Is Faith Complicated?

Father Stephen Freeman, who I haven’t channeled in a while, has an uncommonly accessible blog Monday evening.

“It’s complicated.”
This statement sums up much of the modern experience. I do not think the world we encounter is actually complicated – but our experience is. Simplicity is the reflection of an inner world free of conflicts and undercurrents. The truth of the modern inner-world is that it is generally pulled in many directions.

Kierkegaard wrote that “purity of heart is to will one thing.” But we don’t will one thing. We will everything, regardless of the contradictions.

Swell. Just what I need. Another homily to think about when my head’s swirling already.

Except that he closes with ten “suggestions for the complicated.” I think he’s clairvoyant and he had me in mind on all of them (although, truth be told, I’ve sorta kinda started to learn some of them already after just 15 years in the Orthodox Church.)

For those ten suggestions, you’ll need to take a worthwhile hypertrip to his fairly brief blog.

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Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

Becoming Magnetic

Rod Dreher, with the excuse of a David Brooks column to frame the question, returns to one of his perennial Front Porchy type themes: the importance of place. I didn’t read it initially, probably because of the uninspired title: The Geographical Aristocracy Of Meritocracy.

The basic question is “why do young people flee their hometowns, and why do the educated elite among them congregate in a just a few magnet places?” If you immediately answer “Well, duh! Their hometowns are boring while San Francisco is exciting,” then you’re part of (what I think is) a problem. Why should people want excitement above anything else?

Richard Florida has made a career of valorizing of this phenomenon, and telling places in flyover country how they, too, can become magnetic. I’ve always taken him with a grain of salt, not because I doubt that certain creative things may multiply exponentially when a bunch of highly-educated and energetic people cluster in a place, but because

  • I’m cursed with an awareness that exponentially multiplying certain creative things may not be the only thing, or even in the top ten most important things, we should want to do.
  • It has the whiff of opportunism about it: find some troubling thing that’s happening and the people who profit from it may be willing to pay big bucks for you to explain why it’s really wonderful and only a fuddy-duddy could disagree.

Dreher offers an alternate good, that of roots, fully aware of the complications of realizing it in many cases. 

In ages past, the smart kid from a small town may have returned to his hometown and opened a business, or a law or medical practice, and so on. He would have put his talents to use building up his community, not as an act of charity, but because it wouldn’t have occurred to him to do anything but that — or if it had, there were powerful cultural forces pushing against it …

The point here, though, is that nobody these days feels an obligation to anything larger than their own ambition and desire — and that has real-world consequences for places you can find on the map. We are all implicated in this. If you are living in one of these towns, and you are raising your kids with the expectation that they will leave, and should want to leave for the sake of their career, you’re implicated in it too.

On a personal note, I don’t know if I’d have ended up back in my hometown had I not become concerned about whether greening america in the mountains of Arizona was a good long-term plan for a man who wanted a family, and thus decided to return to school to become an attorney, at which profession I’d shown some aptitude and knew reasonably well from having grown up in an attorney’s home. Having done that, and joined my father’s law firm, I’ve probably made significantly more money as an attorney because my hometown’s economic devolopment mucky-mucks have paid guys like Richard Florida, including the guru himself, to come give us some larnin’ on how to be more magnetic.

As a consequence (or maybe just coincidentally, driven by a the presence of a prominent Big Ten-or-however-many-it’s-up-to-now University) we have a downtown that’s relatively teeming with college-age and young adults, a lively arts scene for a city our size, and other features that make it a pretty exciting and remunerative place to live. A single cineplex where a drive-in theater used to be has more movie screens than all surrounding counties combined.  Our Big-Box Stores have replaced all the boring little mom-and-pop shops for those hick counties, too. Our legislators work together effectively across party lines in the state capital. And we’re the envy, along with Bloomington and Indianapolis, of the rest of the state, which I’m told calls us “the Golden Triangle.”

In other words, we’ve won the meritocratic geographic lottery and become aristocratic. Ain’t life great?! C’mon up and over, Indiana. To hell with your boring little hometowns!

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Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

My Evil Twin and “deluded evangelical evildoers”

I alluded briefly to Frank Schaeffer’s fatwa (calling for “a way to expose and stop deluded evangelical evildoers”) in Thursday’s potpourri, which was released in RSS at 4 am. By the time I rose at 5:30, concerned that I had let my chronic irritation with my evil twin Franky get the better of me, I revisited and edited my characterization.

