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Jonathan Lange: Wyoming Health Officers Should Convince Citizens, Not Coerce

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By Jonathan Lange, guest columnist

When driving down a highway, it is extremely dangerous to be overly afraid of the oncoming cars. Inexperienced drivers who do this can veer into the ditch. Experienced drivers take both threats seriously, and so stay safely in their proper lane.

The same balance needs to be maintained when dealing with any response to COVID-19. Responses that take into account only medical considerations—without considering the threats to spiritual and emotional health, economic health, and the health of the Republic itself—will be wrong. They risk doing more harm than good.

The need for a proper balance is the very reason for representative government. Our founding fathers knew that no single person can know everything about any situation, but that whatever a person does know can easily crowd out every other consideration. “Give a young boy a hammer and he will treat everything as a nail.” They also knew that both the well-meaning and the malicious can abuse power.

“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive,” said C.S. Lewis. He explained, “[T]hose who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.” Governmental checks and balances are designed to prevent such excesses.

According to a Facebook post, Dr. Ed Zimmerman, former Washakie County Health Officer (CHO), imposed a county-wide mask mandate against the expressed will of the elected commissioners. He was not the only one. During the previous week, 21 of Wyoming’s 23 CHOs imposed mask mandates. Many, if not most, ignored the protests of the citizens through their elected commissioners. Zimmerman explained his decision, “It appears to me the masking mandate was overwhelmingly supported by the members of the community.”

However it may appear to an unelected official, only the elected ones are answerable to the general public. Because public policy involves the balance of many considerations, county commissioners and mayors across the state were outraged.

In a grand shell game, CHOs pressured Governor Gordon to impose a statewide mask mandate through his State Health Officer, Alexia Harrist. Gordon, instead, wanted the mandates to be up to local jurisdictions. When elected county commissioners across the state declined his request, 21 CHOs circumvented them and sent variance requests to the state. In the end, every mask mandate is unilaterally imposed under the signature of Harrist.

For the record, the question is not whether there is a problem that needs to be addressed. The question is whether masks actually address the problem. The mask orders cite only one six-month-old scientific study.  “Chu, et. al. found that Face Coverings could reduce the risk of transmission…” It concluded: “Robust randomized trials are needed to better inform the evidence for these interventions.”

Luckily, three such robust studies were released in November. The New England Journal of Medicine published, “SARS-CoV-2 Transmission among Marine Recruits during Quarantine.” This rigorous study followed 1,848 Marine recruits through 28 days of lockdown, strict mask protocols and sanitary practices. During the study 51 (2.75%) of the participants tested positive for COVID-19. By comparison only 26 of 1,554 non-participants (1.67%) did. While not statistically significant, the raw percentages report that there was less spread among those who interacted without masks.

The Annals of Internal Medicine published “Effectiveness of Adding a Mask Recommendation to Other Public Health Measures to Prevent SARS-CoV-2 Infection in Danish Mask Wearers.” This randomized, controlled trial was undertaken in Denmark with 6,024 participants randomly split into two groups. Of the 3,030 in the masked group, 42 (1.8%) tested positive during the course of the trial. By comparison, 53 (2.1%) tested positive from the control group. Again, the researchers concluded that the “difference was not statistically significant.”

Then, on November 20, Nature Communications published a study from China that screened nearly 10 million citizens of Wuhan. Although it found 1,174 close contacts with asymptomatic cases, it found no—zero, zip, nada—new cases spread from contact with asymptomatic carriers.

Every single Wyomingite wants to slow the spread of COVID-19. But the sheer desire to see an outcome does not make a mask order effective toward that end. Citizens deserve explanations, not edicts.

On October 12, the Wyoming Department of Health released “a list of evidence it relies on” in making decisions about face coverings, among other things. All seven of the laboratory studies cited studied the effectiveness of masks in reducing droplets. None studied the effectiveness of masks in reducing infection rates.

Now that the WDH has the benefit of three robust studies centered on the infection rate, it should incorporate this scholarship into its overall assessment and update its recommendations accordingly. Wyomingites will do the right thing if they are convinced it is right.

Health officers should convince citizens, not overrule them.

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Jonathan Lange: Contrary To AP Report, Wyoming Delegation Supports Trump’s Efforts To Count Legal Votes

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By Jonathan Lange, guest columnist

Multiple filings in state and federal courts alleging election fraud constitute the most momentous election news in two decades.

The 2020 election has the potential to be the biggest scandal in the history of our nation. By November 6, all three members of Wyoming’s delegation spoke in support of President Trump’s call to count every legal vote and discard every illegal ballot.

John Barrasso, Wyoming’s soon-to-be senior senator and Senate GOP Conference Chair, said: “As vote totals continue to update, Americans deserve confidence in a fair and transparent election. The President is right to ensure all legally cast votes be observed and counted.”

Cynthia Lummis, Wyoming’s first woman senator-elect, emailed through her spokeswoman, Kristin Walker: “Where there are instances of fraud, we must root them out, correct and hold those responsible to account. Anything less is a complete affront to the American rule of law and election integrity.”

Liz Cheney, Wyoming’s lone congresswoman and House GOP Conference chair, wrote: “Every legal vote must be counted. No illegal votes should be counted. The counting process must be transparent, and observers must have access. It’s the responsibility of the courts to apply the laws to resolve disputes. These things are necessary so that all Americans can have confidence in our election process.”

Nevertheless, the Associated Press reported that “top Wyoming elected officials refused to say Friday if they agreed with President Donald Trump’s baseless claim that Democrats are trying to steal the presidential election.” (Top Wyoming Republicans dodge question about Trump remarks, Mead Gruver, Nov. 6). This characterization bears little resemblance to the actual statements.

