Our rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness
can only be secured by a state strictly separated from religion

25 July 2012

Mayor of Boston Versus Individual Rights

By Diana Hsieh

I support gay marriage wholeheartedly, and I've long been appalled by Chick-Fil-A's support for theocracy. However, I'm just as appalled by the attempt by the Mayor of Boston to exclude Chick-Fil-A from Boston. It is a contemptible violation of rights -- including of the proper separation of church and state.

The letter from the mayor reads:

To Mr. Cathy:

In recent days you said Chick fil-A opposes same-sex marriage and said the generation that supports it as an "arrogant attitude."

Now -- incredibly -- your company says you are backing out of the same-sex marriage debate. I urge you to back out of your plans to locate in Boston.

You called supporters of gay marriage "prideful." Here in Boston, to borrow your own words, we are "guilty as charged." We are indeed full of pride for our support of same sex marriage and our work to expand freedom to all people. We are proud that our state and our city have led the way for the country on equal marriage rights.

I was angry to learn on the heels of your prejudiced statements about your search for a site to locate in Boston. There is no place for discrimination on Boston's Freedom Trail and no place for your company alongside it. When Massachusetts became the first state in the country to recognize equal marriage rights, I personally stood on City Hall Plaza to greet same sex couples here to be married. It would be an insult to them and to our city's long history of expanding freedom to have a Chick fil-A across the street from that spot.

Sincerely,
Thomas M. Menino
Such would be a fabulous letter from a private person, speaking his own personal opinions. From the mayor, however, that letter implies a threat of force, namely that of excluding Chick-Fil-A from Boston. That's terribly wrong.

At this point, I strongly recommend that people boycott Chick-Fil-A. I discussed that in the 12 February 2012 episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, in fact. Here's my 15-minute answer to the question, "Should people boycott Chick-Fil-A for its hostility to gays?"



You can also download the MP3 Segment.

Oh, and see this post from Eugene Volokh: No Building Permits for Opponent of Same-Sex Marriage. As Eugene explains, it's a First Amendment violation, plain and simple:
But denying a private business permits because of such speech by its owner is a blatant First Amendment violation. Even when it comes to government contracting — where the government is choosing how to spend government money — the government generally may not discriminate based on the contractor’s speech, see Board of County Commissioners v. Umbehr (1996). It is even clearer that the government may not make decisions about how people will be allowed to use their own property based on the speaker’s past speech.

And this is so even if there is no statutory right to a particular kind of building permit (and I don’t know what the rule is under Illinois law). Even if the government may deny permits to people based on various reasons, it may not deny permits to people based on their exercise of his First Amendment rights. It doesn’t matter if the applicant expresses speech that doesn’t share the government officials’ values, or even the values of the majority of local citizens. It doesn’t matter if the applicant’s speech is seen as “disrespect[ful]” of certain groups. The First Amendment generally protects people’s rights to express such views without worrying that the government will deny them business permits as a result. That’s basic First Amendment law — but Alderman Moreno, Mayor Menino, and, apparently, Mayor Emanuel (if his statement is quoted in context), seem to either not know or not care about the law.
Go read the whole thing.

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24 July 2012

Republican Priorities

By Diana Hsieh

House committee passes bill restricting abortions in D.C.:

The House Judiciary Committee approved a bill on Wednesday that bans abortions in the District 20 weeks into pregnancy, despite objections by Democrats and city leaders that the bill unreasonably singles out residents of the nation’s capital.

Rep. Trent Franks, Arizona Republican, introduced the bill in January based on the belief the fetus would feel pain. He had obtained more than 200 co-sponsors in the Republican-controlled House as of Wednesday’s markup. The legislation, which passed the committee on an 18-14 vote, will be forwarded to the full House for their consideration.
But... Republicans are hard at work on our economic woes, right? I think not.

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20 July 2012

The Importance of a Candidate's Views on Abortion: Philosophy in Action Sunday Radio

By Diana Hsieh

On Sunday morning's live broadcast of Philosophy in Action Radio, I'll answer a question on the importance of a candidate's views on abortion that might be of interest. The question is:

How important are a political candidate's views on abortion? Why should we be worried about a political candidate's bad views on abortion if their views on other issues like economics are generally good? After all, as US President, Mitt Romney couldn't outlaw abortion even if he wanted to. But a good or bad President could have a tremendous good or bad effect on our economic liberties. Conversely, President Obama wants to keep abortion legal but that positive pales in significance to his terrible negative views on economics. Shouldn't a candidate's views on economics be more important at present than their views on abortion?
Interested? I hope so! Here's what you need to listen to the live broadcast:

  • What: Philosophy in Action Q&A Radio Show

  • Who: Dr. Diana Hsieh and Greg Perkins

  • When: Sunday, 22 July 2012 at 8 am PT / 9 am MT / 10 am CT / 11 am ET

  • Where: www.PhilosophyInAction.com/live
The full show will cover ways to express love, the morality of exposing security flaws, the nature of happiness, the importance of a candidate's views on abortion, and more. You can review all the questions for this episode here: Q&A Radio: 22 July 2012.

