Interview with Christy Yao, Chair of the Maryland chapter of ASP

by Skylar Covich

SC: Describe a little about your background. Where did you grow up? How did you first get interested in politics?Specifically, how did you get interested in the pro-life and anti-war movements?

CY: I grew up in Silver Spring, Maryland, right outside of Washington, D.C. I first got interested in politics with my interest in environmentalism at the age of four. High school students were putting trash in my mailbox after they got off the school bus; this made me very upset, so I started my first campaign by putting a poorly-written sign up. Less than a year later, I went across the political spectrum and attended my first March for Life. This balancing act would keep giving me headaches as I got further into both environmental and pro-life activism in college.

SC: Another organization you work with is Rehumanize International. Describe their mission and activities.

CY: I was an intern for Rehumanize International last year, and still submit articles to their blog and magazine, Life Matters Journal. Rehumanize is a non-sectarian, non-partisan Consistent Life Ethic organization. They work to create a world free of violence. This includes opposition to abortion, the death penalty, euthanasia, unjust war, and much more. Rehumanize sends speakers and displays to college campuses, as well as participating in protests and activism events around the country and the world. Rehumanize also holds a conference every year.

SC: How did you find the American Solidarity Party and decide to get involved? Are there any issues that you think the ASP should focus on even more?

CY: I first found out about the American Solidarity Party at the Consistent Life Network Conference in 2017. I then learned more about the party at the Rehumanize Conference later in the same year and decided to get involved in early 2018. I would love to see the ASP focus on environmentalism and racial justice, since those are two issues that are very close to my heart. I would also like to see the ASP get more involved on the ground with pro-life issues, such as having a greater presence at events like 40 Days for Life.

SC: You are chair of the American Solidarity Party of Maryland, one of the most active chapters, which is consistently holding meetings and participating at rallies. There are some advantages to being in the D.C. area, yet it seems that any state chapter could find ways to be like yours. Do you have some advice on making that happen?

CY: First of all, thank you! I think the main reason we are so successful is that we are not only in close proximity to D.C., but our state is also so small that we are all in close proximity to each other! Maryland is a small but densely-populated state, so it’s easy to get together. I would advise state chapters to try to meet up as often as possible in person. Putting faces to the names of your members can go a long way. People also often show up who are not very vocal on social media, and they are a valuable resource! Another good idea is to connect with other organizations in your area. We often co-sponsor events with the Consistent Life Network or Pax Christi.

SC: There are some ASP members who are nervous about attending pro-life or anti-war rallies, or aren’t sure whether those rallies matter. What do you think is the role of protest in American politics today? Do you have advice for people thinking of attending their first rally?

CY: Protest is not only important to politics, but to society as well! Protests show people in the general public what their fellow citizens care about and raise awareness about various issues. Politicians are also paying attention when people protest, because protesters are often active voters. The vast majority of protests and rallies I have attended have been very low-stress. Organizers will generally tell participants if there will be opposition to their protest, such as counter-protesters. If someone is still apprehensive about attending a rally or protest, I would recommend that she either go with a friend or have a specific job at the protest, such as taking pictures. Whenever I get discouraged or nervous about a protest or rally, I think about what will matter five years from now. Dirty looks or disagreements last for a minute, but change lasts forever.

Pelicans and Pancakes

Members Gather Informally in Columbus, Ohio

by William Campbell

On a cold and snowy Ohio morning, a small group of people gathered in a Columbus-area Bob Evans restaurant for good company, good conversation, and … pancakes? “Pelicans & Pancakes” is an event created by ASP Columbus as an event intended to get people active in their community. Our discussion ranged across a variety of topics affecting the ASP, from the fundamentals of our platform to ballot access. But by far the topics that generated the most interest were the issues closest to home, which emphasized the need for more grassroots efforts in our party.

Events like “Pelicans & Pancakes” give our members, and those we would like to be members, an opportunity to participate in the conversation about our local and national policies. Where they might get drowned out in the sixty comments on a social media post they feel passionate about online, by having them participate “in-person” at the table, quite literally, their voice can be heard, and their position can be clarified.

The ASP may gain a member or two through online discussion, but the majority of people are not going to be swayed by a Facebook post, or even by an article like this one. They are going to be convinced by friends and family taking the time to share with them the importance of our principles as ASP members, and how those principles inform not just our political positions but also the very way in which we conduct ourselves in our day-to-day lives. How do we truly stand in solidarity with our neighbors if we are not willing to physically stand beside them? Or to put it another way, are we a party that operates in “real life” and in our local communities, or do we just exist behind computer screens and comments on Facebook posts?

