What Really Is Freedom?

God Bless America

Nothing in life comes without a price, not even freedom itself. I started thinking about this concept and the irony we face as we send our troops overseas and elect our officials here in the US…

Just a few weeks ago, a young man from my church suffered a tragic disaster. While serving in the military in Afghanistan, he accidently stepped on an IED. As a result, he has lost all of his limbs save for one arm. He is still in a coma; he is lucky to be alive. We are diligently praying for him to wake up to see his little girl again. This 22-year-old has given almost everything to ensure the safety of his fellow US citizens. There are countless stories just like this. Our family members, loved ones, friends, and strangers have given their lives for the protection and security of the greatest nation in the world. With the price of freedom so high, who are we to squander their sacrifice?

There are those in leadership positions of our government, local, state, and national, who do not hold the same American values that patriots like this man and our entire military force fight for on a daily basis. On the contrary, they prefer to focus on imposing govern

ment on the people, which leads to the destruction and devaluation of what makes this country what it is – liberty, freedom, independence, prosperity… this list goes on. It is such individuals and groups that fight to deteriorate what has kept this nation functioning on the basis of our Constitution since our Founding Fathers first drafted the Declaration of Independence in 1776.

So while you sit down with your family and friends, eat a hotdog and a hamburger, drink your beer and cola, relax on your boat, watch those fireworks, and whatever else you do to celebrate Uncle Sam’s birthday, think about what is happening all around you: soldiers in armor are fighting overseas for your right to live freely while elected officials in suits are fighting to make sure that as many of those freedoms are smothered and removed completely. So this leaves us with the question: what is freedom? Is the price really right or is it truly worth what the young man from my church and those with him have sacrificed?

On this Independence Day, the 235th birthday of the United States of America, let yourself be thankful for everything we have accomplished… and what it has meant for and against the people’s freedom. Happy 4th of July.


The facts about Same-Sex Marriage in Maryland

Protestors in Annapolis. Photo courtesy of WBAL.

Things are heating up in Annapolis now. Legislation on redefining marriage within the state of Maryland is making its way through the General Assembly from both sides. The Senate peacefully passed its version of the bill (SB 116) with amendments by a narrow 25-22 vote on Thursday, February 24. This was 1 more than the 24 votes it needed to pass the bill. Now the bill is making its way through the House. There was a hearing on the bill in the House Judiciary committee last Friday, which had a not-surprisingly heavy turn-out. Delegates debated various amendments on March 9 on the floor. Next step? The Big Vote.

In its original form, this legislation would redefine the definition of marriage as it is stated in the state’s constitution under Maryland Family Law, Section 2-201, which says that “only a marriage between a man and a woman is valid in the state.” Amendments were debated during the second reading of the bill, which took place on Wednesday on the House floor. These included provisions that would protect teachers and families from being forced to participate in education within public school systems on the basis of religious beliefs. There was one amendment that proposed changing the name of the bill from “The Civil Marriage Protection Act” to “Same Sex Marriage” Finally, there was an amendment that would have made the passage of the bill contingent on the passage of another bill still in committee (HB 963). However, none of the proposed amendments were successful.

Although this bill has been pushed rather quickly through both chambers, the bill’s progress was put on a hold in the House Judiciary Committee as two Democratic delegates, who co-sponsored the bill and were believed to be strong supporters, refused to vote in Tuesday’s committee meeting. This brought progress to a screeching halt, particularly shocking those who were hoping to see it passed as quickly and easily in the House as it had in the Senate. Delegates Carter (D-Baltimore) and Alston (D-Prince George’s) did not show up to the voting session, meaning they could not commence voting on the legislation. Delegate Carter, who says she still supports same-sex marriage, is hoping that by doing this, she will bring attention to two of her bills which she says are of equal if not more importance. Delegate Alston admits to having second thoughts despite co-sponsoring the bill, explaining that she needed more time to pray about how she will ultimately vote. Even Delegate Stukes has withdrawn his support, saying that he had been under the impression that the legislation would allow civil unions, not marriage.

The debate is heated on this legislation.

When it comes to arguments for the bill, proponents took a bleeding-heart approach in their testimonies, advocating that it was time to extend “rights” to all Marylanders and the need to stand up for and recognize love. As the primary sponsor of HB 55, Delegate Luiz Simmons argued during the hearing that there is no evidence that marriage for same-sex couples would diminish the institution of marriage or of procreation. In response to arguments that God does not approve of same-sex relationships, he inanely stated “God has not signed the witness list.” Other panelists, who included openly gay Delegates Heather Mizeur and Anne Kaiser, along with other supportive legislators and citizens, made the argument that simply creating civil unions in the state would ultimately create a second-class citizen status for homosexuals. Senator Raskin, in a written statement, said that it is a “fundamental wrong” not to provide the fundamental right of marriage to all Marylanders.

