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SCOTUS Sides 7-2 With Masterpiece Cakeshop in Major Religious Freedom Case

Mon, 06/04/2018 - 21:30

The U.S. Supreme Court sided with Christian baker Jack Phillips Monday in Masterpiece Cakeshop vs. Colorado Civil Rights Commission.

Many viewed the high-profile case as a test for religious freedom in a post-same-sex marriage America. Conservatives feared a decision against Phillips would mean people of faith could be legally forced to participate in events that violated their conscience.

But after oral arguments in December, Supreme Court justices favored Phillips 7-2 Monday. The opinion was penned by Justice Anthony Kennedy. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotamayor were the only dissenters.

Christian legal group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) represented Phillips before the Supreme Court. Michael Farris, ADF president, celebrated the news on social media Monday.

“What is clear from today’s ruling is that religious freedom is an important component of how these cases are resolved,” he wrote on Facebook. “Religious animus or indifference is unconstitutional.”

The Opinion

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. -- First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution

In the opinion, the Court finds that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission violated the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. Kennedy writes the Commission did not offer Phillips the “neutral and respectful consideration of his claims” he was entitled to. “The Commission’s treatment of Phillips’ case … showed elements of a clear and impermissible hostility toward the sincere religious beliefs motivating his objection.”

The Court also takes issue with the fact that the Commission compared Phillips’ “invocation of his sincerely held religious beliefs to defenses of slavery and the Holocaust.”

In short, “the Commission’s treatment of Phillips’ case violated the State’s duty under the First Amendment not to base laws or regulations on hostility to a religion or religious viewpoint.”

Case Background

Phillips’ journey to the Supreme Court began at his business, Masterpiece Cakeshop in Denver, Colorado. In 2012, Charlie Craig and David Mullins asked Phillips to design and bake a cake for their same-sex wedding reception. Phillips, a devout Christian, declined. He believes marriage is between one man and one woman. As ADF explains, “Jack cannot use his artistic talents to celebrate an event that contradicts that belief.”

It wasn’t the first time Phillips declined a cake request. He has also refused to make cakes celebrating Halloween or have vulgar messages.

“Religious and philosophical objections to gay marriage are protected views and in some instances protected forms of expression.”

Phillips offered to sell Craig and Mullins any pre-made product in his store. He also offered to make them a cake for another event. He only declined to make a custom cake for their wedding reception. At the time, same-sex marriage was not legal in Colorado.

Still, Craig and Mullins complained to the Colorado Civil Rights Commission. The Commission sided with the couple.

Objections to Gay Marriage Protected

“Given the State’s position at the time, there is some force to Phillips’ argument that he was not unreasonable in deeming his decision lawful,” the Supreme Court opinion states. The opinion also notes that Colorado’s Civil Rights Division upheld three different bakers’ rights to decline requests to make cakes “that demeaned gay persons or gay marriages.”

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The opinion goes on to note another inconsistency in the Commission’s conduct. Phillips claimed he could not create a cake with a message that violated his religious beliefs. The Commission responded that any message on the cake would be attributed to the customer, and not to Philips. “Yet the Division did not address this point in any of the cases involving requests for cakes depicting anti-gay marriage symbolism,” the Supreme Court found.

“The laws and the Constitution can, and in some instances must, protect gay persons and gay couples in the exercise of their civil rights,” Monday’s opinion reads. “But religious and philosophical objections to gay marriage are protected views and in some instances protected forms of expression.”

ACLU and ADF Respond

ACLU, the legal group that represented Craig and Mullins, isn’t viewing the decision as a defeat.

According to a statement issued Monday, “The Supreme Court today reaffirmed the core principle that businesses open to the public must be open to all.” ACLU noted the Court’s primary problem with the Commission: that it “made statements evidencing anti-religious bias.”

NEW: ACLU: "The court reversed the Masterpiece Cakeshop decision based on concerns unique to the case but reaffirmed its longstanding rule that states can prevent the harms of discrimination in the marketplace." https://t.co/dPbWEiHDZH pic.twitter.com/RtmO3aBAjx

— ABC News (@ABC) June 4, 2018

In a press release, ADF praised the Court’s decision. 

“Government hostility toward people of faith has no place in our society,” said ADF attorney Kristen Waggoner. She went on, “the state of Colorado was openly antagonistic toward Jack’s religious beliefs about marriage. The court was right to condemn that.” 

In his Facebook post, Farris referenced another of ADF’s cases that also deals with religious freedom and same-sex marriage, Arlene’s Flowers v. State of Washington. That case, also before the Supreme Court, “is left unanswered by today’s decision,” Farris said. A decision could come as soon as next week, he said.

Editor’s note: This post was updated at 2:55 p.m. CT to include Michael Farris’ comments.

Faithful Christians Can Still Run Bakeries: Masterpiece Cakeshop Victorious Before Supreme Court

Mon, 06/04/2018 - 18:12

Expert baker Jack Phillips is also a devout, faithful Christian. He holds a sincere religious conviction that the teaching of the Hebrew Scriptures, the New Testament, the Christian tradition and the Natural Moral law on the nature of marriage is true. And that it must be embraced by all believing Christians.

What is that teaching? Namely, that marriage is solely possible between one man and one woman and is intended for life, open to children and formative of family. No other relationship can be a marriage. In other words, he agreed with the ancient and almost universal Christian teaching and most of humanity through human history.

The Problem

That proved to be a problem for some. Charlie Craig and Dave Mullins entered Phillips' Masterpiece Cakeshop in 2012 and told Jack that they were planning to marry. Jack explained to the same-sex couple, "I'll make your birthday cakes, shower cakes, sell you cookies and brownies. I just don't make cakes for same-sex weddings."

The couple filed a discrimination action against the baker with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission. The Commission ruled against the Baker in an opinion laden with anti-Christian hostility. The Colorado Court of Appeals affirmed that decision.

The homosexual couple asserted that the refusal to design and bake the wedding cake violated the Colorado Public Accommodation Statute, as well as violating the state and federal Constitution. They said it was discrimination based upon their sexual orientation.

Phillips maintained that to compel him to bake a cake advancing the idea that two men can marry violated his fundamental constitutional right to the free exercise of religion. He also argued that it violated his rights to free speech. Forcing him to bake the cake would be a form of compelled speech, which the government cannot do.

A Notorious Case

The case gained national notoriety. Eventually the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear it. It has been one of the court's most closely watched cases. Both religious people and homosexual activists saw that it could decide fundamental questions that would deeply affect them.

In his request for the Supreme Court to review his case, Phillips stated that his "main goal in life is to be obedient" to Jesus Christ. He wants to follow His "teachings in all aspects of his life." He sees his work as an extension of his Christian discipleship. He said he seeks to "honor God through his work at Masterpiece Cakeshop."

