Incorporating a church in Minnesota under Statute 315: Part I.

Here in Minnesota there appear to be two ways to incorporate a church: under Minnesota statute 315 or Minnesota statute 317A.

Statute 315 is entitled “Religious Societies” and looks to be the older form of the two methods. A quick glance shows it to be a hodge-podge of laws without much internal structure.  There are laws specific to Episcopal parishes and cathedrals and something called a “cathedral corporation.”

To incorporate under Statute 315, a church or religious society needs to prepare a certificate containing the name, purpose, plan of operation, location, method of admitting members, qualifications for membership, method of selecting officers, and filling vacancies.   This certificate is then filed with the county recorder of the county in which the church or religious society is located.

Incorporating with the county recorder is a different from the more familiar practice of incorporating by filing with the Secretary of State. I am not sure that there is any practical difference here, but it does explain why certain religious societies and churches do not show up in a search of the Secretary of State’s database.

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All of us as Poets

I came across T.S. Eliot’s essay entitled “Tradition and the Individual Talent” the other day. It is extraordinary and requires a number of readings–or rather I needed to read it several times.

I found the following paragraph particularly compelling:

“Yet if the only form of tradition, of handing down, consisted in following the ways of the immediate generation before us in a blind or timid adherence to its successes, “tradition” should positively be discouraged. We have seen many such simple currents soon lost in the sand; and novelty is better than repetition. Tradition is a matter of much wider significance. It cannot be inherited, and if you want it you must obtain it by great labour. It involves, in the first place, the historical sense, which we may call nearly indispensable to anyone who would continue to be a poet beyond his twenty-fifth year; and the historical sense involves a perception, not only of the pastness of the past, but of its presence; the historical sense compels a man to write not merely with his own generation in his bones, but with a feeling that the whole of the literature of Europe from Homer and within it the whole of the literature of his own country has a simultaneous existence and composes a simultaneous order. This historical sense, which is a sense of the timeless as well as of the temporal and of the timeless and of the temporal together, is what makes a writer traditional. And it is at the same time what makes a writer most acutely conscious of his place in time, of his contemporaneity.”

Eliot’s essay appears to address the poet in limited sense; some people are poets and others are not. This is seen by the phrase “continue to be a poet beyond his twenty-fifth year”.  But I think that Eliot’s observations regarding poets can be applied every individual, perhaps in the way ποιεω has much more encompassing meaning in ancient Greek. ποιεω is the verb “to make/to create”. In this sense, we all of us are poets or makers or creators to one extent or another.  And, if we are to follow Eliot’s advice, need to make the effort to acquire the tradition we find ourselves in.







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Dworkin and Sir Thomas

Here is a paragraph from Ronald Dworkin’s recent New York Times Review of Books piece. Dworkin is a con law prof at NYU….

“The prospect of an overruling is frightening. American health care is an unjust and expensive shambles; only a comprehensive national program can even begin to repair it. If the Court does declare the Act unconstitutional, it will have ruled that Congress lacks the power to adopt what it thought the most effective, efficient, fair, and politically viable remedy—not because that national remedy would violate anybody’s rights, or limit anyone’s liberty in ways a state government could not, or would be otherwise unfair, but for the sole reason that in the Court’s opinion the strict and arbitrary language of an antique Constitution denies our national legislature the power to enact the only politically possible national program.” [Bold added].

Dworkin does not argue that the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Constitution is wrong.  He argues that the Constitution is a relic of a bygone era and should not get in the way of achieving “effective, efficient, fair, and politically viable” remedies.  Essentially, Dworkin advocates disregarding the supreme law of the land to solve a terrible problem.

Now this is nothing new. And it calls to mind a scene in “A Man for All Seasons”:

William Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!
Sir Thomas More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
William Roper: Yes, I’d cut down every law in England to do that!
Sir Thomas More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man’s laws, not God’s! And if you cut them down, and you’re just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!

By encouraging the Court to disregard the supreme law of the land, Dworkin appears to be aping William Roper. Advocates of Obamacare have no answer to–or rather no shelter  against–the “winds that would blow”after the Constitution is ignored.

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Tension in Classical Liberalism

While thinking a bit more on liberalism (not the partisan kind), a sort of tension began to materialize.  Liberalism is very much concerned with expanding personal liberty.  One could argue liberalism favors personal liberty even unto the detriment of the common good. But, in an odd turn of events, liberal political theory will handover almost unlimited powert to the state so as to extend and secure personal liberty.   It is odd that in the name of personal liberty, the state is given such tremendous power over the individual.

If I remember rightly, the first example of this odd tension is seen in Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan. For Hobbes, the overriding necessity for personal liberty and security leads inevitably to the Leviathan. Interesting…

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FDR’s Commonwealth Club Address, 1932, and A Constitutional Problem?

