Are Harry Warren And Carl Ford Oathbreakers, Or Merely Dangerous Cranks?

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156 Responses

  1. Mike says:

    It's interesting to see representatives of a state disown provisions which their ancestors are responsible for introducing into the Federal constitution.

  2. Ken says:

    Those are good parts of the North Carolina Constitution.

    Of course, it also has this part:

    Sec. 8. Disqualifications for office.

    The following persons shall be disqualified for office:

    First, any person who shall deny the being of Almighty God.

  3. Kelly says:

    They need to be fired, as in right this very minute! How incredibly dim-witted must they be to believe that any part of this is legal?!

  4. Patrick says:

    Mike refers to the fact that North Carolina, the next to last of the 13 original states to ratify the United States Constitution, refused to do so until the Bill of Rights had been ratified as well.

    These men should be impeached.

  5. jaxkayaker says:

    I disagree with what Warren and Ford are trying to do, but I wonder if they would still be considered oathbreakers had they submitted their proposition as a constitutional amendment, rather than as a legislative act?

  6. Bear says:

    "First, any person who shall deny the being of Almighty God."

    Which one? I'm partial to Ghu the Grandfather God, myself.

    Not that I've ever met the alleged guy, or any other deity. And I'm a little dubious of the claims by folks who hear their invisible friends whispering in their heads telling to them to do things to other people.

  7. David says:

    And yet if I were to assert that North Carolina has no valid law that allows me to punch Harry Warren and Carl Ford in the nose, they'd say I was crazy.

  8. Clark says:

    The Constitution of the great State of North Carolina

    …every such right shall be exercised in pursuance of law and consistently with the Constitution of the United States…This State shall ever remain a member of the American Union

    This is the 1776 North Carolina constitution?

    Wait, no.

    This is the 1868 Constitution. And what sort of government did North Carolina have at the time? A democracy, right?

    No.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reconstruction_Era#Overview
    Congress removed civilian governments in the South in 1867 and put the former Confederacy under the rule of the U.S. Army

    I'm no apologist for the South and for slaveholders, but appealing to a constitution put in place by a puppet government (the formal term was the Second Military District) when arguing about federalism doesn't strike me as a rhetorical knock-out blow.

  9. darius404 says:

    Which one? I'm partial to Ghu the Grandfather God, myself.

    Psh. Get with the times, The Goddess of Chaos is where it's at. That' why I'm pretty upset over this, since they obviously don't recognize my Discordia, Her Discombobulation.

    To counteract this act of destructive order, I doom their efforts with the Turkey Curse! GOBBLE, GOBBLE, GOBBLE, GOBBLE, GOBBLE!

  10. Patrick says:

    Clark. That Constitution has been amended many times, by democratic process, since 1868.

    Speaking as a citizen of the state, we don't need your apologies.

  11. Bear says:

    @darius404: I'm open-minded. Could you get GoC to prove her power (and existence) by doing something about the idiots in the New Hampshire state house? Please?
    http://www.unionleader.com/article/20130403/NEWS06/130409731

  12. Damon says:

    Quibble: That constitution was no doubt written after the War between the States. Therefore, it was imposed upon the state of NC. any constitution imposed by force has no validity.

    This does not discount that these guys are duchebags.

  13. Another Woman says:

    sigh. We have this happen all the time in the Carolinas. There are times I am seriously embarrassed to admit I live here. I'm actually in SC – where we have these sorts of battles over prayers at government functions all the time (I think there is one going on now in Pickens Co right now?) They can NOT get it through their heads that personal, private prayers can be made wherever they like/want/need, but intonations with a governmental seal of approval are simply not allowed. I can't wait to see how long it is before something similar gets introduced here.
    BTW, Ken, there is a similar provision – admitting to belief in god as a requirement to hold any office (even to be a notary) – in the SC Constitution, but it has been specifically struck down in court, although not actually removed. (<-my understanding of events and status)

  14. Lizard says:

    Ultimately, every law is only as good as the force behind it. The Federal Government gets to interpret the Constitution because the Federal Government has the power to make it so. Regardless of one's political theories regarding the 10th Amendment, or anything else, if push comes to shove, the Federal government can push a hell of a lot harder than any state. If this was not demonstrated adequately in 1864, when states were much more independent and citizens were more likely to think of themselves as citizens of a state, not citizens of the United States, I cannot imagine what might convince the good(?) folk of North Carolina to believe they could win such a battle. Laws are just pieces of people hung over gun barrels, and paper doesn't stop bullets very well.

    This has nothing to do with how I might like the world to be, but everything to do with how the world IS, and those who confuse the former and the latter are known by the technical term "idiots".

    (I should also note, as a former resident of NC, that much of the state's economic core is supplied by the clusters of high-tech companies and workers in the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill area, and those people skew a lot more liberal than the inbred rednecks who vote for Warren and Ford, so those with wealth and power will likewise oppose this bill.)

  15. Bill Stade says:

    I really don't understand the fuss over their prayer to Jesus before their meetings. After all, they only allow Christians to participate anyway. So there's no problem here, right?

  16. John Kindley says:

    Amen. They already denied Jesus Christ when they swore their oaths to support the Constitutions of the U.S. and North Carolina. At least that's what I took away from this post.

  17. Bill Stade says:

    John – First, I was being sarcastic. Second, allowing everyone to worship as they please is not denying Christ. That's what this is all about.

  18. Caudex says:

    Which Almighty God? Cthulhu? Hastur? Tzeentch, he of the many faces? Slaanesh, the lord-lady of pleasure? Khorne, who sitteth on the throne of skulls? Grandfather Nurgle?

  19. Aelfric says:

    Just tell 'em that the last state to have an established church was the People's Republic of Massachusetts in 1833. That should stop 'em. Nothing kills a conservative idea quicker than a liberal endorsement.

  20. MattS says:

    "Especially in light of repeated holdings by the United States Supreme Court that the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution (guaranteeing citizens "equal protection of the laws" and preventing states from withholding "liberty … without due process of law") makes the First Amendment's guarantee that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion" applicable to the states, including North Carolina."

    Since states don't have their own Congresses There is room to make a good faith argument that SCOTUS decisions applying 1A to the states are bad law.

    That said, the named NC state reps would seem on the basis of the evidence presented to be at best morons.

  21. John Kindley says:

    Bill, I wasn't replying to your comment, but commenting on the post in general.

    Lizard, I would amend your assertion that laws are just "pieces of people [paper?] hung over gun barrels." I am late to the Game of Thrones, but in the last week have become enthralled, and am working my way through all the episodes. In one of the episodes I watched yesterday, one of the characters asked a riddle about a king, a priest, and a rich man, each of whom orders a sword-bearer to slay the other two. Who does the sword-bearer obey? Whoever he believes. Power is a "magic trick."

  22. Nate says:

    Why didn't they just change the opening to a moment of silence and be done with the whole thing? Idiots. Ugh, when someone hands you a shovel that doesn't always mean dig deeper; sometimes it means fill in the hole.

  23. naught_for_naught says:

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion

    I have heard it argued by historians that, in practice, this was intended to restrict the Federal Government alone, that states were free to establish their own laws regarding the practice of religion. The 14th amendment coming later was not an issue to be considered in the early days of the Republic. In fact a contrarian might take this position and argue that applying the 14th amendment in this case would be overreaching because it violates the prohibition of the Federal Government to enter into issues of religion.

  24. Patrick says:

    naught, the word you're looking for is "sophist."

  25. Jack B. says:

    Just tell 'em that the last state to have an established church was the People's Republic of Massachusetts in 1833. That should stop 'em. Nothing kills a conservative idea quicker than a liberal endorsement.

    Sounds good on paper, but remember, you're talking about the party that handed the 2012 presidential nomination to the former governor of Massachusetts and architect of Obamacare.

    I'm guessing both Warren and Ford fancy themselves "limited government" conservatives, because nothing says "limited government" like the establishment of a state religion.

  26. Clark says:

    > I have heard it argued by historians that, in practice, this was intended to restrict the Federal Government alone, that states were free to establish their own laws regarding the practice of religion.

    http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Incorporation+Doctrine

  27. naught_for_naught says:

    If this was not demonstrated adequately in 1864

    I missed that. What happened in 1864?

  28. En Passant says:

    Patrick wrote:

    Are Harry Warren And Carl Ford Oathbreakers, Or Merely Dangerous Cranks?

    Yes. Both.

    Unfortunately, under present political circumstances abroad throughout the land the best one can expect is that their bill will languish in some subcommittee where stupid bills go to die.

  29. Aelfric says:

    The Bill of Rights, famously, originally applied only to the Federal Government–hence my earlier quip about Massachusetts having an established church until 1833. See Barron v. Baltimore, 32 US 243 (1833 [coincidence]). But post and through the 14th Amendment, as we know, the Bill of Rights amendments have been "incorporated" against the states. See: the general oeuvre of Hugo Black. There is little doubt as to the First. Heller said as much for the Second. I am waiting for the case incorporating the Third.

  30. Jay says:

    Probably not oath breakers. Article 3 doesn't explicitly give SCOTUS jurisdiction over disputes between a state and its own citizens (one could read the 1st paragraph of section 2 as an exclusive list of parties where jurisdiction is apt). Bill of Rights was originally viewed as only applying federally. 14th amendment due process clause incorporates some (not all) of the rights as vs the states as interpreted by SCOTUS. But, if SCOTUS lacks jurisdiction, precedent is inapplicable.
    I'm not saying this is the right reading, just one way of reading the text. Alternately, one could also argue that incorporation is an artifact of Lochner-era substantive due process cases, an area of jurisprudence whose underlying premise SCOTUS itself rejects.

  31. hlm says:

    I give up. All right-mined people of the great state of North Carolina are hereby invited to take up residence in the RTP region, from where we will secede from NC altogether: https://www.facebook.com/rtpnonc

  32. Bren says:

    @ En Passant

    "Oathbreaker" Warren EXPECTS this to die in committee.

    http://www.salisburypost.com/article/20130403/SP01/130409910/1023/lawmakers-file-rowan-county-defense-of-religion-act

    He's kind of like a chained dog making a particularly menacing snarl when he knows he can't actually fight. Not THAT dangerous, but as an NC resident,I do wish he were not in my neighbors backyard, it reflects poorly on my neighbors and our neighborhood.

  33. naught_for_naught says:

    Patrick, sophist seems so pejorative, especially when you understand its meaning. Thanks for the link, Clark — incorporation doctrine.

  34. ShelbyC says:

    Meh. Cooper v Aaron notwithstanding, state legislators are entitled to their own opinions about what the US constitution means. The NC legislature can pass whatever stupid laws it wants, and the federal courts can nullify them. If you don't like it, vote different guys into the legislature.

  35. Zack says:

    At least in my opinion, it might be better to, say, allow a rotation; allow different commissioners of different beliefs to open with varying prayers to whatever they believe in; or, if the member is an athiest, with a solemn admonishment for the committee and meeting to adhere to truth and reason. (or whatever humanist/philosophical/scientific equivalent the person desires to offer.)

