Friday, August 31, 2007

Yes, the Second Amendment Guarantees an Individual Right to Bear Arms

This article defends the individual right to bear arms.

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Conditions Right for Stevens Retirement

This post at explains that a Stevens retirement before Bush leaves office is a distinct possibility. The main reasons are rumors of poor health and desire to be replaced by a Republican. Some claim that Stevens, appointed by Ford, feels like he owes it to the party to let a Republican to replace him. He turns 88 next year, and may feel like retirement anyway. If he's replaced by Bush, that could shift the balance of the Court. This could lead to the overturning of Roe.

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Studies Show Death Penalty Deters

"[A] series of academic studies over the last half-dozen years ... count between three and 18 lives that would be saved by the execution of each convicted killer...

"There is no question about it," said Naci Mocan, an economics professor at the University of Colorado at Denver. "The conclusion is there is a deterrent effect."

A 2003 study he co-authored, and a 2006 study that re-examined the data, found that each execution results in five fewer homicides, and commuting a death sentence means five more homicides. ... "I oppose the death penalty. But my results show that the death penalty (deters) - what am I going to do, hide them?" [he said].

... [S]tudies like his are among a dozen papers since 2001 that capital punishment has deterrent effects. They all explore the same basic theory - if the cost of something (be it the purchase of an apple or the act of killing someone) becomes too high, people will change their behavior (forego apples or shy from murder).

... [T]hey look at executions and homicides, by year and by state or county, trying to tease out the impact of the death penalty on homicides by accounting for other factors, such as unemployment data and per capita income, the probabilities of arrest and conviction, and more.

Among the conclusions:

- Each execution deters an average of 18 murders, according to a 2003 nationwide study by professors at Emory University. (Other studies have estimated the deterred murders per execution at three, five and 14).

- The Illinois moratorium on executions in 2000 led to 150 additional homicides over four years following, according to a 2006 study by professors at the University of Houston.

- Speeding up executions would strengthen the deterrent effect. For every 2.75 years cut from time spent on death row, one murder would be prevented, according to a 2004 study by an Emory University professor.

... Some claim that the pro-deterrent studies made profound mistakes in their methodology, so their results are untrustworthy. Another critic argues that the studies wrongly count all homicides, rather than just those homicides where a conviction could bring the death penalty. And several argue that there are simply too few executions each year in the United States to make a judgment. ...

Several authors of the pro-deterrent reports said they welcome criticism in the interests of science, but said their work is being attacked by opponents of capital punishment for their findings, not their flaws.

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ACLU Tries to Remove Jesus From Public Sector

Gordon James Klingenschmitt, a former Navy chaplain who sacrificed his career to help change national policy, allowing military chaplains to publicly pray "in Jesus' name" – even in uniform, explains how the ACLU is attempting to remove Jesus from the public sector.
Anti-Jesus activists threatened lawsuits in Iowa, North Carolina, Ohio and New York this month to stop Christians from praying "in Jesus' name" or publicly expressing their faith.

In Iowa, activist lawyer Mikey Weinstein declared victory over the Veterans Administration, claiming the agency caved into his demands to remove Christian symbols from the chapel in the Iowa VA hospital, and also promised to ban Christians who sing hymns (such as "The Old Rugged Cross") in the common-use area. Sadly, the VA also appears eager to silence Christian chaplains, depriving veterans who want Christian ministry in their time of need.

In North Carolina, the American Civil Liberties Union threatened to sue the town of Clayton after Councilman Bob Satterfield bravely prayed "in Jesus' name" to open a public meeting. "I know who I pray to, and if other people want to pray to that chair over there, they're welcome to. It was my turn to do the invocation, and I did it the way I know how," Satterfield said.

But ACLU attorney Jennifer Rudinger fired back, threatening a lawsuit: "The law is pretty clear. The courts have ruled that it's legal to have an invocation at government functions, but it has to be non-sectarian."

Actually, the courts have mandated no such thing. In the 1983 Marsh v. Chambers case, the Supreme Court upheld 6-3 a chaplain's right to pray a "non-sectarian" prayer on the floor of any legislature, but stopped short of mandating all prayers be "non-sectarian."

Instead, the Supreme Court specifically forbid any government from censoring public prayers or requiring "non-sectarian" prayer content, ruling in 1991 in Lee v. Weisman: "The government may not establish an official or civic religion as a means of avoiding the establishment of a religion with more specific creeds. ... The State's role did not end with the decision to include a prayer and with the choice of clergyman. [They] provided a copy of the 'Guidelines for Civic Occasions' and advised him that his prayers should be non-sectarian. Through these means, [they] directed and controlled the content of the prayers. ... It is a cornerstone principle of our Establishment Clause jurisprudence that it is no part of the business of government to compose official prayers."

