Challenging Assumptions

I was recently removed from a Facebook discussion after I challenged a cherished axiom of social/political/theological juncture.  (And no, it wasn’t about immigration.) I have also noticed that when I blog about anything that hints at scrutinizing accepted talking points, the traffic drops to nothing. People don’t even read just to say, “What an idiot.” When I want hits, I write sentimental schmaltz. Critical thinking is not a particularly popular pastime.

So what sorts of challenges are unwelcome? How about the one that most recently made me persona non grata.

Ever since Engel v. Vitale was decided by the US Supreme Court in 1962, prayer has become increasingly banned in public schools. What began as a ban on school-sponsored prayer during educational time eventually led to the decision in Santa Fe Independent School Dist. v. Doe (2000), that student-led, student-initiated prayer at high school football games violates the Establishment Clause.  By extension this covers any student-led student initiated prayer at any school function.

Because Engel is a flawed example of judicial activism, it is bad. If prayer was constitutional for 171 years, it doesn’t suddenly become unconstitutional. This is just like the three-prong test of Lemon v. Kurtzman (1971) that sets out the requirements of any legislation that touches upon religion. If three prongs weren’t necessary before 1971, they don’t somehow become necessary afterwards. Any cases based on Engel and Lemon (like Santa Fe ISD) are, ipso facto, flawed.

To this point, I no doubt have my cheering section of politically active, conservative Christians behind me. This is, after all, pretty standard Strict Constructionist, Original Intent stuff. However, I think there is a need to re-evaluate, not the legal arguments, but the moral arguments that have become a popular extension from them.

As I mentioned above, I had my comments removed from a Facebook thread. This happened after I challenged the following statement: “Morals declined when we took prayer and God out of school.” (Being removed from a discussion is nothing new to me. I’ve even been thrown out of an entire conservative Facebook group for holding a minority opinion on an issue.)  This proposition has become as much a part of the warp and woof of Christian conservativism as the legal analysis of Engel and its progeny. How dare I question the unquestionable. Yet that is exactly what I do.

I do this for two reasons. First, and most simply, because the truth matters. Second, and perhaps more controversially, because, as I addressed in another instance on this blog less than a year ago, conservative Christians have succumbed to sloppy scholarship.

I do this from two sources of evidence. First, it is worth examining school-sponsored prayer in state education outside of the United States. Second, there is the issue of the historical record and proximate cause.

I bring to this discussion seven years of experience as a teacher in the state schools in England and Wales. As recently as 1998, it was statutorily re-affirmed that in state schools all pupils must take part in a daily act of collective worship unless their parent has requested a waiver. The acts of collective worship must be “wholly or mainly of a broadly Christian character.” Not only that, but children are also required to attended Religious Education lessons throughout the entire course of their compulsory education. The majority of these RE lessons must also be based on Christianity.

With that experience, and over a decade of living in conservative rural England, I can assure you that the continuation of prayer and even of Christian education in state schools has done nothing to slow the decline of morals, of the young or the not-so-young, in the United Kingdom. Robert Bork once wrote that America is slouching toward Gomorrah. If the United Kingdom sought to pursue the moral standards of Gomorrah and its sister city Sodom, it would be an upward move. These two ancient conurbations of sin are veritable Cities Set Upon Hills compared to the morality of Sceptred Isle.

But what of the possibility of an actual causal link between Engel and moral decline? This raises a couple of related questions. First, did the removal of the content have an effect? What was the nature of that content in 1962?

We first have to recognize that in 1962, prayer in school wasn’t particularly widespread across the United States. It was actually at its peak in the 1920s, though it had been ruled out in quite a few states before or shortly after the turn of the 20th century. Along with mandatory Bible reading, it was the subject of considerable litigation in the state courts, sometimes upheld and sometime overturned, based on state constitutions.

Even though it was patchy across the US, what was the content of prayer in schools in 1962? Let’s look at the prayer that was ruled unconstitutional in Engel. In New York, the following prayer had to be recited by a school official each day: “Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and we beg Thy blessings upon us, our parents, our teachers, and our country.” After Engel, that one sentence was no longer recited publicly at some point during the day. It that enough to send the nation into a moral tailspin?

