Friday, November 19, 2004

The Case for Democracy

Joel C. Rosenberg writes of Natan Sharansky's new book.
When Natan Sharansky stepped into Condoleezza Rice's West Wing office at 11:15 last Thursday morning, he had no idea the national security advisor would soon be named the next secretary of state. He was just glad to see her holding a copy of his newly published book, The Case for Democracy.

"I'm already half-way through your book," Rice said. "Do you know why I'm reading it?"

Sharansky, a self-effacing man who spent nine years in KGB prisons (often in solitary confinement) before becoming the first political prisoner released by Mikhail Gorbachev, hoped it had to do with his brilliant analysis and polished prose.

Rice smiled. "I'm reading it because the president is reading it, and it's my job to know what the president is thinking."

Early in The Case for Democracy, Sharansky, 56, recalls another Soviet-era dissident named Andrei Amalrik, who in 1969 wrote, Will The Soviet Union Survive Until 1984? Predicting the Communist empire's inevitable collapse, Amalrik, who was imprisoned by the KGB for his observations (and whom Sharansky later had the privilege of teaching English), explained that "any state forced to devote so much of its energies to physically and psychologically controlling millions of its own subjects could not survive indefinitely." Sharansky writes: "The unforgettable image he left the reader with was that of a soldier who must always point a gun at his enemy. His arms begin to tire until their weight becomes unbearable. Exhausted, he lowers his weapon and the prisoner escapes." At the time, many so-called "democrats" in the West dismissed Amalrik as downright delusional. But his prediction proved to be off by only a few years.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

The War on the Boy Scouts

Yesterday the Pentagon raised the white flag, surrendering en masse to the ACLU
The Pentagon has agreed to warn military bases worldwide that they should not directly sponsor Boy Scout troops, partially resolving accusations that the government has improperly supported a group that requires members to believe in God.

The settlement, announced yesterday, stemmed from a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, which said U.S. military units have sponsored hundreds of Boy Scout troops.
The ACLU believes that the Scout Oath, or Promise, constitutes a "religious oath" prohibited by the Constitution.
On my honor I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country
and to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong,
mentally awake, and morally straight.
The First Amendment to the Constitution states that
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof
I'm no constitutional lawyer but it's hard to see how the Scout Oath constitutes an establishment of religion. Yet this is precisely what the ACLU believes.
"If our Constitution's promise of religious liberty is to be a reality, the government should not be administering religious oaths or discriminating based on religious beliefs," said ACLU lawyer Adam Schwartz.
All of this would be funny if it wasn't so serious. Can anyone imagine an organization that does more good than the Boy Scouts? Well, ok, there's the Girl Scouts, although they're a bit more politically correct. The Girl Scout Promise also mentions God, but is qualified with an asterisk that renders the word largely meaningless.
On my honor, I will try:
To serve God* and my country,
To help people at all times,
And to live by the Girl Scout Law.

* The word "God" can be interpreted in a number of ways, depending on one's spiritual beliefs. When reciting the Girl Scout Promise, it is okay to replace the word "God" with whatever word your spiritual beliefs dictate.
You'll find no "legal issues" section on their website, quite unlike that of the Boy Scouts.

Where is the Discrimination?

Groups like the ACLU claim that requiring Scouts to believe in a God (any God, the pledge is not at all specific) constitutes discrimination. Thus, for a government to sponsor a Boy Scout Troop, or even allow one to use their facilities, constitutes an "establishment of religion." It's hard to see, however, how this constitutes such an establishment.

In my view, as long as organizations grant meeting space to all organizations there is not problem. For example, the military recognizes the Wiccans as a legitimate religion. Aethists, Wiccans, as long as all comers are allowed entry I see no problem.

Part of a Larger War

The story in today's Washington Times is just one more battle in what has become a larger war that has been going on for some time.

The battle lines were drawn some years ago, when only one side was fighting. The initial issue was over homosexuality. Some time ago American society agreed that gays should not suffer persecution. Public insults are not acceptable any more.

Then, one fine day, we were told that if we didn't accept gay Scoutmasters and gay marriage we were all bigots and homophobes.

The reaction of "red state" Americans was along the lines of "wait a minute! That's not what I agreed to. That's not the deal we made." And that's exactly what happened. The strategy of the left is to start slow with something "reasonable," get most Americans to buy in, and then pow, hit them with the real objective before they know what happened. Since most Americans don't buy into this nonsense, the courts will be used to secure final victory. It doesn't take much searching on their website (go here and search for "Boy Scouts")to find almost two dozen lawsuits filed by the ACLU against the Boy Scouts.

Midge Decker wrote an excellent article on this subject titled "An Amazing Pass: One Minute We're talking about Tolerance for Homosexuals, the Next, We're Watching Them Marry." You can find it in the November 8 2004 print edition of National Review. It can be read online, but only if you are a paid subscriber.

What Next?

If a simply mention of "God" is unacceptable in an oath, does this mean that all references to God are verbotten? Will "In God We Trust" be removed from our currency? This may sound extreme ("oh that will never happen!"), but you tell me, what is the difference?

My Own Time

Part of why this issue get's me going is that I remember the good times that I had as a Boy Scout. The skills I learned then still serve me today. With the encouragement of my parents I stuck it out, even achieving the rank of Eagle Scout. Why can't these people leave well enough alone?

Monday, November 15, 2004

Why did the Democrats lose?

The Republicans won important electoral victories in both 2002 and 2004. Anthony Robinson writes about where the Democrats have gone wrong. Let's hope the leadership of the Democrat party doesn't listen to him.
Democrats and liberals tend to tout themselves as the people of tolerance and diversity. But when you ask what tolerance and diversity really mean, it often means tolerance for people who share our views and the diversity "of the enlightened." Liberals decry those who would "impose" their views on school prayer while confidently imposing their preferred school sexuality curriculums. And last time I checked most of us were quite willing to impose our environmental views and policies on loggers, cattle-ranchers and miners. The "tolerant" versus "intolerant" is a false and elitist move.