Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

Posts Tagged ‘First Amendment’

In FBI Case, the First Amendment Takes Another Bizarre Hit

Posted by M. C. on March 14, 2023

The same Democratic minority staff that trashed the First Amendment in last week’s Twitter Files hearings put something amazing in writing in a parallel case

The style of the new anti-speech Democrat is clear: define all government critics as lacking standing to criticize, impugn their prior opinions and associations, imply that all their beliefs are conspiracy theory, define their lack of faith in the FBI’s judgment as treasonous, and declare their motivation to be financial. Lastly, when they invoke common constitutional rights, make a note that their activities exist in an uncovered carve-out. This is the playbook, and we all better get used to it.

Matt Taibbi

Racket readers may recall that in November, shortly before the Twitter Files began, I ran an interview with Steve Friend, a onetime FBI agent who lost his career after blowing the whistle on the Bureau.

Friend refused to participate in a bureaucratic scheme to put local agents across the country in charge of J6 cases that were really being run out of the Washington office, a plan that made one Washington-based case look like a national map full of domestic terror cases popping up everywhere. He also objected to heavy-handed tactics like the use of S.W.A.T. teams for a suspect communicating voluntarily through an attorney, and the questioning of people in connection with J6 in cases where the state had little to no evidence. From that story:

Friend didn’t think the interview was warranted, and worried the feds showing up at someone’s door without cause “might do more harm than good” in a part of the country where government was unpopular already. He sucked it up and did the “knock and talk” anyway.

“I said, ‘Hey, were you at the Capitol?’” Friend recalls. “And he said, ‘No, that was my son’s funeral that day. I wasn’t there.’”

He shakes his head. “It hit me like a ton of bricks. I thought, I can’t believe I just made this guy relive that. And for what? Even if he’d admitted to being there, if he said, ‘I was there, I don’t wanna talk about it,’ I couldn’t even charge that.”

But even though Friend had reservations about some of the cases, his main concern was procedural — that by playing bureaucratic games with who was running these investigations, and putting locals nominally in charge of cases where they were really in supporting roles, they put all of the court cases in jeopardy. “A lot of these guys are bad dudes, and they should go to jail,” he said, about the Oath Keepers. But if “we didn’t follow our rules… we set ourselves up to get crushed at trial,” adding, “I want to win.”

A little over a week ago, the same Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of Government that organized the Twitter Files hearings privately heard testimony from Steve and two other FBI whistleblowers. The Democratic Party response to Steve and his colleagues was eerily similar to tactics pulled out against myself and Mike Shellenberger:

— Mike and I were not real journalists, they said, but “so-called journalists.” Steve and his fellow agents “are not, in fact, whistleblowers,” according to the minority report, and “do not meet the definition of a whistle-blower,” according to the New York Times.

— I was told by Florida’s Debbie Wasserman-Schultz that “being a Republican witness certainly casts a cloud over your objectivity”; Democratic Party sources told the Times that Steve and fellow agents Garret O’Boyle and George Hill “have engaged in partisan conduct that calls into question their credibility”;

— Democratic questioners in our case asked us about our opinions on Russian interference, and one said openly that failing to agree with them on that issue disqualified us from the “nuanced convo”; Steve, George, and Garrett were repeatedly quizzed about their attitudes toward various right-wing movements, suggesting that their opinions about these matters made them ineligible to offer procedural complaints. Friend, for instance, was asked about statements by “Three Percenters”:

Q: (Quoting from flyer) “Remember this, it comes straight from our Declaration of Independence, that whenever any form ofgovernment becomes destructive, it is the right and duty of the people to alter or abolish it. That is why you are here. For massive change to occurmassive action must be taken. Patriots, we are the lifeblood of this great nation, and it’s time we prove that.” Do you have an opinion about this statement?

Friend: It seems like First Amendment-protected activity.

