Abandoned Symbols: Confederate Flags and Criminal Justiceby Joseph Margulies

ORIGINAL ARTICLE
Old Confederate FlagIn the wake of the horrific massacre in Charleston, leading social conservatives across the country have loudly called for the removal of the Confederate battle flag from public display. But some people have wondered whether their call, however welcome, will prove nothing more than an empty gesture, a cynical strategy to woo moderate whites to the conservative camp in the 2016 election.
As is my wont, I am more hopeful. In ways that have not been adequately appreciated, the elite repudiation of the flag in the wake of Dylan Roof’s murderous rampage could be an important step, not simply in the debate over slave-era symbolism but in the contemporary struggle for criminal justice.
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Why do we care about symbols? They don’t put food on the table, money in your pocket, or a roof over your head. You can’t eat a symbol. But they are nonetheless as important to our lives as anything we can buy.
Symbols play two equally important roles in American life. In the most obvious sense, they represent a belief system. The Constitution, for instance, symbolizes our belief in and commitment to the rule of law. Yet symbols also signal our membership in a particular community. For many years, Christians have used the ixthus to signal their faith to fellow believers, and many conservative Christians now display the symbol in their home or business or affix it their cars.
This dual role makes symbols vital to both our personal and communal identity; they declare what we believe as individuals and confirm our place in a tribe of like-minded others. We could never survive without symbols, and if suddenly they were taken from us, we would surely create others to take their place.
Yet symbols are deliberately vague and ambiguous. That’s part of what makes them so valuable. It is important that the Constitution, as a symbol, not be given a single, inflexible meaning, since that would prevent it from accommodating the shifting demands of the day. Equality, for instance, means something very different today from what it meant during the heyday of Jim Crow. In fact, historians have shown that its meaning today bears only a distant “family resemblance” to its meaning at the time of the Founding.
What is true for equality is no less true for many of the other terms and expressions in the Constitution, as recent historic events in the Supreme Court have made abundantly clear. What we mean by liberty, wrote the historian Michael Kammen, has “changed and broadened over time, . . . ranging from constraints upon authority to improvements in the conditions of social justice, of privacy, and a growing concern for the protection of personal liberty.”
This process is not only natural but inevitable, despite what Justice Scalia might think. As Justice Felix Frankfurter once observed, “Great concepts like . . . ‘due process of law,’ ‘liberty,’ [and] ‘property’ were purposely left to gather meaning from experience. For they relate to the whole domain of social and economic fact, and the statesmen who founded this Nation knew too well that only a stagnant society remains unchanged.”
The meaning of symbols is thus perennially a work in progress, continually renegotiated in the many spaces occupied by both the individual and the community—the private space, where the individual reflects on her own beliefs; the communal space, where the community speaks with its own members; and the public space, where the community speaks with the wider world.
In this never-ending negotiation, we have long understood the prominent role played by the community’s elites. These are the politicians, religious leaders, and other public figures that are widely believed by the community itself to be the keepers of the flame, the men and women who best represent the ideas and ideals of the belief system.
And that brings us at last to the Confederate Flag. In the days since the massacre in Charleston, elite social conservatives have consciously redefined the flag in both its individual and communal sense. Consider this statement from South Carolina State Senator Paul Thurmond, the son of arch-segregationist Strom Thurmond:
I think the time is right and the ground is fertile for us to make progress as a state and to come together and remove the Confederate battle flag from prominent statue outside the Statehouse and put it in the museum. It is time to acknowledge our past, atone for our sins and work towards a better future. That future must be built on symbols of peace, love, and unity. That future cannot be built on symbols of war, hate, and divisiveness.
. . .
Now we have these hate groups and the symbols that they use to remind African Americans that things haven’t changed and that they are still viewed as less than equal human beings. Well, let me tell you: Things have changed. Overwhelmingly, people are not being raised to hate or to believe that they are superior to others based on the color of their skin. My generation was raised to respect all people, of every race, religion, and gender.
At the individual level, Thurmond declares that the Confederate flag cannot be a legitimate representation of the southern, socially conservative belief system. A true southern conservative, he admonishes, does not believe in these things.
But the communal redefinition is even more important. Pronouncing that “things have changed,” Thurmond emphasizes the need “to come together” as a state and build a future around “symbols of . . . unity” rather than “divisiveness.” The implication is unmistakable. Contrary to the long-held socially conservative mantra, Thurmond says the flag does not represent fidelity to an honorable heritage, but to a racist, violent, sinful past.
In announcing this change, Thurmond has declared that the voice of the black community, which long called for this change, is more important than the voice of a significant portion of the white community, which had for just as long called to maintain the status quo. Inclusivity, with its explicit appeal to common membership in a broader community that transcends race, has trumped the traditional exclusivity of southern, white, social conservatism.
This is an extraordinarily potent declaration. Calling divisive symbols into question, demanding anew that they prove themselves worthy of inclusion in the conservative canon, and repudiating them if they are found wanting implies a healthy receptivity to profound change. And if applied conscientiously, a determination to denounce symbols deriving from a racist, divisive past would sweep away much of the iconography of modern conservatism.
In particular, we have known for years that much of the architecture of the criminal justice system has been built around precisely such symbols: Willie Horton, the welfare queen, the crack whore. These and other symbols have generated an entire set of divisive law enforcement and prosecution strategies, like the war on drugs and “zero tolerance” policing, that have been broadly endorsed by whites but widely deployed against blacks. If the denunciation of the Confederate flag implies a willingness to revisit these toxic symbols and failed strategies, and to heed the voice of the black community, then criminal justice reform is truly upon us.
I may be hopeful, but I am not naïve. I have no illusions that the repudiation of the Confederate battle flag, by itself, will eliminate racism in this country or make the criminal justice system fair. But the combination of message and messenger—elite social conservatives siding with an historically marginalized black community over numerically, economically, and culturally dominant whites to remove a divisive symbol of oppression—is an enormously important step that should be encouraged.

