Questioning the Legality of Common Core

I honestly don’t care what the standards laid out in Common Core are. Some sort of federal educational standards have been around for as long as I can remember. Whether it’s Race to the Top, No Child Left Behind, Common Core, or whatever catchy name they come up with next, it’s basically the same ideas with a new brand. The reason why I oppose all of them has nothing to do with the standards themselves. You see, the federal government has absolutely no jurisdiction or authority when it comes to educational standards. The federal Department of Education cannot legally exist if we look to the Constitution.

First, let’s clear up a common misconception: The United States Constitution does not grant you any rights. Rather, it’s an employee manual written to the federal government. It details the responsibilities and authority entrusted to the federal government. The Bill of Rights details a number of inherent rights that they are prohibited from interfering with or infringing upon. The Tenth Amendment also clearly states: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution details the specific powers that are in the hands of Congress. Nowhere in that list is education even hinted at. One might argue that the Department of Education falls under the Executive Branch, but as the Executive Branch is only to implement law as passed by Congress, and not write their own law, that’s not a valid argument. The Executive Branch cannot act outside of law passed by Congress, and as Congress has no jurisdiction over matters of education, neither one can enact any sort of binding educational standards.

My problem with federal educational standards has nothing to do with the content of said standards. It has everything to do with the question of the Constitutional legality of the very existence of any federal educational standards.

It’s no secret that a fair number of public schools fail to meet the minimums of any one of the DOE educational standards over the past few decades. What no one can seem to agree on, is what needs to be done in response to that. A change in the amount of federal funding the school in question receives is one idea, but that brings us to another sticky legal issue…

This will of course vary from state to state, but according to Article 8, Section 1 of the Maine State Constitution – “…the Legislature are authorized, and it shall be their duty to require, the several towns to make suitable provision, at their own expense, for the support and maintenance of public schools…” (Emphasis mine.) According to the law in Maine, public schools must be solely funded by the towns, and may not accept funding from the state or federal government. In short, if the town is paying the tuition, then the town should decide which standards the school must meet. Admittedly, the public schools in Maine do accept state and federal funds for their operation, and are thus in violation of the Maine Constitution. We can’t pick and choose which parts of the Constitution we’ll follow though. We must either amend it or follow it, and laws or regulations that do not align with it need to be repealed immediately.

Ultimately, the responsibility for a child’s education lies on the shoulders of the parent, and to an increasing degree as they grow older, on the student themselves. Whether a student is enrolled in public schools, private schools, or is homeschooled, parental involvement in education is key. No amount of government grants or educational standards can change that… and neither should they try.

Cost of Doing Business: Part 2

Last week I talked a little about the effects of the new minimum wage increase on small businesses and their employees. But what about the self-employed folks who don’t have employees? Surely this has no impact on their business. Don’t be so sure!

So, you’re a handyman who charges $40 per hour for your services. This sounds really good. I mean, who wouldn’t love to make $40 per hour, right? The typical handyman wishes that he made $40 every hour that he worked too…

Confused? Let’s break this down:

What does every handyman need? Tools of course! You can’t replace a client’s broken window without the proper tools. We’re not talking the basic hammer, screwdriver set, and cordless drill that you have in your home toolbox. The cost of specialized, commercial tools required for projects like that is a lot more than you’d think. Those tools won’t last forever, either. A handyman has to plan on spending a fair amount of his annual income on new tools required, and replacing worn out, broken tools.

You’ve got your tools. How do you transport not just the tools, but the materials to the jobsite? This is not all going to fit in an economy car. So, you need a truck, van, or other larger vehicle to carry his equipment. A trailer may even be required for transporting some of the bulkier building materials. Transportation won’t be cheap, but it’s not just the cost of the truck and trailer either. It’s a business, so you’ll need commercial insurance on the vehicle. (Yeah, that’s more expensive than regular insurance. A lot more.) The fuel costs are also going to be higher because of the weight of the larger truck and the tools. And maintenance? You guessed it! That’s going to be more expensive too.

What about health insurance? We’re all required to have it now, but while an employee’s employer obtains a group rate and pays for a portion of the monthly premium, the self-employed person has to pay a higher rate for an individual policy and you have to pay all of the premium yourself. Go price an individual health insurance policy for a family of four sometime if you really want to experience sticker shock!

Don’t forget your commercial liability insurance and any permits and licenses required while you’re at it.

So, out of your $40 per hour you have to pay all of this? Yep, but wait! There’s more…

You aren’t getting paid for every hour that you work. What?! Anyone who’s self-employed will tell you that only a fraction of the time they work is actually billable to a client. You do a lot of job estimates for people. That takes driving to the site, measuring and looking things over, figuring out what materials will be needed, getting current pricing on those materials, estimating the hours that it’s going to take to get the job done, and then writing all of this up into a nice, clear estimate for your potential customer. Most of them will never call you back. So all of that time that you spent putting together the “free estimate” is just lost time. No one paid you for those hours, and you ended up not getting hired anyway.

