Franklin Graham and the Sanctity of Politics

On Wednesday, Christian Evangelical leader Franklin Graham took to Twitter to weigh in on Democratic presidential candidate (and fellow Christian) Pete Buttigieg’s recent remark that “God doesn’t have a political party.”

Mayor Buttigieg, as just about everyone knows by now, is both gay and married.

Unsurprisingly, Graham’s tweet drew lots of responses, many of them echoing the same theme:

It’s interesting that a few years ago, the main point of contention would have been with Graham’s thoughts on homosexuality and marriage (though no one would have been surprised by them). Lots of Christians, after all, believe in and promote the sanctity of marriage, in its traditional and biblical sense, because of the teachings of their faith. And as Graham stated, the Bible does indeed describe homosexuality as a sin, and marriage as being between a man and a woman.

However, in this country, marriage is a legal institution, administered by the government. The separation of church and state is supposed to, in part, protect citizens from religious imposition by means of the law. And like it or not, the Supreme Court has extended the legal definition of marriage, as a civil right, to include gay marriage.

But again, this isn’t what spawned a good chunk of this week’s backlash. What drew the ire of a number of people was the glaring hypocrisy it requires for someone like Franklin Graham to publicly pass faith-based moral judgment on a political leader, especially on the topic of marriage.

After all, as Mr. Wehner pointed out, Graham is not only an outspoken supporter of Donald Trump, but also an adamant defender and apologist — including on the issue of our president’s numerous high-profile personal assaults on the sanctity of marriage.

For example, here’s what Graham said in an interview just last year, when asked about President Trump’s tryst with porn-star, Stormy Daniels (while married to his current wife, Melania):

“I don’t have concern, in a sense, because these things happened many years ago — and there’s such bigger problems in front of us as a nation that we need to be dealing with than other things in his life a long time ago. I think some of these things — that’s for him and his wife to deal with. I think when the country went after President Clinton, the Republicans, that was a great mistake that should never have happened. And I think this thing with Stormy Daniels and so forth is nobody’s business. And we’ve got other business at hand that we need to deal with.”

So last year, Graham wasn’t terribly concerned with sinful violations of the sanctity of marriage, nor did he believe such acts required repentance (which Trump admits he has never sought). According to Graham, it was a matter between spouses and was nobody else’s business.

Interesting.

That’s quite a deviation from what he said about Bill Clinton’s infidelity back in the late 90s:

“The private acts of any person are never done in secret. God sees and judges all sin, and while He seeks to restore the offender with love and grace, He does not necessarily remove all the consequences of our sin. As a boy I remember my mother telling me of the consequences of sin. Like a boat, whose wake can capsize other boats, sin leaves a wake. Just look at how many have already been pulled under by the wake of the president’s sin: Mr. Clinton’s wife and daughter, Ms. Lewinsky, her parents, White House staff members, friends and supporters, public officials and an unwitting American public.”

I guess the Unsinkable Donald Trump is an entirely different vessel — one that floats high above the consequences of sin. Or could it be that Graham truly does believe it was wrong of he and the Republicans to go after Clinton back then? If that were the case, however, why does he feel comfortable going after Buttigieg on the issue of marriage sanctity now?

Maybe — just maybe — Mr. Graham has one faith-based set of moral standards for the political leaders he aligns with, and a completely different set for the political leaders he doesn’t.

He certainly wouldn’t be alone on that front.

A number of influential Christian leaders and regular church-going Christians in this country have made breathtaking moral allowances for President Trump, who at times seems to wear his sinful conduct as a badge of honor. Tony Perkins of the Family Research Counsel (who officially endorsed Trump’s candidacy back in 2016) has referred to this phenomenon as a “transactional” relationship, in which Trump gets a “mulligan” on his Christian failings, as long as he pursues some legislative and cultural gains for the Christian community.

What a deal!

But if that’s the agreement, and everything’s transactional, shouldn’t someone like Pete Buttigieg — in the interest of fairness and Christian grace — be afforded the same consideration?

I mean, if you’re a Christian who is willing to rationalize and minimalize Trump’s sins (as identified by the Christian faith) for the sake of other faith-based contributions, why wouldn’t you do the same for someone else who brings his own set of Christian contributions to the table — including personal decency, compassion, and the open practice of that faith that goes well beyond holding up a Bible and referencing “two Corinthians”?

But that’s not what’s happening — at least not in Graham’s case. Graham is applying singular teachings of his faith selectively, as a partisan weapon against political opponents.

Is that of service to God? No. It’s of service to politics, and it should be recognized as such.

