duck Dynasty” star Phil Robertson for comments he made during an interview with GQ.  Mr. Robertson is certainly entitled to his opinion, there’s no doubt about that.  Conservatives from Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal to former half-Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin are being very critical of the suspension, claiming that A&E is curtailing Mr. Robertson’s First Amendment rights.

They are wrong.

Just as Mr. Robertson has the right to his opinion and to voice said opinion, A&E has the right to suspend or fire him for voicing his opinion.  Last I checked, A&E is not Congress, and as such is not bound to allow anybody who represents their network to speak freely on any topic.  In this case, A&E is the employer, and Mr. Robertson is their employee.  A&E has a brand to protect, and if they think that a representative of their brand (Mr. Robertson) is not casting them in the light they feel is appropriate, they can respond in any manner they see fit.  Free enterprise, if you will.

I find it oddly ironic that people like Jindal and Palin constantly rail against “government intrusion” into our lives and into private enterprise, yet want to criticize A&E for acting as an entity in the free market.  You cannot have it both ways.

That’s Just Sad

“There were some on my side who did not want to be seen helping the president do something he wanted to get done, just because the president wanted to do it.” (source)

The quote above is from Senator Pat Toomey, a Republican from Pennsylvania.  He is referring to the real reason why the bill he and Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat from neighboring West Virginia submitted failed.  The two worked together in a way that a rational citizen would expect members of Congress to work and put a bill that would have expanded background checks on gun purchases.  It was a rational proposal that, contrary to what many screamed, did nothing to infringe on any rights from the Constitution, especially the Second Amendment.  The bill did not spell out that people could not own guns, just expanded and strengthened the background check process.  My thinking is that if you have nothing to hide, why should you worry?

It is the sad state of the politics of our country that we have a political party that will defeat a common-sense bill purely out of their vile hatred of President Obama.  I won’t even say that it was done out of some sort of racist, birther, or other reason because I doubt that Republicans in Congress have the brain power or capacity to even form those types of idiotic thoughts; it was done out of pure hatred and nothing else.  Since the day he took office for his first term (and I point that part out because it eats at Republicans that he won a second term), the one goal of the Republican Party has been to obstruct everything.  The majority no longer rules in our country, thanks to one party.

Over the last two weeks or so, I have also followed closely the coverage of the search for and then capture of the scumbags that bombed the Boston Marathon.  It was an act of pure  cowardice, and I would not have shed a tear had the piece of garbage in custody had met the same fate as his brother, but he did not.  And because he did not, when coupled with the fact that he is an American citizen, he is afforded his rights under the Constitution.  Yes, he was able to be questioned under the “public safety exception,” which meant it was not required that he be read his rights.  I point that out for one reason, and that is that, ever since he has been in custody, I have seen people commenting on articles and they basically state that he should not have any rights at all.  Wrong.

I get the uproar and anger over what he took part in.  But we cannot let that anger manifest itself in a way that espouses eliminating the rights of an American citizen.  However, the same people who so proudly want to defend their right to bear arms are generally the ones wanting to take away someone else’s right to due process.  You cannot have it both ways, but they do not seem to realize that.  And that is sad as well.

The rights afforded to us in the Constitution are not ones that we get to pick-and-choose based on our whims or emotions.  If you want to tout the Second Amendment, you have to acknowledge the Fifth Amendment.  That is how it goes.  The fact that people do not understand that is scary to me.  The same people who want to defend their Second Amendment rights are quick to take a leak on the Fifth Amendment in this case; other times, they want to circumvent the First Amendment and establish a national religion.  It does not work like that, either, and if you do not understand that, I am sad for you.

 

Starting To Get It

I have to admit, when I first saw that Republican Ohio Senator Rob Portman had changed his stance on gay marriage, I figured he was a candidate for what has become my “Hypocritical Much?” series.  Portman had previously come out (no pun intended) against gay marriage, only to change his stance after his son revealed to him that he was gay.

But, I always like to dive a little deeper into stories like this, just so I can be sure to be fair and present most accurate information that I can.  So, I went ahead and read the article, which you can read as well by clicking here.

Generally speaking, when you hear or read about people coming out (again, no pun intended) against gay marriage, the argument tends to center on how gay marriage erodes at the foundation of marriage and family, or how it goes against someone’s interpretation of the Bible.  And, oddly enough, Rob Portman provided a great quote on exactly those two reasons that people cite as why they are against gay marriage.

