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Religious Freedom In America: Is It Really Being Threatened?


A recent church bulletin came with a copy of the newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Kalamazoo enclosed.  There were a couple of pieces in the newspaper that addressed the religious freedom issue here in America.  As I read the columns in question I was struck by a couple of the arguments being made.

The first article was a column by Bishop Paul Bradley which claimed that our religious freedom is under attack and it’s up to us to defend our religious freedom rights from the attacks being made on them.  Bishop Bradley’s argument came down to this:

“Federal and Supreme Courts are now put in the position of deciding what the law of the land shall be, rather than the majority of the citizens of this great Democracy.  The judicial and executive branches of government are overtaking the legislative process that has made the United States the envy of every other country in the world.

The most blatant example of this government intrusion into our religious freedom is seen in the ‘HHS Mandate’ which mandates that contraceptive drugs, which include drugs that are abortifacients, must be provided regardless of how doing so infringes on one’s religious convictions.  Does the ‘right’ to receive contraceptives trump the ‘right’ to religious freedom?”

First of all, ever since the Supreme Court ruling in Marbury v. Madison in the early 1800′s the federal courts have had the authority to decide what the “law of the land” is  by ruling on the constitutionality of laws that have been passed by the legislative branch and signed into law by the executive.  It doesn’t matter what the “majority of the citizens of this great Democracy” say, if the law in question is found to violate the Constitution the courts have the authority to strike down the law.  It’s not a case of the courts being “…now put in the position of deciding what the law of the land shall be…”  The courts have been in that position for the past 210 years or so.

Now, regarding the question of whether the right to contraception trumps the right of religious freedom, the fact is our rights are not unlimited.  Our rights extend only to the point where our exercise of a particular right violates someone else’s rights or harms them in some way.  We have a right to freedom of speech but that right is not unlimited.  Doubt that?  Try going into a crowded movie theater and yelling “FIRE” sometime.  Your exercising your right to freedom of speech in that way creates a situation in which people could be hurt trying to get to safety.  Or suppose you went out and told vicious lies about someone.  You could soon be facing a libel lawsuit.  Our right to freedom of speech is not unlimited.

We have a 4th Amendment right to privacy.  Suppose you decide to throw a party, and keep it going with loud music and the consumption of alcoholic beverages until 3AM.  Your right to be able to hold a party on your property is not unlimited.  If your right to hold your party interferes with your neighbors’ right to be free of a disturbance, you can probably expect a visit from your friendly neighborhood police officer.

The right to religious freedom is no more important nor different from the right to freedom of speech or the right to privacy, or any of the other rights given to us by the Constitution.  Depending on their interests some people may view one right as more important than all the others; but if you take away a constitutional right, any right, it diminishes America.  If your exercise of your rights causes harm to another person or infringes on their rights, you’ve gone beyond the limits of your rights.

In the case of the HHS Mandate, the employer’s right to their religious convictions should not trump the rights of their employees to receive whatever contraceptives they and their doctor decide is best for them, because that infringes on the right of the employee to receive the same quality of health care that employees in other businesses are receiving.  If you have to pay out of your own pocket for contraceptives that your employer refuses to pay for because of religious reasons, while employees in other businesses receive them free of cost, your quality of health care is not the same as those employees in other businesses.  That’s a concrete, documentable harm; unlike the un-documentable nebulous claim of having your right to religious freedom harmed by having to pay for some form of birth control you object to.

And let us not forget that religious convictions are not always used for good.  In the not too distant past of this country, when African Americans were fighting for their civil rights, some racists based their opposition on their belief that the Bible, through the story of Noah and his cursing of his son Ham, shows that the black people were the descendants of Ham and thus cursed by God, inferior to white people, and not deserving of equal rights.  That was a religious conviction of those racists.  Would the opponents of the HHS Mandate say that the religious freedom of those racists should have been upheld over the rights of the black people to be treated equally with whites in our society?

The other interesting article was a column by author and speaker Christopher Stefanick, which argued that opponents of marriage equality should share “the truth” about the “gay lifestyle” with love:

“Actually, we’re called to a different place.  A middle ground where we might be hated by both the far right and the far left within our own Church as much as we’re hated by the people at OK Cupid.  We’re called to teach the truth in love, remaining uncompromising and clear on moral issues and in defense of marriage, while at the same time offering a supportive community to people with same-sex attractions.”

I’ve got no problem with that conclusion.  I’m all for civil discussions of issues.  The problem I have with his conclusion is how he got there.  Stefanick reached that conclusion by arguing that it’s the defenders of traditional marriage who are hated and  persecuted by the “gay lobby” and its supporters:

“After Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich, was forced to resign because he had donated money to support Prop 8 three years ago (it’s worth noting that 52 percent of Californians supported Prop 8), the dating website, OK Cupid, which spearheaded the attack on Eich, issued a statement that clarified their motives:  ‘Those who seek to deny love….are our enemies, and we wish them nothing but failure.’

