Constitutional Rights

Yet Another Hate Crimes Post

Honestly, I am so tired of having to write about the constant stream of lies and misrepresentations from the Religious Right about hate crimes legislation.  If I never had to write about this issue again, I would be eternally grateful… but since they keep egregiously lying about it, it doesn’t look like that will happen any time soon.

Here is the latest example, compliments of Bill Donohue and the Catholic League:

The driving force behind the Matthew Shepherd Hate Crimes Prevention Act is the desire to provide additional penalties to criminals who assault homosexuals because of their sexual orientation. Without commenting on the propriety of hate crimes legislation in general, the central problem with this bill is its chilling effect on religious speech.

To be specific, the bill would criminalize religious speech that was critical of homosexuality if it were linked to a crime against a gay person. How do I know this? Because when the bill was considered in the House, that is exactly what Rep. Louie Gohmert was told when he raised this issue. While assaulting anyone, independent of sexual orientation, is rightly considered a criminal offense, the prospect of criminalizing religious speech that proscribes certain sexual practices is beyond worrisome--it is downright dangerous.

Let’s apply the simple test I laid out yesterday whereby we replace the references to “sexual orientation” with references to religion, as religion is already protected under existing hate crimes laws, to see if the concerns still hold up:

The driving force behind the Matthew Shepherd Hate Crimes Prevention Act is the desire to provide additional penalties to criminals who assault CHRISTIANS because of their RELIGIOUS orientation. Without commenting on the propriety of hate crimes legislation in general, the central problem with this bill is its chilling effect on FREE speech.

To be specific, the bill would criminalize FREE speech that was critical of CHRISTIANITY if it were linked to a crime against a CHRISTIAN person. How do I know this? Because when the bill was considered in the House, that is exactly what Rep. Louie Gohmert was told when he raised this issue. While assaulting anyone, independent of RELIGIOUS orientation, is rightly considered a criminal offense, the prospect of criminalizing FREE speech that proscribes certain RELIGIOUS practices is beyond worrisome--it is downright dangerous.

Now, when looked at this way, it quickly become obvious that all these sorts of concerns are completely overblown because current hate crimes law already applies to violent crimes targeting religion and people are not being charged with hate crimes for criticizing religion or seeing their free speech rights wiped away.  

This sort of flagrant and intentional misrepresentation of the legislation is bad enough, but I don’t even know what to say about this demand:

The First Amendment protects freedom of speech and religious liberty, both of which are jeopardized under this bill. The chilling effect this legislation could have on the right of the clergy to address sinful behavior flies in the face of the spirit of the First Amendment. Surely there are ways to protect homosexuals from being singled out by anti-gay thugs without trespassing on the constitutional rights of priests, ministers, rabbis, imams and others. Accordingly, language that would accomplish this end should be included as an amendment.

Has anyone at the Catholic League even bothered to take a look at the legislation?  If not, here it is and guess what is says?


Nothing in this Act, or the amendments made by this Act, shall be construed to prohibit any expressive conduct protected from legal prohibition by, or any activities protected by, the Constitution.

That’s right – aside from the fact that First Amendment rights are in no way threatened by the legislation, the authors also added explicit protection for them just to make that clear.

But still the Religious Right is claiming that the legislation does things is patently does not do and claiming that it doesn’t contain protections that is clearly does.  

Do you have any idea how much easier my job would be if the Religious Right would be willing to do some basic research before spouting off?

Iowa Marriage Ruling: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

Obviously, the Iowa Supreme Court's unanimous ruling that the state's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional is a pretty big deal ... a big enough deal, in fact, that it seems to have crashed the court's website as people try to access the decision.

Fortunately, Pam has grabbed and posted a PDF of the ruling and so we wanted to highlight this good section of the ruling in which the court lays out clearly and firmly the basic difference between religious and civil marriage and notes that granting equality in the latter in no way undermines or denigrates the former:

This contrast of opinions in our society largely explains the absence of any religion-based rationale to test the constitutionality of Iowa’s same-sex marriage ban. Our constitution does not permit any branch of government to resolve these types of religious debates and entrusts to courts the task of ensuring government avoids them ... The statute at issue in this case does not prescribe a definition of marriage for religious institutions. Instead, the statute declares, “Marriage is a civil contract” and then regulates that civil contract. Thus, in pursuing our task in this case, we proceed as civil judges, far removed from the theological debate of religious clerics, and focus only on the concept of civil marriage and the state licensing system that identifies a limited class of persons entitled to secular rights and benefits associated with civil marriage.