On the other hand, opponents of HB 55 and SB 116 took a traditional stand, arguing for the same sentiments that guided the founders. Delegate Don Dwyer, the most publicly staunch opponent of the bill among Republican legislators in the House, bravely and poignantly opened his testimony in prayer. The arguments against the bill ultimately say that this is not a civil rights issue; marriage is a religious institution recognized by the state, and it is not up to the legislators to attempt to re-define it. They also argue that allowing same-sex marriage would alter and harm our society because marriage is for the purpose of creating new life, and children need both a mother and a father. Multiple former homosexuals even protested that the gay lifestyle is unhealthy and dangerous based on their personal experiences. They claimed that homosexuals are simply rebelling against moral foundations while forcing legislators and Americans in general to embrace their lifestyle lest they be deemed bigots or old-fashioned.

This is not an easy issue and cannot be taken lightly. So many peoples’ lives are involved and affected directly by the results of this legislation. Not only will it affect the institution of marriage within this state, but it will also make a serious impact on the economy, the social structure, and the education system to which we are accustomed. The Delegates in Annapolis are likely to vote on this issue by the end of this week. Many predict that it will pass the House and that it is highly likely that it will end up in referendum for the people to decide. Whatever happens, this issue is without a doubt the most crucial and dominant piece of legislation to be introduced in the 2011 session.

UMBC YAF on Rep. Ron Paul’s removal

Rep. Paul at CPAC 2011

It has been just over a week since the national board of Young Americans for Freedom removed Republican Congressman Ron Paul from the national advisory board. This was not an easy nor was it a rash decision on YAF’s part. Rather, this action against Representative Paul was for the ultimate benefit of YAF’s future as a cohesive and strong organization. As a co-founder and leader of one of the first university branches of YAF in the state of Maryland, I would like to further explain this decision and offer support on behalf of UMBC Young Americans for Freedom chapter.

There is no doubt that Representative Paul has done wonderful things for his country. He stands firm in the constitution and believes in the traditional principles of American society. However, his stance on foreign policy, particularly when it comes to the War on Terrorism, is in stark and blatant opposition to the Sharon Statement, which is the foundation of YAF’s core values.

The reason that the YAF national advisory board decided to remove Rep. Paul from their ranks is because of his opposition to America’s foreign involvement in the Middle East. It is Rep. Paul’s belief that American foreign policies are the reason for the devastating terrorist attacks on the United States and our friends. Paul is such a strong anti-war advocate that he seems to deviate from the fundamental conservative principle to act militarily when the national security of our nation is at stake.

The Sharon Statement clearly lays out its principle on foreign policy: ‘American foreign policy must be judged by this criterion: does it serve the just interests of the United States?’ YAF believes that, while Islamist extremists want to harm our nation and our nation’s allies, the US is cannot stand by and wait for the next attack. Rep. Paul simply does not see it in this way.

Commenting on the removal of Rep. Paul is YAF’s Senior National Director Jordan Marks, who explained the disparity between YAF’s values and Rep. Paul’s anti-war sentiments further: “Freedom and prosperity cannot peacefully exist alongside radical Islam. It is unfortunate that Ron Paul – a member of the U.S. Congress – does not understand this. Surely, our enemies do.”

There is no doubt that the Young Americans for Freedom have received some undeserved backlash from this recent controversial decision. However, it is clear that the national advisory board was fully grounded in principle in this decision. As previously mentioned, Rep. Paul is a highly respectable man and there is no denying the work that he has done for this nation. His foreign policy stance simply does not align with the principles and core values of the Sharon Statement, which is YAF’s founding and guiding document.

Therefore, UMBC YAF joins the Maryland YAF in supporting of the national board’s decision.

Here’s to New Beginnings

The House of Delegates building in Annapolis

Well, the beginning of the semester draws near again and I am gearing up to immerse myself into the stressful yet fulfilling routine of studying, cramming, and binge snacking once again. It sounds like the beginning of any old second-semester for the average sophomore in college, right? Well, this semester is different because this time I will be working two days out of the week at the Maryland General Assembly for the most Honorable Delegate Susan McComas, District 35B.

