Monday, March 26, 2012


For a number of years, I was privileged to serve as a member of the Board of Directors of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Liberties.

Its President, Bill Donohue, is an outspoken and courageous defender of Christianity. He never backs away from a fight. The other day, an email arrived with Bill’s comments about a rally in Washington D.C.

Touted on its web site as “The Largest Gathering of the Secular Movement in World History” the rally was intended to arouse atheists and encourage them to combat religious belief and observance in every form.

Here’s what Bill Donohue had to say:

It is impossible for atheists to have a rally without bashing people of faith. They especially loathe Christians, and no group gets them jacked up more than Roman Catholics. Saturday’s rally was no exception.

Although atheists claim that people of faith brainwash kids, it is they who are the masters. “Hey Kids,” one of the signs read, “It’s Okay—GOD is PRETEND.” Being vulgar comes natural to them: “Religion is Like a Penis,” one sign read, “It’s OK to have one…But it is NOT OK to whip it out in public, shove it in my face, or tell me what to do because you have one….” Then there was the gal who held a sign demanding that adherents of the three monotheistic religions “Get Out of My Panties.”

They got specific with signs such as “So many Christians, so few lions.” There was a man dressed as Jesus riding an inflatable dinosaur; another man held a large wooden cross with a mask of “The Joker” on top. They really got specific when Australian songwriter Tim Minchin thrilled the crowd with “The Pope Song.” Here are some of the lyrics: “I don’t give a f*** if calling the pope a motherf***er means…You see I don’t give a f*** what any other motherf***er believes about Jesus and his motherf***ing mother.”

The big draw was Englishman Richard Dawkins. He implored the crowd to “ridicule and show contempt” for people of faith. “Mock them, ridicule them in public,” he bellowed. Especially Catholics. Dawkins not only mocked the Eucharist, he advised the crowd to ask Catholics, “Do you really believe…that when a priest blesses a wafer, it turns into the body of Christ?”

Catholics take note: The fact that the atheists always attack us more than any other religious group is a backhanded compliment. They know who the real enemy of hate is, and who they must defeat. They don’t have a prayer.

When I was a kid at the Epiphany grade school in Detroit, the good nuns taught me about the martyrs in the early Christian Church.

Saint Peter, who was crucified upside down. Saint Lawrence, who was literally barbequed to death. The heroes and heroines of Christianity. Saint Joan of Arc, burned at the stake. Saint Thomas More, beheaded for refusal to condone the sins of the King.

I often wondered what I would do, how I would react to religious persecution. Would I have the courage to walk in silence into an arena full of hungry lions?

Would I have the faith to forgive those who hate me? Would I, like Thomas More, hand a coin to my executioner, as a symbol that he was just doing his job, and that I bore him no ill will?

Two thousand years of Christianity have not doused the fires of hatred that surround believers. A revolution of instantaneous communication has empowered the enemies of faith. Television, computers, hand held electronic devices introduced and improved week after week provide new and ubiquitous platforms for the trumpets of hate.

My Dad died in 1958. His Catholic faith defined him. But he rarely spoke of it. His idea of evangelism was to live a good and decent life, to be the kind of person who quietly earned the unheralded respect of neighbors, co-workers, family and friends.

The nuns used to say that the blood of martyrs was the seed of Christianity.

So too, is the patient restraint of the taunted and the ridiculed.

Friday, March 23, 2012


OK, what is it?

Marco Rubio talks about it. New Gingrich proclaims it. Barack Obama’s not so sure.

Wikipedia, the online super encyclopedia, has a big article on the subject.

The bottom line is that, like all other “isms” American Exceptionalism is a belief, the espousal of an idea or opinion.

And that opinion is essentially that America and Americans are somehow exceptional. Different in a good way. Better than the rest. Outstanding among the nations and the peoples of the world.

Pretty heady stuff.

President Obama agrees. Sort of. He says, sure we Americans are better than other folks and our country is better than all the other countries.

But that’s just our opinion. Everybody else has a similar opinion about themselves. Greeks love Greece. Irish love Ireland, Spaniards think that Spain is the best place on earth.

American Exceptionalism, according to our President, is just our name for national chauvinism. Home team spirit.

The Founders of our nation had a different view. They understood that enacting a written constitution was something new and different. Listen to Alexander Hamilton:

“It has been frequently remarked that it seems to have been reserved to the people of this country, by their conduct and their example, to decide the important question, whether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government by reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend for their political constitutions on accident and force.”