Since love is willing the good of another, desiring ‘nothing but failure’ for another is hate, by definition.  And so, Eich was targeted for his ideas. The same was true for Elaine Huguenin, from New Mexico, who was fined $7,000 for refusing to photograph a gay wedding.  There are more examples of this with every passing week.  A baker in Lakewood, Colo., Jack Phillips, has no problems serving gay customers, but he refused to make a same sex ‘wedding’ cake because it violated his belief about marriage.  The Colorado Civil Rights Commission has labeled this ‘illegal’ despite the fact that gay marriage is not even legal in Colorado, and ordered him to submit quarterly reports showing that he’s changed, and to train his employees to avoid discrimination (a.k.a. to support gay marriage) or he risks losing his business.  A priest friend of mine in Vermont was recently asked to perform a marriage ceremony for a lesbian couple.  They threatened to sue after he refused.  There’s no longer any doubt that ‘gay marriage’ is an effective tool to dig up and bludgeon into submission all who disagree with the gay lifestyle, or force them out of society.”

Where to begin?   As Paul Harvey used to say, “And now…the rest of the story.”

A major problem I have with the way Stefanick reached his conclusion is the fact that he portrays episodes such as the ones he cited as coming every week.  Let’s take a look at the chronology of the cases he cited.  The Eich controversy began on May 25 of this year and ended a couple of weeks later with Eich’s resignation on April 13.  The Huguenin case happened in 2006.  The New Mexico Supreme Court ruled that her decision violated the state’s Human Rights Act, which bars discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.  That ruling was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which declined to take up her appeal.  The $7,000 fine imposed on her was imposed by the New Mexico Human Rights Commission.  The Jack Phillips case occurred in 2012.   And yes, gay marriage may not have been legal in Colorado, but the state did have a civil rights law which prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.  His decision to refuse to serve the gay couple was a violation of that state law.  And, news stories I saw reported that Phillips was threatening to close his bakery rather than comply with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission sanctions.

In my research I could find only two other cases of business owners facing sanctions for refusing to provide services for the weddings of gay people on the basis of their religious beliefs, with both happening earlier this year.   The owners of an Oregon bakery were fined for violating the Oregon Equality Act of 2007.   And, there was the heavily publicized case of Washington florist Baronelle Stutzman, who faced sanctions after refusing to provide floral services for the wedding of a gay customer.  Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation was outlawed in 2006, and in 2012 voters in Washington approved a ballot measure which legalized gay marriage.  I could find no news accounts to substantiate the story Mr. Stefanick told about his priest friend in Vermont.

In his column, Bishop Bradley portrayed the religious freedom issue as being one where the will of the people is being usurped by the judicial and executive branches of the federal government.  The reality is, the will of the people through the legislative process is being upheld.  Those business owners are facing sanctions for refusing to provide their services at gay weddings because their refusal violates state laws which have either legalized gay marriage in that state or barred discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

Allow me to remind you of the point I made earlier in this post.  Our rights are not unlimited.  Yes, we have a right to religious freedom.  But if our exercising of that right harms someone or infringes on their rights we exceed the limits of our rights.  In the cases cited by Mr. Stefanick, the rights of the gay couple to be treated like any other couple about to be married was violated because of the decision of the business owner to refuse to provide the requested services on the basis of their religious convictions about homosexuality, which violated existing state law.


I don’t know about you but I am not swayed by arguments that display a lack of knowledge about the subject being discussed, like Bishop Bradley’s column, or a twisted, distorted portrayal of the facts, as was the case in Stepanick’s column.

Why would the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in America raise this issue?  I believe it may be an example of Exercising Authority 101.  If you want to get the people on your side, raise a threat that results in people coming to you for leadership.  And in raising that threat, it’s “facts be damned”.  In this case, it’s that Big Bad, the federal government, that is supposedly voiding the will of the people and threatening our religious freedom.   Don’t look behind the curtain that hides the fact that in the cases they raised, it was the will of the people that put in place the state laws that either legalized gay marriage or made it illegal to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation–the laws that those business owners violated by refusing to provide their services for the weddings of gay couples.

Is religious freedom in this country being threatened?  The answer is “Yes” if you believe that our right to religious freedom is unlimited; and that the federal government is trying to take that right away from Believers.  But if you understand the truth about our rights, and that it’s state governments that have punished business owners who have violated state law by refusing to provide their service for weddings uniting gay couples on the basis of personal religious beliefs, I believe you’d have to conclude that the answer is “No’”.

Join me LIVE w/ CFI’s Cafe Inquiry and Atheist Analysis

“Were ex-Christians ever REAL Christians?”

I’ll be presenting on this subject twice over the next five days!

SUNDAY, JULY 20, 10:15 a.m. EST — I’ll be speaking on this issue at Schuler Books on 28th St. in Grand Rapids, Michigan, during Cafe Inquiry, a weekly get-together hosted by Center for Inquiry — Grand Rapids. The event is FREE and open to the public.

