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Annotation 1 – First Amendment – FindLaw

Posted: September 22, 2016 at 7:46 pm

RELIGION

An Overview

Madison’s original proposal for a bill of rights provision concerning religion read: ”The civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established, nor shall the full and equal rights of conscience be in any manner, or on any pretence, infringed.” 1 The language was altered in the House to read: ”Congress shall make no law establishing religion, or to prevent the free exercise thereof, or to infringe the rights of conscience.” 2 In the Senate, the section adopted read: ”Congress shall make no law establishing articles of faith, or a mode of worship, or prohibiting the free exercise of religion, . . .” 3 It was in the conference committee of the two bodies, chaired by Madison, that the present language was written with its some what more indefinite ”respecting” phraseology. 4 Debate in Congress lends little assistance in interpreting the religion clauses; Madison’s position, as well as that of Jefferson who influenced him, is fairly clear, 5 but the intent, insofar as there was one, of the others in Congress who voted for the language and those in the States who voted to ratify is subject to speculation.

Scholarly Commentary .–The explication of the religion clauses by the scholars has followed a restrained sense of their meaning. Story, who thought that ”the right of a society or government to interfere in matters of religion will hardly be contested by any persons, who believe that piety, religion, and morality are intimately connected with the well being of the state, and indispensable to the administration of civil justice,” 6 looked upon the prohibition simply as an exclusion from the Federal Government of all power to act upon the subject. ”The situation . . . of the different states equally proclaimed the policy, as well as the necessity of such an exclusion. In some of the states, episcopalians constituted the predominant sect; in others presbyterians; in others, congregationalists; in others, quakers; and in others again, there was a close numerical rivalry among contending sects. It was impossible, that there should not arise perpetual strife and perpetual jealousy on the subject of ecclesiastical ascendancy, if the national government were left free to create a religious establishment. The only security was in extirpating the power. But this alone would have been an imperfect security, if it had not been followed up by a declaration of the right of the free exercise of religion, and a prohibition (as we have seen) of all religious tests. Thus, the whole power over the subject of religion is left exclusively to the state governments, to be acted upon according to their own sense of justice, and the state constitutions; and the Catholic and the Protestant, the Calvinist and the Arminian, the Jew and the Infidel, may sit down at the common table of the national councils, without any inquisition into their faith, or mode of worship.” 7

”Probably,” Story also wrote, ”at the time of the adoption of the constitution and of the amendment to it, now under consideration, the general, if not the universal, sentiment in America was, that Christianity ought to receive encouragement from the state, so far as was not incompatible with the private rights of conscience, and the freedom of religious worship. An attempt to level all religions, and to make it a matter of state policy to hold all in utter indifference, would have created universal disapprobation, if not universal indignation.” 8 The object, then, of the religion clauses in this view was not to prevent general governmental encouragement of religion, of Christianity, but to prevent religious persecution and to prevent a national establishment. 9

This interpretation has long since been abandoned by the Court, beginning, at least, with Everson v. Board of Education, 10 in which the Court, without dissent on this point, declared that the Establishment Clause forbids not only practices that ”aid one religion” or ”prefer one religion over another,” but as well those that ”aid all religions.” Recently, in reliance on published scholarly research and original sources, Court dissenters have recurred to the argument that what the religion clauses, principally the Establishment Clause, prevent is ”preferential” governmental promotion of some religions, allowing general governmental promotion of all religion in general. 11 The Court has not responded, though Justice Souter in a major concurring opinion did undertake to rebut the argument and to restate the Everson position. 12

Court Tests Applied to Legislation Affecting Religion .–Before considering the development of the two religion clauses by the Supreme Court, one should notice briefly the tests developed by which religion cases are adjudicated by the Court. While later cases rely on a series of rather well-defined, if difficult-to-apply, tests, the language of earlier cases ”may have [contained] too sweeping utterances on aspects of these clauses that seemed clear in relation to the particular cases but have limited meaning as general principles.” 13 It is well to recall that ”the purpose [of the religion clauses] was to state an objective, not to write a statute.” 14

In 1802, President Jefferson wrote a letter to a group of Baptists in Danbury, Connecticut, in which he declared that it was the purpose of the First Amendment to build ”a wall of separation between Church and State.” 15 In Reynolds v. United States, 16 Chief Justice Waite for the Court characterized the phrase as ”almost an authoritative declaration of the scope and effect of the amendment.” In its first encounters with religion-based challenges to state programs, the Court looked to Jefferson’s metaphor for substantial guidance. 17 But a metaphor may obscure as well as illuminate, and the Court soon began to emphasize neutrality and voluntarism as the standard of restraint on governmental action. 18 The concept of neutrality itself is ”a coat of many colors,” 19 and three standards that could be stated in objective fashion emerged as tests of Establishment Clause validity. The first two standards were part of the same formulation. ”The test may be stated as follows: what are the purpose and the primary effect of the enactment? If either is the advancement or inhibition of religion then the enactment exceeds the scope of legislative power as circumscribed by the Constitution. That is to say that to withstand the strictures of the Establishment Clause there must be a secular legislative purpose and a primary effect that neither advances nor inhibits religion.” 20 The third test is whether the governmental program results in ”an excessive government entanglement with religion. The test is inescapably one of degree . . . [T]he questions are whether the involvement is excessive, and whether it is a continuing one calling for official and continuing surveillance leading to an impermissible degree of entanglement.” 21 In 1971 these three tests were combined and restated in Chief Justice Burger’s opinion for the Court in Lemon v. Kurtzman, 22 and are frequently referred to by reference to that case name.

Although at one time accepted in principle by all of the Justices, 23 the tests have sometimes been difficult to apply, 24 have recently come under direct attack by some Justices, 25 and with increasing frequency have not been applied at all by the Court. 26 While continued application is uncertain, the Lemon tests nonetheless have served for twenty years as the standard measure of Establishment Clause validity and explain most of the Court’s decisions in the area. 27 As of the end of the Court’s 1991-92 Term, there was not yet a consensus among Lemon critics as to what substitute test should be favored. 28 Reliance on ”coercion” for that purpose would eliminate a principal distinction between establishment cases and free exercise cases and render the Establishment Clause largely duplicative of the Free Exercise Clause. 29

Justice O’Connor has suggested that it is inappropriate to try to shoehorn all Establishment cases into one test, and has called instead for recognition that different contexts may call for different approaches. Supp.1 For example, the Justice proposes that cases involving government ”speech” on religious topics be judged by an endorsement test that would invalidate government actions only if a reasonable observer would perceive the action as an endorsement or disapproval of religious belief. Supp.2

Government Neutrality in Religious Disputes .–One value that both clauses of the religion section serve is to enforce governmental neutrality in deciding controversies arising out of religious disputes. Schism sometimes develops within churches or between a local church and the general church, resulting in secession or expulsion of one faction or of the local church. A dispute over which body is to have control of the property of the church will then often be taken into the courts. It is now established that both religion clauses prevent governmental inquiry into religious doctrine in settling such disputes, and instead require courts simply to look to the decision-making body or process in the church and to give effect to whatever decision is officially and properly made.

The first such case was Watson v. Jones, 30 which was decided on common-law grounds in a diversity action without explicit reliance on the First Amendment. A constitutionalization of the rule was made in Kedroff v. St. Nicholas Cathedral, 31 in which the Court held unconstitutional a state statute that recognized the autonomy and authority of those North American branches of the Russian Orthodox Church which had declared their independence from the general church. Recognizing that Watson v. Jones had been decided on nonconstitutional grounds, the Court thought nonetheless that the opinion ”radiates . . . a spirit of freedom for religious organizations, and independence from secular control or manipulation–in short, power to decide for themselves, free from state interference, matters of church government as well as those of faith and doctrine.” 32 The power of civil courts to resolve church property disputes was severely circumscribed, the Court held, because to permit resolution of doctrinal disputes in court was to jeopardize First Amendment values. What a court must do, it was held, is to look at the church rules: if the church is a hierarchical one which reposes determination of ecclesiastical issues in a certain body, the resolution by that body is determinative, while if the church is a congregational one prescribing action by a majority vote, that determination will prevail. 33 On the other hand, a court confronted with a church property dispute could apply ”neutral principles of law, developed for use in all property disputes,” when to do so would not require resolution of doctrinal issues. 34 In a later case the Court elaborated on the limits of proper inquiry, holding that an argument over a matter of internal church government, the power to reorganize the dioceses of a hierarchical church in this country, was ”at the core of ecclesiastical affairs” and a court could not interpret the church constitution to make an inde pendent determination of the power but must defer to the interpretation of the body authorized to decide. 35

In Jones v. Wolf, 36 however, a divided Court, while formally adhering to these principles, appeared to depart in substance from their application. A schism had developed in a local church which was a member of a hierarchical church, and the majority voted to withdraw from the general church. The proper authority of the general church determined that the minority constituted the ”true congregation” of the local church and awarded them authority over it. The Court approved the approach of the state court in applying neutral principles by examining the deeds to the church property, state statutes, and provisions of the general church’s constitution concerning ownership and control of church property in order to determine that no language of trust in favor of the general church was contained in any of them and that the property thus belonged to the local congregation. 37 Further, the Court held, the First Amendment did not prevent the state court from applying a presumption of majority rule to award control to the majority of the local congregation, provided that it permitted defeasance of the presumption upon a showing that the identity of the local church is to be determined by some other means as expressed perhaps in the general church charter. 38 The dissent argued that to permit a court narrowly to view only the church documents relating to property ownership permitted the ignoring of the fact that the dispute was over ecclesiastical matters and that the general church had decided which faction of the congregation was the local church. 39

Thus, it is unclear where the Court is on this issue. Jones v. Wolf restated the rule that it is improper to review an ecclesiastical dispute and that deference is required in those cases, but by approving a neutral principles inquiry which in effect can filter out the doctrinal issues underlying a church dispute, the Court seems to have approved at least an indirect limitation of the authority of hierarchical churches. 40

Footnotes

[Footnote 1] 1 Annals of Congress 434 (June 8, 1789).

[Footnote 2] The committee appointed to consider Madison’s proposals, and on which Madison served, with Vining as chairman, had rewritten the religion section to read: ”No religion shall be established by law, nor shall the equal rights of conscience be infringed.” After some debate during which Madison suggested that the word ”national” might be inserted before the word ”religion” as ”point[ing] the amendment directly to the object it was intended to prevent,” the House adopted a substitute reading: ”Congress shall make no laws touching religion, or infringing the rights of conscience.” 1 Annals of Congress 729-31 (August 15, 1789). On August 20, on motion of Fisher Ames, the language of the clause as quoted in the text was adopted. Id. at 766. According to Madison’s biographer, ”[t]here can be little doubt that this was written by Madison.” I. Brant, James Madison–Father of the Constitution 1787-1800 at 271 (1950).

[Footnote 3] This text, taken from the Senate Journal of September 9, 1789, appears in 2 B. Schwartz (ed.), The Bill of Rights: A Documentary History 1153 (1971). It was at this point that the religion clauses were joined with the freedom of expression clauses.

[Footnote 4] 1 Annals of Congress 913 (September 24, 1789). The Senate concurred the same day. See I. Brant, James Madison–Father of the Constitution 1787-1800, 271-72 (1950).

[Footnote 5] During House debate, Madison told his fellow Members that ”he apprehended the meaning of the words to be, that Congress should not establish a religion, and enforce the legal observation of it by law, nor compel men to worship God in any Manner contrary to their conscience.” 1 Annals of Congress 730 (August 15, 1789). That his conception of ”establishment” was quite broad is revealed in his veto as President in 1811 of a bill which in granting land reserved a parcel for a Baptist Church in Salem, Mississippi; the action, explained President Madison, ”comprises a principle and precedent for the appropriation of funds of the United States for the use and support of religious societies, contrary to the article of the Constitution which declares that ‘Congress shall make no law respecting a religious establishment.”’ 8 The Writings of James Madison (G. Hunt. ed.) 132-33 (1904). Madison’s views were no doubt influenced by the fight in the Virginia legislature in 1784-1785 in which he successfully led the opposition to a tax to support teachers of religion in Virginia and in the course of which he drafted his ”Memorial and Remonstrance against Religious Assessments” setting forth his thoughts. Id. at 183-91; I. Brant, James Madison–The Nationalist 1780-1787, 343-55 (1948). Acting on the momentum of this effort, Madison secured passage of Jefferson’s ”Bill for Religious Liberty”. Id. at 354; D. Malone, Jefferson the Virginian 274-280 (1948). The theme of the writings of both was that it was wrong to offer public support of any religion in particular or of religion in general.

[Footnote 6] 3 J. Story, Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States 1865 (1833).

[Footnote 7] Id. at 1873.

[Footnote 8] Id. at 1868.