AMERICANS ‘PREFER CHRISTIANS FOR THEIR RULERS’

Bill Federer remembers John Jay’s suggestion for citizen ‘duty’

The first chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, appointed by George Washington, was also president of the American Bible Society. Who was he? John Jay, who died May 17, 1829. John Jay was one of the presidents of the Continental Congress.

“In governments raised on the generous principles of equal liberty … rulers of the state are the servants of the people, and not the masters of those from whom they derive authority. … The ungrateful despotism and inordinate lust of domination, which marked the unnatural designs of the British king and his venal parliament, to enslave the people of America, reduced you to the necessity of either asserting your rights by arms, or ingloriously passing under the yoke.”

As chief justice of the state of New York, John Jay charged the grand jury of Ulster County, Sept. 8, 1777: “The infatuated sovereign of Britain, forgetful that kings were the servants, not the proprietors, and ought to be the fathers, not the incendiaries of their people. … What … can appear more unworthy of credit than … a prince should arise who, by the influence of corruption alone … to reduce three million of his most loyal and affectionate subjects to absolute slavery … binding them in all cases whatever, not even excepting cases of conscience and religion? … Will it not appear extraordinary that thirteen colonies … without funds … without disciplined troops, in the face of their enemies, unanimously determine to be free, and, undaunted by the power of Britain, refer their cause to the justice of the Almighty. …”

John Jay signed the Treaty of Paris with Franklin and Adams which ended the Revolutionary War. The treaty began: “In the name of the Most Holy and Undivided Trinity.”

