08/17/2021 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – Ken Starr’s career track record has one common message: America needs liberty. In his new book, Religious Liberty in Crisis, Starr explores the crises that threaten religious liberty in America. He also examines the ways well-meaning government action sometimes undermines the religious liberty of the people, and how the Supreme Court in the past has ultimately provided us protection from such forms of government overreach. He also explores the possibilities of future overreach by government officials. Jeff King talks with Starr about his career, his book, and his warning for the future of the United States.
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Jeff King: Welcome to Into the Deep. I am so pleased to be interviewing Ken Starr today. Ken Starr, if you’re over a certain age, you absolutely know who this man is. He found himself thrust onto the national stage in the Clinton and Whitewater investigations. But he’s done a few things besides that. He’s written a book called Religious Liberty in Crisis, which is the issue du jour. As the head of Persecution Ministry, we really understand and know and feel this topic. I’m so honored to have you on, Ken, and can’t wait to get into the discussion.
Ken Starr: Thank you very much. It’s so good to be with you. Thank you for your very important ministry and outreach.
Jeff King: Appreciate that. Just for those who don’t know, let’s give a little background to who you are. I’m just going to read your resume, your CV as it were. You’re currently counsel to the Lanier Law Firm. You were President and Chancellor of Baylor University, Dean of the Pepperdine School of Law, argued 36 cases before the US Supreme Court, including as a Solicitor General. You served as United States Circuit Judge for District of Columbia as well as Counselor and Chief of Staff to the US Attorney General William French Smith. You started your career as a law clerk to Justice Warren Burger, Head of Counsel over five investigations. The only thing I could say is, you need to get off the bench and get in the game and do more in life, Ken. I don’t know what you’ve been doing all these years, but.
Ken Starr: As Proverbs would say, “Wake up, you sluggard.”
Jeff King: There you go.
Ken Starr: Or the song of yesteryear, “Get up, get out of bed. Wake up, you sleepyhead.”
Jeff King: There you go. I don’t know how you pulled that off, and you might not either at this point in your life. What an amazing career. You’re always at the juncture. You’re at Supreme Court level so you think on a constitutional level. You are the right man for the time. First of all, tell us about the book and then tell us why you wrote it.
Ken Starr: The book has been in my heart for literally 40 years, going back to 1981 when I joined the Raegan administration as Chief of Staff to the Attorney General of the United States. But the pandemic was the catalyst. Whoops, something is happening here in our [inaudible]. To me, the outrageous dimension of what was occurring in a number of states, happily not all, is that Walmart and liquor stores were [inaudible] as essential and churches were non essential. I said, “That can’t be.” Welcome to the First Amendment, governors and mayors of certain jurisdictions.
What I did is I looked back on those then 39 years, those essentially four decades of work that has been done by so many groups. I was a cog in a very large wheel. But think of the Alliance Defending Freedom, think of [inaudible] in Dallas, think of the Becket Fund and so forth. These are the great heroes, institutions and the individuals within them. But through their hard work, and again, I was a minor league player on the major league issue, we identified six great principles of religious liberty.
Now here is the unpleasant part. America has forgotten, the culture has forgotten the importance of religious liberty. And we now need to hit the pause button and we need to engage, just as Abraham Lincoln did, in self education. We, as citizens, need to, just like criminal suspects, we need to know our rights. We’ve got to brandize ourselves in the world of religious liberty. This book in 170 pages seeks to do that. It’s for you to judge and others to judge whether I accomplished that. I’ve been told that it does. To identify these and to explain these six principles in a very accessible way that then can be employed.
This is our bootcamp. Then we’re prepared to march peacefully, lovingly into battle, into the culture wars. And to say, when you’re having a conversation with a school board member or the school election, etc., “Excuse me, what happened to freedom of conscience, one of the six great principles, which is definitely under assault. And it’s under assault unfortunately, not just at the hands of governors who have been essentially told by the Supreme Court of the United States, “No, you can’t do that. We indulged it for a while but that’s it.” But even the Congress of the United States, the House of Representatives passed the so called equality…
Jeff King: Oh my gosh, yeah.