For me, I have made the commitment that my labors on behalf of the American Solidarity Party are an extension of my ministry as a Christian man. By that, I mean that I have taken it upon myself to care for my family, my friends, and my neighbors, through prayer and counsel. That counsel often takes the form of encouraging lively conversations about those topics that really matter: the welfare of our earthly bodies and the well-being of our eternal souls. And I believe with my whole heart that the principles of the American Solidarity Party are the natural outgrowth of Christian teachings.

I have heard it said that our party is the “small town” American party. If we want to see our principles impact the society and country the way that we all talk about online, we have to go where the people are. In-person events like “Pelicans & Pancakes” are a low-stakes investment of our time, talent, and treasure. The cost is really just being willing to go out and meet with people and share with them the principles that make us unequivocally Christian Democrats.

Ultimately, people want to feel like they belong and are being heard. They want to participate in the important things that matter in our world. In our digital age, it may seem like such a little thing to sit down, eat, and talk, but it has proved, even in our first social gathering of 2019, very influential and impactful for our people. Frankly, they were excited to be out and meeting with people face-to-face. In fact, we received such positive feedback from our gathering that we are moving quickly to plan more events like this, and we envision bigger goals for our local communities. And it all started with gathering people on Saturday morning over breakfast!

Pancakes helped serve as the starting point for our conversations, but I believe that the “take-home” message is this: it is the “in-person” time that we give to our fellow ASP members that ultimately betters our party and grassroots message. By investing in people, and seeing them in real life, we are making a statement that we value them and their opinions. This will improve us and make us stronger as the “small town” local party, as we continue to work together for the betterment of our families, our neighborhoods, and our nation.

American Solidarity Party Chapters March for Life: LA

Marching We Will Go!

The pro-life struggle includes moments of celebration
by James Hanink

This time I kept my sign. Heck, I could have been the model for it. On one side there’s a silhouette of a “senior” wearing what looks like my cap. His cane is like one we keep handy at home. On the other side, there’s a Gospel truth: Toda Vida tiene dignidad. It’s been so since Creation. The sign is from the annual OneLife LA march. The event joins in spirit the major pro-life marches in Washington, D.C. and San Francisco.

In Los Angeles, the march has its own feel. We begin with a youth rally and close with a family-style picnic. In the course of the day, we visit the information tables of groups and agencies that support the commitment to be pro-life for the whole of life. Representing the American Solidarity Party, I had the chance to introduce this new political vision to people who welcome its message. Among them were Bishop Ochoa, an auxiliary in the largest archdiocese in the country, and a group of students from Thomas Aquinas College, maybe its best liberal arts college.

Next day, out of a sense of duty, I checked the Los Angeles Times. Would it have any coverage of the OneLife event? Nope, not a line. It did cover the Women’s March, though. That march, the same day as ours, had less participation than the year before. There’d been in-fighting among its organizers. Still, one point they could support was “the decriminalizing of sex work.” How cruel an irony in a city plagued by human trafficking.

Now, for me, there’s more than a sign that’s a “take-away” from my latest march. Three points merit emphasis.
First, an important part of the pro-life struggle is people knowing that families and music and the flavor of a fiesta are welcome. The struggle will continue, and it will be daunting. But we can also enjoy moments of celebration.

Second, and it’s a sobering point, our attendance this year was disappointing. There were roughly 15,000 of us, about half of last year’s turn out. People wear down and wear out. There’s the abuse scandal, too, that dispirits many of us.

Third, whatever one thinks about the POTUS, his time in office is limited, and perhaps more limited than the election cycle suggests. And whatever one thinks about the POTUS, he has made significant pro-life contributions. When his presidency ends, we have every reason to expect an indiscriminate and ill-informed backlash against pro-life people. We had best do what we can to anticipate it and get ready to respond.

By the way, there was one other sign at our march that I want to mention. It was handmade. It featured an arrow pointing down to the person carrying it. In the center of the sign, above the arrow, was an identification: Former Planned Parenthood Employee. At the top of the sign there was a question: What am I doing now? On the left side was part of the answer: a picture of praying hands. On the right side was the rest of the answer: Speaking Up!

Yes, let’s all of us go marching on!

Jim Hanink is an independent scholar, albeit more independent than scholarly!

American Solidarity Party Chapters March for Life: Chicago

Chicago March For Life

By Amar Patel

In the process of making plans to attend the 2019 Chicago March for Life, I came across several events that occurred before and afterwards. The march was scheduled from two o’clock to four o’clock in the afternoon starting at Federal Plaza in the heart of the downtown area. Part of me wanted to go to church at Holy Name Cathedral, but examining the map I realized this would require me to figure out parking twice, and I really dislike that process in the city. As luck would have it, I stumbled across a Mass and follow-up brunch hosted by Aid for Women, a local crisis pregnancy support center. The presider was the Rev. Francis “Rocky” Hoffman, who has counseled me in past endeavors, so I thought it was a great chance to see him, help the center in its fundraiser, and not have to rush from my own church to get downtown before the march. Little did I know how many connections I would make.

