Hippies Turn against Free Speech

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Do you remember the good old days, when liberals believed in the freedom of speech? The University of California Berkeley is arguably the birthplace of the free speech movement. Indeed, beginning in 1960’s UC Berkeley was one of the epicenters of powerful counter cultural movements that spawned the hippies and a radical commitment to question, protest and overthrow existing authority structures with a robust commitment to the freedom of speech. The ACLU and other free speech advocates often took to quoting Voltaire: “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”  Now, Berkeley has ironically become one of the centers of free speech suppression.

What a difference a few decades make! Now that some of the very same individuals who were leading protests in the 60’s and 70’s have matriculated, and have grown up to teach and lead institutions of higher education, many have decidedly turned against the First Amendment’s promise of the freedom of expression. Now that the liberal elites control these institutions, they seek to abuse their power by aggressively turning against all free thought and speech that would dare question now-entrenched leftist orthodoxies or undermine their ability to seamlessly indoctrinate the next generation with collectivist leftist group-think. There are now two classes of speech on most American college campuses: politically correct liberal speech, which is allowed, and politically incorrect conservative speech, which is not.

The clear message to everyone paying attention is that academic elites will only permit ideas and speech with which they agree, but will target for eradication ideas and speech with which they personally disagree. The dominant target for thought and speech suppression on college campuses today is all things conservative, especially ideas informed by the Judeo-Christian worldview. Completion of their radical decades-long revolution apparently means they now must actively suppress, punish, and silence thoughts and words that do not perfectly align with the now institutionally entrenched leftist worldview.  But if the freedom of speech means anything, it certainly does not mean that some speech is more “free” than others or that the state can support speech it likes and obliterate speech it doesn’t.

This decidedly dark Orwellian trend was highlighted recently when Milo Yiannopoulos, a very controversial Trump supporter and an openly gay member of the right, was invited by the campus Republican Club to speak and UC Berkeley.  More than 100 “tolerant” faculty members referring to Milo’s presentations as “harassment, slander, defamation, and hate speech” signed a letter demanding that the University cancel the event. Protestors clad in black clothing and masks smashed windows, set fires, and pepper-sprayed a young female Trump supporter in the face, while carrying posters and signs claiming, quite ironically, that Milo is a “fascist.” Rather than protecting Milo and his speech, UC Berkeley officials and police folded like a cheap suit, allowing the protesters to prevail in their “heckler’s veto” by canceling Milo’s talk. Unfortunately, Berkeley is not alone. Ben Shapiro’s event at UCLA faced similar opposition recently. But, as Yale Law Professor Jose Cabranas pointed out in the Washington Post, “No one can doubt that we should strive for civility. But problems arise when we are told that “uncivil” speech has made a campus “unsafe” — and that university officials should make a campus safe again by punishing uncivil speakers.”

As George Orwell wrote, “If freedom means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.” Yet, today in our universities, once the bastions of the freedom of thought and expression, the Freedom of Speech is being destroyed, sacrificed on the false altars of “trigger warnings,” “safe spaces,” “hate speech” and all other forms of mind-numbing snow-flakery. Academic freedom increasingly means liberty only for liberals. Conservatives need not apply or should at least remain silent.

This is no small matter. Our very freedom and the continuation of our republic are at stake. As a conservative constitutional attorney, I do not always agree with former Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren. However, I must wholeheartedly agree with Warren’s prediction about the republic-ending threat of political correctness when he wrote that either “teachers and students must always remain free to inquire, to study and evaluate,” or “our civilization will stagnate and die.” (Sweezy v. New Hampshire, 354 U.S. 234 (1957”)).  Benjamin Franklin agreed that the “freedom of speech is a principal pillar of government; when this support is taken away, the constitution of a free society is dissolved, and tyranny is erected in its ruins.”

Yes, the freedom of speech includes religious speech. But in this hostile environment, many believers have stopped talking about God and sharing the gospel. Why? Fear of man—fear of retribution. Yet, as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. so elegantly wrote, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” George Washington warned, “If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.”

Although liberals have lost their love of free speech, we must be different – if not for ourselves, for the sake of our children and grandchildren. Let us this day, as free Americans, commit to steadfastly oppose every authority, government, or other influence, that seeks to suppress, destroy, or silence the freedom of speech. Long live the freedom of speech!

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The Doctrine of Lesser Magistrates: Why Federal and State Authorities Ought to Ignore Same-Sex Marriage.

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What should a biblical Christian do when the State commands that which God forbids or forbids that which God commands? Having recently written about principled Christian disobedience (PCCD), we now turn to the doctrine of lesser magistrates for some guidance in this present darkness where, increasingly, good is called “evil,” and evil is called “good.” I humbly submit that we have a duty to obey God rather than man.