How can calls for a full counting of every legal vote be anything other than agreement with President Trump? It’s hard to read such misreporting as anything but a deliberate attempt to drive a wedge between Wyoming’s D.C. delegation and voters. Simultaneously, it props up the false narrative that Trump’s claims are “baseless.”

In a state where President Trump received 11 percent more votes than his 2016 victory, and which had the highest margin of victory of any state (69.9 percent), accusing a national politician of tepid support for Trump is certain to damage the relationship between representatives and constituents. While this misrepresentation may have been deliberately aimed at President Trump and Wyoming’s delegation, deception also causes collateral damage among the general population.

Lies disrupt communication. As a direct consequence, they destroy community. That is why everyone should be alarmed at the massive uptick in fraud and obfuscation that we have seen in the mainstream media and on social media in recent weeks and months.

No doubt the media outlets that conspired to hide the facts of Spy-gate, Hunter Biden’s laptop and President Trump’s legal claims were only trying to sway the election. Likely, they were not trying to dissolve friendships or split families. Nevertheless, they were far more successful in doing that than they were in swaying voters.

That is criminal. It should enrage every citizen.

The Fourth Estate—the free press—is supposed to unite communities around the truth, which enables them to hold their governing officials accountable. When the press becomes so partisan that it deliberately suppresses the truth in a bid to shield a politician from accountability, it divides and disenfranchises the community. In so doing, it has become the enemy of a free state and of every good citizen within it.

Truth is the bedrock upon which we stand as a united people. It holds us
together as families, churches, communities and nations. We are called to discover the truth, not invent it. It exists quite apart from personal perceptions or opinions. The more people there are who understand the truth, the more united is the society.

The upheaval we are witnessing in this year’s election process is far beyond the bounds of partisan bickering. Community-minded citizens from both sides of the aisle need to recognize that foreign governments, global media corporations and monied interests are openly attacking the community that is the United States of America.

Deliberately hiding factual reports and otherwise gaslighting the American public, their intent is to divide and conquer. Broken friendships, feuding families, deteriorating communities, and even divided churches, are only collateral damage as far as they are concerned. Power is their goal. Falsehood is their weapon.

But they cannot win if you stand for the truth. It is the job of every patriot of every political party to make truth, integrity and justice the highest priority. We must be more loyal to the truth than to any man. We must be more determined to find the facts than to win any election. We must be more willing to punish evildoers than to protect favored players.

Led by lies we cannot win. But united around the truth, we cannot lose.

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Jonathan Lange: The Legacy Of Roy Edwards, A Wyoming Man

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By Jonathan Lange, guest columnist

Roy Harlie Edwards, representative of House District 53, succumbed on November 2, after a brief illness. Wyomingites from all walks of life, and from all over the state, were saddened by the news. Condolences are extended to his wife, family and all who mourn his loss.

We also owe them our deepest gratitude for supporting Roy in his tireless work to make our little town with long streets into a better place. It is fitting that we mark Roy’s passing with reverence and gratitude. His life of service gave voice to the common man and served the entire state.

Roy was a true son of Wyoming. His ancestors homesteaded in the Gillette area and that is where he lived his entire life. Graduating from Gillette High School, he was blessed with a loving marriage and a faithful family. For three and a half decades he travelled from ranch to ranch for the Farmer’s Coop, servicing equipment. Then, he founded Edwards Tire Company and continued his passion for serving people.

His dedication to his wife and children led him out of the house and into the community. For Roy, that meant service in his church, first and foremost. Whether as deacon of Central Baptist Church or traveling across the world to distribute Christian printed material, he was always eager to tell people why he lived with such a big smile on his face and a twinkle in his eye.

Roy’s faith in Jesus was not privatized. It led him into public service. For 12 years he served on the Gillette City Council. After that, he served 8 years on the Campbell County Commission. In 2014 he was elected to Wyoming’s House of Representatives. That is where I came to know him. I first admired him from afar. More recently, I came to know him as a friend.

One might think that 34 years in public office would make a consummate politician out of any man. But Roy’s warm smile and firm handshake were not an act. He could talk to anybody—and often went out of his way to do so—but he never spoke a disingenuous word.

Roy’s success was not a function of following the crowd. Rather, his brand of politics was to speak boldly and create a following. For this reason, he was often dismissed as a hayseed simpleton. Those who made this mistake not only missed out on his friendship and wit, they also missed out on his profound wisdom.

A master of working behind the scenes, Roy built coalitions, persuaded people on the fence and encouraged colleagues to take the lead. Hardly anybody knew how hard he worked or how sharply he could perceive any situation. But for those who did, he was the epitome of humble and unassuming leadership.

Even in death his humble leadership is still being felt. As the Republicans of the House of Representatives meet in caucus next Saturday, they will be voting on the last project of Roy Edwards. During the final months of his life, he was the driving force that assembled one of the slates of house leadership that House Republicans will have the option to choose because of his forethought and leadership.

Of course, leadership without a vision does little good. At the heart of Roy’s vision was a passion for individual liberty. He had a deep understanding of how easily true freedom is mistaken for mere individualism. He could also see more keenly than most the connection between true human freedom and fiscal policy. The more that individuals control their own spending, the more communities thrive.

Roy’s colleagues tell me that he was consistently one of the most nay-saying legislators in Cheyenne. He voted against far more legislation than he supported. But that does not mean he wanted government to do nothing.

