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Washington Supreme Court Decides Against Religious Freedom

People across the political spectrum concerned about religious liberty should give a read to an article by Matt Hadro of Catholic News Agency.  The Supreme Court of Washington state has upheld a ruling that a Christian florist is not free to choose her jobs:

“It’s wrong for the state to force any citizen to support a particular view about marriage or anything else against their will. Freedom of speech and religion aren’t subject to the whim of a majority; they are constitutional guarantees,” Kristin Waggoner, senior counsel with the group Alliance Defending Freedom who argued the case before the Washington Supreme Court, stated Feb. 16.

“This case is about crushing dissent. In a free America, people with differing beliefs must have room to coexist,” she added.

Consider the dangerous reasoning of the court:

The law “does not compel speech or association,” the court added, stating that it “is a neutral, generally applicable law that serves our state government’s compelling interest in eradicating discrimination in public accommodations.”

What couldn’t fall under this construct?  Particularly problematic is that it’s built on a patently false premise:  The law does “compel speech or association,” whether or not it is “neutral” or “generally applicable” or “serves [a] compelling interest.”  As a legal matter, the question would be whether the law can compel such speech or association, which it clearly cannot — hence the dissembling.

As for the neutrality and general applicability, that’s of no comfort at all.  A legislature (or executive or court, in our corrupted version of representative democracy) need only declare a particular group (and its behavior) as exempt from moral criticism and then forbid everybody from discriminating against it.

Furthermore, if the state government has this “compelling interest in eradicating discrimination,” why is it limited to public accommodations?  And why does it protect some types of human activity and identity and not others?

People who agree with the Washington Supreme Court simply don’t believe in religious liberty for people of whom they do not approve.  Whether they realize it or not, they’re implicit tyrants and very possibly bigots, too.

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A Well-Planned “Shock” To The System Is, Indeed, Warranted

According to the Rhode Island Family Prosperity Index, “startups aren’t the only thing when it comes to job growth. They’re the only thing.” The only way to incentivize enough start-up activity to make a difference in our state is to create a business climate that is attractive enough to make thousands of entrepreneurs want to invest here. Crony deals for a few dozen companies will not get it done.

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Keeping Information from the Deplorables Constructs a False Reality

CBC Radio Canada News takes up a second-order aspect to a news story about a man who is alleged to have inappropriately touched several teenage girls at a water park in Canada:

When Edmonton police announced the charges on Wednesday, they urged any other complainants or witnesses to contact them. One more complainant and one more witness have since come forward, police spokesperson Scott Pattison said Thursday.

The man charged in the case was a Syrian refugee who arrived in Canada in January 2016, a fact that was reported Wednesday by numerous news outlets, including CBC News.

The story was quickly picked up by alt-right websites and anti-immigration groups. It was shared widely on social media.

As CBC tweeted, “When a refugee faces criminal charges, should the public be told?” How can there be any other answer than “yes”?  As reaction to the story has proven, the detail is absolutely relevant to public discourse.  Sure, the new bogeymen on the “alt-right” will attempt to amplify any such stories to advance their own point of view.  But then, failing to report the detail is to aid and abet the “ctrl-left,” by maintaining talking points about how there’s no evidence of any problems with refugees.

The area across Northern America and Europe is sufficiently large that a unified decision among our media betters to withhold information they don’t find relevant in isolated cases could brush away hundreds of stories and present a false impression of reality to news consumers.  It would be Rotherham on a Western Civilizational scale.

A news media that doesn’t trust us to be sufficiently intelligent to absorb and process this information is just feeding us ideological propaganda because they think they’re better than us.  It’s that clear.

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What You Are and Aren’t Allowed to Try to Change on the Left

Although some of us on the right find their viewpoints intellectually incoherent, progressives do have consistent guildelines that can help one to predict what their opinions will be on particular issues.  On matters of biology and sexuality, the guideline appears to be that any movement away from the attitudes and lifestyles that facilitated human society’s advancement through to the 1960s is good.  Consider legislation that Steve Ahlquist promotes on RI Future:

House Bill 5277, which if passed would prohibit “conversion therapy” by licensed health care professionals with respect to children under 18 years of age was popularly supported at the House Health Education and Welfare Committee meeting Wednesday evening. Conversion therapy as defined in the bill includes any practice that “seeks or purports to impose change of an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity, practices which attempt or purport to change behavioral expression of an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity or attempt or purport to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same sex.”

So, to review:  Progressive legislators have submitted an extremely broad and radical bill that would prevent just about any government interference when women want to kill their babies in the womb.  The Department of Education has issued regulations authorizing schools to guide students along the path of changing their genders, even if it means deceiving their parents.

