The Real News of the Month

April 2007
Volume 14, Number 4

Editor: Joe Sobran
Publisher: Fran Griffin (Griffin Communications)
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  -> What Obama Can Do
  The Sobran Forum
  -> Religious Human-Rights Discrimination?
Cartoons (Baloo)
"Reactionary Utopian" Columns Reprinted in This Issue


What Obama Can Do
(pages 1-2)

     So Barack Obama has Big Momma on the canvas. When it 
comes to fundraising, he has essentially beaten La 
Hillary at her own game, nearly matching her $26 million 
but with far more donors. 

     And since we're all a wee bit tired of her, he's the 
sentimental favorite. It's the young underdog versus the 
aging Ueberfrau. 

     When you're the brawny Goliath, you can't play for a 
tie. A draw with skinny little David can't be spun as a 
"moral victory." If the bookies are picking you to squash 
him like a bug, you'd better not let him embarrass you. 

     Obama has already beaten the point spread. This can 
only sap the Clinton team's morale and give prospective 
donors grave doubts. 

     Obama is on his best behavior. He's running as Bill 
Cosby, not Richard Pryor, as if he's afraid of seeming 
uppity and would rather be safely solemn. Too bad. Think 
of the fun he could have by abandoning strict propriety 
and tweaking Hillary a bit: 

     "Mrs. Clinton, if elected president, would you 
return at least some of the White House furniture you and 
your husband made off with?" 

     "Mrs. Clinton, you are known as a feminist leader. 
What steps would you as president take to protect female 
White House interns from harassment in the workplace?" 

     "Mrs. Clinton, it has been said that if you win the 
presidency, we will have a known sexual predator back in 
the White House. Care to comment?" 

     These are the sort of questions the public would 
remember long after her answers, supposing she could 
answer at all. But such playfulness just isn't Obama's 
style. In a more serious vein, however, there is 
something else he can do, something unexpected that would 
enhance his stature. 

     He can call on President Bush to resign from office. 

     Many Democrats would like to impeach Bush but don't 
dare to try. For one thing, they think it's too late, and 
they have a point. Bush has less than two years to go, 
and impeachment is now a long, slow process, almost as 
protracted as a presidential race. 

     This is regrettable; it should be no harder than 
overriding a veto -- a short debate and a vote, followed 
by summary dismissal, if warranted. In essence, it's the 
firing of a servant, a public servant, for abuse of his 
office, compounded, in this case, by gross incompetence. 
But he could still have his pension and other lavish 
perks usually denied to a disgruntled former employee of 
the U.S. Government. 

     In other societies, honor has imposed much sterner 
penalties on disgraced rulers: suicide, beheading, 
hara-kiri. Obama wouldn't be asking Bush to fall on his 
sword; he'd merely be urging him to behave honorably for 
the sake of the country. Is a single act of honor too 
great a sacrifice to demand of a man who has sent so many 
others to die? 

     Nor could Obama be easily accused of partisan 
motives. At this point Bush has become a burden to the 
Republicans and an asset to the Democrats. If he stepped 
down, it would help his own party more than their 
opponents. And most patriots would be relieved. 

     Last fall's elections amounted to a national 
no-confidence vote on this president. If he were a prime 
minister under a parliamentary system, he would already 
be gone. 

     We can assume that Bush, being Bush, would not 
resign. In today's politics, the very idea of honor is, 
as they say, outside the box. But by asking for his 
resignation in the name of honor, Obama would set a new 
standard for politics, in the sense that everything old 
is new again. 

     Such a gesture would have deep resonance and inspire 
serious discussion. Bush could hardly ignore it. And it 
would earn Obama great respect. Honest Republicans might 
join him, agreeing that Bush's presidency can no longer 
be salvaged. 

     The shadow of dishonor would fall across the 
remainder of Bush's term. As it should. 

     But the decks would be cleared for a new Republican 
presidential candidate in 2008, one who had kept his 
distance from Bush. The big loser would be John McCain, 
who not only supports the Iraq war but, as 60 MINUTES has 
just shown, lies about it even more brazenly and 
preposterously than Bush does. 

     Obama has the chance to win the gratitude even of 
Americans who have given up on voting.


Religious Human-Rights Discrimination?
by Lawrence A. Uzzell
(pages 5-6)

[Author's Note: Among the secular human-rights watchdogs, 
Human Rights Watch (HRW) has a far better record than 
Amnesty International at taking religious freedom 
seriously. An essay in HRW's world report 
( grapples 
seriously with some of the fundamental principles at 
stake and shows a refreshing openness to self-scrutiny. 
The following article from THE PUBLIC JUSTICE REPORT 
includes my commentary on the pluses and the minuses of 
HRW's thinking. THE PUBLIC JUSTICE REPORT is published by 
the Annapolis-based Center for Public Justice 
(, which in its own words is "committed 
to public service that responds to God's call to do 
justice in local, national, and international affairs. We 
believe Christians should contribute to the renewal of 
political life."]