I cannot count how many examples I’ve seen of charts, graphs, and tables marking the decline in morality since the Engel decision. The interesting thing is that they don’t chart back before 1962 to indicate trends already in the making and unchanged by Engel or its progeny. And of course they don’t demonstrate a direct causal link between the removal of a one-line prayer and the rise in violent crime, sexual promiscuity, music piracy, or whichever evil they are attempting to emphasize. Generally they are based upon the self-evident statement that such evils are what happens when God is removed from public schools. A little circular reasoning goes a long way.

I will finish by going to the heart of the matter. Did “we” (through Supreme Court justices appointed by three different Presidents before almost all of us were born) take prayer or God out of schools? I know I prayed in school long after Engel, which was decided two years before I was born.  Prayer is, after all, talking to God. And can anyone remove God from a school or any place else? On the other hand, how many kids were actually praying when a teacher or principal recited “Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and we beg Thy blessings upon us, our parents, our teachers, and our country”? Or was it form over substance?  Can the acts of Supreme Court justices confer collective responsibility upon anyone, not to mention lives not yet in being?

In the UK, God is mentioned everywhere in school and He gets his own lessons, yet almost no one acknowledges Him. In the US, He is not officially mentioned and churches (other than liberal Protestant denominations) continue to grow. He is more openly acknowledged in the media and in politics than in 1962. There are more open visible followers of Jesus amongst young people in America than ever before. In trying to make a connection between the virtually symbolic act of removing prayer from schools and the abundance of sin, there has been ignorance of the fact that grace has much more abounded.

Would it be nice if we returned to the practice of a content-free, one sentence, ecumenical prayer in public schools each day? Perhaps. Is it going to stem the dishonesty, violence, fornication, or whatever other ills we identify in our young people or in our society? No. That takes real prayer. That takes changed hearts and changed lives.

Parsing the Tennessee Sharia Bill

First it was Oklahoma and the Save Our State amendment. Then there was the more subtly worded South Carolina Senate Bill 444 and Georgia’s House Bill 45.  Oklahoma, South Carolina and Georgia (and there are probably other states at this point) are trying to prevent the courts of their states applying sharia law. A pointless vote-getter. And a legislator can hardly vote against these ridiculous measures without then being accused of supporting jihad.

Now it is Tennessee and Senate Bill 1028. And once again, it is legislators who know nothing about the thing they are trying to legislate against, but this time with a new twist. Tennessee is doing something different. SB 1028 makes it a felony to support sharia. And it’s not subtle about it at all. Muddled and unconstitutional, but not subtle.

Tennessee needs to be saved from the perils of sharia law on the verge of engulfing the state. Apparently. After all the bill starts off with “The threat from terrorism continues to plague the United States generally and Tennessee in particular.” Tennessee is plagued with the threat from terrorism. In particular. No doubt. Not since the Battle of Stone’s River has sponsoring Senator Bill Ketron’s home of Murfreesboro been under such a siege.

By paragraph 3 we learn that “sharia is based historically and  traditionally on a full corpus of law and jurisprudence termed fiqh and usul al-fiqh, respectively, dealing with all aspects of a sharia-adherent’s personal and social life and political society.” So sharia deals with all aspects of a “sharia-adherent’s” personal and social life. The other name for a “sharia-adherent” is “Muslim”. Just so we are sure of how comprehensively the bill defines “sharia-adherent”, in paragraph 2,  it is described as a “legal-political-military doctrine and system adhered to, or minimally advocated by, tens of millions if not hundreds of millions of its followers around the world.”

And all of them want to plague Tennessee with terrorism and overthrow the government.

“The knowing adherence to sharia and to foreign sharia authorities constitutes a conspiracy…” (Paragraph 11)  “The knowing adherence to sharia and to foreign sharia authorities is prima facie evidence of an act in support of the overthrow of the United States government and the government of this state through the abrogation, destruction, or violation of the United States and Tennessee Constitutions by the likely use of imminent criminal violence and terrorism with the aim of imposing sharia on the people of this state.” (Paragraph 13)

Nowhere in the bill is “foreign sharia authority” defined. However sharia is defined as “any rule, precept, instruction, or edict arising directly from the extant rulings of any of the authoritative schools of Islamic jurisprudence of Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi’i, Hanbali, Ja’afariya, or Salafi”.  This is the equivalent of saying “any interpretation of the Bible by any pastor or Bible teacher, whether Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, Lutheran, Reformed, Baptist…”

So being a Muslim constitutes a conspiracy and is prima facie evidence of that conspiracy to overthrow the US government – and of course the government of the plagued state of Tennessee – by criminal violence and terrorism. But I am curious about this “likely use” of imminent violence. Is the violence likely or imminent? If it is imminent isn’t it a bit more that likely? But when it comes to Muslims, who has time to worry about things like this? Tennessee is in the midst of a plague, after all. (Evidence of the plague usually takes the form of, “I hear told someone even saw a woman wrapped in one of them funny scarf thangs at the Family Dollar in Smyrna t’other day. Sakes alive! She might’a had a bomb under that thang.”)