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That was the problem for Craig and Mullins and then the state's Civil Right's Commission. No one minds that Phillips wants to be obedient to Christ. They object only if he follows Jesus in his business. They expect Christians to leave God at home when they go to work. Same-sex activists demand that Christians turn into secularists when they stand behind the counter or work in the shop.

The Christian who believes Jesus is the Lord of all life can't do that. Phillips politely refused to be one man at home and another man at work.

Ruling in Phillips' Favor

Six years and hundreds of thousands of dollars later, on June 4, 2018, the Supreme Court ruled in his favor. The majority opinion was written by Justice Anthony Kennedy. It held that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission violated his right to the free exercise of Religion. The commission failed to show the requisite neutrality in its handling of the entire case. The vote was 7 to 2, with only Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Sonia Sotomayor dissenting.

The court acknowledged that "one of Phillips' religious beliefs is that 'God's intention for marriage from the beginning of history is that it is and should be the union of one man and one woman.'" It added, "To Phillips, creating a wedding cake for a same-sex wedding would be equivalent to participating in a celebration that is contrary to his own most deeply held beliefs."

The Supreme Court was correct. The majority opinion and the three concurring opinions are packed with material religious freedom lawyers will be using for years to come. In short, this opinion protects the role of believing, faithful Christians to fully and freely participate in commerce without having to deny their faith.

Not only did the court defend Phillips' rights, it noted the hostility he faced from the Colorado Civil Rights Commission. The commission’s treatment "has some elements of a clear and impermissible hostility toward the sincere religious beliefs that motivated his objection. That hostility surfaced at the Commission's formal, public hearings, as shown by the record." When the commission met,

commissioners endorsed the view that religious beliefs cannot legitimately be carried into the public sphere or commercial domain, implying that religious beliefs and persons are less than fully welcome in Colorado's business community. One commissioner suggested that Phillips can believe "what he wants to believe," but cannot act on his religious beliefs "if he decides to do business in the State."

The Court Said

The court said clearly: Yes, he can. Jack Phillips can act on his religious beliefs when he does business in the state of Colorado. The Masterpiece Cake Decision is a sign that the protections of the First Amendment still apply to Christians in the United States of America. Jack Phillips, and his attorneys, showed great courage and are owed our gratitude, prayerful support and action.

But this decision doesn't settle the matter. The court framed it narrowly. The justices didn't offer a blanket rule protecting Christians in business. The people who persecuted Phillips aren't going to stop just because they lost one case. They're too committed to establishing same-sex marriage and driving defenders of true marriage into silence.

This presents us with a call for collaboration among all Christians. Phillips is a Protestant Christian. The people who persecuted him want to silence Christians of every sort. They'll go after Catholics and Orthodox too. They see us as one in our defense of Christian morality. They're right. But what they don't see is we're not only one in our morality. We're one in Christ Jesus.

We must ask some important questions. How far will the increasingly radicalized secularist State go in asserting its police power over our practice of the Christian faith? What will we do in response? Are we entering the twilight of religious liberty in America?

Masterpiece Decision: Supreme Court Pushes Back Against the Rising Tide of Anti-Religious Animus

Mon, 06/04/2018 - 16:46

The Supreme Court today pushed back against the rising tide of anti-religious sentiments in America, ruling in favor of Colorado baker Jack Phillips.

Baker Jack Phillips Wins

In a 7-2 decision, the court specifically rebuked the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which had ruled against Phillips when he refused to design a wedding cake for a same-sex "marriage." As expressed in the majority opinion of Anthony Kennedy, "The Commission's hostility was inconsistent with the First Amendment's guarantee that our laws be applied in a manner that is neutral toward religion."

Although the court did not issue a ruling on the wider questions regarding the conflict between religious freedoms and LGBT rights, the ruling was a major step in the right direction. May the pushback against LGBT extremism (and anti-Christian animus) continue!

Alliance Defending Freedom Ad

Ironically, the case was argued by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), which the SPLC brazenly labeled a hate group because of its conservative Christian views. As noted earlier today on Forbes.com (unrelated to the SCOTUS ruling), "Alliance Defending Freedom are currently classed as an extremist hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Centre." Yes, an extremist hate group!

Adding to the irony is that, in the story covered by Forbes, the ADF came under fire this past weekend when one of its ads appeared on some LGBT YouTube channels, provoking a torrent of protest against the internet giant. (I wrote about this as well, since one of my ads also appeared on these channels, adding to the LGBT outrage. Forbes and others have reported on our video as well.)

The ADF ad in question told the story of Christian florist Barronnelle Stutzman, who has been unfairly (and harshly) punished by the courts for declining to make a floral arrangement for a same-sex "wedding." Yet her case is almost an exact parallel to the case of Jack Phillips.

Both are Christian conservatives. Both have a history of serving the LGBT community. And both declined to be coerced by the state into using their artistic gifts in a direct violation of their religion and conscience. (In the words of Phillips, "It's not about turning away these customers, it's about doing a cake for an event -- a religious sacred event -- that conflicts with my conscience.")

LGBT Activism

Today, the Supreme Court took an important step in recognizing that the First Amendment remains in force. It also confirmed what I have said for years, namely, that LGBT activism is the principle threat to freedoms of religion, speech, and conscience in America. May the pushback against this extremism continue.

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It would take many books to document the rise of anti-religious (specifically, anti-Christian) sentiments in America today. Suffice it to say that much of the anti-Christian bigotry comes from LGBT activists and their allies. They have successfully demonized Christian conservatives who hold to traditional (= biblical values). (For extensive documentation through 2011, see here. And 2011 was a long time ago.)

That's why, within the last 24 hours, I was associated with ISIS and the KKK simply for producing a video which explains what the Bible says about homosexuality.

That's why, the ADF, which in recent years, has argued and won more cases before the Supreme Court than almost any other legal organization, can be labeled an extremist hate group. (In reality, as I have often argued, the SPLC is the truly dangerous hate group.)

Enough is Enough

And that's why I continue to expect a pushback against this left-leaning, increasingly-secular, oppressive and tyrannical attack on our freedoms of conscience, freedom and religion. Enough is really enough. In fact, it's been more than enough for many years now.

The time to push back is not merely upon us. It has almost passed us by.

If we don't speak and act and do what is right today, we'll have a lot of explaining to do to our kids and grandkids and great grandkids -- not to mention to God as well.

This doesn't mean that we hate those we differ with. God forbid.

This doesn't mean that we harass or persecute those who identify as LGBTQ. Not at all.

Rather, it means that anything that threatens our most fundamental freedoms -- to repeat, our freedoms of conscience and religion and speech -- must be resisted.

The churches must resist it. The media must resist it. The educational system must resist it. Big business must resist it. And the courts must resist it.

Although the 7-2 ruling could have been broader in terms of addressing the larger, philosophical issues at hand, the fact that it was 7-2 (rather than 5-4), with liberal justices Elena Kagan and Stephen Breyer joining the conservative justices (with Anthony Kennedy), bodes well for the future. It sends a message as well.