Too bad the ACLU disagrees with the Supreme Court, as the organization advocates establishing a illegal state religion, censoring free speech, enforcing religious conformity on everybody who prays in public, and demanding violators be excluded or punished with government sword.

In Ohio, more evidence of anti-Jesus intimidation came in the Legislature, when the chairman of the state Democratic Party, Rep. Chris Redfern, walked off the floor after hearing Rev. Keith Hamblen pray "in Jesus' name." The next day, the Ohio clerk issued new prayer guidelines requiring "non-sectarian" prayer content, and a 72-hour pre-authorization of each prayer offered.

"Prayers before the House should be nondenominational, nonsectarian and nonproselytizing," the guidelines say. Sadly, even the Republican-controlled Ohio statehouse now excludes Christians who pray "in Jesus' name." Will anybody in Ohio call his or her legislator at 1-800-282-0253, or contact them at this website?

Thank God not all legislators have caved in. This month in Greece, N.Y., the ACLU threatened a local town supervisor, demanding he enforce "non-sectarian" prayer content at board meetings and stop praying "in Jesus' name." But one government official bravely stood his ground and protected liberty.

John T. Auberger said, "It is the town's position that we are not advancing any religion or giving preference to any one faith over another. Accordingly, it is our intent to continue our current practice." So they protect free speech, even if somebody prays "in Jesus' name."

Scott Forsyth, an ACLU attorney, might sue. He said there's no issue with the board having a prayer, but rather with the content. "We are hoping the town will come in with some written policy on the subject that conforms to the U.S. Supreme Court rulings," he said.

Amen, brother! I also agree with the Supreme Court. But the ACLU is dead wrong, and deceives the public with half-truths. I therefore pray Iowa, Ohio, North Carolina and New York will soon issue prayer guidelines conforming to the 1991 Lee v. Weisman ruling, stating something like: "The government may not establish an official or civic religion. We cannot advise that prayers be non-sectarian, nor may we control the content of prayers. We therefore welcome diversity, allowing everyone to take turns praying according to their conscience, even if they pray 'in Jesus' name, Amen.'"

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Fred on Eminent Domain

Hat Tip to Fred:

Last week, California officials in National City voted unanimously to use eminent domain to take over more than 600 properties—including a nonprofit youth center dedicated to keeping local kids out of gangs and off the street. They plan to give this land to local private developers for a group of condominiums.

It’s said that a man’s home is his castle, but across America some property owners are being rooked by local bureaucrats and politicians and having their private property confiscated by local governments for the supposed public good.

Most people probably think that if they buy a home or a small business that they will get to keep what they purchased. After all, the Fifth Amendment guarantees that “private property [shall not] be taken for public use, without just compensation.”

But in 2005, the Supreme Court, in Kelo v. New London, held that the government could take private property – even a person’s home – and give that property to a large private corporation for that business’s private use. As Justice O’Connor wrote in her scathing dissent, “Under the banner of economic development, all private property is now vulnerable to being taken and transferred to another private owner, so long as it might be upgraded – i.e., given to an owner who will use it in a way that the legislature deems more beneficial to the public – in the process.”

Not surprisingly, the public responded to Kelo with outrage. Since then, numerous states passed legislation aimed at curbing an abuse of eminent domain powers. In the 2006 election cycle, 12 states held referendums proposing to limit state governments’ abilities to confiscate property a la Kelo. Ten states approved the proposals, each with strong majorities.

Now, nearly two weeks ago, members of both parties in Congress introduced legislation in the House that would deny federal economic funding to state and local governments upon a finding that those governments had abused their power of eminent domain by seizing private property that would be used for private economic development. This is an important issue, and Members of Congress need to act to make sure that federal funds are not used to enable these sorts of takings of private property. Another option would be the reissuance of President Ronald Reagan’s Executive Order 12630, which directs federal agencies to “first do no harm” to property rights when issuing new regulations.

Our Founders placed respect for private property as a key principle when writing our nation’s Constitution, and the protection of private property resulted in the United States becoming the greatest economic power in the world and a beacon of freedom to all. This principle is even more important today, as homeownership has become an increasingly integral part of our citizens’ aspirations for a better future for themselves and their loved ones. If the Supreme Court will not protect our right to ownership, then political leaders must step up to the challenge.