[Footnote 9] For a late expounding of this view, see T. Cooley, General Principles of Constitutional Law in the United States 224-25 (3d ed. 1898).

[Footnote 10] 330 U.S. 1, 15 (1947). Establishment Clause jurisprudence since, whatever its twists and turns, maintains this view.

[Footnote 11] Wallace v. Jaffree, 472 U.S. 38, 91 (1985) (then-Justice Rehnquist dissenting). More recently, dissenters, including now-Chief Justice Rehnquist, have appeared reconciled to a ”constitutional tradition” in which governmental endorsement of religion is out of bounds, even if it is not correct as a matter of history. See Lee v. Weisman, 112 S. Ct. 2649, 2678, 2683-84 (1992) (Justice Scalia, joined by the Chief Justice and Justices White and Thomas, dissenting).

[Footnote 12] Lee v. Weisman, 112 S. Ct. 2649, 2667 (1992) (Justice Souter, joined by Justices Stevens and O’Connor, concurring).

[Footnote 13] Walz v. Tax Comm’n, 397 U.S. 664, 668 (1970).

[Footnote 14] Id.

[Footnote 15] 16 The Writings of Thomas Jefferson 281 (A. Libscomb ed., 1904).

[Footnote 16] 98 U.S. 145, 164 (1879).

[Footnote 17] Everson v. Board of Education, 330 U.S. 1, 16 (1947); Illinois ex rel. McCollum v. Board of Education, 333 U.S. 203, 211 , 212 (1948); cf. Zorach v. Clauson, 343 U.S. 306, 317 (1952) (Justice Black dissenting). In Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602, 614 (1971), Chief Justice Burger remarked that ”the line of separation, far from being a ‘wall,’ is a blurred, indistinct and variable barrier depending on all the circumstances of a particular relationship.” Similar observations were repeated by the Chief Justice in his opinion for the Court in Lynch v. Donnelly, 465 U.S. 668, 673 (1984) (the metaphor is not ”wholly accurate”; the Constitution does not ”require complete separation of church and state [but] affirmatively mandates accommodation, not merely tolerance, of all religions, and forbids hostility toward any”).

[Footnote 18] Zorach v. Clauson, 343 U.S. 306, 314 (1952); Engel v. Vitale, 370 U.S. 421 (1962); Sherbert v. Verner, 374 U.S. 398 (1963); Abington School District v. Schempp, 374 U.S. 203, 305 (1963) (Justice Goldberg concurring); Walz v. Tax Comm’n, 397 U.S. 664, 694 -97 (1970) (Justice Harlan concurring). In the opinion of the Court in the latter case, Chief Justice Burger wrote: ”The course of constitutional neutrality in this area cannot be an absolutely straight line; rigidity could well defeat the basic purpose of these provisions, which is to insure that no religion be sponsored or favored, none commanded, and none inhibited. The general principle deducible from the First Amendment and all that has been said by the Court is this: that we will not tolerate either governmentally established religion or governmental interference with religion. Short of those expressly proscribed governmental acts there is room for play in the joints productive of a benevolent neutrality which will permit religious exercise to exist without sponsorship and without interference.” Id. at 669.

[Footnote 19] Board of Education v. Allen, 392 U.S. 236, 249 (1968) (Justice Harlan concurring).

[Footnote 20] Abington School District v. Schempp, 374 U.S. 203, 222 (1963).

[Footnote 21] Walz v. Tax Comm’n, 397 U.S. 664, 674 -75 (1970).

[Footnote 22] 403 U.S. 602, 612 -13 (1971).

[Footnote 23] E.g., Committee for Public Educ. & Religious Liberty v. Regan, 444 U.S. 646, 653 (1980), and id. at 665 (dissenting opinion); Stone v. Graham, 449 U.S. 39, 40 (1980), and id. at 43 (dissenting opinion).

[Footnote 24] The tests provide ”helpful signposts,” Hunt v. McNair, 413 U.S. 734, 741 (1973), and are at best ”guidelines” rather than a ”constitutional caliper;” they must be used to consider ”the cumulative criteria developed over many years and applying to a wide range of governmental action.” Inevitably, ”no ‘bright line’ guidance is afforded.” Tilton v. Richardson, 403 U.S. 672, 677 -78 (1971). See also Committee for Public Educ. & Religious Liberty v. Nyquist, 413 U.S. 756, 761 & n.5, 773 n.31 (1973); Committee for Public Educ. & Religious Liberty v. Regan, 444 U.S. 646, 662 (1980), and id. at 663 (Justice Blackmun dissenting).

[Footnote 25] See, e.g., Edwards v. Aguillard, 482 U.S. 578, 636 -40 (1987) (Justice Scalia, joined by Chief Justice Rehnquist, dissenting) (advocating abandonment of the ”purpose” test); Wallace v. Jaffree, 472 U.S. 38, 108 -12 (1985) (Justice Rehnquist dissenting); Aguilar v. Felton, 473 U.S. 402, 426 -30 (1985) (Justice O’Connor, dissenting) (addressing difficulties in applying the entanglement prong); Roemer v. Maryland Bd. of Public Works, 426 U.S. 736, 768 -69 (Justice White concurring in judgment) (objecting to entanglement test). Justice Kennedy has also acknowledged criticisms of the Lemon tests, while at the samed time finding no need to reexamine them. See, e.g., Allegheny County v. Greater Pittsburgh ACLU, 492 U.S. 573, 655 -56 (1989). At least with respect to public aid to religious schools, Justice Stevens would abandon the tests and simply adopt a ”no-aid” position. Committee for Public Educ. & Religious Liberty v. Regan, 444 U.S. 646, 671 (1980).

[Footnote 26] See Marsh v. Chambers, 463 U.S. 783 (1983) (upholding legislative prayers on the basis of historical practice); Lee v. Weisman, 112 S. Ct. 2649, 2655 (1992) (rejecting a request to reconsider Lemon because the practice of invocations at public high school graduations was invalid under established school prayer precedents); Zobrest v. Catalina Foothills School Dist., 509 U.S. 1 (1993) (upholding provision of sign-language interpreter to deaf student attending parochial school); Board of Educ. of Kiryas Joel Village v. Grumet, 114 S. Ct. 2481 (1994) (invalidating law creating special school district for village composed exclusively of members of one religious sect). The Court has also held that the tripartite test is not applicable when law grants a denominational preference, distinguishing between religions; rather, the distinction is to be subjected to the strict scrutiny of a suspect classification. Larson v. Valente, 456 U.S. 228, 244 -46 (1982).

[Footnote 27] Justice Blackmun, concurring in Lee, contended that Marsh was the only one of 31 Establishment cases between 1971 and 1992 not to be decided on the basis on the Lemon tests. 112 S. Ct. at 2663, n.4.

[Footnote 28] In 1990 Justice Kennedy, joined by Justice Scalia, proposed that ”neutral” accommodations of religion should be permissible so long as they do not establish a state religion, and so long as there is no ”coercion” to participate in religious exercises. Westside Community Bd. of Educ. v. Mergens, 496 U.S. 226, 260 -61. The two Justices parted company, however, over the permissiblity of invocations at public high school graduation ceremonies, Justice Scalia in dissent strongly criticizing Justice Kennedy’s approach in the opinion of the Court for its reliance on psychological coercion. Justice Scalia would not ”expand[ ] the concept of coercion beyond acts backed by threat of penalty.” Lee v. Weisman, 112 S. Ct. 2649, 2684 (1992). Chief Justice Rehnquist has advocated limiting application to a prohibition on establishing a national (or state) church or favoring one religious group over another. Wallace v. Jaffree, 472 U.S. 38, 98 , 106 (1985) (dissenting).

[Footnote 29] Abington School District v. Schempp, 374 U.S. 203, 222 -23 (1963). See also Board of Education v. Allen, 392 U.S. 236, 248 -49 (1968); and Tilton v. Richardson, 403 U.S. 672, 689 (1971); Lee v. Weisman, 112 S. Ct. 2649, 2673 (Justice Souter concurring) (”a literal application of the coercion test would render the Establishment Clause a virtual nullity”).

[Footnote 1 (1996 Supplement)] Board of Educ. of Kiryas Joel Village v. Grumet,114 S. Ct. 2481, 2498-99 (1994).

[Footnote 2 (1996 Supplement)] Lynch v. Donnelly, 465 U.S. 668, 688 (1984) (concurring); Allegheny County v. Greater Pittsburgh ACLU, 492 U.S. 573, 625 (1989) (concurring); Board of Educ. of Kiryas Joel Village v. Grumet, 114 S. Ct. 2481, 2500 (1994) (concurring).

[Footnote 30] 80 U.S. (13 Wall.) 679 (1872).

[Footnote 31] 344 U.S. 94 (1952). Kedroff was grounded on the Free Exercise Clause. Id. at 116. But the subsequent cases used a collective ”First Amendment” designation.

[Footnote 32] Id. at 116. On remand, the state court adopted the same ruling on the merits but relied on a common-law rule rather than the statute. This too was struck down. Kreshik v. St. Nicholas Cathedral, 363 U.S. 190 (1960).

[Footnote 33] Presbyterian Church v. Hull Memorial Presbyterian Church, 393 U.S. 440, 447 , 450-51 (1969); Maryland and Virginia Eldership of the Churches of God v. Church of God at Sharpsburg, 396 U.S. 367 (1970). For a similar rule of neutrality in another context, see United States v. Ballard, 322 U.S. 78 (1944) (denying defendant charged with mail fraud through dissemination of purported religious literature the right to present to the jury evidence of the truthfulness of the religious views he urged).

[Footnote 34] Presbyterian Church v. Hull Memorial Presbyterian Church, 393 U.S. 440, 449 (1969); Maryland and Virginia Eldership of the Churches of God v. Church of God of Sharpsburg, 396 U.S. 367, 368 (1970). See also id. at 368-70 (Justice Brennan concurring).

[Footnote 35] The Serbian Eastern Orthodox Diocese v. Dionisije Milivojevich, 426 U.S. 697, 720 -25 (1976). In Gonzalez v. Archbishop, 280 U.S. 1 (1929), the Court had permitted limited inquiry into the legality of the actions taken under church rules. The Serbian Eastern Court disapproved of this inquiry with respect to concepts of ”arbitrariness,” although it reserved decision on the ”fraud” and ”collusion” exceptions. 426 U.S. at 708 -20.

[Footnote 36] 443 U.S. 595 (1979). In the majority were Justices Blackmun, Brennan, Marshall, Rehnquist, and Stevens. Dissenting were Justices Powell, Stewart, White, and Chief Justice Burger.

[Footnote 37] Id. at 602-06.

[Footnote 38] Id. at 606-10. Because it was unclear whether the state court had applied such a rule and applied it properly, the Court remanded.

[Footnote 39] Id. at 610.

[Footnote 40] The Court indicated that the general church could always expressly provide in its charter or in deeds to property the proper disposition of disputed property. But here the general church had decided which faction was the ”true congregation,” and this would appear to constitute as definitive a ruling as the Court’s suggested alternatives. Id. at 606.

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Annotation 1 – First Amendment – FindLaw

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Top Ron Paul aide learns fate for 2012 campaign violations …

Posted: at 7:42 pm

n this Dec. 29, 2011 file photo, then-Republican presidential candidate, Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, listens as campaign chairman Jesse Benton has a word with him as he signs autographs in Atlantic, Iowa.

Charles Dharapak, AP

DES MOINES– The chairman of Ron Pauls 2012 presidential bid was sentenced Tuesday to probation and home confinement rather than prison, and two other top aides were awaiting their sentences for a scheme to cover up campaign payments to a former Iowa state senator who agreed to endorse their boss.

Although prosecutors were seeking more than two years in federal prison, Jesse Benton was sentenced to two years probation and six months of home confinement, along with community service and a $10,000 fine. He was convicted of conspiracy, causing false campaign contribution reports to be filed to the Federal Election Commission and participating in a false statement scheme.

Judge James Jarvey called the crimes serious and said Benton took advantage of the system designed to ensure transparency in how campaigns are financed.

Theres nothing like prison time to deter white collar activity, Jarvey said, before announcing that he thought the lesser punishment was enough of a deterrent in Bentons case.

Prior to the sentencing announcement, Benton told the judge he had endured years of sleepless nights and public humiliation. He said his career is ruined and that he was forced to place his home on the market after going into debt.

A steep price has been paid, he said.

Benton and his attorney declined to comment as they left the courthouse.

The campaigns manager, John Tate, and deputy manager Dimitri Kesari also were convicted. Tate was also scheduled to be sentenced on Tuesday. Kesaris sentencing is set for Wednesday morning.

The men have argued they broke no laws when they paid a video production company, which passed on $73,000 to former state Sen. Kent Sorenson. He dropped support for Michele Bachmann and endorsed Paul six days before the 2012 Iowa caucuses.

