New Prager University Video: Separation of Church and State

The latest from Prager University:

“The Separation of Church and State.” Probably no phrase has had more impact on American history in the last fifty years than this one. Where did it come from? Who coined it? And, what does it mean? Distinguished law professor, John Eastman, has some surprising answers.

What Aren’t Your Kids Learning About America?

Conservative critics of left-wing bias in public education have noshortageofhorrorstoriesto make their point, such as Tanya Dixon-Neely, the North Carolina teacher who is keeping her job despite getting caught on tape in May berating a student for criticizing Barack Obama and telling the class they could get arrested for bad-mouthing their presidents.
But the more pervasive danger to future generations’ political understanding is subtler than outright indoctrination. Even when teachers aren’t out to push an agenda, social studies courses tend to take a superficial approach that may relay key historical events adequately, but provides only the most superficial understanding of the theories and values behind them, if at all.
Don’t believe me? Here are a few simple questions you can ask your kids to judge for yourself just how well served they’ve been in their Social Studies classes:
1.) Who was John Locke, and what did he contribute to the Founding? Despite dying seventy-two years before the Declaration of Independence, the great English philosopher could be thought of as the first Founder, since his writings established the natural right and social compact theories at the Declaration’s heart. Thomas Jefferson’s formulation that “ all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” and “that to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed” is basically the Cliff Notes version of Locke’s Second Treatise of Civil Government, which proposed consent as government’s only moral justification because nobody has a divine claim over anyone else, protecting individual rights as government’s just purpose, and developed a rational basis for objectively defining what is and is not a right.
2.) What is the significance of the Federalist Papers? Written by James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay to persuade the new nation to adopt the Constitution, there is no more authoritative guide to our government—and yet, to most students, it’s a footnote at best. They’re denied some of the Founders’ most important lessons, like Federalist 10on the dangers of faction (groups “ actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adversed to…the permanent and aggregate interests of the community”), Federalist 45 on the difference between federal and state roles (“The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite”), Federalist 51 on human nature’s implications for politics (“If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary”), or the papers’ extensive analysis of the vital difference between direct democracy and the constitutional republic America was designed as. The Federalist Papers reveal that there’s careful thought and important purpose behind every aspect of our Constitution, yet the average high-schooler is likely to graduate with the impression that constitutional mechanics like the Electoral College, separation of powers, and bicameralism were either mere products of sectional compromise or the outdated fallacies of old, white elites.
3.) How did the Founders treat slavery? Conventional wisdom paints the Founders as simply hypocrites who proclaimed liberty for themselves while denying it to blacks. But while the stain of slavery on our history is real, our forefathers’ indifference on the subject is not. Slaveholders held enough power to keep the practice alive, but the Founders overwhelmingly opposed and condemned it. Consider the Three-Fifths Compromise. Everybody knows the constitutional provision that counts slaves as three-fifths of a whole person for purposes of apportioning House seats, but how many know that it was the slaveholders who wanted their slaves to be counted fully, so they could reap the benefits of additional Congressmen who would vote with pro-slavery interests, like the preservation of slavery, fugitive slave laws, and support for slavery in the territories? By counting them as three-fifths, the framers of the Constitution gave slave states lessinfluence over Congress than counting slaves fully would have, without completely alienating their willingness to ratify the Constitution. In fact, the compromise actually gave states an incentive to free their slaves: if their slaves became free men, they’d get more representatives.
Public schools may teach kids the whos, whats, wheres, and whens of American history and politics, but not the whys—an inexcusable inadequacy that denies them what they need most to become civic-minded adults, and demands much greater attention in America’s education debate.

