2014-FEB/MAR: News topics that have been
discussed on this web site's home page about
The afterlife, feelings of being oppressed, &
Attorney Generals' constitutional problems.
2014-FEB: A skeptical opinion about the afterlife:
This is a brief quotation from Page 78 of Daniel Kolak and Raymond Martin's book.*
The authors conclude that the existence of an afterlife cannot be proven; it can only be accepted on faith without hard evidence. They write:
"The diverse religious stories do agree on one thing: survival [after death]. They differ merely on the details. So aren't they good evidence for survival? No. Agreement in this case merely shows that a common theme can be found in almost all the world's religions. Psychology can easily explain this common theme... People fear death. They fear it not just here and there, or once in a while, but everywhere and always. Fearing death, people have a strong motive to deny it... [T]he explanation in terms of human psychology is not only simpler, it is testable. The explanation in terms of survival, on the other hand, is speculative at best, more complex, and impossible to test either directly or indirectly."
2014-MAR: People's feelings of being oppressed and victimized:
There seems to be a growing perception in the U.S. among ordinary folks that they are being oppressed and victimized. The recent Arizona Bill SB 1062 is a case in point. It is being referred to as a "religious freedom preservation bill" by some, and a "license to discriminate" bill by others.
Some conservative Christian shopkeepers are concerned that they will be forced to violate their religious beliefs against same-sex marriage by being forced to bake a wedding cake, take wedding photographs, rent their facility for a marriage ceremony, or in some other way participate or assist in a same-sex wedding. They feel their religious freedoms are being attacked. They fear being charged with an offense under human rights legislation, even though many states do not have legislation in place to support such a charge.
Meanwhile same-sex engaged couples planning their wedding are concerned that they will be turned away and humiliated when they go to a baker, photographer, or facility and ask for ordinary goods and services for their wedding. It is the sort of experience African-Americans experienced on an hourly basis during the Jim Crow days when water fountains were labeled "white" and "colored," when Blacks had to sit at the back of the bus, where lunch counters were segregated, etc.
Some talk about analogies to to civil rights battles in the mid 20th century. Others liken being forced to violate their religious beliefs with human slavery.
The conflict can be easily solved if everyone looked upon store owner-customer interaction from the perspective of the Golden Rule. One expression of the Rule is "to treat others as one would wish to be treated by others." Store owners, wedding photographers, and other private contractors in the wedding "industry" presumably would like to be able to personally go to the supermarket, book store, restaurant, etc. and be able to purchase the goods and services that they want. The Golden Rule says that bakeries, wedding photographers, companies that rent halls for wedding ceremonies or receptions, etc. should treat potential customers as they would wish to be treated themselves. That is, to accept business from everyone.
To be rejected as a potential customer is very distressing; it destroys social harmony.
The Golden Rule is found in all of the major religions and secular systems of belief. Society cannot run peacefully without it.
2014-MAR: The plight of Attorneys General in the U.S.:
Normally, one of the responsibilities of a state Attorney General (AG) is to defend both the state constitution and state statutes from attacks during lawsuits. However, a growing number of AGs have been refusing to mount such defenses. They have been accused of violating their oaths of office, of arbitrarily deciding whether to defend a law based on their personal whim, of acting in a irresponsible, lawless manner, etc. For example, the Family Research Council wrote an essay titled: "Arrogant Judge Strikes Down Virginia Marriage Amendment." It commented on lawsuit to declare unconstitutional a same-sex marriage ban in the Virginia Constitution:
"This ruling comes on the heels of [Virginia] Attorney General Mark Herring's refusal to fulfill his constitutional duty to defend the state's marriage law. His lawlessness is an insult to the voters of Virginia who rightfully expected elected officials to uphold the laws and constitution of the state, not attack them as Herring has done." 1
Not mentioned during the Council's attack was the AG's sworn duty that was also included in his oath of office. It involves his responsibility to uphold the federal Constitution -- in this case the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
What is often not appreciated is that the oath of office that an state Attorney General takes can often place them in a conflict situation. The oath commits them to support both the state constitution and the U.S. Constitution. But to our knowledge, none of the states have oaths that tell the Attorney General how to handle a situation where the two Constitution conflict.
Starting in 2004 many states held plebiscites to allow the public to vote for or against an amendment to their state constitution to ban the solemnizing of same-sex marriages within the state, and to ban the recognition of legal same-sex marriages solemnized in other states. However, the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution requires the federal and state governments to treat people equally. By extension, this amendment implies that couples are also to be treated equally. Since the freedom to marry is a really basic, fundamental human right, many constitutional experts argue that the 14th amendment makes same-sex marriage (SSM) bans in state constitutions void, and unenforceable. Some AGs have decided to ignore lawsuits; some have decided to actively support them.
On 2014-APR-17, law professors at Virginia universities offer their opinion on Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring's refusal to defend state constitution. The three professors, who the Daily Press in Williambsburg describe as "notable" filed an amicus curiae brief saying that Attorney General Mark Herring has an obligation to not defend state laws that he believes violate the federal Constitution. The lawyers are A.E. Dick Howard and Daniel R. Ortiz of the University of Virginia, and Carl W. Tobias from the University of Richmond. Their brief says, in part:
"Public officials who swear to defend both constitutions owe their first loyalty to the Constitution of the United States. An Attorney General is not an automaton who must blindly support Virginia law, especially when he concludes that it conflicts with the Constitution as the Supreme Law."