In any event, the story he was getting the vapors over is one in a loosely-related series of similar charges, and deserves more than brief allusion.

The story is about the alleged nexus between American Evangelicals and African anti-homosexual legislation and violence. My Evil Twin and I both have concerns about the Evangelicalism from which we came. Mine results in pointed barbs, intending to induce repentance. His results in vicious slander, intending to produce suppression. But then, Schaeffer has always had issues with anger and with scapegoating. Only the identity of the scapegoat varies.

It’s notable to me that Schaeffer’s stridency was much greater than that of the documentary filmmaker whose video he embedded. But the video he embedded is disturbing on many levels, of which what follows are a few.

In the U.S. scenes, the “International House of Prayer” is disturbing because what they’re doing is not recognizably Christian worship in any historic sense. A Christian from anywhere in the world, from any portion of the first millenium-and-a-half, if time-transported to the International House of Prayer and given the gift of understanding foreign languages, simply would not know that he or she was in what purports to be Christian worship. I hope, but do not know, that this sort of contrived emotional frenzy – a sort of orgy with clothes still on – is not what has become of “mainstream” Evangelicalism.

We then are whisked away and invited by implication to consider some Ugandan assemblies a counterpart, if not an actual sister congregation, of the International House of Prayer. The Ugandan scenes are disturbing for the same bizarre worship style plus a literal call for a show of hands of those willing to kill homosexuals. That’s awfuller than the awful worship stateside.

Third, the video is disturbing because it alleges, but quite thoroughly fails to demonstrate, any nexus between the U.S. scenes and the African anti-homosexual extremism. The only demonstrated nexus is two-fold and very weak:

  1. The soft-spoken, clerical-collared African exile narrator. He claims that American Evangelicals, perceiving that they’ve lost the culture wars here, are seeking to establish Biblical Law™ as civil law in majority-Christian countries in Africa.
  2. A female American missionary. In a clip lacking any real context other than the filmmaker’s juxtaposition, she says she would support leaving some criminal penalties (penalties she did not specify) in a Bill that in fact included a mandatory death penalty for recidivist homosexual offenders. At least I’m supposed to think that’s the Bill she was referring to. I really don’t know.

Other scenes simply show no nexus in any sense.

The U.S. scenes included a man saying he doesn’t think homosexuality is consistent with God’s law and a young woman winsomely saying God’s law guides us to fulfilling lives. Nothing in those sentiments necessarily eventuates in criminalization of anything, and the filmmaker doesn’t even claim it does.

The U.S. scenes where people are trying to raise money for African missionary activity include no inducements whatever to give because the gifts will support establishment of Biblical Law™ in Africa, let alone the establishment of laws criminalizing homosexuality. They are pretty straightforward calls to support missions in areas where the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few.

What the filmmaker claims through the soft-spoken narrator is that historic Christian opposition to homosexual behavior can be turned into an ideology of violence and legal repression of homosexual persons. That true. Ideology can produce terrible distortions and excesses. But that does not warrant stopping American support of missionary activities.

When you let go of a dollar for any charitable cause, you lose control of it. You can be prudent. You can question just what version of “Christianity” the recipients are promoting. But nobody has the right to forbid you from giving without exercising such diligence.

Finally, lest I forget, the International House of Prayer looks to me like a charismatic or pentecostal assembly. That’s one kind of Evangelicalism. There are others.

But the supporters of Biblical Law™ that I have known – and I have known some who were trying 30 years ago to draw me into their circle – clearly were not mainstream Evangelicals at all. They were what I would call hyper-Calvinists. Their worship, if filmed, would be four boring bare walls and a Bible. There would be no musical instruments. The only singing would be somber Psalm settings, perhaps from the Genevan Psalter. Their guiding lights are not Pat Robertson or his ilk, but Rousas John Rushdoony.

So I remain very skeptical of the chorus of claims, almost as if orchestrated, that places like the charismatic International House of Prayer have become powerful proponents of hyper-Calvinist Reconstructionist ideas, or that anyone has picked up those ideas in numbers sufficient to constitute a real threat to freedom.