Although the session has already started and I have been up a few times already, I haven’t gotten the opportunity to fill you all in on the excitement. I know Hillary has told you about her wonderful new job with State Senator J.B. Jennings, so I wanted to inform you that you have another friend working in Annapolis this 2011 session.

This semester, I have the opportunity to not only work with an upstanding Republican lawmaker in Annapolis, but I have the chance to experience possibly the most exciting part of politics – lawmaking on the state level – while receiving credit! I applied for a program with UMBC’s Political Science department that would allow me to work, get a small but decent stipend, and receive upper-level credit, not to mention the fact that it is usually reserved for juniors and seniors! Needless to say, I am completely thrilled to have this opportunity and cannot wait to share more about it with you.

This session is going to be very important. Already dozens and dozens of bills are in the works down in Crabtown (what the natives call the beautiful city of Annapolis), all of which deal with pertinent and life-affecting legislation. Some of the big ones are, as always, the budget, which includes almost $1 billion in cuts and an “Invest Maryland” plan that would invest an estimated $100 million in small business and life sciences. The other prominent issue already introduced in bills is “marriage equality” within Maryland and whether or not it should be recognized.

Working in Annapolis gives both Hillary and I and the countless others the opportunity to see the action unfolding almost immediately. We also have the unique opportunity to share much of that excitement with you all via our blogs. But it does not stop there. Annapolis is a short skip and a hop from Baltimore and the senators and delegates are always happy to communicate with you and hear what you have to say regarding the issues that you are most passionate about.

So as I get ready to head back up to Baltimore after about a month in Southern Maryland, I am also about to dive head first into this internship where I will be learning so much about state level politics. I look forward to sharing with you my experiences as the semester and the session go on. See you all again soon!

Let the Maryland conservative grassroots movement begin!

Don Irvine, Chairman of Accuracy in Media

Maryland Young Americans for Freedom hosted a meeting on Saturday at the Stained Glass Pub in Glenmont where YAF affiliates from national and local conservative groups met to discuss the future of Maryland and the importance of grassroots movements like ours.

Key speakers during the meeting included Don Irvine, Chairman of Accuracy in Media and Accuracy in Academia; Brendan Madigan, former Conservative Republican candidate for Comptroller in 2010; Sam Hale, candidate for Maryland State Chair; Jordan Marks, Executive Director of Young Americans for Freedom; and Tonya Tiffany, who spoke to us about the Maryland Conservative Action Network.

Young Americans for Freedom celebrated its 50th birthday this

YAF MD State Chair Adam Cassandra

year, but it is just getting started in Maryland. YAF State Chair Adam Cassandra spoke about the future of YAF in Maryland, and how we are really working on starting chapters in both high school and college campuses. We are in the midst of starting our own chapter at UMBC and are looking forward to providing students on our liberally-drenched campus with an outlet for their conservative opinions.

Part of the grassroots conservative effort has to do with communication. It is crucial for different groups to have some sort of unity in order to spread the word. Tonya Tiffany brought our attention to the Maryland Conservative Action Network, which provides the opportunity for different groups to coordinate ideas and events in order to get the information and ideas to everyone in the most effective way. There is an Inaugural Conference event on January 8th at the Doubletree Hotel in Annapolis, Maryland, from 9:00am – 5:00pm during which Charles Lollar and numerous other outstanding conservative figures will be speaking about this wonderful opportunity. Please register ahead of time for $40 in order to guarantee a spot. Otherwise, it is $50 at the door. More information can be found at the MD CAN blog: http://mdcan.wordpress.com/.

Jordan Marks, Executive Director of YAF

It can often be discouraging to be anything other than a Democrat or liberal in this deep-blue state in which it is nearly impossible to get a Republican elected, which was seen all-too-clearly in the 2010 elections. That is why Maryland needs this grassroots conservative movement to motivate citizens on principle and progress on the foundations that make this country great. Jordan Marks, Executive Director of Young Americans for Freedom, stated his desires, which are certainly shared by everyone by conservative Marylanders everywhere: “I would love to see Maryland get taken over from the bottom.” This is the epitome of grassroots, and it all starts with you and me.

What about “Young Americans for Freedom”?

It’s no secret that the state of Maryland is the deepest of blues as far as political parties are concerned. For this reason, it is nearly impossible to have any red candidates elected in the metropolitan area and surrounding, which is where 2/3rds of the state’s population is located.

That is why there is such a need for the strong presence of Young Americans for Freedom within this state, particularly on college campuses. There is a certain stigma associated with the name “Republican,” causing people to turn away from it regardless of principle. Recently, this political party has lost its clout nationally, largely due to the fact that citizens in Maryland are unaware of what Republicans – or conservatives, libertarians, etc. – really stand for.