    If more speech is a solution to bad speech, then it'd be better to open the dedications up to multiple faiths than to shut it down to exclude the one currently invoked. (at least IMHO).

  36. Zack says:

    @hlm: According to the constitution, you're not allowed to do that. A state is not allowed to be deprived of territory or representation in the senate without its consent (which begs a whole boatload of questions regarding West Virginia, but I digress). I forget which article it's in, but it's in there.

  37. Kat says:

    For once I'm actually relieved to be in my state (Arkansas) rather than another one. Of course, this will last about as long as it takes my state to follow suit, at which point I'll go back to wishing I could move elsewhere.

    There are actually people here who are lamenting that North Dakota is more crazy than us. Now I'm sure I'll be hearing whinging about North Carolina as well.

    (For those who ask why I don't just move, it's a matter of cost, all of my family being here, and need to stay in one place while I'm finishing my education. I'll more than likely run far and fast at the first opportunity, since my family will be more likely to support the 'need to establish my career' reason for moving rather than the 'need to get the hell out of here before I go insane' one.)

  38. Qitaana says:

    @Aelfric – The 3rd Amendment is incorporated in the 2nd Circuit via

  39. Aelfric says:

    Qitaana–Darn it, and I practice in the 2nd Circuit. Serves me for not researching a silly mention of our least-cited right.

  40. Louis says:

    Ken, that part of the NC constitution has been declared unenforcable:
    http://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/367/488/case.html

  41. Dave Crisp says:

    @Aelfric: While Heller hinted strongly that a majority of the Justices felt A2 should be incorporated, since it was a DC (i.e. Federal) case it didn't actually do it.

    You're thinking of McDonald v Chicago

  42. Lizard says:

    @John: Reasonably true, but the point remains — the people with the guns (the swordbearer) believe, for the most part, power resides with the federal government, and, barring extraordinary circumstances, they'll obey those orders (even when unlawful or immoral). You don't even need to go back to the civil war; the desegregation era proved that as well. (This principle works on multiple levels; as Ken's other posts have shown, no matter how much is written about the rights of civilians vs. the police, the police cheerfully ignore such laws, despite being allegedly tasked with enforcing them. Quoting the rules at a cop who violates them earns you a beating and a tasing — if you're lucky.)

  43. Luke says:

    Someone help me here: I don't see what relevance the reconstruction constitution has seeing as North Carolina approved their latest constitution in 1971. Wouldn't the most recent constitution be the one that is currently in effect?

  44. MattS says:

    Zack,

    The split between Virgina and West Virgina occurred during the Civil War. Technically Virgina claimed not to be one of the US states at the time the split occurred, so they are without recourse to the US Constitution for it.

  45. Robert White says:

    Of course Article 3 Section 2 expressly gives the supreme court dominion over this sort of douche nozzlery. Just like a good selective reading of the bible, you can read the constitution as if it allows or denies any position you want if you take the liberty to pretend the rest of it doesn't exist.

    I don't know about the actual limits of the "congress shall make no law respecting…" part, but the part where they try to say that they can say the federal courts have no jurisdiction is damn ignorant on its face.

  46. Robert White says:

    Side Note: Satanism is the sect of Christianity least likely, per capita, to lose its members. I'll bet their carefully crafted attempt to bring "christianity" to their beck and call would fully authorize satanic prayer. And I know I for one (being an atheist) would stand by proudly and watch some satanist offer that very prayer in any school, office, or public function once it is mandated into law.

    The over-zealous often forget that _their_ _personal_ conception of what terms like "christianity" (or islam, or any other magic sky friend following) means may well not be even close to universal amongst their ilk.

    The fight for separation of church and state is, in itself, a case of trying to protect idiots from the easily foreseeable consequences of getting what they wish for.

  47. En Passant says:

    Bren wrote Apr 3, 2013 @9:57 am:

    He's kind of like a chained dog making a particularly menacing snarl when he knows he can't actually fight. Not THAT dangerous, but as an NC resident,I do wish he were not in my neighbors backyard, it reflects poorly on my neighbors and our neighborhood.

    I'm entirely sympathetic. But by my personal experience and observation, evidence suggests that your desire is perpetual, widespread among many people in every place, and is usually fulfilled only locally and temporarily, and even then by great effort and expenditures.

    That said, Kat wrote Apr 3, 2013 @10:09 am:

    For once I'm actually relieved to be in my state (Arkansas) rather than another one. Of course, this will last about as long as it takes my state to follow suit, at which point I'll go back to wishing I could move elsewhere.

    There are actually people here who are lamenting that North Dakota is more crazy than us. Now I'm sure I'll be hearing whinging about North Carolina as well.

    In my days in The Land of Opportunity[1], your lament was usually expressed as rejoicing: "Thank Gawd for Miss'ippi!"

    FN 1: Now apparently The Natural State

  48. Lizard says:

    @Robert: The "actual limits" are a result of evolving jurisprudence, and have, overall, become progressively tighter over the years (that is, while it is absolutely possible to make laws regarding speech, religion, assembly, etc, those laws need to pass very high bars with regard to necessity, scope, and definition). The 14th Amendment, in turn, applies the Bill of Rights to the States. It is true that prior to that, it was possible for states to restrict speech, religion, and so on in ways the federal government could not, but it's been established law that they can no longer do so, and this has been part of law and precedent for a long, long, time, so you'd think conservatives, who supposedly value tradition, stability, and a cautious approach to change, would be against upending an applecart on a whim to appease a howling mob — indeed, the role of conservatives, in society, is to put a brake on the desire for the government to "Do something, NOW!", to serve as a vital counterbalance to those who call for radical change without considering all the consequences. A society as complex as ours needs principled conservatives to avoid dissolving into chaos, just as it needs strident rabble-rousers and activists to avoid decay and stagnation. Unfortunately, we seem to be heading towards a state where everyone wants radical and instant change, and merely disagrees over the direction.

  49. Robert White says:

    Plus, even if it _were_ kosher and valid, the federal government can get it's way by just withholding all the freebees it gives any state.

    "You want to be sovereign? Okay, no more highway funds for you… and we'll take those farm subsidies back… and what about this welfare reform, well you were against the dole anyway…"

    Remember the whole 55mph national speed limit. That wasn't so much a law as a predicate for access to the national coffers.

    Sovereign my shiny metal ass… 8-)

  50. Robert White says:

    Zack: the atheist intonation might read:

    "Grow up. Stop being such dicks. Let's do what we are paid to do. And no, bob*, we are not going to strike down evolution or whatever you are on about this week just to make you look good, so shut the fuck up."

    (*)bob is a placeholder name…

  51. JPL says:

    @Clark (et al.) – It's the constitution of 1971. That's 1900 and 71, when reconstruction had been over for about 100 years.

  52. John Thacker says:

    Although somehow the United States Senate and House continue to have official Chaplains, who has always been Christian and who open each session with a prayer. They've broadened it by having very occasional Guest Chaplains (including a Muslim and an Hindu) give prayers, but it's obviously not acceptable to everyone. Last time the idea of Legislative Chaplains was before the Supreme Court was 1983, Marsh v. Chambers.

    Suspect that without this law they'll find some way to keep the prayers, even if they make them technically non-sectarian (but continue pissing off atheists.)

  53. hlm says:

    @Zack: You do make a good point: it (secesion from NC) is not just about us intellectual elites looking down on the ignorant masses; it's also about getting the unwashed masses REALLY sick of us elitist prigs. That way, the secession/annexation/whateveration will be completed WITH the state's consent.

    Based on my zero time spent researching it, I'm picturing it as a ballot initiative constitutional amendment thing.

    I'm open to suggestions as to what we could do at a local level to really antagonize those folks out I'm the hinterlands. (Maybe build a few Mosques down the street from the state house, or start hosting an "Evolution Pride" parade every year?)

  54. Ken Mencher says:

    As a North Carolinian, I looked things over pretty clearly, and one point is that these knuckleheads aren't looking to start a state religion, just give the state the ability to designate one…

    It's a small distinction, but this is a legal blog, so the devil's in the details, no?

  55. peej says:

    Another face-palming NC citizen here… I'm deeply pissed off by this resolution (it's a cumulative effect, you see), and I'm wanting to tweak the tails of its authors in a really major way, and I'm feeling, um… quixotic.

    Even though the likelihood of finding any NC state rep with the courage to wade into this issue and propose impeachment (This is the state of Amendment 1 and the nipple law, after all), I went so far as to look up the NC impeachment statute.

    "§ 123‑5. Causes for impeachment.
    Each member of the Council of State, each justice of the General Court of Justice, and each judge of the General Court of Justice shall be liable to impeachment for the commission of any felony, or the commission of any misdemeanor involving moral turpitude, or for malfeasance in office, or for willful neglect of duty. (1868‑9, c. 168, s. 16; Code, s. 2937; Rev., s. 4628; C.S., s. 6248; 1973, c. 1420.)"

    So, big brains of the commentariat, would the Warren-Ford resolution fall under malfeasance, or willful neglect? Or neither? Does its proposal mean anything, or would it have to be somehow enacted as a bill to rise to the level of being 'impeachable'?

    This is mostly fantasy, I know, but I'll just mention that if anyone here knows of any NC state legislator who might be inclined to tangle assholes with Warren and Ford, both to take the piss and to send the message that not everyone is willing to indulgently chuckle about this spectacularly wrongheaded resolution and murmur, "Oh, you," please let me know. I've fired off the usual set of angry letters, but I want to do MOAR.

  56. Lizard says:

    @Ken Mencher: In terms of Constitutionality, there's little difference — I don't think anyone's thinking that NC is going to found their own church. (Of course, it's not like "Christianity" is a single, monolithic, religion; no matter which brand of Christianity they decide to make an official state religion, it will piss off everyone else. Even within the major branches of Christianity, there are countless sects and schisms. As my wife, a former fundie, once put it, "If you have two Baptists on a desert island, there will be two churches: "First Baptist Island Church", and "Second Baptist Island Church".

  57. peej says:

    @Ken Mencher and @Lizard: You are both correct, and yet…I think perhaps the "principle" underlying the resolution is what really matters here. Hmm. Let's see. Okay: Let's say I'm waving a loaded .45 at you. I'm not shooting you; I'm merely communicating to you that I can shoot you. It's an expression of a wish, if you will. That's what is frightening about the resolution: That wish. Publicly and defiantly expressed.

  58. mcinsand says:

    I hope that the hypocrisy supply isn't running low, because I fully intend to dip into it, especially with the 'judge not lest ye be judged' bit. Yeah, let's break that one :D

    So these two are looking at welding Christ and prayers into the government. Do they even read The New Testament? Somehow, I don't think so. As for the prayers, someone needs to remind them of the 'do not pray as they hypocrites pray' bit, since that is a key point about the importance to communicate from the heart, rather than merely for show. Furthermore, Jesus' responses when people implored him to create a theocracy were pretty emphatic. Efforts by bozos like these two lawmakers go against that. If they really want to pay attention to The New Testament, they'll use it go guide their personal principles, rather than to rewrite government …and you can do one as a lawmaker without the other. Let's go for another dose, to refer to the fundamental commandment as being to 'love your neighbor as yourself.' They expect to believe and practice as they want, so a key principle for them to live by should be to respect others' desires to believe as they wish.

