The Day of our Open House!
As we celebrate the opening of our new law office, I am proud to work alongside a number of fellow attorneys and friends in Orangeburg. Orangeburg law firms like Williams and Williams, Lanier and Burroughs, Horger Barnwell Reid, and so many others have long records of serving the legal needs of the citizens of Orangeburg and the rest of South Carolina. What I think makes this firm unique is in the long and continuing experience and service with the United States military (Active Duty, National Guard, and Reserve). I will continue to serve while practicing law, including active duty during hurricane season! Equally important, we seek to foster a Christian environment in the way we do business. The DNA of this firm is being built on those principles, and I look forward to growing and developing long relationships with everyone associated with us. Look forward to seeing many friends today at the open house!
Communism sneaking back
Recently, pictures of West Point Cadet Spenser Rapone became widely publicized, shocking many. In one of the photos, Rapone is seen in his cadet uniform with the words, "Communism Will Win," written in his hat and prominently displayed for all to see. In another, he is seen showing off his communist "Che Guevara" T-shirt underneath the cadet uniform he wore to the West Point graduation.
Reports later showed that Rapone's online rantings included support for Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin. Rapone's writings were being followed by substantial numbers of millennials within the organization, "Democratic Socialists of America."
In November, a poll revealed that nearly half (44 percent) of millennials preferred a socialist society over capitalism. It is time America faced the reality of this disturbing trend among millennials and fight back with the truth.
First, let's remember the true legacy of communism and socialism. Throughout the 20th century, communism was responsible for the deaths of more than 100 million souls. Nothing else in history comes close to this level of mass killing: In the gulags of Siberia and through forced starvation and dispossession of various people/groups by Joseph Stalin in the Soviet Union. Through the millions killed during the so-called "cultural revolution" by Mao in communist China. Then there were the millions murdered in Pol Pot’s "killing fields" of communist Cambodia. The legacy of death followed the experiment of communism everywhere.
Though global communism collapsed with the fall of the Soviet Union, stalwarts like North Korea allow us to see the continued death of body and spirit under communism.
At the base of Fascism and Nazism, there has always been the foundation of socialism.
Benito Mussolini began as an avowed communist and atheist prior to moving toward the state-centric socialism of the Fascist movement.
Adolph Hitler and associates admired fascism under Mussolini in Italy, particularly the state control of industry, and sought to emulate Mussolini with Germany’s brand of what they would refer to as National Socialism.
Fascism and Nazism were predicated on total state control of industry and were opposed to capitalism and individual rights. More than 17 million were killed under these socialist movements. Venezuela is a modern example of the horrific effects of socialism on the people and economy of a nation. It is ironic that the ANTIFA (anti-Fascist) movement espouses socialism and opposes the alleged excesses of capitalism advocated by conservatives.
A new vogue argument for communism today, made by a number of liberal university professors and others with influence over young minds, comes with separating what happened with communism during the 20th century as from the alleged wonders of the Marxist ideal.
The problem with the argument is that the ideal of communism is not only bad but opposed to our cherished American values. Marx espoused atheism, calling religion the "opium" of the people. The most persecuted groups under communism have been religious groups and particularly Christian.
Marx decried what he called the "bourgeois" family of father, mother and children. He believed family helped foster ideas about private property and should be abolished. He also believed in the eradication of individualism and individual interests to move toward a collective society. The idea of the collective over the individual allowed for the mass killings and starvation. As Stalin put it, "You must break a few eggs to make an omelet."
Our American founders established the antithesis of Marx's communism. In declaring independence, Thomas Jefferson proclaimed to the world that God gave the individual “unalienable rights” which were to be protected by government. Included in basic human rights, alongside life and liberty, was the "pursuit of happiness."
Jefferson had followed 17th-century political philosopher John Locke's three basic rights of "life, liberty and property." Pursuit of happiness is predicated upon right to private property, but going beyond into moral decisions about the use of life, liberty and property. The American system recognized limitation of government, the primacy of the individual and family, and the importance of religion, all detested by Marx.
