Category Archives: Rights

Video and pictures of the burnt out vehicles on the bridge north of Sacred Stone Camp

Earlier I posted some pictures of Sacred Stone Camp taken during my visit on October 30. In this post I will publish a video and some pictures I took of the bridge just north of the Sacred Stone Camp. It is on this bridge that the two military style trucks and a car were set ablaze. Any of the pictures in this post can be clicked on to make them bigger.

Before going on I will note these posts with the pictures are in not favor or against what the #NoDAPL protesters/water-protectors are doing. In these posts I am simply passing on some video and photos I took while traveling through Cannon Ball on the way back home from a trip I took to Bismarck.

First up is the video I took of the damaged vehicles. This video is just over three minutes long. I began filming on the north side of the bridge and filmed the damaged vehicles as I headed South back towards the camp.

This first picture shows the bridge when coming over the hill from the camp. There were  a lot of State Patrol cars north of the barricade. There is a cement barricade on the north side of the bridge; which can be seen going all the way to the fence-line. There are also lights setup on either side of the road behind the barricade.

Bridge North of Sacred Stone Camp. Photo by Ken Santema 10/30/16.
Bridge North of Sacred Stone Camp. Photo by Ken Santema 10/30/16.

This was me approaching the bridge from the South Side.

Bridge North of Sacred Stone Camp. Photo by Ken Santema 10/30/16.
Bridge North of Sacred Stone Camp. Photo by Ken Santema 10/30/16.

Here I am approaching the burnt out car.

Bridge North of Sacred Stone Camp. Photo by Ken Santema 10/30/16.
Bridge North of Sacred Stone Camp. Photo by Ken Santema 10/30/16.

Now I’ve passed the car and walking along the bridge. I never did find out who actually owns these two military style dump trucks. I’ve been told the ND National Guard does not have such vehicles and they may be owned by DAPL or the Army Corp of Engineers.

Bridge North of Sacred Stone Camp. Photo by Ken Santema 10/30/16.
Bridge North of Sacred Stone Camp. Photo by Ken Santema 10/30/16.

Sign placed on one of the burnt out vehicles.

Bridge North of Sacred Stone Camp. Photo by Ken Santema 10/30/16.
Bridge North of Sacred Stone Camp. Photo by Ken Santema 10/30/16.

The tire remains of these vehicles were still smoldering. It can’t really be seen in this picture, but can be seen in the video above.

Bridge North of Sacred Stone Camp. Photo by Ken Santema 10/30/16.
Bridge North of Sacred Stone Camp. Photo by Ken Santema 10/30/16.

This is looking north from the bridge. The cement barricade and law enforcement vehicles can be clearly seen from here. Law enforcement spent very little time outside of their vehicles while I was there. That is probably in part due to the cold wind. I was also told the Army Corp of Engineers land ends on the north side of the bridge, which is why law enforcement stopped where they are.

Bridge North of Sacred Stone Camp. Photo by Ken Santema 10/30/16.
Bridge North of Sacred Stone Camp. Photo by Ken Santema 10/30/16.

A closer look at the vehicles on the north side of the bridge. I wondered at this time if I was being photographed from the other side.

Bridge North of Sacred Stone Camp. Photo by Ken Santema 10/30/16.
Bridge North of Sacred Stone Camp. Photo by Ken Santema 10/30/16.

Looking at the vehicles from the north side.

Bridge North of Sacred Stone Camp. Photo by Ken Santema 10/30/16.
Bridge North of Sacred Stone Camp. Photo by Ken Santema 10/30/16.
Bridge North of Sacred Stone Camp. Photo by Ken Santema 10/30/16.
Bridge North of Sacred Stone Camp. Photo by Ken Santema 10/30/16.
Bridge North of Sacred Stone Camp. Photo by Ken Santema 10/30/16.
Bridge North of Sacred Stone Camp. Photo by Ken Santema 10/30/16.

In these pictures fire damage to the posts holding the bridges barricade can be seen. When this bridge is reopened the damage will have to be repaired.

