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

31 October 2012

Discrimination Against Gays: Your Right to Be Wrong

By Diana Hsieh

From the blog of The Objective Standard: Gay Marriage: The Right to Voluntary Contract, Not to Coercive "Contract:

New York has properly legalized gay marriage. Melisa Erwin and Jennie McCarthy have improperly filed an anti-discrimination complaint under New York law to force a private business to host gay weddings.

The targets of the complaint, Robert and Cynthia Gifford, owners of Liberty Ridge Farm and opponents of gay marriage, refused to host Erwin and McCarthy's wedding, citing religious freedom as justification.

Every individual has a right to live by his own moral standards, even irrational ones, so long as his actions don't violate the rights of others. But this issue is not primarily about freedom of religion and conscience; rather, it is about freedom of association and contract.

Erwin and McCarthy claim that Liberty Ridge is in violation of NY law, which forbids a business that serves the public to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. But the inalienable rights of gays to forge a marriage contract does not include the right to force others to do business with them. It is just as wrong for Erwin and McCarthy to impose their values on the Giffords by forcing them to host gay weddings as it was for the government to impose the Giffords' standards on gays by legally banning gay marriage.
That's completely right, and there's more in the rest of the post.

As it happens, I discussed the political right to discriminate in the 23 January 2011 episode of Philosophy in Action Radio. The question was:
In the essay "Racism" in The Virtue of Selfishness, Ayn Rand mentions that public institutions and government agencies should not discriminate against or on behalf of individuals. In her talk of private property, however, she says that government should not attempt to prevent private racism in private establishments and that a man's rights are not violated by a private individual's refusal to deal with him. My question is: How are his rights not violated if the owner discriminates against him?
My Answer, In Brief: A person's rights are not violated because someone else doesn't want anything to do with him – even if his reasons are vicious.

Download or Listen to My Full Answer:
Philosophy in Action Radio broadcasts every Sunday morning and Wednesday evening. For information on upcoming shows and more, visit the Episodes on Tap.

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29 October 2012

Anti-Abortion Rationalizations

By Diana Hsieh

Opponents of abortion have been busy evading the real-life horrors of their goals. Recently, we had Tod Akin denying that rape victims will become pregnant -- and now we have Illinois representative Joe Walsh claiming that pregnancy can never threaten the life of a woman:

Abortion bans don't need exceptions for the life of the mother because of "modern technology and science," Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) said Thursday.

"With modern technology and science, you can't find one instance" of an abortion necessary to save the life of the mother, Walsh said after a debate with Tammy Duckworth, his Democratic opponent, according to the Chicago Tribune. "... There is no such exception as life of the mother, and as far as health of the mother, same thing."
That's complete bull, and anyone who isn't informed enough or honest enough to deal with the well-known dangers of abortion bans has no business in politics.

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26 October 2012

How Would a Rape Exception Work?

By Diana Hsieh

This blog post -- Pro-Life People: How Would a Rape Exception Work? -- raises some really interesting questions about how a law that banned rape except in rare cases, such as rape or life of the mother, would work in practice:

If efforts to criminalize abortion succeeded, would it be a medical, legal, or theological authority that would make the determination as to whether a woman qualified to have the banned procedure? If I was raped, would I have to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt, or might a preponderance of the evidence standard suffice? Would I make my case to a doctor? A judge? A police officer? An ethics committee?

And on what basis would the appointed entity make the decision? The embrace by many politicians of an exception for the life but not the health of the patient would presumably require legislation that would then leave authorities in the position to determine, for example, whether a delay in beginning cancer treatment would be considered a threat to my life or merely a risk to my health.
There's more, but as the author concludes:
No politician or pundit should get away with claiming he supports any "exception" without facing the obvious follow-up question: “How would it work?”

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24 October 2012

Circumcision Versus Female Genital Mutilation: Philosophy in Action Sunday Radio

By Diana Hsieh

Note: Due to a lack of time, I didn't answer this question last Sunday, as planned. I'll answer it on this Sunday, and I've updated the announcement below with the relevant information.

In Sunday morning's live broadcast of Philosophy in Action Radio, I'll answer a question on circumcision versus female genital mutilation that might be of interest. The question is:

Is circumcision on par with female genital mutilation? Many people decry female genital mutilation, but they regard circumcision as the right of parents. Is that wrong?
Interested? I hope so! Here's what you need to listen to the live broadcast:
  • Who: Dr. Diana Hsieh and Greg Perkins
  • What: Philosophy in Action Q&A Radio: Anarchism, Government, Circumcision, and More
  • When: Sunday, 28 October 2012, 8 am PT / 9 am MT / 10 am CT / 11 am ET
  • Where: Philosophy in Action's Live Studio
The full show will cover federal versus state and local government, parenting via empty threats, circumcision versus female genital mutilation, reasons for everything, and more. You can review all the questions for this episode here: Q&A Radio: 28 October 2012.