I am no FDR scholar, but I recently came across a speech he gave to the Commonwealth Club, San Francisco in 1932. In this speech, FDR reflected on the nature of government.  His theme is the universal principles of government. Such principles, he says, transcend politics, or rather are only political in the larger sense that “nothing in human life is foreign to the science of politics”. (I think FDR is quoting someone here, but I don’t know who that person is.) In setting out his principles, FDR gives us a sweeping statement of his political philosophy. It is the political philosophy of the architect of the New Deal and so worth a moments reflection.

Having surveyed America’s economic history, FDR draws the following lesson: Private economic power is a public trust.  I take this to mean that those individuals possessed of substantial private wealth owe a duty to the public. FDR refers to this relationship between those possessed of substantial private wealth and the public as a social contract. And it is the role of government to “assist in the development of an economic declaration of rights, an economic constitutional order.”  Thus, through co-operation a safe and permanent order of things is established.

As an aside, it is fascinating to me that FDR does not reference the US constitution in his address. The word “constitution” itself is used only twice. It is equally fascinating that the Declaration of Independence is mentioned only once, in passing. In a way, perhaps, this is consistent with FDR’s theme of the universal principles of government. The US constitution, he might argue, is only one manifestation of an agreement by which these principles of government can be realized.

The remainder of the speech is given over to the various clauses in the social contract. These clauses are as follows. “Every man has a right to life; and this means that he has also a right to make a comfortable living….Every man has a right to his own property, which means a right to be assured, to the fullest extent attainable, in the safety of his savings…The final term of the high contract was for liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

In the fourth to last paragraph, FDR states that”liberty to do anything which deprives others of those elemental rights is outside the protection of any compact; and that government in this regard is the maintenance of a balance, within which every individual may have a place if he will take it; in which every individual may find safety if he wishes it; in which every individual may attain such power as his ability permits, consistent with his assuming the accompanying responsibility.” I take this to mean that individuals have a right to life.  And that those who act in a way which deprives others of that elemental right, are outside the protection of “any compact”.  This is kinda interesting.  If it is taken as read that “right to life” somehow incorporates a right to access healthcare, and, equally, that the US constitution does not allow for a right to access health care, that there is a problem with the US constitution? (Of course there are all sorts of clarifications etc needed, but you get the thrust of question.)

I am not sure I buy this argument, but it does seem to follow fairly easily from FDR’s political philosophy.  Interesting…

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Few Observations After the Healthcare Oral Arguments

During the past three days I took some time to listen to the Obamacare oral arguments at the Supreme Court. The arguments were immensely interesting, and I would encourage everyone to listen to them.  The Washington Post has a link to both transcript and audio. In the end, we can only speculate on what the Court will do, but based on what I heard, here are some observations:

1. Justice Sotomayor is very impressive. Any doubt about her qualifications to sit on the Court should absolutely be put to rest.

2. Paul Clement is a phenomenal oral advocate. He learned from his experience arguing the case before the 11th Circuit and put on a show.

3.  The government’s case was never a slam dunk. The better legal arguments always favored the challengers.  This is not to say that the arguments for Obamacare are not good; they are, but they are not legal arguments. The best arguments for Obamacare can be grouped under the heading “interests of justice”.  When you don’t have the law, argue facts. When you don’t have the facts, argue justice.  As any law school student knows, when all else fails, argue “interests of justice”. That is what the Solicitor General did in his closing remarks.  That is telling.

4. The Solicitor General’s stumbling, bumbling arguments in favor of the individual mandate demonstrate one of two things: 1) he is a very poor advocate or 2) the government did not take the arguments made by challengers seriously.  Personally, I believe the answer to be option two. It is true of all the pundits and opinion writers–legal journalists like Linda Greenhouse–who thought that Obamacare would be upheld 7-2.   They didn’t take the challengers arguments seriously, and I suspect the same insouciance of the government.

5. It seems to me that the hall mark of left-liberal political theory is destruction. Liberals destroy things. Which is often to the good because there is a lot of political and social rot that needed and needs to be destroyed. Left-liberal thought has always been concerned with the expansion of personal freedom by destroying constraints on the individual. (Whether or not this has ever been achieved is another story.)  This can be seen in the left-liberal attack on religions like Christianity. According to the left-liberal narrative, Christianity is an irrational restraint on human liberty and happiness. Traditional morals, an outgrowth of religious observance, receive the same fate. What I think is new is that left-liberalism is butting up against the US Constitution.

6. A prediction (or perhaps not really a prediction because it is already happening). Assume that the Constitutional arguments of the challengers are correct. I predict that left-liberal pundits will begin to say that the Constitution is an irrational restrain on human liberty and happiness.  If the Constitution prevents the passage of Obamacare, the problem is with the Constitution, not Obamacare. We will begin to hear calls for abandoning the US Constitution. Let the negating begin.

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