Is the Death Penalty for Homosexuality not Newsworthy?

That a chaplain for Muslim students at Vanderbilt can publicly say that he accepts the Islamic teaching that homosexuals should be put to death is un-newsworthy compared to some vandal spray-painting “Muslims go home” on the wall of a mosque shows the bias of Tennessee newspapers that covered the latter event, but not the former.

A couple of the major newspapers in Tennessee treat opposition to the homosexual political agenda as demonstrative of “intolerance,” “divisiveness,” and “homophobia.” Conservative opposition to that agenda is effectively seen and portrayed as damnable and, of course, newsworthy. But their treatment of a recent situation in Nashville lays bare the bias of traditional news media … not to mention the irrationality of those who saw nothing about which to be concerned.

At the end of last month, the Muslim Students Association at Vanderbilt University hosted an event sponsored by the university’s Project Dialogue committee. The topic was “Common Ground: Being Muslim in the Military.”

One of the panelists, Awadh A. Binhazim, is an unpaid adjunct professor of Islam at Vanderbilt’s Divinity School (according to the university’s webpage) and serves as the chaplain for Muslim students at the university. During the question and answer time, a student member of Vanderbilt’s chapter of Youth for Western Civilization asked the question: “Under Islamic law is it punishable by death if you are homosexual?”

The answer was, “Yes. It is punishable by death.” Moreover, at the beginning of the exchange about Islamic teaching regarding the death penalty for homosexual activity, the professor said, “I don’t have a choice as a Muslim to accept or reject teachings. I go with what Islam teaches.”

Where’s the Usual Alarm and Outrage?

Now you would think this would be alarming. Out and About, a Nashville-based news publication of interest primarily to the homosexual community, wrote an article about it as did Nashville’s City Paper. But both articles seemed to be more concerned about the Professor’s relationship with Vanderbilt and whether the University should be “tagged” with the Professor’s comments than it was about the comment itself.

And while I could have missed it, I never saw an editorial in any major newspaper in Tennessee editorializing about the subject. I have no doubt that had I said that practicing homosexuals deserved the death penalty, I would have been lampooned and editorialized all across the state, maybe even the country, ironically when such a comment would be clearly contrary to the teaching of virtually all Christian denominations in the world today.

But this professor’s statement is not contrary to current Muslim teachings, to Islamic law. In fact, in Saudi Arabia and Iran several thousands of homosexuals have been put to death because they follow Islamic law on this point.

And noteworthy by its omission was any attempt by the professor to qualify his statement with something like, “But that is the teaching of Muslim extremists” or “I personally do not believe that.” No. He said that he has no “choice … to accept or reject teachings” of Islam, but “must go with what Islam teaches.”

More Offended by the Question than the ‘Theoretical Response’

Oh, I know some will say, “yeah, but the Old Testament law of the Hebrews called for the death penalty for homosexuality.” But that is a diversion; it is not a comparison of the current understanding of the treatment to be given homosexuals by one religion to the current understanding of such treatment by another religion. Such comments reflect an apparent desire to be blind to the reality of what the Muslim professor said.

In fact, the Rev. Gary White, interim Director of Religious Life at Vanderbilt, and other students seemed offended by the question and thought it irrelevant to the topic. Rev. White even referred to the answer as a “theoretical response” and said, “Our students have no reason to be afraid or fear him at all.”

If he weren’t trying to be serious, I’d think he was trying to be funny. When those who believe as Professor Binhazim take over this country, as Islam teaches should be done (actually, it’s not just us, but the whole world), he’ll wish he’d taken the statement literally, not theoretically. Paraphrasing the Rev. Niemoller’s comments about the Nazis coming for him after he remained silent about what they were doing, “Reverend, when the Islamic Clerics following Sharia law come looking for the infidels, you’ll be one of them … and not just ‘theoretically.’ ”

I remember in 1980, sitting in the Student Center at UTC and having a practicing Muslim student tell me he would kill “me right then and there, but the time and situation was not right.” This is serious stuff. Faithful Muslims are like the professor; moderates who would not agree are considered apostate by the faithful.