Justice Alito’s Prediction

Back in 2015, when the Supreme Court overstepped its bounds and deigned to redefine marriage, Justice Samuel Alito issued a strong dissenting opinion. In it, he warned, "I assume that those who cling to old beliefs will be able to whisper their thoughts in the recesses of their homes, but if they repeat those views in public, they will risk being labeled as bigots and treated as such by governments, employers, and schools."

He was mocked for this opinion in a remarkably short-sighted (really, almost blind) op-ed in the Los Angeles Times by Robin Abcarian. The headline read, "In a bizarre dissent, Justice Alito predicts gays might seek revenge on straights."

Abcarian wrote, "You might have thought that today’s landmark Supreme Court decision represented the end of discrimination against gays who want to marry. But according to one dissenting justice, the decision instead represents a threat to another group of citizens.

"Who might they be? People who oppose gay marriage.

"Incredibly, Justice Samuel Alito fretted that it won't be safe to knock gay marriage anymore."

What is incredible is that Abcarian wasn't aware of the high tide of anti-religious discrimination that had already risen in America. (That's why I said the op-ed was almost blind and not just short-sighted.) What Alito warned against was already here. And it was Anthony Kennedy who wrote the majority opinion in the redefinition of marriage.

Today, Kennedy took one small step to righting his wrongs. May much bigger steps be taken in the days ahead.

SCOTUS Lifts Decision Ordering Trump Admin. to Facilitate Abortion For Illegal Minors

Mon, 06/04/2018 - 16:32

In a partial victory for the Trump administration, the U.S. Supreme Court vacated a lower court ruling requiring the government to facilitate an abortion for an undocumented minor in federal custody.

The unsigned five-page opinion did not issue a judgement as to the merits of the dispute but approved the administration's request to vacate the ruling under a legal rule called Munsingwear vacatur. There was no noted dissent.

Munsingwear provides that a case which is mooted pending Supreme Court review should be expunged. Because the undocumented minor at issue procured an abortion before the justices could review the matter -- thereby ending the dispute -- the government argued Munsingwear should apply.

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The case, Azar v. Garza, was occasioned in October 2017, when an undocumented teen in federal custody, known in court papers only as Jane Doe, learned she was pregnant and asked authorities to terminate her pregnancy. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services refused, claiming it had no obligation to facilitate abortions for minors in their care.

The full U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit concluded the government's actions imposed an undue burden on abortion access, in violation to the Supreme Court's 1992 decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. The migrant terminated her pregnancy on Oct. 25, before the Department of Justice could appeal to the justices.

The administration also asked the high court to sanction the ACLU's lawyers, arguing they made false representations as to the schedule of the migrant's medical consultations in order to procure her abortion. The justices declined to act on the request.

"The Court need not delve into the factual disputes raised by the parties in order to answer the Munsingwear question here," the decision reads.

 

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The Saving Power of Love

Mon, 06/04/2018 - 16:01

“You have to be ready to have your heart broken.”

If I’ve heard that sentence once, I’ve heard it 40 or so times over the past weeks. May was National Foster Care Month, and I spent some of the month talking with foster parents about their lives, challenges, hopes and dreams for the little ones who have spent time in their homes. I often heard how hesitant families are to even consider foster care, because they might have to give back a child.

Foster Parenting

Lisa Wheeler said it while we were having a conversation on a radio show about these things. She’s had 15 children in her home with her husband since 2011, including a sibling group of three right now, and has adopted two children from foster care.

“You’re always a part of that child. You’re a part of their journey and their history,” says Karen Strachan, who has fostered some 40 children over 20 years, adopting 11, with her husband. I recently talked with her after a forum at the Heritage Foundation about some of the challenges faced by faith-based agencies that facilitate foster-care placements and adoption. The Strachans have never changed their phone number -- and never will, as long as they can help it -- so that every child who has ever been in their home knows they can call anytime. They get “hello” calls and they get “I’m in jail” calls. Getting involved in foster care is about an all-encompassing love. But then isn’t life?

Ireland Celebrating Abortion

I keep hearing Lisa and Karen as I think about what just happened in Ireland. I hesitate to bring this up, as abortion tends to be such a hot-button issue. And foster care is such an overlooked issue. But they are related, of course, in many ways. The key one may be love. Perhaps it’s because we don’t celebrate self-sacrificial love enough that we find ourselves celebrating abortion.

I realize that the Irish may not see it quite that way -- they may word it as “freedom” -- but it’s “freedom” to double down on death, “freedom” not to accept surprise and the possibility of grace. Foster care, on the other hand, which only tends to make the news when there is some horror story to tell or a political debate pending, is about the freedom for radical hospitality. There is a selflessness at its core.

A True Love

We need to encourage foster care and adoption, and make it household knowledge that there are people capable of such generosity, and not only for a child and a sibling group but for entire families -- the birth mother and father and anyone else within the reach of their hearts -- to believe in the possibilities for hope, renewal and redemption in their lives. Not only will cultivating such a celebration -- with all its difficult but fruitful challenges -- help promote life in our troubled culture, it will let us see that Irish and anyone else’s eyes can be smiling with the kind of love our hearts long for, the kind that reflects the gratuitous nature that most of us would like to believe God has for us.

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There’s no freedom without life. Abortion may be legal, but with a superabundance of love it can also be abhorrent to the human heart. Not everyone is equipped to be a parent in the traditional sense, but the all-around self-sacrifice of foster care and adoption demonstrates the kind of love that draws us out of ourselves and our miseries. Birth moms who choose adoption are heroes and should know it. Foster families are beacons in an often dark culture, where people strain to see light. It’s a true love to celebrate.

 

Kathryn Jean Lopez is senior fellow at the National Review Institute, editor-at-large of National Review Online and founding director of Catholic Voices USA. She can be contacted at klopez@nationalreview.com.

YouTube-Google Accused of Homophobia for Promoting My Video on LGBTQ Channels

Mon, 06/04/2018 - 12:57

I never thought I'd see the day when YouTube and Google were accused of homophobia, but that day has come. And somehow, I'm right in the thick of it. YouTube and Google are getting slammed for advertising one of my videos.

Here's the relevant background.

On May 2, we launched the first video in our new animated series called "Consider This." The video was entitled "Can You Be Gay and Christian?". We promoted it through all of our normal social media and internet channels. We also paid for advertising on Facebook and YouTube. (Although we have roughly 1,300 videos on our YouTube channel, this was the first video we ever paid to advertise there.)

Our intended audience was primarily the conservative Christian community, because of which the ad words we used were Faith, Beliefs, Bible, Christian, Christianity, Family, Gay, God, Homosexual, Marriage.

The last thing we planned to do was advertise on LGBTQ-related channels on YouTube. That was never our intent or goal.

Apparently though, based on the subject matter and the words "gay" and "homosexual," an ad for the video began appearing on some LGBTQ channels.