ObamaCare: Liberty Lost the Battle, But the War’s More Winnable Than Ever

Conservatives were right about John Roberts.
Not this year, obviously: nobody expected the Chief Justice to fall for the White House’s most laughable justification of ObamaCare’s individual mandate. But we were right in 2005, when George W. Bush nominated the blank-slate jurist to the Supreme Court. Ann Coulter warned us that “stealth nominees have never turned out to be a pleasant surprise for conservatives.” I’ve previously voiced my fear that Roberts worships at the altar of stare decisis.
Despite Roberts’ reasoning, the mandate is manifestly nota tax. As the bill’s text and legislative history clearly show, it’s a penalty expressly justified as a regulation of interstate commerce. Barack Obama himself emphatically denied that it was a tax. Hell, the Court itself acknowledged it’s not a tax—for the purpose of ruling on a different part of ObamaCare. As Anthony Kennedy’s dissenting opinion says, “to say that the Individual Mandate merely imposes a tax is not to interpret the statute but to rewrite it.” (To say nothing of the real elephant in the room: even if it was a tax, it still wouldn’t fall under enumerated powers.)
Jay Cost looks on the bright side: the Court rejected the mandate’s Commerce and Necessary & Proper Clause rationales, which sets valuable precedent. They also affirmed that states can’t be denied Medicaid funds for noncompliance.
That’s all well and good…but is one constitutional provision really protected when government can get away with the same thing by simply calling it something else? Brent Bozell is right: “there will be no rehabilitating” of John Roberts’ new image “as a traitor to his philosophy.” Thanks, Dubya!
Make no mistake: today was a defeat for constitutional fidelity, individual liberty, limited government, and true healthcare reform. But the American people may yet have the last laugh.
The general public deeply, deeply opposes ObamaCare, and doctors keep reaffirming that it’ll make American healthcare worse. The Court just guaranteed that a clear loser for Obama will remain a prominent issue throughout the rest of the campaign. We’re already seeing signs that conservatives are giving Mitt Romney a much-needed enthusiasm boost.
Beyond that, the ruling added two brand-new wrinkles to the narrative, neither of which works to Team Obama’s benefit. First, the mandate can now be characterized as a tax increase, an argument Sen. Marco Rubio is already expertly deploying. Second, Obama now has a new circle to square: were you lying about the mandate not being a tax then, or are you lying now?
Hopefully Romney will incorporate these details into his rhetoric sooner rather than later (his pre-scripted reaction to the ruling desperately needs a tune-up). Either way, the bottom line is that it’s more important than ever for conservatives to dedicating ourselves to keeping the House, retaking the Senate, and—and here’s the part some conservatives still want to suicidally ignore—retaking the White House. Only by electing Mitt Romneycan we hope to repeal ObamaCare and appoint justices with greater respect for the Constitution.
Let’s get to work.

New on Live Action – Has the OK Supreme Court Inadvertently Put the "Right to Choose" on the Fast Track to Oblivion?

Check out my latest Live Action post:
Pro-aborts may have declared victory in the wake of the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s decision to invalidate the Oklahoma Personhood Act, but according to Personhood USA President Keith Mason, pro-lifers are the ones who should be celebrating, since the decision puts personhood on the fast track to the highest court in the land:

The Oklahoma Court’s decision relied heavily on Planned Parenthood v. Casey, and in moving to deny the people’s right to petition on behalf of the preborn, they have turned this case into a federal issue, deciding “the only recourse available to this Court is to follow…the United States Supreme Court.” The ruling has set us up for a direct challenge to Planned Parenthood v. Casey.
The Oklahoma Court ruling has, inadvertently, propelled the Personhood movement several years forward!
The implications of this case are enormous! Not only will the Personhood movement receive more exposure, which results in an unmatched opportunity for education and saving babies’ lives, but there is a very real chance for victory. The Oklahoma case could be the first to directly and successfully challenge Planned Parenthood v. Casey, dismantling the abortion stronghold in America, and demanding basic human rights for every single human being. This is cause for celebration!

The Oklahoma high court called the measure “clearly unconstitutional,” claiming the Supremes’ prior rulings on abortion have settled the issue. If the Supreme Court were to hear the case, they’d be taking the explosive step of reconsidering Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey’s central proposition: that the Constitution protects the “right to choose” abortion. That’s a high-risk/high-reward proposition, to put it mildly.
Read the rest at Live Action.

New on Live Action – Kathleen Sebelius Admits She Didn’t Bother to Ensure Contraception Mandate Was Constitutional

My latest Live Action post:
Courtesy of PJ Media, here’s a revelation that’s somehow nowhere near as shocking as it ought to be. Yesterday on Capitol Hill, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius admitted that she didn’t bother to check the Constitution or judicial precedent before going ahead with the Obama Administration’s contraception mandate.
Asked by Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) what tests of legal interpretation she used to determine that the mandate struck the right balance with religious liberty, Sebelius answered:

Congressman, I’m not a lawyer and I don’t pretend to understand the nuances of the constitutional balancing tests […] I am not going to wade into constitutional law, I’m talking about the fact that we are implementing a law that was passed by the Congress, signed by the President, which directed our department to develop a package of preventive health services for women. We have done just that with the advice of the Institute of Medicine, and promulgated that rule.

