• Tom Farr, President Emeritus of the Religious Freedom Institute, writes:

    Speaking at a Manhattan interfaith breakfast on March 2, Mayor Adams delivered some street-wise constitutional analysis: “Don’t tell me about no separation of church and state. State is the body. Church is the heart. You take the heart out of the body, the body dies.”
    Shocked by this apostasy, Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin wrote that his “alarming remarks can only give aid and comfort to right-wing Christian nationalists.” Writing for the New York Times, Dana Rubenstein described the event as “surreal” and quoted a New York rabbi who called Adams’ statement “unhinged and dangerous.” …

    Rubenstein helpfully explained, “The phrase ‘separation of church and state’ is not in the Constitution, but the First Amendment’s statement that ‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof’ has been widely interpreted to dictate such a separation.”

    “Widely interpreted,” that is, by those who wish to ban unacceptable religious views from American public life. Separationism entered our public lexicon with Thomas Jefferson’s 1802 letter asserting a “wall of separation between church and state. The wall, he averred, prevented clergy from engaging in politics.

    According to scholar Philip Hamberger, the separation idea garnered little support until later in the 19th century when Irish and other Catholic immigrants began to flood east coast cities, bringing with them the Mass and parochial schools. The wall of separation was adopted by nativist political parties and led to the 19th century Blaine amendments, designed to prevent state aid to Catholic schools.

    Only in a 1947 Supreme Court decision, however, did the “wall of separation” enter serious constitutional discourse. Since then, numerous Court decisions have either endorsed or rejected versions of separation.

    Mayor Adams is correct. The Constitution erects no wall of separation between civil and religious powers.

  • Jeremy Wayne Tate shared a comparison of Noah Webster’s 1828 definition of education with Merriam-Webster’s 2022 definition. First, the 2022 definition:

    education noun

    1 a : the action or process of educating or of being educated
    b : the knowledge and development resulting from the process of being educated

    2 : the field of study that deals mainly with methods of teaching and learning in

    And here’s Noah Webster’s 1828 definition of education:

    EDUCA’TIONnoun [Latin educatio.] The bringing up, as of a child, instruction; formation of manners. education comprehends all that series of instruction and discipline which is intended to enlighten the understanding, correct the temper, and form the manners and habits of youth, and fit them for usefulness in their future stations. To give children a good education in manners, arts and science, is important; to give them a religious education is indispensable; and an immense responsibility rests on parents and guardians who neglect these duties.

    Which dictionary would you choose?

  • Saurabh Sharma’s talk from the National Conservatism conference in Miami is now available:

    Lots of whitepills in this talk. Politics is a moral enterprise.

  • Jacob Neu writes at The Lamp on Roe, Dobbs, and the future of pro-life advocacy:

    We’ll need to remember the same tactics that got us this far: perseverance and planning. Little by little does the trickLet not our zeal outrun our discretion. Every plan begins with the intended result, and our goal remains the same as when we began on January 22, 1973. We seek to make abortion illegal in the United States. But not only do we want to make it illegal, we want a culture that will, in the words of Pope John Paul II, “respect, protect, love, and serve life, every human life!” To get where we want to be, we must also acknowledge our current position. Here we must be brutally honest. In many ways we start further from our goal than we did in 1973, and the terrain is more treacherous. …

    It is plain that in Dobbs the Supreme Court did the bare minimum we could have asked for. Yes, it overruled Roe, but the opinion limited itself to Roe’s myriad and manifest defects in legal reasoning. Dobbs does not take up the invitation of several amicus briefs that sought to establish fetuses as persons under the Fourteenth Amendment entitled to certain basic rights, whether on originalist or natural law grounds. In fact, the Court hardly articulates a reason for promoting the dignity of the child or the child’s right to life beyond acknowledging that it is something about which the country is fervently divided.

