Category: Individual Liberty

Picture of Mississippi governor who signed HB 1523 into law. A federal judge recently struck down the law. Photo courtesy of U.S. Department of Agriculture

Picture of Mississippi governor Phil Bryant, who signed HB 1523 into law. A federal judge recently struck down the law. Photo courtesy of U.S. Department of Agriculture

Late last month, a federal judge declared Mississippi’s “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act” (HB 1523) unconstitutional. In response, legal scholar and libertarian Richard Epstein discussed issues of religious freedom and anti-discrimination initiatives on the latest episode of the Hoover Institution’s podcast, The Libertarian.

The Mississippi law was written to protect those with specific religious objections on issues of marriage, sexual acts outside of marriage, and gender. The law would give people with the specified views the state-protected right to act on these views in business dealings and in roles as administrators. Anti-discrimination LGBT groups argued that the law allows unconstitutional discrimination, and the judge agreed, striking down the law under the Equal Protection Clause. The judge also ruled that the law violated the Establishment Clause because it favored some religious beliefs over others. The case represents one of many recent clashes between freedom of conscience and anti-discrimination laws.

Epstein rejects the judge’s ruling as both legally misguided and finds error in the underlying understanding of tolerance.

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Wikimedia

Wikimedia

On Tuesday, President Obama declared this week Captive Nations Week. The first Captive Nations Week was in 1959, proclaimed by President Eisenhower to call attention to the oppression of several countries in the Soviet Bloc and to encourage Americans to support fight for democracy and liberty worldwide. Enjoy the six quotes below as we observe a week dedicated to the beauty of freedom and decrying the continued existence of tyranny:

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President Eisenhower signed the first Captive Nations Week into law on July 17, 1959. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia.

President Eisenhower signed the first Captive Nations Week into law on July 17, 1959. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia.

On July 17, 1959, President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued a proclamation declaring the third week of July “Captive Nations Week” for that year and every year “until such time as freedom and independence shall have been achieved for all the captive nations of the world.” At the time, Eisenhower was condemning the unjust and oppressive Soviet regime and lending a voice to those countries trapped under Soviet rule. The threat of the Soviet Union no longer exists today. Still, we have celebrated Captive Nations Week every year since 1959, and are doing so this year, because, unfortunately, threats to freedom persist today.

President Obama released a beautiful proclamation this week that extols the value of liberty and the power of the American commitment to the ideals of democracy and freedom at home and abroad.

Since our earliest days, the United States has worked to uphold the rights enshrined in our founding documents. The ideals that sparked our revolution find their truest expression in democracy, and our enduring belief in the right to self-govern is not limited to our borders — we believe the human impulse toward freedom is universal. During Captive Nations Week, we recognize the inherent dignity of all people, and we renew our support for those struggling under oppressive regimes and striving to secure the blessings of liberty for themselves and their posterity.

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shutterstock/cnnmoney

shutterstock/cnnmoney

Vox recently published an article claiming that Charles Koch is right and Bernie Sanders is wrong about how the economy is rigged. Both agree that there are laws that unfairly favor some financially over others. Sanders often claimed during his campaign that the rich have used their money to lobby for laws that favor their interests over those of everyone else.  Meanwhile, Charles Koch has condemned excessive regulation and restrictions on economic freedom that allow the few to bend laws in their financial favor against the many. In looking at the real problem in the economy, Charles Koch’s analysis of the problem comes closer to the truth.

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The Spanish novelist Cervantes wrote his famous tale about a knight-errant almost 200 years before the the 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was adopted. But as Eric C. Graf, Professor of Literature at Universidad Francisco Marroquín, explains, Don Quixote paved the way for freedom of religious conscience by championing the freedom to think or believe what you want in your head.

shutterstock

shutterstock image

People often criticize the vast size and scope of the bureaucracy in the United States, but there is another critical issue involving the administrative state that is seldom discussed: the breakdown of the rule of law. The procedural rights that are necessary for a strong rule of law and are so often taken for granted are not guaranteed in the administrative state today.

Strong rule of law is one of the necessary elements for a free and virtuous society, and for a free and functioning market. There are many definitions and nuances in the principle of the rule of law, but the central tenets require that laws apply to all people equally and are enforced consistently and fairly. Proper rule of law precludes arbitrary enforcement, inaccessible or unclear laws, and inconsistent application. The breakdown of rule of law leaves political, religious, and economic freedom vulnerable, endangering the very foundation of our republic. Where rule of law is weak, tyranny and oppression reign.

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“Limits on free speech is uniquely troubling for the future health of a free society,” wrote Ray Nothstine in an Acton Commentary. “Students become accustomed to having their rights limited, and will be more lethargic in countering possible oppression from a growing and intrusive state.”

Nothstine wrote those words in 2008 — and they’ve proven to be distressingly prophetic. Every year for the past decade limitations on speech by students has been increasing, leading an entire generation to assume such restriction are to be expected.

Fortunately, this country’s founding generation did not take the limitations of their freedoms so lightly. But what if  our constitution had been written like campus speech codes?