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Friday, May 21, 2010
Okay, before you get out your pitchforks and start screaming "racist" at me, read the rest of this post and the accompanying links.

This week, Rand Paul, son of libertarian 2008 presidential candidate Ron Paul, was selected as the Republican candidate for the Kentucky Senate race. Then he made the "mistake" of going on MSNBC (guess he doesn't mind talking to five liberals and a box of rocks... er, Rachel Maddow). During the interview, the topic of racial segregation, federal powers, and the Civil Rights Act surfaced. His comments that followed have stirred up some significant debate throughout the media and blogosphere. For a good defense of Paul's line of thought, go here; particularly check out what John Stossel had to say. Another such discussion can be found over at Denny Burk's blog. Now I'm not a libertarian per se (libertarians tend to go overboard in their pursuit of a logically consistent ideology), but I do occasionally play one on the internets, and so I found myself defending Rand Paul's comments to Burk and several other commenters there who couldn't look past their initial emotional revulsion to actually consider the veracity of Paul's argument. I made the following comment:
The same logic that supports the complete criminalization of racially segregated groups supports the banning of Christian groups that won’t accept unrepentant homosexuals. So those who don’t like what Rand Paul says here can only blame themselves when Christian student groups on campuses across America are shut down because of their membership requirements.
Not terribly eloquent, but pretty much to the point. But then Doug Wilson got my back, elucidating that which I had so quickly stated.
The other night Rand Paul was chosen to be the Republican candidate for the Senate in Kentucky, and how long did it take for charges of racism to surface? What? Thirty seconds?

This was all on the basis of Paul's opposition to certain portions of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. And since the lighting here in the 1964 Civil Rights Act Official Shrine is composed entirely of flickering candles, it is terribly difficult to read. So we have gotten by for the last fifty years by chanting racially sensitive slogans to one another. But it turns out that sensitive slogans do not constitute a real education.

There are different issues involved. One is the difference between federal, state and local governments, and the meaning of our constitutional arrangement. Just because a law requiring x,y,z might be good and desirable does not mean that a federal law requiring x,y,z is good and desirable. Second, there is a stark difference between public and private, a distinction that Paul tried in vain to explain to Rachel Maddow. "These are strange words, Dr. Paul. What do they mean? Doesn't the government own everything?" And the third point is related to the second, and it is one that I like to think is in my wheelhouse. What is it? Everybody, all together now -- there is a difference between sins and crimes.

Suppose someone decides not to invite someone else to his birthday party. Could that be a sin? Sure. Suppose that someone refused to invite someone else to their birthday party for no other reason than the color of that person's skin. Is that a sin? Again, sure. Now, should the fellow who failed to invite someone to his birthday party (sinfully, remember) be fined, flogged, imprisoned, or executed for it? In other words, should his churlish behavior be a crime? "Of course not," I would say, followed up with "are you crazy?"

Why not? Because there is a difference between sins and crimes. It is a radical difference. Abortion should be against the law because God said to Moses on Sinai that we were not permitted to murder, and because He assigned civil penalties to violations of this law. Racial prejudice in the private sphere should not be against the law. God never assigned a civil penalty to it. Now, before anybody starts screaming, refusing to make something illegal (like racial bigotry) does not constitute indifference to whatever sin or immorality may be involved. Coveting the neighbor's lawnmower is a sin. Should it be a crime? Eating way too many apple fritters is a sin. Should it be a crime? Lusting after the cutest girl in the high school is a sin. Should it be a crime?
Rand Paul was absolutely correct that all publicly owned and operated spheres had an obligation to be color blind, and those aspects of the Civil Rights Act that addressed this were not confusing sins and crimes -- although the federal issues are still there. But at least that did not muddle sins and crimes. And muddling sins and crimes is about all we do in public discourse anymore, and it is one of our chief intellectual shortcomings. Christians are included in this indictment.