But I’m out of that whole world for more than 15 years now, so you may take with a grain of salt my skepticism — provided you take the video’s insinuations with equal skepticism.

What I ended up with about Schaeffer was “calling for ‘a way to expose and stop deluded [mainstream] evangelical evildoers’ from supporting Christian missions in countries where there has been violence toward, and efforts to criminalize, homosexual behavior.” The RSS version had ended with “sending money to Africa for missionary activities that may include some ugly surprises.”

The mountain labored and brought forth a mouse. And this blog entry.

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Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

Economic Stork Theory

I recently finished reading John Mêdaille’s Toward a Truly Free Market, and have been transcribing some notes from it. It was both a helpful review of economics (in which my formal education is minimal, much as I enjoyed it) and a fairly powerful brief for Distributism as a “Third Way” economics. A conservative temperament doesn’t rush into things, so I’m taking it slow, but I like Distributism more and more.

The family is in some ways at the center of Distributist thought — unlike standard-issue modern economics:

If economics requires fully socialized participants, and if economics is about social provisioning, then the question of the family cannot be divorced from economic questions. For economic actors, producers, and consumers are “produced” and socialized within the confines of the family; without the family there will be  no next generation, and hence no future, for the economists to worry about. Therefore, it is the family that is the basic economic unit as well as the basic social unit. Modern economics tends to ignore the role of the family completely to focus on the individual. However, the individual, by himself, is sterile and not a self-sustaining entity. Neoclassical economics thus has no way to explain how new workers come into the economy, and hence it has no way to explain growth. John Mueller has characterized these shortcomings in economics as “The Economic Stork Theory.” In the stork theory, workers arrive in the economy fully grown, fully trained, and fully socialized. These storks born workers are a “given”; that is, there is no way to explain the growth in workers or their level of training and socialization, and hence little reason to support them with political or fiscal policies

It is an oddity of modern economics that it depends on treating the worker as just another commodity (labor) for purposes of pricing that labor, but treats the production cost of that “commodity” as something beyond the price system. If we take any other commodity, say a bar of pig iron, it is assumed that the price must cover the cost of production, maintenance,  and depreciation, or the product will be withdrawn from the market. But in regards to labor, this assumption is never examined. For labor has its own “production cost” (the family) and its own “maintenance” cost (subsistence and healthcare) and its own “depreciation” costs (sickness and old age). Labor cannot simply be withdrawn from the market when these requirements are not met. Therefore, labor – and the family – does not even gain the dignity of the bar of pig iron in modern economic theory.

(Pages 39-41)

In order to accomplish the material provisioning of society, the economy must provide for the material provision of the family, because the family is the basis of both the social and economic orders; it is the reason for having an economy and the indispensable condition of an economy.

(Page 43)

However, we need to note that that this [supply and demand] model applies only to commodities, that is, reproducible, elastic objects and services that are made mainly to be exchanged in the marketplace.

Obviously, many things do not fall under the category of a commodity in that sense. The supply  of rare wines and fine paintings is not affected by the price.  Even when a Monet fetches $30 million, Mr. Monet will not supply the market with any new pictures. Now the importance of Monet’s to the market is not very great, and we can ignore the impact, no matter how high the price. But there are three things of great importance to the market, which also have no equilibrium point; these things are money, nature, and man. Their price and quantity are not regulated by supply and demand, and they are not “manufactured” for the market …

(Page 72)

In chapter 4, we introduced John Mueller’s economic stork theory (EST), which demonstrated that economists have no way to account for arrival of workers in the economy. Even as they “commodify” the workers, economists have no way to account for the “production” of this “commodity”; the worker just  mysteriously “appears” in the economy. Economists are willing to talk about the production of other “commodities,” such as pigs or pig iron. They know that the price of these commodities must cover the cost of production, maintenance and depreciation, or the commodity will simply disappear from the market. When it comes to labor, however, they are reluctant to concede that this too is “produced” and has production, maintenance and depreciation costs. In other words, they can modify labor, and then refused to speak of it as they would any other commodity. Hence, even under its own terms, the neoclassical theory is incomplete; it cannot account for this rather basic “commodity” per se, but must accept its creation out of thin air.