    The Court could have chosen a different path, one exemplified by the West German abortion case in 1975. Two years after Roe, the German Constitutional Court interpreted statements in its constitution that “human dignity shall be inviolable,” and that “every person shall have the right to life and physical integrity,” as obligating West Germany to protect the fetal life developing in the mother’s womb, even against the mother, for the duration of the pregnancy. The German court held that “it should not be forgotten that developing life itself is entrusted by nature … to the protection of the mother. To reawaken, and … to strengthen the maternal duty to protect, where it is lost, should be the principal goal of the endeavors of the state for the protection of life.” The court permitted the state to withhold punishment for abortions undertaken where the woman’s life was in danger or cases of similar gravity, and West Germany subsequently established a system requiring doctor examination, counseling in favor of the child’s life, and a three-day waiting period. Nevertheless, the court held that “in the extreme case, … the lawgiver can be obligated to employ the means of the penal law for the protection of developing life.”

    If only our Supreme Court had recognized in Dobbs an affirmative obligation of the state to protect the life of the child as well as the life of the mother. We should not neglect this “teaching function” of law, whereby the law provides the bounds for acceptable behavior and molds peoples’ attitudes over time. In 1980 in the US there were twenty-nine abortions per one thousand women of childbearing age; in Germany, there were nine. How many abortions could have been prevented had the Supreme Court adopted a position similar to that in West Germany?

    If the justices think they will be out of the abortion business they are wrong. I anticipate numerous challenges from progressives. These will include serious questions, such as resolving conflicts between the application of state laws and any federal laws, and ridiculous ones, such as whether the Thirteenth Amendment’s ban on slavery makes a total abortion ban unconstitutional.

    Still, many of the coming legal fights will occur in the state courts. Four states have explicitly rejected the right to an abortion, while eleven state courts have found a right to abortion in their constitutions already. We will need to overturn those provisions while articulating state-specific reasons why their constitutions protect the life of the child. Our strategy must be multifaceted. We must seek to change hearts and minds. We must make political alliances where possible to build support for reasonable, and increasingly restrictive, abortion laws. We will have to amend state constitutions. We will continue asking the Supreme Court to not merely be neutral, but to obligate the state to protect the child’s life.

    Only this “whole of society” approach will do. For even if we could enact perfect laws, a community not ready to accept them will despise both the laws and the virtues they promote. As St. Thomas Aquinas writes in his Treatise on Law, “The purpose of human law is to lead men to virtue, not suddenly, but gradually. Whereupon it does not lay upon the multitude of imperfect men the burdens of those who are already virtuous. … Otherwise these imperfect ones, being unable to bear such precepts, would break out into yet greater evils.” In other words, we must seek laws that lead the states that are strongly pro-abortion to true human dignity, and we must also prepare them as a community to joyfully accept that dignity. Little by little does the trick.

    The sooner we recover the classical legal tradition’s insight that the “purpose of human law is to lead men to virtue,” the better.

  • Saurabh Sharma spoke earlier this month in Miami at the National Conservatism Conference on how those of the new right can think about culture, capital, and government:

    We need to implement what is said here. And that’s what I’d like to talk to you about today.

    Let’s take a step back and assess where the right stands in the three core centers of power in contemporary society.

    In culture, the situation has been so dire for so long that it’s almost passe. Once, ordinary Christian families could make Hollywood submit to their censure when it tried to propagate some novel form of degeneracy. …

    In capital, we see the biggest own-goal of any political movement in recent world history. The Republican Party became the willing and eager handmaiden of corporate power over the last 30 years and barely got paid minimum wage for it. …

    And finally, in government, the right faces its final test if it wants to avoid oblivion. We can win elections—especially if we actually run on something other than slashing Social Security and sending our base to die in foreign wars. But we don’t have a particularly good track record of doing much with power even if we get it. …

    First, I have no interest in conserving this status quo and neither should you. There is no place in this American moment for polite and orderly caretakers of American decline. I treasure the great tradition of the ancients as much as any of you, but there is little that a temperamental comfort with the status quo has to offer a movement fit to the task ahead.