George Washington said that Americans are “actors in a most conspicuous theater, which seems to be peculiarly designed by Providence for the display of human greatness”

They knew that the eyes of the whole world were focused on what they were doing in Philadelphia in 1787. In short they knew that the American constitution would be an exception. Something new. Unique. The first. The only.

And they knew that the American people who did it were special. Different. Exceptions to the general rule. Not just ordinary folks.

In the 200 years since our constitution was adopted, many other countries have framed charters of their own. Some have borrowed from us. The idea of three branches of government; executive, legislative and judicial. A bills of rights.

Good ideas. And imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

But in truth, America is still exceptional. No other nation on earth consists of separate, sovereign states. Americans enjoy dual citizenship. We are Texans, Floridians, Georgians, Californians.

Our states are guaranteed to have a republican form of government. Tallahassee, Lansing, Columbus and Madison have more to say about our lives than Washington, D.C.

There is no single American nationality. We have 50 different cultures. Different accents. Different economies. Different weather. Different histories, religions, politics and ethnic origins. We eat different food. Cheer for different teams.

What people do for fun in San Francisco or New Orleans might not play so well in Oklahoma City or Birmingham.

There are states full of old people and states where the people are young. East coast. West Coast. Sun Belt. Rust Belt. Bible Belt. Take your choice.

Americans can live in any state. Be citizens of any state. Like no other people in the world, we have both personal and political freedom. This is indeed an exceptional country. And we are exceptionally lucky to be in it.

Friday, March 16, 2012


Abraham Lincoln was not an abolitionist. When he ran for President in 1860 he was what we would have called a moderate. Personally against slavery, opposed to extending it into new territories, but willing to let the old south keep their slaves.

Still, if you were an abolitionist in 1860 you were a Republican, and you voted for Lincoln. The Democrats were less than moderate. They would extend slavery all the way to the Pacific Ocean.

The election of 2012 is shaping up to be much the same as 1860.

Barack Obama’s people have argued that the Republican Party has declared war on women. They have adopted birth control, including abortion on demand, as the defining issue in their campaign.

The Democratic Party supports the 5-4 decision in Roe v Wade. The Democratic Party advocates abortion as a woman’s absolute right. On demand. As a means of birth control. Because of expense, inconvenience, embarrassment, revenge, whatever. At any age. For any reason. Or for no reason at all.

The American people never had a chance to vote on Roe v Wade. It was a sweeping, radical, unpopular change in the social mores of the American people dictated by a one vote majority in the Supreme Court.

Like the Dred Scot decision that led to the Civil War, Roe V Wade decided that the unborn were not human beings, not entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Not protected by our Constitution.

It looks like the 2012 election may become a referendum on Roe v Wade.

If you are pro life, you vote Republican. If you are pro abortion, you vote Democrat.
All the Republican candidates are pro life. Santorum enthusiastically. Gingrich politically. Romney pragmatically.

Their opponent, Barack Obama, is on record as favoring abortion, early, late, and even after a baby survives the procedure.

But wait a minute, you say.

You thought that 2012 was all about the economy. Fifteen trillion in public debt. Annual deficits running into the trillions. Unemployment. Recession. Bail outs. Stimulus. Entitlements. Health care.


The economy is just a symptom. It’s the sniffles. It’s not the cold.

The real issue is growth or decline.

Fifty million babies have been aborted in America since 1973. Fifty million. That's about the population of California and Pennsylvania together.

After World War II, we had a baby boom in America. The economy flourished. We needed more cribs, more schools, more cars, more houses. Because we had more people.

We were a young nation. Focused on the future. Optimistic. Energetic. They were boom times.

Today we are hunkering down. Worried about the end game. Saving for retirement. It’s all about keeping. Protecting. Hording. What matters is me. What I have. What I want. The last thing in the world the Me Generation wants is a dependent. Another human being to think about. Care for. Worry about. Share with. Work for. Or Love.

There will be more debates this year. Big debates. Presidential debates, with much hype, huge audiences, interminable analysis and commentary.

But I wonder if the real issue will ever be debated. Really debated. I wonder if anyone will ever ask the fundamental question of whether the people of the every state do or do not have the right and the power to make laws protecting the lives of unborn children.

Whether America is a shrinking, declining society, intent on enjoying the here and now. Or are we still a young, vibrant, robust nation whose best days are yet to dawn.

Saturday, March 10, 2012


Law school students are trained to argue both sides of a case. Often, in moot court competitions, contestants don’t know which side of an issue they will have to present and defend until moments before their case is called.