I could parse out all the statements in the thirteen paragraphs of findings that, if enacted, the Tennessee General Assembly will have found to be true about sharia and sharia-adherents, but because they are repetitive while also managing to be occasionally contradictory, it would take more space than you have patience. If you are a member of the Tennessee General Assembly and voting for this bill, things like repetition, contradiction and violation of the First Amendment aren’t going to stand in your way.

I will, however, point out that in paragraph 9, there is a reference to the “jihad groups identified by the federal government as designated terrorist organizations pursuant to § 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act”. On the other hand, the bulk of the bill sets out procedures for the Tennessee Attorney General to designate “sharia organizations” so that anyone who is associated with them can be prosecuted and liable for all sorts of civil causes of action. If the federal government has already designated jihad groups – a task for which they expend considerable federal tax dollars on extensive covert operations – why does the Tennessee AG need to do the same? And if the members of these organizations are already subject to federal law, why does Tennessee need to step in?

Now I wish this was just a looney bill introduced by a lone ranger legislator. Every legislature gets some of those every session. Those sorts of bills grab a newspaper headline and then die quietly in committee without a hearing. Unfortunately in this case, there are three Senate co-sponsors, the chairs of the Education, Transportation and Judiciary committees, the last of which has the bill under consideration. Ketron is the GOP Caucus Chair. And like the legislation in the other states, it has a companion bill in the other chamber, in this case sponsored by Rep. Judd Matheny. It has twelve co-sponsors, including the chair the State and Local Government committee.

And finally, I would be remiss if I failed to mention the goofiest bit of legislative drafting I’ve seen in a long, long time. It goes back to that definition of sharia. “‘Sharia’ means the set of rules, precepts, instructions, or edicts which are said to emanate directly or indirectly from the god of Allah…” The god of Allah? What is the god of Allah? “The god Allah” maybe. I can allow that some people think that Allah, as worshipped in Islam, is a different god than God as worshipped in Christianity, rather than just a erroneous understanding of God. And I understand that most American Christians are completely clueless that Arab Christians call God “Allah” because that’s the Arabic word for God. And most are Islamo-illiterate enough that they don’t know that Muhammad came up with Islam after lots of contact with Judaism and Christianity and in essence derived his idea of God from them and his intent was to worship the God of Abraham. But “god of Allah”? Is this the god that this Allah putatively worships? Who knows? Probably not even the real author of this legislation, David Yerushalmi, a self-proclaimed expert on Islamic law.

Yerushalmi has contended in the press that the bill does not prevent Muslims from practicing their religion – you know, that old First Amendment thing. This only raises the question of why this legislation was so appalling poorly drafted – so vague and contradictory – even if the intent is supposed to be more narrow.

Just like there is no case of sharia having been applied by any judge in any court in the US, there is no instance in which Tennessee, its government or Constitution, or Ellie May down at the Family Dollar have been harmed by sharia-adherent jihadists or could be harmed in such a way that having the state attorney general proscribe anyone or any group would make any difference whatsoever.

More Than Willing (for Someone Else) to Pay the Price of Security

Now that the 112th Congress is in session, immigration reform will be off the table. Not immigration, just immigration reform. The sole focus will be on border security. So what does “border security” mean?

For a number of people with whom I have discussed the matter, it really isn’t that complicated. You put enough troops on the Mexican border to stop every person trying to cross illegally. If they don’t stop, you shoot them. Can’t find them? Put up more of those satellites that can read license plates from space. What’s so difficult about that?

Now, you may think I was having these discussions with Joe Sixpack from Wal-mart (or peopleofwalmart.com, perhaps). Actually I was having them with evangelical pastors and pastors’ wives. People who generally go out of their way to share the love of Jesus.

One of these pastors said if illegals are interdicted and attempt to evade arrest rather than be taken into custody, you simply have to apply the rule that it is justified to shoot fleeing criminals and you gun them down in the desert. I have to say he had to slightly rethink his position when I mentioned that many of these “invaders” are women and children. Do you shoot the women and children in the back as well?