For those of us who came of age during the Cold War, the understanding of true communism and the importance of freedom was both shared and common knowledge.
For anyone to cheer on a victory of communism, let alone a future U.S. Army officer, would have been utterly unthinkable during the Cold War. That has unfortunately changed.
My generation has failed to acknowledge what has happened in recent years. Ignorance is no longer an excuse, and our work must be clear: Communism is the enemy of everything we hold dear, and all Americans must understand this truth.
Deluded people like Rapone need to listen loud and clear: We are a nation under God in which we all have the right to pursue happiness in our own way. Communism is a failed and wholly dangerous ideology, and it will never win.
Godlessness to blame
As most were celebrating Valentine's Day on Feb. 14, an unspeakable evil was unleashed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
Nineteen-year-old Nikolas Cruz arrived at the school where he had been expelled a year earlier. And just prior to students being dismissed for the day, he opened fire. When the shooting subsided, 17 were dead.
Most Americans want an answer as to why these kinds of massacres are increasing in both frequency and devastation. Predictably, some seek to politicize the tragedy by blaming “gun rights,” but that blame does not hold up under evidence. What the evidence shows is the clear connection between the decline in the influence of Judeo-Christian values in America and the plague of mass shootings. Let me explain.
Prior to the early 1960s, there had been no mass shootings in schools. Individual instances of murder and suicide in schools certainly occurred in American history, but no mass shootings until well after that time period.
The exponential rise in murder rates and mass shootings in America can be seen in statistics as distinctly rising from the 1960s to today.
Interestingly, the first national attempt to control guns was the National Firearms Act of 1934, which primarily put restrictions on fully automatic Thompson submachine guns (aka "Tommy Guns") used by gangs in Chicago.
The first true national gun control act was the 1968 Gun Control Act. Prior to that, all manner of guns were carried openly throughout much of America, including schools. Justice Scalia even wrote about carrying rifles on the subway in New York going to school in the late 1950s.
Since the 1960s, gun control legislation has tried to keep pace with the increasing gun violence to little success. Gun control is simply not the answer to the problem.
What can be seen by the evidence available is the increase in violence and mass murder corresponding to the diminished influence of Judeo-Christian values in both law and culture in America.
In the early 1960s, Bible reading and school prayer were removed from school. Prior to that, most schools provided that influence to the children under their charge, as in keeping with a long history of such influence upon American youth in school.
The first U.S. government establishment of public schooling in 1787 (Northwest Ordinance) justified public education with the following: "Religion, morality and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.”
It was around this time that founding father John Adams made the following statement about the importance of religion in American life: "Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."
This idea was repeated by multiple other founding fathers.
In writing about America in the 1830s, Alexis de Tocqueville observed: "There is no other country on Earth in which the Christian religion retains greater sway over the souls of men than in America."
As English historian Paul Johnston wrote of America up to the middle of the 20th century: "America is a God Fearing nation, with all that implies," and he claimed this was the reason for American exceptionalism.
Unfortunately, America's traditional Christian values lost influence in law and culture particularly starting in the 1960s.
After stripping the Bible and prayer from schools, most states passed no-fault divorce legislation. This came at the time of federal government aid creating financial incentives for many families to dissolve. In 1973, abortion was declared a constitutional right, resulting in now around 60 million unborn casualties. Supreme Court rulings became more and more hostile to any intention or effect to further religious values.
Culture has moved away from Christian values as well.
A perfect example can be seen with two movies, one made just before the 1960s and one contemporary movie, both about the same subject.
The epic 1956 movie, "The Ten Commandments" starring Charlton Heston, was an inspiring and relatively accurate biblical account of the life of Moses. It honored the Bible, and biblical values. The 2014 movie of the same story, "Exodus," was a far more cynical account of Moses. Christian Bale, who played Moses, said this about that great biblical patriarch: "I think the man was likely schizophrenic and was one of the most barbaric individuals."
