Racist Journalists, Minimum Wage, and Civil Asset Forfeiture

Mark Halperin used to be a respected journalist, or at least he pretended to be. But his interview with Ted Cruz was a deplorable bit of racism and hackery – he basically challenged Cruz to prove that he was genuinely Cuban. Really really disgusting and further proof that when we take old media seriously, we give THEM credit that they no longer deserve.

The great news is that Ted Cruz handled it quite well, and our team seems to really be handling the opposition media much better this go round than last.

We also discussed James Franco’s article about the positive influence that working at McDonald’s was in his life, and how we must focus on talking about “starting points”  and the first rung of the ladder.

Then we shared some stories about the horrors of civil asset forfeiture. This is a topic that needs to be addressed, by government, and that we can reach beyond our traditional groups to bring in allies. We should all learn more about it.

It’s all in the podcast

Your hosts


Halperin’s Racist Interview of Cruz – http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2015/05/11/3657223/prize-racist-interview-2016-candidate-goes-bloombergs-mark-halperin/

Halperin ‘Apology’ – http://www.scribd.com/doc/264961797/Statement-From-Mark-Halperin

Franco Criticized on Support of McDonalds – http://freebeacon.com/blog/james-franco-reveals-the-dirty-little-secret-of-fast-food-labor-its-not-worth-15-per-hour/

Franco – McDonalds Was There for Me – http://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2015/05/07/mcdonalds-was-there-for-me-when-no-one-else-was/?tid=sm_tw

The Next Labor Fight Is over When You Work – http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2015/05/08/the-next-labor-fight-is-over-when-you-work-not-how-much-you-make/

HuffPo on Amtrak Passenger DEA Cash Seizure http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/05/07/dea-asset-forfeiture-joseph-rivers_n_7231744.html

Young Black Man Cash Seized by DEA – http://freebeacon.com/issues/dea-seizes-amtrak-passengers-life-savings-without-charging-him-with-crime/

Nebraska Veteran’s Cash Seized – http://www.forbes.com/sites/instituteforjustice/2015/04/16/veteran-forfeiture-nebraska/

Veteran’s $63k Seized Because He kept It in Grocery Bags – http://www.offthegridnews.com/current-events/police-seize-63530-from-veteran-because-he-kept-it-in-grocery-bags/

IRS Seizes Convenience Store Owner’s Life Savings – http://personalliberty.com/irs-seizes-rural-convenience-store-owners-career-savings-in-another-horrible-abuse-of-civil-forfeiture/

Vox on IRS Asset Forfeiture – http://www.vox.com/2015/5/2/8528845/irs-structuring-civil-forfeiture

John Oliver on Civil Forfeiture – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3kEpZWGgJks

The 7 Most Egregious Examples Of Civil Asset Forfeiture – http://dailycaller.com/2015/01/30/the-7-most-egregious-examples-of-civil-asset-forfeiture/

The Civil Asset Forfeiture Racket – http://reason.com/archives/2014/09/24/the-civil-asset-forfeiture-racket

Leslie’s Share of Jeb Bush on Religious Freedom – https://plus.google.com/u/0/+LeslieP/posts/UW6UpDr83HR 

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Call for Religious Liberty

hhs.july_.2-300x204From Kathy Schiffer at Patheos I learn that today, the 2nd of July, the anniversary of the day that the Continental Congress adopted the resolution breaking ties with England, a group of religious leaders have gathered to sign their names on a call for Religious Liberty, here in these United States. It’s a direct response to the HHS final rule on the Obamacare contraception mandate.

They call upon Congress to expand the conscience protections to cover any “organization or individual that has religious or moral objections to covering, providing or enabling access to the mandated drugs and services”

Agree with the mandate or not, that is not at all the issue. The issue is the ability of the Federal Government to coerce “Citizen A, against his or her moral convictions, to purchase a product for Citizen B”. This violates the freedom of expression that our Founders so dearly protected. We all are going to have to take a stand for something. It seems to be time.

