For Religious Freedom, Separate Marriage and State

U.S. Supreme Court building.
U.S. Supreme Court building. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


As the Supreme Court takes up the matter of marriage apartheid — an institution of forcible segregation and exclusion aimed at same-sex couples and codified in state laws which defy both the Constitution’s “full faith and credit” clause and its 14th Amendment’s “equal protection” clause —  its supporters once again rally to the banners of family and marriage, feigning support for the very institutions they assail.

“We will not obey!” thunder headlines covering their latest barrage, an open letter signed by numerous American religious leaders. But those headlines lie. The actual content of the letter consists not of a refusal to obey others, but of a demand that others be made to obey them. They want their own religious beliefs to remain codified in law at the expense of all whose beliefs differ.

They call for this establishment of (their) religion, naturally, in the name of “religious freedom.” It seems there’s no concept the anti-marriage, anti-family bigots aren’t willing to turn on its head.

There’s certainly a religious freedom issue at stake here, but the opponents of same-sex marriage are opponents, not supporters, of religious freedom.  For example, until it was struck down, Missouri’s anti-marriage law (passed in 2004 with strong support from this same crowd) provided for a jail sentence of 10 days and a $500 fine against clergy who officiated at unapproved religious ceremonies — “unlicensed” same-sex weddings.

Are the opponents of marriage and family sinned against as well as sinning? Certainly. They don’t believe they should be enslaved to bake cakes (or pizzas) and so forth for couples and families of whom they religiously disapprove. I agree. They shouldn’t. But then, the anti-marriage bigots and the pro-slavery bigots are peas in a pod. They’re both fighting for control of others, not for the freedom of all.

The solution to this whole set of problems is simple: Just as we’ve tried to separate church and state, let’s separate marriage and state! If that’s not feasible in its entirety, then let’s do so to the greatest degree possible.

Instead of government-approved, “licensed” marriages, let the civil form of marriage be by contract. The terms of those contracts can be whatever the parties negotiate. Although I suspect most of them would tend toward the current norms, there’s no call to require that. Different strokes for different folks. The only necessary state involvement, then, would be adjudication of contractual disputes (if even that — the contracts could specify private arbitration).

As for those of particular religious persuasions, let them and their churches celebrate whatever weddings and recognize whatever marriages they choose, and not others (including in their commercial relations). This is the only right which they might reasonably demand others respect.

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.




From 11/22 to 9/11: Too Many Secrets

English: United Airlines Flight 175 crashes in...
United Airlines Flight 175 crashes into the south tower of the World Trade Center complex in New York City during the September 11 attacks (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Inquiring minds want to know: What, precisely, do 28 pages of the US Senate’s report on the 9/11 attacks say? Those particular 28 pages have remained classified since the report was issued in 2002.

Former US Senator Bob Graham (D-FL), lead author of the report, wants those pages released. He’s been somewhat forthcoming as to their content: “They point a very strong finger at Saudi Arabia as the [9/11 attackers’] principle financier.”

If you’re surprised that such information remains under wraps after nearly a decade and a half, you shouldn’t be. More than 50 years after the assassination of president John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963, our masters in Washington still deem us unworthy to see certain documents relating to his murder.

The excuse for keeping such secrets, of course, is “national security.” It’s formally illegal for information to be classified and kept from the public for any other reason (including but not limited to concealing the crimes of, or avoiding embarrassing, politicians).

But “national security” is a malleable concept in the hands of the political class, easily shaped to serve those other ends.

If you’re Scooter Libby, you can blow the cover of a working CIA agent, be tried for lesser offenses and, when convicted, have your sentence presidentially commuted.

If you’re David Petraeus, you can hand over military secrets to your lover/biographer and avail yourself of a sweet plea bargain requiring not so much as a single inconvenient day in jail.

But if you’re Chelsea Manning or Edward Snowden and you dare expose actual government crimes to legitimate public scrutiny, just go ahead and pencil in a 35-year prison sentence, or indefinite exile in Russia, on your social calendar.

In what profession, other than politics, may the putative employee (the “public servant”) simply refuse to show his work product to the putative employer (the “public”)? None that I’m aware of.

What really happened on, and leading up to, 9/11?

What do those 28 pages have to say about it?

I don’t know. Unless you’re one of a handful of special, privileged people, you don’t either.

But we should. Even, nay, especially, if those pages establish that for nearly 14 years now, US foreign policy — both in its general outlines and more specifically the “war on terror” — has been based on falsehood.

That we don’t know makes it clear who’s really in charge: Not us.

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.



Trans-Pacific Partnership: Secrecy Plus “Fast Track” Does Not Equal Free Trade

Free trade thumb
Free trade thumb (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


US Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) wants president Barack Obama to declassify details of an upcoming “free trade agreement,” the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Obama’s response incorporates two mutually exclusive claims:  First, that the deal isn’t secret and that Warren’s just tub-thumping to rouse her progressive base; second, that okay, yes, parts of it are secret, but the secrecy is necessary.

Setting aside Obama’s poke at her motivations, Warren is right. The TPP is a bad deal. The secrecy surrounding some of its components is there for a reason: Most of us won’t like what’s in it.

That’s also why Obama is pushing the US Senate to give him “fast track” authority, getting him a straight up-or-down vote as soon as he unveils the treaty instead of having to justify its details and face the possibility of amendment demands.

The first and most important thing to understand about the Trans-Pacific Partnership is that no, it’s not a “free trade” agreement.

Even if we knew none of the details of TPP (we do know some of them), we could reach that conclusion by noticing how lengthy, complex and detailed the negotiations are. Free trade is simple. All it requires is for the involved governments to forswear restrictions on commerce between their nations.

Heck, it could even be done unilaterally. The US could simply announce that it’s lifting all tariffs, quotas and limits from imports and exports, and invite other nations to do likewise. If worry-warts want a poison pill provision for “balance,” that’s easy too: Just mandate that if any nation imposes restrictions on American goods, the worst of those restrictions will be mirrored for all goods originating in the offending country.

TPP isn’t “free” trade.  It’s “managed” trade. Its managers are industry lobbyists and their pet politicians. They don’t care a fig for freedom. Their priorities are easy profits and political advantage.

We already know that in at least one sector — so-called “intellectual property” — TPP is the opposite of free trade, or for that matter freedom of any kind. We know this because whistleblower group Wikileaks procured and released a copy of the treaty’s draft chapter on IP.

That chapter would impose the worst parts of America’s draconian Digital Millennium Copyright Act,  patent system and other anti-freedom, anti-innovation laws on all parties, globally damaging the ability to copy, to improve, to innovate — and bringing de facto Internet censorship into force — all so Disney can wring a few more bucks out of its 88-year-old mascot mouse and Big Pharma can hold the world’s patients hostage to high drug prices for a little bit longer.

TPP is a bad deal for producers and consumers worldwide. Let’s demand REAL free trade instead.

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.