By David Cole

Never Again: Securing America and Restoring Justice
by John Ashcroft

General Ashcroft: Attorney at War
by Nancy V. Baker

Unchecked and Unbalanced: Presidential Power in a Time of Terror
by Frederick A.O. Schwarz Jr. and Aziz Z. Huq

It Can Happen Here: Authoritarian Peril in the Age of Bush
by Joe Conason

In the days and weeks after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, each time Attorney General John Ashcroft made a public appearance he would preface his remarks by announcing how many 'suspected terrorists'— many of them foreign nationals picked up on minor immigration violations—the government had detained. By early November, just seven weeks after the attacks, the official number stood at 1,182. Ashcroft's message was clear. The Justice Department had matters under control, and was preventing another attack by keeping more than one thousand suspects off the streets.

More from the article: None of the 80,000 men called in for Special Registration or the more than 5,000 foreign nationals the administration admitted to detaining in the first two years after September 11 stands convicted of a terrorist crime today. And the FBI has yet to uncover a single al-Qaeda cell in the United States.

...the number of wiretap and search warrants granted annually under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act doubled after passage of the Patriot Act. And from 2003 to 2005, the FBI issued more than 140,000 "national security letters," administrative subpoenas authorized by the Patriot Act that require no judicial approval, that demand the disclosure of phone, e-mail, financial, and other records, and that forbid people served with such letters from talking about them with anyone. These numbers suggest that the government's focus has been a lot less targeted than Ashcroft snidely suggested. In July 2005, one "national security letter" went to a librarians' consortium in Connecticut, and we know about that one only because the consortium violated the accompanying gag order by approaching an ACLU lawyer to ask about its constitutional rights. (A federal court subsequently held unconstitutional the gag order sent with national security letters.)

Originally by David Cole from The New York Review of Books on July 19, 2007, 10:00am


The following should appear at the end of every post:

According to the IRS, "Know the law: Avoid political campaign intervention":

Tax-exempt section 501(c)(3) organizations like churches, universities, and hospitals must follow the law regarding political campaigns. Unfortunately, some don't know the law.

Under the Internal Revenue Code, all section 501(c)(3) organizations are prohibited from participating in any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office. The prohibition applies to campaigns at the federal, state and local level.

Violation of this prohibition may result in denial or revocation of tax-exempt status and the imposition of certain excise taxes. Section 501(c)(3) private foundations are subject to additional restrictions.

Political Campaign Intervention

Political campaign intervention includes any activities that favor or oppose one or more candidates for public office. The prohibition extends beyond candidate endorsements.

Contributions to political campaign funds, public statements of support or opposition (verbal or written) made by or on behalf of an organization, and the distribution of materials prepared by others that support or oppose any candidate for public office all violate the prohibition on political campaign intervention.

Factors in determining whether a communication results in political campaign intervention include the following:

  • Whether the statement identifies one or more candidates for a given public office
  • Whether the statement expresses approval or disapproval of one or more candidates' positions and/or actions
  • Whether the statement is delivered close in time to the election
  • Whether the statement makes reference to voting or an election
  • Whether the issue addressed distinguishes candidates for a given office

Many religious organizations believe, as we do, that the above constitutes a violation of the First Amendment of the US Constitution.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

That said, we make the following absolutely clear here:

  • The Real Liberal Christian Church and Christian Commons Project not only do not endorse any candidate for any secular office, we say that Christianity forbids voting in such elections.
  • Furthermore, when we discuss any public-office holder's position, policy, action or inaction, we definitely are not encouraging anyone to vote for that office holder's position.
  • We are not trying to influence secular elections but rather want people to come out from that entire fallen system.
  • When we analyze or discuss what is termed "public policy," we do it entirely from a theological standpoint with an eye to educating professing Christians and those to whom we are openly always proselytizing to convert to authentic Christianity.
  • It is impossible for us to fully evangelize and proselytize without directly discussing the pros and cons of public policy and the positions of secular-office holders, hence the unconstitutionality of the IRS code on the matter.
  • We are not rich and wouldn't be looking for a fight regardless. What we cannot do is compromise our faith (which seeks to harm nobody, quite the contrary).
  • We render unto Caesar what is Caesar's. We render unto God what is God's.
  • When Caesar says to us that unless we shut up about the unrighteousness of Caesar's policies and practices, we will lose the ability of people who donate to us to declare their donations as deductions on their federal and state income-tax returns, we say to Caesar that we cannot shut up while exercising our religion in a very reasonable way.
  • We consider the IRS code on this matter as deliberate economic duress (a form of coercion) and a direct attempt by the federal government to censor dissenting, free political and religious speech.
  • It's not freedom of religion if they tax it.

And when they were come to Capernaum, they that received tribute money came to Peter, and said, Doth not your master pay tribute? He saith, Yes. And when he was come into the house, Jesus prevented him, saying, What thinkest thou, Simon? of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own children, or of strangers? Peter saith unto him, Of strangers. Jesus saith unto him, Then are the children free. (Matthew 17:24-26)

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  • Tom Usher

    About Tom Usher

    Employment: 2008 – present, website developer and writer. 2015 – present, insurance broker.

    Education: Arizona State University, Bachelor of Science in Political Science. City University of Seattle, graduate studies in Public Administration.

    Volunteerism: 2007 – present, president of the Real Liberal Christian Church and Christian Commons Project.

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