Knowing the most effective way to present a client’s case is an important part of the lawyer’s skill. Representing a client vigorously within the boundaries of professional ethics is the high calling of the ancient and honorable profession of law.

The down side is that clients don’t like to hear bad news and lawyers are often constrained to cook up legal opinions that satisfy the client, but don’t exactly square up with what they really believe.

It’s a kind of intellectual and professional prostitution.

Attorney General Eric Holder is a fine lawyer. Spotted as intellectually gifted in the fourth grade, he was educated in the Bronx on a fast track that lead to Columbia University for both undergraduate and law school.

After graduating, he went right to Washington and joined the Justice Department.

He has been there off and on ever since. Ronald Reagan appointed him Judge of the Superior Court for the District of Columbia. Bill Clinton appointed him United States Attorney for the District of Columbia and later made him Assistant U.S. Attorney General.

In the Bush years, he was associated with the prestigious D.C. law firm of Covington and Burling.

Shortly after his appointment as 82nd U.S. Attorney General by President Obama, Holder announced that Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 terror attacks, and several other alleged co-conspirators would be tried in Federal Court in Manhattan.

Then the stuff hit the fan.

Two years later he announced that the trials would take place in a military court at the Guantanamo Naval Base. That still hasn’t happened.

In 2010, being interviewed by Jane Mayer of New Yorker magazine, Holder has this to say:

“This macho bravado—that’s the kind of thing that leads you into wars that should not be fought, that history is not kind to. The quest for justice, despite what your contemporaries might think, that’s toughness. The ability to subject yourself to the kind of criticism I’m getting now, for something I think is right? That’s tough.
“This is something that can get a rise out of me, the notion that somehow Eric Holder and Barack Obama, this Administration, is not tough. We have the welfare of the American people in our minds all the time. We’ll fight our enemies, and we’ll do that which is necessary, and we won’t turn our backs on the values and traditions that have made this country great. That is what is tough”

Fast forward to 2012. Northwestern University Law School.

Here’s what the new Eric Holder, the one primarily concerned about the re-election of his boss, had to say: “In this hour of danger, we simply cannot wait until deadly plans are carried out. And we will not.”

Holder told an audience of 800 law students and professors that the President has the legal authority to target and kill anyone – including American citizens-- who he thinks pose an imminent threat to our country.

No judge. No warrant. No proof that anyone has a chance to see. Because, as Holder said, only the executive department has the expertise and immediate access to information necessary to target someone for killing.

Holder says his office gave the President a legal opinion to that effect.

But, of course, that legal opinion is secret.

No press conference at Northwestern. No questions from the audience. 800 people who teach and study the constitution of the United States and no questions?

Judge Andrew Napolitano, a Fox News commentator, thinks Obama should be impeached for authorizing hits on American citizens. You’d think the issue is at least debatable.

Not a peep out of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Candidate Obama reaches out to all the good old boys in swing states like Ohio and Kentucky, whose solution to terrorism is to “kill all them bastards.”

And his Attorney General gives him a green light.

I wonder what they are saying at Northwestern University Law School these days.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


Friend of mine hands me a piece cut out of the newspaper. “What do you think about this, Judge?” Happens all the time.

So here I am, 7 AM of a Wednesday, morning, about to cross verbal swords with Noah Feldman, a Harvard Law Professor who applauds Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg for saying that South Africa’s constitution is better than ours.

Feldman’s op ed in the Tampa Tribune cites a forthcoming law review article which asserts that countries writing new constitutions these days are not so inclined to mimic the U. S. Constitution as they were half a century ago.

Not to worry, says Feldman. Uncle Sam is still the leader of the free world. Not because of the document composed in Philadelphia in 1787, but because of the way it has been used and abused by the Supreme Court.

Doesn’t matter what Madision, Jefferson, Hamilton and the rest intended.

What matters, says Professor Feldman, is what the constitution ought to mean. Today. In 2012. It is, after all, “a living thing, growing and developing in keeping with changing needs, institutions and circumstances.”

The great jurist and scholar, Thomas M. Cooley must roll over in his grave.
Here’s what Cooley said:

A constitution is not to be made to mean one thing at one time, and another at some subsequent time when the circumstances may have so changed as perhaps to make a different rule in the case seem desirable. A principle share of the benefit expected of written constitutions would be lost if the rules they established were so flexible as to bend to circumstances or be modified by public opinion. It is with special reference to the varying moods of public opinion, and with a view to putting the fundamentals of government beyond their control, that these instruments are framed; and there can be no such steady and imperceptible change in their rules as inheres in the common law…a court or legislature which should allow a change of public sentiment to influence it in giving construction to a written constitution not warranted by the intention of its founders, would be justly chargeable with reckless disregard of official oath and public duty.

