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Dallas Police Chief: “We’re asking cops to do too much”

Dallas police chief David Brown held a candid press conference yesterday. The video above is a remarkable excerpt in which he says:

I’m a person of faith. I believe [the fact that] I’m able to stand here and discuss this with you is a testament to God’s grace and his sweet tender mercy. Just to be quite honest with you…

We’re asking cops to do too much in this country. We are. We’re just asking us to do too much. Every societal failure, we put it off on the cops to solve. Not enough mental health funding? Let the cops handle it. Not enough drug addiction funding? Let’s give it to the cops. Here in Dallas we got a loose-dog problem. Let’s have the cops chase loose dogs. Schools fail? Give it to the cops. Seventy percent of the African-American community is being raised by single women. Let’s give it to the cops to solve that, as well. That’s too much to ask.

He is absolutely right about this. We need the police. We need them big time. But the biggest problems we face as a society cannot be solved by better policing. Mental health? Fatherlessness? Drug Addiction? Failing schools? The police can punish public vice, but they cannot cultivate consciences. They cannot form character. They cannot create the culture of virtue necessary for the flourishing of a free people. The sword of Caesar is powerful, but not that powerful–not by a mile.

No the biggest problems we face are fundamentally spiritual in nature. If we fail to see that, we fail to see things as they are.

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A showstopper at the Lincoln Memorial

A couple of weeks ago, tourist G. Star Swain belted out an impromptu performance of the national anthem at the Lincoln Memorial. Bottom line. She can flat out sing. And this is one of those renditions that gives you goose bumps. Her friend videoed the whole thing, and it has now gone viral. It has even been covered on news broadcasts by more than one network. Watch the performance above. See the coverage below. Continue Reading →

Supreme Court refuses to defend religious liberty for pharmacists

Last week, I was at a meeting hosted by The Alliance Defending Freedom. There I was introduced to a Christian family who was ordered by the State of Washington to sell abortion-inducing drugs in their family-owned pharmacy (see their story above). This family and two other pharmacists believe that killing unborn children is wrong, and so they sued the state for relief.

In 2012, a federal court ruled that the law violated the free exercise clause of the first amendment and that the law was “riddled with exemptions for secular conduct, but contain no such exemptions for identical religiously-motivated conduct.”

In 2015, however, a federal appeals court overruled and said that the pharmacists and family must violate their consciences in order to do business in Washington State. The family and the pharmacists appealed their case to the Supreme Court.

This morning, the Supreme Court denied to hear their appeal. It means that the lower court ruling stands and that they cannot do business in Washington State unless they are willing to violate their religious beliefs.

Justice Samuel Alito wrote a dissent against the Supreme Court’s decision, and he was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Clarence Thomas. You need to read this excerpt from the dissent:

“This case is an ominous sign. At issue are Washington State regulations that are likely to make a pharmacist unemployable if he or she objects on religious grounds to dispensing certain prescription medications. There are strong reasons to doubt whether the regulations were adopted for—or that they actually serve—any legitimate purpose. And there is much evidence that the impetus for the adoption of the regulations was hostility to pharmacists whose religious beliefs regarding abortion and contraception are out of step with prevailing opinion in the State. Yet the Ninth Circuit held that the regulations do not violate the First Amendment, and this Court does not deem the case worthy of our time. If this is a sign of how religious liberty claims will be treated in the years ahead, those who value religious freedom have cause for great concern. The Stormans family owns Ralph’s Thriftway, a local grocery store and pharmacy in Olympia, Washington. Devout Christians, the Stormans seek to run their business in accordance with their religious beliefs…. Ralph’s has raised more than ‘slight suspicion’ that the rules challenged here reflect antipathy toward religious beliefs that do not accord with the views of those holding the levers of government power. I would grant certiorari to ensure that Washington’s novel and concededly unnecessary burden on religious objectors does not trample on fundamental rights.” [underline mine]

The fortunes of religious liberty are waning in our country right now. The notion has been diminishing in the popular consciousness, and now the Supreme Court is declining to defend our first freedom as well. Alito is right, this is a “cause for great concern.” If the state can ignore the first amendment and coerce these Christians to violate their conscience, then the state can do anything.

The zoo was right to kill the gorilla to protect the boy

There’s a scene in the movie Man of Steel when Clark Kent’s dad sacrifices his life to save a dog. It’s very dramatic, and it’s portrayed as heroic. But despite all the pathos and drama, there’s nothing heroic about treating a dog’s life as the moral equivalent of a human life. In fact, it’s an evidence of pagan decadence to think like that, which is why that scene made sense to American movie-goers in 2013 but would have made no sense to Americans of previous generations. Continue Reading →

A majority of millennials reject capitalism

The Washington Post reports on a survey indicating that a majority of millennials reject capitalism:

In an apparent rejection of the basic principles of the U.S. economy, a new poll shows that most young people do not support capitalism.

