Saturday 9/10/16

  1. America’s new blasphemy laws
  2. No True Conservative
  3. Partisan realignment
  4. Potentially licit, but imprudent
  5. Trump and Putin
  6. Phyllis Schlafly, rogue commando
  7. Designed for outliers


So many American liberals are bent out of shape about what Russia is doing here that they fail to notice that we have our own blasphemy laws. Look at this, from Eugene Volokh:

From the official Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination’s Gender Identity Guidance, just released last week:

Even a church could be seen as a place of public accommodation if it holds a secular event, such as a spaghetti supper, that is open to the general public.

Now, churches hold events “open to the general public” all the time — it’s often how they seek new converts. And even church “secular events,” which I take it means events that don’t involve overt worship, are generally viewed by the church as part of its ministry, and certainly as a means of the church modeling what it believes to be religiously sound behavior.


Under Massachusetts law, refusing to use a transgender person’s preferred pronoun would be punishable discrimination. (At least this is true of “he” or “she” — I saw nothing in the document about “ze” and other newly made-up pronouns.) The Massachusetts document I linked to makes that clear in the employment context, and it also makes clear that the antidiscrimination law rules apply to places of public accommodations (including churches, in “secular events” “open to the public”) just as much as to employment.

Indeed, a church might be liable even for statements by its congregants (and not just its volunteers, who are acting as agents) that are critical of transgender people. Tolerating such remarks is generally seen as allowing a “hostile environment,” and therefore “harassment.” Indeed, the statement I linked to specifically encourages people to “prohibit derogatory comments or jokes about transgender persons from employees, clients, vendors and any others, and promptly investigate and discipline persons who engage in discriminatory conduct” (emphasis added). But that’s not just encouragement; it simply reflects hostile work environment harassment law, which has long required employers to restrict derogatory speech by clients, to prevent “hostile environments.” See 29 C.F.R. § 1604.11. The same logic applies for places of public accommodation, which Massachusetts says can include churches.

Notice this too:

Under G.L. c. 272, § 92A, the law provides that a place of public accommodation may not distribute, publish or display an advertisement, notice, or sign intended to discriminate against or actually discriminating against persons of any gender identity.

Better not be a sign on the church bulletin board that offends a transgender who wanders in, or there will be trouble. Ah, the People’s Republic of Massachusetts, where if your church holds a fundraising fish fry during Lent, it invites the jackboot of the state onto its neck if a deacon criticizes transgenderism.

(Rod Dreher, emphasis added) Are these not the blasphemy laws (relabeled “hate speech” or “discrimination”) of a culture that holds only sexuality as sacred?


Ben Shapiro has written a fairly entertaining slash-and-burn attack on the essay that disconcerted me a few days ago.

Perhaps the most irritating element of the Claremont piece is the fact that the author pretends that it’s a piece about the stakes of the election and the myopia of those who refuse to see them … Take, for example, this whopper: “The truth is that Trump articulated, if incompletely and inconsistently, the right stances on the right issues—immigration, trade, and war—right from the beginning.”

False. Trump thought Romney was too tough on immigration, he’s been wrong on trade for decades, and he’s taken every conceivable position on every conceivable war ….

(Ben Shapiro, The Widely-Praised ‘Flight 93 Election’ Essay Is Dishonest And Stupid)

Shapiro has not adequately expressed my own thoughts on why I ultimately didn’t buy the Claremont piece. This particular block quote, though, is pretty solid.

Part of the clash between Shapiro and the Anonymous Claremont author is disagreement about who are conservatives, what are “conservative” principles, and whether conservative principles have been tried (and failed). Here, I fault Shapiro for his implicit No True Scotsman fallacy, whereby he exonerates conservatives of every policy against which public sentiment has turned. Self-identified conservatives, no less than Trump, have “taken every conceivable position on every conceivable war.”


David Brooks may ultimately prove to have a defective crystal ball when it comes to the details, but surely he’s right about a coming party realignment. Here’s his projection of how it plays out:

The Republican Party is now a coalition of globalization-loving business executives and globalization-hating white workers. That’s untenable. At its molten core, the Republican Party has become the party of the dispossessed, not the party of cosmopolitan business. The blunderers at the Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable bet all their chips on the G.O.P. at the exact instant it stopped being their party.

Now imagine a Republican Party after Donald Trump, led by a younger candidate without his bigotry and culture war tropes. That party will begin to attract disaffected Sanders people who detest the Trans-Pacific Partnership and possibly some minority voters highly suspicious of the political elite.

The Democratic Party is currently a coalition of the upscale urban professionals who make up the ruling class and less-affluent members of minorities who feel betrayed by it. That’s untenable, too. At its molten core the Democratic Party is the party of the coastal professional class, the 2016 presidential ticket of Yale Law and Harvard Law. It’s possible that this year the Democrats will carry every state that touches ocean.

Just as the Trump G.O.P. is crushing the Chamber G.O.P., the Clinton Democrats will eventually repel the Sanders Democrats. Their economic interests are just different. Moreover, their levels of social trust are vastly different.