John Jay noted in 1777: “This glorious revolution … distinguished by so many marks of the Divine favor and interposition … and I may say miraculous, that when future ages shall read its history they will be tempted to consider a great part of it as fabulous. …

“The many remarkable … events by which our wants have been supplied and our enemies repelled … are such strong and striking proofs of the interposition of Heaven, that our having been hitherto delivered from the threatened bondage of Britain ought, like the emancipation of the Jews from Egyptian servitude, to be forever ascribed to its true cause … and kindle in them a flame of gratitude and piety which may consume all remains of vice and irreligion.

“Blessed be God! The time will now never arrive when the prince of a country in another quarter of the globe will command your obedience, and hold you in vassalage. … Nor will you in future be subject to the imperious sway of rulers instructed to sacrifice your happiness whenever it might be inconsistent with the ambitious views of their royal master.”

Jay, together with Madison and Hamilton, helped ratify the Constitution by writing the Federalist Papers. John Jay wrote in 1777: “The Americans are the first people whom Heaven has favored with an opportunity of … choosing the forms of government under which they should live. All other constitutions have derived their existence from violence or accidental circumstances. …

“Your lives, your liberties, your property, will be at the disposal only of your Creator and yourselves. You will know no power but such as you will create; no authority unless derived from your grant; no laws but such as acquire all their obligation from your consent. … Security is also given to the rights of conscience and private judgment. They are by nature subject to no control but that of the Deity. … Every man is permitted to consider, to adore, and to worship his Creator in the manner most agreeable to his conscience. …”

John Jay wrote in Chisholm v. Georgia, 1793: “The people are the sovereign of this country.”

With the support of George Washington and Alexander Hamilton, he negotiated the Jay Treaty which resulted in ten years of peaceful trade with Britain while France was going through a bloody Revolution.

When America’s currency was losing value, giving rise to the idiom “not worth a Continental,” John Jay, as president of the Continental Congress, wrote Sept. 13, 1779: “Depreciation of the currency has … swelled the prices of every necessary article. … Depreciation is to be removed only by lessening the quantity of money in circulation. … A distrust … by the mass of the people … in the ability … of the United States to redeem their bills, is the cause of it. … A bankrupt faithless republic would … appear among reputable nations like a common prostitute among chaste and respectable matrons. … It has been already observed, that in order to prevent the further natural depreciation of our bills, we have resolved to stop the press.”

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John Jay stated in 1777: “The constitution, however, has wisely declared, that the ‘liberty of conscience thereby granted shall not be so construed as to excuse acts of licentiousness’ … The convention by whom that constitution was formed were of opinion that the gospel of Christ, like the ark of God, would not fall, though unsupported by the arm of flesh. … But let it be remembered that whatever marks of wisdom … may be in your constitution, yet like the … forms of our first parents before their Maker breathed into them the breath of life, it is yet to be animated. … From the people it must receive its spirit. …

“Vice, ignorance, and want of vigilance will be the only enemies able to destroy it. … Every member of the State ought diligently to read and to study the constitution. … By knowing their rights, they will sooner perceive when they are violated, and be the better prepared to defend. … Hence it becomes the common duty … to unite in repressing the licentious … and thereby diffusing the blessings of peace.”

On April 15, 1818, John Jay wrote to his Quaker friend, John Murry: “Natural Laws and Morality are given by the Sovereign of the Universe to all mankind. … It is true that the law was given to Moses, not however in his individual or private capacity, but as the agent or instrument, and by the authority of the Almighty. The law demanded exact obedience, and proclaimed: ‘Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.’ The law … by requiring perfect obedience, under a penalty so inevitable and dreadful, operated as a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ for mercy.

“Legal punishments are adjusted and inflicted by the law and magistrate, and not by unauthorized individuals. These and all other positive laws or ordinances established by Divine direction, must of necessity be consistent with the moral law. It certainly was not the design of the law … to encourage a spirit of personal or private revenge. On the contrary, there are express injunctions in the law of Moses which inculcate a very different spirit.”