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Venture capitalist Peter Thiel tells Morley Safer why he’s given more than $2.5 million to Libertarian congressman and presidential candidate Ron…

Prosecutors said it is illegal to cause a campaign to file inaccurate spending documents.

The men said they were targeted because of their conservative politics and argued campaigns typically dont identify payments to subcontractors of vendors.

They are expected to appeal their convictions to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. If the judges rule against the men, they may choose to seek further review of the U.S. Supreme Court.

The three men faced up to 35 years in prison had the judge handed down maximums to be served consecutively.

Benton, 38, of Louisville, Kentucky, is married to Ron Pauls granddaughter, Valori Pyeatt. He also had managed the successful 2010 U.S. Senate campaign for Pauls son, Rand Paul, in Kentucky and served as campaign manager for Sen. Mitch McConnells 2014 re-election, but resigned that summer as the investigation intensified in Iowa.

Speaking before the men were sentenced, an Iowa political consultant said the case is a stark reminder to anyone in the early presidential contest states including Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina that theyll be intensely watched and they should follow the rules carefully.

What you might get away with doing in a local state legislative campaigns can get you in really deep serious trouble on a presidential campaign if its exposed, said Craig Robinson, who served on Steve Forbes presidential campaign in 2000, was state GOP director in 2008 and is publisher of the conservative The Iowa Republican blog.

2016 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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Top Ron Paul aide learns fate for 2012 campaign violations …

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Ron Paul aides facing prison time in campaign finance …

Posted: September 20, 2016 at 7:06 pm

DES MOINES, Iowa The chairman of Ron Paul’s 2012 presidential bid was sentenced Tuesday to probation and home confinement rather than prison, and two other top aides were awaiting their sentences for a scheme to cover up campaign payments to a former Iowa state senator who agreed to endorse their boss.

Jesse Benton was sentenced to two years’ probation and six months of home confinement, even though prosecutors were seeking years in federal prison.

He was convicted of conspiracy, causing false campaign contribution reports to be filed to the Federal Election Commission and participating in a false statement scheme.

The campaign’s manager, John Tate, and deputy manager Dimitri Kesari also were convicted. Tate was also scheduled to be sentenced on Tuesday. Kesari’s sentencing is set for Wednesday morning.

The men have argued they broke no laws when they paid a video production company, which passed on $73,000 to former state Sen. Kent Sorenson. He dropped support for Michele Bachmann and endorsed Paul six days before the 2012 Iowa caucuses.

Prosecutors said it is illegal to cause a campaign to file inaccurate spending documents.

The men said they were targeted because of their conservative politics and argued campaigns typically don’t identify payments to subcontractors of vendors.

They are expected to appeal their convictions to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. If the judges rule against the men, they may choose to seek further review of the U.S. Supreme Court.

The three men faced up to 35 years in prison had the judge handed down maximums to be served consecutively.

Benton, 38, of Louisville, Kentucky, is married to Ron Paul’s granddaughter, Valori Pyeatt. He also had managed the successful 2010 U.S. Senate campaign for Paul’s son, Rand Paul, in Kentucky and served as campaign manager for Sen. Mitch McConnell’s 2014 re-election, but resigned that summer as the investigation intensified in Iowa.

Speaking before the men were sentenced, an Iowa political consultant said the case is a stark reminder to anyone in the early presidential contest states including Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina that they’ll be intensely watched and they should follow the rules carefully.

“What you might get away with doing in a local state legislative campaigns can get you in really deep serious trouble on a presidential campaign if it’s exposed,” said Craig Robinson, who served on Steve Forbes’ presidential campaign in 2000, was state GOP director in 2008 and is publisher of the conservative “The Iowa Republican” blog.

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Ron Paul aides facing prison time in campaign finance …

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Should privacy legislation influence how courts interpret the …

Posted: September 18, 2016 at 8:12 am

I recently posted a revised draft of my forthcoming article, The Effect of Legislation on Fourth Amendment Interpretation, and I thought I would blog a bit about it. The article considers a recurring question in Fourth Amendment law: When courts are called on to interpret the Fourth Amendment, and there is privacy legislation on the books that relates to the governments conduct, should the existence of legislation have any effect on how the Fourth Amendment is interpreted? And if it should have an effect, what effect should it have?

I was led to this question by reading a lot of cases in which the issue came up and was answered in very different ways by particularly prominent judges. When I assembled all the cases, I found that judges had articulated three different answers. None of the judges seemed aware that the question had come up in other cases and had been answered differently there. Each of the three answers seemed plausible, and each tapped into important traditions in constitutional interpretation. So you have a pretty interesting situation: Really smart judges were running into the same question and answering it in very different ways, each rooted in substantial traditions, with no one approach predominating and no conversation about which approach was best. It seemed like a fun issue to explore in an article.

In this post Ill summarize the three approaches courts have taken. I call the approaches influence, displacement and independence. For each approach, Ill give one illustrative case. But theres a lot more where that came from: For more details on the three approaches and the cases supporting them, please read the draft article.

1. Influence. In the influence cases, legislation is considered a possible standard for judicial adoption under the Fourth Amendment. The influence cases rest on a pragmatic judgment: If courts must make difficult judgment calls about how to balance privacy and security, and legislatures have done so already in enacting legislation, courts can draw lessons from the thoughtful judgment of a co-equal branch. Investigative legislation provides an important standard for courts to consider in interpreting the Fourth Amendment. Its not binding on courts, but its a relevant consideration.

The Supreme Courts decision in United States v. Watsonis an example of the influence approach. Watson considered whether it is constitutionally reasonable for a postal inspector to make a public arrest for a felony offense based on probable cause but without a warrant. A federal statute expressly authorized such warrantless arrests. The court ruled that the arrests were constitutional without a warrant and that the statute was constitutional. Justice Whites majority opinion relied heavily on deference to Congresss legislative judgment. According to Justice White, the statute authorizing the arrests represents a judgment by Congress that it is not unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment for postal inspectors to arrest without a warrant provided they have probable cause to do so. That judgment was entitled to presumptive deference as the considered judgment of a co-equal branch. Because there is a strong presumption of constitutionality due to an Act of Congress, the court stated, especially when it turns on what is reasonable, then obviously the Court should be reluctant to decide that a search thus authorized by Congress was unreasonable and that the Act was therefore unconstitutional.

2. Displacement. In the displacement cases, the existence of legislation counsels against Fourth Amendment protection that might interrupt the statutory scheme. Because legislatures can often do a better job at balancing privacy and security in new technologies as compared to courts, courts should reject Fourth Amendment protection as long as legislatures are protecting privacy adequately to avoid interfering with the careful work of the legislative branch. The existence of investigative legislation effectively preempts the field and displaces Fourth Amendment protection that may otherwise exist.

Justice Alitos concurrence in Riley v. Californiais an example of the displacement approach. Riley held that the government must obtain a search warrant before searching a cellphone incident to a suspects lawful arrest. Justice Alito concurred, agreeing with the majority only in the absence of adequate legislation regulating cellphone searches. I would reconsider the question presented here, he wrote, if either Congress or state legislatures, after assessing the legitimate needs of law enforcement and the privacy interests of cell phone owners, enact legislation that draws reasonable distinctions based on categories of information or perhaps other variables.

The enactment of investigative legislation should discourage judicial intervention, Justice Alito reasoned, because [l]egislatures, elected by the people, are in a better position than we are to assess and respond to the changes that have already occurred and those that almost certainly will take place in the future. Although Fourth Amendment protection was necessary in the absence of legislation, the enactment of legislation might be reason to withdraw Fourth Amendment protection to avoid the very unfortunate result of federal courts using the blunt instrument of the Fourth Amendment to try to protect privacy in emerging technologies.

3. Independence. In the independence cases, courts treat legislation as irrelevant to the Fourth Amendment. Legislatures are free to supplement privacy protections by enacting statutes, of course. But from the independence perspective, legislation sheds no light on what the Fourth Amendment requires. Courts must independently interpret the Fourth Amendment, and what legislatures have done has no relevance.

An example of independence is Virginia v. Moore, where the Supreme Court decided whether the search incident to a lawful arrest exception incorporates the state law of arrest. Moore was arrested despite a state law saying his crime could not lead to arrest; the question was whether the state law violation rendered the arrest unconstitutional. According to the court, whether state law made the arrest lawful was irrelevant to the Fourth Amendment. It was the courts duty to interpret the Fourth Amendment, and what the legislature decided about when arrests could be made was a separate question. History suggested that the Fourth Amendment did not incorporate statutes. And the states decision of when to make arrests was not based on the Fourth Amendment and was based on other considerations, such as the costs of arrests and whether the legislature valued privacy more than the Fourth Amendment required. Constitutionalizing the state standard would only frustrate the states efforts to achieve those goals, as it would mean los[ing] control of the regulatory scheme and might lead the state to abandon restrictions on arrest altogether. For that reason, the statute regulating the police was independent of the Fourth Amendment standard.

Those are the three approaches. The next question is, which is best? Ill offer some thoughts on that in my next post.

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The Phony Debate About Political Correctness – ThinkProgress

Posted: September 8, 2016 at 6:40 am

CREDIT: DYLAN PETROHILOS/THINKPROGRESS

By Erica Hellerstein and Judd Legum

In 1991, New York Magazine published an influential cover story, titled Are You Politically Correct? The headline was splashed across the glossys front page in bold red and white letters, followed by a list of supposed politically correct questions:

The article opened with what appeared to be a heated exchange between students and a Harvard professor, Stephan Thernstrom, as he made his way through campus. As John Taylor, the author of the piece told it, Thernstrom was anonymously criticized by students in the Harvard Crimson for racial insensitivity in an introductory history course he taught on race relations in America. As word of the criticism spread throughout campus, Thernstrom quickly found himself embroiled in controversyand the target of an angry group of students. The first paragraph describes Thernstroms reaction in vivid detail:

Taylors opening certainly painted a dramatic picture. But there was only one problemit wasnt exactly true. In a 1991 interview with The Nation, Thernstrom himself told reporter Jon Weiner that he was appalled when he first saw the passage. Nothing like that ever happened, he quipped, describing the authors excerpt as artistic license. What eventually happened was perhaps unsurprising: Thernstrom decided not to offer the controversial course again. Although it was a voluntary decision, the professors story soon turned into a famous example of the tyranny of political correctness. The New Republic declared that the professor had been savaged for political correctness in the classroom; the New York Review of Books described his case an illustration of the attack on freedom led by minorities.

These claims ultimately proved to be greatly exaggerated. Weiner tracked down one of the students who complained about Thernstrom; she explained that their goals werent to prevent him from offering the class, but to point out inaccuracies in his lecture. To me, its a big overreaction for him to decide not to teach the course again because of that, she said. A professor of government at Harvard went a step further, concluding that there is no Thernstrom case. Instead, a few student complaints were exaggerated and translated into an attack on freedom of speech by black students. The professor called the episode a marvelous example of the skill of the neocons at taking small events and translating them into weapons against the pluralistic thrust on American campuses.

Back in the 90s, the conversation around political correctness was largely driven by anecdote that could easily be distorted to support a particular point of view. Last year, the same magazine that published Taylors 1991 story returned to the topic, this time publishing a treatise on political correctness by Jonathan Chait. The piece, Not a Very P.C. Thing to Say, describes a resurgence of the P.C. culture that flourished on college campuses in the 90s, even more ubiquitous now thanks to the rise of Twitter and social media. This new movement of political correctness, Chait argues, has assumed a towering presence in the psychic space of politically active people in general and the left in particular. He describes it as: a system of left-wing ideological repression that is antithetical to liberalism itself. P.C. ideology can be seductive to some liberals who can be misled into thinking that this is liberalism, Chait told ThinkProgress. And I think we need to understand that its not.

Its a depiction thats made its way outside of coastal media commentary to rhetoric on the campaign trail. Criticism of the illiberal strain of political correctness has found an eager audience among a range of GOP presidential hopefuls, many of whom readily invoke P.C. as a leftist bogeyman. At a recent Republican Jewish Coalition Conference, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) declared that the politically correct doublespeak from this administration has gone beyond ridiculous.

Cruzs proclamations coincide with a string of recent student protests denouncing institutional racism on college campuses throughout the country. At Yale and Georgetown, students have asked that buildings named after white supremacists and slaveowners be renamed. At Claremont-McKenna College in California, the dean of students resigned after students criticized her response to complaints of racism on campus, and at the University of Missouri, the president resigned from his position after failing to respond to several racist acts against students, including an incident where a student drew a swastika with feces in a university bathroom.

There have also been recent student protests at Amherst, Brandeis, Harvard, Princeton, Dartmouth, and Ithaca College, among others.