WEDNESDAY, JULY 23, 11 p.m. EST — I’ll be joining Jonathan Brotherton, Christopher Tanner and the rest of the folks from Atheist Analysis to kick off their Premier Lecture Series with my lecture, “Were Ex-Christians Ever REAL Christians?” The event will be broadcast via Google Hangouts on YouTube so you (and your Christian/non-Christian friends & family) can watch me lecturing LIVE! If I understand the format correctly, there will even be time afforded for some Q&A from viewers! So set the date and time, tell your friends, write down some questions, and have a knee-slapping good time watching me lecture on Atheist Analysis! :)

(End. Of. Self-promotion sequence. Beep-boop.)

God? Is that you in my head?


I’ve yet to hear a good explanation as to how anyone can meaningfully determine whether “godversation” ever involves actual communication, much less how to meaningfully differentiate between actual and imagined “godversation.”

This is more than a pickle — it’s an elephant in the room.

To date:

“My spirit attested to the reliability of the message.” FAIL
“I didn’t want to believe it” or “I went kicking & screaming.” FAIL
“I know because the communication was consistent with the bible.” FAIL
“I know it by faith” or “Trust me, I have no reason to lie.” FAIL

Friend me on Facebook! And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @Paleocrat!
Have Google+? Me too! Let’s talk! Find me at +Jeremiah Bannister!

Sarah Palin’s Expertise on Immigration & Impeachment

Photo Courtesy: Sarah Palin's Facebook Page

Photo Courtesy: Sarah Palin’s Facebook Page

Sarah Palin is at it again. It’s a wonder that anyone still gives Palin the time of day, let alone allow her to waste pixels with yet another one of her illogical diatribes. Then again, there is Breitbart. In Obama’s bid for reelection, I heard rumors of a ‘October Surprise’ that Breitbart supposedly was going to reveal some shocking thing about Obama that would ensure him a landslide defeat to Romney. It never happened. And now they are giving space to Sarah Palin to spout off about something less likely to happen than a bridge to nowhere – the impeachment of President Obama over the issue of immigration. In her Breitbart exclusive, Palin accuses Obama of:

“Opening our borders to a flood of illegal immigrants [which] is deliberate.”

It’s one thing to try to impeach a President over his lying about a blue dress affair in the Oval office, but Sarah Palin’s call for impeachment is even more convoluted.

In a June 20th interview on MSNBC, Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla. said, “President Obama has the most border patrols and border security deployed at the border of any previous president.” Politifact finds this statement to be mostly true. According to a report by the Department of Homeland Security, “DHS has also completed 649 miles of fencing out of nearly 652 miles planned, including 299 miles of vehicle barriers and 350 miles of pedestrian fence, with the remaining 3 miles scheduled to be completed.” This is in addition to 529 miles of border fence added between 2005 and 2010. Bush can take the credit for some of the increase, however it continued beyond his term, which means Obama did not put a stop to it. Politifact qualifies Wasserman’s statement in that even though Bush had the proportionally larger ‘big growth’ in the number of deployments of border patrol troops, Obama, instead of subtracting from it, he added more bringing the total of border agents to 21,444 by 2011.

So we have more border fence, of which Obama built a great deal of it, and under the Obama administration we have more agents on the border than ever before. This sounds like quite the opposite of an deliberate attempt to open the borders.

When there was less of a fence and fewer patrols, border apprehensions peaked at almost 1.7 million in 2000 under President Clinton. By 2011, were at the lowest level since 1970. However, Obama has set a new record. According to TheNation:

Since taking the oath of office, Obama has deported immigrants at a faster rate than any other president in US history, nearly a record 2 million people. On a typical day, there are over 30,000 immigrants imprisoned in the world’s largest immigration detention system. –

One of the strategies in politics, is to make your opponent’s strengths look like a weakness. Palin has a convoluted way of approaching this strategy. Another strategy, being completely oblivious, is one of which Palin especially talented.

It’s the American worker who is forced to deal with Obama’s latest crisis with our hard-earned tax dollars while middle class wages decrease, sustainable jobs get more scarce, and communities become unrecognizable and bankrupted due to Obama’s flood of illegal immigration. -Sarah Palin

Perhaps Palin, is trying to get us to ignore the continued GOP Congressional support for tax cuts for the 1%, and decreases to welfare. And while not overwhelming, there is a sense among some 1%’ers that something is terribly wrong about the increasing economic disparity between the middle and upper class.

Palin claims that ‘Because of Obama’s purposeful dereliction of duty an untold number of illegal immigrants will kick off their shoes and come on in.’

Mind you, Obama’s record on immigration seems to be one that the GOP supports – increased fences, an all time high of border agents, an all time high of deportations. Palin’s claim that Obama has opened the floodgates simply is unfounded. If there was an deliberate attempt to let them in, why is he sending them back?

So typical of Palin, much of what she says doesn’t make much sense. For a Republican win solely on principle, Sarah Palin should be ecstatic about Obama’s immigration policy. It fits right in with what the GOP has been wanting for years.

But with a growing population of Hispanic voters in the US, Palin should calling for the exact opposite of Obama’s draconian immigration policy, that is if she wants to help the Republicans win elections.

Civil rights advocates are not ecstatic about Obama’s immigration policy, citing that deportation separates immigrants from their US citizen children, spouses and family. Obama had promised to limit deportations to criminals and gang members, but a New York Times analysis found that two-thirds of those he has deported have “committed minor infractions, including traffic violations, or had no criminal record at all.”

