TOKYO — John Matthews writes: In January 1999, a Shinto priest unofficially married two men in a shrine in Kawasaki, an industrial city near Tokyo. Literally “the way of the gods,” Shinto is officially the state religion of Japan, but it does not influence modern Japanese life the way that Christianity dominates in the United States. Rather, it’s more a matter of a shared culture — of ritual practices and belief in spirits — against which some people define themselves.
The ceremony took place at Kanamara Shrine, best known for its annual Festival of the Steel Phallus, during which participants pray for easy childbirth or protection from sexually transmitted diseases. Hirohiko Nakamura, the priest who performed the rites, told local media then that this was probably the first time a wedding ceremony had been held for two men in Japan. “This may become a call to seriously think about the diversity of sex,” he said.
“In Shinto, it says make many children, expand humanity, and be prosperous. And yet, it’s not explicitly written anywhere that homosexuality is wrong or a sin.”
— Hisae Nakamura
Fast-forward 16 years. On June 26, the U.S. Supreme Court legalized gay marriage in all 50 states, overturning decades of often active and religiously motivated government discrimination against a minority of Americans. In Japan, gay marriage remains illegal — except for in one district, or ward, in Tokyo, which began recognizing same-sex marriages in March. A month earlier, conservative Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has been arguing for revising Japan’s Constitution to allow a more assertive military, said that reforming the Japanese Constitution to allow for gay marriage would be difficult.
Across Japan, opinions about gay rights diverge. Technically, homosexuality is legal, Kazuyuki Minami, a lawyer in Osaka, reminded a journalist from the Associated Press, “but the atmosphere is such that most people feel homosexuals should not exist.” Reuters, citing a mid-2013 poll by the research firm Ipsos, reported that while 60 or 70 percent of people in most Western nations say they know someone who is lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, only 5 percent of Japanese do. Kanae Doi, the Japan director for the advocacy organization Human Rights Watch, told Foreign Policy that while many Japanese are not opposed to homosexuality, “they don’t really see it.”
And while Shinto doesn’t have a clear stance on homosexuality, it “advocates that it’s not natural,” as one Shinto priest told me in Tokyo’s prominent Meiji Shrine in early June, a few weeks before the Supreme Court ruling. The Association of Shinto Shrines, the administrative body that oversees Japan’s estimated 80,000 shrines and 20,000 priests, tend to be conservative on social issues, the priest said. Read the rest of this entry »
BREAKING: Supreme Court Rules Obama Administration Can’t Make Catholic Group Obey Pro-Abortion HHS MandatePosted: April 27, 2015
WASHINGTON D.C. – Steven Ertelt reports: The Supreme Court issued an order today preventing the Obama administration from forcing a Catholic group in Michigan to obey the HHS mandate that requires them to pay for abortion-causing drugs for their employees. This is the fifth time the Supreme Court has rebuked the Obama administration and prevented it from making such a mandate.
“The government keeps making the same bad arguments and the Supreme Court keeps rejecting them – every single time. This is because the government can obviously come up with ways to distribute contraceptives without the forced involvement of Catholic ministries.”
— Mark , Senior Counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty
For the sixth time in a row, the Supreme Court took steps to protect another religious objector from the HHS mandate. It ordered a lower court to reconsider its ruling that denied a group of Catholic ministries in Michigan the freedom to follow their faith.
“That argument has always been absurd. Every time a religious plaintiff has gone to the Supreme Court for protection from the government’s discriminatory mandate the Court has protected them. That’s what happened to the Little Sisters of the Poor, Wheaton College, Notre Dame, and Hobby Lobby.”
— Lori Windham, Senior Counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty
“The government keeps making the same bad arguments and the Supreme Court keeps rejecting them – every single time. This is because the government can obviously come up with ways to distribute contraceptives without the forced involvement of Catholic ministries,” said Mark Rienzi, Senior Counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which filed an amicus brief in the case.
