Union Public Policy Class

Solving the World's Problems One Bulldog at a Time

Archive for the month “August, 2012”

Expanded Notes on Marriage

Below I will provide a few resources that will be helpful in discussing the issue of marriage.

This is a link to a study put on by Mark Regnerus. This study is highly controversial (more because of who conducted it than what it actually said). An English professor at Cal State, Robert Lopez posted an article in defense of this study. He provides a personal look into the issue that many lack. I owe Seth Brake a thank you for having sent me this article over the summer.

Looking from the philosophical side, Dr. Watson provided a very interesting read that happened to be the first hit I saw on Google when I research John Locke and Marriage.

After Tuesday’s class I recalled an extremely helpful interactive guide showing the progression of same-sex controversies and laws throughout each state. If your will recall, I mentioned the dangers of a single amendment in our constitution that would legalize gay marriage in politics and civil discourse. Others have observed similar problems and push for ways to avoid an intolerable uprising for tolerance.

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Stand up to avoid moral double standard

We talked about gay marriage in class yesterday. I don’t know about you, but to me, that topic has been exhausted in debates, political television and dinner table discussions for as long as I can remember. For our generation, there has never been a time when openly discussing the marriage rights of homosexuals has been taboo or just even looked down upon. It’s just something that we accept. Pastors today even talk about homosexuality from the pulpit. This is different from the way my parents and grandparents were brought up. They were taught to look the other way, so it goes without saying that marital reform was never a hot topic of public policy debate.

Why has there been such a drastic cultural shift in American morals, values and beliefs, especially over the last 50 years or so? Has our society spun so far in moral decadence that nothing is off limits in the year 2012? If the door is wide open for gay marriage debate, why hasn’t talk in support for other sexual taboos, like polygamy, polyamory, or incestuous relationships, come out of the shadows?

Secular Americans have a double standard when it comes to sexual taboos or lifestyles. If America is headed toward marriage equality for homosexual couples in the next 10 to 20 years, that will open the door for advocates of sexual lifestyles that are even too taboo for us to openly discuss in 2012 (which is scary, because as I said, it seems as if nothing is off limits in 2012). As Christians, we should refuse to have a double standard like our secular peers. We need to stand up for social policies that we know are right, even if that means we are persecuted in the political arena. This is our country too, and we shouldn’t be tolerant just for tolerance sake. Like Dr. Baker said, we have 6,000 years of familial history on our side and we shouldn’t just give all of that up to avoid a little conflict.

The Deregulation of Marriage

We talked in class today about the gay marriage debate that is currently raging here in America, and one of the possible solutions that we discussed was to have the government completely remove itself from marriage so to speak. I must admit that while It had crossed my mind before, I had never given extended consideration to the matter before class today. After contemplating the ramifications, I do not think that this would be the best course of action. The major reason for my belief is because the withdrawal of government from any area of public policy where it once meddled creates a “policy vacuum” so to speak,  and in the case of marriage, I believe that the vacuum created is simply too large. Even if the government did withdraw from marriage all together and stopped granting marriage licences thus leaving religious institutions a to grant traditional marriages, there would still need to be some system in place so that the government had the ability to recognize  couples who wished to be unified for the purposes of tax exemptions, medical visitation rights, insurance benefits, etc. While these issues could probably be fixed with a host of legal documents, there would need to be new laws concerning the parameter and scope of these documents. There would also be mass chaos in the family court system as the legislature scrambled to deal with the issue of redefining the myriad complex legal protections currently provided to married people such as alimony. It became obvious to me today that for the government to cut and run on the issue of marriage would create several more issues than it solved. I am also increasingly skeptical that it would do anything to help solve this issue of gay marriage, which I believe to be more of a social acceptance issue than one of legal rights, but that is another post for another day.

Liberty and the Church

This week in church, my pastor called out Libertarians in the public sphere, in specific reference to sexual morality. He accurately described the libertarian policy as being, in general, live and let live. He then went on to say this pacifism allows for corruption to spread throughout our society and into our churches.
There are two problems with this. First, there is an oversimplification of the libertarian position and second, a misconception of the effects of this position.
Libertarians are by no means united in their policy. This is largely due to the fact that the libertarian party attracts people with many ideologies and puts them under one umbrella. That said, a common notion for libertarians concerning sexual behavior is that so long as it involves consenting adults and causes no harm or disruption to public peace, it is permissible. This goes for just about all of libertarian thought.
To provide specific examples, libertarians are fine with adults having sex inside or outside of marriage. with one partner or many, with whatever gender one prefers. Sex with animals, minors or without consent is illegal.  Porn is legal to create, distribute, and consume so long as the participants in all areas are adults.