And yet, progressives want to forbid people who wish to reduce or eliminate their same-sex attractions from working with professionals who might be able to help them do that.  This is pure ideology, like a fundamentalist dogma with no tolerance for individual choices that stray from the accepted beliefs.

Not to play Internet psychotherapist, but one gets the impression that people who’ve made radical lifestyle choices want to use the law to prevent others from choosing differently if their doing so might imply that the radical choice is wrong.  As for the progressive movement, as a movement, undermining the social structures and freedoms that empower individuals in the context of their families leaves a hurting population ripe for progressive rule.

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The State Police Catch the Diversity Virus

It would seem that progressive identity politics are now working their way up the scale of priorities of the state police:

In one of her first moves as the state’s top cop, Rhode Island State Police Col. Ann Assumpico has commissioned a study of recruitment practices aimed at retaining a “racially and gender-diverse department,” the state police announced Friday.

The project is expected to cost $225,000 and will be paid for from the state police’s remaining portion of funds secured in the federal settlement with Google.

Hopefully law enforcement remains the agency’s top priority, but two years of the Gina Raimondo in the governor’s chair haven’t been good for the institution’s once-impeccable reputation.  A diversity obsession can do a lot of damage.

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Selling Cars with Classism in a Dress

If the Super Bowl commercial for Audi cars caught your attention (in a good or bad way), be sure to read Jack Baruth’s  frame-by-frame analysis of the commercial:

After watching the one-minute advertisement carefully, however, I understood feminism, or equal pay, is the last thing Audi wants you to take away from it. The message is far subtler, and more powerful, than the dull recitation of the pseudo-progressive catechism droning on in the background. This spot is visual — and as you’ll see below, you can’t understand it until you watch it and see what it’s really telling you.

Let me tell you up front: chances are you won’t like what Audi has to say.

Basically, the commercial is about wealthy whites dominating working-class whites in all ways, including their virtue signaling. So, it’s pretty much an articulation of liberalism in a sixty seconds.

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Progressive Regunberg’s Trusted Source Highlights Gender Pay Gap Myth

Given that Democrat Representative Aaron Regunberg of Providence finds Glassdoor research so credible that he cites it as representative of the field of corporate information in legislation, perhaps this additional finding from the company will persuade him to agree that the talk of unequitable pay for women is a myth:

As above, with no controls men earn $21,410 more than women on average. However, adding controls for age and performance reviews that gap shrinks to $15,776. Finally, adding all controls the “adjusted” pay gap shrinks to -$425, which is a slight female pay advantage (but not statistically significant). Thus, once we make an apples-to-apples comparison of workers, there’s no material difference in pay by gender at Glassdoor.

Unfortunately, I suspect the “pay gap” is on the list of deceptions that are just way too valuable to the Left to allow correction.

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Holding Down Grandma for Euthanasia

Is this really the direction in which we want to go?  From an unsigned article of the Catholic News Agency:

[The elderly woman in Amsterdam] had reportedly expressed a desire for euthanasia when “the time was right” at an earlier date, but had not done so recently.

The senior doctor at the the nursing home determined that the woman’s condition meant that the time was right, and put a sleep-inducing drug into the woman’s coffee in order to administer the lethal injection without consulting the woman.

The woman woke up as the doctor was trying to give the injection, and fought the procedure. The doctor had to ask family members to hold the woman down while she completed the injection.

Hold your grandmother down while I kill her.  Aren’t some things self-evidently wrong?  In the popular imagination, there comes a time when people who’ve been moved down a dark path find that their actions are so extreme that it breaks through the social or psychological blinders that had hidden their true nature.  This seems like it should be one of those what-are-we-doing moments.

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Wanting Government Restrictions on Others’ Behalf

As far as arguments against a policy go, points like this are terrible: 

While some conservative Christians would like to see the rule [against religious organizations’ involvement in politics] abolished, others, especially the younger generation, support a clear separation of church and political endorsements. Many liberal churches are also active on policy issues, and could potentially get more involved in partisan politics.

Mayer noted that for some religious leaders, the IRS rule has given them a way to avoid political pressure for an endorsement.

“Now a church that wants to say no has an easy answer, it’s illegal,” Mayer said.

Really?  Those tasked with promoting and explaining a religion are timid about explaining why they might not want to endorse anybody, or even a particular candidate?  Nobody will be forced to express an opinion.  I suspect it’s more the truth that they don’t feel comfortable with it themselves and wish to restrain others from what they see as an unfair advantage.