    It isn't just the North Carolinians (like me) that should be ashamed of Warren and Ford, but any honest Christians, as well.

  59. mud man says:

    The NC state constitution is a surrender document dictated by an occupying power. Well, alright *dictated* but stand on the military force part. Goes to show how well that sort of thing sticks.

  60. John Kindley says:

    I appreciated Robert White's observation above that Satanism is a sect of Christianity. Indeed, there's a bit of "Before Abraham was, I am," and of Non Serviam, in the attitude of both Jesus and Lucifer, the Light-Bearer. Both recognized no law over them. And we're to imitate Jesus, are we not?

    The injunction against oaths is well taken, and particularly applicable with regard to the Constitution. What if the Constitution is duly amended to establish Christianity, or Satanism, as the state religion? Would the oaths that some of us had to take in order to practice our profession still bind us to it? Or more mundanely, what if Congress takes it into its head to increase the income tax rate on all earners to 90%, pursuant to its authority under the 16th Amendment as it currently exists?

    The Constitution is in the eye of the beholder, it would appear.

    It's a little peculiar when you think about it that the oath of attorneys comes only after you've already spent three years in law school. Who thinks about the fact they'll have to take it to actually become a lawyer when first setting out on the law school adventure? Of course, at the time I took it I regarded it as a mere formality, and thought nothing of it, and still don't.

  61. Xenocles says:

    MattS:
    "The split between Virgina and West Virgina occurred during the Civil War. Technically Virgina claimed not to be one of the US states at the time the split occurred, so they are without recourse to the US Constitution for it."

    This is not an argument that the US will ever use. The official position of the US has always been that the Confederacy never existed. Virginia was thus always subject to the Constitution. The secession of West Virginia was consented to by a Virginia government-in-exile, IIRC, which was recognized by the US as the legitimate government of Virginia. So it was all done by the book, you see.

  62. Jeff says:

    I'm actually asking a serious question and would like a serious answer, not a flame war:

    I'm generally familiar with the Supreme Court 1st Amendment cases, though not an expert, so what's the policy justification for converting a constitutional provision that appears to be intended to prevent the government from mandating membership in a particular religious organization as a condition of receiving the rights of citizenship into a provision that seems to be targeted at eliminating all concepts of religion from governmental activity?

    In other words, what's the harm caused listening to someone else pray before a city council meeting if no one makes you pray or conditions any governmental action on whether or not you pray. This isn't a school prayer situation where one could make the case of religions inculcation.

    Jeff

  63. Patrick says:

    Jeff, that's an excellent question.

    This is an untrue story: In North Carolina, zoning disputes are governed by local governments, including county commissions. Years ago, I was involved in a zoning dispute with my neighbor, The Church of The Almighty God of North Carolina, which complained that I had opened my business, the Friendly Atheist Bookstore, in a zone limited to residential use (except for churches, which can't be zoned due to First Amendment concerns).

    The deacons of The Church of The Almighty God of North Carolina tried to shut my business down, or force me to move away, because one square foot of my property was located in a zone designated for residential use, while all of the other square feet were zoned for commercial use.

    So you can imagine how I, as the proprietor of the Friendly Atheist Bookstore, felt when the County Commissioners hearing my zoning case opened the meeting with a prayer to The Almighty God of North Carolina.

    Fortunately, the Commissioners upheld my use of the property, holding my technical zoning violation to be merely de minimis.

    But can you understand why I was worried?

    Can you understand how, if they'd ruled against me, I'd have had strong grounds to challenge their decision in court, given that they'd prayed to The Almighty God of North Carolina moments before ruling against the Friendly Atheist Bookstore, in favor of the The Church of The Almighty God of North Carolina?

  64. Nate says:

    The Constitution of the Confederate States of America reads similarly to the U.S. Constitution (unsurprisingly, the differences generally tend toward taxation, commerce, and slavery), however provisions in the Bill of Rights are part of the constitution rather than amendments. As such, wouldn't incorporation be unnecessary, thus wouldn't this bill be still unconstitutional regardless of what government North Carolina is operating under?

  65. Patrick says:

    Nate, the argument isn't founded on Confederate law. It's founded on a 19th century interpretation of Federal constitutional law, predating the Civil War, one that ignores or vitiates the Fourteenth Amendment.

    No serious person, no non-troll, seriously believes that the Fourteenth Amendment doesn't incorporate all of the individual rights set forth in the Bill of Rights.

    Except for the rights to jury trial in civil cases, and to indictment before a grand jury before charges ensue, on which I submit that the Supreme Court needs to get its act together and get out of the eighteenth century.

    As to protection from excessive fines, the topic hasn't been addressed with specificity, but it's coming. Some day a state will fine some rich person who can afford a great appellate team ONE GODZILLION DOLLARS…

    And that will be a great day for America.

  66. Stephen says:

    Jeff: I don't see where any reading of the Establishment Clause can be construed as applying only to citizenship. If you study the context of the times when the Constitution was drawn up, the clear goal was to allow for free religion (or lack thereof) while avoiding the ecclesiocracy that the Church of England became. They recognized back then that religion in the hands of legal authority (or vice versa) invariably, over time, becomes a crowbar to beat outsiders with.

    These Christians in office have no issues with passing laws that align with their worldview, but they shit bricks at the mere mention of Sharia law. That is why the Establishment Clause exists. Preference of none is the only way to ensure freedom of all. It would be nice if the politically-active Christians recognized that.

  67. James Pollock says:

    The main argument against the establishment of a Christian government comes not from the Founders, nor the Constitution. It comes from Jesus, who expressly declined to establish Himself as government in this world, despite His followers' fairly strong desire at that time that He should do so.

    Since Jesus Himself counseled Christians that there should be a separation between Earthly government and religion based on His teachings, by definition there can be no such thing as a "Christian government" and anyone who attempts the creation of something by that name is severely unChristian. Jesus awaits you in the next world, if you follow His teachings. These two gentlemen(?) of NC clearly do not.
    Disclaimer: I've been in NC a couple of times, primarily but not exclusively in the RTP area. It's a lovely state with generally fairly nice people in it, but it is uninhabitable in the summer.

  68. MattS says:

    Xenocles,

    "This is not an argument that the US will ever use."
    That doesn't make it wrong.

    "The official position of the US has always been that the Confederacy never existed."

    This is neither the first nor the last issue on which the official position of the US government has been contrary to reality.

  69. James Pollock says:

    "The official position of the US has always been that the Confederacy never existed."

    More correct to say that the official position of the U.S. is that the Confederacy never lawfully existed; that the states never had the lawful power to withdraw from the U.S. and therefore never had the lawful power to create the Confederacy.
    Then they backed it up with sufficient military power to make this interpretation stick.
    Now, I'm still hoping that we can get a legal interpretation from the Justice Department that publicly advocating secession functions as an effective abdication of U.S. citizenship, so we can start deportation proceedings. Alas, I suppose USCIS is too busy iwth the immigration cases they already have.

  70. Kevin says:

    @James Pollock

    Now, I'm still hoping that we can get a legal interpretation from the Justice Department that publicly advocating secession functions as an effective abdication of U.S. citizenship, so we can start deportation proceedings.

    How would you square that with the first amendment? And why would you want to?

  71. Noah Callaway says:

    @Kevin

    Without speaking for him, my guess is that in this instance he was being somewhat hyperbolic and that James isn't seriously advocating deporting people for suggesting secession.

  72. James Pollock says:

    "How would you square that with the first amendment? And why would you want to?"
    How are they in conflict? If someone says they no longer want to be a U.S. citizen, why should the government deny their request? Are you of the opinion that the U.S. should force people to retain the U.S. citizenship they obviously do not want against their will? Because I don't. I believe that this is a FREE country, and people who want out should be allowed to leave. Kicking and screaming the whole way, if necessary.
    I suppose punishing people because they stand up and say "guilty" in a court of law, they shouldn't be punished for that, either?

  73. James Pollock says:

    Yeah, that last sentence doesn't make any sense. Sorry about that. It's late. I bet you can figure out what I meant, though.

  74. Sunhawk says:

    I've been bouncing between embarrassment and rage about this since yesterday (I live in NC).

  75. Sunhawk says:

    "If someone says they no longer want to be a U.S. citizen, why should the government deny their request?"

    This is an important right, definitely. On the other hand, it also has to be irrevocable. I would submit that having a bit of deliberate delay in the process as we generally do now (ie, you apply to renounce, application is checked for validity, and then you come back to confirm it) and to ensure it's a completely free decision on the part of the individual is desirable.

    Moreover, deportation… to where? That's one reason why you have to go to a US embassy in another country to renounce your citizenship.

  76. John Kindley says:

    I sometimes feel like a broken record, and think I must be annoying people by pointing out the self-evident truth of anarchy. I feel like I must be pointing out what everybody already sees and knows. James Pollock reassures me otherwise.

    Lysander Spooner proved that the Constitution is of No Authority, and therefore that the South committed No Treason. Of course, the Confederacy was of No Authority for the same reasons that the Constitution isn't. Nevertheless, there was No Authority for these followers in the footsteps of the Founders to commit Treason against.

  77. Jeff says:

    @Patrick: Nice untrue story, but I still don't get it. If the Commission ruled against you on religious grounds, yep, you got a case. If they didn't, you don't. I understand that you'd introduce the existence of the prayer as evidence of a religious bias (which to me means that the Commission might be well advised not to open meetings with a prayer), but I don't see how that makes the prayer in and of itself a violation of the U.S. Constitution. You have a much better case in my mind of challenging the categorical religion exclusion in the zoning law itself, imho.

    I agree that Harry and Carl are off base, but I could see an argument for a redrafted version of what they proposed:

    SECTION 1. The North Carolina General Assembly asserts that the Constitution of the United States of America does not prohibit states or their subsidiaries from observing traditional religious practices and such observations do not constitute an establishment of religion in violation of the United States Constitution.

    Personally, I think this is a symptom of the common belief that the government MUST share my world view. If I'm an atheist, the government can't do anything religions. If I'm a evangelical Christian, the government must actively support my religious activities. Society hasn't figured out that this belief isn't sustainable. In my mind, whether there's a prayer at the beginning of a Commission meeting is a purely political question, not a Constitutional one, but I'm happy to be convinced otherwise.

    @Stephen: I didn't intend to exclude the situation where the state takes action against non-citizens based on their failure to join or practice a particular religion either. Its just that most establishments of religion historically, as I understand it, keyed it to citizenship, the right to vote, the right to hold office, etc.

    Jeff

  78. Todd E. says:

    @James Pollock – Not to get into a religious debate with you, but…
    1. While it's become quite normal for Christians to argue that Christ awaits in the next life, most of Jesus' teachings, and especially the books of John, seem to indicate that eternal life in Christ starts now, and that we need to be living that way.