While his deportation policy continues beyond the 2 million mark, Obama is talking about reconsidering his policy. It is clear however, that his change of heart has nothing to do with the human rights aspect, as advocates have been making this argument about the US immigration policy for quite some time. What is different this year is politics, namely the upcoming midterm Election Day in November.

Democrats cannot take it for granted that they are the Party that represents Hispanics. When their President is referred to as the ‘Deporter-in-Chief,’ Democrats try a variety of deflections, such as the ‘just think how much worse things would be under Paul Ryan or Rand Paul’ line. All this twisting and shouting ignores the reality that Obama’s immigration policy could hurt Democrat candidates in this year’s midterm election, especially among Hispanic voters.

Obama seems to be cognizant of this. Back in March, Obama said that he wants to find a legal way to reduce the number of otherwise law-abiding families who are torn apart by deportation. It is not clear as to why he has waited this long to begin this kind of thinking. By the time he is able to turn these thoughts into legislation, it may be too late to convince Hispanic voters that the Democrats are on their side.

Burdened by the costs associated with enforcing federal immigration policy, cities are dropping out. According to Truth-Out, “The Immigrant Legal Resource Center has tracked more than 100 cities and counties that refuse to honor requests to detain immigrants on behalf of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).” Perhaps Palin is hoping to spin this opt-out as a poor reflection on Obama.

Throughout her article, Palin creates a laundry list of a variety Obama’s ‘impeachable’ offenses, such as meddling with court appointments, a decrease in middle class wages (as if she actually cared about that), claims that Obama’s ‘bipartisan elite want cheap labor to themselves within the confines of their gated communities, and of course, you cannot have a complete GOP complaint list without including something about welfare. I don’t know if Palin knows this or not, but just because you don’t like someone, this is not grounds for impeachment. I wonder if she even knows what the word ‘impeachment’ means.

Could it be that Palin is attempting to align herself with David Brat, who recently defeated Eric Cantor for Virginia’s 7th congressional district? Brat reportedly portrayed Cantor as supporting amnesty for young undocumented immigrants. It is suspected that Brat’s win will make any kind of immigration policy reform less likely to pass in Congress. Predicting such a defeat in Congress, perhaps Palin is playing the long game anticipating that she can look like she’s aligned with Brat.

Just how that will play with the voters is a more important consideration. A Pew Research Center poll on immigration found that “a large majority of the population — about 73 percent — believes undocumented immigrants should be given a way to remain in the country legally under certain circumstances.” Along established party lines, the support coming from Republicans is at 64 percent, while 81 percent of Democrats are in support of allowing immigrants to stay in the country with a path to citizenship. On the specific issue of deportation policy, it may be too close to tell what the voters wil be thinking about when they go to the polls with only a slim minority of whites (49%) supporting deportation and with 60% of Hispanics viewing deportations negatively. While slim on deportation, it looks like some sort of immigration overhaul toward amnesty will help whoever supports that position to win votes.

At the moment, Palin is getting what she wants, even if she is unaware Obama’s current immigration policy. Even so Palin is calling for impeaching Obama, on a variety of things, but it seems that immigration is her biggest misinformed gripe. And she is threatening members of her own party if they do not support it:

“we should vehemently oppose any politician on the left or right who would hesitate in voting for articles of impeachment.”

So, Paul Ryan, what do you say? Are you going to vote for Obama’s impeachment? How about you Rand Paul? If you believe Sarah Palin is an expert on immigration and impeachment, now might be your chance to position yourself away from Palin’s empty threat on your campaign to the White House.

On Matters of Tolerance, Acceptance, and Equality

By John Moseman, guest contributor
Edited by Jeremiah Bannister

Growing up in a conservative Christian home I always believed that we should tolerate but never accept something we knew to be wrong. However, as I look at the words acceptance and tolerance one thing strikes me, and it’s something I never wanted to believe but now do: tolerance does not allow for equality.

In fact, tolerance is nothing more than saying, “Well, I disagree but I won’t throw you in jail over it.” Tolerance usually means that one cannot respect the person or their views but does not actively seek to punish or hold it against them. In other words, it’s allowing for someone to be indifferent. Indifference can be good but it can also be bad and in this case, if someone is indifferent towards your rights or views, it can put us all in a hairy situation. If we are indifferently allowing or accepting people, then we risk there being either tyranny or infringement on all people. Being tolerant means I am not quite at the state of arresting you or punishing you… but I could be.

Now, we have to realize that in order to get respect we must at least respect others. Acceptance is respect, granting that even while you may disagree or disapprove, you can still given some sort of respect. If nothing else, acceptance is giving value to the rights we have. We must and should accept that people will be who they are and what they will stand for. Otherwise, we risk allowing for someone else to do the same to us. A person can accept someone as being an atheist or being gay or being different, and they can do this without 100% approval. It’s not so much a validation of their view or ideas, though, being more right than yours — as I once thought. Rather, it’s that they’re right to be who they are. Now this might mean being uncomfortable with some of the ways people express themselves; nonetheless, it allows people to be themselves and to express themselves.