During his time in Cheyenne, Roy was the lead sponsor of 14 bills. Three of these, “Wyoming Legal Tender Act” (2018), “Ad valorem taxation” (2017), and “Senior center meal sales tax exemption” (2016) were signed into law. All of these removed unjust tax burdens from Wyoming citizens.

Roy also led three unsuccessful attempts to move some of Wyoming’s savings into precious metals. His constant concern was to be faithful with the resources God has given to the state today in order to leave a better Wyoming for those born tomorrow. In fact, Roy’s heart for the unborn can also be seen in his co-sponsorship of seven bills to protect the unborn. Three of these were signed into law.

Tax repeals, precious metals and pro-life legislation may strike you as a strange hodge-podge of legislative concerns. I assure you they are not. Roy was deeply imbued with the thinking of America’s founders. Like them, he allowed his faith to penetrate his politics deeply. This allowed him fully to integrate the practical and material needs of people with their social and spiritual needs.

That, I believe, is the greatest legacy that Wyoming has received from Roy Edwards. In our day ideologues are intent on driving faith out of the public square. For seven decades, we have been propagandized to believe that the “separation of church and state” is a constitutional principle. It is not. It is, rather, alien to America’s founding principles and illegitimately imported into American political discourse.

By internalizing this poisonous thought, conservatives often enter into public discourse with their most powerful weapon left in its sheath. They fight for a better community and state with their right arms tied behind their backs. Then, they wonder why truth, justice and goodness continue to lose ground to lies, corruption and evil.

Roy Edwards was not burdened by this false idea. He was unapologetic about his Christian faith and he fully integrated it into his public life. Community service, for him, was not a distraction from his faith. It was the life of faith itself. If this made him appear unsophisticated to some, that is their loss.

In the face of opposition from right and left, Roy had the quiet confidence to stay the course. His principled conservatism was unshakable because it was not rooted in shallow slogans, but in a deep understanding of the human condition.

Roy was a man of Wyoming because he championed its values, not simply because he was born here. He was an ardent defender of a way of life that settled this land and made her communities good and wholesome. By God’s grace we were given many years of his faithful service, and an example to follow into the future.

The Wyoming flag has been flying at half-mast all week. This is an honorable and fitting remembrance of Roy Edwards. When it is again hoisted to its full height, let us carry on with the quiet boldness of people who know where we come from and where we are going. That is the legacy of one Wyoming man.

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Jonathan Lange: Family is the first school says Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos

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By Jonathan Lange, guest columnist

Before entering the pulpit, I was certified as a teacher both in Illinois and in Nebraska. Teacher training inculcated the principle that teachers are “in loco parentis,” that is, in the place of parents. Teaching is an extension of the home, not a replacement of it. 

While myriad faithful teachers work with parents in wholesome cooperation, too often evil cultural forces co-opt the classroom to undermine parental values. The Bible is mocked. The family is undermined. America’s worldview, oriented toward a transcendent God, is replaced by a worldview where random chance creates nothing of meaning, goodness or purpose.

Recently, Betsy DeVos, secretary of the U.S. Department of Education identified the French Revolution as the source of these cultural forces. It spawned the “view that education was a responsibility of government – not of parents.” Her recent speech at Hillsdale College got my attention.

“Let’s begin by reasserting this fundamental truth: the family is the ‘first school,’” said DeVos. “Many in Washington think that, because of their power there, they can make decisions for parents everywhere. In that troubling scenario, the school building replaces the home, the child becomes a pawn, and the state replaces the family.” 

In Washington, money is power—and the Department of Education controls $68 billion annually. Since its inception in 1980, it has spent over a trillion dollars of taxpayer money. By distributing money with strings, it drowns out the educational choices of parents in favor of multinational corporations and special interests, politicians and unions.

That inversion of priorities is what she wants to change. “When I took on this role, I said from day one that I’d like to work myself out of a job,” DeVos said. That means empowering parents, not politicians. “Our schools exist because we pay for them,” she said. Therefore, “I fight against anyone who would have government be the parent to everyone.”

Drawing on her own Dutch heritage, DeVos spoke about the legacy of Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920). In the wake of the French Revolution its impulse to displace the family with government influenced Dutch law. Education became the responsibility of the government alone—to the exclusion of parents. 

Kuyper came to the defense of Dutch parents and criticized the government that “claimed the right to set up the school for all children.” To the contrary, DeVos said, “the education of children is within the family’s sphere, so parents are ‘called’ to ‘determine the choice of school’ for their children.”

Kuyper worked for 43 years to return control of education dollars from the government to parents. Finally, in 1917, “Dutch families won a constitutional amendment,” said DeVos, “which gave children’s futures back to parents. And today, they are in control of their education dollars to pay for their kids to attend the schools of their choosing.” This is the legacy that she wants for America as well.

Readers of this column may remember 1917 as the very same year when the Communists in Mexico took over Roman Catholic schools and outlawed all religious education. In that same year, 1917, the Bolsheviks seized all the educational institutions of the Russian Orthodox Church. Government control of is a totalitarian theme.

DeVos understands that school choice lies at the very heart of human freedom. So do parents. A September survey from RealClear Opinion Research found that three out of four registered voters want school choice. This is a non-partisan issue. Independents (73%), Democrats (72%) and Republicans (76%) all agree. 

Parents of students in both public schools (78%) and private schools (79%), are equally interested in school choice. DeVos is not so much pushing an agenda as riding a wave. “If we get the family and its freedom right, everything else that’s wrong about our culture will right itself. Rebuild the family, restore its power, and we will reclaim everything right about America, and us.”