    Second, there is no unwinding this state of affairs cleanly to the status quo ante. Restorationist politics is essentially live-action role play. Personally, there is little that will change in the world around us by mustering the superhuman will to pantomime the lifestyle of an early 1900s sweet-potato farm. Politically, the consensus of generations past—which was often healthier than what we have today—relied on core assets we no longer have: broad religiosity, a smaller state, a less developed corporate superstructure, and most importantly a level of technological development that is more determinative of the course of human events than any idea cooked up in grad-school seminars. There is no going back, there is no returning, with a v or otherwise.

    There is only what we can create. With the few tools, many people, and political vision we have, we need a posture of American creation implemented as quickly as possible or risk losing a truly great country and consigning millions of decent people to illegitimate rule.

    Creating new vectors of power that can actually implement change is messy. It requires a kind of realism about how politics and power work—a realism that many in right-leaning intellectual circles simply do not have. Part of the reason for this is simple—many of the leading lights on the right of center are people who either are academics or would be if the academy wasn’t so closed off to talented conservative thinkers. The academic temperament prioritizes constant argumentation about dogma, an obsession with theory, and above all a consistency that is alien to real politics. Even the disciplines we pull these academics from skew us toward error. We have many political theorists and philosophers where sociologists and historians—people who study the practical realities of regimes and what they do to polities—would serve us better. 

    Saurabh is president of American Moment, which exists to “identify, educate, and credential young Americans who will implement public policy that supports strong families, a sovereign nation, and prosperity for all.”

  • Rafael de Arízaga wrote the following after John Roberts handed the pro-life movement a tactical defeat in June Medical Services v. Russo:

    “Conservatism has two modes in its inevitably futile opposition to revolutionary politics. The first is to moderate it, declare opposition to it, but to do so chiefly in the interest of restraining its most offensive excesses. By focusing on what he considers to be those excesses rather than on the principle that explains them, the moderate ends up being pulled to a position somewhere midway between his own and the revolutionary’s. But because there can be no real reconciling between the first principles of the true (Catholic) conservative and those of the true (liberal) revolutionary, this partial capitulation always results in a victory for the revolutionary. The stretch of political road, as it were, that the liberal revolutionary has forced the moderate to traverse in the argument is now legitimized by the fact of him traversing it.

    “The second mode is to conserve the achievements of the revolution once they are attained. Because he does not wish to be seen as supplying principles or arguments that may rock the foundations of social order, whatever they may be, the conservative cannot but assent to the new arrangements that the revolutionary has created at his expense. The revolution’s new order is the law now, and the law must be obeyed, says the conservative, for if we try to uproot it, will we not be supplying the revolutionary a further pretext to uproot other good institutions?”

    Yet more evidence that the binary between “progressive/liberal” and “conservative” is unhelpful. When even conservatives, at their best, produce “partial capitulations” resulting in “a[n incremental] victory for the revolutionary,” the game is over.

    I think this partly explains the interest one the last few years in the classical legal tradition, for which Hadley Arkes and more recently Adrian Vermeule have been advocates.

    I think it also explains why Alasdair MacIntyre’s plenary session talk last fall at Notre Dame was so explosive. We’ve spent decades talking, more or less constantly since the end of World War II, of human dignity. MacIntyre asks us to go deeper, to think instead about the characteristics of the good regime, one oriented to justice:

    MacIntyre escapes the binary and shows us how we might, too.

  • Peter J. Leithart writes on the importance of radical hope in the face of the end of the world as we’ve known it:

    Suppose we’re in a transitional age. Suppose a world is ending. We still need to ask, What world is ending?

    First answer: A world controlled by the power and values of Western Europe and North America. …

    The global economy provides a good measure of the change. Western production, trade, and finance still dominate the globe, but three of the top five economies are Asian. The United Kingdom, France, Italy, and Canada are still in the top ten, but have been joined by Brazil.