“How many times must the government lose in court before it gets the message? For years now the government has been claiming that places like Catholic Charities and the Little Sisters of the Poor are not ‘religious employers” worthy of an exemption.’”
“As with the Supreme Court’s decisions in Little Sisters of the Poor and Hobby Lobby, this is a strong signal that the Supreme Court will ultimately reject the government’s narrow view of religious liberty.
And it makes it less likely that lower courts will accept arguments the Supreme Court has rejected over and over and over again.”
“The government really needs to give up on its illegal and unnecessary mandate. The federal bureaucracy has lots of options for distributing contraceptives–they don’t need to coerce nuns and priests to do it for them.”
— Lori Windham
As the Becket Fund noted, the Michigan Catholic Conference and other Catholic ministries brought their request to the Supreme Court after a surprising lower court decision that would have allowed large IRS fines against the ministries because they, based on their religious beliefs, cannot provide contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs in their employee health plans. Read the rest of this entry »
Sarah Torre writes: The mainstream media has launched an all-out blitz over a new law that protects the fundamental freedom of Indiana citizens from unnecessary and unreasonable government coercion.
The media’s gross mischaracterizations of the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act ignore the truth: Religious Freedom Restoration Acts prevent government discrimination against religious free exercise and simply provide a way to balance religious liberty with compelling government interests.
Religious liberty isn’t an absolute right. Religious liberty doesn’t always trump. Religious liberty is balanced with concerns for a compelling state interest that’s being pursued in the least-restrictive means possible.
The First Amendment Partnership, an organization whose mission is “to promote and protect religious freedom for people of all faiths,” created the below infographic separating myth from fact on Religious Freedom Restoration Acts:
….By passing its Religious Freedom Restoration Act, Indiana joins the 19 other states that have implemented such laws. Eleven additional states have religious liberty protections that state courts have interpreted to provide a similar level of protection….(read more)
From Intercollegiate Review, May 2013, a timeless classic. Read the whole thing here. Career advice from my newsroom hero, supreme champion pugilist of punditry, brilliant bombshell of bodacious badassery, Mollie Z. Hemingway:
There has never been a better time to consider a career in journalism.
Newspapers are thriving, magazines are innovating, online journalism listicles are becoming more substantive, and cable-news talking heads are shouting at holograms.
Journalists are living up to our reputation as the country’s most trusted profession (at least compared to IRS agents and American Airlines customer-service representatives). Whether it’s our nuanced and thoughtful analysis of hot-button topics such as gay marriage or our tenacious coverage of the terrorist attack in Benghazi and Dr. Kermit Gosnell’s abortion clinic in Philadelphia, people know you can count on us to get the story right.
Would you like to succeed in this environment? As a long-time reporter and media critic, I’m happy to share tips on what to do if you want to make it in modern journalism.
Don’t Sweat the Details
Is there a difference between an Evangelical and an evangelist? Who cares? Don’t know the technical reason why Christians celebrate Easter? Will anyone really notice? Do you confuse the author of Hebrews with Paris booksellers?We all do! Whether you’re reporting on important U.S. Supreme Court decisions or how many people died in a terrorist bombing, what’s most important is getting the story first, not getting the story right, particularly under the pressure of a 24-hour news cycle.
Don’t Question Authority
If the powers-that-be suggest that a terrorist attack on the eleventh anniversary of 9/11 was the spontaneous and direct result of an unseen YouTube video with junior high school production values, who are you to be skeptical?
If these same authority figures suggest that therefore it’s dangerous for Americans to speak freely, share their religious views, and express their artistic sensibilities however they want, you should probably just join them in calling for restrictions on these First Amendment freedoms.
Likewise, if a politician suggests that the reports of scandal surrounding his administration are overblown, leave him alone already. Would he lie? One good thing to remember is that, generally speaking, only Republican politicians mislead. The sooner you figure that out, the more quickly you’ll be on your way to working at the New York Times.
