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Colley: The eternal struggle

The original people of faith were told not to eat an apple. Today, people of faith are told they can’t sell apples. On Friday a judge granted a brief reprieve to the Michigan apple farmers barred from selling apples at a farmers market near Lansing. The family, Roman Catholics, had stated they would not lease their bucolic orchards for same-sex marriages. What this has to do with selling fruit at an open-air market mystifies me but in a city where a large state university dominates the skyline the local political machine is alt-left.

A great many professors dressed as Pete Seeger impersonators dominate government. Christian faith is anathema to much of the college crowd. The farmers missed their biggest sales opportunity during summer. They’ll need to peddle a lot of cider in the waning days of this year’s market. I’ve often wondered if there is more to the leftist demands we be complicit in what we consider their unnatural nuptials. Will they next insist the faithful participate in the honeymoon boudoir romp?

A quarter century ago when police in Texas rousted two gay men from their own bedroom in their own home I was mortified. So was the Supreme Court of the United States. Even the stellar conservative justices sided with privacy and the rights of two consenting adults to pursue their own lives and make their own choices. Our Founding Fathers would’ve been proud. They didn’t dwell on legislating morality.

As I respect the privacy of neighbors with differing lifestyles I also demand they respect my church, my faith and my personal relationship with the Lord. And might I add they respect my freedom of religion, one of five liberties enshrined in the Constitution of the United States. Find another orchard for your wedding! It’s certainly clear the culture has moved to a point where there are many clergy, churches and wedding halls happy to serve you.

You can call me a hater for not catering to your every whim but let me remind you I’ve a greater obligation to God. If my holy book and the institution where I worship make it clear my surrender to modern culture could damn my soul then you’ll understand why I won’t kowtow to the latest fashions. And why isn’t the gay mafia harassing Muslim bakers, Sikh photographers and Hindu orchard owners? Is there a belief you’ll destroy Christianity first and then mop away America’s minority faiths? Despite what you may believe, I surely don’t hate my Muslim counterparts. Actually, I admire the response you’re likely to get when you try and compel them to abandon what they believe.

Or do you leftists believe Christians are doormats? You heard somewhere we’re supposed to turn the other cheek, right? Some scholars tell us turning a cheek was meant as an insult in the context of the times. A means of showing the oppressor you can take abuse and not that you’re a shrinking violet.

In Colorado a Christian baker agreed to bake the cake for a same-sex wedding, but drew a line when it came to some requests for decorating. Many bakeries across the country already have demarcation lines. Most won’t depict pornography or write obscene jokes across a cake. What we view as an abomination is in the eye of the beholder. It’s obviously subjective. Once more, find someone else to decorate your darned cake!

A friend left the Republican Party several years ago and got re-elected to office as a Democrat. In his home state it gave him better committee assignments. Then he started barking about public accommodations law. Our founders made their own demarcation line. There were things the government couldn’t do to its citizens. Government can’t discriminate. Amendments and courts are taking original ideas about liberty and God-given rights when government is constrained in modern laws about housing, hiring and religious tests for government office. Somewhere along the path these were extended to private enterprise. First, I wouldn’t eat at any restaurant where an owner didn’t like my looks, skin color or faith. Instead I would reward someone else. It’s the beauty of capitalism. Another guy will succeed by filling a void.

Public accommodations legislation is about enshrining and enforcing politeness. Being impolite is a choice. Liberty and choice are synonymous. We may not like a nasty neighbor or shopkeeper but we can’t force them to be nice (perhaps controlling mean is the purview of faith). Forcing a photographer to take your picture won’t make him like you.

The liberal will argue bending you to his will is the price of licensing for your business. Let me remind you, the founders weren’t big on licensing. Much of modern requirements for hanging out shingles is an effort to control the competition by powerful business lobbies.

Here’s our dilemma. You may have an idea for the next “big thing.” You may also be a devout Christian and fear some compromises jeopardize your only chance for eternal life. You’re left with two options: Surrender or abandon your idea. Even if what you plan to sell would benefit your neighbors.

I’ll close with this. Twenty-five years ago there were people living alternative lifestyles and they just wanted to be left alone. Now maybe you can return the courtesy!

Other view: New rules and old conflicts for legal defense funds

The following editorial appears on Bloomberg View:

When members of the White House staff find themselves under criminal investigation, they should be allowed to raise money for their legal defense. They should not be allowed, as a newly revised policy from the Office of Government Ethics permits, to accept contributions from anonymous donors.

The cost of public service is sometimes unreasonable, occasionally outrageous, and extracted from members of both parties. In the 1990s, aides to President Bill Clinton racked up six-figure legal bills as independent counsel Kenneth Starr’s investigation spread ever outward. Margaret Tutwiler, a senior aide to President George H.W. Bush, endured her own bank-breaking ordeal, fending off allegations that she had conspired to gain access to Clinton’s passport file. Her eventual exoneration was not accompanied by a rebate for legal fees.

Tutwiler and others did receive partial reimbursement of fees from the same three-judge panel that had supervised the independent counsel. But these reimbursements typically weren’t enough to protect them from steep financial loss.

The independent counsel statute, and the reimbursements it made possible, is no more — in part because of the havoc it wreaked on innocent lives. But costly investigations are still a staple of Washington life, and Donald Trump’s administration has attracted its share. Along with Trump family members, Vice President Mike Pence, Communications Director Hope Hicks and White House Counsel Don McGahn are all reported to have obtained legal counsel.

Any White House staffer who is not personally wealthy, and is caught in the gears of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Trump connections to Russia, will face devastating legal bills.

That’s more than unfortunate; it’s unfair. There’s a legitimate debate to be had about whether people with material stakes in federal policy should be prohibited from contributing to legal defense funds: On the one hand, it’s depriving the accused of sources of funding for their legal defense. On the other, such funding creates a conflict of interest for even the most conscientious public servant.

What should be beyond argument is whether donors should be allowed to remain anonymous, or whether targets of investigations should be allowed to accept money from foreign sources. In both cases, they should not.

In theory, anonymity prevents staff from being influenced by favor seekers. In reality, the least ethical favor seekers can easily make their donations known to people in power. Only the public will be in the dark. And allowing foreign entities to pay for the legal defense of a public official would give them an unhealthy influence over U.S. politics and policy.

Taxpayers, lobbyists, corporations, wealthy friends — none is a desirable source of funds to cover the private legal expenses of a public employee. If such employees have no choice but to accept their money, however, they should be required to identify their donors and contributions. Organizations committed to ethical and transparent government should be prepared to press for the information, in court if necessary. That’s the best way to protect both the public interest and the rights of people who work in the White House.