Someone has to keep the books, file the paperwork, deal with the banking, keep up with the various insurance policies, and *shudder* do the taxes. Hiring a bookkeeper to do all of that is awfully expensive, and so a good chunk of self-employed folks do it themselves. Sadly, no one is paying you for the hours you will put into it. Sure, income tax returns only get filed once a year, but you have to keep receipts and records for everything business related all year long. You’re going to spend a lot of time reading IRS code trying to figure out what’s deductible, what’s taxable, and how to get it all listed correctly on your Schedule C. (Seriously, just plan on taking a week off every year to wrestle with your tax return.) You need to keep notes and records of all of your projects too, on the off chance that there’s some kind of lawsuit or such in the future that will require you to produce detailed records. Better add some lawyer fees to your annual budget for the inevitable.

You may need an office and a place to store your vehicles, tools, and materials. Rent, property tax, insurance, utilities, upkeep… You’re on the hook for all of it.

Advertising? That’s all up to you as well. You’ll need to pay for ads, business listings, business cards, maybe have a booth at trade shows, and the list goes on. If you can’t do the graphic design yourself, then you’ll have to hire that out.

Oh, and those clients and customers who you’ve done all that work for? Some of them won’t pay the invoice that you sent them. Some of them will pay it, but months, or even a year later. (Yes, speaking from experience here!) Some of them will be unhappy with the outcome of what they hired you to do, or they’ll change their mind about what they want halfway through the project. Guess who ends up eating part or even all of the cost of that. Here’s a hint: it’s usually not the client.

Figure all of this in, and you’re making a whole lot less than $40 per hour of work. It’s sort of a joke among that business owners and self-employed folks that they wish they made minimum wage! This is not to say that it’s not worth it to start your own business. There are some distinct advantages, and that’s why we put up with the less-than-glamorous side of it. Certainly, some business owners end up doing pretty well for themselves. Make no mistake, they have worked their tail off to get to that point, and they’re still working hours that would make most people quit their job.

What does all of this have to do with the minimum wage increases though?

A minimum wage increase of over 50% just makes it that much harder for a business owner to make the jump into hiring an employee. This severely limits how much a self-employed individual can grow their business. If they can’t afford to hire employees, then the amount of work they take on can never exceed what they can realistically do while still doing all of the other things required to run their business, that they don’t get paid for.

Last week I mentioned how one result of the minimum wage increase is a commensurate increase in the cost of goods and services. Those who are self-employed will have to deal with the cost of living increases just like anyone else, but it’s going to be much harder for them to raise their rates enough to compensate for this. Nobody wants to hear that the hourly rate has increased because of cost increases. At best, the customer complains, at worst, they just don’t hire you. Worse, when businesses are cutting costs and closing up shop, your client base shrinks. When employees have their hours cut, or lose their jobs, your client base shrinks.

Are there very real economic problems that families in America are dealing with? Of course. Mandatory raises are not a viable long-term solution to this problem though.

Note: If you’re interested in learning a bit more about economics, then the Mises Institute is a great website to start with. A few books that I’d recommend are The Creature from Jekyll Island by Edward Griffin, and End the Fed by Ron Paul. Wealth of Nations is considered a classic on the topic, and you can find a digital copy for free on Project Gutenberg’s website.

Cost of Doing Business: Part 1

I’ve been hearing the catchphrase “living wage” come up more and more lately. I’m sure part of that is due to the recent Citizen’s Initiative in Maine that will raise the minimum wage by more than 50% over the next few years. Even so, the topic is on the minds of families across the country.

As a family of six, with two self-employed parents, we’re no strangers to the struggle to make ends meet. Believe me, I have nothing but empathy for the folks who are trying to figure out whether to pay the electric bill or the heat bill because they just can’t pay both this month. I know what it’s like to have your only car suddenly break down and need thousands of dollars of repair work at a time when you can least afford it. I’ve been there, done that, and was too broke to buy the t-shirt. I don’t say all of this to elicit sympathy. (Truly, I don’t feel sorry for myself when I’m still better off than 95% of the people in the world.) I say it to make the point that I understand where people are coming from when they talk about wanting to make a “living wage”.

Would it surprise you to hear that I oppose mandatory minimum wage increases?