The protests have earned plaudits and harsh condemnation. The Atlantic denounced The New Intolerance of Student Activism. On Fox News, Alan Dershowitz claimed that a fog of fascism is descending quickly over many American universities It is the worst kind of hypocrisy. The National Review argued that the notion that students need a safe space is a lie. They arent weak. They dont need protection Why would they debate when theyve proven they can dictate terms? Pathetic.

Others, meanwhile, are quick to point out that these angry responses often come from people who hold more institutional power than the students they critique. Marilyn Edelstein, a professor of English at Santa Clara University who wrote about political correctness in the 90s, said shes been troubled by commentators impulse to dismiss important ideas and and perspectives as simply politically correct.

I think whats going on today is a resurgence of the same kind of fear by privileged white men that other people might have different experiences and legitimate grievances about the way theyre often treated, she explained. A lot of the commentators who are crying, oh political correctness now again are not at risk of actually losing any power. Conservatives are controlling the Congress and Senate and a lot of state houses, and yet they want to mock 18 to 22 year-olds for caring about things like their own experiences of being excluded or made to feel like less-than-welcome members of a college community.

If theres one thing these two camps can agree on, its that censorship does exist on college campuses. But according to those who track incidents of censorship most closely, its impacting students and faculty across the ideological spectrum. Acknowledging the true nature of repression on college campuses is complex and does not neatly fit the narrative of P.C.s detractors, but it shouldnt be ignored. Absent a discussion rooted in reality, we appear condemned to repeat fruitless debate of the 90s.

In The Coddling of the American Mind, a cover story published last year in The Atlantic, Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt examine the climate of censorship and political correctness on college campuses. Something strange is happening at Americas colleges and universities, they begin ominously. A movement is arising, undirected and driven largely by students, to scrub campuses clean of words, ideas, and subjects that might cause discomfort or give offense.

Lukianoff and Haidt describe a number of incidents intended to demonstrate the surge of censorship on college campus. They distinguish the climate on campuses today from that of the 90s, arguing that the current movement is centered around emotional well-being. More than the last, it presumes an extraordinary fragility of the collegiate psyche, and therefore elevates the goal of protecting students from psychological harm.

The authors cite real examples of suppression on campuses, but they blame the rush to censor on students apparent aversion to uncomfortable words and ideas. The ultimate aim, it seems, is to turn campuses into safe spaces where young adults are shielded from words and ideas that make some uncomfortable, they conclude. And more than the last, this movement seeks to punish anyone who interferes with that aim, even accidentally. You might call this impulse vindictive protectiveness. It is creating a culture in which everyone must think twice before speaking up, lest they face charges of insensitivity, aggression, or worse.

This narrative positions censorship as the product of students who seek comfort, coddling, and refuge from challenging ideas. But John K. Wilson, an editor at The Academe Blog and author of the book The Myth of Political Correctness: The Conservative Attack on Higher Education, says that a significant portion of the criticism aimed at students is misguided. Commentators focus on student calls for censorship often ignores the growth of the administrative class, which can have just as profound consequences on speech.

I think that where there is a lot of efforts of repression going on its coming mostly from the administration, Wilson explained. One of the changes that has come about in the structure of higher education in recent decades is you have a dramatic growth in administration. And so you have more and more people whose sort of job is to work for the administration and in many cases suppress controversial activity.

Wilsons point is backed up by the data. The New England Center for Investigative Reporting found that the number of administrative employees at U.S. colleges and universities has more than doubled in the past 25 years. Moreover, the expansion of the administrative class comes as colleges and universities cut full-time tenured faculty positions. According to an in-depth article by Benjamin Ginsberg in the Washington Monthly, between 1998 and 2008, private colleges increased spending on instruction by 22 percent, but hiked spending on administrative and staff support by 36 percent.

Will Creeley, the vice president of legal and public advocacy at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), explained that the growth of college administration has resulted in the creation of new fiefdoms for administrators that previously did not exist. In order to justify their existence, those administrators will occasionally make themselves known by investigating and punishing speech that at public universities is protected by the first amendment or at private universities should be protected by the promises that the university makes about free speech.

As the campus administration expands, there is no doubt that some conservative-leaning voices on university campuses have been censored. Earlier this year, a libertarian student group at Dixie University was blocked from putting up flyers on campus that mocked President Obama, Che Guevara, and former President George W. Bush. At Saint Louis University in 2013, a group of College Republicans was barred from inviting former senator Scott Brown (R-MA) to speak at a campus event over concerns it would jeopardize the schools tax-exempt status. In 2014, the Young Americans for Liberty student group at Boise State University was charged nearly $500 in security fees for a gun-rights event featuring Dick Heller of the Supreme Court guns-rights case D.C. v. Heller.

Then there are examples of suppressed speech deemed hateful or offensive, such as the University of South Carolinas suspension of a student who used a racial slur and the suspension of a student at Texas Christian University for tweets about hoodrat criminals in Baltimore. These instances are where questions involving censorship become more nuanced. For many, the line of acceptable, or even free speech, ends where hate speech begins. The definition of silencing, after all, depends on who you ask. To some, censorship comes in the form of tearing down a xenophobic poster; to others, its the impulse to equate student activism with the desire to be coddled.

But how do you define hate speech? Free speech absolutists say censorship is never the answer to constitutionally protected hate speech, no matter how offensive it may be. There is no legal definition of hate speech that will withstand constitutional scrutiny, Creeley pointed out. The Supreme Court has been clear on this for decades. And that is because of the inherently fluid, subjective boundaries of what would or would not constitute hate speech. One persons hate speech is another persons manifesto. Any attempt to define hate speech will find itself punishing those with minority viewpoints.

Liberals can, and have, gone too far in their calls for suppressing hateful speech. But the excesses of whats been deemed political correctness are not representative of the culture writ large, nor do they signify a broad leftist conspiracy to silence any and all dissenting voices. The reality of censorship on college campuses is more complicatedand less useful to the most vocal critics of political correctness. Left-leaning voices are censored, toothey just rarely seem to provoke the same amount of public outrage and hand-wringing.

When it comes to repression on college campuses, theres really no evidence that theres some left-wing, politically correct attack on freedom of speech, Wilson said. In fact, there are many examples of efforts to repress left-wing speakers and left-wing faculty. Most of the attacks on academic freedom, he explained, especially the effective attacks, come from the right.

You dont have to look far to find examples. Just last week, a professor at Wheaton College in Illinois was fired for claiming that Christians and Muslims worship the same God. Last month, George Washington University barred a student from hanging a Palestinian flag outside his bedroom window. In November, the Huffington Post reported that Missouri state Sen. Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia) attempted to block a graduate student at the University of Missouri from performing research on the impact of abortion restrictions. At the University of South Carolina in 2014, a performance called How to Become a Lesbian in 10 Days was canceled after state legislators expressed concern that it would promote perversion. A professor at the University of Kansas was suspended in 2013 for anti-NRA comments. At the University of Arizona, a professor was fired for conducting research on the effects of marijuana for veterans with PTSD. In 2015, a vegan rights activist at California State Polytechnic University was prevented from handing out flyers about animal abuse on campus. In 2014, campus police blocked students at the University of Toledo from peacefully protesting a lecture by Karl Rove. The same year, adjunct faculty members at St. Charles Community College in St. Louis attempting to unionize were prohibited from gathering petition signatures.

Still, these cases havent really become widely cited or popular talking points. Wilson says thats because conservatives have been more effective at advancing their narrative. The left isnt really organized to tell the stories of oppression on campus and to try to defend students and faculty who face these kind of attacks, he explained. They need the institutional structure out there, organizations that are going to talk about the issues that will counter this media narrative of political correctness thats been around for 25 years now.

Hundreds of years before political correctness made its debut in thinkpieces or the fiery rhetoric of presidential candidates, it appeared in an opinion written by Justice James Wilson in the 1793 Supreme Court case, Chisholm v. Virginia, which upheld the rights of people to sue states. Arguing that people, rather than states, hold the most authority in the country, Wilson claimed that a toast given to the United States was not politically correct. The Justice used the term literally in this context; he felt it was more accurate to use People of the United States.

The Chisholm decision was ultimately overturned and Justice Wilsons phrase slipped into obscurity. Its hard to pinpoint exactly when the expression made a comeback, but, as John K. Wilson outlines in his book, The Myth of Political Correctness, it was mainly used jokingly among liberals in the twentieth century to criticize the excesses and dogma of their own belief system. Professor Roger Geiger wrote that it was a sarcastic reference to adherence to the party line by American communists in the 1930s. Conservatives began to subvert that framing in the 1980s and use it for their own political gain, eventually transforming the term politically correct to political correctness. The latter phrase was used to describe not just a few radical individuals, as politically correct was, but an entire conspiracy of leftists infiltrating the higher education system.

This narrative gained mainstream visibility in the 1990s, but it hadnt come out of the blue. Fears about the radicalization of American universities had been brewing for years. The attacks on colleges and universities that propelled it had been organizing for more than a decade, Wilson wrote. For the conservatives, the 1960s were a frightening period on American campuses; students occupied buildings, faculty mixed radical politics into their classes, administrators acquiesced to their standards, and academic standards fell by the wayside. Conservatives convinced themselves that the 1960s had never ended and that academia was being corrupted by a new generation of tenured radicals.

These concerns eventually found a home in the conservative commentary of the 1980s, of which Wilson provides several examples: A 1983 article in Conservative Digest claiming a Marxist network doling out the heaviest dose of Marxist and leftist propaganda to students had over 13,000 faculty members, a Marxist press that is selling record numbers of radical textbooks and supplementary materials, and a system of helping other Marxist professors receive tenure; philosopher Sidney Hooks proclamation in 1987 that there is less freedom of speech on American campuses today, measured by the tolerance of dissenting views on controversial political issues, than at any other recent period in peacetime in American history; and Secretary of Education William Bennetts assertion in 1988 that some places on campus are becoming increasingly insular and in certain instances even repressive of the spirit of the free marketplace of ideas.

The media soon latched onto this narrative. Many of the articles published were almost uniformly critical of the Left and accepted the conservatives attacks without questioning their accuracy or motives, Wilson wrote. By using a few anecdotes about a few elite universities, conservatives created political correctness in the eyes of the media, and in herdlike fashion journalists raced to condemn the politically correct mob they had discovered in American universities.

Fast-forward 25 years and not much has changed. Back in the 90s, the P.C. buzzwords were speech codes and multiculturalism; now, theyre trigger warnings and microaggressions. Whether or not you agree with microaggressions and trigger warnings, they dont constitute an existential threat to free speech. Just because a person finds them frivolous or unnecessary doesnt mean theyre censorious.

The term microaggression, for example, is often used to highlight subtle biases and prejudices. The point is to open up a dialogue, not to censor students. Nevertheless, microaggressions and trigger warnings are often used as examples of campus illiberalism. Chait wrote that these newly fashionable terms merely repackage a central tenet of the first P.C. movement: that people should be expected to treat even faintly unpleasant ideas or behaviors as full-scale offenses.

But is there any evidence that the P.C. movement on campuses has gotten worse, or even exists at all? We asked Chait how and why he determined that political correctness, once again, was an issue worthy of exploration. He didnt offer any concrete examples. The idea for the story came from my editors, who noticed it, he replied. When I started to research the issue thats when I started to see something happening on campus that at the time wasnt getting that much attention. Now, in the months since, people are starting to pay attention. But I think its happening much more often.

Wilson offered a different take. I dont think theres really a crisis of any kind like this. Things are not that much different than they have been in the past. You have professors who get fired for expressing controversial views on Twitter, you dont have professors getting fired for microaggressions or for failing to give a trigger warning, he said, referring to the Steven Salaita casea professor at the University of Illinois who lost a promised tenured position over tweets that were critical of Israels invasion of Gaza in 2014.

Creeley did say that FIRE has seen an increase in case submissions, but he noted that isnt necessarily an accurate gauge of how much censorship is occurring on campus. He did point out that calls for speech limitations appear to be coming increasingly from students, a trend he described as new and worrying. He added that there seem to be a worrying number of instances where students are asking the authorities to sanction or punish speech that they disagree with, or to implement some kind of training on folks to change viewpoints they disagree with.

But if people who criticize these efforts are genuinely concerned about censorship, they should also worry when it comes from other sides of the political aislenot just when it neatly fits into a caricature of campus liberalism run amok. Creeley said that FIRE was disappointed to find that the case of Hayden Barnes, an environmentalist who was expelled from college for posting a collage against a proposed parking garage online, didnt take off in the media the way that other explicitly partisan cases did. It did not capture the sense of where those kinds of efforts to censor those types of students came from, he said. Its disappointing to me to see free speech be cast in partisan terms because I think that it turns the issue into a much more binary, much less nuanced, and much less thoughtful discussion.