First, I re-introduced myself to Father Rocky and updated him on my current endeavors in the ASP. He said he would pray for me and insisted that I meet Rep. Dan Lipinski of rare elected pro-life Democrat fame. I met with the congressman and his wife, and he took my card. He was open to future dialogue. I hope to speak to him in the near future.

Then, I spoke to Ryan Bomberger, who delivered the keynote address at the brunch and a speech at the March for Life rally only a few hours later. Ryan is the founder of the Radiance Foundation, a pro-life advocacy group. He gave me permission to share his infographics as necessary to help end the scourge of abortion. He also indicated an interest in the party.

Finally, I had a brief chat with Sheila Liaugminas of Relevant Radio. She was interested in Christian Democracy and a party with roots in Catholic social Teaching. She told me she had just mentioned to someone at brunch about a truly pro-life party. We hoped to connect soon.

After that, ASP Vice-Treasurer, Tai-Chi Kuo, his fiancée, and I met up and went to listen to some stirring speeches at the march. A woman with the daughter she saved with the help of Aid For Women, a Chicago Bears executive, and Jeanne Mancini, March for Life President, were some of the many orators we heard.

The Chicago March was not very long and didn’t have many pro-choice protesters, so the walk was uneventful except for the great luck of having John Hogue, a young ASP member, spot our signs and excitedly join us for the brief jaunt. I enjoyed talking to him and planning future events at the Catholic Worker House where he lives and works. It was a blessed day.

American Solidarity Party Chapters March for Life: DC

DC March for Life

by Christy Yao

I can honestly say the DC March for Life was more crowded than I ever remember it being, and I’ve been to the March close to 20 times. The American Solidarity Party marched with a group of other marchers who support a consistent-life ethic. Rehumanize International organized a rally before the March, which looked nothing like the main rally. The rally the Solidarity Party attended heard from atheists, members of the LGBT community, members of the disability community, and many others.

My two favorite speakers at the Rehumanize Rally brought two of my favorite things with them: a baby and a textbook. Emily Gargani spoke while holding her seven-month-old son Ambrose. Emily is a pro-life nurse, whose beliefs were placed into action when she and her husband found out during an ultrasound that their son had a heart defect. Emily explained how she then had to fight for her son to stay alive, both before and after he was born. Ambrose had surgery when he was just a few days old, and is now doing well. He looked cute as a button in his winter coat, “marching” for the rights of babies like him.

The theme of the March this year was “Pro-Science Pro-Life”. Sarah Terzo, a member of both Secular Pro-Life and the Pro-Life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians (PLAGAL), as well as a writer for Live Action, gave a speech that echoed this. She brought an embryology textbook with her to show that one does not need to be religious to be pro-life. The science is there to tell us that life begins at conception. The unborn is a person whether it is an embryo, zygote, or nine-month-old fetus. The state of development a person is in does not determine her worth.

In my opinion, Rehumanize International always has the best signs. The sign used this year was first made for the Science March of 2017, with textbook citations on how life begins at conception. The backs of the signs had creative hand-made drawings and slogans on them. The one I was carrying said “Abortion is a tool of the patriarchy.” I don’t think there’s a sign in this world I would rather carry. I was all too happy to let my male colleagues carry the ASP signs while I expressed why being a pro-life feminist is so important to me.

After the March, ASP members gathered at the Southeast Neighborhood Library for a discussion led by the Consistent Life Network. Most of the participants in the discussion also were at the Rehumanize Rally, so it was nice to go more in depth on many of the topics that had been brought up at the rally. We discussed both the history, present, and future of the Consistent Life and Pro-Life movements and how we can really make abortion history.

After the discussion, the ASP invited all those at the discussion to come to dinner across the street at a DC favorite, District Taco. Between bites of burritos, the discussion kept flowing about how to further integrate pro-life and pro-peace messages. With a full stomach and a fuller heart, I went home to rest up for representing the ASP the next day at Georgetown’s Cardinal O’Connor Conference.

The Cardinal O’Connor Conference drew students from as far as Sydney, Australia. It was interesting to have students from all around the world share their opinions on the ASP. Some had heard of us, but many had not. The response was overwhelmingly positive from the students we talked to. Many college students agreed that both major parties weren’t getting much done in Washington, and we need a change. It was very heartwarming to see so many young people so passionate about finding comprehensive solutions to ending the crisis of abortion.