Writing to John Bristed, April 23, 1811, John Jay recounted: “I was at a large party, of which … several … spoke freely and contemptuously of religion. … An atheist very abruptly remarked that there was no God, and he hoped the time would come when there would be no religion in the world. I very concisely remarked that if there was no God there could be no moral obligations, and I did not see how society could subsist without them.”

John Jay told the New York convention, Dec. 23, 1776: “Let a general reformation of manners take place … united in preparing for a vigorous defense of your country. …When you have done all things, then rely upon the good Providence of Almighty God for success, in full confidence that without his blessings, all our efforts will inevitably fail. … The Holy Gospels are yet to be preached to these western regions, and we have the highest reason to believe that the Almighty will not suffer slavery and the gospel to go hand in hand. It cannot, it will not be.”

On April 15, 1794, John Jay wrote to his wife, Sally, from England: “If it should please God to make me an instrument to the continuation of peace, and in preventing the effusion of blood and other evils and miseries incident to war, we shall both have reason to rejoice. … Let us repose unlimited trust in our Maker; it is our business to adore and to obey.”

On May 28, 1802, John Jay wrote to his children after his wife’s death: “Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? … Behold I show you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed. … Death is swallowed up in victory. (I Corinthians 15)”

On Oct. 12, 1816, John Jay stated: “Providence has given to our people the choice of their rulers, and it is the duty, as well as the privilege and interest of our Christian nation to select and prefer Christians for their rulers.”

On Jan. 1, 1813, John Jay penned a letter to Jedediah Morse: “Whether our Religion permits Christians to vote for infidel rulers is a question which merits more consideration than it seems yet to have generally received, either from the clergy or the laity. It appears to me that what the prophet said to Jehoshaphat about his attachments to Ahab (‘Shouldest thou help the ungodly and love them that hate the Lord?’ 2 Chron. 19:2) affords a salutary lesson. … Public measures may not be a proper subject for the pulpit, yet, in my opinion, it is the right and duty of our pastors to press the observance of all moral and religious duties.”

John Jay, at the age of 14, was admitted to King’s College in New York (Columbia University), which had as a requirement translating the first ten chapters of the Gospel of John from Greek into Latin. From it inception in 1816, John Jay was the first vice president of the American Bible Society.

In 1821, John Jay, though in poor health, accepted the position as the second president of the American Bible Society. He wrote: “They who regard these Societies as deriving their origin and success from the author and Giver of the Gospel, cannot forbear concluding it to be the duty of Christians, to promote the purposes for which they have been established; and that is particularly incumbent on their officers to be diligent in the business committed to them.”

On May 13, 1824, he addressed the American Bible Society: “By conveying the Bible to people thus circumstanced, we certainly do them a most interesting kindness. We thereby enable them to learn that man was originally created and placed in a state of happiness, but, becoming disobedient, was subjected to the degradation and evils which he and his posterity have since experienced. The Bible will also inform them that our gracious Creator has provided for us a Redeemer, in whom all the nations of the earth shall be blessed; that this Redeemer has made atonement ‘for the sins of the whole world,’ and thereby reconciling the Divine justice with the Divine mercy has opened a way for our redemption and salvation; and that these inestimable benefits are of the free gift and grace of God, not of our deserving, nor in our power to deserve.”

John Jay stated: “In forming and settling my belief relative to the doctrines of Christianity, I adopted no articles from creeds but such only as, on careful examination, I found to be confirmed by the Bible. … At a party in Paris, once, the question fell on religious matters. In the course of it, one of them asked me if I believed in Christ? I answered that I did, and that I thanked God that I did.”

John Jay stated: “God is great, and therefore He will be sought: He is good, and therefore He will be found. If in the day of sorrow we own God’s presence in the cloud, we shall find Him also in the pillar of fire, brightening and cheering our way as the night comes on. In all His dispensations God is at work for our good: in prosperity, He tries our gratitude; in mediocrity, our contentment; in misfortune, our submission; in darkness, our faith; under temptation, our steadfastness, and at all times, our obedience and trust in Him. God governs the world, and we have only to do our duty wisely, and leave the issue to Him.”