Perhaps, too, those who object tend to be of the sort who are entirely on the same page as the secular culture, so they know their political work will get done, making it worth taking a slight hit in order to impede others whose Churches play a role to the secular culture.

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Different Risks for Different Faiths Suggest That Religious Consideration for Refugees Is Reasonable

This Perry Chiaramonte article on FoxNews provides an important reminder both to Western Christians and to our non-Christian peers who see us as the enemy:

The report comes on the heels of another study by the Center for Studies on New Religions that showed nearly 90,000 Christians were killed for their faith in 2016 and that as many as 600 million were prevented from practicing their faith through intimidation, forced conversions, bodily harm or even death.

“These numbers underscore what we already know,” Robert Nicholson of the Philos Project, an advocacy group for Christianity in the Middle East, told Fox News at the time of the report’s release. “There are many places on Earth where being a Christian is the most dangerous thing you can be. Those who think of Christianity as a religion of the powerful need to see that in many places it’s a religion of the powerless. And the powerless deserve to be protected.”

The reality of different degrees of risk around the world for people of different religions shines a different light on domestic arguments about policy.  In discussion of who can come to the United States in order to escape persecution and danger — refugees, which derives from the word “refuge,” let’s not forget — I have to confess that I find religion to be an absolutely appropriate criterion.  A blanket ban on a particular religion goes too far, in my view, but if left-wingers scream about a “Muslim ban” based on geographic restrictions, they’d obviously find religious-preference rules beyond the pale, even though it would arguably be more reasonable and humane.

Taking a step back, progressives should understand that a great many people agree with me on this point, and harassing them into silence only hardens positions and makes problems more difficult to solve.

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Political Football

Trump wins again.

On the largest sports and media stage in the world, several news outlets somehow got it into their heads that Brady’s sole responsibility wasn’t to concentrate on football and lead his team to a fifth Super Bowl title. No, he also had a moral responsibility to denounce his friend and golfing buddy, Donald Trump.

In their attempts to put Brady and the team on notice about their problematic friendship, the media somehow managed to convert former Patriots haters into fans. Because while few institutions are more hate-able than the Patriots, the media is definitely one of those institutions.

Obviously, we New Englanders don’t hate the Pats and it’s not our fault the rest of the country – or the NFL offices – can’t handle their success (but those of us who grew up as Yankee-haters do sorta get it!).

That being said, the week leading up to the Superbowl saw Brady, Belichick and Kraft join the ranks of other celebrities who have fallen afoul of the media moralizers.  “Spineless Feminist” Taylor Swift came in for criticism when she didn’t attend the Women’s March on Washington.  Fellow Diva Lady Gaga has now fallen afoul of the Progressive Prudes for not properly politicizing her Superbowl Halftime show. “[I]t’s disheartening to watch someone with so much heart (and guts and spleen) stare down a moment of this magnitude and blink.Twitter was full of lefty media types gloating over the Pats performance and correlating the blowout to their support for Trump.  Karma or something.  But then at least some of those tweets got deleted once the Pats won.

Here’s hoping things calm down soon. I don’t think we can take this amped up environment that politicizes everything.  Can we?

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Upward Mobility And Prosperity For Ocean State Families

New national research shows that Rhode Island ranked just 48th on the 2016 Family Prosperity Index (FPI). In December 2016, our Center in conjunction with our national partner, the American Conservative Union, issued a 52-page RI Family Prosperity report that highlighted contributing factors to our state’s poor rankings across 57 indexes. Among other discussions, the report suggests that Rhode Island has room to modernize and improve its criminal justice system. Reforms put forth as part of the state’s JRI, and by other organizations can help provide more opportunity for upward mobility and prosperity for Ocean State families.

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Considering Real Children to Help Them Engage in the Practice of Freedom

Marquette University Professor Howard Fuller’s commentary on school choice is well worth a listen:

I do believe that education is about liberation.  It’s about freedom.  So, if people have freedom, but the freedom is to choose from mediocrity, then it’s the illusion of freedom, so that the fight for quality has to be a critical part of ed reform.  But at the same time, it isn’t just about high test scores.  We want to develop kids who can do what?  Engage in the practice of freedom.

To accomplish that, Fuller insists, we must be honest about the circumstances that children are facing and get off of the talking points that only make sense in “cocktail party conversation” so that we can address the real challenges of real people.