This became apparent when disgruntled viewers began posting comments like, "Horrible Human Being. You're a moron. I just saw this s***bags advertisement telling me I'm not gay!" And, "You make me sincerely sick, keep your dumb ads Off my page, go make your money somewhere else hypocrite." And, "Um can you please get this disgusting advertisement off my youtube videos."

It looks like we unintentionally hit a nerve! (Note also that we were not making money on this video; we were paying to get the message out.)

I also noticed a sudden surge of thumbs down responses to the video, along with a barrage of nasty and negative comments. The video was reaching a whole new audience.

Our Video Hits the News

A June 1 headline on LGBTQ Nation asked, "Why is YouTube running anti-LGBTQ ads before videos?"

One of the ads in question featured a video from the Alliance Defending Freedom. But the video featured in the article was "Can You Be Gay and Christian?"

The article noted,

YouTube has come under fire for putting anti-LGBTQ ads on LGBTQ videos.

Twitter user Jace Aarons tweeted an example. He found an ad from Michael Brown, a conservative radio host, playing before a video from Chase Ross, a transgender YouTuber.

How in the world did our ad end up there?

This prompted Chase (who has 145,000 subscribers) to express his frustration in his own YouTube video. In it, he took YouTube to task for allowing "an anti-LGBT ad, a very homophobic and transphobic company [to] advertise their message, their conversion therapy, their horrible, like, mean messages on my LGBT videos."

He also mocked YouTube for being "diverse" something like "once a month." (Obviously, Chase missed the irony of excoriating YouTube for allowing diverse viewpoints, since "diversity" in his book means pro-LGBTQ only.)

Chase was also mortified that anyone in 2018 could possibly argue that marriage was the union of a man and a woman. "Like we're still here? Like literally, what year are we in? 1810? 1940? Where are we?"

 

 

Pink News reported on this as well, with a headline stating, "YouTube under fire over 'homophobic' adverts potentially targeting LGBT YouTubers."

The article explains that "One of the most criticised adverts comes from conservative radio host Michael Brown, whose two-minuite [sic] long advert condemns being gay using quotes from the bible."

Another LGBTQ website, We the Unicorns, carried a similar article, also referencing our video.

And Hank Green of hankschannel on YouTube (with 305,000 subscribers) produced a video expressing his anger.

He references "a preacher guy" who is "basically saying that he has the ultimate take on what Christianity is and that Christianity is incompatible with homosexuality. And you know this because he is right. You can tell, because of his mustache."

And because our video is nicely illustrated, Hank refers to it as "the prettied-up version of hate, and it's just like, 'Here's what the Bible says.'" It's "shined up hate," he says.

At the time of this writing, Hank's video had been watched more than 115,000 times and had more than 17,000 thumbs up responses.

Viewers Aren’t Happy

Commenters responding to Hank's video likened me to ISIS and the KKK, claimed our biblical arguments were "another form of racism," and stated that "HATE GROUPS DONT DESERVE EQUAL RIGHTS" (their emphasis). A self-identified pansexual transboy also expressed his outrage. (If you not have yet watched our video, I encourage you to take 6 minutes to do so, asking yourself where the "hate" is. Also, if you enjoy the video, share it with your friends and give it a thumbs up, since we were flooded with a spate of thumbs down reviews when the ads hit these LGBTQ channels. You can even get involved in the comments section.)

A video from InformOverload (with one million subscribers) references our video, claiming that the ad "basically consists of two-minutes of [me] ranting about how being gay is bad while at the same time sharing quotes from the Bible"). Commenters are then asked to respond to the question, "Is YouTube homophobic?" (One commenter wrote, "This is so wrong Why do still have people who think it’s 16th century and believe earth is flat and LGBT is bad.")

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The INTO website reported, "LGBTQ YouTube Videos Are Being Served With Anti-LGBTQ Ads," with our video once again featured front and center. "One fan alerted trans YouTuber Chase Ross that his video titled, 'Five Years Post-Op Emotional Transition,' featured an ad about 'sinful desires,' condemning -- you guessed it! -- same-sex attraction. The ad is a clip from the YouTube account 'Ask Dr. Brown,' and is called 'Can You Be Gay and Christian'?"

The article also notes that "A Google spokesperson told INTO that the platform has policies against ads 'that incite hatred or promote discrimination, and all ads that run on the platform have to comply with these policies.'"

Obviously, the Google accountant who worked with us and reviewed our video did not feel it incited hatred or promoted discrimination (it does neither). But since LGBTQ channels on YouTube have apparently faced the same problems conservative channels have faced -- with videos being demonetized or worse -- INTO also quoted bisexual YouTuber Dodie Clark. She tweeted, "how the actual f*** is YouTube automatically branding anything LGBTQ+ not suitable for advertising and yet allowing anti-gay (ANTI GAY?!! what is this the 1940s?!) adverts on our videos?! i mean that's just plain and simple homophobia right?! the platform we use is homophobic?"

A Rock and a Hardplace

YouTube is obviously between a rock and a hard place. It will be interesting to see what happens in the days ahead. It looks like everyone has something to complain about when it comes to wanting a level playing field. Yet it's hard to imagine that no one will ever be offended by an ad that runs on their channel.

On my end, I'm glad our video is getting the added attention. (May it get far more in the days ahead!) And I'm glad lots of folks are watching it who would not have seen it otherwise. (One woman commented on Hank's video that watching the two-minute ad has started to convince her that homosexual practice is wrong. I hope she watches the whole video and then studies the Scriptures for herself.)

But I fully understand the frustration expressed by these LGBTQ viewers, since our ads appearing on their channels felt to them like an invasion of their safe space (or worse). That was never my intent, and as we craft ads in the future, we'll do our best to avoid offending anyone unnecessarily.

That being said, if the content of the video offends, so be it. We spoke the truth in love, and it is that God's truth that sets us free.

Is Integralism Catholic Sharia? A Question and Answer Catechism

Mon, 06/04/2018 - 12:14

Last week I burned some bridges by writing tough but constructive criticism about the orthodox Catholic subculture. I pointed to some trends that seem to run in parallel, reinforcing each other. I've seen some angry feedback, so I know that I touched a nerve. No, I didn't say that all or even most of the grads of small Catholic colleges are:

Rejecting American freedom in favor of fantasies about a Catholic theocracy. Embracing collectivist economic views which they falsely infer from Catholic social teaching. Disdaining well-paying work that might support families, because they insist on careers in the arts, the Church, or education. Emerging deep in debt, marrying spouses with equal debt. Having children nine months and five minutes apart kids on public assistance (Medicaid, food stamps, WIC). And Claiming that as their "right" using Humanae Vitae and poorly understood Catholic social teaching about a "just wage" as pretexts.

But some do. You know who you are.