All of which is not to say that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was wrong when she opined that Egypt ought to look to South Africa rather than the United States for a model constitution.

I don’t know anything about the South African constitution, but there’s no doubt in my mind that the U.S. Constitution has a few barnacles on it that need attention.

Take the interstate commerce clause, for example. The Constitution gave Congress the power to “regulate interstate commerce.” Two hundred years later there are jet airplanes, interstate highways, telephones, television, computers and ubiquitous Walmarts. Seems like all commerce is interstate.

So Congress undertakes to regulate everything. Read “regulate interstate commerce” to mean “control the national economy.”

So now our ‘living and growing’ constitution permits Congress to tell a barber in Dade City what he can charge for a haircut and how much to pay the kid who sweeps the floor.

Professor Feldman insists that no sane constitution drafters would want future courts to argue about what they intended. Then, rather inconsistently, he says that when a constitution is new –‘fresh from the box’- as he says, the intention is pretty obvious.

That’s the great American constitutional dichotomy: some say the constitution is old and sacred and shouldn’t be changed; others insist the constitution is old and irrelevant and doesn’t have to be changed.

So the John Birch Society and the ACLU make common cause from opposite ends of the political spectrum. They both oppose a convention to propose amendments.

Ginsburg and Scalia on the same side?

You betcha. When you are one of only nine people who get to play God every Monday morning, who would be in favor of letting ‘we the people’ have their say?

Me. And maybe a few other folks. There are now 153 average Americans from 36 states who have registered as delegates to Convention USA.

It may be Lent in America, but Easter is coming.

Friday, March 2, 2012


Here I go again, using the “S” word to crank up my readership.

Tacky to be sure. But still, I can’t resist.

The Internet’s abuzz about the appearance of Sandra Fluke, a Georgetown University law student who was invited to testify before a Congressional committee on the need for free birth control among law school students.

Ms. Fluke told the committee that birth control pills cost female law students about $3,000 during their three year matriculation. They are already parting with roughly $140,000 in tuition, not to mention room and board, books, and other incidentals.

Ms. Fluke was speaking in favor of the mandate of Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services, requiring employer provided health insurance to include free birth control pills.

That mandate has been challenged by Catholic institutions and other religious organizations on the ground that it interferes with their constitutional right to the free exercise of religion.

President Obama called Sandra Fluke just before she was to be interviewed by Ed Schultz on MSNBC, telling her that her parents should be proud of her for standing up for women’s reproductive rights.

Of course, the Sebelius mandate has nothing to do with student health care plans. It only deals with employee health care plans.

Small detail. What the administration really wants is to cut off any talk about religious liberty and change the subject to women’s rights.

Indeed, most of the voices favoring the mandate clearly regard free birth control as a fundamental civil right, an entitlement, a birth right on par with life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

After all, men can enjoy sex without getting pregnant, can’t they? What’s good for the gander should be good for the goose, n’est-ce pa?

I suppose it’s impossible to discuss the subject of religious liberty without the shrill, emotional diatribes that emanate from the minions of feminism.

But judges and law school professors like to change the facts of a case to see if a rule of law applies in a different frame of reference.

So let me try this:

Can the federal government require that a Catholic hospital cafeteria serve meat on Friday? Does it matter that a high percentage of Catholics regularly ignore the Church’s penitential rule?

Or can the Congress require a Jewish University to serve pork in its cafeteria? Does it matter that many of the students and faculty are not Jewish or belong to a progressive branch of Judaism which does not observe the traditional Kashrut?

Does it make a difference that such rules are enforced by fines and/or imprisonment? Or by loss of a subsidy paid to those who are willing to comply?

Can the law punish crimes by clergymen more severely than when committed by anyone else?

Can the Congress limit a clergyman’s First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of speech? Can it decree that certain subjects cannot be discussed or certain opinions be expressed from the pulpit?

Can the government take away the tax exemptions of religious organizations which preach against its mandates?

The culture wars are heating up. Unfortunately, there are lots of loose canons on the deck, like Rush Limbaugh, whose unbridled rhetoric makes rational discussion or debate well nigh impossible.

Unhappily, culture wars are fought in sound bites and tweets, with most of the fusillades coming from unmitigated self interest and prejudice.

Today’s hot button issues may or may not affect the outcome in November.

Either way, the hard questions will still need to be answered.