(After all, freedom of speech has to be equally applied. In all reality, we are really talking more about rights than values, but it’s good to have them out in the open, if for no other reason than that we can learn from them.)

Acceptance is a vital key to equality and it’s even more important in establishing a society of rights. I suggest that more acceptance, not less, is the key to coming to terms with — and even healing — a terribly divided society. Acceptance is saying, “Yes, I grant that this human being has the right to be,” and by so doing, grants us that same right. In order to have rights, we have to give them — even if we personally feel that in doing so that we are doing wrong. Acceptance is the means we use not only to ensure that all people are respected, it’s also what assures people wishing to engage in debate or discussion that they have a place at the table. In short, acceptance is simply saying that people have a right to be themselves — and that includes ourselves, too! In this way, acceptance helps to promote equality. Equality is attained, after all, by allowing others to think, do, or say what you may personally feel they should not think, do, or say. It maintains our continued right to exercise our rights, including our right to disagreement.

Acceptance should not be defined as agreement because, if and when it is, no one will ever come to accept anything. Yes, acceptance means making allowances for things but it’s also more than that. If, for example, I accept people for who they are, I am saying that I am allowing them to be who they are and say what they wish (within reason). If I can accept my atheist friend Jeremiah Bannister for being who he is even though I disagree with his views, then I’m saying that I respect the freedom and right he has to embrace and advocate his views. Thus, he should (and hopefully would) turn around and extend the same courtesy to others he may happen to disagree with. It is unrealistic to say that there really shouldn’t be atheists, gay people, or anyone else that may disagree with me on my religious convictions.

It’s true, I’m entitled to believe the world might be better if people share my point of view. It is not rational, however, to suggest that in this world we should all be the same. Still, while it’s unreasonable to demand that everyone think and act the same, it’s not unreasonable to wish for people to be united on what is important — and that would definitely include the right, within reason and law, to live according to one’s own choosing. (But understand that words and choices have an impact on others!)

I can accept that many people do not (and will not) agree with me on politics, religion or morality, but that’s okay! I don’t believe in forcing my views. For to me, true equality can only begin once we accept people for who and what they are, not for who or what I may personally prefer them to be.

Read Moseman’s original post by visiting his site: The Real John Moseman.

Follow John Moseman on Twitter @Jolemo376, and friend him on Facebook!

The VA is NOT Obamacare

Join PaleoRadio’s Jeremiah Bannister, Joe Elder and Nathan Phenicie at the Endangered Patriot Clubhouse as they compare & contrast the Department of Veterans Affairs system of government-run health care and the President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare.

Love us? Hate us? Tell us all about it! Email Paleocrat at And don’t forget to follow PaleoRadio on Facebook!

Four-Minute History of VA Scandals (VIDEO)

How much do you (think you) know about the scandal-plagued history of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs? Listen here as Jeremiah Bannister introduces Part 1 of what’s sure to be a controversial series of videos wherein he’ll be joined by PaleoRadio’s Joe Elder & Nathan Phenicie to discuss the history, the present, and the future of the VA as we know it.

ESSENTIAL READING – “VA’s Troubled History,” by CNN’s Michael Pearson!

Religion Section in Review: Hobby Lobby, Demons, Cornerstone University &Tornadoes

I first read these in the religion section of the Grand Rapids Press. Enjoy!


The Associated Press

Steve Green, president of Hobby Lobby, is all over the news these days, huh? This time he’s gone balls-to-the-walls-of-Jericho with his new push for some bible learnin’ in public schools all across America. The goal: thousands of schools by 2017. Secularists have no reason to worry, however, as Green has given everyone his word that this curriculum isn’t reeeaaalllyyy intended to proselytize and, er, um, that it would definitely pass any constitutional challenges.

(Really??? Did I read that right? No way. Yeah? Wow, okay, if you say so, Steve-o!)


ROME, ITALY — Catholic Church’s best-known exorcist shows how it’s done
By Anthony Faiola
The Washington Post

Here’s a dandy. Rev. Gabriel Amorth, 89, is a Roman Catholic priest claiming to have conducted thousands of spiritual cleanings! For those who’ve never seen this sort of hoedown throwdown, it’s pretty wild.

“Most times, there’s no actual diabolical presence, and my job lies in suggesting those that come to me to live a life of faith and prayer.”

Ah, yes, faith & prayer! I’m sure people turning to Catholic exorcists never thought about taking a whack at faith & prayer before! Nothing like the old tried-and-untrue voodoo for mentally ill people claiming to be magically possessed by scary invisible fallen angels from hell…

benedict blessed

GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN — Engaging in pluralism without losing principles

By Frans van Liere & Douglas Kindschi

“It might seem ironic to hold a panel on religious diversity on college campuses that features only Christian speakers on a Christian campus. However, as [Calvin College] President LeRoy pointed out in the panel discussion, being in a consciously Christian learning environment does not mean shutting yourself off from religious diversity or even inter-religious dialogue.”