Ken Starr: Which is essentially the, “Let’s abolish freedom of conscience.” So we’ve got to equip ourselves and get out peacefully, lovingly, in the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr. We’re in favor of freedom. We’re in favor of equal opportunity. We’re in favor of human dignity. But that includes freedom of conscience. And now to draw from Martin Luther, here we stand. Here we stand. And as never before, we can’t, as I see it, remain on the sidelines while all this is holding on Capitol Hill and in state capitals and in sit in and then in schools across America. It’s a vertical and horizontal effort. We’ve got to be prepared for it, as opposed to just say, “Well, I have an opinion on this. In my opinion…” You need to persuade, and we can use arguments that win in the Supreme Court of the United States because they went five to four, six to three. No, they’re winning nine to nothing at times because these great principles are included in our Constitution.
Jeff King: Well said. The only thing I might push back on is I don’t know how meek and humble we should make our protesting. I just think that part of our problem is that, as Christians, we hold up, as a virtue, meekness and humility. We’re told to. At the same time, look, we are the frog in the kettle. And if you don’t understand how democracy works, and it’s like, Jesus also overturned the tables and he’s coming back in wrath. I just think we’ve painted ourselves into a box. I just think culturally, I swear, I think the core message of the church today, Ken, is, especially for males, just be nice. Above all else, be nice.
Ken Starr: That’s not good enough. Well, let me find, and I think we can find quickly, common ground in terms of humility and so forth. Let’s do this in a winsome way.
Let’s do it in a persuasive way. And so the example I love to use is that of the Apostle Paul, Acts chapter 17, in this speech or sermon as at were, at Mars Hill. He didn’t say, “Hey, you pagans, you got to cut it out now. You need to or fire and brimstone…” He did not give that kind of sermon. Rather, he said, he spoke into the culture. “I see you’re a religious people.” He looked and he did his homework. So that’s what I’m encouraging, especially people of faith. But frankly, I want all American citizens, including those just who are secular in outlook to say, “It’s time for us to take our foot off the gas pedal and quit trying to run over people and allow them to live their lives. Let them live their lives in dignity.” We disagree with them, disagree with them, but protect their own dignity by respecting their freedom of conscience. But doing it, as I say, winsomely, in the manner of the Apostle Paul.
Jeff King: Yeah. Winsome doesn’t, it can include aggressive. You look back at Gandhi’s movement and Martin Luther King who looked at Gandhi and looked at the way Jesus operated. And you say, “There’s a moral imperative, there’s a moral right, we will not be denied. You can kill us, you can do this and that, but we’re not going away. And we’re going to keep talking about this issue. We’re going to fight because it’s wrong.” And to not cross over into any illegal behavior, anything else, to say we are a moral people, we’re under God. But this is wrong. And it’s wrong in a fundamental level, at how the way our country was set up. The founders, obviously, they were students of human nature. And they said, “So wait a minute, we are dangerous to ourselves. We are our own worst enemy.” And so they set up a system of government that was intentionally weak. It was fractured and weak and could only do so much. And they put that constitution together to protect us from each other.
So you look at religious freedom. I’m going to talk to the lawyer here and explain this to you, Ken. Hopefully I’m gonna get this right. You’ve never heard this before. This is one of my favorite topics. Religious freedom, as you know, is that amalgamation of the freedom of speech, conscience, assembly thought. It’s this potent amalgamation of rights. And that’s why it’s sacrosanct and that’s why it’s sacred and it has to be protected at all costs. And it can’t be gutted for any special interest group, whether they’re oppressed or not. We can’t gut that thing. That’s our protection from each other. It’s not a left right thing. It’s, we all need freedom and protection from each other because whoever has power next will oppress you.
Ken Starr: Power can be abused. Lord Acton’s maxim about the way power corrupts and absolute power. Absolutely.
Jeff King: I like Ronald Reagan’s just as much though, where it’s like power and government, or it’s like giving an 18 year old beer and the keys of the car. But go ahead.
Ken Starr: I love that.
Jeff King: That’s a good one.
Ken Starr: Well, I’ve loved your formulation of freedom of religion and religious exercise is an amalgam of rights. And so just one quick historical point I make the book but I think it’s very, it’s a winsome point. So literally 40 years ago, at this very time, the Supreme Court of the United States decided a case involving whether there could be access by a Christian group to a public university campus. Around the country, public universities said, “Oh, separation of church and state,” Jefferson’s metaphor. And they were just completely wrong with the way the Supreme Court broke down, tear down this wall. Mr. Gorbachev tore down the wall. We want separation of church and state, but we want religious freedom. So what’s the answer?