This attitude can be seen permeating Hollywood and other cultural influencers. Judeo-Christian values have been turned almost 180 degrees from the position held over 50 years ago and the effects are have been seen in places like Parkland, Florida.
It is time for a national soul-searching about our shared values, where those values are leading, and the effect of those values on our children. In Haggai 1:5, God admonishes his people to "consider your ways," and think about the consequences of them turning away from him.
It is time for America to heed that warning, before it's too late.
Christmas in Helmand with Prince Harry
With his recent engagement and forthcoming marriage to an American woman, Britain’s Prince Harry is again the hot topic of broad international conversation. Not surprising. People are fascinated with the Royals: They always have been.
The announcement of his impending nuptials as well as this season of the year have also taken me back 10 years to a wartime Christmas in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. It was there in 2007 that I had the honor of meeting and working for a time with then-Lt. Harry Windsor (aka Prince Henry of Wales, best known as Prince Harry).
It was a rather strange period in which the world believed Harry was home in the UK. In fact, he was in Helmand making his way to a remote forward operating base for the British. The period was also unique in that most Americans were then focused on the surge in Iraq even as the insurgency in Afghanistan was growing exponentially.
Both the Americans and our British counterparts in Helmand felt as if we were serving in a "forgotten war." And we were greatly under strength when compared to the huge military footprint in Iraq.
I had deployed from the capital of Helmand, Lashka Gah, to a FOB near enemy Taliban lines over the Christmas period.
The trip from Lashka Gah began Dec. 20 when I traveled with key leaders of my advisory command and several Afghan National Security leaders to a remote base in the south.
That location was one of the few places in Afghanistan, or even Iraq, with a conventional battlefield: Friendly forward lines facing Taliban forward lines, separated by only a few hundred meters of extremely dangerous "no man's land."
As soon as we arrived, I could hear British mortars on the FOB firing at enemy positions only about a kilometer away. They were supported by artillery being fired from a separate location at the enemy’s positions. We were quickly told to take cover in the event of an enemy missile or mortar attack, which happened frequently.
We soon learned the base was manned by a company of Ghurkas, which were Nepalese soldiers serving in a distinct unit within the British Army.
During the deployment to this tiny base, named FOB Delhi, our party of U.S. and Afghan leaders visited locations throughout the local district center of Garmsir.
As senior advisers to Afghan troops, we were helping prepare the Afghan leaders to move a large unit into the fight against the Taliban and assist the coalition. As part of our visit with local Afghan leaders, we were invited to an elaborate "Eid' meal. I knew about the Eid celebration at the end of Ramadan, but discovered this was actually the "Haj Eid.” The Haj Eid was a three-day celebration held around our Christmas holiday in which the Afghans take time off from work and invite guests to huge meals. This was no different. Hours spent socializing and feasting. Eating with your right hand and using Afghan bread to wrap pieces of chicken and goat.
The primary purpose of our visit and meal was to reassure the local Afghan leaders of the plan to move in Afghan Security Forces.
Two days before Christmas, our group moved up to a forward position facing the Taliban. This was critical in helping us see the ongoing operations and to better prepare the Afghan forces in our charge. We moved up, knowing we would stay on this position for the two days until Christmas, well aware that we would be under direct threat of snipers and periodic attacks. The soldiers, including the Ghurkas, had to remain vigilant for immediate attacks, with body armor on and weapons nearby.
Attacks allowed only seconds to prepare but usually ended quickly due to heavy coalition firepower. Combat is unforgiving and any mistakes would be a death sentence.
Prince Harry deployed to FOB Delhi as soon as he arrived in Helmand, and went straight up to our forward position when he arrived. This was for him to visit a few of the soldiers he would command.
I remember first seeing Harry in his full "battle rattle" of body armor and weapons. It was obvious he wanted to be viewed and treated not as a prince but like any other junior officer. Of course, the Ghurkahs wanted to take pictures with him. He seemed nice enough and more than willing, though making it clear that pictures could not be released until he returned home.