Great! So where will the next event be held? Ooooh, Cornerstone University? Hmm… don’t they have that meddlesome Inquisition? What’s it called? Oh, yeah, the Spiritual Formation Office! Rumor around town is that Cornerstone officials monitor student faith & practice so as to ensure stuff doesn’t get all diverse up in there! Sorry, van Liere, but those aren’t braggin’ rights on the pluralist front.

Additional point: Assuring anti-ecumenists that ecumenism really won’t change the way they believe & behave is tough. “Lex orandi, lex credendi,” right?  I mean, what of traditions with sentiments similar to those expressed by Pope Pius XI in his 1928 encyclical, Mortalium Animos? His condemnation of what’s now know as the modern ecumenical movement is pretty unequivocal.


VILONIA, ARKANSAS — Pastor fled minutes before home leveled.

“The Rev. Wade Lentz said he and his family fled their home minutes before the tornado hit and returned to find only a slab… he thanked God his wife and children are safe.”

Turns out, God was filling in that day for local & national weather authorities. He even got to press the tornado siren button that alarmed everyone of the immanent danger! Tragically, he was too wrapped up in official business to inspire certain locals to find safety… eight of them died. Alleluia?

Michigan State Police investigation: hearsay swaddled in conjecture?

By Jeremiah Bannister, editor of & host of PaleoRadio

The Michigan State Police (hereinafter referred to as MSP) has concluded its investigation into whether Battle Creek Police Officer Christopher Hug used excessive force while arresting Kenneth Moye, a resident of Battle Creek. Calhoun County Prosecutor Dave Gilbert summed it up with a word the Enquirer later chose to emphasize in their title: “justified.”

So sums up the controversy… well, for some, I suppose.

Afford me an indulgence here. Permit me to pull from Trace Christenson’s piece in the Enquirer, entitled, Prosecutor: Use of force by B.C. police Officer Christopher Hug “justified”, with each pull followed up by some questions and considerations of my own. My questions differ in their value and significance to the story but each is worthy of reflection and all of them seem to fit the journalistic criteria of relevance. If nothing else, I’m hoping that merely asking these questions publicly may afford readers with a more robust (and realistic) context from which to decide for themselves if the MSP investigation sufficiently answered whether excessive force was in fact used by Hug when attempting to arrest Moye.

So with no further ado, let’s begin with the official statement from Calhoun County Prosecutor Dave Gilbert:

“The video supports what the state police investigator claims in his report.” 

So far as I’m aware, the video Gilbert and the MSP are referring to is the one first obtained & published by PaleoRadio — something the Enquirer never felt a need to disclose to their readers. Personally, I find their use of that video to be worst than problematic — more on this in a moment; but Christenson doesn’t appear bothered by this, not in the slightest. Whether he pressed officials on how they reached such a conclusion from an objective observation of the surveillance video may forever remain unknown. What is plain to see, at least from my vantage point, is the willingness of Christenson & Gilbert to unquestionably follow the MSP in accepting Hug’s narrative at face-value. Lest you think this a harsh criticism, look for yourself as to whether Christenson, Gilbert or the MSP provided readers with even one meaningful insight as to how the MSP concluded from the available surveillance footage that Hug’s self-attestation was in fact verifiable & true, not just hearsay swaddled in conjecture.

So what exactly did Hug have to say? As reported by the Enquirer:

“In his interview with the state police, Hug said he told Moye several times to put his hands on the car. Hug attempted to move Moye’s foot to keep him off balance and said Moye moved his foot back and then attempted to kick the officer… Hug said he could feel Moye start to stiffen and push off the patrol car and it was then that Hug attempted to place Moye in handcuffs… Moye pulled his arm away, Hug said, and then attempted to turn and strike Hug with his elbow… Hug said, according to the report, that it was obvious to him that Moye was resisting and attempted to strike him with his elbow.”

Fair enough, so much for Hug’s claim. But doesn’t that beg a handful of questions? For example…

Where in the video may viewers witness Moye moving his foot back?

Where in the video may viewers verify whether Moye attempted to kick Hug?

Where in the video may anyone see Moye attempting to turn and strike Hug?

What bit of evidence at-hand did investigators invoke to meaningfully conclude one way or another whether Moye stiffened up his body with the intent to do harm to Hug?

On what grounds should we trust that Hug properly executed any technique that day?

And pardon my ignorance, but wouldn’t such actions qualify as attempted assault rather than mere resistance to arrest?

Was Moye initially charged with attempted assault on an officer as well as with resisting arrest?

If so, what were the charges, and why did the BCPD & prosecutor allow Moye to get off with simply resisting arrest?

Did Moye ever admit to such an attempt?

For that matter, why is Moye never quoted for public record in relation to the official investigation?

Hell, now that all is out in the open, why did the city ever issue 40 fully-blank pages to PaleoRadio’s Autumn Smith in response to her Freedom of Information Act request regarding “Statements from officers made in regard to incident number 1248315 (the Hug/Moye incident) including statements made by Rivera and Woolfolk”? She was charged $17.11 for 48-pages, 37 of which were completely blank! They weren’t even redacted!