— Michael and I were repeatedly quizzed about money we may have made during the Twitter Files period, with Wasserman-Schultz going so far as to harangue my about my Twitter followers tripling and to ask us if we were paid for our testimony; Committee Democrats accused Friend of having “profited, and is profiting, from making his allegations about the FBI public”;

See the rest here

Be seeing you

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

My Statement to Congress

Posted by M. C. on March 10, 2023

In testimony to the House Judiciary Committee about the Twitter Files, a few words about why state-funded “anti-disinformation” and free speech can’t coexist

Matt Taibbi

Editor’s note: at around 10 a.m. EST this morning, Michael Shellenberger and I will be testifying at the Hearing on the Weaponization of the Federal Government on the Twitter Files” for the House Judiciary Committee, in the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government. Just before, around 9:00 a.m., we’ll also be releasing a TwitterFiles “Statement to Congress” thread, which will be submitted to the record. It contains some surprises. My opening:

Chairman Jordan, ranking member Plaskett, members of the  Select Committee,

My name is Matt Taibbi. I’ve been a reporter for over 30 years, and an advocate for the First Amendment.  Much of that time was spent at Rolling Stone magazine. Over my career, I’ve had the good fortune to be recognized for the work I love.  I’ve won the National Magazine Award, the I.F. Stone Award for independent journalism, and written ten books, including four New York Times bestsellers. I’m now the editor of the online magazine Racket, on the independent platform Substack.

I’m here today because of a series of events that began late last year, when I received a note from a source online.

It read: “Are you interested in doing a deep dive into what censorship and manipulation… was going on at Twitter?”

A week later, the first of what became known as the “Twitter Files” reports came out. To say these attracted intense public interest would be an understatement. My computer looked like a slot machine as just the first tweet about the blockage of the Hunter Biden laptop story registered 143 million impressions and 30 million engagements.

But it wasn’t until a week after the first report, after Michael Shellenberger, Bari Weiss, and other researchers joined the search of the “Files,” that we started to grasp the significance of this story.

See the rest here

Be seeing you

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Biden And Universities Launch Sneak Attack on Free Speech

Posted by M. C. on July 7, 2022

The First Amendment supersedes the authority and whims of the Department of Education.

The First Amendment supersedes the authority and whims of the Department of Education. Remember how the constitution was designed to protect our rights from government encroachment? This is the exact scenario the founders had in mind.

By Cherise Trump
The American Conservative

The proposed new Title IX regulations by President Biden’s Department of Education have opened the door for universities to restrict and compel student speech even more than they already do. If universities follow these guidelines, students’ First Amendment rights will be jettisoned, rigorous debate will perish, and students’ tuition dollars will be diverted to litigate the free speech issues that will surely arise.

Title IX is a 1972 federal law which bars discrimination based on sex in education. It says that “no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” The law empowers the Department of Education to create federal regulations implementing that directive. These regulations define discrimination “on the basis of sex,” outline how institutions should conduct investigations, and detail how they must treat all parties involved. As with many laws, presidential administrations have historically struggled to balance their federal Title IX regulations with the U.S. Constitution and the principles that govern the American way of life.

The most recent changes to Title IX regulations were made in 2020 to rectify some glaring and obvious shortcomings of previous administrations that raised multiple free speech and due process concerns. The 2020 rules were an important milestone in the history of Title IX because they employed the standard adopted by the Supreme Court in Davis v. Monroe County Board of Education. Under the Davis standard, universities can punish conduct, but they cannot punish pure speech. Schools can only punish expressive activity that is “so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive” that it can be properly viewed as harassing conduct that effectively denies another student access to an education. This standard allows universities to regulate harassment under Title IX while complying with the First Amendment and protecting the rights of their students. Many universities, however, have disregarded the current federal guidelines and created harassment policies that shut down and chill student speech.

Universities have made it increasingly clear that they have an affinity for regulating student speech. Through various policies such as “free speech zones,” bias reporting systems, speech codes, and other restrictions, they have managed to chill student speech to a level we have never seen before. A tactic that often goes overlooked by the public, however, is when colleges and universities use harassment policies to target speech. So, before we discuss how bad it can get with these new Title IX regulations, we should understand how bad it already is.

