Author: J. Pepper Bryars

4 things the left doesn’t understand about gun rights supporters

So let me get this straight: a couple of Muslim terrorists affiliated with a movement to enslave the world under an Islamic kingdom kill innocent Americans and our political left’s response is to attack the National Rifle Association? It appears so. Hillary Clinton lashed out at the NRA before the facts were even known about the attack in California. Liberals in Congress and the media immediately began beating their anti-NRA war drums. And the White House said those who oppose the president’s gun control measures are just “scared of the NRA.”Perhaps the most telling of these attacks came from the New York Daily News. It called the NRA’s leader, Wayne LaPierre, a “terrorist” and placed his picture below one of the two San Bernardino killers. The headlined charged that the Islamic extremists were enabled by the “NRA’s sick gun jihad against America.”Seriously? Okay sure, let’s have a debate about the NRA and forget that this was an attack by two Islamic State agents operating openly in our homeland. Let’s forget that a foreign terrorist easily passed one of those vaunted visa background checks by listing a fake Pakistani address. Most importantly, let’s forget that not a single gun control law being proposed by Democrats would have stopped this terrorist attack or any of the other recent high-profile mass shootings.But before we suspend these crucial truths to hold a red herring debate about the NRA, there are a few things leftists should know about gun rights supporters like me. First, the…

Alabama simply can’t afford expanded Medicaid

Last month the committee appointed by Governor Robert Bentley to study the state’s health care situation issued a report that essentially recommended that a costly yet key ingredient of Obamacare be brought to Alabama – the much-debated Medicaid expansion. Members of the Alabama Health Care Improvement Task Force made a noticeable effort to distance their recommendations from that central tenant of Obamacare, probably because the overall law remains so unpopular. Their report states that we should pursue an Alabama-driven solution that “reflects Alabama’s values and meets Alabama’s needs,” but the framework is basically the same.Under most proposals, Alabama would increase the pool of those eligible for Medicaid, which is the government’s free health care program for the poor, to those low-income adults earning up to 138 percent of the poverty level, or about $16,000 per year. That would close the so called “Medicaid Gap” by providing insurance for the estimated 290,000 Alabamians who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid yet too little to afford government-subsidized private insurance. That sounds nice, except that we know that free health care isn’t really free. Estimates show the move could immediately cost Alabama taxpayers $40 million a year, but that’s only thanks to the federal government’s offer to pay the lion’s share for the first three years. After that, Uncle Sam starts walking away and Alabama would be stuck paying about $100 million in 2018, then $222 million in 2020, and who knows how much more of an increase after that. Nothing grows…

Carson and Trump don’t understand American conservatism

The campaigns of Ben Carson and Donald Trump once looked unrealistic, but they kept rising in the polls.Many political pundits said they’d eventually fade and drop out, but they kept rising in the polls.And then other candidates, the establishment in both parties, and the media viciously attacked them. Yet they survived ... and both keep rising in the polls.Carson and Trump have enthusiastic supporters. They’re bringing new voters into the party, and both poll very well against Hillary Clinton, especially in battleground states. So why is a traditional conservative like myself seriously worried about a potential Carson or Trump ticket? Simple: because neither seems to believe in American conservatism and our movement’s organizing principle – limited government.One candidate would increase the government’s power to regulate speech – with no thought as to whose speech would actually be silenced. The other sees nothing wrong with the government snatching property from one citizen and handing it to another.First, let’s look at Trump.Our Founders believed, as did philosopher John Locke, that one of the reasons governments are instituted is to protect the property of its citizens. We all know that we have a right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” but it was Locke who first wrote that our rights were actually to “life, liberty, and estate.” Thomas Jefferson saw no distinction between property rights and liberty itself, and conservatives have carried that torch throughout our nation’s history.“Property rights,” philosopher Milton Friedman once wrote, “... are the most basic of human rights…

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 ……

Free thinkers are an endangered species on campus

Perhaps the most eloquent explanation of free speech is the famous line attributed to the enlightenment thinker Voltaire: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”Roll over in your grave Voltaire, and tell Jefferson the news: free speech is dying in this supposedly enlightened future of ours. Each month brings increasingly preposterous news about some group of college students forcing a speaker from campus in the name of diversity, or inclusion, or multiculturalism, or some other liberal notion that they’re proving they either don’t understand or don’t honestly value. Earlier this month Williams College cancelled a speech by conservative author Suzanne Venker after students became absolutely unhinged and flooded the sponsoring group’s Facebook page.“When you bring a misogynistic, white supremacist men’s rights activist to campus in the name of ‘dialogue’ and ‘the other side,’” read one particularly tedious comment, “You are not only causing actual mental, social, psychological and physical harm to students, but you are also -- paying -- for the continued dispersal of violent ideologies that kill our black and brown (trans) femme sisters … you are dipping your hands in their blood.”Proving that truth is stranger than fiction, the cancelled speech was part of a campus series titled “Uncomfortable Learning.”With all the fuss, one would think these students are protesting visits by brutal dictators or holocaust deniers. Not exactly. Actually, many recently banned speakers shared something in common with Venker -- they’re women. Due to strident prattling…