Mueller’s economic stork theory has a rather curious corollary. Under the EST, The only useful work done in the economy is work done for wages or other economic rewards, and hence there are only two kinds of economic activity, work and leisure. Thus, there are only two kinds of individuals in this theory, what I call Partially Useful Individuals (PUIs) and  Totally Useless Individuals (TUIs). The PUIs are partially useful because they spend some of their time at “work” producing things in the exchange economy. The TUIs, However, don’t “work” at all. Rather, some of the TUIs,  otherwise known as “mothers,” spend their time in such leisure activities is taking care of household pets, some of these pets are called “cats” or “dogs,” and others are called “children,” another form of TUIs.

(Page 98)

Mêdaille, an economist, sticks fairly closely to his economic points. I, a curmudgeon (slightly younger than Mêdaille, actually), don’t need to. If Mêdaille is right, I don’t see how this standard market theory can engender enthusiastic support from any serious Christian believer to whom family also is central. (There are multiple ways in which our economy disrupts family. This only scratches the surface.)

In their appreciation of the importance of the family to children (future “labor” to economists, “human resources” to personnel departments), the French have shown themselves to be far more sophisticated than increasing numbers in the U.S. and than standard-issue “capitalist” economic theories.

The French! God works in mysterious ways His wonders to perform!

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Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

Corporate Freedom of Religion?

I’ve been doing quite a bit of Tweeting and Facebook posting, as well as a couple of blogs (here and here), on various business challenges to the “employer contraceptive mandate” of the PPACA, a/k/a Affordable Care Act or “Obamacare.” I’ve been doing so because of important – and vexing – questions of religious freedom.

I’ve been a bit of a religious freedom head case all my adult life. Forty years ago or more I was reading the Seventh Day Adventists’ “Liberty” Magazine and writing letters to its editor. That was before my delayed law school entrance at age 30. (By the time I got my B.S., I’d been in school away from home, living in dorms or boarding houses, for nine years. I was ready to move on to “life.”)

In law school, I took a special religion clause elective class in Summer School, being edged out for the “A star” (the top A) by my friend Joe Rebone.

I take free exercise of religion very seriously, coming about as close to an absolutist position as one can coherently come without countenancing anarchy. I’m not a relativist – I’m a firm believer in capital-O Orthodox Christianity – but I give wide latitude to people’s right to be wrong, expecting in return that they’ll not try to harm me for calling them Krustians, Happy Clappies, Moralistic Therapeutic Deists, Gnostics, Dualists, Nominalists and other loathsome or risible things.

But even I pause at the idea that corporations and LLCs have a right to freely exercise religion — which comes into play when a smaller, or closely-held, business entity objects to buying contraceptive coverage for its employees on religious grounds. That’s the “vexing” part of these cases, and courts have split.

Personally and politically, I think the contraceptive mandate is sheer political pandering and a gratuitous insult to the kinds of folks who would almost certainly not vote for Obama.

First, it’s not insurance. It’s pre-payment of predictable “medical” expenses. But to talk much about that opens a can of worms because that’s exactly what “traditional” employer-provided health insurance has been since World War II. (For more on that topic, check this podcast.)

Second, to put it bluntly, young single women and single moms are disproportionately Democrat, compared to married women with children, who trend Republican. And the “Pro Choice” lobby is overwhelmingly Democrat, and loves slipping a wedge into the door, to be pounded on later to open it further. I don’t know how consciously the pandering to them figured in the initial passage of ACA, but the Julias of this world, dependent on government at all stages of life including their choice to have children out of wedlock, became a conscious target in the re-election campaign.

But legally, that doesn’t get us very far. Bad policy and political pandering isn’t necessarily unconstitutional.  Elections matter.

Nevertheless, a program like this that’s generally “constitutional albeit stupid and odious” (I just made up that category) might be unconstitutional as applied to particular employers. Howard Friedman, author of the Religion Clause blog, recently stepped out of his role as neutral chronicler to do some substantive commentary on the topic for Religion Dispatches:

Can business owners assert that their free exercise is being burdened when the coverage mandate is imposed not on them, but on their business? Does the for-profit corporation or LLC have religious beliefs of its own? Does General Motors practice religion? If not, do smaller corporations exercise religion? Or are the small businesses really asserting the religious rights of their owners?