Bridge North of Sacred Stone Camp. Photo by Ken Santema 10/30/16.
Bridge North of Sacred Stone Camp. Photo by Ken Santema 10/30/16.
Bridge North of Sacred Stone Camp. Photo by Ken Santema 10/30/16.
Bridge North of Sacred Stone Camp. Photo by Ken Santema 10/30/16.
Bridge North of Sacred Stone Camp. Photo by Ken Santema 10/30/16.
Bridge North of Sacred Stone Camp. Photo by Ken Santema 10/30/16.

By this time there was some activity from law enforcement.

Bridge North of Sacred Stone Camp. Photo by Ken Santema 10/30/16.
Bridge North of Sacred Stone Camp. Photo by Ken Santema 10/30/16.
Bridge North of Sacred Stone Camp. Photo by Ken Santema 10/30/16.
Bridge North of Sacred Stone Camp. Photo by Ken Santema 10/30/16.

A bit of a side story here. At this point I had heard law enforcement yelling something at a couple of young ladies that were up by the barrier. When the young ladies came back to where I standing I did inquire as to what the shouting was. One of the young ladies had stood on the concrete barrier to get a better picture with her phone. The law enforcement official was yelling for her to get down. I’m not sure if they were doing that for safety, or because they were afraid of two young ladies.

The other side of the bridge didn’t have as much fire damage, but the barricade was still quite damaged. The damage can be seen in the picture below on the right side.

Bridge North of Sacred Stone Camp. Photo by Ken Santema 10/30/16.
Bridge North of Sacred Stone Camp. Photo by Ken Santema 10/30/16.

There is also graffiti on the bridge.

Bridge North of Sacred Stone Camp. Photo by Ken Santema 10/30/16.
Bridge North of Sacred Stone Camp. Photo by Ken Santema 10/30/16.
Bridge North of Sacred Stone Camp. Photo by Ken Santema 10/30/16.
Bridge North of Sacred Stone Camp. Photo by Ken Santema 10/30/16.

South of the bridge I witnessed a prayer circle on the highway (that will be the subject of another upcoming post). After the prayer circle camp security came up to inform everyone that BIA had warned them that anyone out here could be charged with a federal crime. What that federal charge would be is unclear. Where we were standing I believe was on a state highway going through Army Corp of Engineer land.

The man in the center of the picture below is camp security, and was very polite as he passed the message on.

Bridge North of Sacred Stone Camp. Photo by Ken Santema 10/30/16.
Bridge North of Sacred Stone Camp. Photo by Ken Santema 10/30/16.

One more picture as I was leaving the site. The truck in the upper left hand side appears to be hauling concrete barriers, complete with #NoDAPL graffiti.

sacredstonebridge_21

Up next in this series of posts will be a brief post about the prayer circle I witnessed south of the bridge.

A few pictures of the Sacred Stone Camp

On Sunday, October 30, I spent a little bit of time at the Sacred Stone Camp near Cannon Ball, ND. I didn’t spend too much time there, and almost no time in the camp. But I did get some pictures while there. In this post I have some of the pictures I had taken of the camp from the road just outside of the camp. Click on any picture to make it bigger.

The front of the camp has various tribal flags and other assorted banners on display on either side of the gate.

Flags along the entrance of the Sacred Stone Camp.
Flags along the entrance of the Sacred Stone Camp. Photo by Ken Santema 10/30/16.

This banner promoting enbridgelies.com was on display. The URL redirects to HELPPA.org. The administrator the site, John Bolenbaugh, has gained national attention after sharing his story about living on the Kalamazoo River when the tar sands oil spill occurred in 2010.

