HITHER AND YON: The First Amendment, Amid The Flood

Rod Dreher has an interesting column at The American Conservative on the advancing “LGBT equality” agenda, and how increasingly, churches who resist it will be experiencing hostility from the political class over such things as their tax-exempt status – and one aspect of that can be seen locally, since it’s churches which have opened their campuses as flood relief centers and church groups which are making up such a large segment of the work force tasked with, for example, gutting and cleaning flooded houses to make them ready for contractors to restore.

The need is so great that there is no way this or any government could respond effectively to it on their own.

It’s also true that civil society couldn’t handle it on its own either. We need both — and that’s what we’re getting here. Istrouma Baptist Church, for example, is one of the biggest churches in the city, and has opened its campus as a staging area for relief operations (if you want to help, click here to find out what you can do). The work of the local churches, both big and small, in bringing desperately needed relief to the suffering is irreplaceable.

I was thinking about this yesterday, and thinking about how to many Americans, the thing most important to them about churches like those in this conservative part of America is that they (the churches) hold “bigoted” attitudes about LGBTs. In the years to come, those churches will be forced to pay a significant penalty for holding those views. Some people say that loss of tax-exempt status, which is what many progressives would like to see happen to dissident churches, will be no big deal. Why should their tax dollars go to subsidize bigotry? they reason.

It will be a very big deal. All contributions to churches and Christian organizations doing relief work are tax-deductible at the present time. This will likely go away, dramatically hampering the resources available to conservative churches like Istrouma to help the suffering in instances like this. Far as I know, nobody has seen crews from the Human Rights Campaign mucking out houses or feeding refugees.

This is another facet of the argument made a good bit last week about Black Lives Matter and whether it’s been helpful at all to victims of the South Louisiana flooding (even those victims who happen to be black), particularly when this video went viral (and Dreher also wrote some interesting stuff on that subject, too)…

There’s an overarching message to be offered here, which is this: what we’ve seen in Baton Rouge and elsewhere in South Louisiana amid the flooding, from the Cajun Navy to the Celtic Media refuge, to those church groups providing work gangs to gut those houses, to the restaurants and tailgating crews showing up to feed everybody for free, is civil society. And civil society works. When you have strong communities who care about each other, which is something that only happens organically and only when people feel free to care, those communities will rally to their own aid and greatly mitigate the human destruction in something like a flood.

Friends, family and even strangers of goodwill (who fast become new friends) showing up to help you put your house back together after it’s been flooded provide the kind of inspiration for you to do the same for another. And that’s a snowball rolling down a hill making for a great community.

There is no better institution in America to get that snowball rolling than a church. Churches are the single most effective institution for the promotion of civil society extant on this planet. And the absence of a church, or the emptiness of one, is to a community what the absence of laughter is to a marriage – it’s a sign of trouble ahead.

And the politically correct Left, from Black Lives Matter to the Gay Mafia, which claims it’s for social justice but by attacking the freedom of religion, speech and association is really for hollowing out the space between individuals and politics (or government, if you want) by demanding special treatment for “aggrieved” classes of people, can only compete with the civil society by rigging the game against it.

So killing the tax exemption for churches which don’t toe the line on “LGBT equality” because they recognize the Bible’s dim view of homosexuality means things get worse when a natural disaster hits. And making people fear the police, or worse, demonizing the police as a tool of racist white people, prevents the ability of the civil society to work across racial lines.

And there is your number one reason why, no matter how ugly and dispiriting the fight may be, the social-justice Left has to be defeated; their way does not work. The way of freedom, which you can see in the Cajun Navy for example, does work. It has always worked.

Churches do so much for us, but they lack confidence to engage in the fight for our culture. Dreher talks often about how we’re in a post-Christian era in America and religious Americans need to harden their institutions in preparation for a society hostile to Christian belief. He might be right, but that fight isn’t over until Christians stop fighting. And the story we’re telling in South Louisiana about what free people possessed with love for their fellow man and the Holy Spirit can do shows that it’s still a fight worth continuing.

Without it, you will be dependent on the Human Rights Campaign and Black Lives Matter to rescue you in a flood – and you will drown.

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There were just under 3,400 homes for sale in the Baton Rouge area in July, which was a pretty low number. Now that more than 60,000 homes have been damaged and some percentage of that number includes the 3,400 which were on the market, the real estate market in this area is likely due for a Katrina-style mess over the next couple of years.

There is the prospect, as CNN Money indicated, of population loss. If the housing stocks in Baton Rouge deplete, which is likely to happen though probably not to the extent present in Katrina – this was flooding from prolonged heavy rains, after all, rather than destruction from storm surge in which houses get knocked off their foundations or blown apart by wind – then population loss is inevitable; people will not live where there is not place to live.

That could mean dispersal of populations to places like the Felicianas or West Baton Rouge Parish, which could be seen as less likely to flood, or it could mean Baton Rouge loses population to New Orleans in a way the reverse happened after Katrina. Or it could mean people give up on Louisiana and hit the road for Houston, Dallas, Atlanta or elsewhere.

The impression we get, though, is the prevailing sentiment holds that the floods showed Baton Rouge is the kind of place worth living in thanks to the spirit of the people here, and that’s something worth hanging onto. We’re going to guess that unless the flood destroyed jobs or homes which can’t be replaced, you won’t see much population loss. You’ll see a lot of houses get raised, and you’ll see the real estate market beginning to reward flood-proofing construction practices like building on a foundation raised high off the street and building two-story houses, and elevation is going to be a lot more important quality homebuyers will consider in the future, but population loss isn’t going to be a significant, or permanent, aspect of life in Baton Rouge.

In other words, we’re going to guess stained concrete flooring will be a much more prevalent thing than U-Hauls carrying people away.

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Well, here’s some good news. It seems the state Department of Education’s plan to allow private schools participating in the underfunded state voucher program is working; most of the voucher waitlist has been cleared and the kids have been enrolled in the school of their choice, while most of the work left to be done involves the flooded areas where school enrollment is a mess for everybody…

About half the wait-listed Louisiana voucher students have been cleared to enroll in private schools, the Louisiana Department of Education reported Monday (Aug. 22).

Schools in areas not affected by the Louisiana Flood of 2016 have taken 175 children of the 362 students who did not receive vouchers when state funding ran short. And the list may shrink further: The 23 voucher schools in flooded parishes had 142 students waiting.

In metro New Orleans, 138 students were cleared and 48 remained. Almost all local schools were able to take at least some students.

We haven’t gotten around to much of the public-policy response to the flooding, and all the schools flooded earlier this month might well engender some sort of push to expand school choice or even the voucher program. After all, if there’s a private school nearby which was not flooded, or flooded but rebuilds quickly, and the public school is out of commission, then it makes sense to issue a voucher to kids who want to attend the private school rather than another public school further away. Assuming there is space in the private school and it will accept the voucher, that is.

People need freedom to recover from the storm. We haven’t had much of that conversation yet, but after all the homes are gutted and mucked out and our people have caught their breath a bit, that conversation is coming.

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And now, for a Today’s Last Thing. Which has to be flood-related, given the theme of today’s post. It’s a tour through a flooded home in Denham Springs to show the challenges faced by flood victims who take water in their houses.

This video comes after 4-5 days of hard work to pull out sheetrock and ruined flooring, and as you can see the job still isn’t remotely done.

And as you can also see, material possessions can very quickly turn into a hindrance when you get flooded. These folks are agonizing over stuff, when the fact is that all that stuff merely means more work to do and a bigger job of recovery.

That’s why the flood was just a gut-punch for our older residents, who’ve spent a life collecting memories and heirlooms only to find them to be a colossal liability.



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