Note well that the combination of congressional votes, presidential signatures, and the opinion of the Institute of Medicine amount to somewhere between nada and zilch when it comes to constitutional law.
Read the rest at Live Action.

New on Live Action – Rethinking the Intersection of Church, State, and the Right to Life

My latest Live Action post:
When pro-aborts can’t win the argument with biological shell games and character assassination, they usually resort to disqualifying pro-life opinions from consideration by labeling them violations of America’s separation of church and state. So it’s worth spending some time on a broader look at the way abortion politics intertwine with religion.
Contrary to the insistence of abortion defenders, the case against abortion is not exclusively theological. It has two core factors: the empirical observation that individual human life begins at fertilization, and the moral/philosophical proposition that all human beings have an equal claim to live.
Clearly, the former point has nothing to do with religion. Admitting that zygotes, embryos, and fetuses are live human beings is simple biology. If protecting the right to life after birth isn’t “imposing religion,” then neither is concluding that such shared humanity entitles the pre-born to be included in that same protection. Indeed, pro-lifers are just advocating for a broader, more consistent application of the general right-to-life principle the rest of society already accepts, albeit selectively.
Read the rest at Live Action.

New at Live Action – Bogus Church-State Ruling Defunds Bishops’ Aid to Sex-Trafficking Victims

My latest Live Action post:
As if we didn’t have enough on our plate with the battle over forced contraception coverage, the Obama administration is currently embroiled in another religious fight, this time with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops over federal aid money for sex-trafficking victims.
The Trafficking Victims Protection Act provides money to fund medical and mental health services for victims of sex trafficking, and since 2006, the bishops have been allowed to limit the money they receive to contractors who are uninvolved in abortion. But in its infinite wisdom and compassion, the current administration has decided to revoke the bishops’ grant money entirely rather than keep funding their charitable work. Now a federal judge has ruled against the bishops:

Although the nation’s Catholic bishops said the ACLU lawsuit is “without merit and an affront to religious liberty,” U.S. District Court Judge Richard G. Stearns ruled on March 23 that the government’s accommodation of the decision not to make abortion referrals is unconstitutional. Stearns, a Massachusetts judge, said the government violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment “insofar as they delegated authority to a religious organization to impose religiously based restrictions on the expenditure of taxpayer funds, and thereby impliedly endorsed the religious beliefs of the USCCB and the Catholic Church.”
Stearns also said is not about forcing the bishops to violate their pro-life views but about “the limits of the government’s ability to delegate to a religious institution the right to use taxpayer money to impose its beliefs on others (who may or may not share them).”

As a matter of policy, HHS’s decision is indefensible. It’s disgusting enough when the government funds abortion directly, but to throw out all of an organization’s charitable work, which is achieving the stated goal of helping sex-trafficking victims, simply because that organization’s members don’t want to be complicit in abortion?
Read the rest at Live Action.

So What’s This About Muskets and the Commerce Clause?

In their desperation to make ObamaCare’s individual mandate not seem blatantly illegal, liberals have taken to citing a 1792 law requiring Americans to purchase muskets as proof that they’re not stretching the Commerce Clause beyond the Founders’ intent. Too bad for them that Randy Barnett at Volokh nuked that argument over a month ago:
5. At the hearing, Professor Dellinger mentioned that Congress had once passed a law requiring individual male citizens to provide themselves with muskets, gear and uniforms of a certain specification. I believe Professor Dellinger was referring to the Militia Act of 1792, which required all able-bodied male citizens, 18 years of age or older, to be enrolled in a militia and provide themselves with certain supplies for that service. 
a. Do you believe Congress most likely relied on its Commerce Clause powers in passing that statute?
Congress was relying on its Article I, section 8 power “To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States . . . ” The militia power, and the duty of a citizen to serve, pre-existed the formation of national government.
b. Do you believe the Militia Act of 1792 would have been a permissible exercise of Congress’ authority if it were based solely on Congress’ Commerce Clause powers?
It would not.
c. In your testimony, you alluded to jury duty, selective service registration and several other actions the federal government requires of each individual citizen. You described these as traditionally-recognized requirements that were necessary for the continued function of the government itself. In 1792, the United States did not have a permanent standing army. Do you think service in the militia was among those traditionally-recognized requirements necessary for the continued function of government? 
Without question, it was considered a fundamental duty of citizenship. Congress is now seeking to add an new and unprecedented duty of citizenship to those which have traditionally been recognized: the duty to engage in economic activity when Congress deems it convenient to its regulation of interstate commerce. And the rationales offered to date for such a duty would extend as well to the performance of any action, whether economic or not, when Congress deems it convenient to the exercise of its power over interstate commerce. The recognition of so sweeping a duty would fundamentally alter the relationship of American citizens to the government of the United States.