Frankly, I’m entirely unsure how anyone could answer any of the questions concerning what may or may not be visibly verifiable within surveillance video given the angle of the camera capturing the incident. I could be wrong, and I’m entirely willing to admit as much, but I just don’t see how such a conclusion could be rendered from the camera angle available to investigators, and no one seems interested in detailing the “Here’s how!”

(Insertio – Christenson’s sequence of events & evidences notwithstanding, I think it’s entirely reasonable for people reading the Enquirer’s piece to conclude that Hug’s self-attestation of the incident stands out from all other available evidence as the singular clincher for the MSP & Gilbert to conclude that Hug was “justified” in his use of force.)

Then there’s the matter of Battle Creek Police Officer Tom Rivera. Quoting Christenson again:

“The state police also said that a description of the incident from another officer arriving on the scene was incorrect… The second officer, Tom Rivera, said he was unsure if Moye attempted to elbow Hug, said he was struck in the left side of the face and that Moye was down, got to his feet and was taken down a second time. Detective Michael Spring wrote that Rivera was not in a position to see the complete incident…”

But there’s more to this story, isn’t there, Trace?

Is it not also true that Rivera admitted to the possibility of inaccurately describing the incident?

Did Rivera not approach BCPD leadership, requesting to view the video?

Did Rivera not insist that seeing the video may help clarify/correct what he believed he had seen?

Was Rivera not barred by brass from seeing the surveillance video?

Is this not relevant?

Did the Enquirer’s excluding that bit of information (inadvertently?) paint Rivera in an unfair light?

And how does Detective Michael Spring’s assertion that, “Rivera was not in a position to see the complete incident” not also hold true for MSP investigators relying upon the surveillance video from the Liberty Mart? 

Once again, and stated differently, how is any or all of this not relevant to those readers relying on the Enquirer as a local paper of record?

Lastly, and back to my original point: May people reasonably disagree with the conclusion of the MSP investigation?

I only ask this rhetorically as the Enquirer has provided an answer within the quoted opinion of Dr. Darrell Russ, chairman of the Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Criminal Justice at Valdosta State University in Georgia. Tragically, and as a potentially important side-note, Dr. Russ refused to comment on the MSP investigation. Nevertheless, when asked whether he agrees with Gilbert’s Monday ruling, he replied with seven words: “Two people can come to different conclusion.”

In light of the myriad of questions currently left unasked & unanswered, I’d concur…

For questions, comments, and inquiries regarding interviews & public speaking, contact me at or at 269.317.1263. And don’t forget to follow me on Facebook and on Twitter @Paleocrat! And don’t forget, PaleoRadio is on Facebook, too! 

NRA Thwarting The Will Of The American People

The NRA just wrapped up another national convention.  Remember that dramatic convention in Denver just a few days after the Columbine mass shootings in 1999 which featured actor Charlton Heston holding a musket above his head and saying, “I have only five words for you:  From my cold, dead hands!”?  Well there were no such moments at this most recent convention.  The closest thing to that was when the head of the organization, Wayne LaPierre, told the members at the convention that the NRA would compromise on gun control “…not today, not ever!”

The NRA likes to portray themselves as representing the American people.  In reality they are totally out of step with the American people, and thwarting the will of the people they claim to represent.

I reached that conclusion after going to and taking a look at what the public polling results say about the opinion of the American people on regarding guns and gun control.  I examined the results of the nine polls conducted over the past year which had questions concerning gun related issues.

About Polling

There are a couple of things to remember about polling.  First, polls are nothing more than a snapshot of the opinions people have at any given time.  What’s important are the trend lines of the polls.  Second, the wordings of the questions are vital.  They can lead to different conclusions about the polling data and what it means.  Polls also have this little thing called the “Margin Of Error” (MOE), which basically means that if the difference between the polling numbers is within that margin, what you have is a statistical tie and an insignificant result.  Take a political race, for example.  A poll is done which shows that Candidate A is favored by 51-percent of the voters polled, while Candidate B was the choice of 49-percent of the voters.  That poll had a MOE of 3-percentage points.  What that means is that Candidate A’s number could be as low as 48 or as high as 54, while Candidate B’s number could be as low as 46 or as high as 52.  Candidate A could claim to have a narrow lead over Candidate B while 2-based on that poll, but that claim wouldn’t reflect the reality of the poll because his lead is within the Margin of Error.

There are a couple of ways in which the wording of the questions in a poll could be important.  For instance, consider the CBS/New York Times poll conducted February 19-23 of this year with a Margin Of Error of 3-percentage points.  The poll had the following question:  “Should laws covering the sale of guns be made more strict, less strict, or kept as they are today?”  The results had 54-percent answering more strict, 9-percent less strict and 36-percent kept the same.  Those favoring more strict gun control laws could claim that they have a wide margin of 45-percentage points over those who want less strict gun laws.  But if you combine the less strict number with those who favor the status quo you get 45-percent who do not want more strict gun laws; a much lower difference of 9-percentage points.