After seeing his soldiers and meeting the Ghurkahs, Harry returned to FOB Delhi. We spent the night on the position.
The following morning, Christmas Day, my little party returned to FOB Delhi, exhausted from the days on the outpost.
I again saw Harry at the operations headquarters, where his job was to call in air strikes, hitting Taliban positions attempting to attack the forward positions.
Harry immediately came out to greet our little American group and inquired about his men on the line. Following the practice of the British military, in which junior officers from lieutenant through major call each other by first name, UK and American officers called Harry by his first name throughout.
Throughout Christmas Day, Harry stayed busy with the mission while the Ghurkas held makeshift Christmas celebrations and games. The UK commanding general of Helmand came to visit, though even he had not been informed of Harry's presence. Harry was a well-guarded secret, and we Americans agreed we would not disclose the secret until it was made public. No Americans divulged the secret throughout Harry's time in Afghanistan, despite the money media would have paid.
In the days following Christmas, all of the officers ate our meals together and participated in various meetings.
Harry clearly did not expect or want special treatment, He worked hard to learn his job. I periodically saw him reading books about air support. Harry also liked to talk about various subjects, including strategy. He and I discussed the operational strategy in Helmand, and British coordination with U.S. forces.
Harry also liked to talk about his storied regiment, the Household Cavalry, and the fact that his company of the Blues and Royals had hundreds of years of tradition and lineage. He was exceedingly proud of that.
I served with Harry for that week before and after Christmas, and then again during combat operations in northern Helmand during February.
Harry’s service, particularly over Christmas 2007, earned our respect and gratitude.
He could have served in a safe location in Afghanistan and demanded VIP treatment. Instead, he chose the most dangerous spots in the most dangerous province. I thought Harry's service was in the tradition of the ancient ideal of "Nobless Oblige: "To those whom much has been given, much is expected.” This is in contrast to so many of the children of the modern "elite" families in the United States and in the UK showing little of that ethos.
I will never forget that Christmas of now-10 years ago and the brave young American and British soldiers there on the line. And I will never forget the service and great example of the young prince.
Roe vs. Wade must go
Amid the passing of various celebrities and known personages during 2017, the death of one famous woman was unfortunately marginalized by many in the media and on the left. Her name was Norma Jean McCorvey, but she was better known as "Jane Roe." McCorvey, who died of heart failure on Feb. 18, was the plaintiff “Roe” of Roe vs. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion, nationwide.
As she became the front for the abortion-rights movement during that historic decision, McCorvey would have been expected to receive maximum coverage and praise at her passing. But the remainder of her life speaks to why she was not.
McCorvey attempted to obtain an abortion in Texas in 1969 but was ultimately unsuccessful due to a Texas law banning the procedure. While she was still pregnant, two activist pro-abortion lawyers pressured McCorvey (by McCorvey's recollection of the events) into bringing the case all the way to the Supreme Court.
McCorvey's baby was born during the process and put up for adoption. But in a monumental and infamous decision, the Supreme Court ultimately ruled that abortion was a constitutional right. The court held that an alleged general right to privacy was wide-ranging enough to encompass a woman's right to choose an abortion.
The court's opinion was flawed on multiple grounds and has brought national division and controversy. And the remainder of McCorvey's life brings light to the illusion of Roe vs. Wade against the reality and the need to overturn this flawed decision.
Of critical importance, the court in Roe vs. Wade did not follow its constitutional duty of deciding the case by the original meaning of the Constitution (including amendments).
As the late Justice Antonin Scalia asserted about interpreting the Constitution: "It is perfectly clear that the original intent was that the Constitution would be interpreted by its original meaning. If you had asked the participants at the Constitutional Convention whether their debates could be an authoritative source for construing the Constitution, there would be no doubt the answer would be no."
James Madison, who was noted as the intellectual force behind the Constitution, wrote: "The debates and incidental decisions of the Convention have no authoritative character."