    2. There's a substantial (but often ignored) tradition of power being poison for the followers of God. Three recent books on the subject – "Jesus wants to save Christians" by Rob Bell, "Jesus for President" by Shane Claiborne, and "The Myth of a Christian Nation" by Gregory Boyd.

  79. Lizard says:

    @Jeff: Jurisprudence on 1A cases has decided that any government display of support for (or opposition to) any particular religion, including religious displays by government officials when they are acting in an official capacity, is generally unconstitutional. I do not know how the senate gets away with it, but it probably has a lot to do with the fact the senate can usually write itself exemptions to its own laws, or that only a senator might have standing to protest.

    @Kindley: Of course, anarchy is preferable, and there's no moral authority in any legal document that an individual didn't personally choose to abide by, whether the originals Articles of Confederation, the Constitution of the US, the Constitution of the Confederacy, or your local zoning code. However, moral authority is not what matters. As someone else correctly noted, what matters is who the man holding the gun considers to have authority — and, overall, at this time, in this nation, that's the current federal government. I've put in my time trying to change people's minds about that. I've given up. I am enjoying the tasty bread and watching the amusing circus. My actions will not impact the world in the slightest, so I might as well be entertained rather than frustrated.

  80. Grandy says:

    If the Commission ruled against you on religious grounds, yep, you got a case.

    It's not necessarily easy or even possible to tell if this was in fact the case. Further, it's a statement that is very far removed from reality. We jail innocent people in this country every day. I'm talking about people who did not in fact do what the state said they did. But they were guilty because an agent of the state got up and said "well, they look guilty to me" and a jury bought it hook, line and sinker.

  81. Jeff says:

    @Lizard: Yes, I'm familiar with those cases, but they are not really a model of clarity and what's missing in my mind is the rationale of why that's the CORRECT answer. If I'm an atheist, why should I care if you pray before you start your meeting as long as all decisions are free of religious discrimination/motivation.

    Jeff

  82. Lizard says:

    The presumed legitimacy of the government is predicated on the belief that it is a neutral arbiter. Anything which implies or indicates bias undermines that and gives people just cause to refuse to accept the government's decision.

    Further, religious thought is considered, pardon the pun, sacred. While we all pay taxes for things we don't like, paying taxes for religious activity we oppose is, by longstanding tradition, considered particularly heinous.

    Lastly, compelled speech or compelled attendance at religious services is likewise considered evil. If I have to go to a council meeting to discuss a zoning law, but I must first sit through a prayer, I am being compelled to listen to a religious ceremony in order to exercise my right to address the government. Even if I am allowed to wait outside during a prayer, or not stand, or otherwise avoid it, the mere act of obviously doing so will single me out and is very likely to make me feel that I will not get a fair hearing — and I probably won't, as human beings are irrational, tribalistic, creatures, not beings of perfect law and objectivity. Any time you're asking a government group to make a decision that will favor you, or disfavor your enemy, you're asking them to make a very subjective choice, and they will make this choice not on the merits of the case or the letter of the law, but on their "gut feeling", and then later find a way to justify it. That's human nature, and no system of social organization can succeed if it fails to acknowledge human nature.

    I strongly suspect you know these arguments, their history, and their correct justification. I think you're hoping other people don't. You might be in the wrong forum if you hope to win a debate by banking on the ignorance of the other participants. The "Awww, who does it hurt?" routine is, at best, disingenuous, and I am fairly sure you know this.

  83. Jeff says:

    @Grandy:

    It's not necessarily easy or even possible to tell if this was in fact the case.

    Granted. But, how does that relate to the existence of the prayer? The remedy for your issue would seem to be to ban anyone with strong religious principles from holding office because of the risk that they might make a decision on religious grounds. I don't think that's what you intend.

  84. Jeff says:

    @Lizard: Agree 100% that the government should be neutral on factors irrelevant to the decision at hand (e.g., religions affiliation, race, ethnic background, etc.). So, enforce that neutrality in fact. As to the appearance of neutrality, why isn't that a political question. If the community thinks the Commission doesn't appear neutral on any of these issues, replace them. That's how society has traditionally dealt with situations where governmental institutions have been captured by particular racial or ethnic groups and appeared to favor insiders over outsiders.

    compelled speech or compelled attendance at religious services is likewise considered evil.

    As an answer to my original question, this is reasonable. Your point, I think, is that any observance of a religious ritual (e.g., a short prayer before the beginning of a meeting) is the equivalent of mandatory attendance at a religious service. I don't agree that it rises to that level, but we can disagree on that.

    I strongly suspect you know these arguments, their history, and their correct justification. I think you're hoping other people don't.

    As a rule, I accept the sincerity of a person who asks a question and try to discuss the merits of the question itself. It makes things nicer that way.

    Jeff

  85. naught_for_naught says:

    The presumed legitimacy of the government is predicated on the belief that it is a neutral arbiter. Anything which implies or indicates bias undermines that and gives people just cause to refuse to accept the government's decision.

    Presumed by whom Lizard? Presumed to be legitimate by other nations? Presumed to be legitimate by the ruling class? Presumed to be legitimate by the ruled class? A neutral arbiter of what? An arbiter of foreign policy that may have no immediate impact on their lives but may appeal to a nations prejudices, or an arbiter of something like traffic regulations that puts up red-light cams entrapping all citizens equally?

    These are broad stroke generalizations that provide a cogency without reflecting the complexity of the relationships between the government and the governed.

  86. Lizard says:

    " That's how society has traditionally dealt with situations where governmental institutions have been captured by particular racial or ethnic groups and appeared to favor insiders over outsiders."

    In a democratic society, when the majority decide who is being biased, politicians biased towards the majority viewpoint tend not to be voted out of office. Thus, bias must be controlled by non-democratic means — for example, by laws which greatly restrict the appearance of bias or which prevent situations where outsiders are compelled to self-identify.

    And, oh my! That's exactly what current 1st Amendment jurisprudence on the subject does do!

    The BoR is not there to protect the rights of the majority. They're already protected by the fact politicians are chosen by the majority, and will enact laws favorable to the majority. The BoR exists to set bounds on the authority of government to enact laws or set policies favorable to the majority but which disenfranchise a minority.

    Bias to such a degree that it can't be disguised or excused is very rare, and, for that matter, some degree of bias is absolutely permitted. It's perfectly legal for any politician to say, "I am supporting this law because I think it's God's will!". However, such laws must still pass secular tests; regardless of the biases of a politician, the government's power is still limited. It is also important to distinguish between the individual beliefs of a politician, and the collective expression of the government. The individuals who compose the government have freedom of belief and expression. The government, as a reified entity, does not. At times, this line is blurry — and that's why we have courts, laws, and precedent.

    In Tennessee (http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/04/02/tennessee-republicans-threaten-to-kill-gop-voucher-bill-over-fear-of-funding-muslim-schools/) , a school voucher bill which was widely supported is now headed for defeat, because someone found out that it would mandate support of Islamic schools as well as Christian ones. Do you agree or disagree with this? I could argue such a bill does not place Islamic schools in a WORSE position — they don't get government money now, they won't get it if the bill passes but explicitly excludes Muslims. No one would be compelled to become a Christian, no one would be denied their right to vote, serve in office, etc, if only some religious schools received support from the government but others did not. What do you think?

    "As a rule, I accept the sincerity of a person who asks a question and try to discuss the merits of the question itself. "

    It's the best place to start. However, one must always continually weigh the evidence and re-evaluate conclusions as new facts become apparent. I've been doing this since 1989. My pattern-matching skills are well honed. I find it rather difficult to accept you have not conducted this debate before, or heard the arguments against it.

  87. Lizard says:

    @Naught: There's nothing complex about it. The government has better weapons. The people have raw numbers. So long as there are not enough people questioning the legitimacy of the government to make up for the disparity in arms and training, the government exists. (This is often called "the consent of the governed")

    The greater the perception of bias, the more likely it is people will cease to accept the government's legitimacy, and start the mental calculus about whether or not it's time to "alter or abolish it". The government has a vested interest in appearing neutral. (Another important factor is making sure that even if many people dispute the government's legitimacy, they all dispute different PARTS of it, so there is never a majority or even a large plurality to rise up — they're too busy fighting each other.)

  88. Grandy says:

    The remedy for your issue would seem to be to ban anyone with strong religious principles from holding office because of the risk that they might make a decision on religious ground.

    The remedy for my issue is to ensure that the majority cannot overrule certain rights shared by all. Fortunately, we have such a thing in place. Lizard goes into depth on this better than I would.

    There are plenty of Christians who aren't worried about being able to pray before the hearing with Patrick. Their faith is not predicated on such trivial matters, as faith should never be.

  89. Noah Callaway says:

    @James Pollock

    "How are they in conflict? If someone says they no longer want to be a U.S. citizen, why should the government deny their request?"

    A) It's a huge violation of 1A. Private speech not directed at a government official should not be binding on the part of the speaker. It's akin to suggesting that if I tweet "Gay marriage is awesome" the US Government could force me to marry a man.

    B) It's entirely possible for one to advocate secession without wanting to seceed themselves. For example, were I someone who didn't fully understand the current law, and I were a huge proponent of states rights, I might make the argument that North Carolina should be allowed to seceed, without making the argument that I want to go with them. Is this enough to get me deported? If so, where is the line and who draws and enforces said line?

    C) The difference between an entire state seceeding, and a single resident losing their citizenship is massive. If an entire state were to seceed, I would still have the benefits of citizenship within that state. Were I to simply be deported from the United States without secession taking place I would lose out on those benefits entirely. Not only is it unreasonably to punish me so harshly for private speech, but you're not even "giving them what they're asking for".

    "Are you of the opinion that the U.S. should force people to retain the U.S. citizenship they obviously do not want against their will?"

    People can renounce their U.S. citizenship if they choose to do so. It shouldn't be forced upon them against their will because they advocated for something we all think is stupid.

    P.S. I agree with the point that those suggesting secession are blowhards and deserve a harsh censure in the court of public opinion. Why bring the government into it, though? I also apologize if I missed sarcasm or hyperbole… Haven't had coffee yet.

  90. Jeff says:

    @Lizard: I think I hear you saying that actions that raise a doubt about the neutrality of a state actor on religious grounds should be considered an "Establishment of Religion". That doesn't make sense to me, but OK, I understand what you are saying.

    In Tennessee, a school voucher bill which was widely supported is now headed for defeat, because someone found out that it would mandate support of Islamic schools as well as Christian ones. Do you agree or disagree with this?

    I expect that one could craft a religiously neutral voucher program that isn't an Establishment of Religion. Tennessee has proven that they apparently can't do that in a politically acceptable way. Personally, I was aghast at the objections made to that program. I'm still shaking my head about that one.

    My pattern-matching skills are well honed.

    Beware confirmation bias.

    Jeff

  91. Lizard says:

    Not the neutrality of a state actor, but the neutrality of the STATE. The religious biases of politicians are public knowledge and are often not merely acknowledged by politicians, but emphasized as loudly as possible. However, government entities (a town council, Congress, etc) are considered to be things distinct, to some degree, from the individuals which compose them at any moment. "The Yankees" is a baseball team, but the actual people who are "The Yankees" change constantly. Nonetheless, we can still discuss the team as if it were a thing in itself, even though the team in 1960 was 100% different from the team in 2013.