That is why the Department of Education actively supports the bipartisan School Choice Now Act. “At the end of the day,” said DeVos, “we want parents to have the freedom, the choices, and the funds to make the best decisions for their children.” 

The department also fought alongside the families of Montana all the way to the Supreme Court. In June they won the Espinoza v. Montana case. This case struck down the anti-religious “Blaine Amendments” designed to require parents who want a choice in education to pay twice. First, they have to pay for a public education, which they don’t want. Then, they have to pay again for the education of their choosing.

American families, with one voice, are demanding freedom to regain control over educational dollars. They know that a free society begins with educational freedom. 

Secretary DeVos is listening and responding. Will Wyoming’s legislators and educators join her?

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Jonathan Lange: Anonymous Attacks On A Wyoming Church Are Deeply Wrong

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By Jonathan Lange, guest columnist

The hate-fueled riots of the past four months have left scores of churches vandalized, torched and desecrated. When war is waging in the streets, it is an especially dark kind of evil that targets people and institutions dedicated to the Prince of Peace.

Last summer’s rash of attacks on church property thankfully spared Wyoming churches. However, the same destructive hate visited our state in a different form. An anonymous attacker has published threats against Open Door Church in Gillette, Wyoming.

In letters addressed to the secretary of state, the governor, the attorney general, and to numerous media outlets in Gillette—along with the unsubstantiated threat of a filing a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)—the author is urging multiple government agencies and media outlets to harass the church with investigations. Threatening the tax-exempt status of a church, the letter writer’s obvious intent is to close the doors of Open Door Church. He or she even goes so far as to address members of the church directly, insinuating that they should withhold offerings.

All of this is an over-the-top bid to intimidate the church into silence. Why? What has it done to deserve this financial terrorism? When COVID closed the public library to an event featuring local churchgoers running for public office, Open Door Church opened its doors to them to use its facility. Even though it was not an official church event, the anonymous letter writer would like to burn it down.

The spurious basis for this attack is that the appearance of four candidates for public office, “was conducted in a religious institution subject to non-profit status.” Note the word, “subject.” In this twisted view of the world, non-profit status subjugates churches to the government. It gets worse. The letter goes on to claim: “They acquire this [non-profit] status by promising not to engage in certain political lobbying or campaigning.”

In these two sentences, the anonymous letter writer expresses an astounding ignorance of federal laws governing the relationship of churches to the state. First, non-profit status is not “acquired” by churches. It is—and always has been—a pre-political reality—just as human beings have “the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” because they are human beings, and not because the government grants it to them. So also, churches are exempt from taxes by virtue of their being churches and not from the conditional largess of the government. Churches in communist regimes are required to make promises as a condition of recognition. Churches in America are not.

The anonymous author can, perhaps, be excused for his ignorance because of the confusion introduced by the so-called “Johnson Amendment.” In 1954, future president, Lyndon Baines Johnson, introduced retaliatory legislation into the United States Senate.

Johnson was upset that some churches in Texas openly opposed his re-election bid. So, he persuaded his colleagues to insert a condition into IRS code for 501(c)3 corporations that stipulated they, “not participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.”

This language, limiting the speech of any church that incorporates under paragraph 501(c)3, is obviously unconstitutional. For this reason, in 66 years, it has never been enforced. Not only has no court of law ever stripped a church of 501(c)3 status for violating this amendment, the IRS itself has never once taken a church to court.

Despite its obvious unconstitutionality, legislators have not repealed the amendment. Therefore, in a bid to challenge it in court, Pulpit Freedom Sunday was organized in the summer of 2008. Numerous ministers preached sermons that endorsed specific candidates. These sermons were recorded and sent to the IRS inviting a legal challenge. The IRS—even under the infamous directorship of Lois Lerner—refused to enforce the amendment.

The Johnson Amendment is not lawful, but it is a useful cudgel against religious voices. As long as it remains on the books, the mere threat of litigation can be used to intimidate churches into silence on the issues and candidates of the day. This is exactly how it is being used in Gillette. The anonymous letter writer is figuratively pointing a gun at Open Door Church in order to silence it. Whether he knows that it is an empty gun, or is misinformed enough to think it is loaded, it is still an assault on the church.

To be clear, even if a church officially hosts candidates for public office, it is not in violation of the law. Lest there be any doubt about this, Federal Election Commission (FEC) chair, Trey Trainor, took to the airwaves on September 15.

He noted that, “One of the first things he [President Trump] did when he came into office in 2017 was issue an executive order to the Department of the Treasury, telling them that they could no longer enforce that provision of the law and that religious organizations needed to be treated the same as every other organization. The Johnson Amendment is still on the books but, with lack of enforcement authority by the executive agency, it’s a law that’s not going to be enforced.”

Key to understanding why the Johnson Amendment is unenforceable is the phrase, “treated the same as every other organization.” According to Trainor, “the test that the Department of the Treasury uses now is: ‘If that same speech would come from a non-religious organization, could it be prosecuted?’” He goes on to answer his own question. “Clearly it would be First-Amendment activity for any other organization to engage in. And, therefore, the church should be able to engage in it.”

The entire interview is well worth listening to. Trainor explains that modern notions of the “separation of church and state” are clearly contrary to the First Amendment. Neither the text nor the intent of the U.S. Constitution can be construed as a prohibition of the church speaking to the state. The entire thrust of the Constitution is to prevent the state from interfering in the speech or activity of the church.