Alexander Hamilton wrote: "Whatever may have been the intention of the framers, that intention is to be sought for the instrument itself, according to the usual and established rules of construction.”
Scalia also noted: "Originalism was the constitutional orthodoxy in the United States until … the post World War II Warren Court. The Court is to use the words of the Constitution in the plain meaning of when drafted, and not attempt to ascertain thoughts and possible intentions.”
Instead of following the constitutional orthodoxy of original meaning, the court in Roe went well beyond judicial limits.
Instead of using "usual and established rules of construction" to interpret the Constitution, the court boldly admitted going well beyond into it.
Specifically, the court acknowledged that the Bill of Rights (The first ten amendments) does not include the general and absolute right to privacy which the court claimed encompassed the right to choose an abortion.
The court, however, claimed "penumbras and emanations" from the Bill of Rights allowing the court to infer a general right to privacy which would encompass abortion.
Clearly not the orthodox means of constitutional interpretation by original meaning. As Scalia and others have noted, abortion simply was not an issue at the time of the drafting of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, and therefore something that should be determined through the political process.
To contrast the court in 1973 to the more orthodox Supreme Court of the early 20th century is instructive.
In the first two decades of the 20th century, the push for women's suffrage (the right to vote) gained political traction. The early 20th century Supreme Court would have determined that the original meaning of the 14th Amendment’s equal-protection clause, as understood when it was passed, referred to former slaves and not equal rights between men and women.
In constraining itself to its constitutional bounds through political activism and not the court, the nation passed the 19th Amendment making women's suffrage a constitutional right.
That right has remained uncontroversial and accepted by all. The court in 1973 should have acted similarly with abortion, and it should have left this political issue with the people to decide by amendment or state law.
Beyond the more than 60 million unborn babies lost to abortion since Roe vs. Wade, this issue has been arguably the most contentious and divisive in the history of our nation.
Thomas Jefferson warned of the kind of activist court we have found in Roe vs. Wade and the problems inherent with the Supreme Court decisions being deemed the absolute, unquestioned authority on all constitutional matters. He said, "To consider judges as the ultimate arbiters of all constitutional questions is a very dangerous doctrine indeed, and one that places us under an oligarchy."
This is particularly the case when the court does not use usual and established rules, but allows personal biases to pervade the process.
McCorvey's later life provides a testament to the falsities and illusions involved in the Roe vs. Wade decision.
Her life explains the liberal marginalization of her passing.
In the 1980s, McCorvey admitted that she only wanted an abortion because she had been depressed and that she had been used as a pawn of the abortion movement.
In 1994, McCorvey became a Christian and a pro-life activist. In 1995, she published "I am Roe." She was baptized. And she began work with the activist pro-life group Operation Rescue.
In 2005, McCorvey petitioned the Supreme Court to overturn the ruling of Roe vs. Wade. She claimed standing as the original litigant in the 1973 decision, but the court shot her down. McCorvey spent her final years pleading for the end of abortion, including an arrest for protesting the confirmation of Justice Sotomeyer to the Supreme Court (Sotomeyer was openly biased toward the pro-abortion position).
McCorvey died after spending most of her adult life fighting against abortion, the very law which was brought about in her name.
It is a sad and yet encouraging story of redemption exposing the fraud and illusions surrounding Roe. Abortion was a decision the Supreme Court should have left to the political process but certainly should not have decided this critical issue based on alleged "penumbras and emanations" over original meaning.
For the sake of Norma Jean McCorvey, for the sake of more than 60 million unborn babies, and for the sake of the future of this great nation, it is time for Roe vs. Wade to go.
Orangeburg attorney Col. Bill Connor was the senior U.S. adviser to Helmand Province, Afghanistan, where he received the Bronze Star. He is the author of the book “Articles From War.” Among his multiple tours of duty in the Mideast, Connor served in a six-month peacekeeping mission between Egypt and Israel.