The Missouri state senators proposal to block a students dissertation on the impact of abortion restrictions, for example, would appear to be just the kind of case that raises the ire of free speech proponents. But it doesnt appear to have gained much attention beyond coverage from a few predictably left-leaning sites. Furthermore, neither Chaits nor Haidt and Lukianoffs pieces mention the Salaita case, despite evidence suggesting punitive measures, including administrative sanctions and censorship, have been taken against Palestinian rights activists. A recent report from Palestine Legal and the Center for Constitutional Rights detailed more than 150 incidents of censorship and suppression of Palestinian advocacy in 2014 alone; 89 percent of which targeted students and facultycausing speculation about a Palestine exception to the free speech debate.

ThinkProgress asked Chait about how censorship driven from the right fits into his analysis of political correctness as the province of progressives. I think thats a separate issue than the phenomenon Im describing, he answered. If you look at my original piece, very few of the examples are formal censorship. I think youve got something much deeper which is a bigger problem for people on the left, which is a broken way of arising at truth on race and gender issues. That can happen and does happen in non-censorship ways.

It doesnt take a thorough examination of the medias framing of political correctness to realize that the conversation is fraught and prone to exaggeration. Thats partially due to a lack of research on the topic. Because theres not much data available, anecdotes are often elevated as evidence; people choose the sides that best confirm their preexisting political biases and worldviews. So how does political correctness actually impact creativity? A team of researchers decided to put this question to the test with hundreds of college students.

The researchers randomly divided students in groups of three and asked them to brainstorm ideas for new businesses that could go into a vacant restaurant space on campus. Groups were either all men, all women, or mixed. The control was allowed to start brainstorming ideas immediately, but the test group was asked to take ten minutes to think of examples of political correctness on the college campus. Cornells Jack Goncalo, one of the studys researchers, told ThinkProgress that the primer was their way of making P.C. salient to students in the test group. The control group wasnt asked to talk about P.C., so it wasnt on their minds.

Researchers wanted to challenge the assumption that an anarchy approach to creativity is sort of the only way to go or even the best way to go, Goncalo said. Our argument was that although P.C. is dismissed as being overly controlling and sort of the conservative view is that P.C. is a threat to free speech, we actually predicted that P.C. would provide a framework that would help people understand what the expectations are in a mixed-sex group and would reduce uncertainty. And by reducing uncertainty it would actually make people more comfortable to share a wide range of ideas.

Indeed, the researchers found that the mixed-sex groups instructed to think about political correctness generated more ideas and were more creative than the diverse groups that hadnt received the P.C. primer. But that didnt hold true for the same-sex groups. Groups of all men or all women that were told to think about political correctness ended up being less creative than the control group.

Goncalo said those results suggested that talking about political correctness actually reduced uncertainty among mixed-sex groups, making it easier for men and women to speak up and share their ideas. For diverse groups, P.C. can be a creativity booster.

Until the uncertainty caused by demographic differences can be overcome within diverse groups, the effort to be P.C. can be justified not merely on moral grounds, but also by the practical and potentially profitable consequences of facilitating the exchange of creative ideas, the study concludes.

Unfortunately, there arent many scientific papers on the topic of political correctness. The researchers study appears to be the only one that looks specifically at political correctness, creativity, and group activity. And even then, it wasnt easy to get their research published.

It was an uphill battle, Goncalo said. A lot of academics see the whole term political correctness as a colloquial non-scientific, non-academic thing. We had to push really hard to say this is a legitimate thing. It took the team nine years to publish the reportand when it eventually came out, there was push-back. I got emails from angry people who were really pissed off and actually hadnt read the paper or understood what we did or what found, Goncalo remarked. Just knee-jerk reactions to the whole thing. So it was polarizing as you might expect.

To be sure, their paper is just one study on a topic with limited scientific research. But its conclusions shouldnt be ignored; it raises worthwhile points about the impact of speech constraints and communication among diverse groups. After all, the ongoing conversation about P.C. often relies on anecdotal evidence rather than data. This is part of the reason its subject to such vigorous debatepeople like to tailor the evidence to their worldview, not vice versa.

Goncalo also came to an interesting conclusion about the value assigned to political correctness throughout the course of the study, which took nine years to publish. Were exactly where we were in the 80s and 90s, he noted. And I think what that says is that the word is still meaningful and people are still using it in the same way.

For all of the commentary about campus activism and political correctness, theres one group we rarely hear from: actual college students. ThinkProgress visited students at American University to learn about their impressions of the political correctness conversation taking place. Although the responses were from just a sampling of college students, they were telling.

Students at American University overwhelmingly told ThinkProgress they didnt find political correctness to be a pressing campus problem. Only one student we spoke to equated P.C. with censorship, while the rest of the students we spoke with seemed more concerned about hate speech and racist comments posted in online forums. The students quoted below preferred to be identified by their first names.

Azza, a senior at American University, said that much of the commentary aimed at critiquing political correctness fails to understand the experience of being a minority student on campus. Students of minority backgrounds deal with certain issues, they face certain issues, there are things that affect them differently, and when you enter a learning environment that is hostile towards you, you cant learn, she explained. People who are saying that this is suppressing free speech or that people want to be coddled are actually not at all concerned about free speech. The vast majority of people are concerned with a particular type of discourse being fostered on American universities that reflects their particular understanding of American life and society and values.

Azza used the suppression of Palestinian activism on campuses as an example: No one in these groups who are so supposedly concerned with free speech has said anything about that, because they dont actually care about free speech, she remarked. If they did, theyd be speaking on behalf of Palestinian students. What they care about is just not letting minority voices dominate the discourse by trying to get university administrators to create an environment thats safer.

Mackenzie, a senior at AU who was sitting near Azza in a student cafe, added: Just because [the conversation] is different from when [critics] were in college doesnt mean its wrong and that were being babied. We dont want to be babied, its not that. Were fighting for something that is right.

Other students told ThinkProgress they were unsatisfied with the administrations response to offensive messages posted on Yik Yak, an online platform where students have been known to anonymously post racist content. One of the biggest things thats been going around is the racist speech on Yik Yak, and how as an anonymous platform to spread information about other people its been used to threaten and scare students and make certain students feel unsafe, another student, who did not share her name, explained. Hate speech is not free speech. Once that the language that you use infringes on another students ability to feel safe on campus and to feel that theyre allowed to come to class without feeling threatened, that isnt free speech because youre taking someone elses rights away.

Marlise, a junior at AU, said she has encountered students who abuse the system. They use the trigger warnings if they dont want to hear the other side of things, or if they dont agree with something. I think that people on the outside appear to stand in solidarity with Mizzou but theres always going to be those people that say I dont want to hear the other side. Still, she agreed that the content posted on Yik Yak is a big issue.

Students also said that criticisms of political correctness are often underpinned by racial insensitivities on campus. Jendelly, a sophomore at AU of Dominican descent, said she feels as though there is a racially divided hierarchy on campus. My dad works for the county and he works alongside the mayor, she said. And a lot of people who hold those high positions in our town are white. But theyve never made us feel like were second to them or were three-quarters of a person. Coming here, in this school, I do feel like were placed in a hierarchy. And I feel like when I see a white person its like, oh I have to step up my game to reach their level. And I shouldnt have to feel like that.

Its unclear what the multi-decade debate over political correctness has accomplished in aggregate. But there is one group of people who find it incredibly useful: Republican politicians.

The use of the term political correctness, particularly in the Republican presidential primary, does not have a specific definition. Rather it functions like a swiss army knifeit is the answer to every kind of issue that a candidate might confront. Its a get out of jail free card for bigotry, sexism and lying.

When Fox News Megyn Kelly confronted Donald Trump in an August GOP debate with a litany of sexist attacks he made against women, he had a ready answer. I think the big problem this country has is being politically correct. Ive been challenged by so many people, and I dont frankly have time for total political correctness. And to be honest with you, this country doesnt have time either, Trump said. The audience applauded.

Trump loves to rail against political correctness on Twitter. He argues that our country has become so politically correct that it has lost all sense of direction or purpose. For example, he is not able to use the word thug without criticism.

Ted Cruz goes a step further. Political correctness is killing us, he argued during a Republican debate in December. On his website, Cruz blames political correctness for 9/11.

Cruz also finds political correctness useful for collecting email addresses.

Ben Carson tweeted that we should #StoPP funding political correctness and PlannedParenthood. What does funding for Planned Parenthood have to do with political correctness? He doesnt really explain, except to say that political correctness is making us amoral.

Carson also uses political correctness to justify his opposition to Obamacare and accepting Syrian refugees.

Confronted with criticism for saying that a Muslim should not be presidenta religious test that would violate the constitutionCarson replied that political correctness is ruining our country.

Why are these candidates so quick to point out instances of political correctness? Like a lot of things politicians talk about, it polls very well. A recent poll found that 68 percent of Americans, and 81 percent of Republicans agreed that A big problem this country has is being politically correct. Even among Democrats, 62 percent agreed.

Poll numbers like these have a snowball effect. The more popular the message, the more politicians will talk about it or use it as a way to divert the conversation away from more troublesome topics. The more politicians talk about political correctness, the more Americans will believe its a big problem. Rinse and repeat.

Is Chait, a liberal who regularly blasts Republican candidates as extreme and incompetent, concerned that political correctness has been co-opted to justify the ugliest aspects of American political life? Not really.

I think its always been misused by conservatives [liberals should] ignore the way that conservatives talk about this phenomenon, completely. And lets just have a debate among people who are left of center Conservatives are trying to interject themselves into it, Chait said.

This might be what Chait prefers but, on a practical level, the far-right has captured the bulk of the conversation about political correctness. Articles by Chait, while purportedly for the left, are promoted voraciously by the right to bolster the argument about political correctness on their terms, not his.

While the exploitation of the term political correctness by Republicans is, on the surface, problematic for liberals, it also serves an important function. Many people on the left prefer to think of themselves as open-minded and not captured by a particular political party or ideology. But over the past several years, the Republican party has tacked hard right. The policies embraced by Republicansincluding a harsh crackdown on immigrants, massive tax cuts for the wealthy and the destruction of critical environmental protectionshave left little substantive common ground with liberals.

By embracing criticisms of political correctness, liberal commentators are able to do something that is somewhat ideologically unexpected, while avoiding embracing substantive policies they might find intensely destructive. Its a painless way to demonstrate intellectual independence.

Bill Maher, a self-described liberal firebrand with his own show on HBO, has touted himself as politically incorrect for years. It makes his show more appealing to a broader audience and allows him an easy way to respond to charges of racism, sexism and other controversies that have plagued his career.

Concluding his piece in New York Magazine, Chait claims that the P.C. style of politics has one serious, fatal drawback: It is exhausting. There is certainly some truth to this. But the debate about political correctness is just as exhausting: Thirty years later, weve broken no new ground.

At its core, the P.C. debate is about something meaningful. It is a discussion about how people should treat each other. The language we use to define it may change, but the conversation will keep going. Still, after more than three decades of repeating the same arguments, perhaps its time to recognize that the current iteration of this discussion has run its course.

A new debate could rely less on anecdote and more on actual data. It could be less about protecting rhetorical preferences and more about prohibiting actual censorship. It could dispense with political grandstanding and become more grounded in reality, without the apocalyptic and shallow narratives.

The end of the phony debate about political correctness will not be the end of the debate about political correctness. But it could be the beginning of something better.

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Euthanasia in the United States – Wikipedia, the free …

Posted: August 29, 2016 at 7:47 am

Euthanasia is illegal in most of the United States. Physician aid in dying (PAD), or assisted suicide, is legal in the states of Washington, Oregon, California, and Vermont;[1] its status is disputed in Montana. The key difference between euthanasia and PAD is who administers the lethal dose of medication: Euthanasia entails the physician or another third party administering the medication, whereas PAD requires the patient to self-administer the medication and to determine whether and when to do this.[citation needed] Attempts to legalize PAD resulted in ballot initiatives and “legislation bills” within the United States of America in the last 20 years. For example, the state of Washington voters saw Ballot Initiative 119 in 1991, the state of California placed Proposition 161 on the ballot in 1992, Oregon voters passed Measure 16 (Death with Dignity Act) in 1994, the state of Michigan included Proposal B in their ballot in 1998, and Washington’s Initiative 1000 passed in 2008. Vermont’s state legislature passed a bill making PAD legal in May 2013. However, on May 31, 2013, Maine rejected a similar bill within its state legislature (95-13).[citation needed]

Debates about the ethics of euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide date from ancient Greece and Rome. After the development of ether, physicians began advocating the use of anesthetics to relieve the pain of death. In 1870, Samuel Williams first proposed using anesthetics and morphine to intentionally end a patient’s life. Over the next 35 years, debates about euthanasia raged in the United States which resulted in an Ohio bill to legalize euthanasia in 1906, a bill that was ultimately defeated.[2]

Euthanasia advocacy in the U.S. peaked again during the 1930s and diminished significantly during and after World War II. Euthanasia efforts were revived during the 1960s and 1970s, under the right-to-die rubric, physician assisted death in liberal bioethics, and through advance directives and do not resuscitate orders.