It might seem strange to claim that a corporation (or an LLC) has religious freedom rights separate from those of the “real people” who own or manage it. An Oklahoma federal district court, rejecting a challenge by Hobby Lobby Stores to the coverage mandate, thought it was, finding:

General business corporations do not, separate and apart from the actions or belief systems of their individual owners or employees, exercise religion. They do not pray, worship, observe sacraments or take other religiously-motivated actions separate and apart from the intention and direction of their individual actors. Religious exercise is, by its nature, one of those “purely personal” matters… which is not the province of a general business corporation.

Hobby Lobby appealed, but the 10th Circuit Court refused to enjoin enforcement while the appeal is pending. So did Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Neither resolved the question of whether the business entity itself has religious rights.

However, in other ways, corporations often do have constitutional rights. A corporation cannot be convicted of a criminal offense without the protections given by the Constitution to criminal defendants. And in the famous 2010 Citizens United case, the Supreme Court held that corporations have the same First Amendment rights of political speech that “real people” do. If the First Amendment has been interpreted to guarantee a corporation’s free speech rights, does it also have free religious exercise rights guaranteed by the same Amendment?

This idea—that a corporation and its owners should be treated as the same person—is a well-known concept in corporate law, commonly referred to it as “piercing the corporate veil.” Most of the time, lawyers warn their corporate clients to do everything possible to avoid this “piercing,” since the doctrine is usually invoked when creditors of a business are making claims against the personal assets of a company’s shareholders, seeking to recoup their losses from an insolvent business by going after its owners. There is a vast amount of case law on when a court should allow “piercing the corporate veil” to reach shareholders’ personal assets, often focusing on abuse of the corporate form, misleading of creditors, or lack of corporate formalities. Business lawyers look to whether the corporation is the mere alter egoof its owners and routinely advise their corporate clients to emphasize the corporation’s separate existence from its owners.

However, the pleadings filed in many of the contraceptive mandate challenges purposely blur this line, collapsing the beliefs of the business with its owners, inviting “piercing.” As the district court concluded in a challenge brought by Tyndale House, a for-profit publisher of Bibles and Christian books:

when the beliefs of a closely-held corporation and its owners are inseparable, the corporation should be deemed the alter-ego of its owners for religious purposes.

Courts that have allowed businesses to assert the religious exercise rights of their owners have rarely, if ever, referred to the “piercing” cases brought by corporate creditors against business owners. This omission hides the unintended consequences that may be in store for small business owners who identify too closely with their business firms. These owners may be unaware of the new personal liability for business debts—including liabilities to the government—that they are risking by equating themselves with their business for purposes of religious expression. They may be inadvertently inviting the government to hold them to their word—that they and the business are one—when it comes to other matters as well.

I have become uncomfortable with the idea of corporations insofar as they are used to insulate owners from the consequences of reckless, high risk and speculative ventures whereby the owners hoped to “make a killing.” Any time a corporation goes broke, it saddles its creditors with the loss (unless it’s Too Big to Fail, in which case it saddles all of us with the loss, as its executives laugh all the way to the bank). I know one roofer wiped out by the bankruptcy of a large department store chain after he replaced one of their roofs on his own nickel, for instance. If he was smart, and he too was incorporated, he may have saddled his own creditors in turn.

This is exactly what corporations and limited liability companies are supposed to do in the case of honest failure. But after the last few years, “honest failures” barely are visible in the thicket of moral hazard.

Yet some pious business people have chosen to do business in those liability-limiting forms. Their seeking both to limit liability while claiming that the business entity is really them for purposes of free exercise of religion is both dubious (whence numerous losses as well as wins so far on contraceptive mandate challenges) and dangerous if successful, as Professor Friedman outlines.

If you’re even a bit of a religious freedom head case, stay tuned. This probably is going to some interesting and unanticipated places.

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Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

Oppression in America

It’s hard to claim the place of the oppressed when you wield power like this.

So ends a Timothy Dalrymple reflection on the Louie Giglio incident, which he described thus:

An evangelical pastor with a sterling record, who had developed strong relationships with President Obama and particularly his office of faith-based initiatives headed by Joshua DuBois, who had turned his enormously successful Passion conferences against the problem of human trafficking, was just publicly humiliated and shouted out of the public square for professing fairly standard Christian views on human sexuality and the possible redemption of our desires through the transformative power of the gospel of Christ. On the advice of the faith-based office, Giglio was invited to deliver the benediction, the LGBT community raised a hue and cry, and the White House quite obviously (see here and here) pressured him to step aside.