His revised view was that you don’t shoot the women and children. Just the men. Or at least the ones that look like men. Tall boys and women with short hair might get it, too, but that was just too bad. After all, if you kill the men, the women and children will probably give themselves up.

Of course the little legal problem with this (I would bring that up – which is no doubt one of the reasons that people want to kill lawyers, too, regardless of citizenship or immigration status) is that the gun ’em down rule is a fleeing felon rule. Entering the United States without inspection is not a felony. In fact, it is not even a crime. It is a civil matter.

As you might guess, I’ve already been offered the answer to that: Make it a criminal matter – and a felony at that. Then we can shoot ’em. The only problem is that when they get captured, they are entitled to all sorts of rights under the Constitution. If we do that, we can’t shuffle these people with no money through a deportation hearing system in which they have no right to public defense. ICE are already upset with the judge who said mentally retarded deportees should be given lawyers. If everyone gets a lawyer, they might find out that ICE are deporting a lot more people who have a right to be in the country than we already know about.

It wouldn’t be fair not to give the other argument. It is easy to get around this whole problem with providing lawyers. If we shoot them in the desert, who will know that they weren’t fleeing? The economic security of the United States is at stake. Sometime we just have to do what we have to do to make sure Americans have jobs and no one gets welfare benefits to which they are not entitled. I know some of you think I’m employing sarcasm, or at least hyperbole. (I am given to that at times, I admit.) I wish.

I have honestly asked good conservative evangelical Christian folks whether it worth killing someone made in the image of God? I have honestly been told – as point blank as they would like American troops on American soil to use their weapons – yes, it is. What if they are fleeing the Zetas or the Gulf Cartel and certain death in a war zone far more dangerous that either Iraq or Afghanistan? Too bad. What if they are Christians? They better pray for God to protect them – on their side of the border, of course. If they are good Christians, then they will obey they laws of our land and not enter it without permission. (Honestly, I couldn’t make this stuff up.) At least if they get killed, they will go to heaven. God can afford to take them in – America can’t.

And what about those spy satellites that we can use? If the government build enough of them that we can constantly monitor a 2000-mile border at the magnification to see individual brown faces, we can trust the government to just use this surveillance technology for good, can’t we?  The Executive branch always operates within the law and with the consent of Congress and would never hurt us. We are citizens, after all. They already monitor the internet to make sure no one says something wrong and we’re not worried about that, are we? And they keep us safe with all those body checks in the airports. (They can only get more invasive with those, but that’s the price of freedom, and it’s for our own good.)

And if your neck (or at least your state) is red enough, you may find yourself nodding in agreement with my friends. But maybe you will pause for just one moment and think: we have we become? Are these really conservative values? Are these really Christian values?

The Death of a DREAM

Everyone can breathe a sigh of relief. America will not be destroyed. The undocumented children living in the United States will stay in the shadows and margins of society where they belong. Sure, we’ll be forced to give them a high school education – heck, we give anyone a high school education whether they deserve it by birth-right or not – but they won’t go using it to get a college education or a tax-paying job.

As I predicted – and I need not have been much of a prophet to do it – the DREAM Act failed to get enough votes in the Senate to move the bill forward. Only three Republicans dared to support it – lame duck Bob Bennett of Utah, undefeatable Dick Lugar of Indiana, and the write-in re-elected Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. Even former sponsors Orin Hatch and John McCain felt too much heat from the fear-mongerers to continue their support.

The opponents of a productive future for undocumented children demanded all sorts of concessions in the bill to which sponsors acquiesced, including attaching hefty fees for those wanting to apply for conditional residency under the Act, narrowing the eligible age group, making sure the relatives of those using the Act could never gain residency though sponsorship like those of other legal residents, and extending the period of conditional residency from six to ten years before someone under the act could apply (again with hefty fees, lots of complicated paperwork, and up to a year-long wait) for permanent residency (which would then have to be followed by another five years before being eligible to pay more fees, file more paperwork, and wait months for citizenship).  Yet despite having all the demands met to water down the bill, those who made the demands still refused to vote to let the bill be considered.

I was particularly disappointed by the excuses given by the Senators from my home state of Texas. John Cornyn said, “I am sympathetic to the plight of children who have no moral culpability for being in this country illegally and I support the intent of the bill today, but not this legislation and not this way.” Unfortunately, he didn’t say which legislation and which way would allow him to vote with his sympathies.