In short, when contemporary Christians complain about political correctness run amok, when they complain about sodomy being declared a civil right such that their pious Aunt Matilda had to rent her duplex out to homos, when they complain about the intrusiveness of an incompetent gummint into absolutely everything, they need to trace the poison back to the source. They need to stop condemning the poison while praising the great wisdom of the poison pot. {emphasis added}

You want me to genuflect in the Shrine of the 1964 Civil Rights Act? Not going to do it, and while I am here I will put out as many of the candles as I can. Nobody's reading anyway. Might as well all sit in the dark. The chanted slogans sound more impressive and spiritual -- almost Benedictine -- that way. Spooky almost.
Wilson nails it in that penultimate paragraph; if private citizens cannot choose their company(no matter how loathsome the reasons for that choice may be), then Christians should not be surprised when the Gestapo stop at their door next. Knock, knock.


Colin said...

You are exactly right of course. It will be in the guise of "civil rights" when government finally does end up making churches recognise same sex marriages, have homosexuals in the clergy etc...

People never think past the original intent of a law to see the darker, often more heinous unintended consequences. If we give the federal government the right to say who we can and cannot exclude from our own property, then we have major problems.

Chris A said...

Well, this is what happened. Paul made a comment on NPR pertaining to the Civil Rights Act, but DID NOT say anything about repealing it. He actually said he supported most of it.

Maddow seized on this in an attempt to make Paul out to be a racist. In my opinion, she totally failed. I won't post the whole transcript, but here is where I thought Paul really proved his point:

PAUL: Right. Well, what it gets into is, is that then if you decide that restaurants are publicly owned and not privately owned, then do you say that you should have the right to bring your gun into a restaurant, even though the owner of the restaurant says, well, no, we don’t want to have guns in here.

The bar says we don’t want to have guns in here, because people might drink and start fighting and shoot each other. Does the owner of the restaurant own his restaurant? Or does the government own his restaurant?

These are important philosophical debates but not very practical discussion. And I think we can make something out of this –

MADDOW: Well, it’s pretty practical to people who were — had their life nearly beaten out of them trying to desegregate Walgreen’s lunch counters despite these esoteric debates about gun ownership. This is not a hypothetical, Dr. Paul.

PAUL: Yes, but I — yes. Well, but I think what you`re doing, Rachel, is you’re conflating the issue.


PAUL: You’re saying that somehow this abstract discussion of private property has any bit of condoning for violence. This — there’s nothing in what I’m saying that condones any violence and any kind of violence like that deserves to be put — people like that deserve to be put in jail. So nobody’s condoning any of that...

PAUL: What I think would happen — what I’m saying is, is that I don’t believe in any discrimination. I don’t believe in any private property should discriminate either. And I wouldn’t attend, wouldn’t support, wouldn’t go to.

But what you have to answer when you answer this point of view, which is an abstract, obscure conversation from 1964 that you want to bring up. But if you want to answer, you have to say then that you decide the rules for all restaurants and then you decide that you want to allow them to carry weapons into restaurants.

MADDOW: I can — we could have a fight about the Second Amendment.


MADDOW: But I think wanting to allow private industry — private businesses –

PAUL: It’s the same fight. It’s the same fight.

MADDOW: — to discriminate along the basis of race because of property rights is an extreme view and I think that’s going to be the focus nationally on your candidacy now and you’re going to have a lot more debates like this. So, I hope you don’t hold it against me for bringing it up. I think this is going to be a continuing discussion for a long time, Dr. Paul.

PAUL: Well, I think what you’ve done is you bring up something that really is not an issue, nothing I’ve ever spoken about or have any indication that I`m interested in any legislation concerning. So, what you bring up is sort of a red herring or something that you want to pit. It’s a political ploy. I mean, it’s brought up as an attack weapon from the other side, and that’s the way it will be used.

But, you know, I think a lot of times these attacks fall back on themselves, and I don’t think it will have any effect because the thing is, is that every fiber of my being doesn’t believe in discrimination, doesn’t believe that we should have that in our society. And to imply otherwise is just dishonest.

Darius said...

Good clarification, Chris. Paul didn't say anything about repealing the Civil Rights Act, though I imagine he wouldn't mind it got a second look. Politically, that's a non-starter. It's not going to happen, and it does more damage than good to even bring it up.

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