But the irrationality doesn’t stop here. Some couldn’t even see the relevancy of the question to the topic, even after it was explained to them. As the student who asked the question explained to a fellow student who condemned him for asking the question: “If I was a homosexual in the military, I would want to know if the religion of the person fighting next to me demands my death. That would be significant to me.” Sadly, the fellow student still didn’t see the relevancy.

How Modern Liberals Define ‘Hate’

But back to the question of bias. While this was not newsworthy to our state’s major newspapers, the Tennessean found it newsworthy that someone had spray-painted “Muslims go home” on an outside wall of the mosque. Vandalism happens all the time, but you see, what made this a big to-do was that this was a possible “hate crime” that the police and the federal government are looking into. But apparently saying as a teacher of one’s religion you follow what your religion teaches and it teaches death to homosexuals is not very hateful.

Now, I am not dismissing the fact that spray-painting something on another person’s property is wrong.  But that act of vandalism, when compared to a teacher of Islam in our state saying that he agrees with Islam that homosexuals should be put to death … come on, no news story? No editorial? I guess believing such a thing and stating it publicly isn’t very hateful, as modern liberals now define the term.

Give me a break, will you? Particularly the next time I oppose some piece of legislation like ENDA (the acronym for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act) that would force para-church ministries and religious schools to hire people whose behavior is contrary to their religious teaching.

Surely that’s not as newsworthy or as homophobic by comparison as believing homosexuals should be put to death … even if only “theoretically.”

How to Chain Down Liberal Judges

When asked how the Supreme Court should view precedent, Justice Thomas said, “The ultimate precedent is the Constitution,” and “not what we say it is,” but “what it actually says.” Only this understanding will counter the “living constitution” that has breathed life into the “Leviathan” of big government.

In a speech earlier this month at Stetson Law School in Florida, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas addressed the Court’s recent decision regarding corporate expenditures in connection with political campaigns. Controversial as the decision was, something he said surely was more controversial to liberals and law professors in our nation’s “elite” law schools.

Liberals and a significant number of law professors, if not a strong majority in our nation’s most prominent law schools, believe in the “living constitution,” an approach to constitutional interpretation which “breathes life” into the dead, ancient words of a bygone era. For them, the plain language of the Constitution must be liberated from the shackles of history and infused with meaning based on current societal mores.

While this approach surely would keep the Constitution “current” in loosing it from history and original intent, it also breathes life into a judiciary that has become an aristocratic, sovereign body that has itself become the supreme law of the land. And it frustrates the purpose of the Constitution as described by President Thomas Jefferson, a favorite of liberals who like to use his letter to the Danbury Baptist Association as a means of infusing a “separation of church and state” into the First Amendment’s establishment clause. Jefferson said, “In questions of power then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.”

In essence, the “chains” of the Constitution, intended to protect our liberties from abuses of power that would threaten our liberty, are now seen as shackles from which we must be liberated if we are to be free. What a perversion of history by modern-day liberal legal scholars, which makes the comments by Justice Thomas so refreshing to those who believe in limited, constitutional government and so irritating to those who do not.

In view of the fact that the Court’s corporate spending decision reversed existing precedent on campaign finances, he was asked how he thought the Court should view precedence and the legal doctrine of stare decisis (meaning a decision made should stand). Here was his answer:

If [precedence] is wrong, the ultimate precedent is the Constitution, and it’s not what we say it is. It’s what it actually says. And I think we have to be humble enough to say we were wrong.

To which I can only say, Justice Thomas, long may your days be on the Court, and may more Americans see that they need to be set free from the shackles, not of the Constitution, but of tyrannical judges who, with their “living constitution,” have breathed life into the great “Leviathan” of big government. Let’s free ourselves from judicial activists and “chain” them down with the Constitution.

Teaching Colleges a Lesson

When a pro-life student group at MTSU got hit with a fee other students groups have not been required to pay, the Alliance Defense Fund stepped in, and the University retreated. Perhaps that will send a message to other universities in Tennessee: Don’t discriminate against conservatives.

College campuses can be a cesspool of political correctness and intolerance for those students and student groups that don’t conform to liberal ideology. When one state college recently tried to impose a unique burden on a conservative student group, they found out someone is watching.