Kay Bailey Hutchinson opted for a outright lie rather than Cornyn’s ambiguous drivel. She said, “I could not support the DREAM Act legislation brought before the Senate today because it expanded the scope of the bill beyond the intended individuals who were brought here as children and were educated in the United States.” Not only is that made up out of whole cloth, but the real reason Hutchinson could not support the bill was because she had been threatened by conservatives. After all, when a much broader bill was before the Senate in 2007 she said,

“This is such an important piece of legislation, and I do think this is isolated from the entire immigration issue because there … are young people who have been brought to this country as minors, not of their own doing, who have gone to American high schools, graduated, and who want to go to American colleges. They are in a limbo situation. I believe we should deal with this issue. We should do it in a way that helps assimilate these young people with a college education into our country. They have lived here most of their lives. If we sent them home, they wouldn’t know what home is. There is a compassionate reason for us to try to work this out.”

In the meantime, she alienated the furthest right-wing of the GOP in running against Rick Perry and can’t afford to lose their support in 2012. Somebody has to pay the price and it is certainly easiest to put it on those who have no voice and if her supporters have their way, will never have a voice.

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
for the rights of all who are destitute.
Speak up and judge fairly;
defend the rights of the poor and needy.

Proverbs 31:8-9

The Impossible DREAM

It appears there will be a token vote, perhaps as soon as tomorrow in the House of Representatives, on the frequently defeated Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act before the end of the lame duck session of Congress. I don’t know if the House has the votes, but the Senate won’t get past a cloture vote, so it’s a moot point.

Nonetheless, it’s litmus test time again.  Time to pull out all the talking points and treat them with the sacredness of Holy Scripture. It’s “amnesty by the back door,” “amnesty by the front door,” “amnesty by climbing in through the window,” etc. I just wish Holy Scripture was treated with the same sacredness.

The DREAM Act would allow children who were brought to the United States by undocumented parents to walk a narrow path to conditional permanent residency and eventually to full permanent resident status. Applying criteria we would never think of applying to those who providentially arrived on the planet north of the Rio Grande – especially if their parents were also so blessed in their own arrival – a few people will received a few opportunties they wouldn’t otherwise have. Of course the hitch is that the oppotunities will completely transform their lives. If there’s one thing we don’t like, it is people having their lives transformed when they don’t deserve it.

Other than the possibility of living out of the shadows and fringes of society, one of the aspects that irks opponents is the possibility that those for whom the DREAM Act is intended will be considered eligible for in-state college tuition. More than one commentator has asked why these people should get the benefit of resident fees when American citizen students from other states don’t. It could be because they are from out of state and aren’t  in the state for other the educational purposes. That’s the usual criteria. But this is a matter that will be decided by the individual states, or even the individual institutions or university systems, depending on how individual states have chosen to operate that decision making process.

One of the more outrageous comments I heard in opposition to the DREAM Act was that it was like letting the children of bank robbers benefit from the proceeds of their parents’ crime. However, this comment highlights a serious misconception that a lot of people seem to have. Legal residency isn’t a property right. Even citizenship is not a property right. It is not a possession. It is a legal status. There isn’t a big citizenship pie which can only be cut into so many pieces, so that only so many people can have some. If that were the case, we would need to consider imposing Chinese-style limits on the number children allowed in each family.

Undocumented aliens haven’t stolen anything by being undocumented. They haven’t stolen safety from drug lords and corrupt government officials. They haven’t stolen the possibility to work for food and shelter. They haven’t stolen the fear of detection that could lead them to being sent back to a place of danger and poverty. Were the DREAM Act to become law, they wouldn’t be stealing a chance at legal residency.

Status is an interesting thing. I was reading yesterday about the changes in the pecking order at Court due to the introduction of Kate Middleton into the British Royal Family. Particularly amongst the ladies, princesses mostly, there seems to be a great deal of concern as to who will now have to curtsey to whom and under what conditions, chiefly revolving around whose husband is in the room at the time. It is easy to look down our egalitarian noses at such nonsense.

But are we anything from outraged to at least a bit irritated that undocumented aliens, whether adults or children, would acquire a status, whether permanent residency or even citizenship, to which they are not entitled? Yet status is something about which the Bible reveals God is very interested. It also uses the analogy of robbery:

Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.

So how do we filter our attitude toward undocumented residents through Philippians 2? Is it useful only in “spiritual matters” or how we treat each other in church? Is this one of those areas where our Christianity and our politics need not meet? Do we bifurcate our responsibilities as a Christian with our responsibilities as a member of the body politic? Are we willing to wash the feet of our undocumented brother and then ring up ICE to pick him up and deport him?