We’ve barely started to see the effects of the new increases here in Maine. Some small businesses have been forced to cut employee hours and even lay off some of their employees because they just can’t afford the increase in pay at the current number of hours that they’re paying for. Hiring employees is expensive any way that you look at it. Not only do you have the cost of the hourly wage, but you also have to pay worker’s comp insurance, health insurance, vacation pay, and so on. You’ll need to either do the payroll yourself of pay someone else to do it for you. That’s more than just writing a check every week though. There’s a lot of tax paperwork and withholding payments to the IRS that need to be taken care of. (Heaven help you if you make a mistake on any of that!) If you have 4 employees who each work about 30 hours per week, you are looking at paying out an additional $28,000 per year in wages by 2020. Keep in mind that this does not increase the number of employees or the number of hours worked.

When you’re a small business owner, $28,000 is nothing to sneeze at. Most of these business owners are not rolling in the dough. Where will this extra money come from? Well, they can reduce employee hours by enough to negate the extra wages. This also means that they’ll either need to cut the hours that their business is open, or fill in all of those extra hours themselves. (This is on top of all of the other work that they’re already doing to keep their business going.) Or, they can increase their profits to cover the cost of the additional wages they need to pay. How does a business owner do that? By raising prices, of course.

So, while Maine workers will be making more per hour, they’re going to have to contend with reduced hours and an increase in the cost goods and services that they need. Those who are working fewer hours could pick up a second or third job to make up for that. If there are jobs to be had. With businesses cutting hours and reducing staff to be able to afford to make payroll though, that’s potentially a pretty big if.

We’d like to think that these mandatory minimum wage raises are no big deal to the businesses who employ us. It’s big corporations, and they have plenty of money, right? The truth is, it is a big deal to the small, local businesses! It’s these businesses and the people they employ who will be hurt most by this sort of law.

The raise in pay only applies to those who are employees of a business, but what does that mean for the self-employed folks? Will it have any impact on them? Glad you asked! Come back next week to read the answer in Part 2.

If you’re interested in learning a bit more about economics, then the Mises Institute is a great website to start with. A few books that I’d recommend are The Creature from Jekyll Island by Edward Griffin, and End the Fed by Ron Paul. Wealth of Nations is considered a classic on the topic, and you can find a digital copy for free on Project Gutenberg’s website.

Not the President We Need, but Maybe the One We Deserve…

I’ve always admired William Wilberforce for a number of reasons. I think it was particularly impressive that he realized one could not change the law without also changing the hearts and minds of the people. The evil of the slave trade would continue under protection of the law until both the people’s opinions and the law was changed. It’s a principle that we would do well to take note of when it comes to American politics.

constitution-1486010_1280We’ve convinced ourselves that the most important event in American politics is choosing what amounts to the hood ornament on our car. The president can’t do that much without the approval of congress though. If he goes outside of the limited authority he’s assigned, then congress has plenty of options for dealing with that. If both congress and the president over-reach in the creation of an un-constitutional law, then the courts can nip that in the bud too. The problem is not that we’ve had bad presidents. (Well, it’s not only that we’ve had bad presidents…) The problem is that we have bad senators and representatives. We have bad judges. We have bad governors. We have bad representation in our state legislatures. You get the idea. The true brilliance of the American government system was the number of checks and balances in place to keep any single rouge element from derailing things too badly. This all breaks down though when faced with a population who are apathetic at best, and completely devoid of morals and ethics at worst. The people we choose to lead us, are a reflection of us. The government that we have today, is a reflection of the character of We the People.

It’s true, the choices before us in the presidential election are unbelievably bad. Why should we expect ethics and polite behavior from them though when we fail to expect it in ourselves?

I’m neither a Republican nor a Democrat, but I am going to take a minute to discuss the Republican candidate specifically because so many Christians have thrown their support behind him. Is Trump different from the typical Republican fare? Somewhat. Is he better? Not at all. For one thing, his business practices do not speak well of his character. Is he successful? Sure, but he hasn’t gotten there by being ethical. He has a reputation of being a bully, which is evident from the campaign coverage. He says things that are rude, vulgar, lewd, and completely unacceptable. You can argue that everyone talks like that, but it’s a flat-out lie. It doesn’t matter how many people speak that way in any case, it’s simply not acceptable. Ever. Some evangelical leaders have even been bold enough to insult our intelligence by trying to convince us that Mr. Trump is, in fact, a devoted follower of Christ. The hallmarks of the redeemed are repentance and a spirit of humility. I have yet to see any evidence of such attitudes from him. If he has experienced the life-changing grace of Jesus Christ, why is he more vocal about excusing his bad behavior than he is in proclaiming what God has done in his life?