Banner promoting enbridgelies.com
Banner promoting enbridgelies.com. Photo by Ken Santema 10/30/16.
Flags and banners along the entrance of the Sacred Stone Camp.
Flags and banners along the entrance of the Sacred Stone Camp. Photo by Ken Santema 10/30/16.
We Are Unarmed Banner at the Sacred Stone Camp.
We Are Unarmed Banner at the Sacred Stone Camp. Photo by Ken Santema 10/30/16.
Banners at the Sacred Stone Camp
Banners at the Sacred Stone Camp. Photo by Ken Santema 10/30/16.
Sacred Stone Camp
Sacred Stone Camp. Photo by Ken Santema 10/30/16.
Sacred Stone Camp
Sacred Stone Camp. Photo by Ken Santema 10/30/16.
Sacred Stone Camp
Sacred Stone Camp. Photo by Ken Santema 10/30/16.
Sacred Stone Camp
Sacred Stone Camp. Photo by Ken Santema 10/30/16.
Sacred Stone Camp
Sacred Stone Camp. Photo by Ken Santema 10/30/16.
Sacred Stone Camp
Sacred Stone Camp. Photo by Ken Santema 10/30/16.
Sacred Stone Camp
Sacred Stone Camp. Photo by Ken Santema 10/30/16.
Sacred Stone Camp
Sacred Stone Camp. Photo by Ken Santema 10/30/16.
Sacred Stone Camp
Sacred Stone Camp. Photo by Ken Santema 10/30/16.
Sacred Stone Camp. Photo by Ken Santema 10/30/16.
Sacred Stone Camp. Photo by Ken Santema 10/30/16.

Sacred Stone Camp. Photo by Ken Santema 10/30/16.

Sacred Stone Camp. Photo by Ken Santema 10/30/16.

This picture was of the front gate at the Sacred Stone Camp. There happens to be an ambulance leaving the camp as  I was taking the picture (I didn’t notice until the ambulance got a couple of feet further). This ambulance didn’t seem to have anything to do with protesting or confrontations with law enforcement. There are a LOT of people of all ages at the camp. This was likely due to a normal injury or illness.

Sacred Stone Camp. Photo by Ken Santema 10/30/16.
Front Gate of the Sacred Stone Camp. Photo by Ken Santema 10/30/16.

This next picture is the final in this series. I was trying to get a picture of the flags going through the center of camp. But it also led to a confrontation with someone, which is a topic for a future post.

Flags on either side of the road going into the the Sacred Stone Camp. Photo by Ken Santema 10/30/16.
Flags on either side of the road going into the Sacred Stone Camp. Photo by Ken Santema 10/30/16.

Later today I should have pictures up from the bridge just outside of the camp.

Video clips from the #NoDAPL rally in Bismarck on Saturday

Bismarck water protectors rally. Photo by Ken Santema 10/29/16.
Bismarck water protectors rally. Photo by Ken Santema 10/29/16.

Yesterday I posted some pictures taken at a rally in front of the North Dakota State Capital in Bismarck to show support and solidarity for the people camped at Standing Rock in opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). The rally was co-hosted by Dakota Resource Council (DRC) and activists Kirsten Kelsch and Caro Gonzales. Today I am going to post a few video clips I shot while at the rally.

This first clip is the longest of the batch, clocking in at just over 40 minutes. This is the main part of the rally, where invited speakers took the bullhorn and shared their stories. Speakers in this video include:

  • Kirsten Kelsch, activist
  • Karen Van Fossan, Minister at Unitarian Universalist Fellowship & Church of Bismarck-Mandan
  • Alice Brown Otter, one of the youngsters that ran to DC to bring attention to the situation in Standing Rock
  • Linda Weiss, DRC
  • Jd Houle, hemp fuel activist
  • Paul Seamans, Dakota Rural Action (DRA)
  • Lisa DeVille, Fort Berthold Protectors
  • Don Morrison, DRC

*** I apologize for the audio quality at the beginning of this video, the wind was bad and I tried as best as I could to clean up the audio (a better video camera is on my list of things to get). But if you stick with the video it does get better, particularly in the second half of the video.

This next video is only about a minute long. It is a walk up the line of protesters to see their signs. At the end of the video is the lady holding the black/white American flag with a blue stripe going through it in support of law enforcement.

The next video is just under a half minute and has the crowd shouting “We Stand” rally cries.