Young Americans for Freedom helps bridge this large gap while helping young people understand what they really believe. YAF’s mission is to instill in young people all over the nation the values and principles on which this nation was founded while keeping it fun and interesting. It helps to remove the focus from the two-party divide to focus on the principles that drive our decisions.

Several notable figures are involved in the founding of Young Americans for Freedom, including Barry Goldwater, Republican nominee for president in 1964, and one of the greatest and most successful conservative presidents in United States history, Ronald Reagan. These brilliant, conservative men were at the forefront of YAF, which would not be what it is today if not for them.

Currently, UMBC is working with Maryland YAF in starting our own branch in the near future. Myself along with several students, with the support of the UMBC College Republicans leadership are looking into starting our own chapter in an effort to create a larger presence of like-minded individuals who may not realize they are like-minded but really don’t want to associate with a party.

I am personally so excited to be working with this organization. Youth in Maryland will now have an outlet from which they can gather information on issues in such a way that does not have a political party attached to it. I cannot wait to see how YAF grows in this state, and what it will do to the grassroots conservative movement among college students and young professionals!

For any of you who are interested in learning more about this amazing organization can go to their website: www.yaf.com. There is also going to be a State Meeting for the Maryland YAF branch this Saturday, December 4, 2010 at 1pm at the Stained Glass Pub next to the Glenmont metro in Silver Spring. Please come if you want to learn more about how Young Americans for Freedom is looking to grow within Maryland.

Prayers and Racism – County Executive Jack Johnson

As I was surfing The Baltimore Sun news site this morning for something interesting to catch my eye, I realized I should be careful what I wish for. My attention was drawn to an article with the headline “Baltimoreans Praying for Jack Johnson, PG County”. I presumed that I would find it to be another liberally-drenched article attempting to make this man and his wife out to be innocent victims in a scandal.  What I actually found was worse than that.

I clicked on the link and began to read. Evidently, the Rising Sun First Baptist Church is hosting an event at which people may gather to pray for the Johnson family during this time. Now, I believe 100% in the power and utmost importance of prayer, so this was not the problematical element of the article that I found as I read on.

The article was very short in length, just four paragraphs in all. Once I got to the third paragraph, I came across a quote that really irked me. It went as follows: “Burns, who was a civil rights warrior in Mississippi is greatly disturbed about the arrest of Johnson.  He recalls how hard it was to get black people registered to vote and into elected positions.” Rocky Twyman, founder of Pray at the Pump movement, is talking about Pastor Burns of the Baptist church.

The issue centering around the arrest of Jack and Leslie Johnson is completely devoid of racism. The issue with the situation is corrupted government officials. Although this investigation is still unfolding and nothing has been thus far proven, the FBI clearly has enough evidence to believe them guilty of actual misdeeds (not guilty of being black).  The Johnson’s have proclaimed their innocence and I think most of us would be content to watch with interest to see how the case develops. In fact, the news reports indicate that the case is likely to lead to more arrests. Whether or not these occur or whether the people involved will be black, white, or purple or rainbow, we have yet to find out.

But the point is that the actual case has nothing to do with race. Therefore, The Sun’s gratuitous characterization of Burns, who is indeed honorable for his work as a “civil rights warrior”, is completely out of line in this article.  There is no indication in the article that Burns has special knowledge of the Johnson’s or of the circumstances of the case.  Such would represent a newsworthy reason to quote Burns’s opinions on the case.  Thousands of men and women were “civil rights warriors” working hard for voter registration and so many other issues with respect to denial of blacks’ constitutional rights.  None of them are, or should be, quoted regarding the Johnsons’ race by The Sun – except as a part of their obvious attempt to inject race as an issue.

What the citizens of PG County and all of us should be praying for – and insisting on from the legal system – is that, if the Johnsons are innocent, that they are able to promptly establish this fact.  If they are guilty, we all need to hope and pray that they and anyone else involved are found guilty, punished, and any restitution feasible is made on behalf of PG county and its citizens. This same prayer can be extended to other cases of political official corruption as well.

The issue of race in today’s politics has become wearisome at best. Therefore, I believe – if I am so bold as to say it – that it needs to be put to rest in issues where race is completely irrelevant. Let us focus on the REAL problems in today’s world: the economy, jobs, illegal immigration reform, healthcare, and so many more hot-topic issues that need not pertain to the race of any individual elected official.

That being said, I just cannot wait for more on the Johnson story to unfold…