Two things are currently happening on campuses. First, universities are disregarding the current regulations implemented in 2020. For example, New York University, has thrown out the “so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive” standard entirely and replaced it with “from the viewpoint of a reasonable person under all the relevant circumstances.” What’s reasonable? What are all the relevant circumstances? Who is to decide? A Diversity Equity and Inclusion administrator who’s paid to find violations?

If they’re not jettisoning Davis entirely, schools are slyly broadening it. The established standard clearly and specifically lays out the key aspects for universities to take into consideration when they are contemplating prosecution of a student for harassment: the objective severity of the incident and whether the incident is taking place often enough to detract from the victim’s education. Universities around the country will often change the “and” to an “or,” like at Yale University.

Language is important when it comes to matters of the law. A simple “and” versus an “or” can change the definition of a sentence entirely. Specifically, the reported incident can either be pervasive, offensive, or severe instead of a combination of all three. Therefore, incidents like microaggressions (which are whatever someone says they are), one-off incidents, offensive jokes, social media banter—all things that do not in actuality, prevent equal access to education—could be punished by the university and leave a black mark on a student’s permanent record.

The second and more explicit action we are seeing from universities, is their creation and enforcement of additional harassment policies which target constitutionally protected speech listing overbroad and subjective examples of what harassment is. There is no federal standard for the number of harassment policies universities can have. Therefore, many of them have implemented their Title IX policies while tacking on other “harassment” policies that target whatever they want. Oftentimes, these are lumped in with their sexual harassment policies and labeled “other forms of harassment,” like at Tulane University, but sometimes they are separate “discriminatory harassment” policies or “anti-harassment” policies that are included on their Title IX website or adjacently to their Title IX policies in their student handbook.

Read the Whole Article

Be seeing you

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

TGIF: Parents Should Govern Their Kids’ Education

Posted by M. C. on June 25, 2022

by Sheldon Richman

Sotomayor also writes: “If a State cannot offer subsidies to its citizens without being required to fund religious exercise, any State that values its historic antiestablishment interests more than this Court does will have to curtail the support it offers to its citizens.” I ask: so what’s wrong with that? Government has no business subsidizing people. If it wants them to have more money, cut and abolish taxes.

How clear are these opening words of the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”?

Judging by the U.S. Supreme Court’s many ventures into this area, we’d have to say not very clear at all. There’s a lesson in that. Constitutions don’t interpret themselves. People do, and the line between interpreting and making law is not as bright as we’re told.

The latest Court decision in the matter, Carson v. Makin, is instructive in that regard. The 6-3 decision — Republican appointees made up the majority, Democratic appointees the minority — struck down Maine’s exclusion of religious schools from a program that provides tax-funded tuition assistance to all parents who live in school districts that do not provide “free, public” secondary education. That’s over half the districts. Maine, according to the Court, is the most rural state in the country. Who knew?

Under the program, those parents can spend the money at another district’s school or at an academically accredited “nonsectarian” private school. The plaintiffs, two families, argued that this restriction violates both the Free-exercise clause and the establishment clause of the First Amendment, along with the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The U.S. district and appellate courts had sided with the state.

The six justices of the majority held that the exclusion of sectarian schools violated the guarantee of the free exercise of religion despite the fact that religion permeated the regular curriculum. (Remember, these were state-approved schools academically.) But the minority justices said the exclusion violated the prohibition on the establishment of religion because the money would go to schools that used it to teach their particular faiths. It was establishment clause v. free-exercise clause.

So who is right? Can that question be answered? Chief Justice John Roberts’s majority opinion and the dissenting opinions by retiring Justice Stephen Breyer and Justice Sonia Sotomayor point to many Court precedents that seem to support their conflicting positions. But the precedents aren’t much help because one can always say that an earlier case differed in an important way from the current one.