And they said, “Well, this Christian group is one of many university student groups. You allow them on campus on the same terms and conditions. You don’t discriminate against them. You don’t give them, ‘Then you have…. Well, kill the fattened calf. Put the ring on your finger. Here, take over the process.’ No, you treat us like you do any other group.” They did this, the breakthrough came when they said, “When that student group, the Christian group, wants to gather together and read the Bible and to sing songs of praise and the like and pray, to encourage… they’re engaging in freedom of speech.” That brought the people, “Oh, yeah, that’s right. That’s a form of speech.” If you’re putting on a theatrical production, you’re engaged in freedom of speech. A very capacious… but there it is. That’s your amalgam point.
Jeff King: Excellent. You alluded to also in our conversation, during the pandemic, what we’re watching. Now, I’m not a lawyer, but I deal with religious freedom around the world. And I’m looking at what’s going on with, as you said that, look, the government, the governor said, “Well, the liquor store is an essential. The hardware store is an essential, and Walmart with all their lawyers, they’re an essential service. But the church…”
You look at it and you say, “Oh, my gosh, this is obviously unconstitutional.” But until someone stands up and shouts and says, “I don’t think so,” as long as they can get away with it, they’re going to do it. And whether that’s from misguided protection or because of animus towards the church, they’re going to do it until someone steps up and fight. And a couple did. So when you were watching that, what were you seeing, what were you thinking about?
Ken Starr: Well, I was concerned that the court was not acting, or the Supreme Court of the United States was not acting quickly enough, putting a stop to this. But I understood from the outside, no inside information, that look, it’s a pandemic. This is the usual thing, the Spanish Flu 1918, people died. Let’s let’s gather the facts. Let’s not rush into judgment. So it’s a judicious… but after some months went by, the Supreme Court just said, “That’s it.” In time for Christmas, Hanukkah, and said, “That’s it.” Boom. It’s unconstitutional because you really are discriminating against religious gatherings as opposed to… Well, my favorite example or unfavorite, but it made the point dramatic, was the governor of Nevada had the audacity to let Caesar’s Palace operate at half-
Jeff King: Oh my gosh.
Ken Starr: Many hundreds of people-
Jeff King: Oh my gosh.
Ken Starr: But no matter how large the sanctuary, the auditorium, the fellowship hall, 50 people, max. Totally, arbitrary. I just said, “Oh, please.” And that was, I think one of the straws that broke, as it were, the back of those who said on the court, “The governors are close to the situation. The situation is fluid. CDC guidelines.” No, you cannot do that. You’re acting in a very arbitrary way. And here’s the good news for lawyers. Guess what? These churches are recovering attorneys fees. So yeah, I said, “Oh, we’re going to have to pay attorneys unless they’re volunteering.” Of course, Alliance Defending Freedom, First Liberty. I’m on the board of the Christian Legal Society. We have a Center for Religious Liberty, the Becket Fund. They don’t charge. The mayor supported, donor supported and so forth.
But by the way, those organizations were getting attorneys… They keep their hours. And then you get compensation. You say, “Where does that come from?” It comes from Congress. Because if there is a violation, as there were, of a federal constitutional or statutory right, as there was, then you can move as the attorney for attorneys fees. So the churches don’t need to worry, “Oh, we can’t afford a million dollars of… ADF is busy, we’ve got our general counsel and so forth.” There’s nothing to stand in the way of our being the Minutemen of today marching to the Lexington Green and saying, “Here we stand, we stand in favor of freedom.”
Jeff King: Excellent. So here’s a question for you. Why is it so important for every American to know their rights? And first of all, let’s define especially the ones that are in flux and are being wrestled over. Let’s focus on a few of them and say, why is it so important to know these?
Ken Starr: Well, especially freedom of conscience, as I mentioned a few minutes ago, is really under assault. Think of the wedding services providers. Jack Phillips, the brave cake maker. I don’t think every person would agree, I mean, a person of faith, “I think you should go ahead and bake the cake for the same sex couple.” But his view is, “I can’t do that in conscience. That is non biblical. It’s a non biblical activity. And so I respectfully decline.” Now, there’s such a huge cultural misunderstanding here. Phillips will serve anyone and everyone and well he should.
