Arranged marriage

Wedding ringsToday, the law of Utah says that marriage is an association of a man and a woman, or a man and another man, or a woman and another woman. Not, however, because a massive cultural change in the state led a majority of Utahns to decide that marriage should be a way for the government to endorse all types of adult relationships. Rather, because a year ago, a federal judge mandated a new legal definition of marriage, claiming the definition was required by the U.S. Constitution.

Because of that decision Utah is now under federal court order to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The judge’s rationale for the novel result has not proven to be all that significant. Many other judges have come up with their own rationalizations, often contradicting one other. It’s hard to know whether the Utah decision influenced other courts, since the soaring rhetoric many of the judges relied on to announce their decisions suggests they were on board with the result regardless of what had happened in Utah.

One precedent was set a year ago in Utah that appears to have been more influential. In the wake of the decision, and even knowing the state would appeal to higher courts, the judge put the decision into immediate effect, a decision that would be reversed weeks later by the U.S. Supreme Court. The pattern of short-circuiting the appeals process was followed in many other federal court decisions, which is arguably a legacy of Utah’s experience, though not a very encouraging one.

In the nature of the court system, last year’s decision was appealed. A panel of judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit ruled 2-1 that Utah’s law was unconstitutional under the theory that when U.S. Supreme Court cases had previously referred to a “right to marry,” they had not meant marriage as understood at the time but instead that everyone should be able to exercise a choice as to what they wanted marriage to mean. In October of this year, the Supreme Court declined to review this case (and others from other circuits), allowing the 10th Circuit decision to go into effect.

Going forward, however, the issue is not entirely settled even in Utah. In early November, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled that the U.S. Constitution allowed states to decide to retain the understanding of marriage as the union of a husband and wife. This ruling, binding on Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee, directly contradicts the 10th Circuit’s opinion, and a number of states have now asked the U.S. Supreme Court to resolve the conflict. If the Supreme Court sides with the Sixth Circuit, Utah may be able to enforce its marriage laws again.

Whatever ultimately happens with the legal part of the debate, this turn of events presents an important cultural opportunity. Probably because the nature of marriage (as an institution bringing together men and women in which society is primarily interested because it promotes the opportunity of children to be raised by their own mother and father) had been so uncritically accepted for so long, the wisdom of that understanding may have been forgotten — particularly under the stress of other legal changes emphasizing adult expressive individualism in marriage and family.

The ongoing marriage debate allows the virtue of the embattled wisdom to be articulated in practice and in reason. That’s the opportunity we must seize going forward.

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Sutherland Institute supports Health Reform Task Force recommendations

Sutherland Institute today released the following statement regarding the legislative Health Reform Task Force’s actions regarding Medicaid expansion:

Sutherland Institute supports the decision of the Health Reform Task Force to recommend an approach to Medicaid expansion that focuses on the needs of the medically frail in Utah. Most importantly, the Task Force’s recommended approach addresses the human question by striking a prudent balance of meeting the most pressing health care needs of uninsured Utahns and protecting health care access for the disabled individuals, low-income single parents and children for whom Medicaid was designed.

Additionally, the Task Force’s recommended approach answers the human question in a fiscally reasonable and conservative way: making a significant investment of taxpayer dollars without relying on “promises” of federal funding that are mathematically unrealistic due to the federal debt situation. Given that other states which have adopted a full Medicaid expansion plan have faced unexpectedly high costs – requiring states to reallocate funds that would otherwise go to public schools, road and highways or criminal justice – taking a more cautious approach to Medicaid expansion is a reflection of wise fiscal stewardship.

Sutherland encourages policymakers to continue along the path the Task Force has recommended. We look forward to continuing to engage this decision-making process as it moves forward.

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Making peace with prosperity

"Abundance of Fruit," by Severin Roesen, 1860, New Britain Museum of American Art.

“Abundance of Fruit,” by Severin Roesen, 1860, New Britain Museum of American Art.