Of course, wise and faithful churches will limit their own speech to matters clearly delineated by the Holy Scriptures. They know that politicizing the Gospel is an affront to God and an abuse of His word. But they also know that it is an affront to God to avoid plain biblical teaching that confronts the rulers of this age. This is not only true of topics like abortion and sexuality. It is also true of specific rulers like Nebuchadnezzar and Herod Antipas.

The U.S. Constitution protects the freedom of churches to perform these duties and to decide these matters of doctrine. The government has no competence or authority to instruct churches about where they should draw these lines.

Not only is the government forbidden to criminalize the church’s speech, it is also forbidden to dampen it through financial pressure. That’s why the executive order specifically forbids “the imposition of any tax or tax penalty,” as well as “the delay or denial of tax-exempt status; the disallowance of tax deductions for contributions made to entities exempted from taxation under section 501(c)(3) of title 26, United States Code; or any other action that makes unavailable or denies any tax deduction, exemption, credit or benefit.”

In this political season, especially, churches should be assured that they are free to be faithful to God’s word without the threat of financial penalties. Attempts to intimidate churches into silence are despicable and shameful. No wonder the attacker is ashamed to sign his name.

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Jonathan Lange: Mexican Communist Experiment Worth Remembering

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By Jonathan Lange, Columnist

The Cristero War is history worth remembering.

This week marks 100 years since the end of Mexico’s revolution (1910-1920). It established a communist constitution that became a model for the USSR.

Even though this unfolded on our southern doorstep, most Americans are unaware of how our neighbors to the south suffered as a result. It is worth remembering—especially against the backdrop of the Marxist revolution being fomented in the streets of several American cities.

The Mexican Constitution of 1917 was steeped in Marxist philosophy. Of its 137 articles, the U.S Library of Congress highlights three. Article 3 made a secular public education mandatory.

Article 27 declared that the government, alone, was the original owner of all land and water in Mexico. Article 123 seized power over the work force.

These Marxist provisions were directed against the family and the Church especially. Under Article 3, religious schools were put under government control and religious instruction was stricken from the curriculum. In its place children were instructed in sexual deviancy and atheistic dogma.

Article 27 was used to seize Church property throughout Mexico. Parochial schools were turned into government-run indoctrination centers. Monasteries, convents and seminaries were taken, and many churches were closed.

Using the powers of Article 123, not only did the government control wages and how many hours a person could work, it also socialized the economy by mandating insurance.

Using its power over labor, it even reached into the church. Foreign-born ministers were deported, and many others removed from their parishes in order to reach the target of one priest per 30,000 citizens.

All this was done under a fig leaf of religious liberty. Article 24 promised: “Every man shall be free to choose and profess any religious belief,” but only, “as long as it is lawful and it cannot be punished under criminal law.” 

Then Article 130 instituted a strict “separation of Church and state.” This made public preaching unlawful while also outlawing the mention of “politics” from the pulpit.

This enabled the government to silence the church’s voice on any number of topics. Clerics were also specifically denied a jury trial. This meant that they could be arrested and executed on the spot. Many were.

Plutarcho Elias Calles was particularly anti-religious. His virulent prosecution of the religious populace sparked widespread resistance. Christians protested by petition, boycott, and other peaceful means. But the Calles government treated these acts as sedition and forcibly closed their churches. 

In 1926 a group of 400 parishioners retook a church in Guadalajara. After the parishioners ran out of ammunition and surrendered, the government stormed the church and killed the priest and his vicar. This was the opening skirmish in the Cristero War.

Cristero is a name deriving from the last words of Father Rodrigo Alemán. With a noose around his neck, his executioners shouted at him, “who lives?”

He responded “Cristo Rey” (Christ the King.) They tightened the noose and repeated the process three times until he died with this confession on his lips. 

Cristo Rey became the rallying cry of a war that claimed 90,000 lives over three years. It ended when the government agreed to back off from enforcing all of the anti-religious provisions of the 1917 constitution.

Even after the U.S.-brokered armistice, thousands more Cristeros were assassinated.

It was not until 1992 that Mexico repealed the anti-religious articles of the Constitution. Today, a century after the Marxist revolution, Mexico is still paying a steep price.

The decades-long devastation of religious and family life continues to have its oppressing effect.

This sad tale is not that far from us. Recent riots that began by targeting Civil War statues have already pivoted to the destruction of churches and church symbols.

The mainstream media has been criminally negligent in its failure to report nearly 50 attacks on church property in two months. 

The communist revolutions in France, Mexico, Russia and elsewhere have a common thread. Marxism refuses to admit individual responsibility as a cause of social problems.

Instead, it locates all problems in impersonal classes and target groups that must be eradicated. For this reason, Marxism must war against Christianity just to prop up its own murderous ideology.

What happened south of our border could also happen here. Property rights (including gun rights), free enterprise, virtuous education and religious liberty are not merely isolated special interests.

They form an integrated worldview where personal responsibility to love the neighbor stands as a bulwark against Marxism’s blind rage against disfavored groups.

Ideas have consequences. Evil ideas have evil consequences. 

Now is the time to understand the ideas that are driving the current wave of senseless destruction. They are neither new nor untried.

They have been infecting and destroying societies for over a century. It’s time to understand them and decisively reject them.

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Jonathan Lange: “I Was There. The ‘Right Wing’ Did Not Hijack The GOP Convention”

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By Jonathan Lange, Columnist

The musical, Hamilton, tells the story of the founding father depicted on the ten-dollar bill. Alexander Hamilton’s contributions to America are nothing short of amazing—both in their diversity and in their lasting impact.