But say it’s nothing to do with Jesus. (Say it at your own peril, but say it nonetheless.) Let’s say it’s just economics. Won’t passage of the DREAM Act lead to all these barely-legal aliens flooding our state colleges and universities, taking away places from natural born (and even those despised anchor baby) citizens? And since they tend to be poorer than rightful Americans, won’t they then be stealing all the financial aid?

I suppose there is an argument to be made for keeping an uneducated social and legal underclass in America. After all, they aren’t going anywhere. Despite all the calls for rounding up every undocumented resident and shipping them to the nearest international bridge and forcing them to walk across at gunpoint, logistically it isn’t going to happen, regardless of which political party is making policy. Likewise, they are not going to voluntarily “go back” to a country most haven’t seen since early childhood. And there are all those necessary jobs that just wouldn’t exist within the constraints of exisiting labor laws, so if we let all these people become legal, who will do the work beneath the dignity of most citizens?

One of the arguments made against the DREAM Act by people like William Gheen of the Americans for Legal Immigration PAC is that by allowing the narrow group of qualifying individuals (not that ALIPAC would ever characterize them in such a way) to obtain permanent resident status, they will then be able to bring more relatives into the US legally. But I thought that was what they wanted in the first place: legal immigrants. Thus they expose their agenda, which is really about keeping immigrants out altogether.

Here’s what Gheen said on FoxNews about the beneficiaries of the DREAM Act: “If these illegal aliens, millions of them, are turned into citizens, what it’s gonna do, it’s gonna displace and replace millions of innocent American college students; it’s gonna displace and replace millions, perhaps tens of millions, of American workers; it’s gonna displace and replace millions, eventually, as you said, tens of millions of American voters.”

The best estimates seem to indicate that there are about 65,000 undocumented students graduating from US high schools each year. So we’ve gone from millions to thousands. But graduating from high school isn’t enough. The DREAM Act requires them to also get at least an associate’s degree, complete two years toward a bachelor’s degree, or serve two years in the military during six years of conditional residency. They are ineligible to receive federal financial aid toward their education. They must also keep their nose clean. If they do all that, they are eligible for permanent residency – LPR status with what is commonly called a green card (though the card itself is not green). Permanent residency petitions normally take in excess of a year to process, so really they are looking at seven years of conditional reisidency. LPRs, who must also stay crime-free to maintain their status, become eligible for citizenship after five years. So yes, it is possible for several thousand college-educated or veteran children of illegal immigrants to become citizens after a twelve-year process.

So in reality, the number of students are a drop in the ocean of higher education in the US, where there are over 19 million enrolled. Yes, they will eventually join the job market competing for jobs, but it will be hard to “displace and replace” millions of workers with a few thousand immigrants.

How they are going “displace and replace” voters, I have no clue. As far as I’m aware, there is no competition for the eligibility to vote. A 30-year-old veteran of the US military who was born in Mexico showing up at a polling station will not force election officials to tell a Son of the American Revolution, “Sorry, but you are no longer allowed to vote, as we have to let this new citizen vote, since he got his citizenship under the DREAM Act.” What utter nonsense.

The last bit of nonsense that needs to be addressed is the objection raised by a number of opponents, namely, that we need comprehensive immigration reform rather than a piecemeal approach. If there was any real will in the Republican Party for any sort of immigration reform, this might have a shread of credibility. The only immigration reform desired by most non-Hispanic Republicans is to build the wall higher with enough guns pointed to Mexico to stop new arrivals combined with more aggressive efforts to flush out undocumented immigrants domiciled in the US. The DREAM Act will be rejected now and forever because it does not fit this agenda.

Yet, I can’t get Philippians 2 out of my mind.

Sooners Scared of Sharia

It’s just about the most ridiculous thing I’ve seen. Oklahoma voters overwhelmingly approved a measure to ban courts in the state from considering Islamic sharia law when considering cases. It also forbids courts to look to the legal precepts of other nations or consider international law when deciding cases.  Each of these provisions is so idiotic that I don’t even know where to start.