Recently a student group at Middle Tennessee State University, Pro-Life Collegians, applied to present a pro-life message on campus through Justice for All’s pro-life exhibits. Officials at MTSU approved the Pro-Life Collegians’ application, but with a precondition that it had to pay for security for the event. Even though no written policy validates such charges, which aren’t required for other student group events, the university insisted that Pro-Life Collegians pay for security for its event.

Pro-Life Collegians knew that they should not be treated differently from other campus student groups that sponsor events and called on the Alliance Defense Fund’s Center for Academic Freedom (ADF) to help them challenge the university’s discriminatory approval of their application.

ADF wrote the university to tell them that the fee was unconstitutional because such a vague and unwritten standard empowered the university to enforce or waive the fee requirement based upon their approval or disapproval of a student group’s message. The letter also stated that allowing the uncapped fee gave MTSU officials unlimited authority to silence and charge any disfavored group as they see fit, in violation of the free-speech rights of students protected by the First Amendment. Essentially, according to ADF Litigation Staff Counsel Joe Martins, who wrote the letter, pro-life student groups were being penalized and discriminated against for expressing their beliefs.” And the message in ADF’s letter was clear: “We’ll sue if necessary.”

Fortunately, the university changed its mind and gave deference to the group’s First Amendment right by retracting the fee.

So, while the University’s arbitrary application of a security fee requirement could have “chilled” the rights of student groups on campus because of the burden a fee would impose on presenting their group’s views, let’s hope the intervention by ADF on behalf of conservatives on this campus will “chill” a little of the political correctness and intolerance toward conservatives that is probably taking place on other college campuses and classrooms in Tennessee. There may just be someone watching who is big enough and willing to take them on.

Ben Nelson ‘Politics’ Not Welcome in Tennessee

It is a good thing to try to put a stop to politicians “selling” their vote for something they otherwise wouldn’t support in exchange for a benefit for their constituents that sticks it to everyone. That some don’t think so shows how far American politics has sunk.

America got a close-up look at the ugly underbelly of Washington politics when U.S. Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Nebraska), in exchange for his vote, got his state exempted from the unfunded Medicaid mandate under the federal health care bill. Getting a monetary break for his state suddenly made a bad bill “good.” America was rightly outraged by this act of “political bribery.” Well, something more than Norris Dam is getting ready to be named for a Nebraska Senator, and maybe it will keep Washington politics out of Tennessee.

Last week state Sens. Dewayne Bunch ((R-Cleveland) and Jack Johnson (R-Franklin) and Reps. Bill Dunn (R-Knoxville) and Glen Casada (R-College Grove) filed Senate Bill 3160 and House Bill 3123 to protect the taxpayers of Tennessee from the kind of “political bribery” we all witnessed when some of our nation’s U.S. Senators “sold” their votes on national health care for deals that benefit their constituents while sticking it to the wallets of all other taxpayers.

This bill is intended to make sure this kind of horse-trading for the benefit of some taxpayers at the expense others doesn’t make its way into Tennessee. (I’m not saying it has happened in Tennessee, but there has never been any reason to pursue suspicions either.) The bill deals with basically two different scenarios. The bill would make it a Class A misdemeanor for an official to vote for a bill in exchange for future employment. It would also make it a crime for a legislator to vote for a bill only if that legislator receives for only for his or her district a fiscal or budgetary benefit that citizens of all other districts in the state would not get but would have to pay for through their taxes.

Bribery by Any Other Name

The essence of bribery is offering some reward or favor for the purpose of perverting the judgment of an elected official. In the past, we only thought of bribery in terms of some favor or reward going to the elected official personally, but it doesn’t matter whether it is an individual’s money that perverts an official’s judgment or that of taxpayers. The bottom line is that the legislator’s better judgment has been altered by a financial consideration that is not in the best interest of the whole body politic.