Truth is, Donald Trump would fit in OK in an awful lot of churches in America. In our quest to become “relevant” in the current culture, we’ve lost anything that sets us apart. We seek edginess over holiness. We seek what benefits us personally over sacrifice and service to others. The hard reality is that the Republican candidates are a pretty good reflection of the church. I couldn’t understand why the church would continue to endorse terrible candidates year after year until I realized this. We have no one to blame but ourselves. We’ve gotten exactly what we deserve.

Our “lesser of two evils” voting strategy has brought us to this point. Stop justifying bad candidates and bad behavior. Refuse to be mean and nasty to people on social media just because you disagree with them. Quit thinking that only the president matters and get involved in politics on the municipal and state level. Live your life consistently even when it’s really hard — especially when it’s really hard! Things like faith and ethics mean little when they evaporate at the first sign of difficulty. Our kids are watching us. The behavior we model and the caliber of people we align ourselves with will speak far louder than the pithy platitudes we spout to them.

Sure, things do look pretty bad right now. Yet I’m not overcome with despair. There are local candidates who I’m happy to be voting for this year, even if there’s literally no one worth my vote at the federal level. Maybe I can help make things a little better in my community. Maybe change doesn’t come from a president, but rather from the people. If indeed the choices before us are what we deserve, let us repent and commit ourselves to being worthy of someone better four years from now. If the candidates are a reflection of us, then shall we humble ourselves before God and ask Him to make us more a reflection of Him? Imagine the change that could bring…

240 Years Later: Reflections on Civil Disobedience

It’s my habit to read the Declaration of Independence on this day every year. Reading it is powerful; listening to it being read aloud, even more so. I sit in a New England farmhouse with the breeze coming through the open windows, and I wonder if the farmers who lived here 240 years ago were as moved as I am. At least some of them must have been. Why else would they risk being tried and executed as traitors to the Crown?

Independence Day is not a celebration of the Constitution, the American military, or our government. None of those things existed in 1776. Indeed, the document declared that the colonies were themselves free and independent states. They did this in the name of and by the authority of “the good People of these Colonies”. Independence Day is about the people standing up to tyranny and oppression, and doing so in full knowledge of what it may cost them. It was civil disobedience at best, and outright treason at worst. They dared ask for the protection and blessing of God above in their endeavor. One has to wonder, was that a contradiction?

Any discussion of government in Christian circles today will reveal the belief that it is right and Biblical for people to obey the government, regardless of whether it is oppressive or not. Romans 13 it typically pointed to as the reasoning behind this idea. It’s an idea that must be challenged though, no matter how widely accepted it has become.

First, I would point out that Daniel, and his friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, acted in direct disobedience to the Babylonian king. The apostles similarly defied multiple governments and officials by preaching the Gospel. Colonists in America refused to attend the official Church of England services and started their own meetings in homes; then refused to pay the fines levied for breaking the law in this manner. Brother Andrew acted in opposition to the laws of the USSR when he smuggled bibles to believers behind the Iron Curtain. Were any of them wrong to do so? You could argue that the law was requiring them to deny God, and so their disobedience is excused because of the circumstances. Fair enough.

Second, I would bring attention to the Hebrew midwives who were ordered by Pharaoh to kill all of the baby boys born. Not only did they disobey their ruler, they lied to him when questioned about their disobedience by telling him that all of the boys were born before they arrived. In the 1800s, people across America were part of an Underground Railroad that worked to help slaves escape to freedom. Even in the so-called “free states” their actions were illegal and many were tried and punished for it. Corrie ten Boom and her family broke the law when they helped Jews hide and escape the country. Were any of these people wrong to do so? You might counter that their actions directly saved the lives of people, and thus their law-breaking was acceptable. Certainly true.

So, might we then conclude that one need not obey the government when they demand that you deny God, or when doing so saves a life? I imagine that most Christians would agree with that. In any case, we begin to see that this “obey the government” concept is not a hard and fast rule. Let’s step a bit further into the gray areas now.

One can, and many do argue that the American Colonies were acting in sin when declaring their independence and opposing the rightful King of England. Plenty of Loyalists in the 1770s argued that the Revolution was not Biblical. It’s even easier to hold such an opinion today, I believe, because of the amount of time that has passed. None yet live to tell their stories of what life was like during that time. The more recent the history though, the harder it is to be so dispassionate.

Consider Dietrich Bonhoeffer: German pastor, spy, and conspirator against the Nazi government. He grappled with the issue of whether he would serve if conscripted into military service. He was eventually banned by the government from public speaking, and yet continued to do so in secret. He was a part of the German resistance that sought to overthrow the government. He was later tied to a conspiracy to assassinate Adolf Hitler. There were Christians in Germany and abroad who criticized his actions. But dare we assert that he was wrong in opposing the terrible atrocities and acting as much in his power as he could to put an end to them?