    In particular, China is leveraging its Western-aided prosperity to carve out its own zone of economic power. Before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Chinese government had planned to invest 1.4 trillion dollars to create a twenty-first-century “Silk Road,” the “Belt and Road” transportation web that will link Asia to North Africa and the eastern edge of Europe – sixty-five countries and over four billion people. China hopes Western Europe will be lured east. Plus, China produces most of the world’s antibiotics and pharmaceutical components, and Chinese nationals own leading American entertainment companies, as well as real estate and many American businesses. In 2019, Daryl Morey, general manager of the NBA’s Houston Rockets, tweeted his support for dissenters in Hong Kong. It became an international incident and cost the league hundreds of millions of dollars. A year later, Morey quit. Even in basketball, the unipolar world is no more.

    The evolution of the church is a further measure of Western contraction. There are still state establishments (in England, for instance), but Western politics and culture haven’t operated by Christian norms for a long time. Christian symbols and beliefs no longer provide the fundamental framework for public life, nor for many individuals.

    At the same time, a “new Christendom” is taking shape in the Global South. At the time of the Reformation, Christianity was largely confined to a shrinking Europe. Since then, it has expanded to every corner of the globe, becoming the main religion in the Americas, Australia, southern Africa, and Pacific islands.Today, the majority of Christians reside in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

    North American and European Christianity still leads in many ways. Western churches are wealthier, and their influence is buttressed by the considerable geopolitical power of Europe and North America. Western schools educate theologians and leaders from the Global South. Yet, on all these fronts, the tide is turning. Africans have gained considerable clout in the Anglican Communion, often strengthening the position of beleaguered traditionalists in England and North America. Pope Francis is Argentinian, and he’s likely the first of many non-European popes. Christianity has ended its sojourn as a “Western” religion, as the world is no longer a Western playground.

    Building a home library and filling it with more books than you can reasonably hope to read within the foreseeable future is one of the best ways to habituate yourself to reading, studying, and knowing the past. And knowing the past can provide crucial knowledge, a sort of situational awareness, for navigating the rest of your life in a world that is always dying and being born again. Leithart continues:

    Second answer: This geopolitical shift has been accompanied by an epochal ideological shift. Many among the Western intellectual elites have adopted a post-colonial outlook, which views the West as the main source of evil in the world. No reasonable person believes Western civilization is innocent – what civilization is? Perhaps more importantly, few believe that it is admirable. …

    As the modern West’s influence contracts, its post-Enlightenment values also go into retreat. Old-fashioned liberalism of the “I abhor what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it” variety has died. Progressivism has become the de facto established religion of swaths of the United States and other countries, and it is a jealous religion. To evade social and professional repercussions, one quietly censors oneself. It’s fruitless to protect Western liberalism, since there is no longer a liberal West to protect.

    Western ideals are losing their power to energize non-Westerners too. Beginning in the Enlightenment, Western thinkers promised to liberate the human race from the “irrationality” of superstition and religion. If we can’t eliminate irrationality entirely, at least we can keep it out of public life, so it doesn’t do so much damage. Religion arouses irrational passions; politics should be conducted by reasoned deliberation. Religion is violent; purging it from politics will yield a utopia of nonviolence. Advanced, “Westernized,” nations do the right thing and privatize religion.

    It was always a ruse. That Empire of Reason is, of all empires, the most thoroughly dust-binned. Religion has never been, can never be, eliminated from public life. Western regimes, like all other regimes, have always been intertwined with religion: regulating it, supporting it, being supported by it or critiqued by it. But many believed the ruse, including sociologists who were convinced that modernization, industrialization, the expansion of technology and education, and the establishment of democratic regimes would naturally produce secular societies, where religion was a private consolation for a diminishing handful of traditionalists.

    “It’s fruitless to protect Western liberalism, since there is no longer a liberal West to protect.” This is an idea that’s worth thinking about for a long time to come. Leithart again:

    Over the two millennia since the birth of Christianity, many worlds have ended, just as our world may be ending now. At such times, it is the task of Christians to nourish hope within societies whose transient hopes have withered. …

    The word nourishes hope; prayer nourishes hope; singing nourishes hope; baptism nourishes hope; the Lord’s Supper nourishes hope. When we open our homes to the homeless, feed the hungry, and clothe the naked, we act in hope and bolster hope, as the Spirit builds our confidence in God’s promises and good gifts.