Now, many in the church would find much of what I just listed as a sin. They would say in committing homosexuality or consuming porn, we are rebelling against God and his commandments. And I, despite being a libertarian, agree completely with them. Therein lies the need for nuance in our public debate.

Allow me to explain: In America, we are granted a degree of freedom. This is not absolute, but it is expansive – particularly in the context of human history. Because of this freedom, there must be a level of tolerance. That is to say if one citizen does not believe the same principles I do, I must accept that. I am not given the authority to use force to coerce him from his position or arrest his right to express it. That does not mean I also have to believe it.
What my pastor, and people in the church who express similar thoughts, fail to see is that this is an opportunity for the church to have an impact. Because we are allowed to believe and freely express those beliefs, the church is given the chance to publicly minister to people. In America, the church gets the chance to convince people of following Christ and living a grace-filled life, putting a stop to the sins people are free to commit.
This is the American way, for each man to choose how he should conduct himself. The government is there to promote the welfare of the people, which means creating laws that would limit actions one citizen may perform to restrict the rights of another.
So I will go out and fight for the right to purchase porn and take to bed whomever will join you, and at the same time I will preach the wrongs of such actions. Because there is a difference between the freedom to perform an act and the moral correctness of doing it.
The church should be more active in spreading the Gospel and the morality it creates because it is based on God’s truth. A republic cannot claim such moral ground if its citizens do not believe it. Therefore let the permanent freedoms of America stand and let the church come forth and renew a spirit of holiness in our country. Don’t have the law of the land come from the holy book, but let the law of our hearts be written in the decrees of God.

Evil Exists

All policy is informed by ideas.  This past week, the Norwegian mass-murderer Anders Breivik was found to be sane and sentenced to prison, likely to never see the light of day (although technically his sentence horrifyingly short to American readers).  If one operates from a worldview that holds that misunderstandings explain the great majority of human conflict, or that criminals are products of their environments or diseases that must be cured, the issue of Breivik could be confounding.  Anders Breivik will not receive the punishment of a just society; he will be treated like someone who has contracted the plague.  He will be quarantined so that he will not infect others or cause more suffering, but treated to a comfortable life.  The existence of men like Breivik ought to serve as a reminder to anyone considering issues of criminal justice and foreign policy: no matter how comfortable your society, no matter how sophisticated and civilized your system of government, evil exists.  Evil can rear it’s head in any environment, and evil must be destroyed.  Any time a society begins to see itself as the epitome of civilization, it runs the risk of forgetting the evil that dwells in the heart of man.  There will always be evil to face, but if we lose the ability to call evil out for what it is we lose the ability to effectively deal with it when it presents itself.

Gay Marriage and Freedom of Expression

From an acquaintance, “Chick-fil-A didn’t merely have an opinion. They performed an action.”

Me: What action? They funded traditional marriage advocacy. That’s just free speech.

Him: They funded Exodus which tells children they are going to hell.

Me: I don’t think Exodus does that, but are you arguing that the government should be able to forcibly prevent them from doing that? What other opinions will the government be able to prevent from being expressed?

— Hunter Baker

Reagan v. Buckley

Today, in our first real meeting of the public policy class, the students and I watched a famous debate between Ronald Reagan and William F. Buckley on the question of whether the United States should turn over ownership of the Panama Canal to Panama.

What may have been most interesting is how the students reacted to the Firing Line debate.  They were amazed by the civility and high-mindedness of the affair.  Democrat Sam Ervin was a true gentleman as the moderator.  Of course, I can remember when Chris Matthews used to serve the same function.  (Boy, that ship has sailed.)

The majority of students thought Reagan had the better case with his argument that the U.S. should not turn over the canal.  During our discussion, there was a recurring question of who had the better substantive case.  I think the students who voted for Buckley may have done so largely on debater’s points and style, but they can respond to this post if they would like to recharacterize their views.

Buckley definitely pursued his case like a debater.  He outlined what he would do and then did it.  His best point was with regard to every nation’s desire for sovereignty.  Reagan simply jumped in and started piling up reasons why we shouldn’t give up the canal.  His best arguments had to do with the origin of the canal and U.S. involvement with it.

Students feel free to elaborate on your thoughts in the comments to this post.  You are also free to do your own post if you like.

— Hunter Baker

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