About had it with the chaos of Christmas commercialization? Do yourself a favor and read Arthur Brooks’ New York Times column, “Abundance Without Attachment.” The ever-inspiring Brooks explains that while economic prosperity has brought much of the world out of the choking grip of poverty, this same prosperity can chain us again if we let it. To avoid that trap, and thus be a happier, more generous people, we need to remember and practice three keys:

  • Collect experiences, not things. As wrong-headed as it might seem, buying that couch that will last forever will bring less satisfaction than a fleeting adventure with loved ones. Brooks refers to research to prove his point, and my own experience has shown that it’s the blossoming, richer relationships that result from those shared adventures that produces the long-term payoff.
  • Steer clear of excessive usefulness. By this Brooks means that we should, yes, be industrious, but we should be industrious because of the joy honest industry itself brings us. Also, we should remember why we work so hard—to take care of our loved ones. The means we earn are just that—means. They are not the end for which we are working.
  • Get to the center of the wheel. If you measure your worth and success based on the rim, or the material measures of man, you will always feel unfulfilled. Our material and mortal experiences are full of ups and downs, and man is reliably unreliable. Instead, get away from the rim and to the center of the wheel to a reliance on Deity. That’s a sure way to attach yourself to something of real, satisfying, lasting worth.
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Marriage: a cornerstone, not a luxury good — Sutherland Soapbox, 12/16/14

Holding_HandsThis post is a transcript of a 4-minute weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations. The podcast can be found at the bottom of this post.

Prominent sociologist Andrew Cherlin had an interesting piece in the New York Times this weekend about the much-observed correlation between social class and marriage rates (professionals tend to marry at higher rates). Dr. Cherlin identifies a correlation between income inequality and marriage over the years to show that both cultural factors and economic factors are at work. He points to the end of “social norms against cohabitation and childbearing outside of marriage.”

A passing comment in the article points to another cultural change in our current understanding of marriage: the erosion of the idea that marriage is a foundational aspect of adulthood. The article notes, “we see high levels of marriage among young professionals today, although they may delay weddings until they have started a career.”

A recent study confirmed: “Marriage has shifted from being the cornerstone to being the capstone of adult life.” The median age of first marriages has risen from 23 for men and 20 for women in 1970 to nearly 29 for men and nearly 27 for women in 2011. The Knot Yet study explains that this allows for completion of college education and may have decreased the divorce rate (though the risks of early marriage are only more significant with very early marriages and “[m]arriages that begin at age 20, 21 or 22 are not nearly so likely to end in divorce as many presume.”). But this trend is associated with higher rates of out-of-wedlock births, the substitution of cohabitation for marriage and may be associated with greater unhappiness and other challenges.

These trends came to mind in listening to Dr. Lloyd Newell’s wonderful address at BYU last week. He talked about the straitened financial circumstances of President Gordon B. Hinckley and his wife, Marjorie Pay Hinckley, when they engaged in the midst of the Depression. Continue reading

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‘Cromnibus’ and the emergent courtier society

"Prince Salim with a courtier and attendants in a tent," circa 1600, by Sur Das. (Source: Smithsonian's Museums of Asian Art.)

“Prince Salim with a courtier and attendants in a tent,” circa 1600, by Sur Das. (Source: Smithsonian’s Museums of Asian Art.)

Holiday feasts always remind me of that old Twilight Zone episode where aliens with sparkly robes, big eyes and knowing smiles show up with a book called “To Serve Man.” Everyone naturally assumes the book is a primer for saving us silly humans from our own ignorance and evil natures. This is during the Cold War, remember, when we all assumed we were going to blow each other to smithereens at any moment.

Naturally the best and the brightest humans line up for a trip to the home planet where further enlightenment undoubtedly awaits, and a select few will be chosen as mankind’s benevolent overlords: to serve their fellow man.

Unfortunately, though, “To Serve Man” turns out to be a cookbook and the best and brightest are on the menu instead of the guest list.

Maybe it’s just the Christmas sugar rush talking, but I think that’s where this country is headed as people and businesses line up for special treatment from an increasingly centralized, opaque and powerful federal government. At some point they’re going to find out that they’re dinners instead of diners.

Last weekend’s Cromnibus is a case study in how this happens. A huge unreadable bill covering everything from national defense to prairie chickens is ginned up behind closed doors and presented as a “must-pass” piece of legislation that no one will either read or debate before heading home for Christmas.

And who’s behind those closed doors? Only those who can afford their own D.C. lobbyist or, better yet, politician. The result, besides more spending, is a pact with the devil filled with restrictions, regulations, and costs that disproportionately fall on small businesses and families, and favoring inside interests and their benefactors.

Packing bills with favors has been going on for years, but it really reached an art form during the financial meltdown with Dodd/Frank. This “reform” resulted in taxpayers bailing out big banks to the tune of billions of dollars and includes massive increases in compliance, insurance and capital costs, along with giving politically favored large institutions a de facto “too big to fail” designation.