To join the live broadcast and its chat, just point your browser to Philosophy in Action's Live Studio a few minutes before the show is scheduled to start. 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 from the episode posted here: Q&A Radio: 28 October 2012.

Philosophy in Action Radio broadcasts every Sunday morning and Wednesday evening. For information on upcoming shows and more, visit the Episodes on Tap.

I hope that you join us on Sunday morning!

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22 October 2012

Science Versus Religion

By Diana Hsieh



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18 October 2012

Free Speech -- Or Maybe Not

By Diana Hsieh


I'm sure that's exactly what the Founders had in mind in ratifying the First Amendment! Or maybe not.

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17 October 2012

Two Wrongs, No Right: Scott DesJarlais

By Diana Hsieh

Oh my: Scott DesJarlais, Pro-Life Republican Congressman And Doctor, Pressured Mistress Patient To Get Abortion:

A pro-life, family-values congressman who worked as a doctor before winning election as a Tea Party-backed Republican had an affair with a patient and later pressured her to get an abortion, according to a phone call transcript obtained by The Huffington Post.

The congressman, Rep. Scott DesJarlais of Tennessee, was trying to save his marriage at the time, according to his remarks on the call, made in September of 2000. And, according to three independent sources familiar with the call and the recording, he made the tape himself.

DesJarlais, who was provided a copy of the transcript by HuffPost, did not deny its contents, but in a statement released through his campaign characterized it as just another sordid detail dredged up by the opposition. "Desperate personal attacks do not solve our nation's problems, yet it appears my opponents are choosing to once again engage in the same gutter politics that CBS news called the dirtiest in the nation just 2 years ago."
Amazingly, that's not even the worst of what he did. The details -- and the transcript -- are here.

Scott DesJarlais is no different than many other hypocritical advocates of banning abortion. Such people never see any valid reasons for abortion whatsoever -- until they happen to face some circumstance in which a baby would be inconvenient. Then they avail themselves of that choice which they seek to deny for others, usually without that affecting their efforts to ban abortion one iota.

Such hypocrisy is infuriating.

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15 October 2012

Lies Straight from the Pit of Hell

By Diana Hsieh

Wow: U.S. House science committee member calls evolution, Big Bang theory 'lies straight from the pit of hell':

Georgia Rep. Paul Broun said in videotaped remarks that evolution, embryology and the Big Bang theory are "lies straight from the pit of hell" meant to convince people that they do not need a savior.

The Republican lawmaker made those comments during a speech Sept. 27 at a sportsman's banquet at Liberty Baptist Church in Hartwell.

Broun, a medical doctor, is running for re-election in November unopposed by Democrats. He sits on the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.

"God's word is true," Broun said, according to a video posted on the church's website. "I've come to understand that. All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and Big Bang theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of hell. And it's lies to try to keep me and all the folks who are taught that from understanding that they need a savior."

Broun also said that he believes the Earth is about 9,000 years old and that it was made in six days. Those beliefs are held by fundamentalist Christians who believe the creation accounts in the Bible to be literally true.
It's not surprising that this [unprintable term] is a politician, but it's scary that he's a doctor.

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10 October 2012

Politics Corrupts Money

By Diana Hsieh

Dirty MoneyIn this blog post for The Objective Standard, Ari Armstrong explains that money doesn't corrupt politics, as advocates of campaign finance laws claim. Instead, politics corrupts money: "Although the source of money is virtuous because it is production, money is corrupted when it is used to buy political favors." Indeed, and such political favors can only be bought in a mixed economy in which some people's rights may be violated for the right price.

So if you think that campaign finance laws can keep politics pure, think again... and go read the whole post!

Be sure to consider what he says about Colorado's Amendment 65:

Amendment 65 is a futile attempt by the left to solve the problems created by leftist policies. As I argued in my debate with Gordon, the censorship of political speech that Amendment 65 advocates will not solve the problem of influence peddling; it will only make that problem worse. As I pointed out, under Amendment 65, the proposed censorship laws would themselves be crafted by the influence peddlers.

Demanding that the foxes guard the henhouse is not wise politics: it's a power-grab by the foxes and their allies in the henhouse.

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08 October 2012

Questions for the Colorado Supreme Court in CSG's Lawsuit

By Diana Hsieh

On October 2nd, the Center for Competitive Politics posted a press release about the questions that Judge Kane is sending to the Colorado Supreme Court for CSG's campaign finance lawsuit. It's very interesting news, because until very recently, I didn't even know that this could be part of the legal process. (Look, it's federalism in action! Nifty!)