Let us not forget Rosa Parks. Liberals, conservatives, atheists, and Christians alike have labeled her quiet act of civil disobedience as heroic. And yet, she had not be asked to deny God. She was not directly acting to save the life of another. In her own humble way, she simply opposed an injustice. The law was not on her side. The courts considered her refusal to give up her seat as a criminal act. Should she have given up her seat? Should the many people who spoke out and actively opposed the injustice of their day have just sit down, shut up, and obeyed the law?

These are weighty questions, and there are no easy answers. But these are questions that can no longer be ignored by believers. Christians must grapple with these issues, and discard the pat answers that we’ve been given. It would be comforting to believe that the circumstances we find ourselves in the midst of are not in any way comparable to the ones that I’ve mentioned in this article. Comforting, but incorrect. We rarely understand the gravity of our present situation until many years have passed.

May I pose a hypothetical question? This proposed scenario is not terribly far-fetched in light of recent events. Should it become illegal for private citizens to own firearms and ammunition, will you willingly turn yours in? Or, will you hide your firearms and lie when asked? Would it be wrong to do so?

Corrie ten Boom choose the second option. When citizens were ordered to turn in their radios, she hid one in the stairs of her family’s home and turned in only one radio. When asked if it was the only one they owned, she replied that it was. Was that wrong?

Let’s look for a moment at Romans 13:3&4 (HCSB)

“For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have its approval. For government is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, because it does not carry the sword for no reason. For government is God’s servant, an avenger that brings wrath on the one who does wrong.”

It’s clear that governments are established by God to punish the evildoer. What then should we do when government itself becomes the evildoer? Should we by our silence be complicit in their evil deeds? Or should we stand on the side of right, even if it means we are in opposition to our government?

Throughout history, countless Christians faced this dilemma. Each one had to carefully and prayerfully consider the situation that they found themselves in, but the decision was one that they had to make themselves. Christians have landed on both sides of every major political and ethical debate in recorded history. It is not enough for us to simply follow the decisions of others. We must take responsibility for our own actions, and be prepared to justify our actions, or lack thereof before God Himself. It is no easy task, and I’m sure that many of the people living in the American Colonies 240 years ago struggled mightily with it.

Whether we agree with the decisions made in July of 1776 or not, today is a day for us to reflect upon the idea of civil disobedience and what circumstances might justify it. I do not doubt that my generation will face these decisions ourselves. In the end, I believe there is some wisdom for us in these words written by Bonhoeffer:

“…when a man takes guilt upon himself in responsibility, he imputes his guilt to himself and no one else. He answers for it… Before other men he is justified by dire necessity; before himself he is acquitted by his conscience, but before God he hopes only for grace.”

Short Story: Political Theater

It’s been far too long since I posted a story on Teish Knits, and I think we might all enjoy a little satire right about now…

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Political Theater

By: Teisha J. Priest

 

Maureen slipped into her seat and handed a bag of popcorn to the guy sitting next to her.

“Sorry I’m late Dan, parking today was insane,” she whispered.

He waved his hand, “You brought popcorn. I’m not going to complain.”

She handed her own bag of popcorn to him while she struggled out of her heavy jacket.

“What’d I miss?”

“The boring stuff mostly,” he shrugged, “It hasn’t been nearly as interesting as it was yesterday when they unseated the whole delegation from Pine Town!”

“Man, I can’t believe the people there managed to get all of the free thinkers on the delegation anyway. It’s usually just a bunch of party flunkies and yes-men. I bet it freaked out a few of the big wigs here!”

“Did you see the way the vein on the Director’s forehead stood out?”

“And then the Secretary looked like she swallowed a frog!”

Laughter got the best of them and they did their best to stifle it as the people surrounding them looked on with disapproval. They quieted down to the occasional giggle by the time the nominee vote was announced.

“Ohhhh, it’s getting good again,” Maureen nudged Dan and grabbed another handful of popcorn.

As things progressed though, she started to look puzzled.

“Wait a minute, are they really going to give the nomination to the second guy? He’s the least liked out of all four of them!”

Dan nodded, “It’s looking that way.”

“But… most of the people here don’t like him. At least half outright hate him! How can they nominate him?”

“Easy, the powers that be in the party want him to win the nomination. He’s part of the club.”

“They can pick a guy that practically no one supports though? I thought the delegates at least had a say.”

He smirked, “It’s the Preservation Party. They’ll lie, cheat, steal, bribe, and pull the omniscient tally screen out of storage just to get their guy nominated.”

She folded her arms and raised an eyebrow at the outrageous statement.

“Omniscient tally screen? Really Dan? Now you’re making things up.”

Another snicker escaped him, “I swear it’s true! You weren’t here last year. See that tablet that the Director is holding up on stage?”