Second-hand screens are the second-hand smoke of modern parenting

If you’re reading this on your tablet while at your child’s soccer game, please put it down. You’re setting an ill-mannered example, and one that’s becoming an all-too-frequent sight in our communities. I was recently at dinner with my wife and noticed a couple sitting nearby; both were staring into their smartphones, seemingly oblivious to the evening’s ambiance … and to each other. It was sad. Before that I saw a group of teenagers standing together at a nearby open-air mall; rather than talking they were all texting. It was perplexing.More disturbing is how frequently I see elementary school-aged kids tapping away on their tablets when they could be experiencing the world around them. Rather than playing or watching sports, taking-in a performance, enjoying the outdoors, or simply developing an attention span, many children are being mollified with devices. “Leave me alone, kid,” seems the message.  None of my business, I suppose. You certainly have a right to gaze into those little glowing screens all you want, and allow your children to, as well. But what about when that right intrudes on the activity of others? This is when good manners are needed. It’s can be frustrating when parents allow their young children to bring tablets and smartphones to events where their devices become the center of attention, forcing other parents to place the real world into a hopeless competition with flashy electronic games they themselves chose not to bring. What’s the big deal? Well, here are three recent examples of…

Auburn University should sue the anti-religious zealots harassing its students

A small Wisconsin-based organization of atheists sent a letter to Auburn University this month demanding that it abolish the football team’s chaplaincy position, and threatening a lawsuit if the school doesn’t.“Chaplains are given access to the team as a means for coaches to impose religion, usually Christianity, on their players,” reads the letter from the Freedom From Religion Foundation. “Under the circumstances, the chaplain’s actions are attributable to the university and those actions are unconstitutional.”Auburn quickly released a brief statement explaining that having a team chaplain is quite normal and that he “isn’t an Auburn employee, and participation in activities he leads are voluntary.”Rather than going on the defensive, the board of trustees should show these anti-religious zealots what happens when you grab an Auburn tiger by its tail. They should fire off their own letter threatening the group’s officers with lawsuits if they don’t cease their campaign of harassment and intimidation that’s clearly aimed at “prohibiting the free exercise” of religion on campus. Americans are tired of being bullied by a handful of leftists, whose impact on our society far exceeds their size, any actual grievance, or any legal leg they have to stand upon. Instead of our public officials folding like cheap suits whenever these nuts mail a letter, we should start pushing back and protecting our rights. As the old football saying goes, the best defense is a good offense. Besides, we’re on solid constitutional ground, and it’s about time we started acting like we were. Our…

What can we do about abortion? Raise pro-life children.

As our nation’s abortionists brace for the next video exposing the Nazi-like horror that is Planned Parenthood, the prolife community anxiously awaits confirmation that the revelations are having a major impact on our nation’s collective conscience.“How could they not?” we ask ourselves. The videos show people sifting through mutilated limbs and organs of unborn babies, and then haggling over their quality and price as the slave traders did in centuries past.Sadly, however, no major change in our collective conscience is coming anytime soon. “The ‘sting’ video that surfaced last month of a Planned Parenthood official discussing the use of aborted fetal organs for medical research seems to have had relatively little impact either on views of abortion or of Planned Parenthood in general,” according to a YouGov survey taken after the videos were released. “Half the public retains positive impressions of the organization, though negative views have risen,” from 30 to 36 percent. Only a six percent shift? How can Americans become aware of what’s happening inside Planned Parenthood’s killing rooms without their opinions significantly changing?The answer partly lies in the values that were instilled in pro-choice supporters during their formative years. Maybe they were taught that an unborn child is just a lifeless clump of cells, as is often claimed, or that a baby isn’t really alive until it’s born. Maybe they were raised to think abortion was a form of birth control, and that unwed mothers shouldn’t be “punished with a baby,” as President Barrack Obama once infamously…

Ted Cruz will win in places like Alabama

When the junior senator from Texas announced that he was running for president last March, I used these pages to write that, “Ted Cruz could win in places like Alabama.”That opinion was based upon Cruz's unapologetic advocacy and defense of the conservative principles of limited government, individual liberty, and free markets, and his sincere desire to see those principles form the foundation for a massive shift in American governance.Five months into his campaign, however, I feel that my earlier statement must be revised: Ted Cruz will win in places like Alabama, and perhaps in even less conservative states.That prediction is based upon his impressive performance in the crowded primary thus far.First, Cruz raised more hard money in the last reporting cycle than any of his competitors – even more than Jeb Bush who is backed by the establishment’s money machine. This is a crucial indicator because, as we have learned, in this age money is indeed speech, and donating to a candidate is essentially “early voting” it is most truthful and practical form.Moreover, Cruz's cash was raised in small amounts from many individual donors, a clear sign of deep and wide support cross the nation. Usually, when a candidate claims that they’ve raised more individual donations and in small amounts, it’s meant to highlight their grassroots support and downplay the fact that they’re not raising large sums of money. Cruz is turning that typical formula on its head. He’s getting more individual contributions, in smaller amounts, and still raising the…