The Harvard University survey, which polled young adults between ages 18 and 29, found that 51 percent of respondents do not support capitalism. Just 42 percent said they support it.

It isn’t clear that the young people in the poll would prefer some alternative system, though. Just 33 percent said they supported socialism. The survey had a margin of error of 2.4 percentage points.

The report goes on to say that it is difficult to interpret exactly what this data mean. It seems clear, however, that this represents a signficant shift. Taken together with the fact that Senator Bernie Sanders, an avowed socialist, has run a viable campaign for the Democratic nomination, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the ground is moving beneath our feet.

Albert Mohler comments on all this on his daily podcast “The Briefing.” You can download it here or listen below.

Mohler argues that many millennials are bereft of a basic economic worldview. They don’t like the way things are, but they don’t have a plan or view beyond that. Furthermore, there is a basic misunderstanding about what a free market economy is and how it operates. All of that adds up to rejection of capitalism on the one hand and to ad hoc government imposed solutions on the other.

Prince: “Don’t die without knowing the cross.”

I’m still absorbing the news that Prince has died. I confess that this was like a punch in the gut for me. Little known fact: I’m a huge fan of the artist formerly known as “the artist formerly known as Prince.” His music was the soundtrack of about a decade of my young life. In some ways, that is a sad commentary because so much of what he sang about was foul and salacious. But that is not why I was listening. I was listening because he was a musical genius—a kind of post-modern cross between James Brown and Jimi Hendrix, but better than both of them. Continue Reading →

Secretary of State accuses ISIS of genocide against Christians

You can read Secretary of State John Kerry’s full statement here or watch it above. Here is an excerpt:

My purpose in appearing before you today is to assert that, in my judgment, Daesh is responsible for genocide against groups in areas under its control, including Yezidis, Christians, and Shia Muslims. Daesh is genocidal by self-proclamation, by ideology, and by actions – in what it says, what it believes, and what it does…

Daesh has executed Christians solely because of their faith; that it executed 49 Coptic and Ethiopian Christians in Libya; and that it has also forced Christian women and girls into sexual slavery.

CNN reports on the significance of this declaration:

This is the first time that the United States has declared a genocide since Darfur in 2004.

The House of Representatives on Monday unanimously passed a resolution labeling the ISIS atrocities against Christian groups in Syria and Iraq “genocide,” a term the State Department had been reluctant to use about the attacks and mass murders by the terror group.

The genocide finding does not legally obligate the U.S. to take any particular action, but it could put pressure on the Obama administration to take more aggressive military action against ISIS. It could also give weight to calls by other lawmakers and humanitarian groups pushing the Obama administration to welcome more refugees into the United States.

Some reflections on Justice Scalia’s passing

One cannot overstate how stunning Scalia’s death is. When I first saw the news yesterday, it was like a punch in the gut. But not like a normal punch in the gut. It’s more like a punch in the gut that damages the internal organs. There are consequences that long outlast the initial shock.

For his family, obviously, the loss has a personal dimension that is all their own. Scalia had nine children and 28 grandchildren. On that score, Ross Douthat said it right: “Politics aside, we should all die full of years, with 28 grandchildren, in our sleep after quail hunting. Antonin Scalia RIP.” Amen.

But of course for the rest of us, his death leaves us with the reality that perhaps the most important conservative in the world has just breathed his last. As a jurist, his name enters into the pantheon of justices who made their mark as great men of consequence—Marshall, Warren, Holmes, and now Scalia. We can hardly overstate his legacy as a jurist, much less his dogged determination that the rule of law meant that laws and the Constitution must be interpreted according to their framer’s intent. On this particular point, Scalia was the voice of one crying in the wilderness, and he was the voice of reason.

And now that voice is gone. And it is not clear that there is anyone on the horizon who can fill that void. And that is why those who care about the rule of law are so unsettled about his passing. I wasn’t exaggerating yesterday when I said that his death feels a little bit like the passing of King Uzziah of old. It leaves one with a sense of uncertainty and judgment. Who could possibly take his place? No one. At least not in our lifetimes.

In the meantime, we watch and grieve the passing of Scalia. His passing is another reminder that our life is a breath. It is here, and then it’s gone. Even if you live to be old and full of years, you still have to die. It’s the great equalizer that casts our minds to eternal things. And that is good for all of us.

“As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years, Or if due to strength, eighty years, Yet their pride is but labor and sorrow; For soon it is gone and we fly away… So teach us to number our days, That we may present to Thee a heart of wisdom.” –Psalm 90:10, 12

“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.” –Psalm 20:7

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