It’s a law that was written for big bankers by big bankers. They can absorb the increased compliance costs while small banks with much lower margins can’t. They can meet the capital and insurance requirements that stifle small banks’ ability to make local loans to farmers and homebuyers. And of course with an implicit government guarantee, big banks enjoy lower borrowing costs than small banks, giving them even more of a competitive advantage.

Big banks, like most big businesses, can absorb and pass along compliance costs and other regulatory burdens while smaller businesses, often operating on razor-thin margins as it is, cannot. That’s why box stores and big hospitals like Obamacare, why drug companies like the FDA, why big banks like Dodd/Frank. Expensive and byzantine regulations erect barriers to new companies entering the market and drive smaller players out completely.

But that’s not my point.

My point is that by centralizing and expanding government power we’re creating a courtier society, one where access to the King’s court is more vital to success than merit is. Continue reading

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A useful, non-shaming guide for working with women

Riveters in WWIIDo men need a guide for how to work with women? Joanne Lipman, writing in The Wall Street Journal, has some suggestions, and they’re worth reading:

The point isn’t to blame men. In my view, there has been way too much man-shaming as it is. My aim instead is to demystify women.

The business case for this is compelling. Companies with more women in leadership posts simply perform better. Fortune 500 firms with the most female board members outperform those with the least by 26% on return on invested capital and 16% on return on sales, according to a 2011 Catalyst study.

Aside from some unfortunate stereotypes used by Lipman in her introductory paragraphs, the article has some great advice for men, particularly managers, who work with women. It goes beyond the “men’s and women’s brains are wired differently” and “men and women are socialized differently” concepts to offer some clear explanations and suggestions. Read it here.

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Legislature has it right on budget approach

Photo Credit: Scott Catron

Photo Credit: Scott Catron

The Utah Legislature recently received updated budget projections that give policymakers hundreds of millions in new state taxpayer dollars to allocate. The governor’s office subsequently recommended a $14.3 billion budget, which reportedly encourages legislators to spend almost all of this new revenue. With that as background, we can now expect special interests to begin lining up to pressure lawmakers to give them every taxpayer dollar possible.

Fortunately for Utahns and their families, the Legislature has established a process for budgeting that takes a more cautious approach than “spend it all now.”

Last year, the Legislature passed bills that created a process to determine the proportion of new tax dollars technically considered “ongoing” that can actually be expected to be ongoing in reality. This is necessary because historical revenue information shows that some technically “ongoing” tax revenue actually vanishes during a recession. The Legislature tasked its budget staff to examine historical trends and estimate how much new “ongoing” tax revenue (on paper) is likely to be temporary in fact because it is above historical revenue growth trends. Based on that analysis, the amount of that “above trend” revenue is about one-third of the projected ongoing new tax revenue.

Because this money is likely to disappear during hard economic times, it can be quite risky to spend it on programs that require sustained taxpayer funding (e.g. public school operations, transportation administration or prison operations). When a recession hits and the supposedly “ongoing” tax revenue goes away, unless there has been sufficient financial contingency planning in good economic years, then policymakers will be left with the unappealing options of either cutting important government programs and services or increasing taxes – both of which harm and disrupt the lives of Utahns. Continue reading

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Land transfer would be a process, not a grab — Sutherland Soapbox, 12/9/14

Flying_birds_at_Sacramento_National_Wildlife_RefugeThis post is a transcript of a 4-minute weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations. The podcast can be found at the bottom of this post.

You’ve probably heard by now that the Utah Public Lands Policy Coordinating Office came out with a report last week detailing the potential impacts of transferring about half of all federal lands here to state control.

This is an issue because people all over the West are feeling the pain of being cut off from the land they love — and need — whether to make a living or recreate … and just to live a happy and fulfilling life.

And the truth is, the only one cutting off access to public lands right now is the federal government. Unless you’re young, wealthy, and healthy enough to get the gear and time to trek in, you’re seeing your access reduced by either regulatory and legal hurdles, or actual chains being put up across roads and trails.

These policies are being forced on us by people in far off Washington, D.C., who know nothing of the rural production economy … what it makes, how it runs … or the families who choose to live and work in it.

These D.C. landlords serve a different master and have different priorities. They’re an interest group as powerful as any in the nation, but funded by you. And their interests don’t match those of the people who live and work on the lands they manage.