Among Hamilton’s many accomplishments: he was the principal author of the Federalist Papers. These documents were written after the Constitutional Convention of 1887 to persuade the people of New York to ratify the Constitution it had crafted.

Hamilton penned 51 of the 85 papers in only six months. They are the best interpretive guide to the U.S. Constitution that we have. If the musical, Hamilton, does nothing more than to revive an interest in the Federalist Papers, our state and country will be the winners.

Ignorance of these papers and of the Constitution they defend renders voters impotent to hold elected officials to account for their violations of constitutional principles. Without this tool, they can only watch helplessly as the promise of America fades away from their children and grandchildren.

As Wyoming approaches the August primaries, it would be great to hear questions about the Federalist Papers asked at candidate forums. The Federalist Papers, like the U.S. Constitution they defend, are not on the fringes of American life; they are at its very core. Candidates should be expected to know and agree with their principles.

The Constitution is as centrist as it gets. No one should be labeled “extreme right-wingers” for taking time to know our common foundation and defending it against perversions. Both the Right and the Left of the political spectrum ought to stand for the Federalist Papers.

That would be a giant step forward from the petty bickering and identity politics that characterize most of today’s political discourse. Consider the press coverage of the recent Wyoming Republican Party convention.

For the past three weeks, we have been treated to a steady stream of misrepresentations of the convention’s happenings. A few of the delegates who voted with the minority on key issues have received extremely disproportionate representation in the press.

Stories and opinion pieces, written by people whom I never saw at the convention, have flipped the narrative. Almost every vote was decided by a near-70 percent majority. This is anything but a small cadre from the “radical right.” Those peddling the narrative that some “far-right party leadership” hijacked the convention are lying to you.

The delegates and the delegates alone guided the conventions decisions. First, they ratified the election results from the May 9, 2020 online convention. Second, they adopted a platform that embodies the constitutional principles laid  out in the Federalist Papers. Third, they clarified that donations intended to support this constitutional platform should go to candidates who actually support it.

If any delegate could show that the GOP platform did not faithfully represent constitutional principles, the convention would have gladly adopted any improvements needed. That deep desire to uphold and support the Constitution and the principles of Hamilton, Madison and Jay characterized the entire convention.

Those who portray this desire as, somehow, “right-wing” should be ashamed of themselves, as should those who spread lies in the media and level personal attacks against party leadership. Open and honest debate on constitutional principles would elevate public discourse. Hiding policy disagreements by incessant personal attacks does not.

One major theme of Hamilton, the musical, centers on the question: Who tells your story? Much hinges on this question. The enemies of Hamilton sought to tell his story in the worst light possible. Aaron Burr first made a personal attack on his reputation. Eventually, Burr killed him in a duel. But Hamilton’s wife, Elizabeth, told his true story.

It is amazing how a man so instrumental in the formation of the American republic came so close to being lost to history. Had it not been for Elizabeth’s dogged determination to gather the facts and tell her husband’s story, this amazing man and the principles that he stood for may never have been known to our generation.

The same goes for the principles and people of our day. It is not enough to know the truth and keep it to yourself. We are all responsible for telling the story. Just because one narrative is told with a megaphone does not make that story true. The powerful and dominating enemies of Hamilton could not ultimately defeat the story that his faithful wife told.

Elizabeth’s voice was small but it was true and steady. Americans know the face of Hamilton and carry his picture in their wallet in large part because of Elizabeth’s voice.

We can honor her work by studying the Constitution that he helped to create. We can advance his cause by telling the true stories of those who labor to uphold Hamilton’s principles still today.

Jonathan Lange: ‘All Men Created Equal’ Is Creed That Founded The USA

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By Jonathan Lange, Columnist

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Two weeks ago, this column set about to rescue our common sense of morality from the false accusation that it is uniquely Christian. It pointed out that the Cardinal Virtues predated Christianity by four centuries and are understood instinctively throughout the world.

That remains true, but there is more to the story. There is also a unique contribution that Christianity has given to America. G.K. Chesterton wrote, “America is the only nation in the world that is founded on a creed. That creed is set forth with dogmatic and even theological lucidity in the Declaration of Independence.” That is, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” 

Few societies have ever believed a thing so radical. None had ever placed the idea at the center of its public life. Critics of America deny that we ever believed it at all. Slave states, the Indian wars, Japanese internment camps and Jim Crow seem to prove their point.

But Americans universally condemn these injustices, and more. That condemnation, wherever it is found, confirms America’s founding creed to be right and true. 

The 56 signers of the Declaration were aware from the start that their bold creed was contradicted by the very existence of slavery. Washington, Jefferson, and other slave owners, were acutely aware that their declaration, sooner or later, would require the end of slavery. They signed their names to the Declaration not in hypocrisy, but in solemn pledge to make American life—including their own lives—conform to their beliefs. 

It would take more than eight decades of strife, capped by a war that cost 625,000 lives, to right that wrong. The 13th Amendment brought America one step closer to a just society. More steps followed and still more are required. The claim that “all men are created equal,” continues to challenge every unjust treatment of human beings from Jim Crow to broken Indian treaties, to America’s total abandonment of 60 million unborn children. 

America continues both to believe that all men are created equal, and to strive against every law that would contradict it. These twin realities bring us to an even more fundamental creed. The ongoing quest to root out injustice requires belief that redemption is real. Christ died for all, and anyone can repent and be forgiven by His blood.

Human life is not about perfectionism but redemption. No person perfectly lives up to his or her own beliefs. Redemption is not about atoning for your own sins or demanding full payment from those who sin against you. It is about restitution paid by another—ultimately by God through the crucifixion of Jesus. That is the uniquely Christian idea embedded in America’s creed. 