Recently, some journalists asked the military about reports that the armed services were cracking down on Evangelical Christians. Military spokesmen assured the reporters that there was nothing to worry about. The good reporters figured that meant the case was closed.
Remember Your Job Is to Advance Narratives, Not Report Facts
CNBC’s John Harwood said recently, “Those of us in political-media world should just shut up about ‘narratives’ and focus on what’s true.” Spoken like a real nobody. We’re in the Golden Era of narratives. Facts are for old-timers. Take the story about the Health and Human Service Department’s Obamacare-inspired regulation requiring all employers (regardless of religious objections) to provide employee insurance covering birth control, sterilization, and abortifacients at no cost to the employee. Would you rather report the actual details about this, including claims that it is an unprecedented restriction on religious liberty, or simply call any attempts to fight it part of a “war on women”? Exactly. You know the right thing to do.
“That pattern involves taking provocative executive actions on sensitive, divisive issues to isolate people he detests, knowing it will invite a sharp response, and then using the response to scare his own base voters into thinking they are under assault when in fact they are on the offensive.”
Yuval Levin‘s post at The Corner is bracing, and revealing, noteworthy not only because of the insights expressed here, but as an example of what team NRO does best: the most lucid writing on these matters you’ll find anywhere.
From Legalization by Edict:
“…the notion that the president can respond to a failure to get Congress to adopt his preferred course on a prominent and divisive public issue by just acting on his own as if a law he desires had been enacted has basically nothing to do with our system of government.
In one sense, the approach the president is said to be contemplating does fit into a pattern of his use of executive power. That pattern involves taking provocative executive actions on sensitive, divisive issues to isolate people he detests, knowing it will invite a sharp response, and then using the response to scare his own base voters into thinking they are under assault when in fact they are on the offensive. That’s how moving to compel nuns to buy contraception and abortive drugs for their employees became “they’re trying to take away your birth control.” This strategy needlessly divides the country and brings out the worst instincts of people on all sides, but it has obvious benefits for the administration and its allies. Liberals get both the substantive action and the political benefit of calling their opponents radicals and getting their supporters worked up. Obama’s legalization of millions would surely draw a response that could then be depicted as evidence of Republican hostility to immigrants, rather than of Republican hostility to illegal executive overreach that tries to make highly significant policy changes outside the bounds of our constitutional order.
But while the legalization now being talked about fits into that pattern in a sense, the sheer scope of its overreach would put it in a different category as a practical matter…(read more)
Disdain for the letter of the law is complexly intertwined with the progressive imagination.
Kevin D. Williamson — no slouch when it comes to precise language himself — has a must-read in this weekend’s National Review, reminding us that the “ancients understood something that has been neglected in recent centuries: Grammar is the foundation of logic.”
There will always be occasions for discretion and interpretation on legal questions, but it is not the case that such discretion should presumptively empower the IRS to do things that the IRS is not legally entitled to do simply because Barack Obama wishes it to be so. If history teaches us anything, it is that a system of law that presumptively sides with political power soon ceases to be any sort of system of law at all. Rather, it becomes a post facto justification for the will to power, an intellectual window dressing on might-makes-right rule.
The matter addressed in Halbig is hardly the Obama administration’s first attempt to circumvent the law as written — see Hobby Lobby, etc. — nor is it the progressives’ only attempt to impose what they imagine to be enlightened ad-hocracy on the American people. The disdain for the letter of the law is complexly intertwined with the progressive managerial imagination: The law, in their view, is not something that limits the ambitions of princes, but something that empowers them to do what they see fit… (read more)
From Halbig and Hammurabi
[Kevin Williamson’s book “The End Is Near and It’s Going to Be Awesome: How Going Broke Will Leave America Richer, Happier, and More Secure” is available at Amazon]
Carly Fiorina dismissed claims of a “War on Women” Sunday, saying the concept was an unsubstantiated political ploy and even drawing on ancient Chinese wisdom to scold contemporary Democrats.