     In 1997, when Russia enacted a law restoring state 
control over religious life, Human Rights Watch worked 
harder than any other secular human-rights organization 
to warn the world. The leaders of the New York-based 
organization, unlike their counterparts in Amnesty 
International, showed by both word and deed that they 
took religious freedom seriously as one of the 
fundamental human rights protected by international law. 
But Human Rights Watch, like many other groups, still 
wants the state to favor certain secular belief systems 
over religious ones. If governments follow its standards, 
they will treat religious believers as second-class 
citizens by comparison with preferred minorities such as 
feminists and homosexuals.

     The latest annual WORLD REPORT of Human Rights Watch 
includes an important essay by staffers Jean-Paul Marthoz 
and Joseph Saunders titled "Religion and the Human Rights 
Movement." The two suggest that there may be a "schism 
between the human-rights movement and religious 
communities." That formulation is problematic, implying 
that there is a single "human-rights movement" with a 
uniform creed rather than a range of pro-freedom 
ideologies with serious disagreements among themselves. 
But the authors deserve credit for being open to 
self-scrutiny. They ask, "Is the 'liberal' human-rights 
movement in fact implicitly imperialistic?" They rightly 
warn, "The secular human-rights movement sometimes sees 
conservative religious movements as an artifact of 
history and itself as contemporary, ahead on the 
'infinite road of human progress and modernity.' ... 
Rather than trying to enshrine the human-rights project 
into different faiths and cultures, of trying to 
legitimize human-rights norms within religions and not 
alongside or against them, human-rights activists might 
be tempted to dismiss such faiths and cultures as 
obstacles to economic or human-rights modernity."

     On issues such as the French and Turkish 
governments' bans on Muslim head scarves, Marthoz and 
Saunders clearly come down on the side of individual 
religious conscience against state-imposed conformity. 
They also acknowledge the role of religious believers as 
allies of secular activists on issues such as ethnic 
cleansing in Sudan. However, they see the "high points of 
this convergence" as already a decade behind in the past. 
They observe, "Essential disagreements appear 
increasingly to pit secular human-rights activists 
against individuals and groups acting from religious 
motives ... on issues such as reproductive rights, gay 
marriage, the fight against HIV/AIDS, and blasphemy 

     Marthoz and Saunders are undoubtedly right that "the 
list of contentious issues is growing." But they need to 
reflect more about why this is so. After all, it is not 
the traditional Christians, Jews, or Muslims who have 
changed their positions about the issues mentioned. On 
most of these questions the views that Human Rights Watch 
sees as "fundamentalist" have been shared by nearly all 
cultures in nearly all periods of history until the very 
recent past. By taking for granted that the latest 
avant-garde trends on these issues are unquestionably and 
universally superior, Human Rights Watch commits its own 
form of "fundamentalism": the complacent assumption that 
the present is always wiser than the past. Such 
chronological provincialism is as irrational as 
geographical provincialism; a truly cosmopolitan 
human-rights movement should transcend both. Indeed, 
closer study of why the "contentious issues" are growing 
would suggest that it is the secular left that has 
changed -- by becoming less pluralistic. The left wing of 
the human-rights movement used to call for government 
neutrality on issues such as homosexuality, but now it 
seeks to harness government power to suppress Christian 
and other critics of avant-garde lifestyles.

     Marthoz and Saunders commendably declare that "the 
human-rights movement should do more to defend religious 
freedom," and that this defense should embrace even 
"those who would threaten liberal conceptions of rights 
if they were in power, so long as they do not physically 
attack or otherwise impinge on the rights of 
nonbelievers." But unfortunately, their organization does 
not consistently observe that standard. Like so many on 
the secular left (unlike secular libertarians on the 
right), Human Rights Watch fails to make the crucial 
distinction between banning an activity and declining to 
subsidize it. It seems uninterested in the rights of 
citizens who as a matter of conscience do not want their 
tax payments used to finance the distribution of 
contraceptives or the performance of abortions.

     Especially striking is the failure of Human Rights 
Watch to discuss the institution of secularized, monopoly 
government schools -- by far the most powerful 
institution in the western world for indoctrination of 
captive children into beliefs that their families do not 
share, at those families' own expense through compulsory 
tax payments. It is difficult to believe that secular 
human-rights advocates would be silent if it were a 
matter of traditionalists coercively indoctrinating the 
children of modernists rather than vice versa.

