Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's Prayer

I want to wish all our readers a safe and meaningful new year. It's my prayer that wherever you live, whatever your vocation in life, whatever your political and religious convictions, 2012 proves to be a year filled with peace, satisfying work and much joy.

God bless,

Accepting Bigoted Stereotypes at DOJ

It's hard to believe that our Justice Department, oblivious, or so it claims, to the Fast and Furious debacle which violated both U.S. and Mexican law, is now so on top of things that it espies a violation of the 1965 Civil Rights law in South Carolina.

South Carolina has passed a bill that would require photo ID at the voting booth, but this, Attorney General Holder argues, works a disproportionate hardship on black voters.

The Wall Street Journal provides the details:
In a letter to South Carolina's government, Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Thomas Perez called the state law—which would require voters to present one of five forms of photo ID at the polls—a violation of Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Overall, he noted, 8.4% of the state's registered white voters lack photo ID, compared to 10% of nonwhite voters.

This is the yawning chasm the Justice Department is now using to justify the unprecedented federal intrusion into state election law, and the first denial of a "pre-clearance" Voting Rights request since 1994.

The 1965 Voting Rights Act was created to combat the systematic disenfranchisement of minorities, especially in Southern states with a history of discrimination. But the Justice position is a lead zeppelin, contradicting both the Supreme Court and the Department's own precedent. In 2005, Justice approved a Georgia law with the same provisions and protections of the one Mr. Holder nixed for South Carolina. In 2008, the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board that an Indiana law requiring photo ID did not present an undue burden on voters.

Civil-rights groups claim this Justice offensive is needed to counteract a voting environment in which little has changed since Jim Crow. But South Carolina's law, like Indiana's and Georgia's, explicitly addresses potential disenfranchisement by offering state-issued IDs free of charge. When civil-rights groups fretted about the ability of minority voters to get to the local Department of Motor Vehicles to pick up a free state-issued ID card, Governor Haley created an 800 number to offer free rides to anyone who couldn't afford the transportation. About 30 people called.

In October, the South Carolina Department of Elections reported that some 240,000 state voters lacked ID cards. The DMV now says more than 200,000 of those had allowed their IDs to expire, lived in other states or were dead.

The Voting Rights Act was once needed to counteract the gap between black and white voter registration. By 2009 the gap had narrowed to a few percentage points in some covered states while blacks out-registered whites in others. Yet Justice retains a federal veto on election-law changes no matter how innocuous or racially neutral. Section 5 has become a vehicle not to pursue equal access to the polls but to play the grossest kind of racial politics.
It's almost unfathomable that anyone involved enough in our social life to be a responsible voter would not already have a photo ID.

Mr. Holder evidently fails to see how insulting his stance is to blacks. Playing into the worst racial stereotypes, he's tacitly insisting that blacks are either too stupid to know how to get an ID or too lazy to get one.

What other plausible reason could he have for arguing that photo ID requirements are unfair to African Americans other than that he thinks those stereotypes are accurate?

How Liberalism Hurts the Poor

It seems to me that a compelling case can be made for the proposition that modern liberalism, under the guise of social justice and compassion for the poor, has actually done a great deal more to exacerbate the condition of the poor in this country than to help them. Since at least the 1960s liberal journalists, academics, politicians, and judges have promoted and imposed policies which have made life much harder for the poor, and to the rest of us, than it might otherwise have been.

Perhaps it doesn't overstate the case to say that in the last 50 years liberal sexual mores have devastated families, liberal educational theory has diminished learning, liberal penal theory resulted in soaring crime rates, liberal environmentalism has cost us innumerable jobs, liberal solutions to poverty have created a permanent underclass, and liberal tax and spend economic theory has put us in the economic morass we find ourselves in today. All of this has created more hardship for the poor, not less.

Yesterday's New York Times brings word of yet another way in which liberal attempts to establish social justice are going to hurt the poor. Laurie Goodstein reports that the state of Illinois has decided to cut off funding to Catholic Charities affiliates in the state because the Charities refuse to consider same-sex couples as potential foster-care or adoptive parents for the poor and neglected children to whom they minister. The loss of funding will make it impossible for these charitable organizations to continue:
Roman Catholic bishops in Illinois have shuttered most of the Catholic Charities affiliates in the state rather than comply with a new requirement that says they must consider same-sex couples as potential foster-care and adoptive parents if they want to receive state money. The charities have served for more than 40 years as a major link in the state’s social service network for poor and neglected children.
This comes on the heels of similar decisions in Washington, D.C. and Massachusetts. In Washington the Department of HHS cut funding to a Catholic charity that worked with girls victimized by sex-trafficking because the charity would not counsel the girls to get abortions.

Moreover, Obamacare will require that Catholic and other religiously affiliated hospitals, universities and charity groups cover contraception in their employees’ health plans on pain of having their funding cut. Appeals of this ruling have gone unanswered by the administration.
For the nation’s Catholic bishops, the Illinois requirement is a prime example of what they see as an escalating campaign by the government to trample on their religious freedom while expanding the rights of gay people. The idea that religious Americans are the victims of government-backed persecution is now a frequent theme not just for Catholic bishops, but also for Republican presidential candidates and conservative evangelicals.

“In the name of tolerance, we’re not being tolerated,” said Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki of the Diocese of Springfield, Ill., a civil and canon lawyer who helped drive the church’s losing battle to retain its state contracts for foster care and adoption services.

The Illinois experience indicates that the bishops face formidable opponents who also claim to have justice and the Constitution on their side. They include not only gay rights advocates, but also many religious believers and churches that support gay equality (some Catholic legislators among them). They frame the issue as a matter of civil rights, saying that Catholic Charities was using taxpayer money to discriminate against same-sex couples.

Catholic Charities is one of the nation’s most extensive social service networks, serving more than 10 million poor adults and children of many faiths across the country. It is made up of local affiliates that answer to local bishops and dioceses, but much of its revenue comes from the government. Catholic Charities affiliates received a total of nearly $2.9 billion a year from the government in 2010, about 62 percent of its annual revenue of $4.67 billion. Only 3 percent came from churches in the diocese (the rest came from in-kind contributions, investments, program fees and community donations).

When the contracts came up for renewal in June, the state attorney general, along with the legal staff in the governor’s office and the Department of Children and Family Services, decided that the religious providers on state contracts would no longer be able to reject same-sex couples, said Kendall Marlowe, a spokesman for the department.

The Catholic providers offered to refer same-sex couples to other agencies (as they had been doing for unmarried couples), but that was not acceptable to the state, Mr. Marlowe said.
By forcing the church to choose between keeping their doors open to the poor and facilitating conduct they believe to be harmful to children, the state has managed to once again give the poor the back of its hand so that it can uphold its commitment to a liberal vision of a just society.

The Bible reminds us repeatedly of our primary obligation to care for the poor, the widow, and the orphan. For many liberals, however, that obligation is secondary to the more important obligation to affirm the rights of gay couples to raise children.

Parenthetically, it'll be interesting to see how long it'll be before this same reasoning is applied to the tax-exempt status conferred upon churches. The logic of the Illinois decision seems to dictate that if a church takes a stand against same-sex marriage or abortion it should forfeit its tax exemption. This will force many churches to curtail programs that bring relief to the poor and in numerous other ways benefit their communities.

Do liberals want to make the case that churches which uphold traditional moral values should be forced to pay property taxes like everyone else and let the poor be damned? I don't see how, at least in states like Illinois where they control the legislature, they cannot.