Relying on scripture, the protestant reformers developed a political theory to address how Christians may appropriately respond when faced with the tyranny of a rogue emperor or despotic king.  A “lesser magistrate” is a lower government authority, relative to the king or other ultimate authority, charged with guarding the God-given liberties of the people under his care.  The concept here is that the lesser magistrate is imbued with the responsibility and authority to shield citizens by resisting, and when necessary, rebelling against the tyranny of a higher authority.

John Calvin wrote in his Institutes of the Christian Religion that while individual Christians are generally commanded to submit to ruling authorities (See Romans 13:1-6), “popular magistrates” have “been appointed to curb the tyranny of kings”  when higher authority exceeds its limits and issues decrees that are against God’s instructions. The Lutheran Magdeburg Confession of 1550, argued that “subordinate powers” in a state, faced with a scenario where the “supreme power” is working to destroy true religion, may exceed non-cooperation with the supreme power and actually help the faithful to resist.

John Locke, a committed Christian, explicitly wrote in his Two Treatise on Government that the people had a right of revolution as a check on statist tyranny.  Sir William Blackstone, the eminent English jurist, whose Commentaries on the Laws of England were studied by many of our founders including Thomas Jefferson, wrote “Upon these two foundations, the law of nature and the law of revelation, depend all human laws; that is to say, no human laws should be suffered to contradict these. No enactment of man can be considered law unless it conforms to the law of God.” As the Declaration of Independence in 1776 expressed it, natural law taught that the people were “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights” and could alter or abolish government when the State becomes “destructive” of those rights. Thus, the authority of the lesser magistrate (i.e. colonial governments) to resist tyranny and the power of the people themselves to rise up in revolution when their inalienable rights are trampled by despotic supreme rulers, were the twin philosophical foundations that merged in the American Revolution.

And, just when you may think that the spirit of 1776 is dead and buried, some thought leaders have begun to roar like bold lions against the megalomaniacal tyranny of the freedom-pilfering U.S. Supreme Court.  Earlier this month, a document was crafted and signed by more than 60 constitutional attorneys and legal experts, including Robert George (Princeton University), John Eastman (Fowler School of Law, Chapman University),  Jeffrey Ventrella (Alliance Defending Freedom, Sr. Counsel), and Steven D. Smith (University of San Diego School of Law).

Steven Smith, with whom I participated in a panel discussion regarding religious liberty in the public square in 2014 at USD, and the other signatories, confirmed the line of reasoning embodied in the article I wrote last month titled The Constitution is the Law of the Land, Not Same-Sex Marriage.  After confirming that the U.S. Constitution does not give the federal judiciary the power to redefine marriage, the scholars urged government officials to refuse to acknowledge or enforce Obergefell v. Hodges.  In other words, they are urging lesser magistrates to declare Obergefell a legal nullity and stand against the federal court’s constitutionally abusive power grab:

“Any decision…lacking anything remotely resembling a warrant in the text, logic, structure, or original understanding of the Constitution must be judged anti-constitutional and illegitimate. Obergefell should be declared to be such, and treated as such, by the other branches of government and by citizens of the United States.

Therefore….We call on all federal and state officeholders: To refuse to accept Obergefell as binding precedent for all but the specific plaintiffs in that case. To recognize the authority of states to define marriage, and the right of federal and state officeholders to act in accordance with those definitions. To pledge full and mutual legal and political assistance to anyone who refuses to follow Obergefell for constitutionally protected reasons.”

Last month, Tennessee legislators introduced a bill seeking to nullify Obergefell, declaring that marriage between one man and one woman “remains the law in Tennessee, regardless of any court decision to the contrary. Any court decision purporting to strike down natural marriage, including Obergefell v. Hodges, is unauthoritative, void and of no effect.”  The bill instructs that the state attorney general “shall defend any state or local government official from any lawsuit regarding the official’s recognition of natural marriage.”

By making these courageous stands in the face of strong cultural headwinds, the Tennessee lawmakers and legal scholars do not advocate general legal anarchy; rather they are actually affirming the U.S. Constitution and the rule of law.  They have issued a clarion call to all magistrates, both state and federal, to interpose themselves as a buffer between a lawless U.S. Supreme Court, on one hand, and the states and citizens that Obergefell profoundly negatively impacts, on the other. When Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis refused to same-sex “marriage” licenses, I believe that she was exercising principled Christian Civil Disobedience (PCCD) and was acting in the tradition of the doctrine of lesser magistrates, attempting to shield citizens from Obergefell.