    The church’s existence, activities, and ministries nourish hope because they are specific avenues of communion with God. God speaks in his word, hears our prayers and songs, claims us in baptism, feeds and feasts with us at the table, shines through us as we go out as lights in the world. God is the God of hope, not merely a God who gives hope or who is the object of hope.

    How do churches nourish hope in an age when worlds are ending? By staying close to Jesus, our hope of glory. Simple as that.

  • The midterm elections are two months away. Chris Arnade writes on the American non-voter:

    Voting means entering institutions that have given them problems. From schools, where they were tested, measured, and prodded endlessly, only to be then ignored, scolded, or demeaned. To municipal buildings where they were taxed, fined, or charged.

    Voting means interacting with a class of people who filled and embodied those institutions. Who either ignored or scolded them in school, or taxed and fined them in the court house. It is rejoining a part of America that doesn’t value them, from the way they dress to the way they think.

    Voting means getting further entangled with a bureaucracy that has done nothing before but tangled them up. Hell, it might even come with jury duty. They can’t do that because they are working two jobs and got kids to care for.

    All to pull a lever, to be one single vote out of 122 million? Hell. ‘No way my vote is going make one bit of difference with that many people voting. So you want me to have to drive into town when I only got enough gas to get to work and don’t want to have to fill up tomorrow because I am on a tight schedule and need to switch to my back up card because I misplaced the first charge card. All for a vote that won’t change a thing. Even if, miracle of miracles, my vote swung the election. Now what? I got the president I wanted, and nothing has changed. My street still has potholes and my job still sucks.’

    That isn’t to say non-voters don’t have views about politics, or don’t have a side they root for, or won’t trash talk the president or a candidate. They have strong views, and they might get emotionally involved for a bit, but they know their place is to watch. They are spectators of a sport that doesn’t involve them, or care about them. The outcome won’t change their life because it never has.

    They are the fans with no money on the line, only in it for possible bragging rights. That is different from the wealthy, successful, and highly educated. We all have money on the line, whether we acknowledge it or not.

    When we choose not to vote, it’s because we do not feel like stakeholders—literally, we do not believe we have anything at stake in the outcome, maybe because the power of voting matters less than the power of elite classes or institutions.

  • Happy Labor Day. Adam Barnes reports:

    Independent workers – including freelancers, gig workers, or even those who rent out living spaces to others – make up an increasingly sizeable portion of the American labor force.

    McKinsey’s American Opportunity Survey (AOS) found that about 58 million Americans, or 38 percent of employed respondents, identify as independent workers.

    The projection of independent workforce numbers includes both full-time work and those engaged in a side job. Yet 72 percent said they only hold one job. …

    The survey showed that 50 percent of independent workers who hold bachelor’s degrees expect to experience continuous economic growth over the next five years.

    But a majority still expressed concern about job stability, when compared to workers in permanent positions.

    Reasons for independent work varied widely, according to the survey. About a quarter of Americans said their motivation is “out of necessity to support basic family needs.” Around half say they work independently for flexibility or because they enjoy the work – more than a quarter apiece for either response.

    But independent workers still face challenges compared to traditional employees despite outsized positive economic moods and the added flexibility independent work offers. Only around 32 percent said they receive insurance from their employers. The survey found that independent workers also experience challenges relating to food security, transportation and childcare.

    McKinsey noted that these issues could likely be the reason independent workers are more than twice as likely to seek assistance through government programs.

    One reading of this is that more Americans are seizing the opportunity to build freer and more flexible lives. Another reading is that it’s time for changes in American law to better provide for the common good—changes that would promote single earner householders, changes ghat would reward growing families by reducing taxes, and changes relating to healthcare and transportation.

  • Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead” appeared nearly a decade ago. Now Helen Andrews believes it’s time to “lean out:”

    Obviously there are women today in America who are trying to have it all, and many appear to be doing so successfully, at least insofar as they have both demanding careers and children. But look more closely at those households, and almost invariably you’ll see that behind every woman who is balancing work and family, there is an army of low-paid labor, immigrant cleaning ladies, nannies who are paid cash under the table, Door Dash delivery men who deliver the meals that mom never had time to cook. It’s no coincidence that the vast increase in female workforce participation has coincided with the reappearance of something that the more egalitarian America of the early 20th century did not have, and that is a servant class.