If you attend the live show, you can share your thoughts with other listeners and ask me follow-up questions in the text chat. If you miss the live broadcast, you'll find the audio recording of the whole episode, as well as individual questions, posted to the episode's archive page: Q&A Radio: 22 July 2012. From that page, you can post comments on the questions before or after the broadcast.

Philosophy in Action Radio broadcasts live every Wednesday evening and Sunday morning. Take a peek at the Episodes on Tap for the scoop on upcoming shows!

In the meantime, Connect with Us via social media, newsletter, RSS feeds, and more. Check out the Show Archives, where you can listen to any past episode or question. And visit the Question Queue to submit and vote on questions for upcoming episodes.

I hope that you'll join us on Sunday morning!

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19 July 2012

Taliban Marriage Counseling

By Diana Hsieh



Alas, it's too true.

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17 July 2012

Mississippi's Sole Abortion Clinic

By Diana Hsieh

Mississippi's sole abortion clinic can stay open for now:

Doctors at Mississippi's sole abortion clinic are allowed to continue performing the procedure, even if they do not have admitting and staff privileges at an area hospital, as required by state law, a federal judge ruled Friday.

But state officials can begin an administrative process that could ultimately lead to the closing of the clinic, said U.S. District Judge Daniel P. Jordan III.

The decision comes in the wake of a law that was to have taken effect July 1 requiring all abortion providers in the state to be certified obstetrician/gynecologists with privileges at local hospitals. But they continued to practice under a temporary restraining order issued by Jordan that blocked the law's enforcement.

"The Act will be allowed to take effect, but Plaintiffs will not be subject to the risk of criminal or civil penalties at this time or in the future for operating without the relevant privileges during the administrative process," he wrote in Friday's 11-page order.
For more, go read the whole two-page article. I can't resist posting this gem:
The bill's sponsor, Rep. Sam Mims, a Republican, said he was "pleased" with the ruling. "While Judge Jordan's ruling allows the clinic to remain open for an undetermined time and continue performing abortions while attempting to meet the requirements of the new law, I am confident that the new legislation will result in the improvement of health care for women," he said in a statement.
That man's pants are smoking like crazy, and he knows it. Forcing the closure of abortion clinics by government regulations is the very opposite of "the improvement of health care for women." It's an immoral violation of rights -- and it's dishonest too.

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12 July 2012

The Fruits of Arab Spring?

By Diana Hsieh

I can barely stand to read this report: Egypt's First "Sex-Slave" Marriage:

What is being dubbed as Egypt's "first sex-slave marriage" took place mere days after the Muslim Brotherhood's Muhammad Morsi was made president.

Last Monday, on the Egyptian TV show Al Haqiqa ("the Truth"), journalist Wael al-Ibrashi began the program by airing a video-clip of a man, Abd al-Rauf Awn, "marrying" his "slave." Before making the woman, who had a non-Egyptian accent, repeat the Koran's Surat al-Ikhlas after him, instead of saying the customary "I marry myself to you," the woman said "I enslave myself to you," and kissed him in front of an applauding audience.

Then, even though she was wearing a hijab, her owner-husband declared her forbidden from such trappings, commanding her to be stripped of them, so as "not to break Allah's laws." She took her veil and abaya off, revealing, certainly by Muslim standards, a promiscuous red dress (all the other women present were veiled). The man claps for her as the video-clip ... ends.

The owner-husband, Abd al-Rauf Awn, then appeared on the show, identifying himself as an Islamic scholar and expert at Islamic jurisprudence who studied at Al Azhar. He gave several Islamic explanations to justify his "marriage," from Islamic prophet Muhammad's "sunna" or practice of "marrying" enslaved captive women, to Koran 4:3, which commands Muslim men to "Marry such women as seem good to you, two and three and four… or what your right hands possess."
There's more in the story, including links.

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10 July 2012

Ten Commandments, in Law

By Diana Hsieh

Christians often claim that the Ten Commandments are the basis of our legal system -- as if without the Hebrew Bible, no one ever would have known that murder, theft, and perjury were wrong. Oh, and let's just forget the commandments that Christians ignore, such as keeping the sabbath and the prohibition on graven images.