Like Muslims in Paris

What alarms me about the nexus of all these pathologies? How much it mirrors Muslim immigrant enclaves in Western Europe. There, people unsuited (or unwilling) to take part in the modern economy lean on their sense of theological "otherness." Of superiority, in fact. They see the public benefits that the "infidels" provide them as their due. Some even call it "jizya," the tribute Muslims demand of non-believers whom they've conquered. I've heard or read Catholics say something quite similar of America. That non-Catholics not as "open to life" ought to pay taxes to feed, medicate, and educate the kids of Catholics who are.

Because the Muslim analogy is what awoke me to this problem, I focused on Integralism. That's a newly fashionable but ill-defined school of thought in some Catholic circles. It rejects the Anglo-American tradition of freedom and focus on individual rights. Integralists follow Notre Dame's Patrick Deneen. They dismiss all that as "Liberalism." They reduce the American founders to mere parrots of John Locke. And John Locke turns out to be a thin fig leaf for Thomas Hobbes. Hence the ACLU and Planned Parenthood prove to be right about the Constitution, and Justice Scalia dead wrong.

America was hopeless from its founding, so we're exempted from duties as active citizens. Instead we should focus on creating an alternate program that's based explicitly on Catholicism. Once all we see around us has collapsed into heaps of rubble, then we can think about implementing it. But we're off the hook for now, and free to indulge our fantasies. 

Following the responses to my piece, I've seen some questions that ought to be answered. Not everyone is clear on what exactly "Integralism" means. Or why we can reject it without surrendering to contemporary secularism, wrapping our altars in rainbow flags.

If you enjoy these questions and answers, please check out my book-length response to a wide array of Catholic queries, The Bad Catholic’s Guide to the Catechism.

An FAQ on Integralism and Liberalism

Q: Isn't the Liberalism that's threatening Christians with prison or ruin for rejecting same-sex marriage evil? Don't you as a Christian, much less a Catholic, reject all that?

A: It is evil, but it isn't Liberalism. At least not in the Classical sense of that word, as America's founders or most of its patriotic Christians would recognize it. What you're speaking of is Progressivism. Its roots lie not in the Magna Carta, Richard Hooker or even John Locke. Instead, it draws on Rousseau, Marx and Freud. It doesn't just want to leave adults free to follow their consciences. No, it wants to reshape those consciences, and train people's children to escape their parents' churches. Its notion of "freedom" isn't "free of state coercion." Rather it's "free of negative influences, free from unpleasant experiences." It's a nanny-state view of the world. It sees citizens as shrubberies, and social elites as the gardeners with shears.

Q: What of the "Liberalism" that the European Union claims to stand for, when it tries to undermine popular elections and governments, from Italy to Poland?

A: Again, Progressives have hijacked the word. A Classical Liberal would leave citizens free to own guns for self-protection. To home-school or otherwise school his children. To vote on the best immigration policy for his country, and expect his rulers to implement it. Citizens would stay free to associate as they liked, even if some chose exclusive clubs. They'd be free to speak, even if it hurt someone's widdle feelings. Or criticized his intolerant religion. Or pointed out that his "gender transition" was a sign of mental illness.

Q: What do you say to that argument that even Anglo-American freedom was bound to end up like this?

A: That it's plainly wrong. Our version of Christian Liberalism, as the founders saw it, depended on the morality of the people. Even on their religiosity, specifically their Christianity. And their respect for Natural Law. Washington, Adams, even Jefferson explicitly said so. An originalist judge reading the Constitution would see that, and not use the document to saw off the limb on which it rested. Without self-control, liberty is impossible, as Edmund Burke warned us.

We've been the victim of false, willfully dishonest readings of our Constitution. Go back to the Supreme Court's attack on school prayer. Then forward to Roe v. Wade, Griswold v. Connecticut, Casey v. Planned Parenthood, and Obergefell v. Hodge. In each case, the court majorities perverted the language of American liberty to promote Progressive goals. It's not our job to pretend that they were honestly reading our Constitution.

We've been the victim of false, willfully dishonest readings of our Constitution. Go back to the Supreme Court's attack on school prayer. Then forward to Roe v. Wade, Griswold v. Connecticut, Casey v. Planned Parenthood, and Obergefell v. Hodge. In each case, the court majority tortured the language of American liberty to promote Progressive goals. It's not our job to pretend that they were honestly reading our Constitution. Then to reject it as a result. People do a great job of perverting the Bible too, when it suits them. That doesn't mean we burn it.

Q: Why do you support an absolute separation of church and state, when you see what it has led to?

A: First of all, I don't. We never had that in America before the 1960s. What we had was a tolerant, de facto Protestant country. It wisely avoided picking sides in the fight among the churches, and relied on people to make positive law based on Natural Law. That's the code of ethics any honest person could in theory deduce for himself. But only provided he accepted a few core premises. The key ones? That reality is intelligible, that God exists, and that man is more than an animal.

Accept those, and we have the tools to argue fruitfully about every moral question. Reject them, and we aren't opponents having an argument, but enemies fighting for power. Even John Locke accepted Natural Law, though some say in a truncated form. (That's an issue for scholars to hash out. It really doesn't matter. Locke wasn't our Muhammad and we need not do what he said.)

There's nothing wrong with a tolerant confessional State for a Catholic country where the people overwhelmingly want it. Vatican II doesn't oppose that and neither do I. There are several examples of such tolerant states, such as 19th century Austria, and Poland for most of its history.

The Law Writ on the Human Heart

Q: So you think Natural law is the only proper basis for legislation? Not the Bible, or the teachings of the Church?

A: Exactly. It's quite demanding enough. The central case that the popes make against abortion, pornography, divorce, even contraception, is based on Natural Law. When our society accepted all those ills, it wasn't rejecting the Vatican or even Christianity. It was rejecting reason itself. And blowing up the foundations on which our experiment in ordered liberty rested. No wonder people are going crazy now, with daydreams of theocracy.

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Q: But Divine Revelation is a higher authority than reason. Why shouldn't it guide us?

A: Because not everyone has access to it. Yes, Revelation was made publicly, and we should announce it to the world. But whether or not someone accepts it, believes it? That depends entirely on the mystery of divine Grace. You can't reason out Christianity on your own, as you can philosophical questions. It's a gift that comes from a Person. Neither you nor I know whether or not a given person has yet received that grace. We can't know. He might not even know himself. It's between him and God.

So it's wrong for us to make laws that coerce people to act in ways they can only sincerely act if they've gotten that grace, and accepted faith. That's why the Church never forced people to convert. Why popes condemned the forced baptism of Jews. We were acting in the spirit of Jesus' own words on the subject: "And if any one will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town." (Matt. 10:14)

If the Church starts using coercion, doesn't it become part of the State? Or a rival mini-state?

Q: Hasn't the Catholic Church in the past cooperated with the government in coercing baptized Christians? Don't authoritative Church documents grant the Church, and the State, the power to silence heretics, by force if necessary?