    America today is more prosperous than it was 70 years ago, and yet it is no longer possible for an ordinary worker to support a middle-class family on a single income. The story of how that happened is bound up into a lie that has become gospel today, which is the lie that women can have it all. Undergirding that lie is a further lie that the Republican Party can have it all. The GOP has very much hitched itself to the idea that it can be the party of stay-at-home moms and girl bosses equally. Again, superficially this seems like it ought to be possible. Live and let live, it’s a free country. But this bargain is unsustainable in practice. We only have to look at the last 30 years to understand why.

    The official position of the Republican Party today is that the government’s job is to make it possible for everyone to make the right choice for their family. This rhetoric of maximizing choice requires politicians to talk as if some women will choose to be moms and some will choose to be girl bosses, and it’s really 50/50 which one you end up being. You know, both are equally valid. Who’s to say one is better? But that’s just false, and it’s false according to women’s own preferences. The number of women who say they do not want to have children is very low, in the single digits, around 5%—and that’s just the number who will tell surveys that they predict they won’t have kids when their childbearing years are over. The number of women who actually reach old age and feel satisfied with their life, being just a girl boss with no children to keep them company, is even lower.

    Squaring away all this family happiness is and ought to be a higher priority than maximizing women’s career success. It is also a more urgent priority. A woman cannot simply wake up at age 35 and decide she wants to have a family. Everyone says that the sexual revolution was brought about by the advent of the contraceptive pill, which was supposedly ushered in at an amazing new age of a new human experience thanks to science. But it actually changed a lot less than we think. We’ve gotten quite good at not having children when we don’t want to have them, but the science that gave us the pill has not made us very much better at making children arrive when we do.

    Look at the Supreme Court—a perfect example. The first woman on the court, Sandra Day O’Connor, had three kids, Ruth Bader Ginsburg had two kids, and both of them had their kids quite young. I think the last one was at 32. Both of these women followed the life course of having kids young and then pursuing their career ambitions afterward. And apparently it worked. They wound up on the Court.

    Then look at the two women appointed to the court afterward. Sonia Sotomayor had a brief marriage to a high school boyfriend when she was young. It was annulled shortly after she graduated from law school. Elena Kagan never married. There was some speculation during her confirmation that she might be a lesbian, but her friends confirmed to reporters that she’s straight. She just never managed to put it together, to have a family.

    So, this generation gap between the female Supreme Court Justices born in the 1930s and those born in the 1950s illustrates the paradox of having it all. If you put family first, you can end up doing both. If you set out trying to do both, you will end up probably or likely enough with just the career. And worst of all, you’ll end with neither in the sense that you’re not going to be a Supreme Court Justice, you’re not going to have wonderful, stimulating, intellectually accomplished work to console you in your childlessness. You’re going to have a laptop job doing corporate busywork.

    Sotomayor and Kagan are both boomers, and even among the boomers childlessness is still relatively rare. That’s not the case for millennials. Millennials are on track to be the most childless generation in American history. Projections have it that 25% of millennials will be childless. By comparison, for boomers it’s closer to one in nine. For millennials, it’s going to be closer to one in four.

    Andrews concludes by offering “three things we could do right now that would put a big dent in the multiplying lies” concerning happiness.

    It should be fairly obvious that most husbands and wives, most American households, would prefer to be able to rely on a single income rather than two (or more) incomes. Elizabeth Warren’s book “The Two-Income Trap: Why Middle-Class Parents Are (Still) Going Broke” underscores the frustrating point that two (or more) incomes is not only not a path toward empowerment for many families, but is in fact a trap whose numerous trade-offs are too often taboo.

    Blake Masters, the U.S. Senate candidate in Arizona, picked up where Elizabeth Warren left off, releasing this campaign ad during the primary last year:

    Let’s have more courage to speak about this.