Up next is another half-minute video of rally cries:

Finally here is a minute and half video of rally cries. This one is interesting because you can see the guy with a camera shooting the rally cries; who happens to be the one asking for the rally cries to be done so he could get video footage. I’ve been to many protests over the years and have seen stagings like this quite often. I don’t think it is necessarily a bad thing, but I felt it was interesting to document for people who don’t attend these types of events and don’t realize it happens.

The reference to “Jack” is aimed at Jack Dalrymple.

Up next I should have pictures and one video from the camp near Cannon Ball. After that I will have some blog posts looking at various aspects of what the Standing Rock tribe is doing, both good and bad (at least from my perspective).

Pictures from #NoDAPL rally in Bismarck on Saturday

On Saturday, October 29, there was a rally in front of the North Dakota State Capital in Bismarck to show support and solidarity for the water protectors in Standing Rock. For those unfamiliar with the term “water protectors”, it is the term the opponents of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) us to show they do not consider themselves to be protesters. Rather the water protectors feel it is important to stand up to DAPL in order to protect the water. This particular rally was co-hosted by Dakota Resource Council and activists Kirsten Kelsch and Caro Gonzales. For those of us in South Dakota, Dakota Resource Council is a North Dakota organization very similar to South Dakota’s Dakota Rural Action.

I have video footage of the rally, which I hope to get posted some time in the next day. This post however will focus on pictures I had taken at the rally.

ND State Patrol handled security for the rally. For the most part it seemed they were there to direct traffic. In the left hand side of the photo below there were two people making signs for the rally.

Bismarck water protectors rally. Photo by Ken Santema 10/29/16.
Bismarck water protectors rally. Photo by Ken Santema 10/29/16.

The state troopers in attendance were very friendly and professional. They stayed well away from the actual rally.

Bismarck water protectors rally. Photo by Ken Santema 10/29/16.
Bismarck water protectors rally. Photo by Ken Santema 10/29/16.

The picture below was taken towards the beginning of the rally. Notice the signs all say #WaterIsLife and Respect Existence or Expect Resistance.

Bismarck water protectors rally. Photo by Ken Santema 10/29/16.
Bismarck water protectors rally. Photo by Ken Santema 10/29/16.

Protest sign: One Wind, One Earth, One Water, Standing with the Rock.

Bismarck water protectors rally. Photo by Ken Santema 10/29/16.
Bismarck water protectors rally. Photo by Ken Santema 10/29/16.

The crowd grew as time went on. The rally members were focused on the traffic going by.

Bismarck water protectors rally. Photo by Ken Santema 10/29/16.
Bismarck water protectors rally. Photo by Ken Santema 10/29/16.

Just to the side of the rally members was this lady holding a black/white American flag with a blue stripe going through it. I’ve seen more of these flags over the last few years, especially after the #BlueLivesMatters movement started in response to the #BlackLivesMatter movement. As I understand it, the blue line is to stand in solidarity with members of law enforcement that have given their lives in the line of duty; and also shows support for law enforcement officers that are still putting their lives on the line.

Bismarck water protectors rally. Photo by Ken Santema 10/29/16.
Bismarck water protectors rally. Photo by Ken Santema 10/29/16.

NO DAPL coats.

Bismarck water protectors rally. Photo by Ken Santema 10/29/16.
Bismarck water protectors rally. Photo by Ken Santema 10/29/16.

I believe this was taken when the crowd was at its maximum size.

Bismarck water protectors rally. Photo by Ken Santema 10/29/16.
Bismarck water protectors rally. Photo by Ken Santema 10/29/16.

Two rally attendees. Sign with Standing on the Side of Love!

Bismarck water protectors rally. Photo by Ken Santema 10/29/16.
Bismarck water protectors rally. Photo by Ken Santema 10/29/16.

There were quite a few members who were part of the Unitarian Universalists.

Bismarck water protectors rally. Photo by Ken Santema 10/29/16.
Bismarck water protectors rally. Photo by Ken Santema 10/29/16.

The Black Hills Unitarian Universalist Fellowship was in attendance.