CONTACT: Sarah Lee, Communications Director, 770.598.7961

ALEXANDRIA, Va. - A federal judge today issued an order seeking clarification by the Colorado Supreme Court of the state's campaign finance laws. Senior Judge John L. Kane of the United States Court for the District of Colorado asked the state Supreme Court to "provide clear guidance... as to the scope and meaning" of provisions that have been challenged under the First Amendment to the US Constitution

Judge Kane's order was made in connection with a case brought by the Center for Competitive Politics (CCP) on behalf of the Coalition for Secular Government (CSG). The case, over which Judge Kane presides, is Coalition for Secular Government v. Gessler, No. 12-cv-1708.

The judge's order noted that the "lawsuit raises First Amendment challenges to several provisions of Colorado campaign finance law that remain undefined by the Colorado Constitution, Article XXVIII's implementing legislation, or caselaw from Colorado courts."

CSG alleges that, even though it plans to raise no more than $3,500--nearly all of which will go toward updating and disseminating a public policy paper--the state constitution appears to demand that CSG register as an issue committee if its papers take a position on ballot measures. Such registration would force CSG to maintain several new types of records, file periodic reports, turn over the names and addresses of contributors who donate as little as $20 toward financing the policy paper, and risk substantial fines should it err in its public filings.

Judge Kane certified four questions. These include:
  • Does the Colorado Constitution treat money spent on a policy paper, including one that suggests how the reader should vote on a ballot initiative, as the equivalent of money spent on political ads?
  • Does the state constitution entitle policy papers distributed over the internet to be treated in the same way as newspaper and magazine editorials for purposes of campaign finance law?
  • In light of a federal decision declaring certain groups too small to be regulated by the state of Colorado, what is the monetary trigger for an issue committee under the state constitution? Is it the roughly-$1,000 mentioned in the federal opinion? The $3,500 contemplated by CSG? The $200 mentioned in the constitution itself? Or another number altogether?
While the Colorado Supreme Court is not required to answer Judge Kane's questions, doing so would provide some welcome guidance on these important questions.

"For years, organizations in Colorado have been unsure how to comply with Colorado's campaign finance rules, or have been subject to politically-motivated complaints for making minor errors," CCP Legal Director Allen Dickerson said. "Some choose not to speak at all in the face of this situation. The Colorado Supreme Court now has the option of bringing a measure of predictability to some of the state constitution's more difficult provisions."

Judge Kane's order, which includes a brief description of the case, may be found here.
Here are the four questions certified in their technical language:
1. Is the policy paper published by the Coalition for Secular Government (CSG) in 2010 "express advocacy" under Art. XXVIII, S 2(8)(a) of the Colorado Constitution?

2. If the policy paper is express advocacy, does it qualify for the press exemption found at Art. XXVIII, S 2(8)(b)?

3. Is the policy paper a "written or broadcast communication" under S 1-45-103(12)(b)(II)(B), C.R.S.? If not, did it become a "written or broadcast communication" when it was posted to CSG's blog or Facebook page?

4. In light of Sampson v. Buescher, 625 F.3d 1247 (10th Cir. 2010), what is the monetary trigger for Issue Committee status under Art. XXVIII S2(10)(a)(II) of the Colorado Constitution?
I'll be very interested to see how the Colorado Supreme Court rules on these questions -- and then what Judge Kane says about that. I'm excited by the prospect of at least clarifying Colorado campaign finance law, let alone striking down some of its most burdensome elements.

Also, I'll have some news about the forthcoming updates to Ari Armstrong's and my 2010 paper -- The "Personhood" Movement Is Anti-Life -- soon. Although "personhood" won't be on the ballot in Colorado due insufficient signatures, the movement has grown dramatically in influence over the past year, as seen in the GOP primary. Hence, Ari and I are determined to update the policy paper to reflect that.

Alas, my being so sick last week blew apart our plans. We've made a new plan, and it's a better plan, I think. You can expect some announcements about that later this week. Just know that, once again, we will need your support to make it happen!

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04 October 2012

Link-O-Rama

By Diana Hsieh

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03 October 2012

Philosophy in Action Radio Tonight: Cancelled

By Diana Hsieh

I have to cancel tonight's planned broadcast for the Presidential Debate. I'd still like to host the drinking game in the text chat, but I can't broadcast due to being really damn sick. The gory details are here.