The Utah report weighs in at around 800 pages, so I can’t even do a fair job of summarizing it in the four minutes I’ve got here. But its conclusion – arrived at by economists and scientists from three Utah universities – is that, yes, Utah can manage those lands in an economical and balanced way without sacrificing the beauty of the state, its quality of life, or its attraction to tourists and recreationists from around the world. And it can even turn (trigger alert, I’m going to use a word that some in the environmental activist community might find offensive and cause the vapors) [Utah can turn] a profit to help pay for other state needs in the process.

Cue the hue and cry from the for-profit environmental movement. The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and Center for Western Priorities, apparently after reading their own press releases instead of the actual study, immediately responded with boilerplate talking points and cherry-picked data respectively in their attempts to discredit the report.  Continue reading

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On Point video: Holly Mullen on rape culture, 12/5/14

In this episode of On Point, Holly Mullen, executive director of the Rape Recovery Center, discusses rape culture with “Holly on the Hill” blogger Holly Richardson and Michelle Mumford, former assistant dean at BYU Law School.

You can watch all the half-hour On Point videos here on Sutherland’s YouTube channel.

Use this link to subscribe to the On Point podcast on iTunes.

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As war begins: a vivid glimpse of Pearl Harbor in 1941

469px-Remember_december_7th

For seven ghastly, confused days, we have been at war. To the women of Hawaii, it has meant a total disruption of home life, a sudden acclimation to blackout nights, terrifying rumors, fear of the unknown as planes drone overhead and lorries shriek through the streets.

The seven days may stretch to seven years, and the women of Hawaii will have to accept a new routine of living. It is time, now, after the initial confusion and terror have subsided, to sum up the events of the past week, to make plans for the future.

It would be well, perhaps, to review the events of the past seven days and not minimize the horror, to better prepare for what may come again.

The words above were written by a reporter for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Elizabeth P. McIntosh, a week after the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor. She explained, “After a week of war, I wrote a story directed at Hawaii’s women; I thought it would be useful for them to know what I had seen.”

But her editors pulled the story, fearing it was too graphic. It was finally published 71 years later, in 2012, in The Washington Post.

Two weeks ago, I was at Pearl Harbor, thinking about the Japanese attack and its consequences. It’s tempting to view World War II now with a sort of nostalgia, since we know how it all ended, with the Allies finally triumphant. But looking at the harbor, I tried to imagine what it was like at the time, when it was reality and not history, and McIntosh’s story gives me a glimpse of that.

To 21st-century eyes, her account is hardly graphic. But it is immediate and terrifying, conveying a vivid sense of “what’s next?” and the rumors that must have flown from person to person.

Read it here (includes video) at The Washington Post.

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A triptych for today …

Library… reflecting on George Santayana’s sobering reminder: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” (The Life of Reason: the Phases of Human Progress, Vol. 1, p. 284, 1905-06)

  • “…the way to have good and safe government is not to trust it all to one, but to divide it among the many…. What has destroyed liberty and the rights of man in every government which has ever existed under the sun? The generalizing and concentrating all cares and power into one body.”

– Thomas Jefferson, February 2, 1816, in a letter to Joseph C. Cabell (The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, edited by Andrew A. Lipscomb and Albert Ellery Bergh, Vol. 14, pp. 421-423. Washington, DC: Thomas Jefferson Memorial Association, 1905)

  • “An elective despotism was not the government we fought for; but one in which the powers of government should be so divided and balanced among the several bodies of magistracy as that no one could transcend their legal limits without being effectually checked and restrained by the others.” 

 – James Madison (“Federalist No. 58,” The Federalist Papers, February 20, 1788)

  • “The American Republic will endure, until politicians realize they can bribe the people with their own money.” 

– Attributed to Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859), French political observer and historian. A champion of liberty and democracy, his most famous works are Democracy in America (two volumes, 1835 and 1840) and The Old Regime and the Revolution (1856).

Or, as Mark Twain is reputed to have put a bow on it: “The past does not repeat itself, but it rhymes.”

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The Power of One — Sutherland Soapbox, 12/2/14

"Editors" Sarah Hale, Godey's Lady's Book, 1850.

“Editress” Sarah Hale, Godey’s Lady’s Book, 1850.

This post is a transcript of a 4-minute weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations. The podcast can be found at the bottom of this post.

If you’ve ever thought you don’t matter, or you don’t make a difference — you’re wrong. History is full of men, women and children who have seen something broken, or wrong, or unjust, and fixed it – for a loved one, or maybe for the whole world.