Portman said that he “considered his Christian faith” and then continued with this:

“…in a way, this strengthens the institution of marriage.”

“The overriding message of love and compassion that I take from the Bible, and certainly from the Golden Rule, and that fact that I believe we are all created by our maker, that has all influenced me in terms of my change on this issue.”

I think he hit the nail squarely on the head when he said that the “overriding message of love and compassion” he takes from the Bible were strong influences in him changing his position.  He even had the nerve to say he believed that gay marriage “strengthens the institution of marriage.”  Well done, Mr. Portman!

Personally, I am all for gay marriage.  I don’t believe that it is any religion’s right to dictate who can or cannot get married, especially considering that before I got married, I had to apply to the state for a marriage license, not to a church.  I performed a wedding last fall, and I am performing a wedding next month, and I am not a member of the clergy, yet each of these marriages will be legal in the eyes of the State of Florida.  How can marriage be religiously defined when someone (me) who is not a member of the clergy can legally perform a ceremony?  If one chooses to adhere to the view that marriage should be defined by what religion says, then I believe that they must also hold the view that only clergy can perform a ceremony.  Yet there is not a single state among our 50 in which it is required for wedding ceremonies to be performed by a member of the clergy.  As for gay marriage, since there is no religious requirement to enter into what is basically a legal contract between two consenting adults.  I do not see how the argument can be made that gay marriage weakens the “institution of marriage” at all; I have friends who are gay and have been married in states that are not close-minded and allowed them to do so, and their marriage is in no way undermining or weakening my marriage.  In fact, their marriage has no bearing whatsoever on my marriage.

When people use the “weakening of marriage” argument, is it possible that they are really saying that their particular marriage maybe isn’t as strong as it should be?  Why would the marital status of anybody be of concern to anybody else?  Like I wrote above, gay marriage does nothing to erode at my marriage, nor does it undermine what Amber and I teach our daughter.  Gay marriage does not erode at the foundation of my family.  Other friends of mine who are gay (not the same couple I mentioned above) will have, once they are married, a combined family with four children.  And having seen the love they have for those four kids, I can safely say that the sexual orientation of the parents makes no negative impact in the way they are raising those kids.

It is time for our country to get out of the Dark Ages, and realize that our First Amendment and the whole “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion” extends to our laws regarding marriage.  By restricting the rights of gay people to get married, Congress, by default, is yielding to religious doctrine, which is just short of fully endorsing or establishing a national religion, which would be in clear violation of the First Amendment.  (We can save the whole “we were founded on Christian principles” myth/argument for another time.)

Kudos to Republican Senator Rob Portman of Ohio for finally starting to get it.  All it took was the discrimination he was supporting to hit close to home to open his eyes.  Sometimes the path to doing the right thing is long and circuitous, but once his eyes were opened, he saw the light.

No Place

Since 1954, there has been a law on the books banning charities, non-profits, and churches from specifically endorsing political candidates or parties.  It is part of what helps them keep favor with the IRS as tax-exempt entities.

Apparently, some pastors feel that the law does not apply to them.  Many have been actively endorsing candidates in this election cycle, and, not surprisingly, an overwhelming majority have encouraged their congregation to back Mitt Romney.  I don’t believe that people attend church to be told who to vote for.  And people then express shock and indignation when a lot of people become alienated from the church and from religion.  For example, if I were a member of Abundant Life Worship Center in Midland, Texas, and I heard Pastor Ken Redmond, from the pulpit, say, “Here is your choice: a Mormon or a Muslim,” I would have gotten up and left.  Not because I am a supporter of President Obama (I am), but because I would have realized that he crossed the line in injecting religion into politics.

Now, I imagine I might get a comment or two to the effect that states that we are a “Christian nation” and founded on Christian beliefs.  Those comments would be inaccurate.  Don’t take my word for it, check out what the 1796 Treaty with Tripoli says:

Art. 11. 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 tranquillity, of Mussulmen;
and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against
any Mahometan 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.

But what do our Founders know, right?  I mean, if they wanted us to be considered a Christian nation, wouldn’t they have included words like “Jesus Christ,” “Christianity,” “Bible,” “Creator,” “Divine,” and “God” in the Constitution?  While you will find “God” and “Creator” in the Declaration of Independence, that particular document was just that:  one that declared us independent from the British crown.