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A Religious Wedding for an Atheist Groom: Philosophy in Action Podcast

By Diana Hsieh

In the 30 September 2012 episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, I discussed a religious wedding for an atheist groom, and I thought it might be of interest. The question was:

Should an atheist refuse to have a religious wedding? I'm an atheist, but my fiancĂ©e is a not-terribly-devout Christian. My parents – and her parents too – are Christian. Everyone wants and expects us to have a religious wedding, but I don't want that. My future wife would be willing to have a secular wedding, but she prefers a religious one. Mostly, she doesn't want to argue with her parents over it. Should I insist on a secular wedding? Or should I just let this one go? What's the harm, either way?
My Answer, In Brief: For an atheist to agree to a religious wedding under pressure from family means risking his character, his marriage, and his family relations. Don't do it!

Download or Listen to My Full Answer:

Tags: Atheism, Communication, Compromise, Family, Honesty, Independence, In-Laws, Integrity, Marriage, Religion, Wedding A podcast of the full episode – where I answered questions on greed in the NFL dispute with referees, a religious wedding for an atheist groom, preventing information overload, food safety in a free society, and more – is available as a podcast here: Episode of 30 September 2012. Philosophy in Action Radio broadcasts every Sunday morning and Wednesday evening. For information on upcoming shows and more, visit the Episodes on Tap.

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Preview: Philosophy in Action Radio: The First Presidential Debate

By Diana Hsieh

In tonight's episode of Philosophy in Action Talk Radio, I'll comment on the first presidential debate between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama. I'll be silent during the debate itself, but then I'll comment on what was said -- for better or worse -- during the commercial breaks. During the debate itself, we'll have a drinking game in the text chat.

Warning: This broadcast format is experimental, and it might be a total disaster. I make no promises! Also, be sure to show up on time, as otherwise I'll end up talking over the debate itself.

I'm sure that some issues of church-state separation will come up during the debate.

  • Who: Dr. Diana Hsieh
  • What: Philosophy in Action Talk Radio: The First Presidential Debate
  • When: Wednesday, 3 October 2012, 6 pm PT / 7 pm MT / 8 pm CT / 9 pm ET
  • Where: Philosophy in Action's Live Studio

What will the two major presidential candidates – Mitt Romney and Barack Obama – have to say about their principles and plans if elected? Listen to philosopher Dr. Diana Hsieh comment on the live debate during its commercial breaks – and join the drinking game in the text chat!

To join the live broadcast and its chat, just point your browser to Philosophy in Action's Live Studio a few minutes before the show is scheduled to start. By listening live, you can call the show with your questions and experiences, as well as post comments and questions in the text chat.

If you miss the live broadcast, you'll find the audio from the episode posted here: 3 October 2012: The First Presidential Debate.

Philosophy in Action Radio broadcasts every Sunday morning and Wednesday evening. For information on upcoming shows and more, visit the Episodes on Tap.

I hope that you join us tonight!

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02 October 2012

Ari Armstrong: Free Speech Versus Amendment 65

By Diana Hsieh

Ari Armstrong published an excellent op-ed in Sunday's Denver Post against the campaign finance measure on Colorado's ballot, Amendment 65. The whole op-ed is worth reading, but I particularly enjoyed his argument that restrictions on campaign spending are restrictions on speech. He writes:

Voters must observe that limiting campaign spending means limiting spending on speech.

You have no right of free speech if you cannot spend your resources how you want on speech. With the possible exception of shouting over panhandlers on a street corner, every form of speech requires the expenditure of resources.

To write for an audience, you need computers, Internet connections, copy machines, books, or newspapers. To speak, you need microphones, podcasts, film equipment, radio signals, or television transmissions. Spending money on speech is part of speaking. Controlling spending on speech is controlling speech itself.

Yes! That's exactly why free speech depends on property rights -- and the "dictators of the proletariat" understood that. The Soviet Union didn't ban the free press directly in its early years: it simply nationalized all printing presses.

Ari then observes:

The very idea that government should attempt, through force, to "level the playing field" in the realm of communication and ideas is pernicious. It is the government's proper job to protect each individual's right to speak freely, whether alone or as part of a group, not to forcibly silence some voices so that others face less competition.

Certainly, I've felt that heavy burden in speaking against Colorado's "personhood" amendments in 2008 and 2010, as I described in detail in my December 2011 testimony. No advocate of campaign finance regulations has ever directly addressed the huge contradiction between their stated goals with campaign finance regulations and my experience as an ordinary citizen attempting to speak out. It's infuriating.

In addition to this excellent op-ed, Ari gave this short speech on Amendment 65 at a local forum on the election:



Ari deserves the thanks of every Colorado resident for his work advocating our rights to speak freely!

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