Month: November 2015

Colleges and universities must defend free speech

The uneducated comments coming from higher education these days are startling.Over at the University of Missouri, a student body representative recently said she’s “tired of hearing that First Amendment rights protect students” who engage in speech she deems hostile.Up at Amherst College in Massachusetts, students are demanding the school issue a statement saying it does “not tolerate the actions of students who posted … the ‘Free Speech’ posters.”And here in the south, students at Vanderbilt University are protesting a professor who once wrote that Islam was “dangerous” and that Christians should strengthen themselves “spiritually and intellectually” for continuing challenges to traditional marriage. Good grief. So much for college being a liberated time and place for the open discussion of ideas. It’s become the opposite. But lest we roll our eyes and shrug the issue off as harmless antics from silly, spoiled college students, we should think hard about what is actually at stake. To adjust the phrase, a threat to free speech anywhere in America is a threat to free speech everywhere in America. It doesn’t require much imagination to see how our freedoms could vanish after decades of steady erosion or even in a flash flood of political correctness. The constitution cannot defend itself. Our rights depend on young Americans who’ve not only learned about things like the First Amendment, but who’ve also become convinced of their necessity, stalwart in their defense, and motivated to pass them along, intact. Sadly, our institutions of higher learning, which play a critical…

We must do more to help our homeless veterans

There is a simple seven-word line in the Soldier’s Creed that always strikes a chord in my heart whenever I hear it uttered: “I will never leave a fallen comrade.”It’s both a task and a promise, and it’s something that soldiers, and all members of our armed forces, take very seriously. Many men and women have risked their lives, and some have died, living up to those words.  But what about our brothers and sisters in arms who have fallen on another type of battlefield, far from the sounds of rifles and mortars but still within an environment that can certainly take their lives, if not already their health, well-being and dignity? This week, only hours after Veterans Day parades have wound their way through our nation’s cities, and after the speeches and patriotic slogans have faded from our minds, nearly 50,000 veterans will be sleeping in the streets, in their cars, or in homeless shelters. Prior year estimates have shown that there were more than 500 homeless veterans in Alabama alone. This is a great shame, and an indelible stain on our nation’s honor. We’ve heard about the problem before, of course. I remember as a little boy listening to stories on the evening news about homeless Vietnam veterans sleeping in the park across from the White House. The fact that a former soldier was homeless saddened me when I was a kid, and it burns me up now that I’m an adult. Many folks feel the same way,…

Pope’s recent failure strengthens my Catholic faith

Alabama can be an interesting place to be Catholic.On the one hand, it’s challenging to live within an overwhelmingly evangelical community that generally believes our faith isn’t authentic Christianity. “If he’s a Christian, it’s despite being Catholic,” is how I’ve heard it said. On the other, we have great opportunities to learn from the thriving protestant communities that dominate the Bible Belt – their knowledge of scripture, how they make church fun for families, and how they build thriving, mission-minded congregations. But perhaps the greatest challenge, and opportunity, is when we’re questioned by a knowledgeable and well-meaning protestant. While there are many theological differences to discuss – why we believe that Christ is present in the Holy Eucharist, for instance – one of their favorite topics always seems to be the pope. “Why do you think the pope is such a great guy?” someone might ask. Well, who said I did? Some popes are great while others aren’t. I’m sure you’ve had great pastors and not-so-great pastors, as well.  “Why does the pope wear that funny hat?” I don’t know, it probably has something to do with customs and traditions. Why does your choir wear robes?  “Why do you think the pope is infallible?” I don’t. He’s capable of making mistakes like the rest of us. But I do believe, as the fathers of the First Vatican Council wrote, that when the pope “defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church, he possesses ……

The Present Crisis Podcast

I’m still a far away from the launch of the inaugural episode of my weekly podcast, “The Present Crisis,” but I wanted to go ahead and drop a few lines explaining what the show will be about.The title comes from a famous line in President Reagan’s inaugural speech in January of 1981. In those few words, the Great Communicator summarized both the disease and the cure: “In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem. Government is the problem.”The podcast will begin in a few weeks. Meanwhile, check out the intro that I recently produced. It begins with an old War War II air raid siren effect and then incorporates the aforementioned line from President Reagan. While his remarks focused on the crisis our nation faced in the early days of the 1980s, I’ve always believed his thoughts were timeless and summarized both the challenge facing our nation and the philosophy – limited government – that will save it. So, in a sense, the “present crisis” is an enduring one … hence the name of the show.The weekly episodes will focus on the arenas of politics, culture, and faith, and I will analyze and comment upon the issues through my unique perspective as a former political aide and journalist. I plan to discuss and expand upon what I wrote in my weekly newspaper column, run through the major stories that made recent headlines, and also discuss any news that may have been ignored by the mainstream media…