Fiorina then pulled out a fortune she said she’d received recently in a fortune cookie.
“‘Strong and bitter words indicate a weak cause,’” Fiorina read. “And that’s exactly right. The War on Women is shameless, baseless propaganda. There’s no fact to it. But it’s worked because it’s scared women to death. Enough.” (read more)
Resenting the Republic
You wouldn’t think, five years into the Obama presidency, that so many liberal Americans wouldn’t like America.
A new Pew survey found that 44 percent of Americans don’t often feel pride in being an American, and only 28 percent said that America is the greatest country in the world. Respondents who “often feel proud to be American” were overwhelmingly conservative (from 72 percent to 81 percent, depending on the kind of conservative). A majority (60 percent) of “solid liberals” said they don’t often feel proud to be an American.
“To listen to some of the hysterical responses to the court’s decision, you’d think the government in Washington is the only thing thwarting the desire of millions of businessmen to drape their female employees in burqas.”
The polling data only prove what has been obvious for a while.
Georgia representative John Lewis recently said that “if the Civil Rights Act was before the Congress today, it would not pass, it would probably never make it to the floor for a vote.”
Lewis is right. If it came before the Congress today, it wouldn’t pass. You know why? Because we passed it 50 years ago. The GI Bill wouldn’t pass today either, because that was enacted in 1944. If, somehow, we had Jim Crow today, the American people — and Congress — would vote to abolish it in a landslide.
In fairness, Lewis was primarily condemning congressional gridlock, not GOP racism.
Primarily. Read the rest of this entry »
With the Obama administration’s defeat in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, all eyes now turn to further Obamacare challenges. Chief Justice John Roberts shockingly greenlit Obamacare itself by converting it into a tax from a stated penalty, but he has also shown a partial willingness to chip away at the law.
There are two more upcoming cases on Obamacare worth watching. We can only hope that such lawsuits are just the beginning when it comes to the implementation of a law with regulations stacking up to eight feet tall.
Halbig v. Burwell: This case seemingly turns on a technicality, but it could completely sink the workability of Obamacare itself. The law allows for federal subsidies for those who buy their care through state exchanges; if subsidies are unavailable, those people can claim exemption from Obamacare penalties for hardship reasons.
There is one major problem for the Obama administration: 34 states refused to start state healthcare exchanges, and the law makes no provision for subsidies for those who buy their coverage through the federal exchange. That means that millions of people who applied for coverage through the federal exchange could be left without subsidies, freeing them of Obamacare penalties and destroying the base upon which Obamacare is based. Read the rest of this entry »
Hobby Lobby exposes mass incomprehension of the role of courts in a constitutional republic.
A question for readers: Do public schools teach civics? They did when I was in school, but it’s been a long time. Has basic civics been fully removed from public education? Or still taught, but overridden by progressive counter-programming? I’d like to hear.
I read this last night, and marveled. NRO‘s Charles C. Cooke writes like the last sane man in America. I enjoy Cooke’s thinking, but I sometimes forget how funny his writing is. The left’s reaction to the SCTOTUS decision was expected to be exaggerated, dishonest, political, and theatrical, that’s a given. But I didn’t imagine it would become this disassociated from the actual legal question involved, seemingly clueless about (or intentionally misrepresenting) the role of courts in the democratic process itself. Read the whole thing here.
“The justices are jurists not doctors — they are nine appointed attorneys whose role in the American settlement is to provide legal answers to legal questions.”
Charles C. W. Cooke writes:
Conspicuously absent from yesterday’s post-Hobby Lobby hullabaloo was the acknowledgment on the left that the decision was the product of a court. Distilling into a single line what was a popular and widely disseminated critique, the New York Times’s Nick Kristof tweeted a picture of Justices Kennedy, Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, and Alito, sardonically labeling the quintet as “The experts on women’s health on the Supreme Court who ruled today against contraception coverage.” A few hours later, Senator Harry Reid’s office pushed out an assessment that was cut from the same unlovely cloth. “It’s time that five men on the Supreme Court stop deciding what happens to women,” Reid tweeted. Among the hysterical, that sentiment was ubiquitous.