This is critically important because if the Obergefell ruling stands, it will decimate the right of the states and we the people to act democratically to define marriage, and by extension place any meaningful limits on absolutist supreme federal power. And, it destroys the right of individuals and religious organizations to freely live, act, and speak according to the dictates of their conscience.  The right to vote and religious freedom are fundamentally important civil liberties we simply cannot afford to lose in America.

The Kentucky Clerk & Principled Christian Civil Disobedience

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Under what conditions is it permissible for a Christian to disobey the government?  Romans 13 counsels believers, as a matter of witness and conscience, to obey the government as a servant of God.  When, if ever, are Christians permitted to say “no” and righteously disobey the state?

Here are the conditions and principles we can derive from the Bible and historical role models of peaceful civil disobedience like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

  • An Unjust Law (man-made) exists that arguably violates a superior non-negotiable principle or moral law.
  • A Just Law (higher law) exists that is not in alignment with or contradicts the Unjust Law and/or the duties flowing from the Unjust Law.
  • An actual conflict exists between the Unjust Law (1) and the Higher Law (2).
  • The Christian facing this dilemma understands the nature of the conflict and is willing to faithfully obey God, pay the price and bear the consequences for disobeying the Unjust Law in favor of the Higher Law (including verbal and physical abuse, jail, and even death).

When the Sanhedrin ordered the apostles to not teach in Jesus’ name, Peter responded, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).  When the king threatened to throw Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace for refusing to bow to his idol, they responded, “we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up” (Daniel 3:18).

As the Reverend Martin Luther King wrote in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail in the midst of his public opposition to the injustice of segregation:

“How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law.”

Rowan County Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis was jailed because, as an evangelical Christian, she refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.  Based on the information available to us, I submit that Kim Davis is exercising principled Christian civil disobedience.

Indeed, the U.S. Supreme Court’s God-defying “constitutional right” to same-sex marriage (SSM) is an unjust man-made/human law that violates other non-negotiable principles or moral laws (See 1 above).  The coercive imposition of SSM on the states and “we the people” violates the U.S. Constitution in that the Supreme Court acted legislatively regarding marriage which is not a matter of the authority (jurisdiction, i.e. one of its limited enumerated powers) delegated by the states and people to the federal judiciary.  Marriage is rather an issue that our system of government commits to the states and to “we the people.”  Yet SSM is also out of harmony with the moral law because, by arrogantly presuming to redefine marriage, it’s edict directly conflicts with eternal law and natural law, reflected in scripture’s and 5,000 years of recorded history’s model of man-woman only marriage (MWM) (See 2 above).

An actual conflict clearly exists here for Kim Davis between the Unjust Law (SSM) and Higher Law (MWM) because SSM does not square with the moral law or the law of God (See 3 above). Thus, there is a real tangible conflict of interests faced by Kim Davis here between her duty to issue marriage licenses as a county clerk in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s unjust law of SSM and her deeply held religious convictions regarding the biblical teachings of only MWM.  What is a Christian clerk to do?  Must she issue the SSM licenses or quit, as some have suggested? What is the answer?

I submit the answer is precisely what Mrs. Davis has done!  She has recognized the conflict between the U.S. Supreme Court’s issuance of an unjust edict and her superior obligations to a higher law and a higher authority.  She has been willing to live out her faith publicly and face and bear the consequences of her decision.  I applaud her principles and her courage.  And I pray that we are emboldened to display similar Christian “backbone” when we are faced with our personal moment of truth.  If you have not faced your moment already, you will soon have ample opportunities as Christianity is increasingly marginalized, demonized, and criminalized.  I pray that your steadfast response is, “as for me and my house, we serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).

Each American generation has its own “unjust” laws to face. Some of the serious challenges we face today are abortion, same-sex “marriage”, and the rapidly growing threat to religious freedom, among others.    And there are many who insist that the Church keep silent; who assert that we keep our biblical “morals” to ourselves.  I have observed the growing pressure on Christians to accept the “evolving” status quo—to be silent instead of speaking the truth in love (Eph. 4:15) in Jesus’ name.  But what if William Wilberforce had been silent about the evil of slavery in the British Empire?  And was not Abraham Lincoln right to ignore the U.S. Supreme Court’s evil Dred Scott ruling, or should he have been thrown in jail too?  In the face of today’s pernicious challenges, I submit that our response must be the same as Peter’s:  “We must obey God, rather than men” (Acts 5:29).