Take, for example, the story of David and Kathleen Bagby. I came across their story by watching the gut-wrenching documentary, “Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father.” David and Kathleen raised their son, Andrew, near San Jose, California. Andrew went on to medical school in Canada where he dated Shirley Turner for a time before ending the turbulent relationship. While doing his residency in Pennsylvania, Andrew was allegedly murdered by Shirley. Shirley then fled to Canada and revealed she was pregnant with a baby fathered by Andrew. While her extradition hearings moved slowly through Canada’s legal system, Shirley was free on bail and gave birth to Andrew and Shirley’s son, Zachary. David and Kathleen Bagby, Andrew’s parents, flew to Canada to seek custody of the child. Before they were able to secure custody, Shirley jumped into the Atlantic Ocean with baby Zachary strapped to her chest in a murder-suicide.

In less than two years, David and Kathleen lost their son, Andrew, and their grandson, Zachary, to horrific deaths. David and Kathleen’s grief and outrage are certainly normal, understandable, and expected. But they didn’t let it paralyze or consume them. They worked for seven years to change Canada’s bail laws. David and Kathleen believed bad bail laws allowed Shirley to be released when she shouldn’t have been, which allowed her to murder her son and kill herself. David and Kathleen were ultimately successful in protecting children by getting Canada to change its bail laws to make bail proceedings more stringent. Two average folks, with no public policy experience, but overflowing with a desire to save children’s lives, made a difference.

Another example. Completely different, but still impactful. If you enjoyed the Thanksgiving holiday with your loved ones, you have Sarah J. Hale to thank.  Hale was “editress” (as she called herself) of the Lady’s Book and the reason we have a national day of thanksgiving today.

Hale worked for 15 years placing “papers before the Governors of all the States and Territories….”

Yet she felt a national statement from President Abraham Lincoln would greatly aid and accelerate “the great Union Festival of America.” So, in late September of 1863, Hale wrote to Lincoln to request he make what had become a regional celebration into a national day of thanksgiving, to be held, as she suggested, annually on the fourth Thursday of November.

A week later, Lincoln issued his Thanksgiving Day Proclamation. One woman, Sarah J. Hale, took action that led to one of the most revered holidays in America.

This should go without saying, but you don’t have to change a country’s laws or start a new holiday to make a difference. Be a good dad, or a good mom. As Lincoln himself famously said, “All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.” Be a good daughter or son, brother or sister. Be the positive influence in your loved ones’ lives. That will be the most impactful, and personally meaningful, difference you can and should make.

And lastly, during this Christmas season, we cannot talk about the power of one to make a difference and leave out Jesus Christ. For Christians, he is the Savior of the world. For all of humanity, he has had the most profound influence for good in the history of civilization. Though he certainly had his supporters, in his lifetime, Jesus also faced intense persecution and opposition, culminating, of course, in his brutal crucifixion. We too, in our own small ways, might face challenges as we stand up for our loved ones, for the good, for the right. But know that you can make a difference, and it’s worth it.

For Sutherland Institute, I’m Dave Buer. Thanks for listening.

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Parents’ rights: Integrating rights and responsibilities

Family beachThe U.S. Constitution is understood to protect the ability of parents to direct the upbringing of their children, free from state interference. That formulation derives from a pair of cases from the 1920s involving disputes over education.

In Meyer v. Nebraska, the Supreme Court invalidated a Nebraska law that prohibited instruction in schools from being provided in German. Among other reasons, the U.S. Supreme Court said the law interfered with parents’ right to choose the way their children were educated.

Then, two years later, the Court struck down an Oregon ballot initiative (inspired by nativist groups who wanted to ensure social uniformity) that required all children to attend public schools (Pierce v. Society of Sisters).

These decisions include the most important legal treatments of the idea of parents’ rights.

The Meyer decision noted: “Corresponding to the right of control, it is the natural duty of the parent to give his children education suitable to their station in life.” The court contrasted ancient ideas of a far different nature:

For the welfare of his Ideal Commonwealth, Plato suggested a law which should provide: “That the wives of our guardians are to be common, and their children are to be common, and no parent is to know his own child, nor any child his parent. . . . The proper officers will take the offspring of the good parents to the pen or fold, and there they will deposit them with certain nurses who dwell in a separate quarter; but the offspring of the inferior, or of the better when they chance to be deformed, will be put away in some mysterious, unknown place, as they should be.” In order to submerge the individual and develop ideal citizens, Sparta assembled the males at seven into barracks and intrusted their subsequent education and training to official guardians. Although such measures have been deliberately approved by men of great genius, their ideas touching the relation between individual and State were wholly different from those upon which our institutions rest; and it hardly will be affirmed that any legislature could impose such restrictions upon the people of a State without doing violence to both letter and spirit of the Constitution.