Note: Many on the right, too, are misreading or misrepresenting the perceived ‘victory’ in this narrow decision. Obamacare’s vast regulatory reach remains undiminished by this ruling, there’s not a whole lot to celebrate.
One cannot help but wonder whether Kristof and Reid are aware of what the Supreme Court actually does — which, as anybody who has even a fleeting grasp of American civics knows, is not to set American policy, on health or anything else, but to interpret and uphold the law. In this particular case, the justices were called to judge whether a mandate that was pushed out by the Obama administration in 2012 was in conflict with another law, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, that was added to the books in 1992. This being so, the degree to which those who decided the case are “experts on women’s health” is wholly immaterial. The justices are jurists not doctors — they are nine appointed attorneys whose role in the American settlement is to provide legal answers to legal questions. Man or woman; straight or gay; handsome or ugly; Jew, Catholic, or protestant — the law must remain the law, regardless of in whose name its intricacies are decided. The alternative would be disastrous. Does Harry Reid aspire to see Roe v. Wade, which was decided by nine men, overturned?
“Senator Patty Murray issued a wild and overwrought statement…At no point did she even come close to mentioning the legal case.”
Identity politics notwithstanding, the central implication of the Kristofs and Reids of the world — that the very involvement of the Court in this area is uncouth — is a rather strange one. Read the rest of this entry »
Liberals’ Hobby Lobby Doublethink
I’m particularly fond of the Game of Thrones reference. Read Jonah’s entire column here.
Abortion-rights protesters gathered outside the Supreme Court building on Monday holding signs that read “Birth Control: Not My Boss’s Business.”
“The notion that denying a subsidy for a product is equivalent to banning that product is one of the odder tenets of contemporary liberalism.”
Much to their chagrin, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito agreed in his ruling in the Hobby Lobby case.
Of course, that’s not how supporters of the government’s contraception mandate see it. They actually believe that birth control is their boss’s business, and they want the federal government to force employers to agree.
More on that later, but it’s first worth noting how we got here.
First, contrary to a lot of lazy punditry, there is no Obamacare contraception mandate. As my National Review colleague Ramesh Ponnuru notes, even President Obama’s liberal rubber-stamp Congress of 2009–10 never addressed — or even debated — the question of whether companies can be forced to provide contraceptive coverage. Department of Health and Human Services bureaucrats simply asserted that they could impose such a requirement. Indeed, “several pro-life Democrats,” Ponnuru adds, “who provided the law’s narrow margin of victory in the House have said they would have voted against the law had it included the mandate.”
“If I like to dress up as a character from Game of Thrones on weekends, pretending to fight snow zombies and treating my mutt like she’s a mystical direwolf, that’s none of my employer’s business. But if I ask my employer to pay for my trip to a Game of Thrones fan convention, I am asking him to make it his business.”
Moreover, Hobby Lobby never objected to covering birth control per se. It already covers 16 kinds of birth control for its employees. But it objected to paying for what it considers to be abortifacients, which don’t prevent a pregnancy but terminate one. The pro-abortion-rights lobby can argue that “abortion” and “birth control” are synonymous terms, but that doesn’t make it true. Read the rest of this entry »
I’ve yet to see an atheist from the secular right emerge to make this case, it’s long overdue.
Yet I consider the current campaign against religious liberty—the attempt to coerce Christians into providing service to gay weddings or to provide abortifacient drugs to their employees, against the dictates of their faith—to be a deep cultural crisis.
Why? Above all, because the sight of a bully using a club to force someone else to violate his conscience is inherently repugnant. As a humanist, what I regard as “sacred” is the power of the human mind to think and make judgments. To put this in terms borrowed from religion, when someone uses coercion to overrule the judgment of their victim’s mind, they are defiling my temple.