“Yeah, so?”

“It’s his script. He just reads the lines, and pauses for applause or remarks when noted. Last year, they were voting on a rule change, when someone threw the tablet feed up on the big tally screen behind the Director. There were a few weak ‘aye’ votes called out, and a thunderous chorus of ‘no’ votes. But even before the vote was called, his line was up on the screen for everyone to read.”

“And?”

“He said, ‘The aye’s have it.'”

They dissolved into laughter again. Their fellow spectators shushed them, and one called for security to escort them out. They managed to get themselves under control before anyone from security ever arrived.

“How many of the people here today were around for last year’s event?”

Dan scanned the crowd of delegates thoughtfully before answering, “A lot of them are back again this year. At least half I’d say.”

“They came back?!” she squeaked.

“Why wouldn’t they?”

“Oh, I don’t know, blatant corruption at the highest level of the party? Why support a party that doesn’t represent you?”

“Easy,” he shook his head, “They’re more scared of someone from the Progression Party getting elected. So, they’ll vote for whatever crappy choice the Preservation Party puts in front of them.”

“That’s pathetic.”

“But not surprising, Maureen. The free thinkers will end up running a write-in campaign. They’ll have a guy who’s better for everyone than either of the big party guys are, and hardly anyone will vote for him. They’re so scared that the other guy will be worse, that they’ll completely ignore just how bad the guy they are voting for is.”

Neither said anything for a long time, munching popcorn and observing the circus unfolding down on the floor.

“So why do you come, Dan?”

“Back in the day, I used to think I could make a difference. Now? None of the films out at the moment are worth watching, so I turn to political theater for my amusement. Besides, I figure someone will have to tell the kids and grandkids what happened. Who knows what it will all look like by then.”

“Here’s hoping the Preservationists and Progressionists will have closed up shop at that point!”

“Maybe. But something will replace them… Always does eventually.”

She sighed, “As they say, ‘If you don’t learn from history you’ll make the same stupid mistakes. If you do learn from it, you’ll get to watch other people make the same stupid mistakes.'”

Dan raised his popcorn bag, “Here’s to watching the stupid mistakes!”

Maureen tapped his bag with her own, “To political theater!”

This time, security really did throw them out, and the pair trudged through the parking lot to their cars.

“I can’t believe we were thrown out. I’ve never been thrown out of anywhere in my life, Dan!”

“You get used to it,” he reassured her, “The Progression Party is holding their event next week. One year, they created a whole new city in the middle of the desert just to win an election! You up for another dog and pony show?”

“I’m in,” she declared, “But this time you’re bringing the popcorn!”

I hope that you at least got a smile out of Political Theater. Though it is a work of fiction, a number of elements were based upon real events!

At the 2012 Republican national convention, the delegates appointed at the state convention were stripped of their status as delegates and replaced with alternates chosen by party leadership. (Remember Maine!)

In 2012, both the Republican and Democrat parties had “omniscient teleprompters” at their conventions. Videos released by attendees at each convention showed results of votes being listed on the teleprompter used by the speaker… before the vote was even taken.

A rule change was proposed at the 2012 Republican convention. According to video of the vote and eye-witnesses reports from attendees, the delegates overwhelmingly voted against the rule change. Inexplicably, House Speaker John Boehner still declared, “The ayes have it.”

Perhaps the wildest thing of all though, is this: Nevada’s statehood was rushed through congress for a number of reasons, even though they did not actually meet the eligibility requirements for statehood. There were a few reasons behind this, but one of them was so that there would be another state to support the Republican incumbent (Abraham Lincoln) in the next presidential election.

236 Years Later…

I’ve seen suggestions by several people today for us to read the Declaration of Independence. I think that’s a great idea that should be taken a step further. Why not read it to our children? If you have young children, you can begin by reading only part of the Declaration to them. Tell them the story behind it. Explain why it was written. Talk about the risk taken by the 56 men who signed it. You don’t need lesson plans or fancy teaching resources. Kids love a good story, and the story of the Declaration of Independence is an exciting one!

    

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

 

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

 

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

 

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

 

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

 

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

 

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

 

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

We Recognize No Sovereign but God, and No King but King Jesus

Being the day before Election Day, I’m going to skip the usual Monday post and get just a bit political.

Every election is touted as “The most important election EVER!” Conservatives classify every Democratic candidate as the “most evil candidate ever”, one who must not be allowed to win no matter what! With the stakes so high, why would I “waste” my vote on anyone but the Republican white knight who will save America? I observe that voting for the “lesser of two evils” over the course of a couple of decades hasn’t given us better candidates to choose from either.