It is thought that most of our Founders were deists, meaning that they believed the universe had a creator, but that he does not concern himself with the daily lives of humans, and does not directly communicate with humans, either by revelation or by sacred books (source).  If this is true, then they deliberately wrote the Constitution so as not to include laws based off of religion.

I reside in the school of thought that says that we have a separation of church and state in our country for a reason.  We have no established national religion.  Our Founding Fathers, having been descendents of those who came to this country to escape religious governance, would have not then turned around and imposed religious governance on the people, at least in my opinion.  Our First Amendment is a wonderful thing in that it established our freedom of religion and also freedom from religion.  To me, that means that people have the right to worship how they choose, and also people have the right to not worship if they so choose.

I would like to see the IRS revoke the tax exempt status from any church that can be proven to have waded into the political waters.  And that goes not only for churches who endorse Mitt Romney, but those who endorsed President Obama.

Just Wondering, Again…

Sometimes, I just cannot help myself, so I starting wondering about stuff again.  For the second time this week.  A new record!  So, I was just wondering:

*If the stock market is an indicator of how strong or weak our economy is, and people want to know if we are better off now than four years ago, what do the numbers say?
I am so glad you asked.  On January 20, 2009, the day Barack Obama was inaugurated as the 44th President of the United States, the market closed at 7,949.09, having lost 332.13 points that day.  And because I tend to be a straight-line thinker when it comes to comparing numbers, I figured a good apples-to-apples comparison would be to look at what the market closed at yesterday.  On October 4, 2012, the market closed at 13,494.61.  Unless I am missing something, yesterday’s number is more than the number that represents January 20, 2009; in fact, it is 5,545.52 more, or close to 70% higher.

*But then I thought that people would say that “no, the market is not the only indicator of the strength or weakness of our economy,” and that I should consider the unemployment rate.
Fair enough.  The rate for January 2009 was 7.6% and rising.  Not good.  The latest numbers were just released today for September 2012, and the number is at 7.8% and falling.  Instead of shedding jobs, jobs are being added.  Slowly, and not at a large enough clip, but being added nonetheless.

*For all the talk about gay marriage tearing apart traditional families, should I be concerned that my family is going to be torn apart any day now?
Here is why I wonder that.  We watch MSNBC quite frequently in our house (more so than we watch CNN, which we do watch), and for the longest time thought that one of their anchors, Thomas Roberts, did a pretty good job at reporting news items.  And since we like Thomas Roberts, and he is a married gay man, does that mean that our family is torn apart or is tearing apart?  I don’t think it does.  Since I do not have many gay friends, and the ones I do have are not married, that is pretty much my only frame of reference.  Now, before I get all kinds of comments or lessons on the Biblical nature of marriage, I want to point something out: those who do not identify themselves as Christians are allowed, by law, to get married.  People are frequently married at their local city hall, and they are legally married.  I officiated a wedding in August, and the couple is legally married, even though I am not authorized by any church to marry people; I am only bound by the laws of Florida, which allow me, as a notary, to conduct a marriage ceremony.  Maybe this will be a simple approach that I am taking, but I will try to make it easy to follow:  if we are to define marriage as the Biblical definition (one man, one woman), are all marriages not performed either in a church or by a pastor or priest who has been ordained and has studied at a seminary or likewise received formal religious training, shouldn’t those performed by a mere notary then be deemed invalid?  If our country really does believe in the First Amendment, and that we will have no nationally established religion, what about those who do not practice religion?  Are they now unable to be married?  If so, does that not violate the First Amendment and thus establish a religious test to enter into what amounts to a legal contract?  Personally, I really do not care if gay people want to get married, and I know my view will rub some of my friends the wrong way, but I own it.  The fact that Thomas Roberts, or any other gay person gets married, has little to no impact on me or my family, so why should I care?  I really do not see myself as fit to judge another person, and I will not judge gay people for getting married; I will leave judgement to God, for He is more qualified than me to judge other people.  I am not going to focus on trying to change everyone else.  Nope, I am going to focus on being the best person that I can be, and, together with my wife, help shape our daughter into being the best person that she can be.

*Beginning the past January, we had a pretty mild winter, and I was convinced the summer would be brutal.  It turns out that while it was hot, it was not as bad as I expected.  What does that mean?
Does that mean that since our summer was wet, and not has hot as expected, that our upcoming winter will be colder than the last one?  I hope it is.  I am not a fan of the heat, and really like when it is cold outside; it’s not like we can use our pool right now anyway, not with a water temperature around 72 degrees.  No thanks.