State Question 755 (ominously called the Save Our State Amendment) added this to the Oklahoma Constitution (italics mine):

The Courts…when exercising their judicial authority, shall uphold and adhere to the law as provided in the United States Constitution, the Oklahoma Constitution, the United States Code, federal regulations promulgated pursuant thereto, established common law, the Oklahoma Statutes and rules promulgated pursuant thereto, and if necessary the law of another state of the United States provided the law of the other state does not include Sharia Law, in making judicial decisions. The courts shall not look to the legal precepts of other nations or cultures. Specifically, the courts shall not consider international or Sharia Law. The provisions of this subsection shall apply to all cases before the respective courts including, but not limited to, cases of first impression.

This whole thing started because an Oklahoma state representative heard about a case in New Jersey where a trial judge ruled against a woman seeking a restraining order because her husband was acting on his religious beliefs. The trial judge was promptly reversed by an appellate court, but the matter did not even involved sharia. In the New Jersey case, the trial judge did not say that since sharia allows the husband to force himself on his wife, he is entitled to do so. The trial judge said that the man’s sincere religious belief prevented him from forming the necessary mens rea to constitute marital rape. The judge was wrong and justice prevailed.

Another sponsor of the measure fretted because England has embraced 85 sharia courts, “while Oklahoma is still able to defend itself against this sort of hideous invasion, we should do so.” The only problem is that England has not embraced 85 sharia courts. England has 85 sharia courts (or at least the Daily Mail tells us so), but that’s like saying Oklahoma has 111 Rotary Clubs. Has Oklahoma embraced the Rotary Clubs?  Are Oklahoma courts bound to consider the decisions of Rotary Clubs which have hideously invaded the state, unless a constitutional amendment is passed?

People can voluntarily be a part of any organization. The only thing the sharia courts offer that is different is a forum for alternative dispute resolution. ADR is an increasingly popular thing. The idea is that litigants can chose a mediator or arbitrator to help them settle their differences. This saves the courts time and the parties money. Often lots of money. If both of the litigants are Muslims, there is no reason they cannot choose to have a dispute abitrated by other Muslims. If it is a matter which requires court approval, they can then enter a consent order with the court. As long as the agreement between the parties is consistent with the law, the court will usually approve the order. That is what some courts in England have done with sharia court decisions.

But this is nothing new. Courts in both England and the United States have often approved consent orders that are the results of beth din rulings. A beth din is the equivalent of a sharia court for Orthodox Jews. If both parties are Orthodox Jews and want to have their dispute settled in accordance with Jewish law, they come before the beth din judges following accepted rules of legal procedure and the judges decide the case, which is then submitted to the state court, particularly in family law cases. Perhaps someone needs to amend the Oklahoma amendment to forbid the consideration of Jewish law, in case there is an invasion of Orthodox Jews into the Sooner State.

But here’s the kicker. Muslims who submit their disputes to a sharia court and Jews who submit their disputes to a beth din are only doing what Christians should have been doing. Most Christians ignore the first half of I Corinthians chapter 6. I’ll just quote the first verse to refresh your memory and you can go read the rest: “Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints?”

But what about this “The courts shall not look to the legal precepts of other nations or cultures” bit? This is very interesting. Let’s look at it in reverse order. What is another culture? Clearly for the authors of the proposal, it is any culture where Islam is the dominant religion. But that’s not what the amendment says. And what constitutes a “legal precept” of that culture?

But it’s that “other nations” bit that will cause an interesting problem. The whole idea of the common law and the rules by which it operates did not originate in the United States. They come from England, which is, according to my red passport, another nation. Having lived within it for over a decade, I can assure you that it is another culture as well. It is fortunate that Oklahoma, unlike its neighbors Texas and New Mexico, is not a community property state, because it would then be looking to the legal precepts of Spanish law as well. Nonetheless, it appears that the authors (and is must be said, 70% of Oklahoma voters) imagine that American law just sprang up sua sponte.

And finally there is that bit about international law. This is bizarre because regardless of the amendment, Oklahoma courts will have to consider international law. Treaties to which the United States is a party are the supreme law of the land. So says Article VI Section 1 of the US Constitution. Treaties to which the United States is not a party are irrelevant and would never be considered by a court in Oklahoma. The relevance of international law is a federal matter, because only the federal government has any legal interaction with other countries.

State Question 755 was written by ignorant people to be voted upon by ignorant people.  Somehow a lot of people see the words “Islam” or  “Muslim” and their brain function just shuts off. Muslims are bad, so if something is against Muslims it must be good. It doesn’t have to be good law or even make logical sense. It will probably do something to help stop the great Muslims invasion (they must be massed at Fort Smith and Siloam Springs just waiting to pour over the border) and that’s all that matters.