    When a political entity, such as a council, opens with a prayer, or if there is a display of a particular religion in a meeting hall (as opposed to a politician's private office), it means that the abstract collective entity is demonstrating a religious affiliation, and that is an "establishment of religion". There is an important distinction between "Everyone on the town council is a Baptist" and "The town council is Baptist."

    If councilmembers wish to gather in a private office, prior to opening a meeting, and pray to Jesus, bow towards Mecca, or draw down the moon, that's their business and I would oppose any attempt to regulate or restrict it. During a council meeting, however, they are "The Council", not the individuals who compose it, and "the Council" must not be seen to have a religion.

  92. James Pollock says:

    Sunhawk:
    " deportation… to where? That's one reason why you have to go to a US embassy in another country to renounce your citizenship."
    In thep ast, we've sent this type of malcontent to the frontier, where the rule of law was weaker and the reach of government more limited. Alas, the frontier is closed. However, I understand that Antarctica is largely unclaimed. Just the sort of place for someone who wants to evade the U.S. federal government.

    Todd:
    "Not to get into a religious debate with you, but…"
    If you assume, as I do, that my interpretation is correct and holy and perfect, and all others are wrong, immoral, and evil, then it should be obvious that I am correct. If you also assume that all good people want to be correct, holy, and perfect, then it should be obvious that all good people agree with me. I suppose you're free to argue otherwise, but I'll have to ignore it because it's wrong, immoral, and evil of you to do so. May (my version of) Jesus be with you, always and forever, amen.

    Noah:
    "It's akin to suggesting that if I tweet "Gay marriage is awesome" the US Government could force me to marry a man."
    No, it's more like if you state, repeatedly in public, "I consider myself to be married to this particular other man" and the government says, "OK". Note: "Advocacy" and "a single tweet" are hardly the same thing. I'm talking about advocates of secession, and you're talking about people who make one or two statements in favor. Not the same group.

    "It's entirely possible for one to advocate secession without wanting to seceed themselves."
    Sure. It's possible to talk about hijacking planes at the airport without intending to hijack any planes. (Not Recommended). You play with fire, sometimes you get burnt.

    "C) The difference between an entire state seceeding, and a single resident losing their citizenship is massive. If an entire state were to seceed, I would still have the benefits of citizenship within that state. Were I to simply be deported from the United States without secession taking place I would lose out on those benefits entirely. Not only is it unreasonably to punish me so harshly for private speech, but you're not even "giving them what they're asking for"."
    If an entire state secedes, there will be some people who prefer to remain U.S. citizens, but whose home is in the seceding state. If the state secedes, their lives will be disrupted and they didn't even make any private speech at all. So, we go back to the point above… if an individual is so unhappy being a U.S. citizen, is so oppressed by the federal government that they attempt to separate their state from the union, well… separating just that individual from the union is obviously the most effective, least disruptive path available. Obviously, if there were enough of them to take the state with them, that would be a different story… as yet, however, that has not been the case (since 1865).

    "I also apologize if I missed sarcasm or hyperbole…"
    It's possible you did. But the principle is sound.

  93. James Pollock says:

    Jeff:
    "I think this is a symptom of the common belief that the government MUST share my world view."
    The problem is one of lack of imagination. A person in the majority can't imaging what it would be like to be in the minority. Usually, it's possible to recast their position in such a way that they are in the minority, and they are suddenly horrified by the result. Examples abound using the current Christian boogeyman of Islam; suggest that a Muslim prayer might be heard before town council meetings, and those Christians who favor such suddenly remember why it is that we have separation of church and state… namely, that it is the only way to assure religious freedom. While atheists are certainly amongst those who favor separation of church and state, they are far from dominating the "separation" position. (Jesus took the side of separation, when challenged by the Pharisees). So will just about any other minority religion.

  94. Jeff says:

    @James: I agree with your explanation of why its a good idea. But, I was trying to be very narrow in my question. Not all good ideas are constitutionally mandated.

    Someone who enjoys when their religious practices are observed in a civic setting but is horrified when anothers' religious practices are observed needs to look up the definition of pluralism.
    Jeff

  95. Kevin says:

    @James Pollock

    if an individual is so unhappy being a U.S. citizen, is so oppressed by the federal government that they attempt to separate their state from the union, well… separating just that individual from the union is obviously the most effective, least disruptive path available.

    You're being wilfully obtuse on this point. Advocating that your state should secede, through nonviolent democratic process, is obviously completely unrelated to asking to be deported. You're simply putting rhetorical window dressing on punishing speech you don't like.

  96. John Kindley says:

    Lizard: I'm not into being addressed by my last name. I suppose exposing myself to this subtle disrespect is a pitfall of not being anonymous. Maybe I should instead start calling myself Turtle or something similarly retarded.

    I too recognize after long experience the futility in trying to make the world a better place. I too cultivate the role of spectator. One's influence diminishes with one's honesty, i.e., with one's radicalism. But I imagine I do more by stating the obvious in lonely corners than by other more well-traveled paths. Pollock says "Love it or leave it," hardly an original sentiment. Indeed, it's only his belief that sustains the sentiment. It's important for us unbelievers then to express our lack of faith. It might help keep us from being deported from the land of our births en masse.

    Incidentally, my radical lack of faith is consistent with conservatism, which deals in facts, and which eschews evangelism and unnecessary interventions. The inevitable dissolution which brought down Rome and the USSR will follow its natural course with the spread of this lack of faith, slowly and steadily until its natural acceleration.

    I posit one legal and moral principle, which is as self-evident as anarchy and in which other legal principles like due process find their value: the presumption of innocence, or in other words the presumption against violence. My objection to belief is not only that it's untrue but that it justifies what is directly contrary to that most fundamental of all moral and legal principles.

  97. Lizard says:

    It's not subtle disrespect, it's the fact there's other "John"s here.:) It seemed easier, and I'm notoriously lazy.

    The problem with anarchy as practical, rather than ideal, is that humans are naturally tribal and hierarchical; we instinctively form packs and place the good of those in our pack above the good of others, no matter our abstract values. Further, packs produce leaders, even those packs who define their membership as "We all agree there should be no leaders". Humans who are at the far end of the bell curve when it comes to the instinct to submit have a great deal of trouble grasping that it IS an instinct, and that they are abnormal if they lack it. (The same is true of religious belief.) Likewise, the less a person is inclined to recognize, even subconsciously, hierarchy, and to overtly challenge it, the less capable they are of becoming alphas themselves, and the more frustrated they will become when they see people struggling to explain their social systems and values while being unable to acknowledge that, in the back of their minds, it all boils down to the belief that if you make nice with the biggest monkey, he'll protect you from tigers and might share some bananas with you. We have terabytes of religious, political, and social philosophy that all boil down to "We're monkeys. Deal with it."

    Likewise, no matter how much we exalt the principles of equality and justice, we are bound by instinct to make special exemptions for our family, our friends, our community, and so forth, ever outward, and, when confronted by the contradictions, we either react with rage because cognitive dissonance triggers a fight or flight instinct, or we construct amazingly elaborate philosophical structures that, again, boil down to, "This monkey smells more like me than that monkey does. Ergo, I will choose to believe this monkey when he says the bananas are his, and not that monkey, when he claims this monkey stole his bananas."

    People who do not have this behavior, or have it to a smaller degree than most, are called "sociopaths". A person who will treat his allegedly closest friend exactly as he will treat a stranger, and who is not inclined to be more forgiving of the sins of kith & kin than the sins of those more distant, is not a normal human. We are, in other words, hypocrites by nature. We recognize and espouse the value of egalitarian ideals, but living day by day, we treat people unequally in a thousand different ways — including condemning others for their unequal treatment of us, while justifying to ourselves our unequal treatment of them. Welcome to humanity. Remember:"Life is a comedy to those who think and a tragedy to those who feel."

    The best societies recognize human nature. We are most capable of applying our standards of justice fairly when both monkeys small equally dissimilar. We place a lot of our decision making into objective laws, not subjective evaluations, so that everyone can agree things are fair.

    (Also, google "Dunbar's Number". It's literally impossible for us, as humans, to actually conceive of more than a few hundred other people as "really, truly, human". Everyone else is, to a greater or lesser degree, a simplified abstraction whose lives have little real meaning to us. If all lives are equal, then, the deaths of a hundred strangers in a distant nation should be much more upsetting to you than the death of a friend, but that's self-evidently not so, and if human nature and philosophy conflict, human nature wins.)

  98. James Pollock says:

    "I agree with your explanation of why its a good idea. But, I was trying to be very narrow in my question. Not all good ideas are constitutionally mandated."
    The Constitution mandates freedom of religious practice. Strict separation of church and state is necessary to achieve freedom of religious practice. Ergo, the Constitution mandates strict separation of church and state. (Vastly simplified) It's not just a good idea.

  99. James Pollock says:

    "Advocating that your state should secede, through nonviolent democratic process, is obviously completely unrelated to asking to be deported."
    What is this nonviolent democratic process for secession of which you speak? I can't seem to find it in my copy of the Constitution.

    Advocating for the principle of "my state should secede from the United States" seems clearly related to the principle of "I do not wish to be a citizen of the United States". Further, it seems to me that an entirely rational governmental response to a statement of "I do not wish to be a citizen of the United States" would be "fine, we don't want you, either." People who are not citizens of the United States, who are resident within its borders, are subject to deportation. Which branch of this path is it that you find untenable?

  100. James Pollock says:

    "Pollock says "Love it or leave it," hardly an original sentiment."
    Not quite. Pollock says "don't say you want out if you don't really want out", and he's not just talking about people who want their whole state to secede, but also the nutcase "sovereign citizens", as well, who want to pick and choose which laws apply to them, while taking advantage of all the benefits of living here (by "benefits" I mean things like clean-ish, safe-ish drinking water rather than things like food stamps).
    "love it or leave it" implies kicking out anyone who complains about how their government is run, and I'm firmly on the "petition for redress of grievances". I'm just in favor of taking up the secessionists on THEIR stated interest in leaving the Union. Not at all the same thing. Not at all.

  101. Kevin says:

    @James Pollock

    What is this nonviolent democratic process for secession of which you speak? I can't seem to find it in my copy of the Constitution.

    And I can't seem to find any prohibition on secession in my copy of the constitution. What's your point?

    Advocating for the principle of "my state should secede from the United States" seems clearly related to the principle of "I do not wish to be a citizen of the United States".

    If somebody says that they would like to no longer be a US citizen, but makes that wish CONDITIONAL on their entire state seceding along with them, and you then violate that conditional by kicking out JUST them, and kicking them out of not just the Union but their own state, and their own land, that's not "giving them what they asked for", that's punitive, and you know it.