Bismarck water protectors rally. Photo by Ken Santema 10/29/16.
Bismarck water protectors rally. Photo by Ken Santema 10/29/16.

Greed Kills sign along with a native image on the American flag.

Bismarck water protectors rally. Photo by Ken Santema 10/29/16.
Bismarck water protectors rally. Photo by Ken Santema 10/29/16.

There was actually a pretty good media turnout for this rally.

bisrally_15

Group photo time.

Bismarck water protectors rally. Photo by Ken Santema 10/29/16.
Bismarck water protectors rally. Photo by Ken Santema 10/29/16.
Bismarck water protectors rally. Photo by Ken Santema 10/29/16.
Bismarck water protectors rally. Photo by Ken Santema 10/29/16.

Unitarian Universalists group photo.

Bismarck water protectors rally. Photo by Ken Santema 10/29/16.
Bismarck water protectors rally. Photo by Ken Santema 10/29/16.

Honk if you love water. There were quite a few people who honked as going by. Very few cars going by said anything disparaging towards the rally.

Bismarck water protectors rally. Photo by Ken Santema 10/29/16.
Bismarck water protectors rally. Photo by Ken Santema 10/29/16.

Don Morrison, Executive Directors of Dakota Resource Council, working the bullhorn towards the end of the rally.

Bismarck water protectors rally. Photo by Ken Santema 10/29/16.
Bismarck water protectors rally. Photo by Ken Santema 10/29/16.

Some words about Veterans day from one of my sons

veteransdayOn Veterans Day I attended the short assembly held at OM Tiffany, where my two youngest boys attend elementary school. I was proud to stand up alongside a few dozen other veterans. During the ceremony a series of short essays written by students were read to the crowd My middle child Lawson asked if I would post his words about Veterans Day on my blog. Here is his short essay (he’s in fourth grade) about Veterans Day:

We thank veterans for our freedom. Freedom is very important because if we didn’t have freedom wouldn’t be free. I also thank veterans and everyone else that keeps us safe. Thank-you Dad.

Thank-you Lawson!

Remy has some ideas for the TSA

Last month the TSA announced a contest offering prizes to those with the best ideas to speed up the TSA checkpoints in airports. The deadline for the contest is August 15, so if you have ideas to submit there is only a few days left! The total of all prizes awarded will be $15,000, with $5,000 of that being the grand prize.

There are so many ideas that come to mind about speeding up the process that its hard to focus on a few. So I’ll just let comedian Remy take a stab at some good starter ideas:

Some other thoughts I have about making the line go faster:

  • Don’t make people take their shoes off. This can also be seen as a change being done for the public good since a lot of people suffer bromhidrosis in the foot area (any Zappa fans out there).
  • Placing all electronic devices through the x-ray machine is just a waste of time. Now with the new requirements to power the devices on it becomes even more of a time killer. Its time for the TSA to realize in the modern world there are a lot of electronic devices. Just because someone has an Iphone or laptop it doesn’t mean they are a potential terrorist.
  • Most importantly! Maybe if someone at the TSA would do even a cursory reading of the Bill of Rights they would realize the whole way security lines are done is unconstitutional and an invasion of personal rights. But I won’t hold my breath on that one…

I doubt the TSA will listen to any of the ideas presented by Remy or myself. Somehow I feel they are looking to get some PR showing they are trying to speed up lines; and really don’t care about speeding the lines up….

Here are a few more selections of Remy taking on the TSA:

This first one gives a general overview of the TSA in a happy musical way.

Yes, its August. But I think its ok to play a couple of Christmas songs. The first song has grandma being detained by the TSA. The second song has TSA dealing with Santa Clause. Good holiday songs.

 

 

This last number put another view on why TSA lines are bad:

Representative Noem votes to cut funding for backdoor NSA spying

Edward Snowden Quote on NSA Spying
Edward Snowden Quote on NSA Spying

Last summer South Dakota’s lone representative in the US House of Representatives, Kristi Noem, voted no to the Amash amendment. That amendment to the Department of Defense Appropriations Act would have basically prevented the NSA from collecting data on American citizens that were not part of an actual investigation. To me that vote was the final sign that Noem doesn’t care about civil liberties and she has to go. Sadly Noem has no real competition in her bid for re-election this year. The good news however is that she appears to have learned from her mistake last year.