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Now Can We Move on to Really Important Issues?

keep calm and lets move onOnce again, the Supreme Court failed to exercise “judicial restraint” and opted to actively legislate from the bench by deciding that homosexuals have a “right” to marry in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges.  Five unelected lawyers decided to do away with our democratic process and power of our legislatures and redefine the word “marriage” held for millennia – with simply a key stroke.  I had no problem with the decision made by the voters of my state of Washingtonwhen it legalized same-sex marriage.  I had an opportunity to voice my opinion and, of course, it was no surprise that the referendum passed.  But, I was entitled to voice my opinion and, yet, the Supreme Court silenced millions of other voters last week.

Surprisingly, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, part of the majority in Obergefell, said – just two years – in criticizing the decision in Roe v. Wade, “a more restrained judgment would have sent a message while allowing momentum to build at a time when a number of states were expanding abortion rights. She added that it might also have denied opponents the argument that abortion rights resulted from an undemocratic process in the decision by ‘unelected old men.’”  It’s really a shame she didn’t follow her own advice in deciding Obergefell.

In my opinion, having read the 28-page opinion together with all four dissenting opinions, the majority opinion is long on sentiment and short on law. If it were a song, I’d label it “German schlager music.”  I can’t ever remember reading such a sentimental touchy-feely opinion in my entire time in law school and almost 25 years of practicing appellate law.  I would defy anyone to show me where in the Constitution are the words “loneliness,” “commitment,” “fidelity,” “love,” “devotion,” or “dignity” – although I didn’t see too much dignity at the recent Seattle gay pride parade amid the thongs, gold lame’, stiletto heels, and make-up worn by the male participants.

And, sincerely, with all due respect to Bernie, who I greatly admire and who provides me with an opportunity to speak my mind here, the case of Loving v. Virginia involving an interracial couple having the right to marry and similar cases cited by the Supremes, all assumed the marriages were between a man and a woman.  The Court was asked to decide who could marry and was never asked to change the definition of marriage.  Big difference.

For now, the subject is closed.  However, the proponents of gay rights will not be satisfied with this recent decision.  There’s no doubt in my mind that they’ll start attacking the First Amendment by demanding Church weddings.  I hope the religious institutions in this country – churches, synagogues and mosques —  are saving their pennies because I predict a whole bunch of lawsuits coming down the pike in the next ten years.

That being said, can we now move on to really important issues.  Can all the Republican hopefuls stop talking about gay marriage now that the Supremes have spoken.  it’s a done deal.  Let’s move on.  Nothing you say, hopefuls, can make you look good at this point.

And, more importantly, can the press stop asking ridiculously inane gotcha questions of the Republicans.  I’m not interested if Carly Fiorina will attend her gay cousin’s bridal shower.  I’m also not interested if Lindsey Graham would be his cousin’s best man when he marries his boyfriend.  I don’t care.  I’m not interested.   I just wish the press, back in 2008, had inquired of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama what they would’ve done in similar situations, when they both believed that marriage was between a man and a woman.  You know that was never going to happen.  But it is truly amazing how they weren’t viewed as “stodgy” or “old-fashioned”, “or out of touch”, “or on the wrong side of history” just three years ago when it became politically correct to change their opinions.

But as I said, there are far more important issues facing our Nation and I’d like to hear from Republicans and Hillary Clinton alike what they plan to do about ISIS, the $18 trillion debt we face, revision of the Tax Code, the economy, oil dependency, illegal immigration, Vladmir Putin, nuclear weapons for Iran, the U.S.’s relationship with Israel and China.

I’d also like to know if we’ll ever get the real story behind the Benghazi attacks from Mrs. Clinton, whether the FBI will launch an investigation and acquire access to her servers and look into her financials and those of the Clinton Foundation and how all those donations from foreign governments came about and was there a quid pro quo attached to any of them.  But, on the other hand, none of these issues surrounding Mrs. Clinton will mean anything.  The electorate was hell-bent on getting a half-Black man in the White House, albeit unqualified on every level, and they’ll be hell-bent getting a woman in this time around.  No matter what she says or does, Mrs. Clinton is Teflon-coated and we’ll be stuck with her for eight years unless, of course, she murders Bill Clinton….but only if it’s caught on tape.  But even then….

Whether you like the gay marriage decision or not, everyone should consider the words of Justice Samuel Alito in his dissent:  “But all Americans, whatever their thinking on that issue, should worry about what the majority’s claim of power portends.”




Gay Rights vs. The Rights of the Faithful

IntoleranceA Christian florist in Richland, Washington is sued by the state attorney general and by the ACLU because she wouldn’t do a flower arrangement for a gay couple about to be married.