    And really, advocating secession doesn't even necessarily imply they want to give up their US citizenship, not even conditionally on secession. If it weren't for the unfortunate precedent of the civil war, and peaceful secession was viewed as a thinkable thing, it's not hard to imagine someone might want their state to secede – peacefully and amicably – and retain dual citizenship with the US. In fact, if they were born in the US, that would seem to be the default result, barring the kind of punitive revocation of citizenship you're advocating.

    But seriously, I'm giving your position too much credit by going into this much depth in refuting it. What you're saying is that US citizens should be stripped of their citizenship, stripped of their property, and exiled from the US, for the crime of advocating a political position you disagree with.

  102. JR says:

    An advocate or applicant? It seems to me that an advocate is just someone saying "this is what should be", while an applicant is someone attempting to make it so.

  103. Noah Callaway says:

    "In fact, if they were born in the US, that would seem to be the default result, barring the kind of punitive revocation of citizenship you're advocating."

    This is, as I see it, the root of the issue. It's a very blatant 1A violation, so I'm not going to keep walking down this hypothetical until it becomes a reality. When a state actor attempts to deport another person for advocating secession I'll stand with the ACLU as it fights against the deportation (even though I strongly disagree with the person's beliefs).

  104. James Pollock says:

    "And I can't seem to find any prohibition on secession in my copy of the constitution."
    So, in your opinion, the Confederacy has been unlawfully occupied by the United States since 1861? Why, then people born in those states are ALREADY not U.S. citizens. We should build a fence, or something.

    "In fact, if they were born in the US, that would seem to be the default result, barring the kind of punitive revocation of citizenship you're advocating."
    It's still not punitive to accept someone's voluntary waiver, just like it's not punitive to impose a criminal sentence after someone waives a trial by pleading guilty. Ejecting them afterwards, of course, WOULD be punitive… because there IS a law against non-citizens being in the country without the correct paperwork, which they would be in violation of.
    I don't recall suggesting stripping anyone of their property. Non-citizens may own property in the U.S.

    "What you're saying is that US citizens should be stripped of their citizenship, stripped of their property, and exiled from the US, for the crime of advocating a political position you disagree with."
    People are not "stripped" of things they've given away freely. Whether it's people advocating a political position I disagree with, well… maybe I do object to people claiming the freedom protected by the Constitution while they're actively working to subvert and/or undermine it. Sue me.

  105. Lizard says:

    " maybe I do object to people claiming the freedom protected by the Constitution while they’re actively working to subvert and/or undermine it. Sue me."

    Sen. McCarthy? Is that you?

  106. JR says:

    @James Pollock
    I advocate your right to oppose the right of others to advocate their opposition of the government, but I oppose your opposition of the right of others to advocate their opposition of the government.

  107. James Pollock says:

    "When a state actor attempts to deport another person for advocating secession I'll stand with the ACLU as it fights against the deportation "
    You left out a step. The actual sequence would be:
    A) person X advocates for secession in such a way as to constitute a renunciation of citizenship. (Obviously, currently whatever procedure there is for doing this is complicated and difficult. A rule change to make it easier violates nobody's rights.)
    B) the federal government officially accepts person X's renunciation (What department would be in charge of this? I've no idea who handles the smattering of citizenship changes under the current plan.)
    C) USCIS, noting that person X is now no longer a citizen, and presumably does not have non-citizen residency paperwork, moves to deport the (now-)unlawful resident.
    Nobody is "stripped" of anything.

    "It's a very blatant 1A violation"
    How is it a 1A violation, blatant or otherwise, to say "if you say you want out, we'll not only let you out, we'll help you pack"? (Any more than saying any other words that have any other legal effect allows the government to implement that legal effect? Differentiate common-law marriage, where saying "I'm married to this person" in public can cause the state to treat you as if you're married to that person.)

  108. Kevin says:

    @James Pollock

    It's still not punitive to accept someone's voluntary waiver

    OK, so you're still just going to double down on this canard that advocating secession represents a "voluntary waiver" of citizenship, despite the fact that if you asked them, they would obviously disclaim that interpretation? That's a frivolous argument, and I'm not going to engage it further.

    So, in your opinion, the Confederacy has been unlawfully occupied by the United States since 1861?

    No. I dispute the legal rationale under which the civil war was fought, but I don't dispute that it did need to be fought. If I had been in Lincoln's shoes, I would have said "OK, bye! You guys are totally a new country now! And since you practice slavery, I'm now going to invade and annex you." Same result, just different legal reasoning.

    I don't recall suggesting stripping anyone of their property.

    You specifically said they should be deported. If somebody owns land, I don't see how deporting them could possibly NOT involve stripping them of their property.

  109. Robert White says:

    @Jeff, RE: Officially Praying bad at public function…

    Untrue Story: So you decide to go to a city council in order to protect your family from a neighbour who is harassing you with a proposed zoning change that might cost you your property.

    The proceeding start by everyone but you "optionally" determining the direction of Mecca and gettig out prayer rugs. You do no such thing and everyone including your opponent and the entire council stares at you for a while. Then they proceed to pray. Then the finish and stare at you again.

    When your opponent refers to you as "the infidel" and everyone in the room knows this is a true status for you, are you still getting a fair hearing?

    Even if the hearing were to then go off "fair", with everyone giving you the allah-damned infidel stink-eye the whole time, will you be more stressed, less comfortable, and perhaps a touch distracted as you try to make your case?

    Repeat again with just five of the seven members of the council and your opponent invoking Satan….

    Repeat again, but you are trying to get the proposed Sexual Offenders Halfway House moved out of your neighbourhood to protect your daughters and the prayer is all about how women are chattel.

    Or you are a woman and the prayer is from Corinthians and repeats Paul's admonition that women should remain silent and have no authority over any man…?

    Imagine you are a personal-relation-with-Jesus christian and the prayer is a saints-preserve-us catholic deal…

    Now imagine it's _deliberately_ chosen by the council to put you at defence, the text of the day taken from Leviticus because the local honcho has decided to screw with you for being black, or female, or whatever…

    See, everyone™ who is "for sanctioned prayer" imagines that such prayer Would Of Course™ be in alignment with their own personal prayer in detail or in spirit. Most people are hard pressed, having never experienced it, to imagine that the prayer meeting they _might_ walk into might be incompatible with _their_ god concept or immediate interests.

    You experience the question of public state-sanctioned prayer from the perspective of the majority, because in your soul you imagine you are a member of that same majority, or close enough to a member as to make no difference.

    But anybody who has ever found themselves in the middle of a disagreeable sermon can attest, the guy leading the prayer is a majority of one and has the power to set a biased tone over your "fair hearing" should he so choose.

    Those who fight against state sanctioned religious expression are trying to _save_ your type from discovering how deeply the law of unintended consequences can bite you in the ass.

    In the news this week, some state legislature who pressed for "school vouchers" as a back door to federal funding (christian) religious schools _just_ figured out that the local islamic school will get funded just as equally and they are up in arms about how they can re-craft the law to make sure that "those people" don't get "their" (christian taxpayer) tax money. They haven't even begun to think about the scientologists and such that are going to feed at that trough either.

    So get enough scientologists or islamics moving into _your_ neighborhood and guess what you'll be praying to every week at city council…

    And _that_ is why sanctioned prayer is not a good thing.

  110. Robert White says:

    Conservatism deals in facts the way fish deal in metallurgy.

    This should not be taken to mean that others do better, but to imagine that the "conservative" movement "deals in facts" is demonstrably wrong. If you can see past your confirmation bias, just look at, say, the whole WMDs issue. Or global warming. Or craig T. nelson saying "when I was on welfare nobody helped me". Or random old people shouting "get your government hands off my medicare".

    No political movement "deals in facts" as all politicians speak to sway with emotional charge. Facts don't buy votes. IDEALS _misrepresented_ as factual win elections.

    If you think conservativeness is a priori factual, you have been _had_ my friend.

  111. Xenocles says:

    "Now, I'm still hoping that we can get a legal interpretation from the Justice Department that publicly advocating secession functions as an effective abdication of U.S. citizenship, so we can start deportation proceedings."

    To be fully consistent, you would have to relinquish any government claim on their property and deport them back home to their new half-acre country. There is more to secession than simply leaving; you generally take territory with you. I think that in your zeal to punish people who disagree with you you forgot this.

    An analogy to your bad suggestion would be to unilaterally cut off government services to an individual in proportion to the amount he wants taxes reduced by – and then charging him the same tax rate.

  112. James Pollock says:

    "so you're still just going to double down on this canard that advocating secession represents a "voluntary waiver" of citizenship"

    No, I'm going to maintain my position that some of the people who advocate secession (and many of the multitude of variations on the "sovereign citizen" theme) have done so in a way that pretty clearly DOES present a waiver of citizenship. I'm fairly sure it'll have a chilling effect on some of the other people who float secession ideas, and I'm okay with that. The far end of the spectrum do, in fact, maintain that the federal government has no authority over them, on nebulous (and usually nonsensical) legal theories.
    Note that persons who did not actually intend to renounce citizenship would presumably say so in their deportation hearings, thus disposing of your major complaint.

    "If I had been in Lincoln's shoes, I would have said "OK, bye! You guys are totally a new country now! And since you practice slavery, I'm now going to invade and annex you." "
    Lincoln, of course, had power to do neither of these things (and neither would a modern President faced with secessionism).

    "You specifically said they should be deported."
    Well, I said they should get deportation hearings. Due process.

    "If somebody owns land, I don't see how deporting them could possibly NOT involve stripping them of their property."
    Then, with apologies, you are not very smart. Non-citizens can, and do, own property in the United States. Deportation doesn't create an automatic escheatment of real property to the state, and that pesky 5th amendment applies. Now, I'll grant you that owning property that requires a visa to visit is not as good as owning property that doesn't, but, well, we're back to "you should have thought of that when you decided you didn't want to be a citizen of this country."

  113. Noah Callaway says:

    @James Pollock

    "person X advocates for secession in such a way as to constitute a renunciation of citizenship"

    Who determines whether this advocacy was done in a manner to constitute a renunciation of citizenship? If the person advocating secession is the one that decides if their speech was done in a manner constituting renunciation of citizenship, then it's not a 1A violation. If a government official looks at the advocacy and decides whether it was done "in such a way as to constitute a renunciation of citizenship", then this is a massive 1A violation.

    "Differentiate common-law marriage"

    According to the wikipedia article on common law marriage, in almost all jurisdictions "Both parties must freely consent to the marriage". Thus, if you revoke someone's citizenship without their consent (even though they advocated for secession), that's your differentiator, and that's your 1A violation.

    —–

    I will note that this is the first time that you've added the clause "in such a way as to constitute renunciation of citizenship" to the requirement that we revoke their citizenship. Previously the argument was over "publicly advocating secession functions as an effective abdication of U.S. citizenship, [which would allow us to] start deportation proceedings".

    The major difference being you were previously arguing that all public advocacy of secession would automatically be done in such a way as to constitute a renunciation of citizenship, no matter the speakers intent. That previous interpretation is why I argued that this was a blatant 1A violation.

    Perhaps using this new language we can find some common ground. Would you agree that it would be a 1A violation if we revoked the citizenship of a person X that advocates for secession who does not renounce their citizenship?