We don’t normally think that politics is divided along trust lines. But this year we’re seeing huge chasms depending upon how much trust you feel toward your neighbors and your national institutions. Disaffected low-trust millennials see things differently than the Hollywood, tech, media and academic professionals who actually run the party.

… Republicans are town. Democrats are gown. Could get ugly.


Long before I became Orthodox, I admired Catholic Social Teaching, and I still do.

Catholic Social Teaching has some pointed things to say about the death penalty, short of saying it’s never licit. Mark Shea gets this exactly right, it seems to me:

[T]he Church cannot reverse its teaching on the death penalty and say that what is not intrinsically immoral is intrinsically immoral. So what? It can still say that it is unnecessary and need not be done.

And it does, in fact, do this. Three popes and all the bishops of the world say that while the death penalty is not intrinsically immoral and the state, in theory, has the right to execute people under remote circumstances, the need for the death penalty is so rare as to make its abolition the wisest thing to do in civil law.

When it comes to taking human life, the right wing culture of death asks “When do we get to kill?”

The Church, in contrast, asks, “When do we have to kill?”

The death penalty supporter looks for loopholes and ways to enlarge them so that he gets to kill somebody. The Magisterium urges us to look for ways to avoid killing unless driven to do so by absolute necessity.

The Magisterium notes that the inaccuracy and unjustice of our legal system is such that support for the death penalty means support for killing innocent people roughly 4% of the time in our zeal to kill those we deem worthy of death. The Church’s basic position is “Better the guilty should live than the innocent should perish.”

The term for that is “prolife”. You know, from conception to natural death.

This, by the way, is the position of the American Solidarity Party.


Is it really beyond the pale to say that a foreign ruler is a “stronger leader” than the incumbent of the party you’re running against? Am I alone in thinking it’s not?

Vladimir Putin doesn’t share our interests. He’s not our President, but leads a different country with interests of its own. (Shocking, isn’t it?) He is widely thought to have done some reprehensible things, not excluding ordering murders — of which, be it noted, drone strikes are not remotely “morally equivalent” because — well: red, white, blue, apple pie, and motherhood.

Democrats are not alone in getting the vapors over Trump’s and Pence’s comments, but they’re especially prominent and especially hypocritical:

During the Cold War, [false moral equivalence] usually meant saying that we were no better than the Soviet Union. For example, Democratic Senator William J. Fulbright — Bill Clinton’s mentor — said of the Soviet Union in 1971, “Were it not for the fact that they are Communists — and therefore ‘bad’ people — while we are Americans — and therefore ‘good’ people — our policies would be nearly indistinguishable.”

After the Cold War, the false-moral-equivalence arguments didn’t stop; they simply mutated to fit the times. The isolated abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq were expanded into an indictment of America itself. “Shamefully,” Senator Ted Kennedy declared in 2005, “we now learn that Saddam’s torture chambers reopened under new management: U.S. management.” Senator Dick Durbin claimed American policies were indistinguishable from those of the Nazis, the Soviets, and Pol Pot. Amnesty International dubbed the prison at Guantanamo Bay “the Gulag of our time.”

Last year, President Barack Obama went for a personal best in the worst moral equivalence Olympics. At a National Prayer Breakfast, he argued that those who condemn the tactics of the Islamic State — the beheadings, the slavery, the mass rapes, burying people alive, and so forth — must understand that Christians did some very bad things ten centuries ago during the Crusades. So let’s not “get on our high horse” about all that.

(Jonah Goldberg, who describes these on his way to disowning Trump)

The irony of this partisan role-reversal hasn’t gone unnoticed by anti-Democrat (not necessarily Trump-backing) pundits, who dug up this:

Suffice, I guess, that his candor about Putin’s effectiveness and popularity within Russia are not among my reasons for opposing Trump.


The First Things podcast for September 9 remembers Phyllis Schlafly, including a counter-intuitive suggestion about winning the battle and losing the war on the ERA (because losing IRA kept the feminist movement alive, and movement feminists now have gotten under constitutional pretexts the very things they’d have gotten had ERA been ratified). [Update: The New York Times has “Room for Debate” on this topic Saturday morning.]

Of Schlafly’s endorsement of Donald Trump just before her death:

Also, it could be the case that she came in as a rogue commando operative bucking what the conservative establishment wanted with Goldwater and she went out as a rogue commando operative bucking what the conservative establishment wanted with Trump … Her Trump support seems totally consistent with her longstanding opposition to what she called “the secret kingmakers” in the party, who once were the Rockefeller Republicans, now are the establishment and donor class ….

(Attributions to speakers omitted)


The First Things podcast also took on trigger warnings, microaggressions and micro-invalidations, noting that the vast majority of college students do not expect to be coddled or never offended:

We’re organizing our educational culture around outliers, and that is what I think is now characteristic of our society as a whole.

* * * * *

“In learning as in traveling and, of course, in lovemaking, all the charm lies in not coming too quickly to the point, but in meandering around for a while.” (Eva Brann)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.