Lord, save us from ourselves.

Talkin’ ‘Bout a Revolution

First it was the Tea Party and now it is the Revolution.  Apparently that is the new thing. I’ve been told by more than one person that they are preparing for the next Revolution and I’ve started to see it all around the conservative blogosphere. I used to be the firebrand around here. Now I’ve turned into the voice of reason.

Apparently Obama has gone too far and Revolution is the answer. It’s all leading to armed uprising. So go ahead and have your revolution.  The biggest problem I see is figuring out what to revolt against and what to put in its place. I’m afraid this is where it’s all gonna fall apart.

Some people are mad at Obama. I’ve heard people say they think he’s on the verge of becoming a military dictator. Some people think it is whole “Ruling Elite” of both parties. Regardless of elections and even changes in party power on Capitol Hill, the same machinery of government rolls along, so apparently they will all have to be throw out by force.

But no one seem to know who’s gonna do the throwing, from whence they will derive the authority to do the throwing, where they’re gonna throw them, and what they are going to put in their place.

There have been two American revolutions. One succeeded and one failed. However, both had something in common. They had recognisable governments already in place.

In 1775, there were established, properly elected colonial governments. A year before the first shots were fired, these colonial governments had already sent delegates to the First Continental Congress.  In 1861, there were properly elected state governments.

In the first American revolution, the colonists had no forum of redress for their grievances against the central government. They were able to change the form of government from monarchy to republic. Have the new revolutionists come up with a new form of government they think works better? That would seem incompatible with extolling the virtues of the US Constitution, which they all seem to do. Nonetheless, the mechanisms within that Constitution to change the government, left virtually unchanged other than the direct election of senators, do not seem to satisfy. And I don’t hear anyone clamoring for revolution over dissatisfaction with the 17th Amendment.

The Second American revolution, that war between the states known to most of my ancestors as the War of Northern Aggression, was fought after a nation was divided by different political views and one side felt helpless as the deck had been stacked against them.  The new President didn’t openly threaten to change the entire structure of the economy and the society, but there was a lot about his background that made them gravely suspicious. This is probably a better model for predicting the outcome of any future conflict.

The citizenry of the South were well-armed and morally outraged. All my friends with AR-15s will tell you that this is why they have their assault rifles and boxes of ammo. To defend themselves against the government.  The thing is, weapons have moved on a bit since 1861.

Now let’s say this Third American revolution is so organized as to have entire states willing to secede. And let’s say that the governors of those states were able to maintain control of all the resources available to them in the National Guard and State Guard units. If so, they would have some proper military weapons, including some aircraft. Now there’s your revolution. The thing is, though, they would be so far outmatched by the regular US military forces that comparisons to the Recent Unpleasantness wouldn’t hold up. There’s not a single red state that has an aircraft carrier.

But let’s say we go ahead have a civil war. At the time of the last one, the population of the United States was about 31 million. Today is it roughly ten times that. The number of deaths is generally estimated at about 620,000. It would be nice if it were just a matter of multiplying by 10 and saying a new civil war would result in 6.2 million deaths. However, modern wars are much better at adding collateral damages. You know, civilian deaths. But let’s say we keep those to a minimum. Let’s keep the total deaths at 10 million.

Surely this is a small price to pay for an insurrection against a President and Congress that refuse to stop all the illegal immigrants from coming in and won’t catch and send back all the ones already here.  If you consider that he’s also put us on the road to European-style health care, you’d be willing to sacrifice a few sons – and considering the collateral damage, wives and daughters – for the cause, wouldn’t you? The constant fear of bombardment and food rationing would only be for a few years at most.

There are, after all, some people who have gotten innoculations at the free clinic when they weren’t entitled to do so, and maybe even some food stamps. And some of them haven’t learned English. If we give up the lives of a substantial part of the 18- to 30-year-old men in combat and a few million non-combatant men, women and children, there won’t be any illegals working on construction sites, cleaning houses or mowing grass. That’ll show ’em.

And one thing’s for sure: during this new American revolution, it will be much more dangerous north of the Mexican border than south of it. It will be safer for these dastardly immigrants to put up with the drug cartels. They won’t want to be sneaking into a country torn apart by war. Not only that, but since the federal government won’t be there to protect them, anybody that doesn’t like them will probably be able to kill them with impunity. There’s the motivation they need to leave Arizona.

Luke 14:28-32