The Tyranny of the Libido

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The sex drive is a powerful natural force.  Reasonably directed in proper context, it is a tremendous gift and blessing.  Unrestrained, it can inflict great damage.  In recent decades we have learned just how terrifyingly destructive the “liberated” libido can be.

At the advent of America, and for the centuries that followed, our collective libidos were largely restrained by religious convictions and common cultural mores.  The general social consensus, influenced by religion and history, was that sex was best experienced and enjoyed in the committed union of one man and one woman. There were some exceptions to this rule, but it was largely understood and accepted that breaking the rules did not serve the common good and would have negative consequences—both personally and culturally.

The sexual revolution beginning in the 1960’s was truly revolutionary.  It initiated a process of radical transformation of our views concerning our sex drives.  Sex became uncoupled from transcendent purposes serving the common good, including fidelity, marriage, and child rearing.  It began to be viewed primarily as a means of self-stimulation, self-fulfillment, and self-actualization. This movement can perhaps be best summarized by the mantra, “If it feels good, do it!”

In the decades since, the American libido has become progressively unchained from prior boundaries and increasingly exalted as an American demi-god, to be idolized, worshipped, and obeyed—at all costs.  We have even given unrestrained lust the cool-sounding name of “sexual liberty.”  In 1992, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy paid homage to this American idol in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, where the majority cowardly reaffirmed Roe v. Wade. Kennedy wrote, “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.”

God is dead!  Long live the libido!  Consequently, unrestrained sexual expression has been ceded a central and prominent place in our popular culture and, increasingly, even in our laws.

Yet the dark consequences of our “liberation” and bondage to self-worship are truly staggering.  They are starkly displayed in the growth of pornography, sex addiction, sex outside of marriage, unintended pregnancies, abortion on demand, the macabre sale of baby body parts, no-fault divorce, the diminution of marriage and family, the decriminalization of sodomy, the inappropriate association of  the LGBT movement with the black civil rights narrative (i.e. discrimination), and finally, now, same-sex “marriage.” These developments have been culturally destructive and have also profoundly and negatively impacted the biblical fidelity of the body of Christ.

And, as the tyrant libido has ascended its lecherous throne, rather strangely, truth, represented by objective biology and transcendent normative ethics, is now diminished, targeted as public enemy number one of this sexual new world order. Propaganda has replaced truth and common sense.  We can have sex with whomever we wish whenever we wish.  We can now “be” whatever gender we “feel” that we are (See Bruce Jenner).   We can marry whomever we wish.  Truth has been turned on its head.  What was good is now evil; what was once evil is now good.

The result is that the individual’s libido must now be given first priority, preference, and prominence at all costs.  Sex is indeed a cruel master.  Any notion that the libido is a benevolent dictator is undermined by its intolerantly harsh treatment of religious dissenters.  In fact, this state of moral anarchy has resulted in growing legal anarchy.  This nonsense has now been enshrined in “law” as the U.S. Supreme Court has created a new constitutional right to same-sex “marriage” and as state after state hauls more conscientious objecting Christian bakers, photographers and florists into court informing them that their religious liberty means nothing and can be easily balanced away on the scales of injustice.  If you are not on board with the increasingly radical sexual revolution, you are tarred as a bigot, worthy of being run out of business.

Thus, we have tragically confused libertinism with true liberty. The revolution many foolishly believed would set us free has actually harassed and enslaved us.  And our cruel tyrant now bitterly oppresses us and mocks us in our chains.  Again we are reminded that natural law is baked into God’s universe.  History reminds us that no great empire has survived the tyranny of the libido.  You can believe with all of your heart that you can break the rules, defy gravity and fly; but gravity rules and will kick your butt every time.  The same is true of moral laws.  Virtue results in a thriving culture and promotes the common good.  Immorality leads to darker places.

Someday, hopefully very soon, we will wake up from the hazy stupor and slumber of our collective 60’s hangover and realize that our purported sexual liberation has actually resulted in our enslavement.  It promised freedom but has delivered pain, death, destruction and bondage.  But until then, if we are painfully honest with ourselves, we must admit that we have sacrificed what is good and true—life, religious liberty, and the pursuit of authentic happiness—on the pagan altar of unchecked sexual liberty.  The tyranny of the libido is crushing everything in its path and is destroying our God-given freedoms.  I mourn the loss, do you?

To our great shame, we have sold our birthright for a bowl of sex.  Our founders would be stunned that our God-given inalienable First Amendment rights are being so casually traded in favor of our unrestrained deified fleshly appetites.  They sacrificed and fought for many things, but one thing they were clearly not fighting for is the intolerant tyranny of unrestrained lust.  May we repent with tears and may God save the United States of America!