John Jay was sent a letter from the Corporation of the City of New York, asking him to join with them in the celebration of America’s 50th anniversary. John Jay, at 82 years of age, replied on June 29, 1826: “Earnest hope that the peace, happiness, and prosperity enjoyed by our beloved country may induce those who direct her national counsels to recommend a general and public return of praise to Him from whose goodness these blessings descend. … The most effectual means of securing the continuance of our civil and religious liberties is, always to remember with reverence and gratitude the Source from which they flow.”

In his last will and testament, John Jay wrote: “Unto Him who is the Author and Giver of all good, I render sincere and humble thanks for His merciful and unmerited blessings, and especially for our redemption and salvation by his beloved Son. He has been pleased to bless me with excellent parents, with a virtuous wife, and with worthy children. His protection has accompanied me through many eventful years, faithfully employed in the service of my country; and his providence has not only conducted me to this tranquil situation, but also given me abundant reason to be contented and thankful.

“Blessed be His Holy Name. While my children lament my departure, let them recollect that in doing them good, I was only the agent of their Heavenly Father, and that He never withdraws His care and consolations from those who diligently seek Him.”

On May 17, 1829, John Jay was drawing near death after a life of serving his country. As recorded by his son, Judge William Jay, John Jay was asked if he had any words for his children, to which he responded: “They have the Book.”


Read more at http://www.wnd.com/2015/05/americans-prefer-christians-for-their-rulers/#h2MzfVMBB3cbKjYQ.99

This Just In:

Reciting the Pledge of Allegiance Is Constitutional in Massachusetts

We’ve known since the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in 1943 in the case of West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette that it violated the First Amendment to compel students to say the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools. But does it violate the Constitution to give students the option to say the pledge?

Last week, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts ruled that voluntary participation in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance did not violate Massachusetts’ state constitution or its antidiscrimination law, and the ruling should inform a proper understanding of the U.S. Constitution as well.
Two anonymous students sued to stop their school district from allowing schoolchildren to recite the pledge. If you’re skeptical about whether the anonymous students were being used, you might be recalling the 2004 U.S. Supreme Court case in which Michael Newdow, a perennial litigant, tried to sue on behalf of his estranged daughter.

In this case, the two anonymous students claim to be “atheists and Humanists,” and they declined to say the pledge while in school. Were they bullied as a result? No. Were they even criticized? No. As Chief Justice Roderick Ireland wrote: “The plaintiffs’ claim of stigma is more esoteric. They contend that the mere recitation of the pledge in the schools is itself a public repudiation of their religious values.”

The Massachusetts Supreme Court rightly rejected these claims, holding that “[t]he fact that a school or other public entity operates a voluntary program or offers an activity that offends the religious beliefs of one or more individuals, and leaves them feeling ‘stigmatized’ or ‘excluded’ as a result, does not mean that the program or activity necessarily violates equal protection principles.”

This seems sensible. Mere offense that someone is voluntarily expressing religious views other than your own during school hours does not violate the Constitution. Indeed, as the Massachusetts Supreme Court noted, if this were the case, then the Massachusetts school condom vending machine program could be successfully challenged by traditional Christians or Jews who oppose birth control and are offended by having to see birth control in schools.

Certainly, last week’s decision is a victory for those who want to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in Massachusetts. But the troubling fact is that across the country, aggressive litigants are suing to block crosses, the Ten Commandments and other traditional accoutrements of American civic religion, purely on “offended observer” grounds. This type of easily offended litigant is not going away.

Posted in Culture, Front Page, Legal [slideshow_deploy]

A Moment to Reflect…

I was wondering what I was going to write for the fourth of July.  Something patriotic, perhaps?  Bet you didn’t see that one coming, eh?

