No, Illinois is Not About to Force Churches to Perform Gay Marriages

Over the last few days I’ve seen a number of people starting to panic about Illinois House Bill 110, a same-sex marriage bill that is rumored to contain language that would force churches to perform same-sex marriages regardless of the churches’ stand on homosexuality.  I’ve done what most lawmakers won’t do and read the legislation (thankfully it wasn’t too long), and it seems that this panic is an overreaction.

The confusion seems to come from the inclusion of language regarding “public benefit” which has been misinterpreted to mean that since churches receive tax exemptions, they would be required to make their facilities available for same-sex marriages.  The bill actually addresses churches that “make the religious facility available to the general public for rental or for use […] for which public funding or other public benefit is received.”  This is not a matter of whether the church itself is tax-exempt, but a matter of the purposes for which the church allows the general public access.  A church that is not in the practice of renting out its facilities to the general public would not find itself under any mandate to violate its religious beliefs.

Below are a few excerpts from this bill (with superfluous language excluded) that should make this a bit easier to understand (with the language specifically causing the issue in red):

Nothing in this Act shall be construed to require any religious denomination […] or any minister, clergy, or officiant acting as a representative of a religious denomination […] to solemnize any marriage.  Instead, any religious denomination […] or any minister, clergy, or officiant acting as a representative of a religious denomination […] is free to choose which marriages it will solemnize.  No refusal by a religious denomination […] or any minister, clergy, or officiant acting as a representative of a religious denomination […] shall create or be the basis for any civil, administrative, or criminal penalty, claim, or cause of action.

Nothing in this Act shall be construed to require a religious organization […] to make available a parish hall or other religious facility on the premises of a church […] for solemnization or celebration of a marriage that is in violation of the religious organization’s religious beliefs, provided that:

(A) the religious facility is primarily used by members of the parish or congregation for worship and other religious purposes;

(B) for solemnization and celebration of marriages, the religious organization generally restricts use of the religious facility to its members and opens the facility only occasionally to non-members on an unpaid basis; and

(C) the religious organization does not make the religious facility available to the general public for rental or use for which a rental fee or other compensation is required or for which public funding or other public benefit is received.

See specifically page 4 and page 5 for the full text of the sections referenced above.

Illinois House Bill 110 (link)

A Horribly Misguided Christian Justification for War

To all the Christians who justify modern war by citing the fact that God commanded Israel to fight wars, there is a significant difference between God giving a direct command to his people for a specific purpose, and a secular government choosing to pursue war for its own interests. God has the right to exact revenge and to bring judgment on nations. It is a very dangerous idea to claim that we have the authority to do what God has unequivocally claimed for himself. If you want to find a justification for modern war, this is one of the the weakest arguments you could make as a Christian.

Why Not Santorum? Because He’d Be Bush’s Fourth Term.

Coming on the heels of Rick Santorum’s recent wins in Minnesota, Missouri, and Colorado, Gene Edward Veith asks “Why not Santorum?”  I greatly enjoyed the response of commenter “Cincinnatus”.  Take a look.

Hold up. Few honest observers now deny that Bush and Obama have governed in dramatically similar ways. Both pursued bailouts, both pursued various landmark big-government social program, both pursued interventionist foreign policies in the Middle East and elsewhere. Both have issued controversial executive orders that consolidate their own power. Both deeply politicized the Justice Department. Both kow-towed to big business and the financial sector. Both attempted to bend the Supreme Court to their will. We can quibble about the details in emphasis, etc., but the point is that the two are largely similar in terms of the governing philosophies.

Meanwhile, Santorum was clearly one of Bush’s strongest allies during his tenure. Indeed, he’s still dancing to the “invade the world” tune. Assuming that I’m right about Obama/Bush–and I’ve yet to see convincing evidence that I’m not–then why am I to believe that Santorum would govern in a way dramatically different from Bush. The story of the Presidency for the past three decades has been a story of the accretion and consolidation of executive power. This is bad no matter which party sits in the White House. Why should I welcome Santorum, obviously a Hamiltonian in terms of his embrace of kingly executive authority, but reject Obama?

Your Christian Conservatism Isn’t

On the way home from the the coffee shop tonight (when your wife is out of the country, you find a lot of ways to kill time), I was listening to The Janet Mefferd Show, a Christian political radio talk show.  The show seems to be on during my commute almost every day, so I’ve had plenty of opportunities to hear it, and I’ve found that this show is a disappointing yet all too common representation of how Christians should not conduct themselves when it comes to politics.  The Bible with which I’m familiar instructs Christians to love their enemies (Matt 5:44, Prov 24:17, Prov 25:21, Rom 12:14-21, Luke 6:27-36, need I go on?).  On the contrary, the typical “Christian conservative” pundit mocks his enemies, attributes to them the most sadistic of motives, and seems to make no effort to understand or accurately depict any viewpoint rather than their own (what’s that about not bearing false witness?).