We, of course, have a constitutional mandate to protect the free exercise of religion in Iowa, which includes the freedom of a religious organization to define marriages it solemnizes as unions between a man and a woman ... This mission to protect religious freedom is consistent with our task to prevent government from endorsing any religious view. State government can have no religious views, either directly or indirectly, expressed through its legislation ... This proposition is the essence of the separation of church and state.

As a result, civil marriage must be judged under our constitutional standards of equal protection and not under religious doctrines or the religious views of individuals. This approach does not disrespect or denigrate the religious views of many Iowans who may strongly believe in marriage as a dual-gender union, but considers, as we must, only the constitutional rights of all people, as expressed by the promise of equal protection for all. We are not permitted to do less and would damage our constitution immeasurably by trying to do more ...

In the final analysis, we give respect to the views of all Iowans on the issue of same-sex marriage—religious or otherwise—by giving respect to our constitutional principles. These principles require that the state recognize both opposite-sex and same-sex civil marriage. Religious doctrine and views contrary to this principle of law are unaffected, and people can continue to associate with the religion that best reflects their views. A religious denomination can still define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, and a marriage ceremony performed by a minister, priest, rabbi, or other person ordained or designated as a leader of the person’s religious faith does not lose its meaning as a sacrament or other religious institution.

The sanctity of all religious marriages celebrated in the future will have the same meaning as those celebrated in the past. The only difference is civil marriage will now take on a new meaning that reflects a more complete understanding of equal protection of the law. This result is what our constitution requires.

Now for the bad - the ruling just came down and already we are seeing conservative critics pitching a fit, calling the decision "69 pages of blather" and "gobbledygook" written by "judicial knaves who proudly regard themselves as trailblazers" and will only see more of this sort of outrage as the day progresses ... which will likely entail more ugly things like this press release from Peter LaBarbera:

Today Iowa becomes the first state not on either of the nation's two liberal coasts to impose homosexual 'marriage' or its mischievous twin, 'civil unions,' on its citizens through judicial tyranny. To call this decision bankrupt is to understate its perniciousness. The evil genius of the pro-sodomy movement is that it targets noble institutions like marriage and adoption in the name of 'rights,' and then perverts them to normalize aberrant behaviors.

Homosexual 'marriage' is wrong because homosexual behavior itself is wrong and destructive -- as proved by its role in the early deaths of countless 'gay' men ... When the courts order society to effectively pretend that changeable sexual misbehavior is a 'civil right,' the law itself becomes perverted by punishing people of faith for their proper opposition toward deviant sex ... It is high time for pastors, in Iowa and across the land, to shake off their stifling, politically correct timidity and again become the prophetic voices for Truth they were called to be: by boldly warning Americans about the perils of our growing accommodation with the sins of proud homosexuality, and sex outside marriage in general.

Right Wing Leftovers

  • Gary Bauer calls on "pro-lifers [to] help Americans discern Obama’s abortion extremism, [so] they can help minimize the destruction of innocent human life that this administration is dedicated to inflicting."
  • A hearing on anti-discrimination legislation in North Dakota generated this quote from the director of the state’s chapter of Concerned Women for America: "[the bill is] a giant step toward the adoption of policies that discriminate against people with traditional views of morality. This law would not protect rights, but would rather grant special privileges based strictly on someone's sexual behavior. Further, those privileges would have a significant impact on the constitutional rights of North Dakotans who may have a moral objection to certain sexual behaviors."
  • The director of Cornerstone Policy Research in New Hampshire says his group has "partnered with several national groups — including the American Family Association and Focus on the Family — to fund anti-gay-marriage spots that could air on radio and television stations in about a month."
  • Why is German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaking out about the Pope’s decision to make nice with a Holocaust-denier?  Because, according to Bill Donohue, she and all Germans are "reeking with guilt over the Holocaust."
  • Roy Moore joins the chorus of those freaking out about President Obama mentioning non-believers and other religions in his Inaugural Address, proclaiming: "To state that this is a Muslim nation, a Hindu nation, or a nation of nonbelievers is to deny that God is the grantor of religious freedom. It is also a denigration of the Christian faith to just another religion."
  • Finally, the Family Research Council's Krystle Weeks complains that crosses used in an antiabortion demonstration at George Washington University were defaced last week and that while "the media wants to fawn all over Barack Obama and his administration … they would rather ignore a story that violates the freedom of speech and religion." She then links to this Washington Post article about it … which rather undermines her claim that the media is ignoring this incident, don’t you think?