Leaving aside one’s background philosophy, all of the arguments seem plausible and consistent with the constitutional text. One might appeal to historical materials, but my hunch is you can find disagreements there too. There’s a lesson in all this, one captured by legal scholar John Hasnas in “The Myth of the Rule of Law.” (A discussion of Hasnas’s paper is here.)

See the rest here

Be seeing you

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

UK Considering Legislation That Would Imprison Internet Trolls | ZeroHedge

Posted by M. C. on November 8, 2021

Tyler Durden's Photoby Tyler Durden

Authored by Brad Polumbo via,

f you ever need a reminder of how important freedom of speech is, all you need to do is look across the pond…

The United Kingdom, which doesn’t have a First Amendment, has slowly seen citizens’ free speech rights eroded—and now may soon start imprisoning people for being trolls on the internet.    

At question is pending legislation called the “Online Safety Bill,” which ostensibly punishes social media companies that allow harassment. Yet it may be expanded to include new criminal penalties for individuals who engage in mean speech online.  

“Trolls could face two years in prison for sending messages or posting content that causes psychological harm under legislation targeting online hate,” the Times of London reports. “The Department for Culture, Media & Sport has accepted recommendations from the Law Commission for crimes to be based on ‘likely psychological harm.’ The proposed law change will shift the focus on to the ‘harmful effect’ of a message rather than if it contains ‘indecent’ or ‘grossly offensive’ content, which is the present basis for assessing its criminality.”

Social media users could face two years in prison for sending messages or posting content that causes ‘psychological harm’ under the government’s new online harms bill

Ministers are looking to include so-called Twitter “pile-ons” as a possible offence — The Times (@thetimes) November 1, 2021

Other offenses will reportedly be created for “knowingly false communication,” applying to those who “send or post a message they know to be false with the intention to cause emotional, psychological, or physical harm to the likely audience.” The new offenses will also include punishment for social-media “pile-ons,” where groups gang up and are rude to people online.

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries is reportedly planning on adding these provisions to the Online Safety Bill when it’s introduced in Parliament next month.

This blatant attempt at the censorship of online speech is deeply concerning. The government has absolutely no business punishing people for words that “cause others harm,” such a subjective and slippery standard that it beggars belief. This vague standard could be used to silence just about any speech that one finds offensive. And it surely stifles the free exchange of ideas that leads to social progress.  

Ideas like allowing women to vote, ending racial segregation, and legalizing same-sex marriage were all once considered “harmful” by many. If subjectively harmful or disruptive speech is stifled, progress is drastically held back. 

Moreover, the government punishing “knowingly false” speech is deeply disturbing. Firstly, it’s not a black-and-white matter to actually determine what is “true” and what is “false.” There are a million shades of gray and robust debates over factual reality across countless subjects. No one who values freedom should want a government Ministry of Truth determining what speech is “false” and punishing those who spread it. 

And this would all have a chilling effect on speech that questions the status quo or the government itself. After all, free speech doesn’t exist to protect popular or uncontroversial speech; such speech is in little need of protection. It’s dissident voices and information that threatens centralized power that is crushed under the guise of “protecting people” from “harmful” speech. 

The UK’s new censorship efforts are no exception.

“The laws are highly likely to be ineffective at keeping people safe, whilst actually restricting free speech considerably, as well as creating a chill by making people who don’t really understand the law feel too scared to actually say what they want to say,” said University of East Anglia Law School Professor Paul Bernal. “That’s the bottom line here: the main impact of laws like this will be to restrict legitimate criticism of people in power.”

Indeed they will. Americans should heed the sad example of the United Kingdom as a warning of what fate could await us if we don’t jealously guard our free speech rights.

*  *  *

Like this story? Click here to sign up for the FEE Daily and get free-market news and analysis like this from Policy Correspondent Brad Polumbo in your inbox every weekday.