There are many who fail to seek out our history and yet continue to refer to it in order to make a point.  At some point in time, the actual history of America becomes revised to fit the circumstance(s) while failing to reflect its entire purpose.  We the People of the united colonies, in one voice, declared our independence from King George for usurpation of power without adequately representing our interests and for what amounted to a 1% tax.

Now, sit back and reflect on all of the wrongs that have been committed against the people of America:

  • Arrests without probable cause and trumped up charges
  • Setting up of law abiding citizens just to make an “justifiable” shoot
  • Constant abuse of our individual privacy – drone uses, Patriot Act wire-taps, etc.
  • The loss of our property rights (Kelo v. New London City decision)
  • Legislation from the bench at various levels of the Judiciary, including the recent US Supreme Court ruling over the Affordable Healthcare Act
  • The refusal of the Senate and the Congress to do their job – one in particular is their refusal to organize a militia, instead they increase the size of the military; authorize military toys for the local and state police forces, etc.
  • Look at how much in the way of taxes you are paying.  Add it all up and you will be surprised that it amounts to almost 50% of your income.
  • Look at our looming and ever-increasing federal debt…

For all of these, and all we do as Americans is complain.  Looking back on things, throughout the actual history of these United States of America – don’t you think that our Founding Fathers and all of the Revolutionary warriors who spilled their blood upon the ground in defense of this nation would be turning over in their graves?  Our taxation alone is enough cause to be riled beyond belief – yet we just complain until we get used to it and then our taxes rise again, because we become comfortable…again.

As you ponder and reflect on our history and our Independence from tyranny from afar, consider the tyranny that is so close to us.  Remember the liberties that were fought for and the God-given Rights that were recognized – yet we take them all for granted, if we even recall what any of them are, hmmmm.

I leave you now with some words from one of our Founding Fathers, Thomas Jefferson, the principle author of the Declaration of Independence, and the Third President of the US under the US constitution.

Where is America’s sense of resistance?  The resistance we once had is as American as hot apple pie and baseball…so where is it?

God bless and Godspeed to you all on this holiday, be safe and be vigilante in all your endeavors!

Politically Speaking…

Should Conscientious Objectors be permitted in the military?

I believe this to be a fair question, after all conscientious objectors have been around since the founding of this country.  Consider the fact that conscientious objector is one who opposes participation in military service, on the basis of religious, philosophical, or political belief; hence, they will not enter the military.  Our historical roots with respect to the Quakers they did not participate in military service because of their religious beliefs; however, they were the ones who consistently performed fundraisers  of sorts in order to help the cause of freedom and independence, of which they were an integral part.

What is the purpose and objective of the Military?  As you guessed it, the purpose is to perform military actions and to make war against a believed or perceived enemy.  To conquer the enemy and then, in essence, subject the conquered to new leadership and government.

Although, nowadays, people join up with the military in order to obtain the benefits, knowing full well that at some point in time they may be called upon to protect and defend the nation.  The oaths to office for both Officers and Enlisted are essentially the same in this respect: “I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same…”  Yet, time and again, when called upon to do so these people all of a sudden claim conscientious objector status.  Why then did they enter into military service if they morally or religiously are opposed to such service?

Do not get me wrong, I applaud them for their stance – which is their right to take.  However, you cannot join the military with the understanding that you may be called upon to perform your primary objective and when called upon to do so you are all of a sudden morally and religiously opposed to such a thing.  hmmmmmm…is that what they call a born again conscientious objector?

The numbers are, in fact, small as you hardly hear of them; but whenever a military action is about to get underway that is when people are opposed to doing their job for which they were trained.  You really have to wonder what they were thinking.

As you can tell, my personal stance is if you enter the military, you cannot be a conscientious objector, because a person with this position in life would never consider becoming what they find to be morally and religiously objectionable!  If you join for the benefits and never disclose any propensity toward conscientious objector status, then you joined under fraudulent intent and should be treated under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) and Federal Fraud statutes.
What are your thoughts on this subject??