On Thursday night the House voted on amendments to the Department of Defense Appropriations Act of 2015 (HR 4870). Included in those amendments was one offered by Representative Massie (R-KY) that is aimed at preventing the NSA from continuing its backdoor spying. I’ve included the text from this amendment (935) at the end of this post for any who wishes to read it. But here is what the amendment basically does:

  • Prevents the NSA from using its funding to conduct warrantless searches.
  • Prevents the NSA from using its funding to have private companies and organization create backdoors in security products that use encryption.

These measures are not as good as the Amash amendment from last year, but it is definite step forward in restoring civil liberties. Unfortunately threats of budgetary defunding appears to be the only tool Congress has to reign in federal agencies such as the NSA.

The amendment passed the House floor roll call vote 293-123 in an bi-partisan fashion. Yet it is worth noting that the majority of the Aye votes actually came from Democrats, in a Republican controlled chamber. Outgoing Majority Leader Eric Cantor and incoming Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy both voted no for this amendment. South Dakota’s Representative Kristi Noem actually broke from leadership and voted Aye this amendment. She should be congratulated for actually standing up for civil liberties against the wishes of leadership within her party. Perhaps the Aye vote from incoming Majority Whip Steve Scalise gave her the courage to do so. Or maybe Noem finally understands that civil liberties are important to her constituents. Either way it is great to see her vote this way.

At this point it is still going to be a tough road ahead for this amendment to actually becoming law. The Obama administration is likely to pressure the Senate into removing this amendment from the appropriations bills (he threatened to veto the bill with Amash’s amendment last year). Right now the only hope is that the coalition between Senators Wyden, Udall, and Paul is able to pressure Reid into keeping this amendment as a part of the defense appropriations bill. It is too soon to tell if the three Senators have enough support in the Senate to actually protect civil liberties.

It really does feel good to do a post where I don’t have to attack Noem for voting against civil liberties. Hopefully she will make this a trend!

Here is the text of HR 4870 Amendment 935:

At the end of the bill (before the short title), insert the following new section:

Sec. __. (a) Except as provided in subsection (b), none of the funds made available by this Act may be used by an officer or employee of the United States to query a collection of foreign intelligence information acquired under section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (50 U.S.C. 1881a) using a United States person identifier.

(b) Subsection (a) shall not apply to queries for foreign intelligence information authorized under section 105, 304, 703, 704, or 705 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (50 U.S.C. 1805; 1842; 1881b; 1881c; 1881d), or title 18, United States Code, regardless of under what Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act authority it was collected.

(c) Except as provided for in subsection (d), none of the funds made available by this Act may be used by the National Security Agency or the Central Intelligence Agency to mandate or request that a person (as defined in section 1801(m) of title 50, United States Code) alter its product or service to permit the electronic surveillance (as defined in section 1801(f) of title 50, United States Code) of any user of said product or service for said agencies.

(d) Subsection (c) shall not apply with respect to mandates or requests authorized under the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (47 U.S.C. 1001 et seq.).

Same-sex couples are rightfully suing SD over right to marry

Gay-Love-Equal-LoveYesterday was a historic day in South Dakota. According to the Argus Leader there were six same-sex couples that filed a lawsuit against the state of South Dakota over its ban on same-sex marriage.

Nancy and Jennie Rosenbrahn and five other South Dakota couples filed a lawsuit with the U.S. District Court just before 5 p.m. Thursday that seeks recognition of same-sex marriage in South Dakota, their lawyer Joshua Newville said.

The five other couples involved in the lawsuit include: Jeremy Coller and Clay Schweitzer, Lynn and Monica Serling-Swank, Krystal Cosby and Kaitlynn Hoerner, Barbara and Ashley Wright, and Greg Kniffen and Mark Church.