Be seeing you

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Biden Tells Social Media Who Must Be ‘Cancelled’

Posted by M. C. on July 19, 2021

In a stunning admission, a White House Spokesperson said last week that the US Administration is instructing social media companies which posts must be taken down. Is the First Amendment fully dead?


Plus today: The ‘woke’ Olympics, Covid suicides, and why are we shipping millions of jabs overseas? Upper-division undergrad or grad student interested in foreign policy? Apply to participate in our Ron Paul Scholars’ Seminar, taking place in Washington DC on Sept. 3rd. Details here:

Be seeing you

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

“YOU’RE DONE!” Screams Pennsbury School Board to Parents Opposed to Critical Race Theory

Posted by M. C. on July 9, 2021

This is highlights of the Pennsbury School Board meeting May 20, 2021. The full unedited meeting is available on my channel at…. The original source of the tape is the Pennsbury School District:…. For over a month Pennsbury had cut a portion of public comment out of the tape. Only after national media scrutiny did the school district finally capitulate and release the unedited version on approximately June 25, 2021. There are no Republicans on the Pennsbury school board. All nine (9) school board directors are Democrats. We now get to see what the school board didn’t want the public to see. Viewpoint discrimination by the Government is illegal. Experienced First Amendment attorneys interested in helping bring legal action against Pennsbury can contact me at School board public comment policy 903 is here:…. The lawyer doing the screaming at citizens is Attorney Peter Amuso of the law firm Rudolph Clarke LLC (a law firm with a history of making campaign contributions to Democratic causes/candidates):… Amuso is not listed in School Board Policy 903 as being the presiding officer of school board meetings. His only job is is supposed to be that of counsel to the school board. He is required to follow the PA Rules of Professional Conduct:…. Question: Why are the Democrats on the Pennsbury School Board misuing a taxpayer-funded lawyer in this manner? The presiding officer of the meeting was Josh Waldorf, Vice President of the Pennsbury School Board. Waldorf faces Republican challenger Victoria Czechowski in the November 2021 elections. Information about Victoria’s campaign is available at:

Twitter: @LimeySimon

Media contact: Simon Campbell;

Be seeing you

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Biden Imposes Permanent Masks & Social Distancing to Prevent Civil Unrest | Armstrong Economics

Posted by M. C. on February 6, 2021

The is the most political nonsense and NEVER in the entire history of the world has any government, even those of Hitler and Stalin, whoever imprisoned the entire population pretending there is some disease with a kill ratio of 0.028% no9 different than the 1968 Hong Kong Flu.

Martin Armstrong

Video Player

Go to link for the video

Biden Administration has made it clear that they are stripping us of all our First Amendment rights which include the freedom to assemble. What was just made clear that even if you take these questionable vaccines, you will forever have to wear a mask and continue to social-distance for the rest of your life. So what is the point of these vaccines? There is no liability whatsoever to all Bill Gates’ pharmaceutical companies he now controls or is influential as a stakeholder/shareholder. Hence, there is no animal testing. My cousin was a front line nurse who had COVID and recovered. He was compelled to take the vaccine for her job and had a stroke. She has recovered, thankfully, but has now refused to take the second dose.

The is the most political nonsense and NEVER in the entire history of the world has any government, even those of Hitler and Stalin, whoever imprisoned the entire population pretending there is some disease with a kill ratio of 0.028% no9 different than the 1968 Hong Kong Flu.

This is why we have to end career politicians and move to a Direct Democracy. We have become the enemy and Capitol Hill in Washington will remain barricaded just like Kim Jung Un in The Central Committee Building in Pyongyang, North Korea at least into 2022.

Be seeing you

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Julian Assange’s Fiancée Sits Down With Revolver to Reveal Deep State’s Plot to Erase Our First Amendment – Revolver

Posted by M. C. on December 23, 2020

For years, America’s oligarch class has grown fat by betraying the country they rule over. They’ve outsourced the country’s wealth and well-being to China. They’ve embroiled the country in one disastrous war after another — wars that did nothing to make America safer but did a great deal to enrich the defense contractors who supplied them. They’ve colluded with Big Tech and Big Finance to gradually chip away at the basic rights that Americans once took for granted.