The part of the conference I enjoyed most was when I got to sneak away from the ASP table to listen to Serrin Foster, president of Feminists for Life. I’ve heard Foster speak twice before, and each time I have learned more about the cause I’m so passionate about. While she was being introduced, Foster shook hands with many of us in the front rows of the Georgetown Bioethics Library, giving her speech a much more informal feel. I really liked that, and think it made students feel much more comfortable around such an influential woman. Foster told the story of how just 57 people in the National Organization for Women voted to make being pro-choice a part of mainstream feminism, and part of the pro-life feminist Alice Paul’s Equal Rights Amendment. If just 57 people could change history in such a dramatically flawed way, how many people will it take to fix NOW’s mistake?

That is where I think of the ASP. We have so much potential for being world-changers- for taking the message of being “pro-life for the whole life” to the streets. If 57 people could make abortion mainstream, how many will it take of us to make it unthinkable? After all, we have the benefit of science and truth on our side.

Interview with Dr. Hunter Baker, advocate for Christian democracy and religious liberty

Hunter Baker, J.D., Ph.D. is an associate professor of political science at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. He ran in the Republican primary for Tennessee’s 8th congressional district in 2016, and is now an interested supporter of the American Solidarity Party. As stated on his faculty website, he is the author of three books (The End of Secularism, Political Thought: A Student’s Guide, and The System Has a Soul), has also been published in a variety of print and digital publications, and is a research fellow of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

By Skylar Covich

SC:  You ran for Congress in a Republican primary recently. What were the main issues on which you ran? What obstacles did your campaign encounter? Did your experience as a candidate increase your frustration with the two-party system?

HB:  It will sound strange, but I ran because I felt called to run and specifically to run on the issue of religious liberty. The appetite in the electorate was probably more geared toward the economy, but I felt that I needed to try and wake up these predominantly Christian people to the necessity of protecting religious liberty for everyone. Jobs are hugely important; there is no question about that. However, it seems to me that if you don’t have freedom of religion and freedom of conscience, then you lack the essentials necessary for living a life with integrity.

The obstacles were largely financial. It is extremely difficult to get any exposure without a significant amount of money. I made appeals to the press, but their position was largely that they can’t cover everyone, so they cover the folks with large campaign funds. It seems to me that by that standard, if Socrates himself ran, he wouldn’t get any coverage. I outperformed on straw polls when audiences had a chance to hear from me directly. In the end, I finished seventh in a thirteen candidate primary. Everyone who beat me had more money than me. Everyone I beat had less money than me!

When you add the centrality of money to the limitations of our binary system, Americans are choosing from a very limited menu. It seems to me that the faithful Christian ends up in an unsatisfactory position, which is why we need something like Christian democracy (with an American twist).

SC:  You have studied Christian democracy in your academic work. To what extent can Christian democracy succeed as a US political movement? How should it differ from European Christian democracy, and should it use a different label?

HB:  I think the big difference historically is that Europeans needed a Christian party to resist aggressive secularism. The French Revolution was a totally different thing from the American version. Until fairly recently, American Christians could find reasonable alliance with either major party. However, at this point, faithful Christians are not really welcome in the Democratic Party, and faithful Christians get twisted out of shape in important ways by the Republican Party. My personal preference would be to build on the Christian democracy brand because it is highly successful on the broader global stage. I think an American version would be still more strongly pro-life and would have a robust sense of church-state separation rightly understood, but the differences don’t have to be all that great. I think Christian democrats have been better at governing for harmony. That’s something we need. The appeal of a different label is that you get around the objections C. S. Lewis, Jacques Maritain, and others have expressed against using the modifier “Christian” in the name of a political party.

SC:  Perhaps more than most in the American Solidarity Party, you have worked with organizations which advocate free-market capitalism. The American Solidarity Party understands the importance of private enterprise and especially values small businesses, but many of the party members became interested because we are more willing to entertain critiques of capitalism from a pro-life, pro-family perspective than other political parties. How can advocates and critics of capitalism learn from each other and come together?

HB:  I have tended to have a free-market orientation for a couple of reasons. The first is simple prudence: the freer alternatives have clearly outperformed the more collectivist ones. The second reason is that I fear the concentration of power in the hands of government which is, at bottom, a coercive entity. Nevertheless, capitalism can’t survive if the majority of people feel it doesn’t serve them well. We need economic statesmanship of the type Abraham Kuyper advocated, which seeks to unify the interests of rich and poor. It is also important to say that while free markets work tremendously well, they also have drawbacks. You can have a tremendous free market in heroin or pornography, for example.

SC:  Religious liberty has been a frequent topic of discussion within our party. What are some of the most important religious liberty issues currently, and how can we advocate for such liberty as a third party?