The filing of the bill has been news around the country (though not so much so in our own state, which is part of why FACT exists—to tell you things others think unimportant). When the Omaha World Herald found out about the bill last Friday, they called Rep. Dunn, and he echoed the same sentiment,

Sen. Nelson, even though he realized this could ruin the finances of states, he went ahead and voted for it as long as he protected his state. So he voted for what he knew was bad policy, just because he got favoritism.

Other Senators, of course, did similar things, but fortunately for them they didn’t receive the same notoriety because their vote was not the deciding one.

If the Average Guy Gets It, Why Can’t Everyone Else?

Partly because Sen. Nelson’s conduct isn’t that unusual, some of the politicos across the country laughed at the idea. One was Larry Sabato, political scientist at the University of Virginia, who said, “We don’t have enough prison space in the country to house all the congressmen and state legislators who would have to be incarcerated. Obviously it’s ridiculous. You don’t criminalize politics.”

Actually, liberals and clueless politicians, for example those like Martha Coakley of Massachusetts, don’t understand that a lot of average Americans do think politics itself has become “criminal,” particularly in Washington, where Republicans in 12 years “earmarked” us to the edge of oblivion and Democrats in the last two years shoved us over the edge. If it takes more politicians going to jail to get our governmental policies decided on the merits, then there may just be a growing population ready to say, “Then spend some money to build more prisons … and make sure they serve TEA with every meal.”

That some would see this bill as ridiculous shows just how jaded and out of touch some of those in politics have become. Some can’t even recognize that Justice has had her blindfold off for a long time now and has been wearing dark-shaded glasses with a brimmed hat pulled down over her head. Some have been in the “dark” for so long they don’t know what “light” looks like.

But some do. The average guy does. And I’m sure that’s who these sponsors are counting on to make a statement in Tennessee, one that I hope will be heard around the country. In fact, Rep. Dunn got this e-mail last Friday from a man in Nebraska who read the article in his state’s newspaper:

As a Nebraskan, I would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart for naming your wonderful ethics bill after Senator Ben Nelson. I have been troubled by this individual ever since he steered millions of our tax dollars over to a company his son worked for and chose not to reveal the family connection.

I can tell you that Ben Nelson does not represent the wonderful people of Nebraska who possess some of the finest ethics in the country. As a result of his shameless vote in the Senate, Nelson is now despised in this state.

Please keep up the good work, Mr. Dunn. You, sir, are a great American.

I concur. Thank you, Jack Johnson, Dewayne Bunch, Bill Dunn and Glen Casada, for being willing to take the scorn from those who have come to accept “politics as usual.”

The Times, They Are A-Changin’

While some legislators seem so aligned with the Tennessee Education Association that they never seem to question the Association’s position, the Senate Education Committee is giving a regular voice to other teachers for the first time in history.

Last week we reported on how some legislators seem to walk lockstep with certain special interests, but state Senate Republicans are bringing some much-needed change to a key committee.

As we mentioned, the Tennessee Education Association has held a firm grip on the Tennessee General Assembly over the years. But they are not and have not been the only organization in Tennessee representing teachers. The Professional Educators of Tennessee (PET) has been around a number of years, but because it is conservative in its views, it has never been “invited to the table,” so to speak.

In fact, it has even been a bit harder than necessary for PET even to let teachers know of its existence. No doubt, to help the TEA maintain its firm grip in the state, years ago a state law was enacted that only allows the contracting teachers union to have access to teachers’ mailboxes at school. So, PET doesn’t have the ability to communicate with teachers through the cost-effective means of putting a notice in a teacher’s mailbox at school. No, they have to come up with the names of teachers and, generally speaking, have to use regular mail that is expensive compared to free.

Finally, Both Sides Getting Equal Time

But since Sen. Dolores Gresham (R-Somerville) took over the chair of the Senate Education Committee, PET may have become more the “go to” organization, at least to the extent possible. For perhaps the first time in memory, PET has actually testified in Senate Education Committee meetings. During the just completed special session on education, PET got equal time with the TEA to state its position on the various issues affecting education and teachers.

It’s about time that PET is given a voice, and perhaps its higher profile will make more teachers, not aligned with the TEA’s politics, aware of an alternative. And the state and its citizens will be better served if we hear what are often two different views on education issues from a teacher’s perspective.