But there is another, more practical reason. History shows that the only way to fight for freedom of thought is to defend it early, when it comes under threat forothers—even people you strongly disagree with, even people you despise. So I’m willing to fight for it for people who are much worse, by my standards, than your average Christian.
W. James Antle III writes: Was contraception illegal in 2010? Were people unable to purchase birth-control pills without the consent of their employers?
The answer to these questions is no, despite the repeated insistences that the Supreme Court would bring about this state of affairs by ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby and against the Obamacare contraception mandate.
In fact, Hobby Lobby’s owners only object to being required to cover four of the twenty mandated contraceptives. They argue that they do not wish to be complicit in providing abortion-inducing drugs. But the same people who want to “ban bossy” now speak as if accommodating a religious for-profit employer necessitates overturning Griswold v. Connecticut.
Liberals have come a long way since 1993, when they helped pass—and Bill Clinton signed—the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Back then, they were willing to endorse the principle that the government must have a compelling interest in making a person act contrary to her religious conscience—and even then, government must use the least coercive means to further that interest.
[W. James Antle III’s book, Devouring Freedom: Can Big Government Ever Be Stopped? is available at Amazon]
Whatever the First Amendment implications of the Hobby Lobby case, it is impossible to argue the contraception mandate meets that test. Large swathes of the American public are already exempt from the mandate, so how compelling could the government interest be? Second, there are ways to make birth control more accessible to women without making religious people pay for it.
Read the rest of this entry »
The media narrative is false. Here’s the truth.
Gabriel Malor writes: This week, the Supreme Court will consider whether businesses and their owners must choose between paying millions of dollars in fines and violating their religious beliefs. The outcome of the combined cases, popularly styled Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby, will shape how government interacts with religious Americans for decades to come. It is no overstatement to say that an adverse outcome would banish from public life many Americans who wish to go on operating their businesses in accordance with their religious beliefs, as they have for decades.
But a funny thing happens if you pick up a newspaper covering these cases. The leftist papers do not mention the substantial monetary burden put on religious business owners to violate their consciences. The papers do not mention that contraception was both inexpensive and widely available before the contraception mandate, and still is. The papers omit to mention that it isn’t the businesses who have radically changed, but the mandates from government.
Quite simply, if you read a newspaper to find out about the contraception mandate cases, you will read lies. Here are the top six.
Lie 1. The contraception mandate cases are about women’s rights.
The New York Times’ Adam Liptak puts it right there in the first sentence: “The Supreme Court on Tuesday will hear arguments in a case that pits religious liberty against women’s rights.” This could not be further from the truth. Women will have the same constitutional rights to acquire and use contraception regardless of whether Hobby Lobby wins or loses. More than that, they’ll have the exact same rights as they had before the contraception mandate was a gleam in Sec. Sebelius’ eye. What women won’t have is the right to force other people to pay for their contraception, but that has never been a right recognized by the Supreme Court.
In the Bizarro World of the newspapers, not paying for someone else’s contraception is the same thing as prohibiting them from purchasing and using them themselves. This is an obviously false equivalence, but one that leftists are bent on telling themselves. No matter how many times you point out that the business owners in these cases aren’t preventing their employees from purchasing and using contraception, a smug leftist will smile and say “but women’s rights, you see,” as if these magic words excuse the lie.
Supreme Court More Likely to Rule in Against Contraception Mandate in Future Cases
The Supreme Court is more likely to rule in favor of explicitly religious organizations instead of large corporations when it comes to Obamacare’s contraception mandate, Charles Krauthammer said Tuesday night.
Krauthammer predicted on Special Report that after the Supreme Court had dealt with Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby — a case which he said could go either way — cases involving explicitly Catholic organizations stood a better chance of claiming victories over President Obama’s signature healthcare law.