I’ve heard it all before. It’s the same old story. “We can’t let (insert candidate) win, we just can’t! It would ruin the country!” We’re all so scared of who might become president that we don’t stop to ponder the real question, “Do we trust God?”

“Unless the Lord builds the house,
    those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
    the watchman stays awake in vain.
 It is in vain that you rise up early
    and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
    for he gives to his beloved sleep.” – Psalm 127:1&2 ESV

If it is not God himself who watches over our country, then all our elections are worth nothing. How many times in the Bible did God remove evil leaders? Is He not capable of doing the same today?

We can work tirelessly to “build” an administration made up of a certain political party, but if we do not begin with a foundation of steadfast faith and obedience to God, then it’s all worthless. There is only one Savior. He’s not running for any political office, because He’s already King over all of creation.

I am secure in the sovereignty of God, so I do not hesitate to vote according to my conscience. I will be writing in a name rather than checking the box next to an “R” or a “D”, and I will sleep well on election night. No matter who “wins”, I’ve given my support to godly men, and the rest is in God’s hands.

“Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied to the king, ‘Nebuchadnezzar, we don’t need to give you an answer to this question. If the God we serve exists, then He can rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire, and He can rescue us from the power of you, the king. But even if He does not rescue us, we want you as king to know that we will not serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up.'” – Daniel 3:16-18 HCSB

The Real Battle

With the current White House Administration’s announcement of support for homosexual “marriage”, a veritable firestorm has exploded across the internet.

As a follower of Christ who accepts a literal interpretation of the Scriptures, I can only accept the view that marriage was instituted by God as a covenant between a man and a woman. It may not be dissolved, and it may not be re-defined.

However, I’m not here to debate the definition of marriage with anyone today. In fact, I wish to address the churches and pastors who would probably readily agree with my definition of marriage.

You say that we must vote for the Republican candidate for president, regardless of who that may be, in order to win the battle for marriage. The truth is, you conceded that particular fight years ago. In 1923, to be precise, when the federal government passed the Uniform Marriage and Marriage License Act.

Among other things, the act forbid pastors (or any officials who were allowed to perform a marriage ceremony) to marry any couple who had not first obtained a state marriage license. The church should have nipped it in the bud then and there.

That wasn’t the first anyone had heard of marriage licenses, though. It originally started in America in the mid-1800s. Certain states began to allow interracial marriages, provided that a state license had been obtained. Historically, a government issued marriage licenses only to permit a marriage that would have otherwise been considered illegal. Why on earth would the government then begin requiring them for every marriage? The simplest answer is that it’s an additional source of revenue.

But why would the churches not object to government interference in a God-ordained covenant? That’s a good question—one I don’t have an answer to unfortunately. My best guess is that it seemed innocuous enough that it just got overlooked. Remember, in 1925 America was in the midst of the tumultuous prohibition era. New federal laws regarding marriage license likely didn’t make front-page news.

Since then, church organizations really haven’t bothered to question marriage licenses. In fact, anyone who does question them is pretty quickly denounced in most circles. If someone tries to point out the potential danger in allowing government authority over something that falls within the prevue of the church, they are dismissed as fringe extremists. The commonly-held view is that there is no harm in complying with a such seemingly benign law. Some even take it so far as to declare that marriage without a state license is not recognized by God as a legitimate marriage. (Absurd, considering that state licensure of all marriages is a relatively modern thing.) Actually, if you follow that line of thinking, you could conclude that God would approve of homosexual “marriage” as long as they obtained their state-issued license first!

Do you see where I’m going with this? Why is the church suddenly engaging in a battle with the state over the definition of marriage, when for the past century they have been more than happy to concede all authority over marriage to the state? Even if the church “wins” this battle, they’ve still lost the war. When the church allows and endorses governmental control over marriage, they forsake the moral high ground.

“Then he said unto them, Give then unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and to God those which are God’s.” – Luke 20:25 Geneva Bible 1599

When we continually ascribe God’s authority to “Caesar”, should we then be surprised by the corruption and sin that results?

235 Years Later…

A year ago I posted the complete text of the Declaration of Independence on my blog. It seemed fitting, and I thought to simply post in once again this year. Then I read an opinion piece on a website… Ms. Baim decided to put a new spin on an excerpt of the Declaration and wrote this:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all people, regardless of race, gender, religion, immigration or economic status, sexual orientation or gender identity, are created equal, that they are endowed by their government with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. This liberty and happiness shall extend to all laws that give rights and responsibilities to adult people in a committed relationship.”

The writer has her own agenda of course, but that’s not what concerns me the most with her post. The most puzzling thing to me is: how rights could possibly be unalienable if they are granted by a government?

