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Amendment 1 and the ‘Government Interference’ Fallacy

Just as “marriage equality” has become the campaign theme for those trying to turn marriage into something it isn’t, “stop government interference” has become the theme for opponents of Amendment 1 to turn it into something it isn’t. Surely, they aren’t really against government interference.

Being against government interference certainly has an attractive ring to political conservatives who want less government. And, of course, that is what Planned Parenthood with its “government interference” mantra wants conservatives to think. But hopefully conservatives will do just that—think!

Government is, by definition, a form of interference. When something is governed, it has order and it has limits.

It’s not like we really want to stop government interference completely. Like me, you want the civil government to interfere when someone’s jeopardizing your life or property. The truth is, we all like the kind of interference we think is appropriately within the civil government’s jurisdiction, and we don’t like the interference we think is outside its jurisdiction.

For example, polls show that most opponents of Amendment 1 are Democrats. But Democrats love government inference! They love to regulate everything. They want the government to regulate health care in general. Ever heard of Obamacare?

Obamacare interferes in the kind of health procedures an employer’s health insurance policy must provide. That is government interference in health care. And I guarantee you the opponents of Amendment 1 don’t want the government to repeal the “interference” the abortifacient mandate under Obamacare is to some Christian employers.

So the real question is what kind of things should civil government interfere with? That is where I really question some of the ministers who have talked as if Amendment 1 is depriving a woman of a God-given choice.

First, if you’re a minister, you have to know there is a difference between the free will to make a choice and whether a choice is one that is generally permitted in a civilized society. God and civil government both say that some choices are not okay, like murder. Like stealing. Like lying under oath. Do these ministers oppose government interference when it comes to those choices?

Oh, but they say, “Those choices affect another human being.” But that is the question, isn’t it? Is this living being in a mother’s womb with a DNA and circulatory system of its own not that of its mother of the same essence as the minister? Of course.

Yes, they again counter, “But ‘it’ can’t survive without the “life support” provided by the mother. Ah, but can any of us “its” survive long if someone is unilaterally allowed to deprive us of the things we need for our continued existence, like nutrition and oxygen?

I hope none of these ministers who are against government interference ever ask for government assistance if they are too frail to care for themselves. The golden rule would say that they should be treated the same as the little ones around whose necks they are now casting the abortion millstone.

But, really, these arguments over the rightness or wrongness of abortion are beside the point when it comes to Amendment 1. Amendment 1 cannot take away the right to abortion given by the United States Supreme Court.

Opponents of Amendment 1 are hoping you won’t think about that. And they hope you won’t think about what government interference really means in this situation.

So, if you don’t know what “government interference” means when Planned Parenthood says it, here it is; it means you are okay with:

  • some women continuing to make life-altering, irreversible medical decisions without the assurance they have been fully informed about the procedure and their options,
  • that decision being made on the spot in non-emergency situations, and
  • another human being’s life being taken under those conditions.

Well, that’s not something, as a conservative, I’m okay with for the sake of the woman or the unborn child. So, in this instance, I’ll accept a little “government interference.”


David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. Read David’s complete bio.

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Overcoming Election Season Perils

Winston Churchill said, “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” And during this election season, his analysis seems particularly true to me.

While the form of civil government in the United States is a republic, not a democracy, Churchill was correct that our form of government is better than all the other “forms.” It’s better in that it best protects us from the corrupting influence of power by distributing those powers in various ways and attempting to put checks and balances on the exercise of those powers.

But the form of our government does not protect us from either of two problems that can result in corrupt, immoral, or dysfunctional government.

Ignorance

First, our form of government does not protect us from ignorance, both among the electorate and among our candidates.

I have previously written that some very fine individuals running for office don’t really seem to adequately understand our form of government. We won’t let someone drive a car if they don’t know the rules of the road, but we will elect someone who doesn’t know how to steer the ship of state according to the constitution.

As for the ignorance of the electorate, what I see runs the gamut from voters who also don’t understand our form of civil government to the uninformed who don’t thoroughly study up on the candidates for whom they will vote.

As a case in point, in recent weeks I have spoken with individuals who have given money to and actively supported candidates whom I know don’t share their views on issues like marriage, family structure, or religious liberty. That is, they didn’t know until I told them. Unfortunately, in most cases, I was too late.

I also find people supporting candidates because they know or like them or because someone else they know vouched for or endorsed the candidate. That may be fine for popularity contests, but it’s not so great when it comes to putting the power of civil government in someone’s hands.

Knowing and liking someone has nothing to do with whether they will wisely exercise the power they hold according to the constitution and God’s moral order. Personal piety just means that the person may do the wrong thing with an honest and pure heart. But integrity and purity don’t turn bad policy decisions into good ones.

Endorsements are yet another cause for concern. They are tricky because it’s very possible that the endorser doesn’t know what to look for in a candidate either or may not have properly vetted the candidate. In some instances with which I’m familiar, I know the endorser hasn’t vetted the candidate well. It’s a classic case of the blind leading the blind.