A Christian couple that owns a bakery in Gresham, Oregon shut down their business after the state began an investigation into their religious objections to catering same-sex union celebrations.

In New Mexico, the state Supreme Court ruled that a Christian couple who owned a photography studio violated the state’s Human Rights Act by refusing to photograph a “commitment ceremony” of two gay women.  The shop owners were fined $6,637.

I learned of these things in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that ran under the headline “Gay Marriage Collides With Religious Liberty.”  The column was written by Mollie Ziegler Hemingway, who clearly is on the side of the Christians.

“It wasn’t supposed to be this way,” she writes.  “Voters were assured that legalizing gay marriage wouldn’t undermine religious freedom – after all, the public was assured that religious institutions would be free to act as they always had.  But what about religious individuals?  The effects of this new legal regime on private citizens have largely been ignored.”

So let’s not ignore them.  Let me offer my succinct analysis of the plight of these put-upon Christian small business owners who find gay unions a sin frowned upon by God Himself:  Too bad!  Believe whatever you want inside your church, but when you set up shop on Main Street you have to play by America’s rules – not the church’s.

People of faith, of course, will not buy this argument.  They believe God’s rules — or their interpretation of those rules — trumps anything civil society might come up with.  They’re wrong, of course, so let’s try to help them see the light.  Let’s imagine that a Muslim owns a flower shop somewhere in America, and because of his religious beliefs he won’t sell flowers to those he considers infidels, say, Christians, who want to be married by a minister who will read scripture praising Jesus as lord and savior.  This the Muslim shop owner finds offensive. So he refuses to provide flower arrangements for the wedding.

Or let’s imagine a Christian couple that thinks interracial marriage is a sin, so refuses to cater a marriage between a black man and a white woman.

Or imagine a gay couple that run a food store and won’t put up with what they see as religious bigotry, so they refuse to sell groceries to born again Christians.

Decent people everywhere would condemn such intolerance.  But somehow when Christians put gays in their cross-hairs, it’s not only okay, it’s somehow admirable – because they know there will be consequences yet they stick by their religious principles anyway.

As the florist in Washington State put it:  ““You have to make a stand somewhere in your life on what you believe and what you don’t believe.”

Anyone is free to think whatever he or she wants about anything, including gay marriage.  And if you’re a priest or minister, you have absolutely no obligation to perform same-sex marriage.  You can even condemn the practice week in and week out from the pulpit and suffer no legal consequences.  That’s how it should be.  But if you run a business, open to the public, you are not free to discriminate against gays – (anymore than you’d be free to discriminate against blacks or Jews or atheists) –simply because your faith tells you that the only acceptable marriage is between one man and one woman.  That’s fine in church.  It’s not fine on Main Street.

In the New Mexico case, where the photography studio owners were fined more than $6,000 for violating the state’s Human Rights Act, the judge who upheld the fine said being “compelled by law to compromise the very religious beliefs that inspire their lives” is “the price of citizenship.”

Understandably, that won’t sit well with those who believe gay marriage is a sin.  But it’s a wise decision nonetheless.

“It’s not just religious-minded business owners who need to worry,” the author of the op-ed tells us.  “County recorders, magistrates and judges in Iowa as well as justices of the peace in Massachusetts and town clerks in New York have been told that refusing to perform services for same-sex couples will result in criminal prosecutions.  Faced with choosing between their jobs and their religious beliefs, many have resigned, including a dozen Massachusetts justices of the peace.”

They made the right decision.  If officers of the law can’t uphold the law, they should resign.

The irony in all of this is that many Christians who are told they may not legally discriminate against gays are the ones who feel oppressed.  They’re the ones who think they’re victims of government and gay intolerance.  What they don’t seem to understand is that America is not a theocracy, no matter how much some of them wish it were.  What they also don’t understand is that refusing to do business with people, simply because your church doesn’t approve of their actions, is not only closed-minded – it’s also un-American.




The Sense in Being a Conservative Supporter of Gay Marriage

Earlier this week, commentator Meghan McCain (daughter of U.S. Senator John McCain) received a lot of online attention after expressing her thoughts on Mark Sanford’s special-election victory over opponent Elizabeth Colbert Busch.

In reaction to Sanford’s recapturing of his old seat in Congress, McCain tweeted: “Any Republican that voted for Mark Sanford in South Carolina but is against gay marriage is an unbelievable hypocrite.”

I know her reasoning is a bit tough to follow, so I’ll explain it: McCain is an outspoken supporter of gay marriage. Her implication was that people who oppose gay marriage (on the grounds that it defies the sanctity of marriage) are hypocrites for voting for someone who cheated on his wife (because there is no clearer violation of that sanctity than infidelity).

