Supreme Court correct to protect religion

Contrary to the letter from Donnabelle Richtsmeier, our Supreme Court was correct to overturn New York’s restriction on the size of religious gatherings.  (See copy of letter below.)

The 1st Amendment to the Constitution reads in part, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”     The 14th Amendment reads in part, “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States…”  So, states cannot violate our federal constitutional rights.

No exception is made to allow our governments to violate our constitutional rights because of a pandemic. If that were true, what limit would there be on our government’s response to a pandemic?

The statement in the preamble of the Constitution, “promote the general welfare“ does not grant any specific power to our government.  If we gave our government the power to do anything that would promote the general welfare, there would be no limit on our government.  Our Constitution establishes a government with limited, enumerated powers. Restricting the exercise of religion is strictly prohibited.

Donnabelle Richtsmeier’s letter to the Des Moines Register:

I was astonished to learn that the Supreme Court ruled against the lower courts and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s COVID-19 restrictions that included limits on religious gatherings in places of worship. The justices certainly did not take into account current scientific evidence and advice from public health authorities that such measures could help stop the spread of the virus.

The Supreme Court is no longer a bipartisan group of judges whose job it is to interpret the Constitution in a fair and just way. It is a group bent on promoting their own philosophies and politics. In their ruling, they forgot the phrase in the preamble to the Constitution that states “promote the general welfare.” Certainly, efforts to protect citizens from COVID-19 is promoting the general welfare of the citizens of not only New York but the entire United States.

The framers of the Constitution wanted to guarantee religious freedom giving citizens the right to worship in ways suited to them, free from harassment or harm. The Supreme Court really took this out of context. Limiting the size of religious gatherings during this severe pandemic is in no way an attack on the freedom of religion. It is a way to protect the health of citizens and to save lives. The justices must put aside their individual prejudices and become a bipartisan group working together to uphold the Constitution in order to “form a more perfect union.” If they can’t do this, maybe it is time for some changes.

— Donnabelle Richtsmeier, Des Moines

“Bending the curve” may only lengthen the time we are suffering.

I don’t doubt the good intentions of our government leaders, including elected officials and public health regulators, as they tighten restrictions on our freedom of movement..  We are “bending the curve” and easing the pressure on our health care system.  But unless an effective anti-virus drug is found and administered to everyone very quickly, bending the curve will only delay the time before most of us will become infected, and will lengthen the time that we all suffer emotionally and economically.
Why is our response to this situation so dramatically different than our response to the flu or automobile accidents?  Both the flu and auto accidents kill tens of thousands of Americans each year and are preventable.  We could dramatically reduce those deaths if we used the same extreme measures that we are using against COVID-19.  But what is the point of living if we have to stay away from our family and friends?  For a few weeks, fine.  For several months or more, not acceptable.  Life has risks.  We need to balance the costs and the benefits of our efforts.  Soon, we need to once again let people decide for themselves how much risk they are willing to take.

Don’t ban vaping!

It was like a breath of fresh air to read in The Des Moines Register that our Iowa Attorney General, Tom Miller, used logic in concluding that banning vaping by adults in Iowa would be a mistake.  (See link to Register article below.)   It does appear clear that almost all of recently rreported deaths and severe illnesses were the result of vaping black market products that contain THC, not nicotine.
While it may be true that no amount of vaped nicotine has been proven safe, we do know that vaping popular legal nicotine products has been going on for years without the type of health problems that have been reported recently.  We also know that nicotine vape products do not contain the tars and other substances in cigarettes that are known to cause cancer.
It’s reasonable to think that vaping nicotine is less harmful than smoking cigarettes, and that going from smoking cigarettes to vaping can be a good step towards quiting a nicotine habit altogether.  But, prohibition of vaping would only worsen the health problems, just like with opioids, where people who purchase their drugs on the street have no idea of the strength or purity of the products they are buying.

Abortion should be allowed if fetus is not viable

Joel Kurtinitis had an opinion printed in the Des Moines Register on 3/25/18 (see link below) wherein he wrote that a fetus should be protected against abortion as soon as a heartbeat can be detected (around 6 weeks into pregnancy).   He and other millennials may not have been exposed to the philosophical argument in favor of a woman’s right to choose abortion up to the time that a fetus is viable.  A fetus is viable when it is able to live outside of the mother’s womb, either with or without assistance (usually around 24 week into pregnancy).  A classical libertarian philosophical position is that every person has the right to use and control his or her own body as they wish as long as they don’t infringe on other people’s right to do the same.  In the case of abortion, this means that neither the fetus nor anyone else, has the right to force the mother to carry the fetus inside her body.  If the fetus is not viable, then the mother should be free to abort it.  If the fetus is viable, then the mother should take reasonable care to not harm the fetus during delivery.

Link to Kurtinitis’ opinion in The Des Moines Register:  https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/opinion/columnists/iowa-view/2018/03/22/heartbeat-bill-abortion-millennials-iowa-legislature/449965002/

 

Some discrimination should be allowed.

