“Because religious belief, or non-belief, is such an important part of every person’s life, freedom of religion affects every individual. Religious institutions that use government power to support themselves and force their views on persons of other faiths undermine all our civil rights. Moreover, state support of the church tends to make the clergy unresponsive to the people and leads to corruption within religion. Erecting the “wall of separation between church and state,” therefore, is absolutely essential in a free society. We have solved … the great and interesting question whether freedom of religion is compatible with order in government and obedience to the laws. And we have experienced the quiet as well as the comfort which results from leaving every one to profess freely and openly those principles of religion which are the inductions of his own reason and the serious convictions of his own inquiries.”
~Founding Father Thomas Jefferson: in a speech to the Virginia Baptists, 1808
Teaching Moment On U.S. Constitution and Diplomacy to Sophomoric GOP Senators
From Iranian Ministry Of Foreign Affairs (Smack, In Your Face):
[In response to] the open letter of 47 US Senators to Iranian leaders, the Iranian Foreign Minister, Dr. Javad Zarif, responded that, “In our view, this letter has no legal value and is mostly a propaganda ploy.” It is very interesting that while negotiations are still in progress and while no agreement has been reached, some political pressure groups are so afraid even of the prospect of an agreement that they resort to unconventional methods, unprecedented in diplomatic history. This indicates that like Netanyahu, who considers peace as an existential threat, some are opposed to any agreement, regardless of its content.
Zarif expressed astonishment that some members of US Congress find it appropriate to write to leaders of another country against their own President and administration. He pointed out that from reading the open letter, it seems that the authors not only do not understand international law, but are not fully cognizant of the nuances of their own Constitution when it comes to presidential powers in the conduct of foreign policy.
Foreign Minister Zarif added that, “I should bring one important point to the attention of the authors and that is, the world is not the United States, and the conduct of inter-state relations is governed by international law, and not by US domestic law.” The authors may not fully understand that in international law, governments represent the entirety of their respective states, are responsible for the conduct of foreign affairs, are required to fulfil the obligations they undertake with other states and may not invoke their internal law as justification for failure to perform their international obligations.
The Iranian Foreign Minister added that, “Change of administration does not in any way relieve the next administration from international obligations undertaken by its predecessor in a possible agreement about Iran`s peaceful nuclear program.” He continued, “I wish to enlighten the authors that if the next administration revokes any agreement with the stroke of a pen, as they boast, it will have simply committed a blatant violation of international law.”
He emphasized that if the current negotiation with P5+1 result in a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, it will not be a bilateral agreement between Iran and the US, but rather one that will be concluded with the participation of five other countries, including all permanent members of the Security Council, and will also be endorsed by a Security Council resolution.
Zarif expressed the hope that his comments, “may enrich the knowledge of the authors to recognize that according to international law, Congress may not modify the terms of the agreement at any time as they claim,” and if Congress adopts any measure to impede its implementation, it will have committed a material breach of US obligations.
The Foreign Minister also informed the authors that majority of US international agreements in recent decades are in fact what the signatories describe as “mere executive agreements” and not treaties ratified by the Senate.
He reminded them that “their letter in fact undermines the credibility of thousands of such mere executive agreements” that have been or will be entered into by the US with various other governments.
Zarif concluded by stating that “the Islamic Republic of Iran has entered these negotiations in good faith and with the political will to reach an agreement, and it is imperative for our counterparts to prove similar good faith and political will in order to make an agreement possible.”
Is there no end to Republican conservative duplicity?
Just when you thought congressional Republicans couldn’t look any more like a troupe of treacherous and sophomoric hooligans hellbent on undermining the United States, they pull out another bag of high-school level tricks.
On Monday, 47 Republican senators signed an open letter addressed to the “Leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran” on U.S. Senate letterhead. The correspondence advises that Iran’s ongoing negotiations on its nuclear program with the Obama administration are a futile endeavor that will be overturned by the next President or modified by Congress.