Conservatives had a lot of fun tormenting McCain over her statement. Many quickly and correctly pointed out (albeit in highly sarcastic terms) that her logic would only make sense if applied to single-issue voters whose single-issue was their opposition to gay marriage on the grounds of protecting traditional marriage.

Now, there might be a handful of voters who would fall into that narrow category, but I kind of doubt it. And I’m not even sure Sanford campaigned on an opposition to gay marriage in the first place. Even if he did, I don’t see the relevance to McCain’s point.

I think it’s safe to conclude that Miss McCain just made a thoughtless, dopey statement – one that, in my opinion, is pretty representative of her political commentaries on a number of issues.

Unfortunately, I believe her statement was also representative of how a lot of people approach the issue of gay marriage. Many seem to believe that an endorsement of a candidate is also an endorsement of their views on gay marriage. I have a few liberal friends who even told me prior to the 2012 election that they couldn’t vote for Mitt Romney because he opposed gay marriage. That position makes no sense to me, and it never has.

As I’ve mentioned before in my columns, I support gay marriage. Yet, I’ve never factored that stance into my evaluation of a political candidate. Why not? Because it’s completely irrelevant. Politicians don’t get to define marriage. State-wide elections on specific changes to marriage laws do. And I don’t see that changing anytime soon. Even if the Supreme Court decides to do something groundbreaking with its ruling on California’s Proposition 8, I can’t imagine a scenario in which representative government will ever play a role in this decision.

So if you’re voting for a candidate based on their stance on marriage, whether it be a local congressman or the president of the United States, all you’re doing is voting on someone’s personal opinion and not an actual policy. You might as well be voting for them because they like the same television show that you do. Yet, somehow, this issue has been used successfully for years by politicians on both sides of the aisle.

Now, maybe it’s different if you’re of the opinion that anyone who opposes gay marriage is a bigot, and you can’t possibly vote for a bigot. But if that were the case, anyone who voted for either Barack Obama or John McCain in the 2008 was voting for a bigot. I just don’t put a lot of stock in that charge. Assuming bigotry is narrow-minded. There are good, fair-minded people on both sides of the issue.

I feel that the distinction between a candidate’s opinion and the policies they can enact is an important one that people should consider. Individual voters have a far greater say on the future of gay marriage than politicians do. Someone like me has the choice to vote for the legalization of gay marriage in my state of Colorado, while also voting for political candidates who (regardless of their opinion on gay marriage) will pursue a smaller government, pro-growth policies, reducing the national debt, a strong military, personal responsibility, and other fundamentals that I believe are important.

Now, on the topic of the issue itself, here’s why I believe it makes perfect sense for a conservative to support gay marriage (hopefully I’ll come across as more coherent than Meghan McCain did):

Along with the distinction I described above (a candidate’s opinion vs. the policies they can enact), I believe that there is another important distinction that people should think about. That distinction is the one between legal marriage and the spiritual commitment of marriage. To me, they are two very different things.

Legal marriage, as in the state legally recognizing the contract of marriage between two people, is technically just a civil union. That contract has nothing to do with spirituality or religion. It’s the beliefs, commitments, and relationships that people bring to their marriages that define how they are recognized within a particular faith. In other words, a government’s definition of marriage is not God’s definition of marriage. I don’t think anyone can honestly make the case that it is. So when people cite the words of the Bible or other religious views as their reason for why gay marriage should not be permitted, I just can’t figure out that argument. After all, atheists get married all the time, and no one seems to care about that.  Why isn’t religion invoked when it comes to them?

It’s true that the Bible states that homosexuality is a sin, but I’ve always found it interesting, as a Christian, that it is specifically described as such only twice. If you compare that with acts described as sins far more extensively in the Bible – including ones that each and every one of us commit on an almost daily basis – I just can’t figure out why homosexuality is such a stickler for so many people.

Some people oppose gay marriage in the interest of preserving the family structure in our society, which is what former presidential candidate, Rick Santorum (along with many other social conservatives) is big on. I respect that viewpoint, but disagree with it.

The way I see it, that stance actually falls more in line with liberalism than it does conservatism.

After all, conservatives are the ones who typically believe that the freedom of individuals needs to be defended and promoted. They believe in letting people live their lives the way they see fit, out from under the thumb of government, as long as they’re not infringing on other people’s rights or creating a public safety concern.