A: Vatican II renounced that power. It said that both Divine Revelation and Natural Law demanded religious freedom. It said that "within due limits," people must be permitted to act alone, and in groups, following their conscience. The Catholic Catechism says the same thing.

Did Vatican II Have a Secret, Esoteric Doctrine?

Q: But what are those due limits?

A: That's something for us to argue about. It's well short of permitting human sacrifice, or polygamy, or other acts that violate the Natural Law. But to say that "due limits" would let us go back to outlawing Protestant churches (as Franco did, citing previous Church teaching).... What would that make of the Council's own words? Of every statement by subsequent popes defending religious freedom? Wouldn't we see them as rank deceptions? If the Church secretly reserved the right to persecute anyone whose parents baptized him, unless he repeated Catholic orthodoxy? Vatican II would be exposed as Muslim style Taqiya, concealing Catholic sharia.

Q: Hasn't Catholic scholar Thomas Pink argued that the Church simply denied the State the right to use coercion? But it left a loophole to use coercion itself?

A: Yes, he argued that. There are several key reasons why that doesn't make sense. From a Catholic perspective, it's completely unsupported by anything any pope has said since the Council. Pope John Paul II explicitly apologized, on behalf of the Church, for abuses of fellow Christians' religious freedom. No pope has agreed with Pink. In fact, no bishop of any diocese anywhere in the world has endorsed his argument, or anything like it, in 50 years since Vatican II. If Pink is right, then the Church has been teaching a grossly misleading account of religious freedom for my entire lifetime, with no dissenters in good standing. Why should we trust it? Even Archbishop Lefebvre never made this argument. He bluntly claimed that Vatican II had taught heresy. That raises plenty of problems of its own, of course.

Let's leave that aside. If the Church starts using coercion, doesn't it become part of the State? Or a rival mini-state? Since Pope Gelasius, we've clearly distinguished between the "spiritual sword" the Church wields, and the "temporal sword" of the State. This would collapse them. Into a quite literal theocracy. In the dictionary sense of the term.

Q: So you're saying that there's a change between what the Church did from AD 400 or so, and sometimes supported with documents from councils and popes, and what it has taught since Vatican II?

A: That's obvious, but this is a change in practice, not in infallible doctrine. We need to deal with that change, and perhaps prune back -- as I've argued elsewhere -- our notion of how far the Magisterium extends.

There is zero evidence, zero, that the Apostles or any Church father before Constantine argued for the Church to use force against Christian dissenters. That means it's not part of the sacred, oral Tradition they got from Jesus. (Unless it was a Gnostic-style secret.) There's nothing whatsoever in the New Testament that supports it. That's why medieval popes who wanted to persecute were reduced to claiming that they'd inherited the authority of Moses to police the creed of the Hebrews. So that popes could cite Old Testament passages to justify religious coercion.

So when we see papal or council documents defending the right to persecute, they are not passing on divine Revelation. They are making Natural Law arguments. They are saying that reason tells us the true religion should prevail in its purest form. This serves the Common Good. So the State should serve the Common Good by suppressing errors, and silencing heretics.

There's just one problem there: The Natural Law won't show you WHICH religion is true. That requires the free gift of divine Grace to each human soul. Nor will reason alone prove conclusively the claims of one Christian church over another. So Natural Law's authority ends here. It has to throw up its hands, leave people to argue these questions freely, and trust God to sort it out. Of course, the Church can expel people, strip them of the authority to preach, excommunicate them. But violent coercion? That's the sword of the State. And Vatican II said explicitly that the State has no business here.

Thomas Pink wrote that the papal or council statements which made these natural law arguments were teaching infallibly the Church's right to compel the baptized on doctrine. Oxford scholar John Finnis disagrees. (You read their exchange in this pricey, scholarly book.)

Strong Integralists need to to account for this: Five popes in a row, not one of whom read Vatican II as they did. (John Paul I died before saying much.) Neither Paul VI, John Paul II, Benedict XVI, nor Francis has deviated from the teaching of Vatican II. Not one has asserted the supposed loophole giving the Church theocratic authority. No bishop of any diocese does today. In fact, Benedict XVI wouldn't accept reunion with Lefebvre's split-off bishops unless they conceded his reading of Vatican II, which defends religious freedom with no theocratic loophole.

How About an FDA for Religion?

Q: But aren't you saving souls for all eternity by preventing people from teaching heresy? We don't let drug companies sell medicines that are toxic, or even ineffective. If you won't say that for religion, aren't you saying it's less important? Or at least implying that?

A: We have rational, objective tests for safety and efficacy of medicine. Since these questions of Revelation exceed the bounds of natural law, argument can't resolve them. We solve them within the Church by deferring to authority. But that authority is precisely what Christian dissenters contest, either who it is (the pope?) or what it says (how to read the bible). Again, it's a question, even from a strictly Catholic point of view, of whether God gave someone the Grace to believe our Faith. Or not. We don't know, and have no right to use force against people in our ignorance.

If we agree with Vatican II that both Revelation and Natural Law demand religious freedom, then we see that stripping it from people is evil. We can't do evil in order to accomplish good. If we were willing to do that, we might as well drown every child at his baptism. We'd be stuffing heaven with saints.

Nor is it clear, even from a Catholic perspective, that using force to turn sincere Protestants into insincere nominal Catholics is spiritually beneficial. Not to them, and not to us. We have long lists of martyr saints. Not so many inquisitors.

Q: But why do you insist on referring to Integralism as Catholic "sharia"?

A: Because the analogy is, alas, precise. In each case, you've got people claiming the religious authority to go beyond the dictates of reason. Based on their own beliefs, which they can't prove to you rationally. Which even they don't know if God has given you the Grace to accept. Proposing to make laws backed by the pistols and prisons of the State, enforcing beliefs you can only decide in the quiet of your conscience. And now, after Vatican II ruled out the State suppressing heresy, some want the Church to use force to do it. That theocratic collapse of the two swords into one is particularly Islamic.

Freedom Backfires. But So Does Tyranny.

Q: Doesn't accepting the principles of Liberalism lead to secularism, and the abandonment of Natural Law?

A: Certainly that has happened in many places. But is it the fault of Liberalism? What happened in countries where Integralism held sway? The Spain of the Inquisition? The France of Louis XIV which took Protestant children away from their parents? Each one saw violent anti-Christian revolutions that ended in brutal civil wars. In each case, Catholic restorations gave way to anti-clerical governments. Secularists pointed to (and exaggerated) the abuses of the Integralists as weapons against all Christians. Poland never persecuted Protestants. Is it worse off today than Spain? Or better? As Protestant scholar Rodney Stark argues, the Church in Latin America didn’t really get around to catechizing the common people until spurred by Protestant competition. Now Catholic life there, while not a monopoly, is much more vibrant.