Several major court cases advanced the legal rights of patients, or their guardians, to practice at least voluntary passive euthanasia (physician assisted death). These include the Karen Ann Quinlan (1976), Brophy and Nancy Cruzan cases. More recent years have seen policies fine-tuned and re-stated, as with Washington v. Glucksberg (1997) and the Terri Schiavo case. The numerous legislative rulings and legal precedents that were brought about in the wake of the Quinlan case had their ethical foundation in the famous 1983 report completed by the Presidents Commission for the Study of Ethical Problems in Medicine, under the title “Deciding to Forgo Life-Sustaining Treatment” (Angell, Marcia. “How to Die in Massachusetts.” The New York Review of Books. 21 February 2013: 60.3. Web. 14 Jul. 2014.). The Commission sustained in its findings that it was morally acceptable to give up a life-supporting therapy and that withholding or withdrawing such a therapy is the same thing from an ethical stand-point, while artificial feeding and other life-supporting therapy are of the same importance for the patients and doctors. Before this report, to withdraw a medical therapy was regarded as much more serious decision than not to start a therapy at all, while artificial feeding was viewed as a special treatment. By 1990, barely a decade and a half after the New Jersey Supreme Courts historic decision, patients were well aware that they could decline any form of medical therapy if they simply choose to do that either directly or by expressing their wish via appointed representative.

In a 2004 article in the Bulletin of the History of Medicine, Brown University historian Jacob M. Appel documented extensive political debate over legislation to legalize physician-assisted suicide in both Iowa and Ohio in 1906. The driving force behind this movement was social activist Anna S. Hall. Canadian historian Ian Dowbiggen’s 2003 book, A Merciful End, revealed the role that leading public figures, including Clarence Darrow and Jack London, played in advocating for the legalization of euthanasia.

In the 1983 case of Barber v. Superior Court, two physicians had honored a family’s request to withdraw both respirator and intravenous feeding and hydration tubes from a comatose patient. The physicians were charged with murder, despite the fact that they were doing what the family wanted. The court held that all charges should be dropped because the treatments had all been ineffective and burdensome. Withdrawal of treatment, even if life-ending, is morally and legally permitted. Competent patients or their surrogates can decide to withdraw treatments, usually after the treatments are found ineffective, painful, or burdensome.[3]

The California legislature passed a bill legalizing physician-assisted suicide in September 2015, and the bill was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown on October 5, 2015. [4] The law went into effect in June 2016.[5]

On May 31, 2013, the Maine state legislature rejected decriminalization of physician assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia (95-43).

On December 5, 2009, state District Court judge Dorothy McCarter ruled in favor of a terminally ill Billings resident who had filed a lawsuit with the assistance of Compassion & Choices, a patient rights group. The ruling states that competent, terminally ill patients have the right to self-administer lethal doses of medication as prescribed by a physician. Physicians who prescribe such medications will not face legal punishment.[6] On December 31, 2009, the Montana Supreme Court delivered its verdict in the case of Baxter v. Montana. The court held that there was “nothing in Montana Supreme Court precedent or Montana statutes indicating that physician aid in dying is against public policy,” although prosecutions under the state’s assisted suicide statute are still possible.

In the United States legal and ethical debates about euthanasia became more prominent in the case of Karen Ann Quinlan who went into a coma after allegedly mixing tranquilizers with alcohol, surviving biologically for 9 years in a “persistent vegetative state” even after the New Jersey Supreme Court approval to remove her from a respirator. This case caused a widespread public concern about “lives not worth living” and the possibility of at least voluntary euthanasia if it could be ascertained that the patient would not have wanted to live in this condition.[7]

Measure 16 in 1994 established the Oregon Death with Dignity Act, which legalizes physician-assisted dying with certain restrictions, making Oregon the first U.S. state and one of the first jurisdictions in the world to officially do so. The measure was approved in the 8 November 1994 general election in a tight race with the final tally showing 627,980 votes (51.3%) in favor, and 596,018 votes (48.7%) against.[8] The law survived an attempted repeal in 1997, which was defeated at the ballot by a 60% vote.[9] In 2005, after several attempts by lawmakers at both the state and federal level to overturn the Oregon law, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled 6-3 to uphold the law after hearing arguments in the case of Gonzales v. Oregon.

In 1999, the state of Texas passed the Advance Directives Act. Under the law, in some situations, Texas hospitals and physicians have the right to withdraw life support measures, such as mechanical respiration, from terminally ill patients when such treatment is considered to be both futile and inappropriate. This is sometimes referred to as “passive euthanasia”.

In 2005, a six-month-old infant, Sun Hudson, with a uniformly fatal disease thanatophoric dysplasia, was the first patient in which “a United States court has allowed life-sustaining treatment to be withdrawn from a pediatric patient over the objections of the child’s parent.”[10]

In 2008, the electorate of the state of Washington voted in favor of Initiative 1000 which made assisted suicide legal in the state through the Washington Death with Dignity Act.

On May 20, 2013, Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin signed a legislative bill making PAD legal in Vermont.

Attempts to legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide resulted in ballot initiatives and legislation bills within the United States in the last 20 years. For example, Washington voters saw Ballot Initiative 119 in 1991, California placed Proposition 161 on the ballot in 1992, Oregon passed the Death with Dignity Act in 1994, and Michigan included Proposal B in their ballot in 1998. Despite the earlier failure, in November 2008 physician-assisted dying was approved in Washington by Initiative 1000.

In 2000, Maine voters defeated a referendum to legalize physician-assisted suicide. The proposal was defeated by a 51%-49% margin.

Reflecting the religious and cultural diversity of the United States, there is a wide range of public opinion about euthanasia and the right-to-die movement in the United States. During the past 30 years, public research shows that views on euthanasia tend to correlate with religious affiliation and culture, though not gender.

In one recent study dealing primarily with Christian denominations such as Southern Baptists, Pentecostals, and Evangelicals and Catholics tended to be opposed to euthanasia. Moderate Protestants, (e.g., Lutherans and Methodists) showed mixed views concerning end of life decisions in general. Both of these groups showed less support than non-affiliates, but were less opposed to it than conservative Protestants. Respondents that did not affiliate with a religion were found to support euthanasia more than those who did. The liberal Protestants (including some Presbyterians and Episcopalians) were the most supportive. In general, liberal Protestants affiliate more loosely with religious institutions and their views were not similar to those of non-affiliates. Within all groups, religiosity (i.e., self-evaluation and frequency of church attendance) also correlated to opinions on euthanasia. Individuals who attended church regularly and more frequently and considered themselves more religious were found to be more opposed to euthanasia than to those who had a lower level of religiosity.[11]

Recent studies have shown white Americans to be more accepting of euthanasia than black Americans. They are also more likely to have advance directives and to use other end-of-life measures.[12] Black Americans are almost 3 times more likely to oppose euthanasia than white Americans. Some speculate that this discrepancy is due to the lower levels of trust in the medical establishment.[13] Select researchers believe that historical medical abuses towards minorities (such as the Tuskegee Syphilis Study) have made minority groups less trustful of the level of care they receive. One study also found that there are significant disparities in the medical treatment and pain management that white Americans and other Americans receive.[14]

Among black Americans, education correlates to support for euthanasia. Black Americans without a four-year degree are twice as likely to oppose euthanasia than those with at least that much education. Level of education, however, does not significantly influence other racial groups in the US. Some researchers suggest that black Americans tend to be more religious, a claim that is difficult to substantiate and define.[13] Only black and white Americans have been studied in extensive detail. Although it has been found that minority groups are less supportive of euthanasia than white Americans, there is still some ambiguity as to what degree this is true.

A recent Gallup Poll found that 84% of males supported euthanasia compared to 64% of females.[15] Some cite the prior studies showing that women have a higher level of religiosity and moral conservatism as an explanation. Within both sexes, there are differences in attitudes towards euthanasia due to other influences. For example, one study found that black American women are 2.37 times more likely to oppose euthanasia than white American women. Black American men are 3.61 times more likely to oppose euthanasia than white American men.[16]

In “Gender, Feminism, and Death: Physician-Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia” Susan M. Wolf warns of the gender disparities if euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide were legal. Wolf highlights four possible gender effects: higher incidence of women than men dying by physician-assisted suicide; more women seeking physician-assisted suicide or euthanasia for different reasons than men; physicians granting or refusing requests for assisted suicide or euthanasia because of the gender of the patient; gender affecting the broad public debate by envisioning a woman patient when considering the debate.[17]

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Seychelles | history – geography | Britannica.com

Posted: August 27, 2016 at 7:22 pm

Alternate Title: Republic of Seychelles

Seychelles

National anthem of Seychelles

Seychelles, island republic in the western Indian Ocean, comprising about 115 islands. The islands are home to lush tropical vegetation, beautiful beaches, and a wide variety of marine life. Situated between latitudes 4 and 11 S and longitudes 46 and 56 E, the major islands of Seychelles are located about 1,000 miles (1,600 km) east of Kenya and about 700 miles (1,100 km) northeast of Madagascar. The capital, Victoria, is situated on the island of Mah.

Seychelles, one of the worlds smallest countries, is composed of two main island groups: the Mah group of more than 40 central, mountainous granitic islands and a second group of more than 70 outer, flat, coralline islands. The islands of the Mah group are rocky and typically have a narrow coastal strip and a central range of hills. The overall aspect of those islands, with their lush tropical vegetation, is that of high hanging gardens overlooking silver-white beaches and clear lagoons. The highest point in Seychelles, Morne Seychellois (2,969 feet [905 metres]), situated on Mah, is located within this mountainous island group. The coralline islands, rising only a few feet above sea level, are flat with elevated coral reefs at different stages of formation. These islands are largely waterless, and very few have a resident population.

The climate is tropical oceanic, with little temperature variation during the year. Daily temperatures rise to the mid-80s F (low 30s C) in the afternoon and fall to the low 70s F (low 20s C) at night. Precipitation levels vary greatly from island to island; on Mah, annual precipitation ranges from 90 inches (2,300 mm) at sea level to 140 inches (3,560 mm) on the mountain slopes. Humidity is persistently high but is ameliorated somewhat in locations windward of the prevailing southeast trade winds.

Of the roughly 200 plant species found in Seychelles, some 80 are unique to the islands, including screw pines (see pandanus), several varieties of jellyfish trees, latanier palms, the bois rouge, the bois de fer, Wrights gardenia, and the most famous, the coco de mer. The coco de merwhich is found on only two islandsproduces a fruit that is one of the largest and heaviest known and is valued by a number of Asian cultures for believed aphrodisiac, medicinal, mystic, and other properties. The Seychellois government closely monitors the quantity and status of the trees, and, although commerce is regulated to prevent overharvesting, poaching is a concern.

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Wildlife includes a remarkably diverse array of marine life, including more than 900 identified species of fish; green sea turtles and giant tortoises also inhabit the islands. Endemic species include birds such as Seychelles bulbuls and cave-dwelling Seychelles swiftlets; several species of local tree frogs, snails, and wormlike caecilians; Seychelles wolf snakes and house snakes; tiger chameleons; and others. Endemic mammals are few; both fruit bats (Pteropus seychellensis) and Seychelles sheath-tailed bats (Coleura seychellensis) are endemic to the islands. Indian mynahs, barn owls, and tenrecs (small shrewlike or hedgehoglike mammals introduced from Madagascar) are also found.

Considerable efforts have been made to preserve the islands marked biodiversity. Seychelles government has established several nature preserves and marine parks, including the Aldabra Islands and Valle de Mai National Park, both UNESCO World Heritage sites. The Aldabra Islands, a large atoll, are the site of a preserve inhabited by tens of thousands of giant tortoises, the worlds oldest living creatures, which government conservation efforts have helped rescue from the brink of extinction. Valle de Mai National Park is the only place where all six of the palm species endemic to Seychelles, including the coco de mer, may be found together. Cousin Island is home to a sanctuary for land birds, many endemic to the islands, including the Seychelles sunbird (a type of hummingbird) and the Seychelles brush warbler. The nearby Cousine Island is part private resort and part nature preserve, noted for its sea turtles, giant tortoises, and assorted land birds. Bird Island is the breeding ground for millions of terns, turtle doves, shearwaters, frigate birds, and other seabirds that flock there each year.

The original French colonists on the previously uninhabited islands, along with their black slaves, were joined in the 19th century by deportees from France. Asians from China, India, and Malaya (Peninsular Malaysia) arrived later in smaller numbers. Widespread intermarriage has resulted in a population of mixed descent.

Creole, also called Seselwa, is the mother tongue of most Seychellois. Under the constitution, Creole, English, and French are recognized as national languages.