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Setting RI Right on Crime

For the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity, I’ve posted a brief report suggesting reform to Rhode Island criminal justice system, helping families to break the cycle of crime and familial breakdown.  With my interest in how the state government functions to restrict our freedoms and perpetuate a public-sector-first business model, the most important piece is also the one least likely to generate supportive legislation:

… it isn’t surprising Rhode Island has the lowest incarceration rate in the country. It is surprising, however, that the Ocean State’s probation and parole rate is fourth highest. That, in turn, leads to a high rate of recidivism, with 52% of former prisoners re-arrested within three years.

As researchers find to be true with other government programs, Rhode Island’s cost to supervise and provide services to prisoners and parolees is high (over $58,000 per prisoner). One might conclude that the state has an institutional bias against letting go of residents once they fall within its net of supervision.

Criminal justice reform is not only the right thing to do for Rhode Island families, it’s also a good example of the bureaucratic mentality that is strangling our state.  For reforms to be sufficient, they’ll have to begin treating that attitude as the crime that it is.

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Sleazy Raimondo Political Pitches to Under-Prepared Students Continue

Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo brought her gross pitching-politics-to-public-schoolers road show to Johnston Senior High School this week:

Gov. Gina Raimondo is out on the campaign trail, taking her pitch to high schools.

“You go from kindergarten to twelfth grade with public education. Why should it stop at twelfth grade?” Raimondo asked an auditorium of students at Johnston High School on Tuesday.

Afterward, she told reporters it is indeed a campaign to rally support for her plan to offer two free years of college tuition to Rhode Island high school graduates.

One wonders whether she believes it’s a positive or negative that the school has left her audience poorly equipped to assess the wisdom of her proposal.  More than 82% of Johnston Senior High School students are not proficient in math, and two-thirds miss the mark in reading.

Sadly, it isn’t clear that Rhode Island adults are very proficient in government ethics and simple good political taste.  Whether or not the governor’s political visits to government-run schools violate any campaign finance or ethics laws, this whole campaign is just unseemly.  The governor is using public schools to lobby our children on a politically charged policy proposal.  Just… yuck.

Shame on the school districts for allowing her to take advantage of their access like this, and shame on the parents for taking the abuse quietly.

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The Effect of Socialist-Friendly Policies

Mary Anastasia O’Grady’s Wall Street Journal column is eye opening:

… many Guatemalans I spoke with here last week are not dreading an anti-immigrant, protectionist Donald Trump in the White House. They’re focused on the exit of Barack Obama, whose foreign policy they saw as politicized in favor of left-wing causes and environmental extremism that harm Guatemalan development. …

The complaints extend beyond a difference of opinion about the role of the state. During the Obama years Uncle Sam repeatedly backed those who flouted the rule of law in the name of “social justice.”

Let me summarize what one might infer the Obama administration’s policy accomplished based on what O’Grady is saying.  Yes, I’m insinuating a more cohesive plan than there may have been, but it’s telling whether intentional or not:

  • One: Back corrupt groups that share Obama’s general ideology.
  • Two: Drive people out of those countries and toward America.
  • Three: Open the borders with selective border enforcement and promised benefits.
  • Four: Change the electorate of the United States (they think) in favor of the former president’s party.

If that were, in any degree, the plan, one can’t help but wonder whether it assumes too much to think people driven from their homes by leftist governments wouldn’t carry that lesson with them. It seems like there ought to be opportunity for conservatives, here, if we can figure out how to communicate on the level of core values with communities that have this sort of experience in their background.

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One Day They’ll Be Ashamed to Have Supported Planned Parenthood

Gee, hard to believe that this story isn’t getting more coverage, isn’t it?

While Live Action was hard pressed to find any Planned Parenthood that offered prenatal care, some of the investigators posing as pregnant women were offered abortions instead. The abortion business does almost one third of all abortions in the U.S. — 887 per day on average or about 320,000 a year.

“Planned Parenthood says it’s a champion of women’s health care, yet prenatal care, which is an essential service for expectant mothers, is virtually nonexistent,” said Lila Rose, president and founder of Live Action. “Our investigators who wanted to keep their babies were turned away by 92 out of 97 Planned Parenthood centers. It’s clear that despite its claims, abortion is the priority and the only option for pregnant women that visit Planned Parenthood.”

Planned Parenthood is an evil organization: “some of the investigators posing as pregnant women were offered abortions instead.”

The other day, one of my young children asked how the heroes of our national founding could have supported slavery.  It occurred to me after the conversation that children of the future will ask their parents how decent people once thought it was OK to tear babies limb from limb as long as they were still a few inches from birth.

The same politicians and news media who’ll use an unsourced document about “torture” of terrorist enemies for their daily dose of outrage against the Trump administration studiously ignore the dishonesty and death-profiteering of an organization that kills innocent children.

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