Aside from Cosby and Hoerner, each couple involved in the lawsuit has been legally married outside of South Dakota.

This is the proper move for these same-sex activists. It is also the only logical outcome that can come from allowing government to control marriage.

An important concept in America the right for all citizens to be treated equally under the law. Political activists from all perspectives use this concept to advocate for their beliefs. As a libertarian I believe this means that any law created must apply to all citizens equally and special ‘classes’ of people would be unconstitutional. A more authoritarian person would believe this concept means the government has to use its power to create equal outcomes for all citizens. Ironically both viewpoints should theoretically see same-sex marriage in a similar manner: reserving the right to marry to one subset of the citizenry creates a special class and is therefore unconstitutional.

Many people, such as myself, believe marriage is a commitment between two people and see it as a deeply spiritual/religious experience. But spirituality and religion are not the domain of government. By allowing the government to become involved in marriage the country has decided marriage is a legal status, and not a religious experience/commitment. Anyone that sees marriage as a religious endeavor should be appalled that government has become involved. I would also say that for the marriage-equality movement. A year ago I posted that I wish the marriage-equality movement would take a more libertarian approach:

Having said that I wish the pro-marriage-equality movement would take a more libertarian approach: get government out of the marriage business! There is no reason within the limits of the Constitution for the government to regulate the personal relationships of citizens. Currently the marriage-equality movement is ASKING the government for the privilege to marry! Let me restate that “the marriage-equality movement is ASKING the government for the privilege to marry.” This is not how rights are supposed to work in the United States of America.

I still feel those words to be true. Had the marriage-equality activists chose to get government out of marriage I think marriage as a religious institution would have been all the better for it.

But, that is unrealistic and unlikely to ever happen. At the heart of the matter is the legal benefits that come with marriage. The legal benefits become apparent last summer when the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was found to be a violation of the US Constitution. At that time I noted that DOMA was passed, in part, to prevent people who were in a same-sex marriage or civil union from receiving federal benefits. Now those same-sex couples that are legally married by the State will be allowed access to the same federal benefits and welfare programs that other married citizens enjoy. That is the only part of the expansion of marriage I truly dislike: it will lead to an expansion of federal benefits and entitlements to more people. Yet as distasteful as I find the current entitlement policies in DC, I find it even more distasteful to outright arbitrarily classify citizens based upon the religious beliefs of some Americans. Perhaps this expansion of the entitlement state will now force social conservatives to get the government out of the business of marriage. I doubt it, but I can always hold out a little bit of hope.

For now I will watch the case with interest. I have no doubt SD Attorney General Marty Jackley will defend the case. Yet I cannot see any constitutional grounds for a Judge to side with Jackley. Instead I believe SD will make headlines when this lawsuit is done by being yet another state to rightfully overturn unconstitutional laws that create arbitrary classes of citizens.

PS. Not that it matters. But personally I don’t care one way or the other about same-sex couples getting married. What other people choose to do with their lives is no business of mine.

The SCOTUS McCutcheon decision was correct

win7_mute (1)Today I finally had some time to actually read the MCCUTCHEON ET AL. v. FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSION brief. I’ve waiting to actually post anything about the SCOTUS ruling until I’ve actually read it. From a civil liberty perspective SCOTUS got this decision right. That doesn’t mean anyone has to like special interest money in politics. It just means that anyone fighting against that special interest money should do so in a way that respect the liberties of everyone; including those they stand opposed to.

I have always found it odd that anyone that respects freedom of speech, freedom of association, or civil liberties would support a law that prevents people from backing as many candidates as they wish. Life is a not a video game. There isn’t a “free speech meter” that gets used up after showing support for an arbitrary amount of candidates. Trying to limit the amount of candidates a person can contribute to was nothing short of trying to remove money out of politics. This is not allowed. Here is the opening paragraph from the briefing, which basically shows why the McMutcheon ruling is correct:

The right to participate in democracy through political contributions is protected by the First Amendment, but that right is not absolute.Congress may regulate campaign contributions to protect against corruption or the appearance of corruption. See, e.g., Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U. S. 1, 26–27. It may not, however, regulate contributions simply to reduce the amount of money in politics, or to restrict the political participation of some in order to enhance the relative influence of others. See, e.g., Arizona Free Enterprise Club’s Freedom Club PAC v. Bennett, 564 U. S. ___, ___.