In a system where clergymen get special privileges and the Church wields undue power, power hungry people want to become priests and bishops. Ordinary people who end up in such roles are subject to great temptations, since power corrupts. Look at Ireland, where even though religious freedom reigned, priests, bishops, and religious were almost above the law. The abuses they inflicted on innocent children, the resentment they provoked with their privileges, led to this horrible backlash. Now abortion will be legal in only the Catholic part of Ireland. Just think about that.

Nor are modern Integralists exempt from such temptations. The Society of St. John was founded on Integralist principles. Its goal was to build "Catholic cities" that lived in separation from our failing secular culture. I won't recount the sordid tale of how that order was dissolved after sex abuse complaints. Or how its partisans covered up for the guilty. You can go read it here if you have the stomach for it. But some of the worst people in that cover-up (take note of the names) were loud advocates of Integralism.

I’m not, of course, suggesting that advocates of Integralism support any such abuses. My point is that Integralism can’t escape fallen human nature, and, if anything, is more likely to cultivate some of the vices it supporters hope to avoid.

Guatemala Volcanic Eruption Sends Lava Into Homes, Kills 25

Mon, 06/04/2018 - 12:09

EL RODEO, Guatemala (AP) -- A fiery volcanic eruption in south-central Guatemala sent lava flowing into rural communities, killing at least 25 as rescuers struggled to reach people where homes and roads were charred and blanketed with ash.

The death toll rose late Sunday with 18 bodies found in the community of San Miguel Los Lotes, disaster agency spokesman David de Leon said, adding to the seven victims previously confirmed elsewhere earlier in the day.

At least 20 people were injured, and authorities have said they feared the death toll could rise with an undetermined number of people unaccounted for.

The Volcan de Fuego, or “Volcano of Fire,” exploded in a hail of ash and molten rock shortly before noon, blanketing nearby villages in heavy ash. Lava began flowing down the mountain’s flank and across homes and roads around 4 p.m.

Eddy Sanchez, director of the country’s seismology and volcanology institute, said the flows reached temperatures of about 1,300 degrees Fahrenheit (700 Celsius).

Dramatic video showed a fast-moving lahar, or flow of pyroclastic material and slurry, slamming into and partly destroying a bridge on a highway between Sacatepequez and Escuintla.

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Sacatepequez television published images of a charred landscape where the lava came into contact with homes. Three bodies lay partially buried in ash-colored debris from the volcano, which lies about 27 miles (44 kilometers) west of Guatemala City.

Other videos from local media showed residents walking barefoot and covered in muddy residue.

“Not everyone was able to get out. I think they ended up buried,” Consuelo Hernandez, a resident of the village of El Rodeo, told the newspaper Diario de Centroamerica.

“Where we saw the lava fall, we ran to a hillside” to escape, she added.

Homes were still burning in El Rodeo late Sunday, and a charred stench hung over the town.

Hundreds of rescue workers, including firefighters, police and soldiers, worked to help any survivors and recover any more bodies amid the still-smoking lava.

Firefighters said they had seen some people who were trapped, but roads were cut by pyroclastic flows and they had been unable to reach them.

Amid darkness and rain, the rescue effort was suspended until early Monday morning, municipal firefighters’ spokesman Cecilio Chacaj said.

Among the fatalities were four people, including a disaster agency official, killed when lava set a house on fire in El Rodeo village, National Disaster Coordinator Sergio Cabanas said. Two children were burned to death as they watched the volcano’s second eruption this year from a bridge, he added.

Another victim was found in the streets of El Rodeo by volunteer firefighters and died in an ambulance.

At an ad-hoc morgue in the town of Alotenango, at least three bodies lay covered with blue sheets.

Guatemala’s disaster agency said 3,100 people had evacuated nearby communities, and ash fall from the eruption was affecting an area with about 1.7 million of the country’s 15 million or so people. Shelters were opened for those forced to flee.

“Currently the volcano continues to erupt and there exists a high potential for (pyroclastic) avalanches of debris,” the disaster agency said late Sunday via Twitter, quoting Sanchez, the director of the seismology and volcanology institute.

Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales said he would issue a declaration of a state of emergency to be approved by Congress and urged people to heed warnings from emergency officials.

Ash fell on the Guatemala City area as well as the departments of Sacatepequez, Chimaltenango and Escuintla. Streets and houses were covered in the colonial town of Antigua, a popular tourist destination.

Aviation authorities closed the capital’s international airport because of the danger posed to planes by the ash.

One of Central America’s most active volcanos, the conical Volcan de Fuego reaches an altitude of 12,346 feet (3,763 meters) above sea level at its peak.

 

Copyright 2018 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

The Internet Sales Tax: A Threat to Small Businesses and Federalism

Mon, 06/04/2018 - 12:00

A number of critical decisions are set to be released by the Supreme Court this month. One in particular could have wide-ranging impact on our economy and on the very principle of federalism.

Court Cases

In South Dakota v. Wayfair, the Court will decide whether to uphold its earlier decision that states cannot force businesses to collect and remit sales taxes unless the businesses has a physical presence in their state. A bad decision from the court -- as well as possible legislation from Congress -- would lead to Internet sales taxes. This would harm hundreds of thousands of small businesses across the nation and change the very face of the Internet economy.

In 1992, the Court decided in Quill Corp vs. North Dakota that states do not have the power to impose sales tax burdens on businesses with no physical presence in their state. This important precedent has prevented states from being able to tax, audit or regulate businesses and individuals that do not reside in their state.

State and local governments -- and some allies in Congress -- have tried to find a way to undo this precedent. The lure of additional revenue proving too tempting to pass up. The Wayfair decision will determine whether we continue this critical model -- as will subsequent decisions by Congress.

Complications for Small Businesses

An entrepreneur who starts an online business should not be turned into a national tax collector. There are currently over 10,000 sales tax jurisdictions in the United States. If an Internet sales tax goes through, these small businesses will now be forced to figure out and collect the taxes for all those different jurisdictions.

As a former local and state official, I know firsthand how complicated these taxes can be. Certain products will qualify for one rate. A different product will have another tax rate.  The taxes in one city, town or county will differ from the rate in other parts of the state.

Hard working entrepreneurs on their own, or with a few employees, would have to navigate that maze of taxes. Most will likely have to hire accountants or tax lawyers to help them figure it out -- cutting into the bottom line for a small business. This will jeopardize profits and jobs.

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More worrisome, such a tax would suddenly make those businesses vulnerable to audits or tax bills from states or localities they do not reside in or vote in. As a conservative, the last thing I want to see is entrepreneurs targeted by aggressive tax collection and audits from officials in other states.

As a letter signed by numerous conservative and taxpayer groups earlier this year pointed out, "dismantling the physical presence protection for remote retail sales could throw open the floodgates for states to aggressively attempt enforcement of not just their states tax laws, but also business and individual income tax rules, and even activist regulatory obligations on out-of-state entities."