Only when the price of justice is paid by God does forgiveness become a reality. This alone can create a space where the bonds of love grow. Without infinite forgiveness, the demands of justice are insatiable, and peace is impossible.

The turmoil in America today is not a result of imperfectly living up to the creed that, “all men are created equal.” We have struggled with this from the beginning. Turmoil results when striving for justice is cut off from its necessary grounding of forgiveness and redemption. 

Where repentance, redemption and forgiveness do not reign supreme, hate and turmoil fills the void. Lacking the grace that redemption and forgiveness provide, each person, individually, is driven into a posture of self-defense and counter-attack. Admit no wrong. Apology is weakness. Demand justice. Give no mercy. Forgiveness is betrayal. 

In this toxic stew, people are no longer defined by their humanity, but by their sins—real or perceived. No one is equal. Each seeks to dominate. 

The founders of the republic understood that without the possibility of redemption, there can be no change for the better. They understood that utopian visions of a perfect society cannot bring about the perfection they desire. To the contrary, they cause obsession with the injustices of others and willful blindness to their own.

They also knew that the grace of redemption could not be regulated by the state, but only received through the Church. So, they asserted only what was knowable by nature in their Declaration of Independence—that “all men are created equal.” The revelation of redemption through Christ was protected by the First Amendment and left to the Church alone. 

While repentance and redemption are possible only in Christ, they are the unwritten foundation of our entire republic. Without them, no reparations and no restitution will ever suffice. Our present turmoil will continue until all society is burned to the ground. 

But through repentance and redemption, human dignity is restored and the bedrock ideal of human equality is grounded in the Creator and Redeemer of all mankind.

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Jonathan Lange: The Purpose Of Identity Politics Is To Divide And Conquer

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By Jonathan Lange, Columnist

In the opening pages of the Gulag Archipelago, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn recounts how the secret police arrested millions of Russian citizens by secret midnight raids. Sleeping citizens would be awakened by the sound of their door bursting open. 

They would watch helplessly as every drawer was emptied and every mattress overturned. Eventually, they would be led away without need of guns or shackles. Terror was the tool. Neighbors who heard the crash would pretend not to notice for fear that they may be next. With each arrest the will to resist was further drained.

After recounting these methods, Solzhenitsyn noted, “how we burned in the camps later, thinking: What would things have been like if …people had not simply sat there in their lairs, paling with terror at every bang of the downstairs door and at every step on the staircase, but had understood they had nothing left to lose and had boldly set up in the downstairs hall an ambush of half a dozen people with axes, hammers, pokers, or whatever else was at hand?”

What is it that prevented the millions of Russian citizens from offering any meaningful resistance to the regime that would terrorize them for seven decades? No nation can be enslaved by direct power. Russia was divided before it was conquered. The tools of division are hatred and fear. 

Hatred is created by inventing ever-new categories of people, and setting them against one another. America’s motto, e pluribus unum (out of many, one,) must be reversed. The purpose of identity politics is simply to divide and conquer.

Divided people can then be manipulated by fear. When every man is for himself, a threat to his job or social standing leaves him helpless. Promise him that the threat will subside if he doesn’t make a fuss, and he will usually take the bait. The few who are not cowed by the unspoken threat must be made into public examples so that the rest will be too afraid to stand together. 

All it takes to counter such terror is the simple resolve to be united. “If…if…,” Solzhenitsyn continued. “If only we had stood together against the common threat, we could easily have defeated it. So, why didn’t we?” 

He answered, “We didn’t love freedom enough. And even more – we had no awareness of the real situation…. We purely and simply deserved everything that happened afterward.” 

These are powerful words. They challenge us today. Do we love freedom enough? How much do we value freedom? What price are we willing to pay to keep it?

When freedom is devalued our will to defend it is diminished. If freedom is nothing more than the selfish pursuit of doing “whatever I want,” who will die in its defense? 

Don’t let freedom be cheapened. True freedom, has never been about doing whatever you want but about doing what is right. It is about living up to the highest ideals of your own humanity. Freedom to raise a family and build a just civilization is freedom worth dying for. 

What price will you to pay for freedom? Are you willing to invest serious money in your children’s education? Are you willing to teach them at home and attend school board meetings—even run for the school board—to improve their moral education?

Are you willing to spend serious money to support candidates that will fight for true and noble freedoms against those who would debase our culture and enslave us further to debt and vice? 

Recently Charlie Kirk, founder of Turning Point USA, spoke in Gillette and asked a simple question of his audience: Are you willing to spend as much on the election of good candidates as you spend on coffee? The average American spends about $10 per day on coffee. Imagine that multiplied by 100 million. 

How might that capital offset the multinational corporations that incessantly divide and debase us. What if… What if…? Solzhenitsyn asked. What if we “had boldly set up in the downstairs hall an ambush of half a dozen people with axes, hammers, pokers, or whatever else was at hand”? He concluded that it would have changed the world and prevented the misery and deaths of millions.

Will we be asking a similar question years from now? What if… What if… we had spent as much money on good rulers as we spent on coffee? What if we had spent as much time on educating our kids as we spend on entertainment? What if we had spent as much energy on loving our neighbor as we spend arguing with strangers?

The value of freedom is infinite. If we are unwilling to spend mere pocket change in its defense, we will purely and simply deserve everything that happens afterwards.

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Jonathan Lange: Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?

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By Jonathan Lange, Cowboy State Daily columnist

Why can’t we all just get along? Since the L.A. riots in 1992, many have breathed out these words in despair and confusion. But, take courage! This question actually has an answer. And in the answer, there is a way forward.