HB:  There is little question that gay marriage presents the greatest threat to religious liberty simply because of the way our laws on civil rights work. I was never all that worried about gay marriage as a phenomenon in and of itself. But I knew that when gay marriage became a norm, then all the civil-rights issues would come to bear on anyone attempting to maintain a biblical life and witness on the issue. All of Christian higher education and many Christian non-profits are at risk. In addition, you have to look at the baker and florist cases. The area marked out for faithfulness is very small—just wedding ceremonies—but even that is intolerable to new progressive puritans who seek to enforce their own orthodoxy. I think Democrats have identified religious liberty as a problem, and they seek to reduce the rights associated with it. Republicans—establishment Republicans, in particular—have no appetite for a fight over religious liberty because they think it is a losing issue. A third party can help a lot on the issue.

Member Perspectives: Toxic Capitalism Won’t Solve Toxic Masculinity

The strength of the American Solidarity Party will always be our passionate defense of our four principles of respect for life, social justice, environmental stewardship, and a more peaceful world. However, it can also come from how we respectfully argue our positions on other issues that challenge our communities. Here ASP member Grace Garrett offers these thoughts about capitalism and toxic masculinity.

Toxic Capitalism Won’t Solve Toxic Masculinity

By Grace Garrett
From the Platform:

“We believe that the U.S. economy should be built around the needs of the human person, rather than focused primarily on consumption and the accumulation of wealth. It should create opportunities for self-sufficiency, while encouraging ownership of our responsibility to look out for one another.”

You’ve got to hand it to Gillette: they really managed to rile people up about mid-range razors.  They ran an advertisement which addressed toxic masculinity and the #metoo movement, and suddenly some antifeminists on Twitter are flushing their razors down the toilet.

So, at least for the sake of your plumbing, step away from the razor and let’s take a moment to discuss how we got here.  Despite the term “feminist” being used as a ubiquitous epithet, as a feminist, I love men.  It’s the culture of toxic masculinity that hates men.  A short definition of toxic masculinity would be that toxic masculinity is the way misogyny hurts men.  Toxic masculinity tells men to eschew “feminine” behaviors, so that they can’t cry; they can’t rest when they’re hurt or sick; they can’t be nurturing as fathers or lovers; if they’re raped or assaulted, they can’t report it; and when toxic masculinity has had its way with men, they’re left with shocking rates of disability, suicide, addiction, failed relationships, criminality, and overall dissatisfaction with their lives.  Men are separated from their most virtuous selves when they are under the influence of toxic masculinity.

But do you know where this culture of misogyny comes from?  Toxic capitalism. Toxic capitalism tells men that they need to provide more stuff or they’re doing an inadequate job.  If their wives aren’t driving their own nice cars and their kids aren’t in the best private schools, according to toxic capitalism, they have failed as men. Toxic capitalism bombards us with images of women in bikinis splayed on the new Corvette and advertises first-class seats with the bodies of nubile flight attendants. Toxic capitalism knows that violence and rage are addictive and fills our televisions and consoles with unspeakable acts of violence. Toxic capitalism gives men and women jobs that drain the life out them without any sense of ownership nor any hope of financial security, in order to maximize profits for the élite. Many men have been left feeling emasculated; they were taught that a real man provides for his family, and now that they are failing to do so, they amp up other attributes of traditional masculinity such as aggression or sexual pursuit in unhealthy ways.

Advertisements from huge companies—like Gillette’s parent company, Procter & Gamble—definitionally follow the culture and appeal to what is already trending to attract potential customers.  Advertisements do not drive the culture; they simply co-opt the values which are already popular in our culture in order to make a profit. Procter & Gamble is a beneficiary and proponent of toxic capitalism with a 287:1 CEO to worker pay ratio and a history of working with vendors who utilize slave labor.    Procter & Gamble is not going to save us from toxic masculinity; it’s not going to give workers ownership of the work of their hands or stop objectifying women in its advertisements.   When the culture moves on from the #metoo moment, so will Procter & Gamble.

At the end of the day, those of us who are invested in a more humane culture should take a moment to be grateful that Gillette didn’t advertise their razors with a pornified image of a woman twerking on a razor, playing into the “commodification and exploitation” of human beings arising from the easy access to pornography which our platform so wisely condemns, or with some “be a real man, get in a fist fight” nonsense. This advertisement, as false as it may be, is a step in the right direction. But we cannot depend on fickle corporate advocacy to remain “woke” and respectful.

We in the American Solidarity Party often joke that we are political unicorns.  We are for the family, and for robust support of “measures that promote stable and healthy marriages and aid families in the raising of children” which are commonly associated with the American right wing, for policies that allow access to high quality childcare and accommodations for working parents, which are further left, and for “the right of workers to be compensated for the wealth they create and to participate in economic decision-making” and the promotion of worker-owned coöperatives, which brings us far outside of the realm of the toxic capitalism that Procter & Gamble practices.  But these positions are part of the same abiding opposition to dehumanization. We want men and women to be whole, and we oppose societal and economic forces which make that wholeness less attainable.

“Woke” advertising campaigns are all well and good, but let’s not forget that advertisers can only reflect the culture we create.  We need to use the Gillette advertisement to remind ourselves that we will never be truly liberated from toxic masculinity until we are liberated from toxic capitalism.  Yes, the work of true liberation is harder than buying a “virtuous” razor at CVS, but the dividends for the men and women we love are abundantly worth the effort.

Member Perspectives: On the Wall

The strength of the American Solidarity Party will always be our passionate defense of our four principles of respect for life, social justice, environmental stewardship, and a more peaceful world. However, it can also come from how we respectfully argue our positions on other issues that challenge our communities. Here ASP member Jean-Christophe Champagne offers these thoughts opposing the Trump wall.

(With apologies from the editorial committee that this did not get posted in a more timely manner; we are still working on our processes and methodology.)

Member Perspectives: On the Recent Developments in Venezuela

The strength of the American Solidarity Party will always be our passionate defense of our four principles of respect for life, social justice, environmental stewardship, and a more peaceful world. However, it can also come from how we respectfully argue our positions on other issues that challenge our communities. Here Matthew Cooper gives us his thoughts on the recent developments in Venezuela. See an alternative perspective from Mario Ramos-Reyes  here.

On the Recent Developments in Venezuela

by Matthew Cooper

The recently-contested election in Venezuela has become a matter of profound concern for observers of American foreign policy. The election of Nicolás Maduro of the Partido Socialista Unido (PSU) to the presidency of Venezuela in May of last year was widely regarded to have been unfair by foreign observers in the global “West”, while the results were broadly recognized in the global “East”. The recent assumption of the office of the presidency by opponent Juan Guaidó, a member of the National Assembly from the opposition Voluntad Popular (VP) party—and his subsequent precipitous recognition as Venezuela’s president by United States president Donald Trump—has resulted in a similar split in global opinion. Diplomatic tensions have risen between Venezuela and the United States, owing to allegations of interference by American intelligence agencies in the Venezuelan political process and attempts at suborning the Venezuelan military, to the point that the Venezuelan government has asked American consular staff to leave the country—which they have not done. This leaves open the question of whether Venezuela will fall victim to an American covert operation, a “color revolution”, a proxy war in the style of Syria and Ukraine, or even a direct military intervention.

This question concerns the American Solidarity Party precisely because we have a responsibility, through the national security plank of the national party platform, to articulate a view of foreign affairs that hews to classical Western political doctrines of just war, rather than modern notions of the “responsibility to protect“. This doctrine, though admirable in its stated intention to preserve human dignity, has been egregiously and unconstitutionally abused by the executive branch of our own government in every recent conflict going back to the NATO-led military intervention in Yugoslavia in 1999, which was approved neither by our nation’s Congress (which only passed a non-binding resolution condoning the bombing after the fact) nor by the United Nations.

According to classical just war theory, six criteria must all be met before any military action with any hope of being considered just is declared. These are: that it must be in just cause (that is to say, not punitive or motivated by base self-interest); that military action must be declared by a competent public authority; that the declaring combatant must be guided by proper intentions; that the military action must have a high probability of success; that the military action must be declared as a last resort; and that the benefits of a successful military action outweigh the costs.

In this case, any proposed military or covert action by the American government against the Venezuelan government of Nicolás Maduro would not fulfill all of the ad bellum criteria for a just intervention, even on the most generous possible construction of the terms.

Let us leave aside for a moment just cause and proper intentions—although that is currently in dispute, given that Venezuela currently has the largest stockpile of crude oil in the Western Hemisphere and such base motives are certainly and self-professedly guiding the intentions of American lawmakers such as Republican Senator Marco Rubio. However, let us assume for a moment that the motives guiding the American government are humanitarian and defensive in character. What we have in Venezuela is a situation in which the question of what constitutes a competent public authority is precisely the matter at issue, and it is not clear even from within the context of Venezuelan law that Mr. Guaidó has a legitimate case to be considered the president. Given that under Venezuelan law the military must recognize the president, and they are currently refusing to do so in Mr. Guaidó’s case, that seems to be a mark against him.

The question of probability of success is also conditioned by the fact that the Russian government appears willing to supply direct military aid to the Maduro government, which in the case of an intervention, covert action, or proxy war would almost guarantee a long and protracted conflict between pro-Maduro and pro-Guaidó forces. We have seen, before our eyes, the exact same scenario unfold in the nation of Syria, where our government did not succeed in overthrowing the Russian-backed Syrian President Baššār al-’Asad in favor of a more amenable pro-American régime. This consideration must factor into any calculation of the American government’s probability of success.

It is clear at this point that any military action presently undertaken by the American government would not be a last resort. The vast majority of our own NATO allies—namely, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Germany, France, Denmark, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Romania and Greece—are calling, not for intervention, but for dialogue between the disputing parties, and one NATO ally, Turkey, openly supports Maduro. In this situation, dialogue between the two parties appears to be the option most consistent with the American Solidarity Party’s commitment to a foreign policy approach guided by classical just war principles.

The point on which the supporters of Venezuelan opposition in our government may at first appear to have the strongest ground is in the cost-benefit analysis of military action versus inaction. The humanitarian situation in Venezuela, under the PSU’s leadership, has deteriorated drastically in the past several years: Venezuela sports the Western Hemisphere’s third-highest homicide rate and off-the-charts hyperinflation, while at least a quarter of the population (according to research carried out by the Venezuelan opposition) struggles with food insecurity as a result of shortages. The United States is not blameless in this situation: much of the deterioration of the human rights situation in the country has occurred due to harsh financial and commercial sanctions against Venezuela.

However, as with the probability of success, this consideration has to be tempered by a level-headed, calm, rational, and realistic analysis of the costs of American power projection over the past thirty years, including the conflicts in Somalia, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Libya, Syria and Yemen. In Yemen, it deserves to be noted, our intervention on behalf of the governments of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates has sparked what many humanitarian observers, including Doctors Without Borders and Human Rights Watch, have described as the “single greatest humanitarian crisis of this century”, with as many as 18 million people—mostly children—at risk of starvation. We ought to consider that a similarly-disastrous outcome may occur if military action is taken against Venezuela.

Another point deserves to be considered here. Our government has accumulated a long and bloody track record of intervention in Central and South American states (Mexican-American War – 1846-1848; Spanish-American War – 1898; Panamá War – 1903; US involvement in Mexican Revolution – 1914; coup in Guatemala – 1954; Bay of Pigs Incident – 1961; coup in Brazil – 1964; intervention in Dominican Civil War – 1965; assassination of Chilean President Salvador Allende – 1973; involvement in Argentine Dirty War – 1974; CIA support of Nicaraguan Contras – 1981; invasion of Grenada – 1983; second US invasion of Panamá – 1989; invasion of Haiti – 1994; coup in Honduras – 2009), including a similar covert coup d’état attempt against Maduro’s predecessor in office, Hugo Chávez, in 2002. The human cost of these interventions, which have often involved atrocities committed against civilians by US-backed dictatorships, has been immense. Indeed, the plight of the refugees coming northward from Honduras and El Salvador can be attributed, in significant part, to the American government’s short-sighted actions in Honduras in 2009 and the repression of the populace by the resulting American-backed and military-led interim government.

In light of these considerations, guided by the consistent application of a just war ethic, the American Solidarity Party must move immediately to condemn the precipitous recognition of Mr Guaidó by our government’s executive branch, as well as insist that the US join the other NATO members’ call for dialogue,  lift sanctions to ease the unfolding humanitarian crisis and cease and desist any ongoing covert attempts to interfere in the Venezuelan legal or political processes.

Member Perspectives: Religious Liberty

The strength of the American Solidarity Party will always be our passionate defense of our four principles of respect for life, social justice, environmental stewardship, and a more peaceful world. However, it can also come from how we respectfully argue our positions on other issues that challenge our communities. Here ASP Party Member Joe Grabowski offers these thoughts on Religious Liberty and the First Amendment.

Religious Liberty

by Joe Grabowski

In the last few election cycles, confirmation hearings, and other politically-charged events, the subject of religious liberty has been growing in prominence in our public discourse. I say “religious liberty,” but a variety of other nomenclatures abound: “religious freedom,” “freedom of religion,” “free exercise,” “freedom to worship,” and so on. The abundance of terms itself attests to the confusion the debate can cause, as well as to the various ideologies that people bring to the discussion. In spite of the free exercise of religion being “the first of the first” liberties enumerated in the Bill of Rights, the contemporary debate on this matter takes nothing for granted and calls into question old presumptions. It also brings to bear, against the First Amendment’s ostensible meaning, new problems and challenges unforeseen not only by the Founders, but by jurists, legislators, and scholars, even those of the last few decades.