To the badly misnamed, oligarch-captured “intelligence community,” the imprisoned Wikileaks Editor and free speech activist Julian Assange remains Public Enemy Number One.

As head of Wikileaks, Assange published leaked documents from former Army soldier Chelsea Manning (born Bradley Manning). Manning has already gone free, but Assange has been a hunted man ever since. For seven years, Assange holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London to avoid an unjust extradition on trumped-up charges.

In 2016, Wikileaks released emails from the DNC and John Podesta. These emails exposed how the Democrat Party rigged the primary race for Hillary Clinton. After an informed public unexpectedly rejected Hillary Clinton for president, Washington, D.C.’s rage against Assange boiled over. Assange was assigned a key role in the Russiagate conspiracy theory that charged Russia with handing Trump the 2016 election. In spring 2019, Ecuador revoked Assange’s asylum, and he was dragged out of the embassy to face extradition on more than a dozen espionage charges in the U.S. 

But another possibility exists. President Trump could thumb his nose at the Deep State’s decade-long obsession with persecuting Assange, and give him the pardon he deserves. Revolver has advocated just such a course.

Remarkably, a steadily-growing group of fair-minded patriots around the world have come together to ask for Assange’s freedom. Former vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin had her emails published by Wikileaks in 2008, but on Saturday she called her prior attacks on Assange a ‘mistake’ and called on President Trump to pardon the Wikileaks publisher. Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz and Democrat Tulsi Gabbard have joined forces to endorse clemency for Assange as well. Actress Pamela Anderson wants clemency as well, as does Iranian dissident and Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi.

A recent tweet by Pastor Mark Burns mistakenly announcing an imminent pardon for Assange has racked up nearly 200,000 likes on Twitter.

Stella Moris-Smith Robinson is a human rights lawyer who was born in South Africa. She was a member of Assange’s legal team during his stay at the Ecuadorian embassy. Now, she is his fiancée. The pair have two children together. Moris has spent years fighting relentlessly for Assange’s freedom, and she graciously agreed to join Revolver for an exclusive interview.

First off, many thanks for agreeing to do this interview and for your bravery in defense of Julian and his mission. Your appearance on Tucker Carlson Tonight was powerful and remains a must see for patriots all over the world. Let’s start with the crime with which Julian is actually charged, a violation of the Espionage Act of 1917. Is there any evidence at all that Julian committed espionage? From what I’ve seen he published classified information, which is something that all major newspapers have done, such as the New York Times. Also there are claims that he assisted his source Chelsea in hiding her identity — which is also a standard journalistic practice. So where’s the actual crime here?

There isn’t one. This is an unconstitutional, political case that has bent the law to suit its political objective. It turns necessary journalistic practices — communicating with a source and having and publishing true information — into crimes.

Saying that it is a crime for Julian to have published this material is as absurd as saying that US journalists are legally bound not to violate China’s, Turkey’s, or France’s secrecy or censorship laws, even though they are publishing in the U.S. Whatever those countries’ legislations have to say about that, I think we can all agree — that proposition cannot be correct. 

I sometimes hear Julian mentioned in the same breath as famous American whistleblowers. But their cases are different. They are American citizens. They worked for the US government. That does not apply to Julian. Julian is a publisher. He wasn’t in the United States. He wasn’t a government employee or a contractor. He never signed a confidentiality agreement. The only promise he made was to the public, to publish the truth about governments and corporations. Everyone has their role in a free society and Julian’s role is to publish.

The strength of the First Amendment is that it is simple, clear, absolute. It is truly exceptional when you compare it to equivalent rights in Europe, and that comes from the fact that it isn’t what people think it is. It doesn’t grant people rights that can be taken away. It bans lawmakers and the executive from interfering with speech and publishing. So what is unlawful is passing laws attempting to criminalize speech and the press. 