The problem, I believe, is that too many conservative Christians have so married their faith with their politics that they parrot Republican talking points and somehow delude themselves into thinking that they’re actually expressing Christian doctrine.  They conveniently overlook the fact that conservative politicians are still politicians, and are just as guilty of twisting the truth and manipulating facts for political gain.  They quickly jump from believing that Christians should behave in a certain way to believing that Christians should take control of government to coerce everyone into living a righteous life.  Janet and others like her seem to have confused Sarah Palin for St. Paul.

Note: it is unfortunate that so many people can think in only two dimensions, and therefore it is necessary to point out that I am neither a political liberal nor a Democrat, that I am theologically conservative, that I do not think that any and every lifestyle is “ok”, etc.  I simply do not believe that God has called his followers to use force to make the world in his image.  Christians would do well to test their political beliefs against the Bible, not against Fox News.

Happy Bill of Rights Day!

Today, December 15th, is Bill of Rights Day. Too bad our rulers have run that document through the shredder. The Cato Institute has put together a short video showing how our rights are being casually disposed of by those in power.

Bill of Rights Day Video

For more specifics on the loss of our liberties, see the following articles posted today on some other libertarian websites of note:

“Today is Bill of Rights Day” (Cato Institute)

“Bill of Rights. FTW!” (Tenth Amendment Center)

“The Bill of Rights vs the FDA and the NDAA” (Tenth Amendment Center)

“Happy Bill of Rights Day” (Mercatus Center)

On Libertarianism: Answering the Objections

I’m a libertarian.  Talk to my brother, though, and he’ll tell you about the time I was a hard-core right-winger and told him that libertarians were stupid.  My, how things change.  Over the years, I’ve learned that many of my old objections to libertarianism were either invalid or completely irrelevant, and below you’ll find some handy links that answer nearly any objection you can think of.

“The Mother Lode: 100 Objections to Libertarianism with Libertarian Answers and Rebuttals” (The Humble Libertarian)

Short Answers to the Tough Questions by Mary Ruwart (Advocates for Self Government)

“Myth and Truth About Libertarianism” by Murray Rothbard (Ludwig von Mises Institute)

The most important summary of libertarianism I have found is taken from that last article by Rothbard, and I feel that an understanding of this one point would serve to answer most objections that arise:

The fact is that libertarianism is not and does not pretend to be a complete moral or aesthetic theory; it is only a political theory, that is, the important subset of moral theory that deals with the proper role of violence in social life.

If You Don’t Have Anything Honest to Say, Don’t Do Economics At All

Once again, economist Brad DeLong conveniently cuts off a quote mid-thought in an attempt to “prove” how crazy/dishonest those kooky Austrians are (for those not aware, “Austrian” is shorthand for a more capital-based school of economics than that of the mainstream).  DeLong uses this half quote to claim that Ludwig von Mises held an absurd cost-of-production theory of value and believed that increased gold production would end a depression while increased paper money would not.  Thankfully, the brilliant Bob Murphy was paying close attention and was able to reveal the rest of the story to show that if anyone is crazy/dishonest, it’s not the Austrians.

Delong’s portion of the quote:

If gold production had been considerably greater than it actually was in recent years, then the drop in prices would have been moderated or perhaps even prevented from appearing.

The full quote:

If gold production had been considerably greater than it actually was in recent years, then the drop in prices would have been moderated or perhaps even prevented from appearing. It would be wrong, however, to assume that the phenomenon of the crisis would not then have occurred.

Looks pretty clear to me.  DeLong’s error is in his assumption that falling prices (deflation) necessarily mean trouble for an economy.  With that assumption in place, it would then be a logical jump to claim that Mises’ view was that anything preventing deflation is therefore a cure for economic depression (that is, if Mises did not specifically state otherwise in the very next sentence).  On the contrary, Austrian economists do not believe that falling prices are necessarily a bad thing in all cases.  Therefore, money production in and of itself (whether paper or commodity-backed) and its resulting increase of prices (inflation) is not viewed by Austrians as a panacea for economic troubles, and no responsible academic would pretend that it was.  Internet libertarians can and have been guilty of similar tactics at times, but I would expect a professional economist like DeLong to be better than that.

For those interested in this sort of thing, Murphy’s blog is always an entertaining read (and his sparring with neo-monetarist Scott Sumner may be of interest to my co-blogger Thomas Schminke).

Why Politicians and the Media Shouldn’t Be Given the Benefit of the Doubt

One news outlet reports that something may have happened, and before long, the general consensus is that something definitely happened, and that it was worse than initially thought.  Whether it’s WMD in Iraq, swine flu, or Presidential claims that someone is a terrorist, the responsible citizen will question everything and never give politicians and the mainstream media a free pass.

Telephone: MSM Edition