Combining responses can actually provide clarity in a poll with several possible responses.  There was the poll conducted December 4-8, 2013 by CBS News with a MOE of 3-percentage points.  One of the questions said “How much do you think stricter gun laws would do to help prevent gun violence.  The possible responses were “A Lot”, “Some”, “Not Much At All”, “Not At All” and “Unsure/No Answer”.  The results had 27-percent saying “A Lot”, 29-percent responding “Some”, 18-percent said “Not Much At All”, 25-percent chose “Not At All”,  and 2-percent were unsure or had no answer.  At first glance you might say that those results were pretty mixed; but what happens if you combine similar responses?  If you combine “A Lot”, and “Some” you have 56-percent clearly believing that stricter gun laws could help prevent gun violence.  Combining “Not Much At All” and “Not At All” you find 43-percent saying it wouldn’t help much or at all.  That’s a significant difference o 13-percent.

Now here’s what I learned by looking at those polls.


The questions concerning guns and gun laws fell into 6 different categories.  There was the general question of whether gun laws should be made more strict, the question of expanding the use of background checks, improving mental health screening and treatment, banning some guns, the influence of the NRA on the gun control debate, and the importance of protecting the rights of Americans to buy guns or to control gun ownership.

In the nine polls that I reviewed there were 6 questions that concerned stricter gun control laws with an average difference of more than 19-percentage points in the responses of those who supported stricter gun control laws over those who did not favor that approach.

The polls also had 6 questions that touched on the more specific question of expanding the use of background checks.  On this question the average difference between those who supported expanding background checks over those who did not was just over 58-percentage points.

The polling results on the issue of improving mental health screening and treatment showed an average difference of 67-percentage points between those who believed that it would help prevent gun violence a lot or some, and those who said it wouldn’t help much or not at all.

There was one question on the issue of banning the possession of handguns except by the police and other authorized persons.  This approach was favored by just 25-percent of the people polled and opposed by 74-percent of the people with 2-percent unsure.  That’s a difference of 49-percent between the minority who favored banning handguns and the majority who opposed that measure.

One question involved the banning of assault style weapons.  That action was supported by 54-percent of the people in that poll and opposed by 42-percent; a difference of 12-percentage points between those two positions.

There was one question involving the influence of the NRA on gun control laws in this country.  That poll had 44-percent saying that the NRA has too much influence on gun control laws, 18-percent believed it has too little influence and 32-percent responded that it has the right amount of influence, with 6-percent saying they were unsure on this question.  If you take each response separately the conclusion would be that the plurality of the people in that poll believe the NRA has too much influence; but if you combine those who believe it has too little with those who say it has the right amount of influence, a much different picture emerges.  We see 50-percent of the people in that poll having no problem with the NRA influence on gun control laws and 44-percent saying the organization has too much influence.

One question asked the people which they thought was more important; to protect the rights of Americans to buy guns or to control gun ownership.  That poll had 48-percent saying the rights of Americans to buy and own guns is more important; while 50-percent believed that it’s more important to control who is allowed to own guns.  That 2-percentage points difference is within the 2.9-percentage point Margin Of Error in that poll, so this question was a statistical tie.


I consider myself to be a sensible supporter of gun control.  I have no problem with qualified people owning a handgun for personal protection.  I was glad the owners of Medawar Jewelers in Grand Rapids went to the authorities for training on how to handle an armed robbery situation after they were robbed three years ago, and bought handguns to protect themselves and their employees.  That’s just what happened recently when 4 armed robbers tried to rob them.  They recognized the danger and most of them were able to get to a safe room.   When one of the thugs tried to enter the safe room they warned him that they were armed and would shoot.  He ignored their warnings and tried to enter the safe room so they shot and wounded him

I have no problem with people using a rifle or shotgun for hunting, target shooting, or skeet shooting.  I just don’t believe that an assault rifle is a good hunting weapon.  I do believe that we need to improve mental health screening and treatment to help keep firearms out of the hands of people who might use them to harm others.  And, I wholeheartedly support expanding the use of background checks to keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them.  Requiring background checks for purchases made at gun shows, online, or in private transactions will not prevent any qualified purchaser from buying and owning a gun.

The NRA’s plan for addressing the problem of gun violence in this country is to improve mental health screening and treatment, and to put guns in the hands of as many people as possible.  They believe that an armed society is a safer society.  Tell that to the families of the two Michigan men who were involved in a road rage incident last year.  They were both registered handgun owners and carriers who ended up shooting and killing each other–in front of the family of one of them.  The NRA believes that armed good guys will take care of armed bad guys before they can hurt innocent people.  What about when too good guys gun down each other in a fit of rage?

The polling shows that the American people want expanded use of background checks.  The NRA’s response?   “…not today, not ever!”

The American people want stricter gun control laws.  The NRA;s response?  “…not today, not ever!”

The American people want a ban on assault style weapons and expanded ammunition magazines.  The NRA’s response?  “…not today, not ever!”

The American people believe that the need to control who owns guns is more important than the right to buy and own guns.  The NRA’s response?  “…not today, not ever!”

Here in this country we’ve had episode after episode of gun violence.  There has been legislation in Congress which would have expanded the use of background checks and ban expanded ammunition magazines; legislation which was supported by the American people but opposed by the NRA and which was blocked in Congress.   That is why I believe the NRA, which claims to represent the wishes of the American people is actually successfully thwarting the wishes of the American people.

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