It is an open letter to all Americans. Here it is in its entirety

Standing Together for Religious Freedom

An Open Letter to All Americans

We write as an informal and diverse group of religious leaders, theologians, lay practitioners and community servants. We believe the doctrines of our respective faiths require something of us beyond the walls of our churches, synagogues, temples, and other places of worship. Those faith convictions manifest themselves through our daily interactions among family, neighbors, strangers and institutions.

Further, we recognize the United States, at its best, is unique among the nations of the world when it defends the self-evident freedom of all people to exercise their faith according to the dictates of their consciences. This freedom contributes to the vibrancy of our nation. Unfortunately, this delicate liberty of conscience is under threat.

Through its contraceptive coverage mandate, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) continues to breach universal principles affirmed and protected by the U.S. Constitution and other federal laws. While the mandate is a specific offense, it represents a greater fundamental breach of conscience by the federal government. Very simply, HHS is forcing Citizen A, against his or her moral convictions, to purchase a product for Citizen B. The HHS policy is coercive and puts the administration in the position of defining–or casting aside–religious doctrine. This should trouble every American.

Many of the signatories on this letter do not hold doctrinal objections to the use of contraception. Yet we stand united in protest to this mandate, recognizing the encroachment on the conscience of our fellow citizens. Whether or not we agree with the particular conscientious objection is beside the point. HHS continues to deny many Americans the freedom to manifest their beliefs through practice and observance in their daily lives.

The First Amendment states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Free exercise includes the freedom to order one’s life, liberties and pursuits in accordance with his or her convictions. HHS breaches the free exercise clause and federal statutes (passed with broad bipartisan support) by selectively denying some Americans this constitutionally protected right.

Americans afford each other broad liberties with respect to lifestyle choices. However, the federal government has neither a compelling interest nor the appropriate authority to coerce one citizen to fund or facilitate specific lifestyle choices of another. If the federal government can force morally opposed individuals to purchase contraception or abortion-causing drugs and devices for a third party, what prevents this or future administrations from forcing other Americans to betray their deeply held convictions?

Therefore, we call upon HHS to, at a minimum, expand conscience protections under the mandate to cover any organization or individual that has religious or moral objections to covering, providing or enabling access to the mandated drugs and services. Further, because HHS claims to be acting on authority granted it by Congress, we ask Congress to consider how it might prevent such offenses from occurring in the future. Any policy that falls short of affirming full religious freedom protection for all Americans is unacceptable.

And here is a list of the signatories:

Most Rev. William E. Lori

Archbishop of Baltimore
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty

Russell D. Moore, Ph.D.
Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of
the Southern Baptist Convention

Leith Anderson
National Association of Evangelicals

Bishop Andrew
Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church of America

John Ashmen
Association of Gospel Rescue Missions

Bishop Gary E. Stevenson
Presiding Bishop
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Randall A. Bach
Open Bible Churches

The Most Rev. Craig W. Bates
International Communion of the Charismatic Episcopal Church

Stephen Baskerville, Ph.D.
Professor of Government
Patrick Henry College

A.D. Beacham, Jr., Th.M.
Presiding Bishop
International Pentecostal Holiness Church

Dr. Gary M. Benedict
The Christian and Missionary Alliance, U.S.

J. Brian Benestad, Ph.D
Department of Theology
Assumption College

The Rev. Roger Boucher
Commander, US Navy (ret)
Chaplain at College of St. Mary Magdalen

Bishop John F. Bradosky
North American Lutheran Church

Anuttama Dasa
Minister of Communications
Governing Body Commissioner, Vice Chair
International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON)

Most Revd Robert Duncan
Anglican Church in North America

Rev. Jim Eschenbrenner
Executive Pastor
Christian Union

Rev. Samuel Rodriguez
National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference
Hispanic Evangelical Association

Rev. Dr . Matthew C. Harrison
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod

Dr. William J. Hamel
Evangelical Free Church

Bishop Bruce D. Hill
Evangelical Congregational Church

John Hopler
Great Commission Churches

Bill Hossler
Missionary Church, Inc.