Taxation Without Representation

The Internet sales tax would be a rejection of our nation's long-held belief in no taxation without representation. Allowing authorities to tax people who do not live or vote in their state and who will not benefit in any way from those taxes goes against the system of federalism that our founders created.

Supporters of the sales tax have claimed that states are losing tremendous revenue. The facts say otherwise. Former Rep. Chris Cox has long been a champion against Internet taxes. He pointed out in a recent WSJ op-ed that despite the claims by South Dakota in the case, "[t]he state's own data show that sales and use tax revenue grew from $787.7 million in 2013 to $974.7 in 2017 -- considerably faster than the state's rate of economic growth." He added that sales tax revenue has been booming in most states.

A Form of Cronyism

While it may seem like an Internet sales tax is a good way to stick it to some giant online retailers who are getting away with not paying their taxes, the exact opposite is true. The tax would in fact be a form of cronyism that helps these big retailers.

Amazon and Wal-Mart, among many others, already collect sales taxes since they have a physical presence all over the country. Those companies want an Internet sales tax because it would harm the small businesses who are competing with them. It gives the giant companies greater advantage. They have the resources and the personnel to figure out thousands of tax laws -- small companies do not.

Pushing Internet Taxes

The coming court decision is not the only danger to small businesses. In recent years, many members of Congress, including Republicans who should oppose higher taxes, have tried to advance legislation that would allow such Internet taxes. During the omnibus spending bill debate, members tried to include this tax -- with the support of Speaker Ryan.

Many believe there will be another attempt during a lame duck session. The GOP is having great success in cutting taxes, rolling back regulation and turning the economy around. The last thing they need to do is allow higher taxes and more intrusive government -- as an Internet sales tax would do. Polls have consistently shown that Americans overwhelmingly oppose an Internet sales tax.

The coming weeks and months will be critical in this debate. Entrepreneurs and supporters of free-market principles must stand strong and fight any attempt to impose Internet sales taxes. We cannot allow policies that would raise taxes, hurt small businesses, and discourage entrepreneurship. We cannot undo the concept of no taxation without representation to help some big retailers and satisfy the revenue desires of politicians across the nation.

 

Ken Blackwell, a former Ohio State Treasurer, Ohio Secretary of State and Mayor of Cincinnati, serves on the boards of the National Taxpayers Union and the Club for Growth. He also served as a domestic policy advisor to the Trump Transition team.

Immigration Fight, Tension on Tariffs Await Congress’ Return

Mon, 06/04/2018 - 11:57

WASHINGTON (AP) -- This was supposed to be the quiet time on Capitol Hill, but Congress returns to work Monday facing a showdown in the House over immigration while Senate Republicans are trying to stop an all-out trade war after President Donald Trump’s decision to impose import tariffs on close U.S. allies.

Tensions are running particularly high as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is threatening to cancel the traditional August recess as he fights Democratic opposition to GOP priorities in a show of busy-work before the midterm election.

It’s shaping up to be far from the typical summer slowdown when legislating usually makes way for campaigning.

“Another summer, another heavy work load,” tweeted Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, as he pushed to confirm nominations. “NOW is the time to vote on Fridays (even wknds!).” The Senate often is not in session on Fridays.

Congress faces a few should-do items in the weeks ahead. Topping the agenda is passage of the annual defense bill, which includes pay raises for the troops. It has already cleared the House. The Senate could begin consideration of its defense bill this week. But the Senate version carries a warning to Trump with a trade provision to block any White House plan to lift penalties on the China-based telecommunications company ZTE, which faces trade law violations over selling sensitive technologies to U.S. adversaries.

Trump’s moves on trade are expected to consume conversations among Senate Republicans this week. They’re worried about a wider trade war spiking prices for home-state businesses and consumers if Trump imposes steel and aluminum tariffs, as planned, on imports from Canada, Mexico and the European Union.

Republicans will be making the case to the administration that the tariffs could dampen the economic gains from the GOP tax cuts and sour the mood among voters as lawmakers are campaigning to protect the Republican majority in Congress.

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Some Republicans are also hoping Trump simply changes his mind and doesn’t follow through with it. But aides said others may be signing on to a bill from Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, that would subject all trade actions by the executive branch, including tariffs, to congressional approval. Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas, said he would support a similar move in the House. “Congress has shared our responsibility when it comes to trade with the executive branch over the last couple of decades, and I think that’s something that we need to re-evaluate,” he told CBS’ Face the Nation.

Meanwhile, House Republicans face a self-imposed deadline Thursday for resolving an immigration standoff between GOP centrists who are forcing a vote on legislation to protect young immigrants who were brought to the country illegally as children and conservatives who want stricter immigration enforcement with money for Trump’s border wall.

The centrists want to provide a way for the young immigrants to become permanent residents, which can lead to citizenship. Conservatives are opposed to creating a new pathway to staying in the U.S. permanently, equating it with granting amnesty to lawbreakers.

Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., are trying to craft a Republican-led bill as a compromise between the factions, but it’s difficult.

House leaders plan a two-hour private meeting of GOP lawmakers Thursday morning to hash out whether talks among the party’s factions have produced an immigration compromise that can win broad support. Underscoring the sensitivity of the session, staff is to be excluded.

They’re trying to prevent the moderates from joining with Democrats to pass the “Dreamer” protections, which polls suggest are popular, but which would be a setback for GOP leaders and expose the majority to complaints from the conservative base.

Without a deal, the moderates say they’ll push ahead with enough signatures on a so-called discharge petition to force the vote over the leadership’s objections.

Hurd said moderates have the votes already, but are “engaged in conversations to figure out … is there another path. I don’t believe that there is.”

Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., said in an interview last week that he saw a 50-50 chance of those talks succeeding. He warned that if they didn’t bear fruit, he and his supporters “fully expect” to continue pushing their petition.

Curbelo said the young immigrants must “be guaranteed a future in our country, meaning they cannot be exposed to deportation.” He said, “They must have permanent status immediately and they must have the option of a bridge into the legal immigration system,” meaning a pathway to citizenship.

The moderates’ effort has won the backing of GOP Sen. John McCain, fighting brain cancer back home in Arizona, who tweeted on Saturday: “Congress can’t ignore this critical issue -- and the many lives it impacts -- any longer.”

Starting Monday in the Senate, McConnell has teed up votes on three nominees to serve as federal district court judges, including the first Hispanic lawyer whom Trump nominated for the bench, Fernando Rodriguez Jr. of Texas.

The selections are expected to receive bipartisan support, though more contentious votes are expected in coming weeks. Republicans have made it a top priority to get Trump’s nominees on the bench, to the alarm of Democrats, who say Republicans are working to stack the federal judiciary with young ideologues who will shape it for decades to come.

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Associated Press writers Kevin Freking and Alan Fram in Washington contributed to this report.

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Follow Mascaro on Twitter at https://twitter.com/LisaMascaro

Copyright 2018 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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