Deception

The second problem that our form of government doesn’t protect us from is deception.

There are advertisements for and against candidates that I know make “connections” between various things to suggest conclusions that really don’t connect. Charitably speaking, what they say is a “stretch.” But if a voter doesn’t have more information or take the time to really consider what has been said, then he or she will be fooled.

And I’ve already written about candidates who give answers in one venue that are, in principle, contrary to what they have said in a different venue. It’s impossible for voters to be in all places at all times.

Lastly, I admit that I struggle with how to accurately portray an incumbent’s voting record. Scorecards are snapshots that show you only a moment frozen in time, but what happened before or after that shot was taken may provide much-needed context.

What’s the Solution?

All that can be discouraging, but as Churchill said, the problem isn’t in our form of government. These problems can be remedied if we all take more seriously our duty to investigate candidates more thoroughly and we have candidates with more integrity than those who are willing to stretch the truth. And, thankfully, that remedy is in our hands if we’ll use it.

Our Voter Education Headquarters is just one tool that can help you remedy the problem.


David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. Read David’s complete bio.

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Does a Politician’s Christianity Really Matter?

Because I have been a state senator and now lead a state organization dedicated to promoting public policies that respect God’s design for marriage and family, life, and religious liberty, I talk to a lot of state politicians and political candidates, particularly at election time. Therefore, it’s not surprising that most who talk to me this time of year are professing Christians. But a conversation I had the other day raised a question about the extent to which one’s Christianity matters.

Many who know me would be surprised to hear such a statement coming from my lips. I don’t say it because a person’s character or the basis for his or her understanding of right and wrong doesn’t matter to me. It matters a lot. But that’s not enough.

I say this because being a Christian doesn’t mean that the candidate for office understands anything about how our form of government is supposed to work. We would not hire a person to handle our finances, run our businesses, treat our illnesses, or do much of anything else simply because they said they were a Christian, even one we might call “devout.”

As a case in point, I spoke with a candidate for office the other day that, based on what I know, I would fully expect to see in the eternal presence of God. But the first thing out of the person’s mouth set off alarm bells for me and required a quick tutorial in the doctrine of separation of powers.

This person, whom I respect, mentioned that when it came to abortion I probably had more trust in the legislature to handle the issue correctly, the implication being that maybe the judiciary was either more trustworthy or better able to balance this sensitive issue. I quickly assured this person that I didn’t trust the legislature either and that, in my case, my distrust was based on real-life experience.

Then I explained that the issue wasn’t about the branch of government in which we should put more trust to make abortion policy, but to which branch of government the enactment of public policy had been entrusted under our state and federal constitutions.

There is only one real, right answer to that question: the legislature. And we’re in the mess we’re in today because, in part, both our politicians and a solid majority of Americans have apparently forgotten that. We only care about whether we get the result—the policy—we want.

That’s the only reason I can think of to explain why Congress and voters aren’t throwing out members of Congress right and left for not impeaching a President (and any President) who essentially keeps enacting or changing the law through executive orders and impeaching activist judges who violate the Constitution by twisting its words and by encroaching upon the legislature’s constitutional prerogatives.

Fortunately, at least for this one candidate, I think my little “refresher course” on constitutional government set things rights. But my point is that candidates who don’t understand our form of government and their responsibilities under that form of government aren’t the type I’m looking for, no matter how often they are in church or how personally holy they are.


David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. Read David’s complete bio.

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The Cure for ‘Cantor’

Many folks have heard the term “cantor.” It is defined as “a person who sings solo verses or passages to which the choir or congregation responds.” However, there is another type of “Cantor,” about which many were unaware prior to this week. It is a localized condition that has been found to exist in certain “beltway areas” around political capitols. Hopefully, some Tennessee politicians learned that the condition can be deadly and will avail themselves of the only known cure.

Much like any malignancy, a “Cantor” arises when a political official allows the “belt” that surrounds all political capitols to get too tight around his or her neck. The “tightening” of the belt results in the politician’s brain not getting enough “constituent air,” and a “Cantor” begins to grow on the brain. Eventually, the “Cantor” produces political amnesia, which is what eventually really kills the politician’s career.

That seems to have been the cause of the political demise this week of soon-to-be former U.S. Representative Eric Cantor. By all accounts, Rep. Cantor began his political career in the Virginia legislature and in D.C. as a solid social and fiscal conservative.

And while Rep. Cantor remained conservative on some issues, it became clear to a significant majority of his constituents that on some important issues he stopped breathing in the oxygen expelled by their voices clamoring to be heard, particularly on the issue of immigration.

I don’t know to what extent Rep. Cantor’s thinking on immigration changed, but I have little doubt that the constituent oxygen his brain needed began to be polluted by the deadly fumes given off by large piles of money available to and provided to politicians by the large corporate special interests known to inhabit beltways.