Clyde M. Hughes              
Bishop/General Overseer
International Pentecostal Church of Christ

Dr. Jeffrey Jeremiah
Stated Clerk
Evangelical Presbyterian Church

Jo Anne Lyon
General Superintendent
The Wesleyan Church

Dr. George O. Wood
General Superintendent
Assemblies of God

Alan Robinson
National Director
Brethren in Christ Church, U.S.

Joseph Tkach
Grace Communion International

Most Reverend Nicholas J. Samra
Bishop of Newton
Melkite Greek Catholic Church

Rev. Susan Taylor
National Public Affairs Director
Church of Scientology

Anne Hendershott, Ph.D.
Daniel R. Kempton, Ph.D.
Patrick Lee, Ph.D.
Franciscan University of Steubenville

Assist. Prof. Richard S. Meloche, Ph.D.
Department of Philosophy & Theology
St. Gregory’s University

Sister Jane Marie Klein
Chairperson of the Board
Franciscan Alliance, Inc.

Richard Land, D.Phil.
Southern Evangelical Seminary

Marc A. LePain
Professor of Theology
Assumption College

Fr. Sean O. Sheridan, TOR
Franciscan University of Steubenville

Tom Minnery
Senior Vice President
Focus on the Family

Greg Mitchell
The Mitchell Firm

David Nammo
Executive Director & CEO
Christian Legal Society

Rocky Rocholl
Fellowship of Evangelical Churches

Patrick J. Reilly
The Cardinal Newman Society

Dr. William Riordan
Director of Undergraduate Theology
Ave Maria University

Terri Marsh, J.D., Ph.D.
Human Rights Law Firm

Brent McBurney
President & CEO
Advocates International

Barbara Samuels
Catholics for Freedom of Religion

Steven A. Long, Ph.D
Professor of Theology
Ave Maria University 

Prof. Dr. Dr. Thomas Schirrmacher, and
Prof. Dr. Christof Sauer
Executive Directors
International Institute for Religious Freedom

Alan Sears
Alliance Defending Freedom

Matt Smith
Catholic Advocate

David Stevens, MD, MA
Christian Medical Association

Rabbi Aryeh Spero
Caucus for America

Craig Steven Titus, S.T.D./Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Director of Integrative Studies
Institute for the Psychological Sciences

Mark Tooley
Institute on Religion and Democracy

Ryan Topping, Ph.D.
Thomas More College of Liberal Arts

Sister Margaret Regina Halloran, l.s.p.
Provincial Superior, Brooklyn Province

Sister Maria Christine Lynch, l.s.p.
Provincial Superior, Chicago Province

Sister Loraine Marie Clare Maguire, l.s.p.
Provincial Superior, Baltimore Province
Little Sisters of the Poor

1st Amendment – State Sponsored versus Individually Sponsored

I read something this morning that started a fire in my brain, and now I want to see if it starts a fire in yours.

According to a Fox News article, a North Carolina school compelled a young girl to remove religious references from a poem she wrote about her two grandfathers and their Vietnam War experiences during a Veteran’s Day presentation at her school. According to the report, the principal at the West Marion Elementary School was asked to review the appropriateness of the religious references in the poem being performed at a school sponsored function, as it may violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the Constitution. The school agreed with the grievance and the girl was ordered to alter the poem.

What bothers me isn’t the school’s knee-jerk reaction. That’s typical, and I recognize it in two parts: 1) a coward’s response to a public that believes they have the right to not be offended, and have been proven correct through successful litigation, 2) a school’s reaction to the first response and deciding that to “err on the side of caution”, as the principal puts it, saves them from having to defend themselves against a costly lawsuit that the plaintiff will invariably not have to fund due to the slavering vociferousness of the ACLU’s desire to destroy any form of public religious expression. What bothers me is that we, as a society, continue to mistakenly apply the First Amendment to institutions to which it is not applicable as a means of restricting Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Religion.