Liberals, on the other hand, believe in reining in the freedoms of individuals for the sake of perceived benefits to society. They’re the ones who are always trying to save people from themselves, and rationalizing their actions by insisting that what they’re doing is for the greater good. Liberals are the nannies and busybodies, like Michael Bloomberg, who think they know what’s best for everyone else and impose their will on the public through policies.

So, with same-sex marriage not being a public-safety concern, and not infringing on other people’s rights (it certainly doesn’t affect my marriage to my wife), I don’t see why a pro gay-marriage stance is anything but consistent with conservative principles.

Call me crazy… And I’m sure several of you will.




Term Limits and the Catholic Church

Recently, Thomas Sowell wrote an excellent piece dealing with term limits. The point he made is that if the idea behind limits was to rid us of those people who spend their entire lives doing little more than voting, we’ve gone about it in a really stupid way.

For one thing, as we’ve seen here in California, it merely means that once one of these palookas has termed out in, say, the state assembly, he merely runs for the state senate or for governor or lieutenant governor or attorney general. In short, he moves on, he doesn’t move out.

Another problem is that once elected to the House or Senate, where term limits are never even considered, it’s next to impossible to dislodge the likes of Harry Reid, Charley Rangel and Henry Waxman.

There is no reason why we should have an actual class of politicians, people, in short, who never have to do an honest day’s work in their lives. And why should a Supreme Court judge be ensconced for life? For one thing, it presumes that we need professionals in those jobs. We don’t. In fact, those who decide on politics as a career are the very people who shouldn’t be there.

I realize that some would argue that you at least need specialized knowledge to serve as a member of the high court, but the fact that so many decisions come down to 5-4 votes suggests that you merely have to possess an opinion, not a law degree.

And it’s my opinion that the ongoing debate over same-sex marriages is much ado about nothing. A few gay activists have pretended that it’s a civil right, but, if so, has there ever been a civil right that’s been taken advantage of by fewer people than this one? We passed women’s suffrage and women got out and voted. We passed the Civil Rights Act and black people went to the schools of their choice and sat wherever they liked on the bus and at the lunch counter. But when it comes to same-sex marriage, it’s mainly sound and fury signifying nothing.

I know that whenever gay marriage legislation is passed, the left-wing news media is sure to share photos of the ecstatic couples. But I am beginning to think that I’m seeing the same couples time and again. I don’t believe that any significant number of lesbians have tied the knot, and I’m willing to bet it’s an even smaller percentage of gay men.

And after all the posturing over gays in the military, I have yet to hear of large numbers of gay enlistments. And I’m sure I would have heard of them, thanks to a liberal media that would be certain to ballyhoo the glad tidings.

If gays had been as successful at selling a soft drink brand as they have been at selling their very odd life style, we’d all be drinking Dad’s Root Beer or Diet Pepsi. How successful? Well, in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, hardly the east coast answer to San Francisco, the Green Street United Methodist Church is now refusing to perform marriage ceremonies for straight couples until same-sex marriage is legalized in that state. What’s more, they’re asking other churches to join the movement, and I have no doubt that other churches will follow their foolish lead.

A lesser man might go so far as to say there’s Methodism in their madness. I am that lesser man.

I confess I’m not a religious person, but even I’m aware that the Bible makes no bones about where it stands on the question of homosexuality. Now I’m not suggesting that gays should be stoned, but when the Bible refers to the practice as an abomination, where do churches get off promoting it? I mean, are there any lines in the sand? What’s next? Changing the 10 Commandments to the 10 Suggestions?

Even the Catholic Church is acting more like a social club than a religious denomination. Considering the damage it inflicted on itself first through the pedophile scandal and then through the ensuing cover-up, you would have thought the Vatican would have become proactive. Why is it, for instance, that the Church sits idly by while most Hispanic Catholics voted overwhelmingly for Obama, a man who proudly promotes abortions and homosexuality? Is denunciation from the pulpit a thing of the past?

And why is it that Catholics such as Patty Murray, Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi and a bunch of people named Kennedy, are never excommunicated for not merely championing abortions, but funding Planned Parenthood and doing everything in their power to make abortions readily accessible to teenagers?

It’s one thing, after all, to render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, but if even abortion is Caesar’s, what’s left to render unto the Lord besides a few bucks in the collection plate?

I say if the Church wants people to pay attention to it without having to wait around until Pope Francis dies or retires, it should start booting these high-profile backsliders out on their collective fannies.

Otherwise, when it comes to their members as well as their leaders, we have to assume that the Elks, the Moose and the Rotarians, all have higher standards than the Catholic Church.

©2013 Burt Prelutsky. Comments? Write BurtPrelutsky@aol.com.