Since the term “unalienable” is not often used today, let’s first define it. I’m using Webster’s 1828 dictionary for these definitions in order to more accurately reflect what the accepted meaning would have been in 1776.

“unalienable: UNA’LIENABLE, a. Not alienable; that cannot be alienated; that may not be transferred; as unalienable rights.”

To clarify, let’s take a look at the meaning of alienable.

“alienable: A’LIENABLE, a. That may be sold, or transferred to another; as, land is alienable according to the laws of the State.”

If a right is unalienable, then it is an inherent right. No man may change it. If that is the case, then unalienable rights cannot be granted by man. If certain rights were given to us by the government, then the government could, at any time, take those same rights away. Rights granted by a government would not be unalienable! Where does that leave us? Where do rights come from? For the answer, let’s first look to the actual text of the Declaration of Independence.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

“…their Creator…” That says it all doesn’t it? The only One with authority to grant such rights is God. Genesis 2:7 tells us, “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” It makes sense that the only One with sovereignty over our life, is the only One who may grant us the right to life. No government can grant the right to life, because no government is the creator of life. Only God, as our Creator, can grant us certain inherent rights. He is the highest Authority, thus, mere governments of men may not in any way infringe upon rights granted by Him. To do so is a grave sin.

What then is the purpose of government? If a government may not grant us unalienable rights, then what may it do? Let’s look again to the scriptures for the answer to that.

Romans 13:1 states, “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.” Every one of us is subject to a higher authority. God is that higher power! Even governments are subject to Him. Any authority that a government has is granted by God. They are to act on His behalf under His authority. What are they to do on His behalf though? Romans 13:4 answers that question, “For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.” The real purpose for government is quite simple. They are to punish the evildoer who would violate God’s laws.

That is why American law was based firmly upon the ten commandments. That is also why the next line in the Declaration of Independence reads, “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men…” We’ve established that rights given to us by God may not be infringed upon by men. This is why governments are to secure, or safeguard, those rights. They act under God’s authority in this. When governments themselves become agents of evil and begin to infringe upon God-given rights then they are acting contrary to the purpose for them established by God Himself. At that point they act outside of His authority.

So, what would lead Ms. Baim to make such a gross error in her writing by asserting that we our endowed by our government with unalieanable rights when it is apparent that they cannot grant us such rights? The answer is found in the title of her post, “A Declaration of Gay Independence”. She seeks to assert that a behavior which God has told us is sinful is actually an unalienable right. This is impossible, as God is the only one with the authority to grant such rights. When He has established laws against a thing, then it is certainly not a right. In fact, for a government to insist that sin is a right is outside the scope of their authority. Worse, they are acting contrary to God’s law and are a party to sin. This is the reason why Ms. Baim left out the phrase “endowed by their Creator” and replaced it with “endowed by their government”. God has granted us certain rights, but not the right to sin!

Perhaps our most fundamental right is our right to life. We’ve already established that God alone is sovereign over life, and that that right comes from Him. Capital punishment is just when the government is acting under God’s authority to punish a crime that He has declared carries the death penalty. While we are seeing less and less of this legitimate exercise of authority, we see more of the abuse of it. Namely, the practice of abortion and the attempt by the government, both legislative and judicial, to “legalize” abortion. The murder of a child before birth is not the act of punishing a crime according to God’s law. It’s simply an act of murder.

Once again, sin is cloaked under a perceived “right”. I Peter 2:16 cautions us against that, “As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God.” Tragically, this has become common practice in America today. We hide our sin among talk of “rights” and “liberty”. We insist that it’s only fair that we be allowed to continue in our iniquity. And rather than punishing the evildoers as commanded by God, our government passes so-called “laws” to cloak our sins in the appearance of right. Thomas Jefferson, credited as the primary author of the Declaration of Independence once wrote, “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that His justice cannot sleep forever.” What kind of judgment will God visit upon us for this?

America began 235 years ago with the phrase, “That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it…” They lived under a government that had become a Godless tyranny. It was a government that, rather than acting in accordance with God’s law, sought to suppress the God-given, unalienable rights of the people. The government had ceased to be a “minister of God” as directed in Romans. It had become the evildoer that it was established to punish.

It was a weighty decision that those 56 men made nearly two and a half centuries ago when they put pen to paper and signed their names. They cited in that very document that such action should not be taken for “light and transient causes”. Some argue that they should have simply continued under the tyranny of the British government. They argue that it was wrong for them to declare independence rather than submitting to the government as commanded in Romans 13:1. But even governments are subject to God. If God uses government to punish evil men, then could He not also use men to abolish an evil government? Did He not do such many times as recorded in the Old Testament?

I’ll close with one final verse for us to reflect upon today.

“Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” – Galatians 5:1