Below, the full text of the First Amendment; we’re going to break this down, and then I’m going to point you at a a dissenting viewpoint that, unfortunately, due to legal precedent  happens to be the way the First Amendment is applied.

“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.”

Phraseology; we’re going to take this a piece at a time. First clause: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,”
Seems simple enough, right? This is also the basis for the “Establishment Clause”. So lets get into this.

The Amendment specifically states that Congress shall make no law… Congress is the Legislative Branch of the Federal Government, and thus an amendment to the Constitution was created by our Founders to limit the Federal Government’s ability to create laws that establish or recognize any religion as a religion preferred by the State. There is nothing in this Clause that expressly prohibits lower entities under the Government, or public entities not associated with the Federal Government from displaying icons of a religious nature publicly, and doesn’t protect the citizenry from the expression of religion in public by anyone, regardless of affiliation with the Government. Put simply, extrapolating from this first part of the Amendment that the Federal Government shall, in pursuit of compliance with the Amendment in whole, expunge all religious references from public display, or display by public representation at any level, is reaching too far for the apple. As a school is not capable of legislating, a school’s allowing for a child to reference God, Allah, Thor, or whatever other deity they choose to while reading a poem they, themselves, wrote is protected by the remainder of the Amendment.

“…or (make no law…) prohibiting the free exercise thereof;” refers again to the limits on Congress concerning the creating of laws limiting freedom of religion. Since its been argued successfully, and to our detriment, that a publicly funded entity should be held to higher restraints concerning religious display, regardless of its legislative powers, one could also conversely argue that since the school, in this case, would violate the Establishment Clause by allowing for the poem to be read as written, that they would also violate the Freedom Exercise Clause by prohibiting the child’s poem to be read. This circular reference paradox is directly caused by the misapplication of judicial precedent regarding the Establishment Clause and its applicability to lower governmental bodies with no legislative powers. A school is not Congress, just as much as a city community center, lets say, in Santa Monica, CA, isn’t Congress. The Establishment Clause applies only to Congress.

“…or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press;” This is pretty self explanatory, but we still manage to get it wrong. There are those who feel that since words can hurt we must prevent this pain by preventing the unfettered use of language to express an individual. I’m not talking about libel or yelling fire in a crowded building. I’m talking about political correctness and the overbearing need to force people to not offend others. You’re no more protected by the First Amendment from being offended than the school is obligated to wipe religion out of that little girls poem. For some reason, though, we’ve created an industry around litigation centered on the protection of the feelings of people from the expression of others. This seems to only apply to religious types, or Conservatives, though. No one has, to my knowledge, suggested we bind Louie CK’s lips shut for calling Sarah Palin the vile things he has; at least, no one has and received face in the media for having done so. Unless you are exposed to what CK has said on the radio, in his act, and on TV, you’d not know, and therefore not be offended. The same can be said for any other type of expression, say, Mark Levin or Rush Limbaugh, for instance. If what they say doesn’t sit well with you, change the channel, but don’t go crying to the Government to forcibly “change the channel” for the entire population. That is not your place, and the changing of the channel is not the Government’s place, as indicated by this Clause.

“…or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” This seems pretty self explanatory as well. Congress shall not legislate away the right to peaceably assemble, protest publicly, or petition for the redress of grievances against the Government. Since this isn’t part of the topic at hand, I’m not going to delve too deep into this, except to say that while Occupy Wall Street started out as a peaceable protest movement, it quickly spun out of control, as most mob mentality movements will. Once the peace was disturbed by the mob the protest movement gave up its right to assemble. If a citizen was part of the mob and arrested for defecating on a police vehicle, that arrest is not without cause, and the police officer should not be reprimanded for carrying out their duties in the prevention of further carrying out of doodie.

For a dissenting opinion on the Establishment Clause, and the history of its application to public discourse, to the detriment of society, please visit the Introduction to the Establishment Clause at Exploring Constitutional Law.