The Pierce Court neatly explained the alternative understanding of liberty that prevailed in the United States:

The fundamental theory of liberty upon which all governments in this Union repose excludes any general power of the State to standardize its children by forcing them to accept instruction from public teachers only. The child is not the mere creature of the State; those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right, coupled with the high duty, to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations.

To the Meyer and Pierce courts, rights and responsibility are integrated in the very nature of things. Continue reading

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Is religious expression a ‘fundamental human right’ or a ‘limited right’? – Sutherland Soapbox, 11/25/14

ReligiousSymbolsThis post is a transcript of a 4-minute weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations. The podcast can be found at the bottom of this post.

This week I want to talk about religious liberty, which is an issue that is likely to get a fair amount of attention in the upcoming legislative session. If you want to understand why this has become such a heated issue in America, you first have to understand how the various sides view the meaning of religious liberty. Not surprisingly, most of the attention on the issue focuses on where those perspectives disagree.

The first perspective, and the one that most conservatives claim, is the “fundamental human right” perspective. In this view, religious liberty has three main components: first, the ability to freely seek for answers to questions of meaning and value in life from sources that are more than merely human; second, the ability to freely organize and worship in line with the answer one finds to those questions; and third, to live freely in private and in public according to the moral convictions and conscience that are shaped by the answers to those questions.

From this perspective, we have a moral duty to respect this fundamental right for everyone, even if we do not like how they exercise it. To do otherwise is to abandon respect for the dignity that all people deserve as free and reasoning beings in their pursuit of moral and spiritual truth. Some say this means conservatives are arguing that people have faith should have free reign to do whatever they want. But this is irrational because in the “fundamental human right” perspective, people of faith have the same moral duty to respect the fundamental rights and dignity of others as they seek for themselves, and this should correctly be reflected in the law. But there should be a high level of tolerance from both the law and society for both public and private expressions of religious liberty. Additionally, if society desires to legally restrict this fundamental human right, it should be required to have a compelling reason for doing so.

A second perspective on religious liberty, and the one articulated most often by progressives, is the “limited right” perspective. In this view, religious liberty includes the ability to freely worship according to one’s beliefs in private, as well as the ability to freely organize in order to privately worship. But religious liberty is significantly limited outside this narrow set of rights. Continue reading

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Reflections from Rome: Inspiring conference focuses on the complementarity of men and women in marriage

humanumLast week my wife and I had the privilege of attending an historic international, interreligious colloquium in the Vatican.  Entitled Humanum: The Complementarity of Man and Woman, the conference explored the complementarity of men and women in marriage.  Participants came from countries all over the world and from more cultures and religious traditions than appear on those “Coexist” bumper stickers.  Cardinal Mueller and his colleagues were wonderfully gracious hosts.

If the subject had been theology, the conference might have taken on the feel of a debate.  But in talking about the unique value that women and men individually bring to marriage, to their children and to each other, the common ground was deep, broad and immediate.  The presentations from Christian faiths drew on patterns and scripture that were familiar, while each faith’s emphasis differed enough to prompt new reflection on how I could be a better husband and father.  Pope Francis’ opening speech was a clarion call to strengthen marriage for the benefit of children and society.  Catholic clergy have spent centuries systematically studying these things, and they lay out the rationale and richness of marital union.  Jewish humanum3leaders, like colloquium speaker Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, blend scriptural detail, personal experience and their unique humor for a memorable portrait of spousal love and growth.  LDS representative President Henry B. Eyring shared much of the church’s Family Proclamation  though his speech may be best remembered for the personal expressions toward his wife and family which moved some of the audience to tears.

One presentation came from Daphne Sheng, a Taiwanese woman, speaking from her Taoist perspective.  I’ve made casual reference to Yin and Yang before, as perhaps you have, trying to use them as examples of some sort of fit between different things.  Our speaker shared the proverbial “rest of the story.”  Yin and Yang have something of each other within themselves, yet are also very different.  They fit and work together within the bounds of a circle.  So their differences matter and enable the fit, but so does the context in which they connect.  I can’t do the concept justice in a brief post like this one, but it gave me something new that I need to explore. Continue reading

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