The Judicial Obstruction Network

Back when it launched in 2005, the Judicial Confirmation Network burst onto the scene when it unveiled a study that claimed to show that “the American people are tired of the partisan, political maneuvering and the unwarranted character assassinations against qualified candidates for the federal bench.” 

The JCN explained that voters wanted “Senators to do their jobs and hold a straight, up or down vote on nominees based on their qualifications” and thought that those who opposed President Bush’s judicial nominees were "just playing partisan politics”:   

Judicial nomination battles are winning issues for Republicans. Voters overwhelmingly endorse the Republicans' fundamental argument that qualified nominees deserve an up or down vote on the floor of the Senate. Because they reject so strongly recent examples of judicial activism, voters want judges who apply rather than make new law, and they want decisions about controversial issues made by their elected representatives rather than unelected judges. They want politics out of the courts and the confirmation process; therefore they reject the suggestion that pro-life views should disqualify a judicial nominee. Republicans and Independents overwhelmingly reject the arguments of the left that a conservative nominee will roll back the clock on constitutional rights, and even Democrats barely endorse that assertion. Republicans, Independents, and Democrats all believe that opponents of judicial nominees are just playing partisan politics.

Now that the White House and Senate have changed hands, the JCN is back and this time touting a new Rasmussen Report survey, which we debunked last week, that they claim demonstrates that what voters really want is for President Obama’s judicial nominees to receive an “unprecedented level of Senate scrutiny”:   

The U.S. Senate will have the responsibility of evaluating and voting on President Obama's judicial nominees. President Obama has advanced the most radical judicial activist philosophy of any president in American history. He said that judges should decide cases based on their own "deepest values," "core concerns," and "the depth and breadth of [their] empathy." According to President Obama, "the critical ingredient is supplied by what is in the judge's heart" -- not what is in the text, principles, and history of our Constitution and other laws.

President Obama's unprecedented call for judicial activism must be met with an unprecedented level of Senate scrutiny. For every nominee, there should be a presumption that he would -- as President Obama has told us he prefers -- decide cases based on his personal views. It should be up to each individual nominee to rebut the presumption and to prove that he would rule on the basis of what the law actually provides, as two-thirds of Americans believe judges should.

Isn’t it amazing how, in just under four years, the JCN has gone from warning that “Senators who play an active role in obstructing the confirmation process could well pay a hefty political price” to calling for an “unprecedented level of Senate scrutiny” for every one of Obama’s nominees.  

I don’t know about you, but it sure sounds to me as if the Judicial Confirmation Network is now advocating for the all-out obstruction of judicial nominees.

Happy Gary Bauer Day

Today is the annual March for Life, held every year on January 22 to protest abortion and press for the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

As such, Religious Right groups are doing what they do every year, with the Family Research Council  hosting its Blogs for Life Conference and March for Life organizers and activists complaining that the media isn't paying attention to them and nobody takes them seriously:

Still, Nellie Gray — who founded the March for Life 36 years ago — pines for some meaningful attention from the press. Her marchers hit the streets near the Capitol on Thursday, virtually retracing the steps of an estimated 1.8 million inaugural revelers whose every move was chronicled by a crush of media just two days earlier.


"Anyone climbing on a bus from somewhere else, thinking they're going to wave into a network news camera, is going to be very disappointed. In the last 20 years, despite large annual crowds, the liberal manufacturers of TV have simply never found the March for Life to be the slightest bit newsworthy," said Tim Graham of the Media Research Center, drawing a comparison to a liberal antiwar activist.

"Everyone knows that a single Cindy Sheehan in the summer seems to be worth more than 20,000 pro-lifers in January."

For his part, Gary Bauer has seemingly decided to dedicate this day to getting his name in print - first with an op-ed with Star Parker in The Weekly Standard:

A century and a half ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the Dred Scott case that African Americans have no rights under the Constitution. Barack Obama's election would seem to put the final nail in the coffin of that evil philosophy. With its Roe decision, however, the court again wrongly declared that some Americans are entitled to no constitutional rights and can be destroyed at the discretion of others. Sadly, that evil philosophy will be given new hope under President Obama.

The battle for equal rights has reached a major milestone. But Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s dream of full equality will remain just a dream as long as unborn children are denied the right to life, the most fundamental right of all.