The Des Moines Register recently published a nice essay by a gay couple who got married in Iowa without any discrimination issues to deal with. (See link to Register essay below.) It is fair and reasonable for government to prohibit discrimination against gay couples and others in the selling of standard goods and services that are offered to the public, like most products retail stores, rooms at hotels and motels, and meals at restaurants. But when the product or services needs to be customized or personalized by the seller, then discrimination by the seller should be allowed, and the buyer should not be able to enlist the force of government to require the seller to provide the product or service. So, for example, cake bakers should required to sell what is what is on their shelves and available for sale without discrimination, but they should not be required to create custom cakes against their will.  At the same time buyers are free to choose other sellers and to organize peaceful protests and boycotts against such discriminating sellers.  This way, everyone’s liberty is preserved, and no force needs to be used, by government or anyone else.
As readers of this blog may know, I am and atheist libertarian and support gay marriage.

Boy Scouts made the right decision.

I was glad to read that the Boy Scouts are expanding their good work to include transgender boys.  (See Des Moines Register link below.)  Private club-type of organizations, like the Boy Scouts, do have and should have the right to decide who may or who may not be members.  The fundamental and peaceful right to Freedom of Association should be respected by law.  Any group of people should be able to voluntarily form a club or other organization. whether boy or girl, Christian or Muslim, Republican or Democrat, etc.   I’m sure this was a difficult decision for some in the organization. Many people simply do not know how to react to people who are transgendered.  Everything I’ve known about the Boy Scouts leads me to believe that it is an honorable organization that teaches both practical skills and good moral values and behaviors to boys.  This was the right thing for them to do.

Link to Des Moines Register article:  http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/politics/2017/01/31/iowa-boy-scout-leader-transgender-boys-welcome-join/97311766/

Our liberties we prize? Our rights we will maintain?

Recent Iowa Polls have found: A majority of Iowans prefer to use the force of government to require fellow citizens to buy gasoline that has ethanol blended into it whether the buyer wants it or not.  A majority of Iowans prefer to treat fellow citizens as criminals if they use drugs that are not favored by the majority, even if such use harms no other person.  A majority of Iowans want to force businesses to pay a minimum wage, even though it means that the least skilled people may not be able to find work.  A majority of Iowans prefer to use the force of government to prohibit vaping in privately owned businesses, even if the owners, customers and employees prefer that it be allowed.  Iowa should change its motto to:  Our liberties we prize and our rights we will maintain, unless, of course, the current majority disagrees, even if you are a peaceful person and do no harm to others.

West Des Moines wrong on smoking and vaping ban.

It is a proper role of government to regulate activities on public property. But, it is unfair that West Des Moines has banned both smoking and vaping in their public parks.  There may be no safe level of second hand smoke or nicotine vaper, but there is also no safe level of car exhaust, or camp fire or barbecue grill fumes, but we don’t ban them.  Life is not risk free.  And really, isn’t it pretty easy for anyone who happens to be down wind from a smoker or vaper to avoid the situation by simply moving a little bit?  Smokers and vapers pay taxes that fund public parks just like everyone else.  This is simply a case of an intolerant majority oppressing an out-of-favor minority.  I hope that other municipalities will not follow suit.  p.s. – I don’t smoke or vape.

Supreme Court was right on gay marriage

The Supreme Court did get it right on the gay marriage issue.  The fourteenth amendment to the Constitution says, “No state shall … deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”  Equal protection of all citizens by government is fundamental. Government must not give favorable or unfavorable treatment in the same circumstances to any individual or group. The right of two people to voluntarily marry is a fundamental right, even if it is not stated in the Constitution.  Remember the ninth amendment: “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” This ruling does not require any person or church to conduct or participate in a wedding between gay people.  It only requires that state governments not discriminate between heterosexual and homosexual weddings and marriages.  There was a time when  our Constitution was interpreted to not protect marriage between people of different races.  The current situation is very similar.  Even if a majority of people think that gay marriage is wrong, peaceful and honest people who do no harm to others should be free to voluntarily enter into marriage and government should not discriminate against them whether or not they happen to be of the same sex.

University of Iowa – wrong on tobacco policy.

The Des Moines Register recently reported that the University of Iowa (UI) has decided to implement a policy next Fall to prohibit all forms of tobacco anywhere on its campus.  (See link below to Register article.)  UI already has a policy that prohibits all smoking on campus.  The new policy would extend the ban to all forms of nicotine, including vapor and chewing tobacco.  The new policy will apply to students, faculty, staff and visitors.  It covers all university buildings and vehicles, plus all outdoor areas controlled by UI. UI is a government institution, and it is proper for governments to prohibit smoking inside or near entrances to government owned buildings because of the risks associated with second hand smoke.  For the same reason, it also seems proper to prohibit nicotine vapor inside government buildings.  But, smoking outside should not be prohibited.  Our air is not and has never been perfectly pure.  I would guess that automobiles, forest fires, power plants and volcanoes each put much more harmful pollution into our outdoor air than tobacco smokers.  Even worse, prohibiting smokeless (chewing) tobacco is just mean spirited.  It is not the proper role for government to prohibit us from legal activities that clearly harm no one other than ourselves.  Living involves risks.  As a person who does not use tobacco in any form, I have decided to not take those risks. But people who do no harm to others should be free to decide what risks they take with their lives, and neither I, nor any majority, should be able to force our decisions upon them.

Link to article:  http://www.press-citizen.com/story/news/local/2015/04/07/university-iowa-go-tobacco-free/25420109/