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Valedictorian Forced to Apologize for Mentioning Jesus in Address

Liberty Counsel press release:
Today, Liberty Counsel filed suit against Lewis Palmer School District on behalf of Erica Corder, a high school valedictorian who was forced to publicly apologize for sharing her Christian faith at graduation... During her 30-second message Erica spoke about her faith in Jesus Christ. Afterwards, she was escorted to see the assistant principal, who said she would not receive her diploma because of the speech she had given...

He said that she could only receive her diploma if she apologized to the school community. Erica prepared a statement saying the message was her own and was not endorsed by the principal. Brewer insisted that she include the words: "I realize that, had I asked ahead of time, I would not have been allowed to say what I did." Erica complied because she feared the school would withhold her diploma. She was also afraid that the school would put disciplinary notes in her file and would generate negative publicity, which could prevent her from becoming a school teacher. Principal Brewer sent out Erica's message in an e-mail to the entire high school community. Soon after, Erica received her diploma...

Mathew Staver, Founder of Liberty Counsel and Dean of Liberty University School of Law, commented: "Valedictorians have the right to express their religious viewpoints while at the graduation podium. School officials have no right to threaten young graduates that their diplomas will be withheld. The school district's action in forcing Erica Corder to write an e-mail apologizing to the community for exercising her right to free speech is shocking."

Hat Tip: Cassy Fiano
Hat Tip 2: Stop the ACLU

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Carrying Your Freedom of Religion Outside of Your Church

Jon Sanders from the John Locke Foundation addresses a school's recent choice to discipline a girl for mentioning Jesus in her Valedictorian address (see my other post here):
The First Amendment protects individuals' rights of religion, speech, assembly, and petition. Religious freedom is the very first freedom it secures against government interference. "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion" (sealing citizens against the fear of a State Church), "or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

It should not escape anyone's notice that the Free Exercise clause is immediately followed by the prohibition against Congress (and by application, all government) "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." These all proceed in logical order. A free individual is free to believe, follow, and express his faith, and it follows that he is free to speak and publish as he pleases, meet with whom he pleases, and not be hindered even from airing grievances with the government.

No "Separation Clause" there; that phrase hails from Pres. Thomas Jefferson's January 1, 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptist Association. Jefferson used the phrase "a wall of separation between Church & State" to describe what the First Amendment had accomplished, so that the Baptists need not fear state governments' declarations of days of prayer and fasting as abridging their religious rights. The First Amendment protects religious expression even by individuals in government, and even in public halls and government buildings – an idea Pres. Jefferson solidified by concluding his letter with a reference to "the common father and creator of man."

And this is true liberty – allowing all manner of religious expression. It is the cardinal opposite of the current teaching on the First Amendment as it pertains to schools and government; i.e., forbidding all manner of religious expression. That, of course, is tyranny.

Follow the coercion. If a teacher or administrator forces students, regardless of creed, to hew to his religious beliefs, then that would be an unconstitutional abridgment of their religious rights. If a teacher or administrator cited a personal belief in God -- or a personal disbelief in God -- without any response forced upon the students, then no First Amendment rights would have been violated. The former involves coercion, the latter doesn't.

Where was the coercion in Monument? Was it used against the audience hearing a student's declaration of belief in Jesus Christ and encouraging her listeners to join her? Were they prevented from leaving or forced to agree or pledge fealty? Or was it used against the student? Does the First Amendment protect government officials forcing a specific kind of speech – a specifically worded apology – from someone under their power?

Follow the coercion. That's where you can see the tyranny that our Founders sought to protect us against.

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Ninth Circuit Upholds Schools Decision to Ban Christian Group

From CitizenLink:
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled against a Christian club that is seeking to start up at a Seattle high school.

Truth Bible Club has been trying to gain recognition since 2001, but has been blocked because of its Christian code of conduct.

Officials at Kentridge High School have called the club discriminatory because its name excludes other religions, and its bylaws require voting members to sign a statement espousing the Bible...

Nate Kellum, an attorney with the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), pointed out the school's double standard: other clubs are granted the freedom to associate with whomever they please — including the school's Gay Straight Alliance.

“It’s really incredible that these groups are allowed to identify themselves according to membership," he said, "but Truth is forced to compromise who they are — they are forced to compromise their message.”

Kellum added that ADF is prepared to take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court if that’s what it takes for Truth Bible Club to gain recognition.

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