More than four-fifths of the population are Roman Catholics. There are also Anglicans, Christians of other denominations, Hindus, and Muslims.

More than four-fifths of the population live on Mah, many of them in the capital city, Victoria. The birth and death rates, as well as the annual population growth rate, are below the global average. Some one-fourth of the population are younger than age 15, and about one-half are under age 30. Life expectancy for both men and women is significantly higher than the global average.

Seychelles has a mixed, developing economy that is heavily dependent upon the service sector in general and the tourism industry in particular. Despite continued visible trade deficits, the economy has experienced steady growth. The gross domestic product (GDP) is growing more rapidly than the population. The gross national income (GNI) per capita is significantly higher than those found in most nearby continental African countries.

Agriculture accounts for only a fraction of the GDP and employs an equally modest proportion of the workforce. Arable land is limited and the soil is generally poorand the country remains dependent upon imported foodstuffsbut copra (from coconuts), cinnamon bark, vanilla, tea, limes, and essential oils are exported. Seychelles has a modern fishing industry that supplies both domestic and foreign markets; canned tuna is a particularly important product. The extraction of guano for export is also an established economic activity.

The countrys growing manufacturing sectorwhich has expanded to account for almost one-sixth of the total GDPis composed largely of food-processing plants; production of alcoholic beverages and of soft drinks is particularly significant. Animal feed, paint, and other goods are also produced.

Seychelles sizable trade deficit is offset by income from the tourism industry and from aid and investment. Although the countrys relative prosperity has not made it a preferred aid recipient, it does receive assistance from the World Bank, the European Union, the African Development Bank, and a variety of contributing countries, and aid obtained per capita is relatively high. The Central Bank of Seychelles, located in Victoria, issues the official currency, the Seychelles rupee.

Seychelles main imports are petroleum products, machinery, and foodstuffs. Canned tuna, copra, frozen fish, and cinnamon are the most important exports, together with the reexport of petroleum products. Significant trade partners include France, the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, and Germany.

The service sector accounts for nearly four-fifths of the GDP and employs the largest proportion of the workforce, almost three-fourths of all labourers. After the opening of an international airport on Mah in 1971, the tourism industry grew rapidly, and at the beginning of the 21st century it provided almost one-fourth of the total GDP. Each year Seychelles draws thousands of tourists, many attracted by the islands magnificent venues for scuba diving, surfing, windsurfing, fishing, swimming, and sunbathing. The warm southeasterly trade winds offer ideal conditions for sailing, and the waters around Mah and the other islands are afloat with small boats.

The majority of Seychelles roadways are paved, most of which are on the islands of Mah and Praslin; there are no railroads. Ferry services operate between the islandsfor example, linking Victoria with destinations that include Praslin and La Digue. Air service is centred on Seychelles International Airport, located near Victoria on Mah, and the smaller airports and airstrips found on several islands. Seychelles has air connections with a number of foreign cities and direct flights to major centres that include London, Paris, Frankfurt, Rome, and Bangkok. Scheduled domestic flights, provided by Air Seychelles, chiefly offer service between Mah and Praslin, although chartered flights elsewhere are also available. The tsunami that reached Seychelles in 2004 damaged portions of the transportation infrastructure, including the road linking Victoria with the international airport.

Telecommunications infrastructure in Seychelles is quite developed. The country has a high rate of cellular telephone useamong the highest in sub-Saharan Africaand, at the beginning of the 21st century, the use of personal computers in Seychelles was several times the average for the region.

Under the 1993 constitution, Seychelles is a republic. The head of state and government is the president, who is directly elected by popular vote and may hold office for up to three consecutive five-year terms. Members of the National Assembly serve five-year terms. A majority of the available National Assembly seats are filled by direct election; a smaller portion are distributed on a proportional basis to those parties that win a minimum of one-tenth of the vote. The president appoints a Council of Ministers, which acts as an advisory body. The country is divided into more than 20 administrative divisions.

The Seychellois judiciary includes a Court of Appeal, a Supreme Court, and Magistrates Courts; the Constitutional Court is a branch of the Supreme Court.

Suffrage is universal; Seychellois are eligible to vote at age 17. Women participate actively in the government of the country and have held numerous posts, including positions in the cabinet and a proportion of seats in the National Assembly.

The Peoples Party (formerly the Seychelles Peoples Progressive Front) was the sole legal party from 1978 until 1991. It is still the countrys primary political party, but other parties are also active in Seychellois politics, including the New Democratic Party (formerly the Seychelles Democratic Party), the Seychelles National Party, and the Seychelles Movement for Democracy.

Seychelles defense forces are made up of an army, a coast guard (including naval and airborne wings), and a national guard. There is no conscription; military service is voluntary, and individuals are generally eligible at age 18 (although younger individuals may serve with parental consent).

In general, homes play a highly visible part in maintaining traditional Seychellois life. Many old colonial houses are well preserved, although corrugated iron roofs have generally replaced the indigenous palm thatch. Groups tend to gather on the verandahs of their houses, which are generally recognized as social centres.

The basis of the school system is a free, compulsory, 10-year public school education. Education standards have risen steadily, and nearly all children of primary-school age attend school. The countrys first university, the University of Seychelles, began accepting students in 2009. The literacy rate in Seychelles is significantly higher than the regional and global averages for both men and women.

Seychellois culture has been shaped by a combination of European, African, and Asian influences. The main European influence is French, recognizable in Seselwa, the Creole language that is the lingua franca of the islands, and in Seychellois food and religion; the French introduced Roman Catholicism, the religion of the majority of the islanders. African influence is revealed in local music and dance as well as in Seselwa. Asian elements are evident in the islands cuisine but are particularly dominant in business and trade.

Holidays observed in Seychelles include Liberation Day, which commemorates the anniversary of the 1977 coup, on June 5; National Day, June 18; Independence Day, June 29; the Feast of the Assumption, August 15; All Saints Day, November 1; the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, December 8; and Christmas, December 25.

Because of the exorbitant expense of the large and lavish wedding receptions that are part of Seychellois tradition, many couples never marry; instead, they may choose to live en mnage, achieving a de facto union by cohabitating without marriage. There is little or no social stigma related to living en mnage, and the arrangement is recognized by the couples family and friends. The instance of couples living en mnage increases particularly among lower income groups.

Dance plays an important role in Seychellois society. Both the sga and the moutya, two of the most famous dances performed in Seychelles, mirror traditional African customs. The sensual dances blend religion and social relations, two elements central to African life. The complicated and compelling dance movements were traditionally carried out under moonlight to the beat of African drums. Dances were once regular events in village halls, but these have largely died out in recent years; now dances take place in modern nightclubs.

Seychellois enjoy participating in and watching several team sports. The national stadium, located in Victoria, offers a year-round program of events. Mens and womens volleyball are popular, and several Seychellois players and referees participate at the international level. Football (soccer) is also a favourite, and Seychellois teams frequently travel to East Africa and India to play in exhibition matches and tournaments. The Seychelles national Olympic committee was established in 1979 and was recognized that year by the International Olympic Committee. The country made its official Olympic debut at the 1980 Moscow Games, but its first Olympic athlete was Henri Dauban de Silhouette, who competed for Great Britain in the javelin throw at the 1924 Paris Games.

Much of the countrys radio, television, and print media is under government control. There are several independent publications, including Seychelles Weekly and Vizyon.

The islands were known by traders from the Persian Gulf centuries ago, but the first recorded landing on the uninhabited Seychelles was made in 1609 by an expedition of the British East India Company. The archipelago was explored by the Frenchman Lazare Picault in 1742 and 1744 and was formally annexed to France in 1756. The archipelago was named Schelles, later changed by the British to Seychelles. War between France and Britain led to the surrender of the archipelago to the British in 1810, and it was formally ceded to Great Britain by the Treaty of Paris in 1814. The abolition of slavery in the 1830s deprived the islands European colonists of their labour force and compelled them to switch from raising cotton and grains to cultivating less-labour-intensive crops such as coconut, vanilla, and cinnamon. In 1903 Seychellesuntil that time administered as a dependency of Mauritiusbecame a separate British crown colony. A Legislative Council with elected members was introduced in 1948.

In 1963 the United States leased an area on the main island, Mah, and built an air force satellite tracking station there; this brought regular air travel to Seychelles for the first time, in the form of a weekly seaplane shuttle that operated from Mombasa, Kenya.

In 1970 Seychelles obtained a new constitution, universal adult suffrage, and a governing council with an elected majority. Self-government was granted in 1975 and independence in 1976, within the Commonwealth of Nations. In 1975 a coalition government was formed with James R. Mancham as president and France-Albert Ren as prime minister. In 1977, while Mancham was abroad, Ren became president in a coup dtat led by the Seychelles Peoples United Party (later restyled the Seychelles Peoples Progressive Front [SPPF], from 2009 the Peoples Party [Parti Lepep]).

In 1979 a new constitution transformed Seychelles into a one-party socialist state, with Rens SPPF designated the only legal party. This change was not popular with many Seychellois, and during the 1980s there were several coup attempts. Faced with mounting pressure from the countrys primary sources of foreign aid, Rens administration began moving toward more democratic rule in the early 1990s, with the return of multiparty politics and the promulgation of a new constitution. The country also gradually abandoned its socialist economy and began to follow market-based economic strategies by privatizing most parastatal companies, encouraging foreign investment, and focusing efforts on marketing Seychelles as an offshore business and financial hub. As Seychelles entered the 21st century, the SPPF continued to dominate the political scene. After the return of multiparty elections, Ren was reelected three times before eventually resigning in April 2004 to allow Vice Pres. James Michel to succeed him as president.

In late 2004 some of the islands were hit by a tsunami, which severely damaged the environment and the countrys economy. The economy was an important topic in the campaigning leading up to the presidential election of 2006, in which Michel emerged with a narrow victory to win his first elected term. He was reelected in 2011. One of Michels ongoing concerns was piracy in the Indian Ocean, which had surged since 2009 and threatened the countrys fishing and tourism industries. To that end, the Seychellois government worked with several other countries and international organizations to curb the illegal activity.

In October 2015 Michel called for an early presidential election, rather than wait until it was due in 2016. Michel was standing for his third term, again representing the Peoples Party. The election was held December 35, 2015. For the first time since the return of multiparty politics in 1993, the Peoples Partys candidate did not win outright in the first round of voting. Michel garnered 47.76 percent of the vote; his nearest challenger was Wavel Ramkalawan of the Seychelles National Party (SNP), who took 33.93 percent. Ramkalawan was an Anglican priest who was the leader of the SNP and had run for president in previous elections. The runoff election was held December 1618. On December 19 Michel was declared the winner by a very narrow margin, taking 50.15 percent of the vote, with only 193 votes between him and Ramkalawan. Michel was quickly sworn in the next day for his third term. Ramkalawan voiced allegations of voting irregularities and asked for a recount.

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Second Amendment: How Does It Work? Left Has No Idea

Posted: August 23, 2016 at 9:21 am

I genuinely want to be done with defending the Second Amendment from theregular barrage of its historically illiterate and inept detractorsthe people who say this amendment protects only the right of the militia to own weapons.

One friend and fellow gun rights activist said its best to just ignore such people, in the same way that you might ignore people who say triangles have four sides or that the Sun orbits the Earth. It is tempting to just stop engaging the dopeswho simply refuse to consider basic, objective historical facts.

But I actually think this might be a bad strategy, as it may allow the debunked and nonsensical militia reading of the Second Amendment to gain ground. With a Hillary Clinton presidency and Supreme Court on the way, we need an American population that is historically knowledgeable. That means fighting back against the corruption of American knowledge.

Anti-gun folks will cheerfully exploit (and in many cases encourage) the ignorance of the American body politic to get what they want. It is important to push back against that wherever and whenever possible. By way of example: at the Huffington Post this week, Daryl Sneath, a recreational grammarian, is trying very hard totake advantage of American historical ignorance:

One of those things [the Framers]knew about is the comma, the only purpose of which is clarity. Doubtless the writers were acutely aware of this grammatical truism (despite their apparent affinity for complex diction) when they drew their collective stylus southward (certainly aware too of that symbolic direction) making the little mark immediately following the phrasethe right of the people to keep and bear arms. As such, the subject of the predicateshall not be infringedis clearly notthe right of the people. No subject is ever separated from its predicate by a comma alone. Put more plainly, the principal clause (or declaration) of the whole amendment is this:A well regulated militia shall not be infringed.The middle bit modifies the main.

Leaving aside the dubious grammatical reading, as well as the utter travesty of ahistorical non-engagement with contemporaneous eighteenth- and nineteenth-century primary sources, just marvel at this: A well regulated militia shall not be infringed. What would such a right evenmeanin the context of extant constitutional structure and precedent? It would actually meannothing.