I don’t think I’d ever heard of Louie Giglio until Friday. I’m an ex-evangelical, still a practicing Christian (in the most historic sense), and have ceased trying to keep up with the doings of the evangelical subculture. Still, as in the current kerfuffle, those doings come to my attention often anyway.

But it sounds as if Mr. Giglio is an exemplary and center- to center-left figure, except that he does, or once did, believe that what we do with our genitals matters.

I’m not going to oversell what happened to Giglio. He was going to get to give a very public prayer. Now he’s not going to get to give that very public prayer. That’s not exactly being sent to the Gulag.

But I do think it’s ominous that a guy with so stellar a record was keelhauled for a remark from 20 years ago, as Dalrymple’s links do pretty well confirm, and that mainstream media aren’t eager to let that cat out of the bag:

Here’s how the fourth paragraph of [Sheryl Gay Stolberg’s] report appeared on The New York Times website early yesterday afternoon.

An official with Mr. Obama’s Presidential Inaugural Committee said the committee, which operates separately from the White House, vetted Mr. Giglio. People familiar with internal discussions between administration and committee officials said the White House viewed the selection as a problem for Mr. Obama, and told the panel on Wednesday night to quickly fix it. By Thursday morning, Mr. Giglio said he had withdrawn.

This paragraph was one of the most significant that I read yesterday because it confirmed that the White House had initiated pulling Giglio from the inaugural program. Yet by yesterday evening and in today’ print edition, this part had been removed from Stolberg’s report.

(Denny Burk, another evangelical of whom I’d not heard until this morning.)

What kind of pressure was brought to bear? Well-reasoned?:

ThinkProgress discovered that Giglio had said some nasty things about homosexuality, including that it’s a sin, that it can be cured, and that it’s a “malfunction.”
As you can imagine, Malfunction-Americans weren’t terribly thrilled about yet another anti-gay bigot appearing at yet another Obama inaugural.
In the ensuing uproar, Louie Giglio was suddenly no longer giving the benediction.

Louie Giglio is free think gays have a malfunction that he can cure.  And we’re free to tell him to take a hike.  Religious bigots have an awfully hard time dealing with the concept of mutual free speech.  They love the idea that they can say whatever hateful thing they want.  But then they get very upset and confused when someone gives them a piece of their mind in return.
I can’t prove that the White House told Louie Giglio to take a hike.  I’m simply reading tea leaves.  And the tea leaves I’m reading are making me more and more pleased about how the White House has handled this issue.
I wasn’t pleased that Giglio was selected in the first place.  It was a huge oversight, considering past history.  But they fixed things fast, and to our satisfaction.

(John Aravosis) This is a “progressive” version of the right’s incorrigible misrepresentation about Obama’s “you didn’t build that” thought. “Nasty,” “anti-gay bigot,” “religious bigots,” and “hateful” are very broad-brush and very dubious. It is possible to “love the sinner” while hating the sin, and it does not sound to me as if Giglio is a hater in the mold of Fred Phelps.

The silver lining in this – and, yes, it’s an ominous cloud – is the adage that pigs get fat and hogs get slaughtered. A court recently declined to decree same-sex marriage into his state’s laws precisely because the lobby seeking it is powerful, well-funded, well-connected, and has gained such remarkable cachet in just a few decades that they really don’t need courts carrying water for them any more. They can make their case politically, as they did in several referenda last November.

Perhaps it is something of a paradox that as their political clout grows stronger, the constitutional claims of same-sex marriage advocates become weaker. But if powerlessness is a legitimate variable in judicial decision-making, it is hard to gainsay the view of Judge Jones:

The question of “powerlessness” under an equal protection analysis requires that the group’s chances of democratic success be virtually hopeless, not simply that its path to success is difficult or challenging because of democratic forces. . . . The relevant consideration is the group’s “ability to attract the attention of the lawmakers,” an ability homosexuals cannot seriously be said not to possess.

Of course the advocates of same-sex marriage will continue to press their case in courts of law. They would rather convince five justices of the Supreme Court to impose their agenda on the country than try convincing the country itself.

Yup: “It’s hard to claim the place of the oppressed when you wield power like this.”

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Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.