See the rest here

Be seeing you

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Look to the Altar, Not the Throne | Chronicles

Posted by M. C. on December 7, 2020

Under these gubernatorial tyrants, we have caught a glimpse of the future. Commerce is stifled while protesting is encouraged. Families cannot meet for a holiday dinner or midnight Mass, but they can march down the street with Antifa. Liquor stores are considered “essential services” while the Sacraments are non-essential. This might be the new normal, but Sobran would insist this is just the normal behavior of the modern state.–not-the-throne/

By John Howting

The Supreme Court granted injunctive relief to houses of worship previously closed under New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s restrictions on public gatherings. Justice Neil Gorsuch chided the governor for his “color-coded executive edicts that reopen liquor stores and bike shops but shutter churches, synagogues and mosques.”

This is a tremendous step toward the restoration of order in America. Almost all Americans have lived through a chaotic year. The community, encouragement, and sacred liturgy offered by local churches are havens of order in these troubled times. Cuomo’s efforts to shutter these havens were unjustified and imprudent.

“The virus has infiltrated Sunday services, church meetings and youth camps,” reported The New York Times in a July piece that was quoted extensively on news channels. Yet reports of mass outbreaks originating in churches are rather underwhelming in the grand scheme:

More than 650 coronavirus cases have been linked to nearly 40 churches and religious events across the United States since the beginning of the pandemic, with many of them erupting over the last month as Americans resumed their pre-pandemic activities, according to a New York Times database.

Considering that there are approximately 384,000 congregations and roughly 231.7 million Christians across the United States, perhaps the 0.0001 percent of churches with mass outbreaks, between February and July, could take special precautions—they can quarantine the sick, for instance. COVID prevention should be a practical matter, addressed on a church-by-church basis. Churches in densely populated urban areas face different struggles than churches out in the hinterlands. To require all churches across an entire state to shutter their doors is to make the exception—the very small exception—the rule.

Constitutionally, the burden for closing churches should be much higher than for secular places of public accommodation, such as liquor stores. The American founders enshrined a right to the “free exercise of religion” in the First Amendment to the Constitution—a right to buy liquor is not similarly enshrined. Indeed, many of the founding stock came to America precisely because their churches were being closed by despots back in Europe.

When despots want to break a people, they target their religion. If you destroy the cult, you destroy the culture. Without a common culture, a people cannot remain distinct. Civilization has never existed without a strong sense of the supernatural. “Wherever an altar is found,” wrote Joseph DeMaistre, “there civilization exists.”

Unlike Cuomo, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer mercifully exempted churches from her tyrannical diktats in Michigan. Accordingly, they’ve been the only centers of order in the state. Many never closed and are still running like clockwork as everything else crumbles.

The situation with Michigan churches during COVID seems a good example of what Joseph Sobran—Chronicles columnist and long-time National Review contributing editor—called Theo-Anarchy.

Sobran believed that men could restore order by organizing their lives around the parish and the liturgy, that no other modern institution was necessary. In fact, there is one modern institution that is downright destructive of natural order: the modern state. The restoration of natural order is dependent on the modern state disappearing; only then—Sobran believed—would the people organize their lives around the parish as their ancestors did.

Government today, explained Sobran, is always sacrificing the normal to the abnormal, the majority to the minority, the central to the eccentric, the natural to the unnatural. In that spirit, it now sacrifices the healthy to the unhealthy.

Under these gubernatorial tyrants, we have caught a glimpse of the future. Commerce is stifled while protesting is encouraged. Families cannot meet for a holiday dinner or midnight Mass, but they can march down the street with Antifa. Liquor stores are considered “essential services” while the Sacraments are non-essential. This might be the new normal, but Sobran would insist this is just the normal behavior of the modern state.

John Howting

John M. Howting III is assistant editor of Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture.

Be seeing you

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »