Bowling Green (hometown of newly elected Senator Rand Paul) just passed an ordinance to outlaw smoking in public places (there is an exemption for places like tobacco-centric establishments). The law was passed by a 3-2 vote of the city commission; it had very vocal support from both sides. I found it a bit odd (out of character may be a better word) that it was brought up by Commissioner Slim Nash who, on other occasions, has expressed many libertarian leanings. [Side note: I am generally a pretty liberal guy, but there are a lot of positions Libertarians take that I strongly support.]
The discussion around this local ordinance got me thinking.
I find it interesting when Libertarians complain about the passage of things like smoking bans. Isn’t one of the main arguments of libertarianism that laws should be community specific? I can’t even recall how many times my Libertarian friends have said, "Big government shouldn’t be deciding that, it should be left up to local communities." The idea is that people can move to communities that share their ideals. Now, it seems to me that things like smoking bans are perfect examples of community based legislation enacted through the will of local communities. If a business (like the VFW, who strongly opposed the legislation) doesn’t like the law, they are free to move outside city limits and not be covered by the rules.
Maybe I am missing the point, after all, I am not well read on the works of people like Ron Paul or Ayn Rand, but isn’t this a case of Libertarianism in action. I can understand Libertarians opposing the law while it is up for discussion, but once it passes isn’t it a great example of community based legislation?
For the record, I have mixed feelings on the law, but wanted to post a few thoughts.
The following quotes are from Martin Luther King’s book Where do we go from here? It contains his honest assessment of where the world was in the late 1960s and what it would take to get things on the right track. It is a book that cannot be reduced to sound bites and must be read cover to cover to be appreciated. But, until you have the time do that, let these quotes challenge you.
Concerning worldwide brotherhood:
One of the great liabilities of history is that all too many people fail to remain awake through great periods of social change. Every society has its protectors of the status quo and its fraternities of the indifferent who are notorious for sleeping through revolutions. But today our very survival depends on our ability to stay awake, to adjust to new ideas, to remain vigilant and to face the challenge of change. The large house in which we live demands that we transform this worldwide neighborhood into a worldwide brotherhood. Together we must learn to live together as brothers or together we will be forced to perish as fools.
Concerning the image of God:
Deeply woven into the fiber of our religious tradition is the conviction that men are made in the image of God, and that they are souls of infinite metaphysical value. If we accept this as a profound moral fact, we cannot be content to see men hungry, to see men victimized with ill-health, when we have the means to help them. In the final analysis, the rich must not ignore the poor because both rich and poor are tied together. They entered the same mysterious gateway of human birth, into the same adventure of life.
The following statement was issued by Lindsey Davis, the Bishop of the Kentucky United Methodist Conference. Bishop Davis provides a well reasoned response to the issue of immigration in this nation and I felt it deserved a reading far beyond just Kentucky Methodists. It is reposted with permission.
A Pastoral Letter from Bishop Davis
My grandson is six years old and a kindergarten student at Veterans Park Elementary in Lexington. Veterans Park is a Chinese Language Immersion school. So he is learning a second language while he is also learning to read and write English. Such is the world in which we live. We live in a nation that is very diverse and rapidly changing.
Immigrants are a part of our current reality. They make up 15% of the work force in our nation, and it is estimated that a third of these persons are undocumented. They work jobs many others don’t want, sometimes two and three jobs at a time. They do it on the cheap so that their children will have a better life. They use services like hospitals and schools. They also pay taxes which contribute to those public services.
Like most issues, immigration is complex. If there were simple solutions, our nation would have employed them by now. Sure, it would be great if everyone were here legally. It would be helpful if our borders were secure. It would be wonderful if our immigration service was not a disaster. It would be great if other nations had economies robust enough to support their citizens so that leaving home was not so attractive. Public policy has to deal with how things are, not always how things ought to be. Immigration legislation in Frankfort is currently being considered, and I have some deep concerns about what direction these efforts will take.
I certainly don’t claim to be an expert on immigration issues. But here are a few things I do know.
1. We have many immigrants in our United Methodist Churches. Some are documented and some are not. They love the Lord and they love our church. They are my people and I will stand for them and with them during these current debates.
2. Scripture is very clear. We are to treat with love, care and generosity those who are strangers and sojourners among us. I take this biblical mandate very seriously. It would be a mistake for our state to criminalize the ministry of churches which feed the hungry, clothe the naked and reach out to the poor.
3. Immigration reform is needed but on a federal level. Individual attempts by states will, in my opinion, not be helpful. In fact, it will be very costly.
On our website you can find several source documents which will help you understand some of the complexities of this issue. Let us all be in prayer for our legislative leaders. They have a difficult job and are in need of our prayerful support and encouragement in these days to come. And, as we consider these issues, may our speech and actions take place “as if we were in the immediate presence of God.”
Here are resources pertaining to our stance on immigration issues:
United Methodist Book of Resolutions 2008 – Statement on Immigration
United Methodist Church Council of Bishops – Statement on the U.S. Immigration Situation
Kentucky Council of Churches – Immigration Reform Statement
Click here to email your state legislator.