There are no corruption concerns that come up with contributing to multiple candidates. People may not like that it happens, but that doesn’t make it wrong. The key part is “or to restrict the political participation of some in order to enhance the relative influence of others”. In other words the rights of each individual are equal; Congress cannot pass a law that removes some free speech rights from one citizen and give it to another. That is basically what limiting the amount of candidates someone can contribute to had done. By reducing the ability of McCutcheon to exercise his free speech as he wished, it actually provided a greater voice for others that were contributing to other candidates. That is a form of progressivism I find most disturbing: rights redistribution.

There are ways to fight against the big money of special interest groups without actually trying to trample the rights of others. But almost all of the ways I can think of require voters that actually care about where money comes from and where it is going. There are many websites and non-mainstream media sources available that actually provide this information to the public. If people truly want to fight against special interest money in politics there is information available to fight against it.

One last point to remember is that special interest groups exist for almost any topic that can be thought of. Restricting the speech of sources that are ‘undesired’ will also restrict the speech of sources that are desired. This point was quite well made by Chief Justice Roberts when he wrote:

Money in politics may at times seem repugnant to some, but so too does much of what the First Amendment vigorously protects. If the First Amendment protects flag burning, funeral protests, and Nazi parades—despite the profound offense such spectacles cause—it surely protects political campaign speech despite popular opposition.

It is time for those pushing to overturn Citizens United (and now McCutcheon) to give up that anti-liberty approach and find ways to fight special interest money without trampling the First Amendment.

SB 67 dropped by sponsor and SB 66 killed in Committee

Updated – Apparently my last paragraph dropped off after I posted this. It has been added back on.

Yesterday I posted about SB 66 and SB 67, which are two controversial bills introduced in the South Dakota legislature. Both measure are now dead. I’m not surprised. I don’t think anyone actually expected either measure to be passed.

SB 67 would have protected private businesses from lawsuits if they refused to provide certain services based upon religious objections. The bills sponsor Rep Otten withdrew the bill after being provided legal advice that the bill was redundant. Current law already protects religious reasons for denying service. That is true, but I think this new law would have helped to prevent activists from burdening small business owners with burdensome lawsuits. As I said before, I think it is silly for these businesses to refuse service (especially in the case of gay couples); but religious freedom, freedom of association, and property rights should protect such decisions, no matter how silly anyone finds these decisions.

SB 66 died in Committee by sending it to the nonexistent 41st legislative day. This was actually a pretty interesting debate to listen to. Both sides were pretty respectful of each others view and kept the discussion civil. Like SB 66, this bill also is redundant. Current law already protects clergy members from being forced to marry couples they object to. Yet, as many have said on both sides of the debate, legalized gay marriage is coming to South Dakota. The proposed bill would have protected clergy members when that was made to happen via a court decision or initiated ballot measure.

So what should those trying to protect clergy members in performing marriages do? Actually they should take a libertarian approach and work to get government OUT of the marriage business. That is exactly what I said when the Supreme Court overturned DOMA last summer (and rightfully so). Anyone that believes the government is getting too involved in religion should advocate getting the government out of this very personal portion of people’s lives. Marriage should be about a bond and commitment between two people and whatever higher power they believe in. Involving the government in marriage opens it up to being controlled by public policy.

As to the religious freedom, freedom of association, and property rights issues that were involved in these bills. I think different legislation should be tried in 2015 that isn’t so tailored towards one subject. I supported these bills because they involved these issues, but thought they were too tailored towards a single topic. In the future a bill needs to be drafted that protects a broader range of religious freedom, freedom of association, and property rights when activists try to make examples of small business owners and clergy members.