And secondly with a solo op-ed in the Politico debunking the "myths" of Roe:

Another misconception concerns what would happen if Roe were overturned. The day after Roe’s reversal, abortion policy would revert back to the states. Some states would severely restrict abortion, while a bigger group of more populous states would likely pass laws guaranteeing the same access to abortion they have now. So, far from ending the abortion battle, Roe’s reversal would mark the beginning of a battle to which the past 35 years have been a prelude.

A post-Roe America would look like the America of today in terms of the sheer volume of abortions. The major difference would be an anti-abortion movement toiling to tackle 50 separate abortion policies simultaneously. Another important difference is that we would no longer teach young Americans the lie that — among their cherished constitutional rights of free speech, religion and assembly — there is also a right to take the life of an unborn baby.

A final misconception about Roe is one too often held by its opponents: that Roe’s reversal is the ultimate anti-abortion goal and that support for constitutional protections for the unborn betrays the federalist principles of conservatism. But by asserting states’ rights, Roe’s anti-abortion opposition effectively (if unwittingly) accepts Roe’s reasoning that prenatal life is not a due process right within the constitutional framework and, therefore, that the unborn child is not a constitutional “person.”

Moreover, in our system of government, certain issues are left to the states while others are deemed so essential to our understanding of democracy that they must be taken up nationally. We fought a civil war over the conviction that some issues are too fundamental to be decided state by state. Just as slavery was an assault on human dignity, the slaughter of millions of unborn children is an assault on a natural human right that exists prior to, and regardless of, the whims of a majority.

So you see there really is nothing to worry about - anti-choice activists merely want to overturn Roe so that the issue can be decided by the states ... and then they can eliminate the right to reproductive choice in all fifty of them by passing a constitutional amendment making it illegal. 

The Right’s New Religious Test

For months now, Religious Right activists have been quietly attacking Barack Obama’s Christian faith.  For years, the Right had routinely accused anyone who dared to criticize any Republican or right-wing political candidate for their political views of engaging in an unconstitutional religious test or exhibiting religious bigotry.

But the ascent of Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, coupled with his open discussion of his personal faith, has forced the Right to not only jettison its long-held position that attacking a political candidate because of his or her faith was off limits, but to go a step further to include outright attacks on the fundamental tenets of Obama’s Christianity. 

For months, activists like Rob Schenck have been declaring “Obama's Christianity woefully deficient” and demanding that Obama explain, in detail, the basic tenets of his faith so that the Right can judge just “how profound is the religious commitment that Barack Obama has made.”  Others have echoed that point, saying that Obama is not a “true Christian,”  that “there is a clear requirement for one to qualify as a Christian and Obama doesn’t meet that requirement,” and that Obama’s faith “tramples on the historic teachings of Christianity and the Bible.”

Until now, those attacks had been more or less relegated to the right-wing fringe, but it looks like they are about to become mainstream talking points, as James Dobson attacked Obama’s understanding of Christianity on today’s broadcast, as the Associated Press reported

Dobson and Minnery accused Obama of wrongly equating Old Testament texts and dietary codes that no longer apply to Jesus' teachings in the New Testament.

"I think he's deliberately distorting the traditional understanding of the Bible to fit his own worldview, his own confused theology," Dobson said.

"... He is dragging biblical understanding through the gutter."

He said Obama, who supports abortion rights, is trying to govern by the "lowest common denominator of morality," labeling it "a fruitcake interpretation of the Constitution."

Listen to Dobson and Minnery discuss Obama and his faith:

Maybe the ACLJ Should Ask Ashcroft

Sameh Khouzam, an Egyptian national who has been accused, and convicted in absentia, of murder in his native country has been fighting efforts by the U.S. government to deport him, claiming that he will be tortured if he returns because he is a Coptic Christian who refuses to convert to Islam.  

Rallying to Khouzam’s side is Pat Robertson’s American Center for Law and Justice, as well as its European affiliate, The European Centre for Law and Justice:

As a Coptic Christian, Khouzam effectively has no rights in his native Egypt and quite frankly because of his religious beliefs is certain to be denied the most basic of human rights and protections. The U.S. government repeatedly has stated its opposition to torture and should do what's right -- keep Khouzam out of the hands of a government that is likely to do just that."

In its amicus brief, the ACLJ and ECLJ contend that Egypt's assurances that it won't torture Khouzam are simply not credible.

The brief also contends that the United Nations Convention Against Torture (CAT) should apply in this case. CAT states that "no State Party shall expel, return ("refouler") or extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture."