Violation Of The Logan Act
Senator Tom Cotton’s letter to Iran is a direct violation of the Logan Act and should lead to prosecution as Senator Tom Cotton and 46 other signatories letter to the Iranian Government is an attempt to influence and interfere with the President’s current negotiations.
The Logan Act is a United States federal law that forbids unauthorized citizens from negotiating with foreign governments. It was passed in 1799 and last amended in 1994. Violation of the Logan Act is a felony, punishable under federal law with imprisonment of up to three years.
While the letter’s signatories are U.S. senators, they do not have the “authority of the United States” as required by law since, in conducting foreign policy, the executive branch is the United States’ only authorized authority, taking into consideration the occasional “Advice and Consent of the Senate” as prescribed by the Constitution. It’s directly addressed to leaders of a foreign government presently involved in talks with the U.S., and it is designed to thwart those talks. Unless the senators were authorized by the President to address Iran’s leaders in this letter, the 47 U.S. senators violated a federal law that carries a prison term of up to three years.
§ 953. Private correspondence with foreign governments.
Any citizen of the United States, wherever he may be, who, without authority of the United States, directly or indirectly commences or carries on any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof, with intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government or of any officer or agent thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.
1 Stat. 613, January 30, 1799, codified at 18 U.S.C. § 953 (2004).
The Constitution expressly provides sole authority to the President or his designated representative to negotiate with other countries. The Congress only has that authority if the President extends it to them. They only authority they have is after the negotiations are over…and then only if it’s a treaty.
It Is Sedition
Moreover, the action may be considered sedition: “sedition is overt conduct, such as speech and organization, that is deemed by the legal authority to tend toward insurrection against the established order.” This Republican action is clearly designed to undermine the authority of the legally elected executive while negotiating with a hostile foreign power—it is formal, declared in writing, printed and signed on official Senatorial letterhead, and was not voted on by Congress before the act of sedition took place. As such, it is prosecutable under 18 US Code Chapter 115.
They are aiding and comforting the Iranians by presenting the United States as irrevocably divided and utterly undisciplined nation. The Republican Senators clearly have no interest other than their own aggrandizement and the sabotage of effort to make the world a safer place for all.
Republican party members have demonstrated themselves on numerous contemporary occasions to be unfit to govern.
Biden Lashes Out Accurately
“In thirty-six years in the United States Senate, I cannot recall another instance in which Senators wrote directly to advise another country — much less a longtime foreign adversary — that the President does not have the constitutional authority to reach a meaningful understanding with them. This letter sends a highly misleading signal to friend and foe alike that that our Commander-in-Chief cannot deliver on America’s commitments — a message that is as false as it is dangerous.
“The decision to undercut our President and circumvent our constitutional system offends me as a matter of principle. As a matter of policy, the letter and its authors have also offered no viable alternative to the diplomatic resolution with Iran that their letter seeks to undermine.”
—Vice President Biden in a statement released by the White House
Republicans Fail The Test Of Ronald Reagan
Once upon a time, Republicans negotiated nuclear agreements with archenemies, and they actually signed them—Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Reagan’s approach was simple and has guided President Obama’s tact: “Trust, but verify.” Thirty years later, it’s a shame Republicans refuse example.
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Eighteen nations legally allow the freedom to marry for same-sex couples nationwide (Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Canada, South Africa, Norway, Sweden, Portugal, Iceland, Argentina, Denmark, France, Brazil, Uruguay, New Zealand, Britain, Luxembourg and Finland)
Two very large nations have regional or court-directed provisions enabling same-sex couples to share in the freedom to marry (Mexico and the United States [soon to be nationwide]). In Slovenia, Parliament approved a marriage bill in March 2015, and it awaits signature by the President.
Fourteen other countries provide legal protections for same-sex couples through “unions.”
As more and more countries—and hopefully soon in the United States with a Supreme Court decision—win the freedom to marry, families are supported and communities and countries strengthened by protecting all loving committed couples. The world can become stronger while growing kinder and more respecting of freedoms.