  114. Xenocles says:

    Perhaps a still better analogy would be to deport people who express the desire that the opposition party had won the election. They are, after all, expressing the desire to no longer live under the government as constituted. That's pretty much the same as saying you wish you weren't a citizen, right?

  115. James Pollock says:

    "To be fully consistent, you would have to relinquish any government claim on their property and deport them back home to their new half-acre country. There is more to secession than simply leaving"

    I didn't say they should be granted secession, I said they should be granted their voluntary renunciation of citizenship, which generally doesn't involve taking any property (and the federal government flatly lacks the authority to reduce the territory of the states).

    "An analogy to your bad suggestion would be to unilaterally cut off government services to an individual in proportion to the amount he wants taxes reduced by – and then charging him the same tax rate."
    An even better one would be closing the library in the area where the citizens voted to not pay a levy to operate the library, or not sending any volunteer firemen to the burning house whose owner decided not the pay the (optional) firefighting levy that pays for providing firefighting services.

  116. Xenocles says:

    As I said, you want to punish people who you don't like and pretend you're giving them what they want while ignoring what they actually want.

    The government also lacks the authority to force another country to accept the entry of an alien, so it does raise the question: Deport them to where?

  117. John Kindley says:

    Robert White: "Conservatism is a habit of mind which does not generalize beyond the facts of the case in point. It considers those facts carefully, makes sure that as far as possible it has them all in hand, and the course of action which the balance of fact in that case indicates as necessary will be the one it follows; and the course indicated as unnecessary it not only will not follow, but will oppose without compromise or concession." – Albert Jay Nock.

    That's what I mean by the word.

  118. JR says:

    Renunciation of U.S. Citizenship

    The act of renouncing your citizenship is not the same as stating a wish to renounce your citizenship, or that of anyone else. Nor should it be. And certainly not because others are annoyed at the hypocritical use of laws which allow such use to occur.

    Tasking the government to seek out and evict people for saying things (determined by the government to be) indicative of a desire to expatriate is extremely dangerous.

  119. Noah Callaway says:

    @James Pollock

    How do you square these two quotes:

    "I'm still hoping that we can get a legal interpretation from the Justice Department that publicly advocating secession functions as an effective abdication of U.S. citizenship, so we can start deportation proceedings."

    and

    "…I said they should be granted their voluntary renunciation of citizenship…"

    You still have yet to address the scenario of someone who advocates secession without voluntarily renouncing their citizenship. Previously you have argued for revoking their citizenship regardless of the speaker's wishes. Now it seems revoking their citizenship is dependent on their voluntary renunciation of citizenship.

    So, my question: Is the renunciation of citizenship voluntary, or forced upon the citizen for advocating secession?

  120. James Pollock says:

    "Who determines whether this advocacy was done in a manner to constitute a renunciation of citizenship?"
    I don't know. Who does this now? SOMEBODY in the government processes the paperwork when someone wants to renounce their citizenship. (By your argument, they're doing it totally in violation of the first amendment, since they're government officials.) We'll just make the paperwork a lot easier, perhaps even non-existent, reducing the bureaucratic regulation.
    Perhaps a federal "order to show cause" would be the appropriate venue. People who don't consider the federal government sovereign over them would ignore the summons, and the judge could then proceed to make the decision based on the evidence available; people who do recognize the federal courts would attend and, well, show cause why the statements they've made suggesting a voluntary waiver of U.S. citizenship should not be considered as such by the federal government. (yes, lawyers of the federal bar, I'm fully aware of the procedural can o' worms this presents).

    "Thus, if you revoke someone's citizenship without their consent (even though they advocated for secession), that's your differentiator, and that's your 1A violation."
    Renunciation is a consensual action, therefore, by definition, if they've renounced their citizenship, it was done with their consent. So, no differentiator, no 1A violation. Thank you for (consensually) conceding the point.

    "I will note that this is the first time that you've added the clause "in such a way as to constitute renunciation of citizenship" to the requirement that we revoke their citizenship."
    I've not yet suggested revoking anyone's citizenship, with or without any kind of conditional attached. I've suggested accepting their voluntary waiver of citizenship. Not even close to the same thing. I don't believe there is any Constitutional provision that permits a revocation of citizenship.
    I added that clause because my original scope of the term "advocacy" was a much more limited one, meaning, for example, the way the suffragettes "advocated" for voting rights for women, the way the abolitionists "advocated" for ending slavery, or the way the SCLC "advocated" for civil rights… as opposed to including every person who ever said it might be an acceptable idea.

    Would-be secessionists pulled into a deportation hearing would, of course, have the opportunity to explain to the ALJ hearing their case that they fully intend to remain citizens of the United States, if that is, in fact, their intention. It's just that they'd have to A) say so under oath, and B) explain this to their secession-talking buddies afterwards.
    Basically, pushing secessionists into deportation hearings would be "put up or shut up"… if they really want to go, fine… give them a little help to get off the dime. If they really want to stay, fine… we know for sure that their secession talk is "all hat and no cows".

  121. James Pollock says:

    "You still have yet to address the scenario of someone who advocates secession without voluntarily renouncing their citizenship."
    In the sense that my original suggestion defined away this possibility categorically, sure. If "advocating secession" constitutes a "voluntary renunciation of citizenship", then the set of all people who advocate secession without voluntarily renouncing their citizenship is a null set.
    In practice, that's what deportation hearings are for… an opportunity for the person facing deportation to establish that they should not, in fact, be deported.

  122. Noah Callaway says:

    @James Pollock

    Are you, then, arguing that is impossible for one to advocate for secession without renouncing their citizenship? That by advocating for secession I am voluntarily renouncing my citizenship?

  123. James Pollock says:

    "The government also lacks the authority to force another country to accept the entry of an alien, so it does raise the question: Deport them to where?"
    You didn't like the answer I gave to this exact question before? Or didn't read it?

    The other alternative, I guess, is Guantanamo Bay, where we're currently providing living accommodations to several individuals solely because we can't find a country that will take them.
    After that, perhaps we find a country that either doesn't sign or routinely violates international agreements, and air drop the expatriates.

  124. James Pollock says:

    "Are you, then, arguing that is impossible for one to advocate for secession without renouncing their citizenship? That by advocating for secession I am voluntarily renouncing my citizenship?"

    Try to follow along. IF you accept as a premise that "advocating for secession" is equivalent to "renunciation of citizenship", THEN "advocating for secession" IS "renunciation of citizenship", AND it is impossible to "advocate for secession" without "renouncing citizenship". Further, IF such a change were to occur, then the only people who advocated for secession would be A) people who intended fully to renounce citizenship if challenged, and B) stupid people. Thus, to answer your second question, IF you personally are in that environment, AND you advocate for secession, THEN you are in one category or the other, but it is impossible to logically determine which one from the facts given.
    Conversely, IF "advocating for secession" is not defined to be "renunciation of citizenship", then no logical basis exists to make any determinations of any kind, until the exact relationship between these two things can be established.

  125. John Kindley says:

    Of course, James Pollock has a point. Disbelievers are a real threat to the State, just as they were to the Church, because the power of the State rests on nothing but belief. No King would have allowed his subjects to question openly his sovereignty. Believing subjects like Pollock rationally though immorally have no qualms with banishing the unbelievers, just as the Inquisitors had no qualms with burning heretics. The powerful get antsy about credible challenges to their authority, as witness the unanimous Indiana court of appeals decision which upheld the conviction for intimidation of a father who'd essentially called the judge who'd presided over his child custody case a criminal, thereby exposing the judge to ridicule and contempt. Even the state AG has acknowledged the court of appeals went too far, and has joined in asking the state supreme court to take the case on transfer. Volokh has filed an amicus brief.

  126. Noah Callaway says:

    @James Pollock

    "Try to follow along."
    Why talk down to me? I already was well aware of the logical chain you have outlined. Either we can keep this a civil disagreement and debate, or I will stop participating.

    "IF you accept as a premise that 'advocating for secession' is equivalent to 'renunciation of citizenship'…"

    This was the question I was attempting to ask you: Do you accept as a premise that advocating for secession is equivalent to renunciation of citizenship?

  127. James Pollock says:

    Mr. Kindley, you have me in the wrong intolerant religious group. I'm not with the Inquisition burning heretics; I'm closer to the Church of England telling the Pilgrims "If you don't like the way we run things, go to Holland (or Jamestown) and run your affairs any way you like."

  128. Xenocles says:

    "I'm closer to the Church of England telling the Pilgrims "If you don't like the way we run things, go to Holland (or Jamestown) and run your affairs any way you like.""

    And as before, you deliberately mischaracterize their position in the name of your misguided sense of poetic justice. Advocates of secession don't want to leave, they want the present government to leave – or at least to leave the place where said advocates are. Your new explanation also presupposes that the Church (and presumably the government) has the authority to "run things" in the first place. Outside of its own houses of worship it does not.

    I say this is deliberate because many people have made this point several times. This was once cute in a Modest Proposal sense, but you've gone well beyond reason here. You've even gotten to the point where you've advocated giving people who hold the wrong political opinion the same treatment given to accused terrorists. It's time to quit.

  129. James Pollock says:

    "Why talk down to me?"
    Because you keep answering questions I've already answered, or that have answers that are obvious to persons of intelligence.
    I am, of course, fully prepared to accept your voluntary secession from the discussion.

    "Do you accept as a premise that advocating for secession is equivalent to renunciation of citizenship?"
    No. I think an argument could be made that the one could be treated like the other, and I wouldn't mind seeing the fallout if it was. See, generally, the last paragraph at
    http://www.popehat.com/2013/04/03/are-harry-warren-and-carl-ford-oathbreakers-or-merely-dangerous-cranks/comment-page-3/#comment-1014268

  130. Ken says:

    It would be nice if everyone behaved in this thread.

    Or I could ask Patrick to come review it.

    You wouldn't like that.

  131. Noah Callaway says:

    @Ken

    Apologies if I've behaved badly. I've assumed vigorous disagreement & debate was acceptable in the comments, assuming it's kept civil. Is that a correct assumption, or should we in the future take our debate elsewhere? It's your living room, and I want to respect all your rules. :)

  132. Xenocles says:

    I have to agree. Specifics would be nice – especially if it's me.

  133. John Kindley says:

    But if we don't like the way you run things because you run them like a criminal enterprise and your authority is a sham, because you have no title to the land you've usurped, your plan to deport unbelievers unless they swear fealty to the criminal enterprise is also criminal.

  134. Ken says:

    Vigorous but civil debate is welcome.

  135. James Pollock says:

    Xenocles, I think you're confused.

    "Your new explanation also presupposes that the Church (and presumably the government) has the authority to "run things" in the first place. Outside of its own houses of worship it does not.

    I'm not sure what "new explanation" you're talking about, or, really, what this sentence means or how it is to be applied to anything.

    "I say this is deliberate because many people have made this point several times."

    Um, what point is that?

    "you've gone well beyond reason here."
    I'm fairly sure I started well beyond reason.