The brief asserts that "where the receiving country has a poor human rights track record, like Egypt does, diplomatic assurances should carry almost no weight."

Obviously, there is nothing wrong with the ACLJ/ECLJ’s effort to prevent Khouzam from being tortured – in fact, it is quite laudable.  What makes the ACLJ/ECLJ involvement in this case interesting is the fact that both organizations have close ties to Former Attorney General John Ashcroft – the very same man responsible for the “extraordinary rendition” of Canadian citizen Maher Arar to Syria, where he was reportedly tortured:

Syndicate content

Constitutional Rights Posts Archive

Brian Tashman, Thursday 12/09/2010, 3:09pm
As GOP delay-tactics in the US Senate continue to cause and aggravate judicial emergencies in the nation’s courtrooms, right wing activists demand that Senate Republicans persist in preventing members from voting to confirm Obama’s judicial nominees, even those who won significant bipartisan support. Even former Republican judges have condemned Republican games in the Senate as the number of judicial vacancies and emergencies rapidly grow. But right wing activists are calling on the Senate GOP to stand firm and further weaken the judicial system. In the effort to paint... MORE
Kyle Mantyla, Friday 04/09/2010, 2:06pm
Today, Justice John Paul Stevens announced that he will retire from the Supreme Court after nearly 35 years of service ... and the Right has been quick to issue warnings to President Obama that they are ready to fight. American Center for Law and Justice: "The announcement of Justice Stevens' retirement underscores the reality that President Obama will make a second appointment to the nation's highest court that will impact generations to come," said Jay Sekulow, Chief Counsel of the ACLJ. "While there's certain to be much debate about Justice Stevens' replacement, there is... MORE
Kyle Mantyla, Monday 03/29/2010, 3:36pm
Earlier this year, Lisa Miller kidnapped her daughter Isabella and disappeared in order to avoid complying with a court ruling granting custody of the child to her former partner, Janet Jenkins; a ruling that came about due precisely to the fact that Miller had repeatedly refused to abide by court-ordered custody arrangements. Miller was recently held in contempt of court and now faces arrest.  Shortly after Miller disappeared, Liberty Counsel, which had represented her for years and turned her into a right-wing celebrity, tried to wash its hands of her, at least as it pertained to her... MORE
Kyle Mantyla, Tuesday 03/23/2010, 5:47pm
Think Progress: Vandals hit at least five Dem offices nationwide, threaten to ‘assassinate’ children of pro-reform lawmakers. Steve Benen: Someone Send Glenn Beck John Lewis' Bio. Texas Freedom Network: Don McLeroy Has Trouble Explaining Texas Social Studies Curriculum Standards. Americablog: School violated Constance McMillen’s constitutional rights, but won't require school to hold the prom. Pam's House Blend: Jesse Helms, gay rights advocate? That's what his estate says. Finally, do 24 percent of Republicans really... MORE
Kyle Mantyla, Thursday 02/18/2010, 12:34pm
Sen. Jim DeMint's speech at CPAC is pretty much the entire conference in a nutshell.  After spending the majority of his address bad-mouthing the other Republicans in the Senate for not being a true conservative like he is, DeMint turned to the 2012 election, noting that the next president has to be more than just a good speaker, saying that "just because you're good on TV doesn't mean you can sell socialism to freedom-loving Americans." The next president, DeMint asserted, had to be willing to tell Americans the hard truths, meaning that the federal government was... MORE
Kyle Mantyla, Thursday 12/10/2009, 11:07am
A few weeks ago in his column for WorldNetDaily, Ken Hutcherson penned this line: I think Christians are the new Negro – but that's an issue for a follow-up column. Well, that follow-up column is here: Many reading this may not understand where I came up with this concept of calling Christians "the new Negro." The reason is because there are undeniable similarities. Jim Crow laws were passed to keep me from having my constitutional rights and my rights under the Declaration of Independence of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Even though the Constitution gave me... MORE
Kyle Mantyla, Wednesday 11/25/2009, 4:47pm
When it comes to ginning up anti-gay opposition, few can hold a candle to the Traditional Values Coalition: ENDA is a direct assault on the constitutionally guaranteed free exercise of religion. This means that you can have a belief in your heart but not practice it. It is key legislation favored by the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) lobby to gain federally-protected minority status for sexual behaviors that most Americans consider bizarre or abnormal ... ENDA will force businesses, public schools (pre-kindergarten through 12th grade), as well as Christian entities such as... MORE