I speak of this condition because in 1994 I happened to win a state Senate election that some say was caused by a “Cantor” that had begun to attack the incumbent politician against whom I ran. During the twelve years I was in the state Senate, I saw a few other politicians with whom I served succumb to a “Cantor.” And I see some “Cantors” beginning to attack some of our state legislators.

One of the telltale signs of a growing “Cantor” is the expressed belief by politicians that their colleagues in important positions are the ones who make them effective. This belief leads to giving those people their allegiance instead of those back home. That reduces the necessary flow of constituent oxygen.

Another sign is an increasing tendency to exhibit a “government-is-the-answer-to-our-problems” mentality. A sure sign of a growing “Cantor” is the politician who responds to such an accusation by essentially saying nothing other than “our government solution is better than the other guy’s solution” or “we can do government better than the other guy.” And further evidence of this “government-is-the-answer” mentality is an increasing unwillingness or reluctance to provide leadership in standing up for timeless moral values that undergird individual responsibility, marriage, and families and opposing policies that tend to undermine those values.

Thankfully, in remarking upon the “platform” he used to campaign against Rep. Cantor, David Brat articulated a “cure” for those in elected office with early onset Cantorism. Here is the tonic, in the order of importance in which he articulated it.

1.    “First of all, I attribute it to God. I’m really humbled and thankful – I’m a Believer and so I’m humbled that God gave us this win.”

2.    “I ran on Republican principles. . . . The first one is commitment to free markets. We don’t have any free markets in this country any more. Then equal treatment under the law, fiscal responsibility, constitutional adherence, peace through strong defense, and faith in God and strong moral fiber. That’s what I ran on.”

Let’s hope that what happened this week will encourage some of our state’s politicians to do a check-up during this election season to make sure they are getting enough constituent oxygen to avoid “Cantor”-related death.


David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. Read David’s complete bio.

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Advertisement Ignites Debate on Amendment 1

Full or nearly full-page advertisements against Amendment 1 to Tennessee’s Constitution to be voted on in November ran last Sunday in the lead newspapers in each of Tennessee’s four largest metropolitan areas. The advertisement was shocking, but it did provide voters a better understanding of what those opposing the amendment think.

The ad and those who paid for it literally called the state legislature the “Tennessee Taliban,” and by extension, all those who support Amendment 1. But the narrative description of those who support the amendment really took the cake.

TN-Taliban-Ad-DrawingIn two of the newspapers, the advertisement’s text was accompanied by a picture of a man wearing a turban marked “Tennessee legislature.” He is holding a scroll with the words “Amendment,” and has one foot planted on the shoulder of a prostrate woman in a tank top and bare legs, looking helpless. “Tennessee women” is written on her head.

The picture was certainly inflammatory to all people of goodwill who prefer reasoned debate to name-calling. But the imagery and text of the advertisement made clear the understanding of the advertisement’s sponsor relative to the American political process and constitutional government.

The advertisement’s argument could be summed up as nothing more than the trite expression by liberals that “conservatives” (in this case, pro-life citizens) are “imposing” their values on everyone else. The implication was clear that the pro-life folks are dictatorial and, if necessary, even physically so.

Ironically, the advertisement’s sponsor made clear who the dictatorial parties are in the debate over Amendment 1. The amendment is about using the democratic process created by our republican form of government to allow the people to govern themselves when it comes to how our society will handle the issue of abortion. As I understand it, such a process under the Taliban philosophy of government is a no-no.

The Taliban would have the civil government impose its views on the people it governs; in our form of government, no one imposes their views on anyone. We choose the views by which we will govern or regulate our interactions with one another.

That’s what makes the don’t-impose-your-morality-on-me argument so inane. No one imposes his or her morality about abortion or any other issue on anyone else, and in any event, someone’s morality will always be reflected in the law that we collectively choose to govern us all. So, either no one “imposes” any law or morality on anyone, or else we all do it to each other at different times by means of some law on the books.

The bottom line is that those who were behind the advertisement and, generally speaking, those who oppose the amendment, are fearful of the American political process. They fear that a majority of Tennesseans will not share their view about the taking of an innocent unborn child’s life. They prefer to have five unelected people on the state’s Supreme Court take this issue away from the people.

In a very real sense, running to the courthouse to get a majority of five largely unaccountable people to enshrine your view of a long-running cultural debate into the constitution is more like the imposition of one group’s views on another than those whom they accused of being the “imposers.”

As the lone dissenting justice said in the case that “wrote” abortion into our state constitution, four of five Tennesseans, by virtue of their position on the state Supreme Court, imposed one side’s view of abortion on all those who have another view. And opponents of Amendment 1 want to keep it that way.

It seems that Amendment 1’s opponents prefer a judicial dictatorship to a republican form of government in which free people democratically elect those whom they want to represent their views.


David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. Read David’s complete bio.

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