Sneath seems to suggest that the Second Amendment provides some sort of bulwark to protect state militias against congressional infringement. But this is objectively, factually false: Congress hascompletecontrol over state militiasthe federal governmentcan organize and abolish the militiawhenever itfeels like it, and for whatever reasonand no serious historical scholar has ever suggested that the Second Amendment somehow circumscribes this congressional power in any way. Put another way: Sneath is implying that the Second Amendment prohibits Congress from doingthe very thing Congress is fully empowered to do.

I am genuinely curious: is there any other constitutional right, or any other constitutional amendment, that is so consistently and so aggressively handled with such base and inexcusable stupidity, on so regular a basis, and on such an industrial scale?I am not sure. You dont usually see arguments of this idiotic magnitude when it comes to, say, the Fourth Amendment, or the Sixth. You certainly see dumb interpretations of the First Amendment, but thats usually a matter ofdegree, notkind:you will have people arguing that the First Amendment doesnt protect hate speech, for instance, but nobody ever argues that the First Amendment only applies to state governments, say, rather than to individual members of the body politic.

Only the Second Amendment is subject to such illiterate and ahistorical analyses. Onceyou realizethat, you can fully graspwhy: many people simply do not like guns, and they will lieor else keep themselves deliberately ignorantto prevent other people from having them.

This is not an isolated incident: anti-gun folks are very happy to resort to falsehoods to advance their cause. Recently the National Rifle Association put out an ad that claims Hillary Clinton doesnt believe in your right to keep a gun at home for self-defense. This is entirely true, but Glenn Kessler over at the Washington Post calls it false:

Clinton has said that she disagreed with the Supreme Courts decision inHeller, but she has made no proposals that would strip Americans of the right to keep a gun at home for self-defense. Clinton is certainly in favor of more gun regulations and tougher background checks, and a more nuanced ad could have made this case.Conjuring up a hypothetical Supreme Court justice ruling in a hypothetical case is simply not enough for such a sweeping claim.That tips the ads claim into the Four-Pinocchio category.

This is just a shameless mess.As I have argued before, Clintons disagreement with the Supreme Courts ruling inHelleris anunequivocal rejection of the right to keep a gun at home for self-defense.That is the very rightHellerdecided in favor of!To be againstHelleris to be against the individual right to own firearms. This is not up for debate.

Now, Clinton claims she merely disagrees withHellerinsofar as she believes cities and states should have the power to craft common-sense laws to keep their residents safe. But this is nonsense:Hellernot onlyallows for such laws, itexplicitly authorizes them.Given that Hillarys justification for opposingHelleris meaningless, we must assume she opposes it for its core substancenamely, that it affirms the individual right codified in the Second Amendment.

In other words, Hillary Clinton wants to take your guns away. Shes been honest about it; why cant our fact checkers?

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Second Amendment: How Does It Work? Left Has No Idea

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Trump foes miss the mark on Clinton’s Second Amendment …

Posted: August 19, 2016 at 4:08 am

Donald Trump keeps saying that Hillary Clinton wants to essentially abolish the Second Amendment. But the media fact checkers are having none of it. Last week, CNN called his accusation persistent and false. At the same time, a Washington Post editorial also called the claim absurd.

In his analysis for CNN, Eric Bradner acknowledges Clintons support for many different types of gun control — a 25 percent tax on handguns, an assault weapons ban, repeal of laws allowing permitted concealed handguns, and background checks on the private transfer of guns. Clinton also has supported increased fees and a variety of regulations that her husband imposed. Thanks to Bill Clintons regulations, the number of licensed firearms dealers from 248,155 in 1992 to 67,479 in 2000 — a 73 percent reduction.

The media picks and chooses when to take Clinton at her word. CNN pointed to a recent Fox News Sunday appearance where Hillary Clinton claimed: “I’m not looking to repeal the Second Amendment. I’m not looking to take people’s guns away.” The Washington Post noted a statement from her campaign website about how gun ownership is part of the fabric of many law-abiding communities.

But in June, ABCs George Stephanopoulos pushed Clinton twice on whether people have a right to own guns. But that’s not what I asked. I said do you believe that their conclusion that an individual’s right to bear arms is a constitutional right? Clinton could only say: If it is a constitutional right . . . .

Similarly, in New York Cityin the fall, she told donors: The Supreme Court is wrong on the Second Amendment, and I am going to make that case every chance that I get. In Maryland in April, Chelsea Clinton promised that her mom would appoint to the Supreme Court justices who would overturn past decisions that struck down gun-control measures. But the only lawsthat the Supreme Court evaluated were complete gun bans and a law that made it a crime to use a gun.

Washington, D.C., had a complete handgun ban in place until 2008. It was also a felony, punishable by five years in prison, to put a bullet in the chamber of a gun. This amounted to a complete gun ban on using guns for self-defense. The U.S. Supreme Courts ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller struck down that ban.

Clinton told Stephanopoulos her opinion of this ruling: I think that for most of our history, there was a nuanced reading of the Second Amendment until the decision by the late Justice Scalia. She continued, There was no argument until then that localities and states and the federal government had a right, as we do with every amendment, to impose reasonable regulation.

Clinton went on to talk about her push for expanded background checks, an issue that was irrelevant to Scalias decision in Heller. Instead, the question is why was D.C.s local gun ban a reasonable regulation. Why should people be imprisoned for five years for defending their families?

In McDonald v. City of Chicago (2010), Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer wrote in his dissent: “I can find nothing in the Second Amendments text, history, or underlying rationale that could warrant characterizing it as fundamental insofar as it seeks to protect the keeping and bearing of arms for private self-defense purposes. Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor signed on to Breyers opinion.

Breyer and Ginsburg were both appointed by President Bill Clinton. Sotomayor was Obamas first nominee to the Supreme Court. Obamas second nominee, Elana Kagan, would clearly have voted the same way had she been on the court at the time of McDonald. Indeed, Kagan served in Bill Clintons administration and helped lead the Presidents gun control initiatives.

The Washington Post dismisses all this talk about the Supreme Court by saying that appointing Justices to the court would not be anything like abolishing an amendment, which no court can do. And it is true that the court cant simply remove the amendment from the Constitution. But the media is appearing to be deliberately obtuse. If the court reverses Heller and McDonald and changes its interpretation of the Second Amendment as Hillary promises, what will really be left of the Second Amendment?

The media might not like to admit it, but The War on Guns is real. If Hillary wins in November, she will appoint Scalias successor and the Supreme Court will overturn the Heller and McDonald decisions. Make no mistake about it, the government will again be able to ban guns. Her claim that she isn’t looking to take people’s guns away is not consistent with her promise to overturn existing Supreme Court decisions.

John R. Lott, Jr. is a columnist forFoxNews.com. He is an economist and was formerly chief economist at the United States Sentencing Commission. Lott is also a leading expert on guns and op-eds on that issue are done in conjunction with the Crime Prevention Research Center. He is the author of nine books including “More Guns, Less Crime.” His latest book is “The War on Guns: Arming Yourself Against Gun Control Lies (August 1, 2016). Follow him on Twitter@johnrlottjr.

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Trump foes miss the mark on Clinton’s Second Amendment …

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Deconstructing the Second Amendment – cnn.com

Posted: August 12, 2016 at 2:34 pm

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

And yet, for years, those 27 brief words have been the source of contentious debate — seen by some as an inalienable protection against tyranny; by others as a dangerous anachronism.

Here’s a look at the Second Amendment, its phrases parsed and placed in legal and historical context.

Our guides will be Constitutional experts Jeffrey Rosen and Jack Rakove.

What is a militia?

At the time of the American Revolutionary War, militias were groups of able-bodied men who protected their towns, colonies, and eventually states. “[When the Constitution was drafted], the militia was a state-based institution,” says Rakove. “States were responsible for organizing this.”

What did it mean to be well regulated?

One of the biggest challenges in interpreting a centuries-old document is that the meanings of words change or diverge.

“Well-regulated in the 18th century tended to be something like well-organized, well-armed, well-disciplined,” says Rakove. “It didn’t mean ‘regulation’ in the sense that we use it now, in that it’s not about the regulatory state. There’s been nuance there. It means the militia was in an effective shape to fight.”

In other words, it didn’t mean the state was controlling the militia in a certain way, but rather that the militia was prepared to do its duty.

What type of security was referred to here?

To get to that, consider the climate of the United States at the time. The country had just fought a war, won its independence and was expanding west. There were plenty of reasons to feel unsafe, and so “security” had a very palpable meaning.

“You have an expanding country, and the principle defense use of the militia would be to protect local residents from attack and invasion,” Rakove says.

It also meant physical protection from government overreach.

“The idea of a state militia would also be attractive because it serves as a deterrent against national tyranny,” says Rakove. “At the time, if government forces tried to take over land or overstep their boundaries, you’d have an institution in place — the militia — that would outnumber any army.”

Of course, with the size and scope of the modern United States military, and the fact that militias as we know it no longer exist, that notion is hard to imagine today.

In the debate over the Second Amendment, this phrase, “a well regulated militia,” remains one of the most cited and argued parts of the sentence.

What did a free state mean?

It may seem obvious, but Rosen and Rakove agree the Constitution bore a lot of contemporary moralism and not every word is well-defined.

In this case, the meaning of “state” is what it appears to be.

“This is referring immediately to ‘state’ as in one of the states of the original colonies,” Rosen says. “James Madison had the 1777 Virginia Declaration of Rights by his side when he wrote the Bill of Rights and he essentially copied and pasted language from it.”

But it could also speak to a larger understanding of liberty.

“So here,” Rosen continues, “George Mason (the author of the Virginia Declaration of Rights) is talking about not only the free state of Virginia.” He is also talking about a broader state of freedom.

What kind of rights?

This is another highly-contested area where it helps to know more about how the framers of the Constitution thought about complex ideas like “rights.”

“When we think about ‘rights,’ we think of them as regulations and exemptions,” Rakove says. “Back at the birth of our nation, they had a different quality. They were more moralistic.”

Rosen says this viewpoint is reflected in the Declaration of Independence:

“The framers definitely believed in natural rights — that they are endowed by a creator,” Rosen says. “They believed we are born into a state of nature before we form governments, and that we are endowed with certain fundamental rights.”

These natural rights included the right to religious expression, free speech, property and more. But they did not, Rosen says, specifically include the tenets of the Second Amendment.

“The framers did not talk about the right to bear arms as one of the set of natural rights,” he says. “But it is fair to say that the right to alter and abolish government — to the degree that modern people claim they have that right — the framers certainly believe it.”

“In that sense, it is historically accurate to say that the framers did recognize a natural right of self-defense.”

Who are the people?

Even the term “people” — the most basic catch-all — has limitations.

“You say people, you mean individual persons,” says Rakove. “But, if you go to Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution, it says the House of Representatives will be chosen by the people — who are the persons? Who are entitled to exercise that suffrage? You see, you can use the term ‘people’ to imply a collective mass, but there are some categories of people that can be excluded.”

After all, when the Constitution was written, slaves were considered property and women were not allowed to vote.

In addition, there is a more basic question of semantics: By “the people,” is the Second Amendment referring to people as private entities, or as participants in the militia?

The legal consensus is that the Second Amendment applies to individual rights, within reasonable regulations. More on that below.

What are Arms in this context, and what is the scope of bearing Arms?

The decision struck down the Firearms Control Regulations Act of 1975, which heavily regulated owning and keeping firearms in the District of Columbia.

In the above excerpt, we can see the Court considered the awkward phrasing of the Amendment. The Justices divided the Amendment into an operative clause: “right of the people to keep and bear arms,” and a prefatory clause: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State.” The court determined the relationship between these phrases, as well as the historical context of the Constutition’s creation, clearly provided an individual right.

The term “arms” is also an ever-changing one, and there are ongoing debates about assault weapons and emerging firearm technologies.

“One thing people disagree about is whether assault weapons bans are constitutional,” says Rosen. “They also disagree about how we should interpret the constitution in terms of history or in light of new technologies.”

What does it all mean?

“It’s really striking that since these Supreme Court decisions… lower courts have upheld almost all of the gun regulations they have asked to review,” he says.

Rakove thinks the framers of the Constitution would be surprised at the conversations we are having today.

“While there is a common law right to self-defense, most historians think that it would be remarkable news to the framers of the Second Amendment that they were actually constitutionalizing a personal right to self-defense as opposed to trying to say something significant about the militia,” he says.

Words like “militia” and “rights” are loaded with historical context and nuance that can act as a Rorschach test, leading even the best-intentioned interpreters to different conclusions. If there were any clear answers, these 27 words wouldn’t be so incendiary.

Jack Rakove is the William Robertson Coe Professor of History at Stanford University. His book “Original Meanings: Politics and Ideas in the Making of the Constitution” won a Pulitzer Prize in History.

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Deconstructing the Second Amendment – cnn.com

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