It seems arguable that a solidarist perspective on religious liberty should include a rather broad construal of the meaning of the First Amendment’s dual-pronged approach to this matter. These two prongs are referred to respectively as the “Establishment Clause” and the “Free Exercise Clause.” The establishment clause stipulates that Congress shall make no law “respecting an establishment of religion,” and the free exercise clause that no law shall be made “prohibiting the free exercise” of religion. A broad interpretation of the latter not only precludes interpreting “free exercise” as mere “freedom of worship,” but also encompasses the freedom to observe tenets that might govern daily life, like the wearing of religious garb. Such an interpretation also seems to embrace and rationalize the “establishment” question, revealing the first clause to be bound up with and directed towards the second. After all, a formal establishment of a State religion would risk disadvantaging non-adherents in many ways and be felt as a pressure for them to abandon the free exercise of their own creeds. But broad interpretation of the question of establishment requires that the government remain free from any animus toward a particular religious belief and refrain from establishing a secular “orthodoxy” of its own. In a pluralist society, what really distinguishes a mere philosophy from a religion anyway? Is the First Amendment to be limited only to non-establishment of theistic belief systems specifically? What of the beliefs of secular humanism, which rest upon an equally fideist set of first principles?

Such an expansive interpretation of religious freedom has been reflected in a number of policy and judicial decisions over the last few decades, from the Religious Freedom Restoration Act passed by Congress under the Clinton Administration to the unanimous U.S. Supreme Court decision in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC (2012). However, other policy and court decisions demonstrate a significant lack of consensus as to just how broad this construal of free exercise really should be: witness the infamous “HHS mandate” of the Obama Administration regarding coverage of contraceptive costs in health care options provided by religious employers like the Little Sisters of the Poor, or the narrow 5-4 SCOTUS ruling in favor of two other employers seeking religious-freedom protection from the same mandate, Hobby Lobby Stores and Conestoga Wood Specialties.

The matter of the HHS mandate exemplifies one of the main bones of contention in the debate over religious freedom being worked out slowly through our courts and legislatures: granted that free exercise is a constitutional right, and even that this right includes being able to live out one’s faith in daily life, at what point must this right give way to other private rights of individuals or public interests of the State?

This is far from being merely an academic question. Consider an example of where such a contest between rights and public concern has led for some other nations. For years, leaders in the Jewish community throughout Western Europe have voiced concerns over a growing trend of State regulations and laws related to the processing of animal food products. Several countries have adopted guidelines stipulating that animals must be stunned before slaughter, and this presents a problem for kosher slaughterhouses which are not allowed by ritual mandate to kill animals in such a way. Similar ritual butchering techniques used by observant Muslims may also run afoul of such new regulations. And the trend makes it seem likely that even more EU countries will adopt similar restrictions in coming years. This has led to numerous lawsuits, petitions, and appeals for exemptions by these faith communities.

Of course, so far the desired exemptions have often been granted. But the doubts and uncertainties experienced while waiting for such reprieves have been a real strain on people of faith. This anxiety has an impact at the family level: a son or daughter coming of age and interested in taking over what may be a centuries-old family trade in kosher foods may be left feeling uncertain whether five years from now that job will be legal. And even once exemptions are granted, some feel the reprieve to be too tenuous and anxiety-inducing in itself: for what if the shifting winds of politics and public sentiment blow even stricter regulations their way in the future, ones that trump the once-granted sanctions?

The problem is that here the free exercise of religion is being treated provisionally, as a “by your leave” writ afforded by positive law, whereas historically, in Western legal and philosophical tradition, religious freedom has been considered sacrosanct, a fundamental human right. The ominous trend of recent decades, however, even in cases where religious freedom has ostensibly been firmly upheld, such as those referenced above, is that religious freedom is no longer placed on such a pedestal. It is rather handled like any other private right and adjudicated on a case-by-case basis; it is a personal eccentricity perhaps, which must be “accommodated” and made to fit in with other legal novelties. It is a topsy-turvydom of legal reasoning and political philosophy that places the presumed or perceived well-being of cattle above essential, fundamental human rights enshrined in law for millennia! And yet such are the state of affairs and affairs of State in which we now find ourselves.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution for all questions of free exercise of religion, admittedly. There are indeed some matters of public interest that may demand, in exceptional circumstances, that a claimed religious liberty be partly restricted or curtailed. But it seems that a working solidarist first principle regarding the free exercise of religion should be along the lines of this admission: the limiting or restricting of religious freedom should be the rare exception and not the norm. The onus should be on lawmakers or courts to demonstrate that there really is no other way to achieve a State interest, and that such an interest truly is compelling, rather than requiring those who desire to exercise their religious freedom to justify themselves constantly at each new twist and turn of public policy. Otherwise, a religious adherent is left in the doubtful and uncertain situation against which the establishment clause seems to have been reared: allowed to go on practicing under the State orthodoxies but always fearful of finally stepping outside the bounds of what is merely tolerated. Religious freedom, true religious freedom as our Founders envisioned, cannot be constrained in such a way. Freedom is not simply about being allowed to exist, but about flourishing. And flourishing cannot happen when one is inhibited by fear that the law might one day make a traditional way of life untenable.

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