Barack Obama and the Left’s Willful Anti-Constitutionalism

The Obama Administration reportedly plans on tweaking the case for ObamaCare’s constitutionality it’ll bring before the Supreme Court, shifting its emphasis from the Commerce Clause, which empowers Congress to “regulate commerce…among the several states,” to the Necessary and Proper Clause, which empowers Congress to “make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution” the federal government’s constitutionally-authorized powers:
“The minimum coverage provision is … necessary to achieve Congress’s concededly valid objective of reforming the interstate market in health insurance,” the Justice Department said in its first Supreme Court brief on the merits of the mandate.
You don’t need to have spent so much as a day in law school to understand that this does nothing to improve the White House’s argument. The Necessary & Proper Clause only helps if the objective is identified by the Constitution, and they’re still relying on the commerce rationalization. Unfortunately for the Left, if we’re going by what the Constitution actually means rather than what they want it to mean, we already know that’s a dead end. Alexander Hamilton explained the Commerce Clause in Federalist 22:
The interfering and unneighborly regulations of some States, contrary to the true spirit of the Union, have, in different instances, given just cause of umbrage and complaint to others, and it is to be feared that examples of this nature, if not restrained by a national control, would be multiplied and extended till they became not less serious sources of animosity and discord than injurious impediments to the intcrcourse between the different parts of the Confederacy. “The commerce of the German empire is in continual trammels from the multiplicity of the duties which the several princes and states exact upon the merchandises passing through their territories, by means of which the fine streams and navigable rivers with which Germany is so happily watered are rendered almost useless.” Though the genius of the people of this country might never permit this description to be strictly applicable to us, yet we may reasonably expect, from the gradual conflicts of State regulations, that the citizens of each would at length come to be considered and treated by the others in no better light than that of foreigners and aliens.
In other words, the intended purpose of Congress’s power to regulate interstate commerce was specifically to prevent the states from discriminating against one another through over-regulation, to erect a uniform standard that would keep the interstate flow of commerce mostly un-regulated. Further, Hamilton’s clearly talking about regulating the actions of state governments, not of individuals. Nothing in the Constitution comes even close to empowering the federal government to compel individuals to purchase a good or service. (For more on the Founders’ understanding of the Commerce Clause, see here.)
The most important thing to understand about this story is that this is not a difficult conclusion to draw. If you have a proper understanding of the purpose behind a written Constitution and how to interpret it, then the rest of the exercise mostly takes care of itself. One need not engage in much heavy theorizing or interpretation thanks to the simple fact that, in most cases, those who wrote the Constitution told us exactly what they meant.
In particular, Barack Obama has no excuse not to know better, considering that the man taught constitutional law. But as Ben Shapiro has been chronicling, Obama’s teaching was defined by an agenda to mislead his students about the law, making originalism subservient to his personal ideology. As president, Obama explicitly chose Supreme Court Justices based on criteria other than their judicial excellence, and his administration has been defined by chronic disregard for any limits on federal and executive power.
Simply put, Barack Obama has no respect for the oath he took to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution,” and he’s getting away with it in large part because our society doesn’t teach its citizens sufficient constitutional literacy to recognize it. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: conservatives can’t restore America’s founding principles if we don’t wake up and work to break the Left’s stranglehold on education.

New at Live Action – Michelle Goldberg’s Lame, Arrogant Excuses for the Obama Birth Control Mandate

My latest Live Action post:
Hot off the heels of trashing Lila Rose, Newsweek’s Michelle Goldberg jumps into the ObamaCare-contraception fray with a Daily Beast column arguing that forcing Catholic institutions to offer birth control is no big deal. Unfortunately for the Obama Administration, however, her apologia is a train wreck of distortions and non sequiturs:

But many Catholic institutions are already operating in states that require contraceptive coverage, such as New York and California. Such laws are on the books in 28 states, and only eight of them exempt Catholic hospitals and universities. Nowhere has the Catholic Church shut down in response. 

Really? According to the non-partisan National Conference of State Legislatures, the actual number of states with religious exemptions is twenty, making the truth the exact opposite of what Goldberg describes. Maybe that has something to do with why Catholics would consider the White House’s decision a dramatic change in the status quo?