Already in 1978, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn put his finger on America’s problem and showed us the way forward. It was delivered by way of a commencement address at Harvard University titled, “A World Split Apart.” The audience, expecting to hear the Russian dissident criticize Soviet communism, was scandalized when he turned the tables.

With devastating accuracy, he showed how America was abusing its own freedom by wallowing in the same lies that communism forced upon the Russian people. Solzhenitsyn explained that virtue, not material prosperity, leads to freedom and human thriving. By abandoning it, America was enslaving itself.

His warning sounded strange to his audience. Many dismissed him as a quasi-religious moralist. The Ivy Leaguers counted virtue as a quaint vestige of the unenlightened past and were tossing it out of the classroom, the courtroom, and the legislative assembly.

But they were wrong. Long before Christianity came on the scene, public virtue was the single most important element of a functioning society. Plato, 400 years before Christ, first named the four personal qualities that were necessary for people to get along. These have come down to us as the Cardinal Virtues: Prudence, Temperance, Courage, and Justice.

Centuries later, Christian thinkers added Faith, Hope and Love to this list. These are called the Theological Virtues because they are specifically Christian. But the Cardinal Virtues are shared by all humanity.

One of the strangest ironies of our time is that the non-religious Cardinal Virtues have been marginalized under the rubric of “freedom from religion,” while the specifically religious virtue, “Love,” has been emptied of its Christian content and perverted into a political cudgel to beat down every other virtue.

Solzhenitsyn reminded his audience that human beings are more than animals. They have not only a body, but also a spirit. That is why the virtues are absolutely necessary for human society. Without them, societies can never rise above mere animal instinct. The following survey of the Cardinal Virtues will bear this out.

Prudence (wisdom) is the mother of all virtues. It rightly directs all human action toward a good goal. To do so, it requires all people to know the difference between good and evil. It rests on our common sense of right and wrong.

Without the categories of right and wrong, good and evil, there can be no society. Yet it is precisely these categories that are denied any place in public policy. They are treated as merely personal value judgments with no basis in objective truth. “That may be good for you,” we are told, “but it is not good for me.”

Any society unable to speak with a unified voice on the subject of good and evil will never be able to get along. And, every attempt to get along, while avoiding a sober and reasonable discussion of good and evil, will only underscore how unwise and uncivilized that society has become.

Temperance (moderation) is the virtue of controlling the appetite. It recognizes that human beings have built-in needs that must be met, and that meeting these needs gives pleasure. It also recognizes that overindulgence and disordered use of these appetites will always cause great human suffering.

Four of the seven deadly sins are connected to temperance. Gluttony, greed, lust and sloth are overindulgence in food, money, sex and rest respectively. But sin, like virtue itself, is dismissed as a “religious” category. Most forget that it was as familiar in pre-Christian Greece as in the Bible.

But, the pretense that only religious fanatics condemn intemperance is a convenient strategy to divide and conquer. By it many defenders of temperance are shamed out of the public square. This leaves room for a decadent culture not only to tolerate, but to celebrate and encourage such sins.

Courage (fortitude) is the virtue that is most in short supply today. It is the virtue that overcomes personal fear in order to do what is right. It is especially necessary today because Americans have become so entangled in their appetites for public approval and economic success that the Twitter mob and the Cancel Culture can easily silence those who lack this virtue.

Think about how many politicians, teachers, church leaders and businesses have been frightened into silence, or even into public apology for speaking their mind. Solzhenitsyn put America’s lack of courage up front in his critique. She has not gotten any braver in the four decades since.

Justice (righteousness) is the final virtue in Plato’s list. It is the constant and permanent determination to give everyone his or her rightful due. Prudence—the intellectual ability to discern good and evil—can tell you what is right and just. Justice is the willpower to do the right thing without regard to persons.

When Lady Justice is depicted in art, she is always blindfolded because she operates without respect of persons. When money, status, or public opinion skews the application of justice, it is evil. Social justice that judges class membership but ignores individual acts of good and evil is inherently unjust.

It has been a very long time since our political system paid attention to this virtue. America has been deluded into thinking that justice requires strict moral neutrality. This lie has driven our common sense of good and evil out of the public square. This foolishness has brought us to the brink of disaster.

While the Cardinal Virtues do not establish any particular religion, their exclusion is motivated by a materialistic worldview that hates the very idea of religion. This worldview is itself a religion that denies the very spirit of humanity and has led to the slaughter of millions and the enslavement of billions around the globe.

While Solzhenitsyn knew the evils of communism, he saw clearly that it sprang from virtue-less materialism. He observed that “through intense suffering our country has achieved a spiritual development of such intensity that the Western system in its present state of spiritual exhaustion does not look attractive.”

As a direct result of that development, countries of the former Soviet Union are rebuilding their societies by an unabashed return to the virtues. Poland, Serbia and Hungary, among others, are leading by example. If America is unwilling to take their advice, Solzhenitsyn predicted that it “would be broken by the pitiless crowbar of events.”

Mobs that burn, loot and deface statues may well portend the events that Solzhenitsyn warned about 42 years ago. No society can deny human nature forever. It will either be prudent enough to listen to those who have gained wisdom through suffering, or it must undergo its own bitter lessons.

How America responds to this present hour will determine the outcome for our children and grandchildren. They will either endure great suffering or enjoy true freedom. They will also have the clarity of hindsight to judge this present generation. By Prudence, Temperance, Courage and Justice our generation can renew America’s freedom. Without these, history will be a harsh judge.

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