     Marthoz and Saunders rightly acknowledge that "it 
would be inappropriate for the human-rights community to 
advocate for or against any system of religious belief or 
ideology." But at the same time they praise the 
interreligious dialogues sponsored by UNESCO, such as its 
1994 Barcelona conference with its ambiguous call for 
individuals and communities to stop teaching "that they 
are inherently superior to others." Human Rights Watch is 
far too knowledgeable about today's repressive 
governments not to realize that such governments often 
accuse groups such as the Jehovah's Witnesses of 
illegally "inciting hatred" simply because they teach 
that their own religion is true and others false. Secular 
activists should be more explicit in affirming a 
religious entity's rights to speak out robustly against 
beliefs that it considers heretical and to define its own 
membership requirements. To deny a religion the right to 
enforce its own internal discipline on those who 
voluntarily affiliate with it is in effect to deny it the 
right to exist.

     Religious believers should also have the right to 
denounce activities that they consider immoral. That 
right, which the English-speaking world used to consider 
self-evident, is now under attack in places such as 
Canada, where Christians have been brought to court 
simply for reaffirming the teachings of their sacred 
texts about sexual morality. A Saskatchewan newspaper 
publisher was fined for publishing a paid advertisement 
that quoted Bible passages condemning homosexual 
behavior. Activist judges are turning Canada into a place 
where a citizen cannot publicly state his disagreement 
with the homosexualist agenda; only one side of the 
debate enjoys full freedom of speech. To the best of my 
knowledge the leaders of Human Rights Watch have neither 
specifically endorsed nor specifically opposed this 
ominous development.

     The concept of freedom, like that of equality, 
unfortunately lends itself to utopian abstractions. At 
times the human-rights activists of the secular left 
sound like the disciples of Ayn Rand on the right: both 
tend to see freedom in flat, one-dimensional terms. They 
underappreciate the role that traditional communities 
such as churches and families play not as threats to 
freedom but as guardians of it. Without such 
"intermediate bodies," the individual is left naked and 
defenseless against the state; moreover, neither the 
individual nor the state can effectively replace those 
bodies as producers of certain public goods. As the 
ATLANTIC MONTHLY famously admitted in 1993, "Dan Quayle 
was right" in proclaiming the superiority of traditional, 
two-parent families for securing the long-term well-being 
of children. Five decades earlier Aldous Huxley, who in 
BRAVE NEW WORLD saw even more deeply into the future than 
his contemporary George Orwell, suggested that "as 
political and economic freedom diminishes, sexual freedom 
tends compensatingly to increase." If today's governments 
agree to give newly invented sexual rights priority over 
rights tested by centuries of historical experience, we 
will end up with not more freedom but less.

Reprinted with permission from THE PUBLIC JUSTICE REPORT, 
Third Quarter 2005;

Lawrence A. Uzzell has been president of International 
Religious Freedom Watch 
( since 1998 
and has authored numerous articles on religious freedom 
in the Soviet Union in the WALL STREET JOURNAL, 

Mr. Uzzell worked for the U.S. House Education and Labor 
Committee, and the Senate Education Subcommittee, the 
National Institute of Education, and the Heritage 
Foundation. He was a visiting fellow at the Hoover 
Institution specializing in freedom of conscience in the 
Soviet Union and was vice president of the Jamestown 
Foundation from 1991 to 1995 studying the political and 
economic developments in the former Soviet Union.

Mr. Uzzell was Moscow Representative for the Keston 
Institute from 1995 to 1999 during which time he was 
nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for articles on Russia's 
1997 law restoring state control over religious life.

In February 2006, a stroke impaired his language skills 
somewhat, but he has resumed writing and research 
projects on religious and historical subjects. He can be 
contacted at or at 73 Patchwork Lane, 
Fishersville, Virginia 22939.


REPRINTED COLUMNS ("The Reactionary Utopian")
(pages 2-4, 7-12)

* A Coriolanus in Our Future? (March 8, 2007)

* Family Values, Roman and Republican (March 5, 2007)

* The Shakespeare Bigots (March 22, 2007)

* I Remember Sandy (March 23, 2007)

* My Other Sandy (March 29, 2007)

* An Enemy of the People (March 26, 2007)

* Happy Easter! (April 5, 2007)

* The Science of Expertology (April 12, 2007)

* The Arab Solution (April 16, 2007)


All articles are written by Joe Sobran, except where

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