Hence, I loved this humorous take on a legal system truly based on the Ten Commandments:



(Alas, I don't know the cartoonist. I searched, but I couldn't find the original.)

Update: Thanks to Robert, the author is Dana Claire Simpson of InkAndWhiteSpace.com.

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05 July 2012

Gessler: Our Campaign Finance Laws Are "Screwed Up"

By Diana Hsieh

Sara Burnett blogged about my campaign finance lawsuit for the Denver Post yesterday. The post begins:

The Center for Competitive Politics has filed a federal lawsuit against Secretary of State Scott Gessler, saying Colorado’s campaign finance laws are overly burdensome and violate the First Amendment rights of small educational groups that want to weigh in on a ballot question.

It’s not the first lawsuit filed against Gessler over campaign finance rules. But unlike those cases, Gessler may find himself siding with the plaintiffs – at least philosophically – on parts of this one.

“I’m sympathetic to these small groups wanting to engage in their elections and it only further illustrates how screwed up our campaign finance laws are,” Gessler said in an emailed statement today.
Amen to that! Go read the whole thing.

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04 July 2012

Fighting Back Against Colorado's Campaign Finance Laws

By Diana Hsieh

I have some exciting news to share -- and I'm particularly delighted to share it with you on Independence Day!

My fight against Colorado's onerous campaign finance laws has been taken to a whole new level, thanks to the Center for Competitive Politics. They're representing the Coalition for Secular Government in a federal lawsuit challenging the application of Colorado's campaign finance law to Ari Armstrong's and my policy paper in defense of abortion rights. CCP is arguing that the onerous campaign finance regulations violate our First Amendment rights.

I couldn't be more excited for this opportunity protect the right to speak freely on politics in Colorado.

Here's CCP's press release. You can expect more details to be posted on here and on NoodleFood in upcoming weeks.

Colorado Group Files First Amendment Lawsuit

DATELINE: Monday, July 2, 2012

CONTACT: Sarah Lee, Communications Director, Center for Competitive Politics, 770.598.7961

ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- The Center for Competitive Politics (CCP) legal team, led by Legal Director Allen Dickerson, today filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of Colorado on behalf of the Coalition for Secular Government (CSG). The question raised by the First Amendment lawsuit is whether Colorado can force small educational groups to register with the state before expressing an opinion on or publishing an analysis of a ballot question.

Colorado resident Diana Hsieh, a doctor of philosophy, organized the non-profit CSG together with her friend Ari ArmB in order to promote a secular understanding of individual rights, including freedom of conscience and the separation of church and state. Because of unconstitutionally vague state laws, confusion as to what constitutes political speech and what is covered under a press exemption, and a refusal by the state to abide by a federal court order, Hsieh and CSG have found it nearly impossible to carry out the activities of a small non-profit group without fear of running afoul of complex Colorado campaign finance laws.

"Ari and I simply wanted to discuss a Colorado ballot measure as a small part of our effort to educate people about our philosophy. Our goal has never been to defeat such measures; they would have lost just as badly without our policy papers," Hsieh notes. "It's frustrating that even our modest efforts are hampered by the Colorado campaign finance system. To avoid the risk of costly lawsuits and hefty fines, we must report minor purchases of office supplies and the names and addresses of small-dollar donors. Our experiences with Colorado's system have been confusing and dispiriting. We've not abandoned our efforts, as most people would have done, but we've definitely scaled back our efforts. We shouldn't have to register and file these meaningless reports with the State to speak on moral and political topics of public concern."

Dickerson and the CCP legal team filed a complaint alleging that, even though Diana and CSG plan to raise no more than $3,500, nearly all of which will go toward updating and disseminating an expanded and updated copy of their public policy paper, the state of Colorado appears to demand that CSG register as an issue committee, with all the paperwork burdens and restrictions that status entails. Dickerson notes that this is unconstitutional under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and burdensome, particularly for a small group seeking only to exercise their right to speak.

"No group that spends very little money, and whose principal product is a policy white paper, should need the state's permission to speak," said Dickerson. "Despite good intentions, Colorado's voters approved laws with that unreasonable and unconstitutional result. We hope this suit will give the federal courts an opportunity to protect CSG and other vulnerable, grassroots speakers."

The suit asks for a declaratory judgment and requests that the court hear CSG's claims on an expedited basis.

A background paper on the lawsuit can be viewed here.

A copy of the complaint filed in the lawsuit can be viewed here.

The Center for Competitive Politics promotes and defends the First Amendment's protection of political rights of speech, assembly, and petition. It is the only organization dedicated solely to protecting First Amendment political rights.

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