    "You've even gotten to the point where you've advocated giving people who hold the wrong political opinion the same treatment given to accused terrorists."
    Yes, I have, in the sense that both are entitled to due process. Which group would YOU exclude from due process?
    (P.S. if you got "people who hold the wrong political opinion should be treated like accused terrorists" from anything I wrote, I flat-out question your reading comprehension.)

  136. Xenocles says:

    You advocated sending them to Guantanamo Bay, which is where accused terrorists – and some acquitted persons – are held indefinitely. Walk it back if you like, or stand by it.

    The rest of my writing stands on its own and I am left with no other reasonable option but to assume your apparent confusion is an affectation. Conversing with you is exhausting because of your cheap rhetorical dancing and your tendency to flog strawmen. I seem to recall another conversation with you from quite a while ago going the same way. I quit. Award yourself a point if you want.

  137. Noah Callaway says:

    "IF you accept as a premise that "advocating for secession" is equivalent to "renunciation of citizenship",THEN "advocating for secession" IS "renunciation of citizenship", AND it is impossible to "advocate for secession" without "renouncing citizenship". Further, IF such a change were to occur, then the only people who advocated for secession would be A) people who intended fully to renounce citizenship if challenged, and B) stupid people. Thus, to answer your second question, IF you personally are in that environment, AND you advocate for secession, THEN you are in one category or the other, but it is impossible to logically determine which one from the facts given."

    I would argue that this is irrelevant to the discussion because nobody in this conversation accepts the first "IF" in the chain (including, as you stated, yourself). It is internally consistent, but it's not useful for the dialog. In the same way I can argue "IF false THEN [any statement whatsoever goes here]" is logically true, it's not relevant to the discussion.

    I think the more relevant section is the bottom half of your post:

    "IF 'advocating for secession' is not defined to be 'renunciation of citizenship', then no logical basis exists to make any determinations of any kind, until the exact relationship between these two things can be established."

    I, like you, agree with this latter statement. Given that by advocating for secession I am not necessarily renouncing my citizenship, it would be improper for the state to assume that by doing the former, I desire the latter and then unilaterally enforcing this decision. That, in my mind, is the 1A violation.

    Further, by my reading of 8 USC § 1481 (http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/8/1481) none of this would be possible without:

    A) New legislation, OR

    B) The DoJ interpreting secession advocacy as treason.

  138. James Pollock says:

    "You advocated sending them to Guantanamo Bay, which is where accused terrorists – and some acquitted persons – are held indefinitely."
    No, I suggested sending them to Antarctica. And I think you missed the part where they'd be free to go to any other country they could get into.
    Later, I pointed out that Guantanamo Bay already houses some people (who are NOT believed to be terrorists) who are there solely because we can't find any other country that will take them. (In other words, 100% of the people who are in the comparable situation (that is, people who are not citizens of, nor welcome in the U.S., but not welcome anywhere else, either)) are currently housed at Guantanamo Bay, a location that ALSO and SEPARATELY houses suspected terrorists. It is exactly as valid to say that I said "they should be treated like suspected terrorists" as it is to say "they should be treated like Marines"… another group that is currently housed at Guantanamo Bay, and another group to which I did not compare them nor suggest any comparable treatment of.

    Looking back, I'd have to think that of the three alternatives offered, Guantanamo Bay is probably the least objectionable, from the point of view of the expatriate secessionist, over Antarctica OR being air-dropped into North Korea. YMMV.

    I accept your freely-given secession in the spirit in which it was given.

  139. James Pollock says:

    "I would argue that this is irrelevant to the discussion because nobody in this conversation accepts the first "IF" in the chain (including, as you stated, yourself)."
    The first post in the chain suggests changing law to do exactly that, to make that definitional change, and obviously, everything that follows would be predicated on that change.

    The second (not quoted) is the present case, without such a change. It has maximal freedom at the expense of costing considerable time, effort, and treasure sorting out the cranks from the actively treasonous.

    At this point, it's probably better if we switch to my other national security change… defining the sending of spam email as a terrorist act. Once we make THAT change, we can deploy the full power of the U.S. upon those who would attack our economic infrastructure, costing us untold billions in lost productivity and protective mechanisms, in a way that affects far more Americans than any other act of terrorism ever has. True, they didn't take anyone's life… they just took away parts of it, one minute at a time. I say, if we disappear a few dozen spammers to secret prisons, and drone-strike a few dozen others, we can improve the lives of nearly every single American, and free up all that wasted bandwidth for other, more important things, like cute cat videos.

  140. Noah Callaway says:

    @James Pollock

    "At this point, it's probably better if we switch to my other national security change… defining the sending of spam email as a terrorist act."

    I was pretty sure you were being quite hyperbolic / devil's advocatey all along, but I still like the opportunity to debate people, so I decided to just run with it. :)

  141. Kevin says:

    The first post in the chain suggests changing law to do exactly that, to make that definitional change

    Here's the thing you don't seem to be getting: literally everyone except for you sees the idea of passing such legislation as patently insane, so speculating on what the outcome would be of such legislation is pointless.

  142. James Pollock says:

    "speculating on what the outcome would be of such legislation is pointless."

    Yet there you were, speculating about it.

    Gonna have to refer you to the last paragraph at, also.
    http://www.popehat.com/2013/04/03/are-harry-warren-and-carl-ford-oathbreakers-or-merely-dangerous-cranks/#comment-1014268

  143. Jeff says:

    @Robert: Like a few other answers, you're addressing why not having a prayer to start off a Council meeting is a good idea and is conducive to a fair and civil society. I happen to agree with that, though I think you've taken the hypothetical to a logical extreme which doesn't exist in the vast majority of cases. And that's relevant. Constitutional law is not absolute. We're reminded of that in other areas, when interpreting other provisions, that incidental exceptions are OK so long as the core of the principle is retained. 4th Amendment? I can't own a full automatic machine gun or a fully functional tank, but that's OK since its only an incidental restriction. Free speech? Libel, slander, fighting words, all prohibited because the restriction is only incidental.

    So, what's so special about the establishment of religion clause? Why does that clause mean that the civic sphere has to be completely and absolutely devoid of any religious content?

    So far, Lizard has identified 2 potential reasons.

    1. Forcing people to sit through a short prayer at the beginning of a meeting is the rough equivalent of forced attendance at a religious service. To me, this depends on how incidental it is, whether proselytizing is involved, etc., but I get the point.

    2. The prayer raises doubt about the neutrality of the body. I agree that this may be true, especially if there are religion related issues being managed by that body, but I'm not sure why that doubt is a Constitutional issue. I agree with Lizard that its not a good idea for any government entity to take actions that unnecessarily create an impression of partisanship, but I'm still not sure why that's an 'establishment' contrary to the 1st Amendment.

    I guess, in the end, I'm not sure why all the fuss. I'm not religious, but I know that there are a lot of people who are (including devout atheists). The only way that we all will coexist long term is to come to some arrangement where everyone's beliefs are respected by the state and the state actually makes decisions in a neutral way. If incidental religious observances don't affect the actual neutrality of the actions of the state, I don't see the justification of why they are Constitutionally prohibited.

    Again, not all good policies are Constitutionally mandated. I'm really trying to focus only on the Constitutional aspect of this question, not the "good policy" aspect.
    Jeff

  144. John Kindley says:

    Yes, I think we've been trolled for the lulz, not only by James but by Patrick. Did anyone take seriously Patrick's call for the impeachment of Warren and Ford? And i for one took the post as underscoring the hollowness of oaths. Just goes to show the greater respect posters get around here relative to commenters. I was going to call BS on James' "proposal" a while ago but didn't. I swear.

  145. Patrick says:

    John, my call for impeachment is utterly serious.

  146. John Kindley says:

    Well, I personally think they're "merely dangerous cranks." Their "oath" was not to whomever happened to occupy the SCOTUS or to those previous occupiers of the SCOTUS who established the incorporation doctrine (which is a fine doctrine imho) but to the Constitutions themselves, nor does their proposal appear to flagrantly contradict the language of the NC Constitution you quoted (although it almost surely would in practice), because a nation with an established religion that is nevertheless religiously tolerant and non-discriminatory is theoretically conceivable. Indeed, back in my traditionalist Catholic days I myself once thought such a polity would be ideal, given what I took to be the great importance of publicly acknowledging a law higher than the State's. (My opinion on this has changed.)

    And this is a separate point and not directly applicable to the legislative act at issue, but I'm sure a legislator who proposes to amend the Constitution, however radically, does not violate his "oath" to the Constitution.

  147. James Pollock says:

    "a nation with an established religion that is nevertheless religiously tolerant and non-discriminatory is theoretically conceivable."
    Not sure that it is. Can you name one?

    "I'm sure a legislator who proposes to amend the Constitution, however radically, does not violate his "oath" to the Constitution."
    If they propose amending the Constitution via the Constitutionally-mandated process. If they propose changing it by defining away the ultimately unconstititional aspects of their legislation. "For the purposes of this legislation, we define "looking illegal" as probable cause for police to stop and detain individuals" is not how Arizona can fix its "hassle the illegals until they go home" law.

  148. John Kindley says:

    From Wikipedia: "At the cantonal state level in Switzerland, of 26 Swiss cantons, 24 give official recognition to both the Roman Catholic Church and the Swiss Reformed Church. The Cantons of Geneva and Neuchâtel have no state recognized church. At the federal state level, Switzerland has no official religion."

  149. JR says:

    How often, and to what degree, does a politician ever feel something like the Streisand Effect? It seems to me that the majority are inclined to let such behavior continue in exchange for the promise of having their wishes fulfilled.

  150. AlphaCentauri says:

    What is the point of oaths by officials of a government that officially does not endorse the existence of a divinity willing to enforce them?

  151. Xenocles says:

    None of the oaths at the federal level require the invocation of any god. In fact, you aren't even required to swear an oath – you can sub in "affirm" as needed. This was likely originally a sop to Christians who follow Jesus's commandment to not swear oaths, but nowadays it works equally well for those who consider swearing an oath to be a religious act. The "so help me God" part is inserted by the person taking the oath, if desired.

    The purpose generally is also to bind the person to whatever moral authority he recognizes personally (even if nobody else does). And believe me, the government does hold your oath against you – it's just easier to get away with breaking it if you're a higher official.

  152. John Kindley says:

    So far as testifying in court, especially for someone who's been subpoenaed against his will, seems like the only "oath" that should be required is something along these lines: "I understand that if I testify falsely I may be punished for perjury." I can easily imagine a witness not believing he has any religious or moral obligation to testify truthfully in court. Where then does the government get off essentially forcing him to state that he has such a moral obligation, or even to "promise" to tell the truth or "affirm" that what he says will be the truth? Yeas are yeas and nays are nays.

  153. hlm says:

    John, my call for impeachment is utterly serious.

    My call for secession, on the other hand, is only pretending to not be serious.

  1. April 3, 2013

    [...] We already made popehat! [...]

  2. April 3, 2013

    [...] Of course, these are both issues that have been long-settled by the federal courts, as the FUCKING GENIUSES over at Popehat point out. [...]