OK, perhaps I am missing something

I accidentally sent out a post earlier on this subject that I ended up deleting. It was one of those draft posts that was not “ready for prime time.” As with most people, I write a draft, then look at it again later before hitting send. Instead of sending to draft, I sent to publish. Unfortunately, I later found out that I had not done sufficient investigative work. The story on which I based my post was a false story, originally written as a satire. It originally was published in September of 2013, and has resurfaced within the last couple of days. Frankly, I was taken in. Had the story been correct, I might have had some reason to rant a bit. But, even then, I think my draft post would have needed to be pulled.

Recently, the Supreme Court heard the Hobby Lobby case, as well as another related case linked to an important question. Can the owner of a non-religious private business refuse to finance certain health care features of the Affordable Care Act based on the personal beliefs of the owner? Do employees have a right to have their views taken into account or is the owner the determinative factor? The issue has yet to be decided. In a similar line, at least one state has passed a law that permits a private business to refuse to serve certain members of the public. The question is similar. Can the owner of a private business that serves the public refuse to serve certain of the public? Note that this is a different question from that of a private club that serves only its bona fide members. Both of these questions relate to the nature of a private business that serves the public as much as they relate to the issue of religion.

The false story that was posted as a “satire” was meant to cast those who believe that a business owner should have the right to make some decisions, even against laws that apply to public institutions, in a bad light. The false story had the State of Kansas imposing an unsavory requirement upon a privately owned TV station, complete with the threat to revoke their license or their corporation papers should they refuse to obey. Needless to say, the unsavory requirement is one that would have cast politically and theologically conservative Christians in a bad light.

The publication that published the satire is known for periodically publishing satire stories, so in one sense, this is no surprise. The problem is that the story was picked up by news sites that supposedly check the news without much clear fact-checking. So, that story is now making the rounds and growing in popularity. And I, because I was in a hurry yesterday, did not do my normal fact checking. I am both upset with those who published the satire as well as upset with myself. I am upset with those who published the satire because it slipped its way in by being a very close copy of some laws that have actually been proposed in some states, but NEVER got traction. That is, if every family has a crazy uncle somewhere, then every legislature has a certified wacko who proposed odd laws. But, this satire had little about it to indicate satire. It was written exactly as would a true news story have been written. Somehow, I feel that this is just not right!

But, ultimately, I am upset with myself. I got taken in. I was snookered. I fell into the trap. Perhaps it is a good thing that this is still Great Lent heading into Holy Week. It lets me learn again about the dangers of the Father of Lies and how easy we (and Adam and Eve) can be taken in.

Federal government overreach

First, let me say that—as an Orthodox priest—I cannot support violence. I both must support peaceful resolution, and I am committed to supporting peaceful resolution. Violence is something that we need to dread and see as only an acknowledgment that this is a very fallen and damaged world.

At the same time, we also need to confront what is wrong. In this blog, I have often confronted the wrong that is found in those who ignore the poor, those who have come here for refuge (even if illegally), those who are more concerned about business owners than about workers, and those who try to legitimize the immoral (such as abortion).

But, this is a different case. This is a case of government overreach. A farmer whose land had been his family’s since the 19th century, was told back in 1993 that it mysteriously was not his family’s. He opposed the land grab, but has been unsuccessful. Finally, he refused to submit.

In this country, we have laws that are a reaction to the way the powerful misused the law in merry old England. Among them are the land laws. Much of what the Federal government has done in the States since the early 20th century has been an out and out land grab of the most unlawful sort. Vast expanses of territory have been declared Federal land without concern for those who lived there before the land grab.

Note that I am not against Federal land ownership. There is nothing wrong with the Federal government owning land. But, there is something wrong with the Federal government claiming land as their own without due process and due recompense. There are appropriate times for the government to “condemn” land for its use. For instance, just because someone does not wish to sell their property should not mean that a new highway cannot be built.

But, there are legal limits to how land condemnation can be carried out. Sadly, much of the Federal land ownership of Western lands has more to do with convenience than with legal limits. In the incidents of this past week, we see the results of that indiscriminate policy.

This week, individual ownership clashed with Federal “condemnation.” It is sad that previous Federal courts automatically gave rights to the Federal government without much consideration. The result of decades of unthinking Federal policy toward a subculture of America that prices historical ownership is the confrontation that happened this week.

I am glad that no violence happened. I am sad that violence was threatened. But, it is important that some limits be set on Federal land ownership claims. Thus, the confrontation was not all bad. Sadly, I doubt that this will settle the matter. And, in the midst of all this, we often forget that Our Lord told us that it is better to lose our belongings (see the Gospels).

May this confrontation, and other State/Federal confrontations, be settled soon and in a peaceable manner. In what is possible, may local sovereignty reign. In what has to do with the poor, with human rights, with international commerce, with national voting, with immigration policy, etc., may our national policy win.