I wouldn’t be so enthusiastically in support of Jack Phillips if he said, “I can’t serve people from the LGBTQ community.” “Oh, well, I’m sorry.” Public accommodation [inaudible] everyone who walks in the door, commercial establishment, with dignity. And he does. He goes the extra mile. He’s a very loving, caring person. That’s one of the cruel ironies in terms of his drama. But he is a poster child. In light of the Supreme Court of the United States rallying to his cause in a seven to two opinion and condemning the Colorado Public Civil Rights Commission in their public accommodations law.
Now, your question is, why is it important? Because everywhere in the culture, there are tensions and challenges to religious liberty. So we’ve been told, as it were, as of… To draw again from the Revolution, the British are coming, sayeth Paul Revere and his fellow writers. The enemies of religious freedom are on the march. So what are we going to do? We can’t shutter ourselves in our home. I guess we can but we-
Jeff King: We do.
Ken Starr: I think we have to be people of courage, as Joshua and Caleb were bold. We’ve got to be courageous and said, “Yes. We need to stand and defend our system of religious liberty.” Not simply for ourselves, but especially for our children, and in my age, our grandchildren. We want America… You drew from Ronald Reagan. Reagan gave a magnificent speech about, “Let us not be the generation that loses freedom.” We have to say to our children and our grandchildren, “I remember when America was free.” No, every generation has to stand up for freedom.
And now, final point on this, the cancel culture is upon us at every turn. No institution is free from the cancel culture, as well as the [inaudible] of alien ideologies, which are new ideologies that are anti freedom, that frankly, I believe, erode the foundations of our country’s commitment to rule of law. The whole idea underlying, and getting a bit far afield here, but critical race theory, while not a direct assault on religious liberty in the way that we’ve been seeing in some of these gubernatorial orders and so forth. But critical race theory is really saying we are a bad society whose institutions are fundamentally flawed and whose culture is fundamentally flawed. I’m so disheartened by that but I’m determined to stand up and be heard and said, “You, with all respect, I respect your views, I will defend your right to express your views. But don’t peddle that on my children and my grandchildren.” Because it’s wrong as a matter of history.
Let’s look at the 1619 project. Here’s the New York Times 1619 project that America is somehow evil because of slavery. Slavery was ubiquitous in the world-
Jeff King: Unfortunately.
Ken Starr: And today, American corporations right now who probably take out advertising in New York Times, employ indirectly child slave labor. And then they purchase their goods from slave labor in China. Please don’t tell me that this country is somehow bad and corrupt. Are there bad people? Of course. The fall. The Christian worldview explains all this and helps us to understand that they’re very bad people. And that racism is, in fact, bad. But don’t tell me that my country is racist when it is… The Martin Luther King Jr. vision, I keep lifting that up. That’s the vision. Just give us equal opportunity. Don’t tell us to ride in the back of the bus. Let us be treated with the same dignity as all other human beings.
Jeff King: Who can argue that? Yeah. Who can fight that or stand up to it? Yeah.
Ken Starr: Well, they are. They’re denying that we… They don’t talk about Dr. King very much. You don’t hear a lot about Dr. King. When I was writing the book, we had, of course, the terrible disaster. Not just a tragedy. It was a tragedy and disaster rolled into one, of the murder of George Floyd. But then the aftermath of that, with buildings being burned down and so forth. typically by minority people, people of color, people from around the world who came to America seeking for a home and a better life. It was being justified by the cultural elite. Expressions of outrage have to find an outlet. Of course. You march peacefully here in my adopted city of Waco, Texas. We had peaceful marches. And they were biracial marches, and the churches happily came together. And pastors and ministers and others, rabbis were involved in saying, “Yes, we care deeply as a community about injustice, and we want… But we don’t burn Waco down.”
Jeff King: Yeah, well, I’m sure there was a political angle to all that too. And let’s maximize chaos, etc. And that’s where I’m saying it’s a shame because the Black Lives Matter movement lost so much. They lost so much respect and trust because if they had taken the Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Jesus, approach, no one can stand up to that. If you just say, “We will not, we cannot stand for injustice. And we demand justice, and we deserve it.” Who’s going to argue? Because it’s like, “Yes, we all believe in that. That’s common ground.” But once we start destroying and calling everybody a racist… Anyways, you see their ideology. It’s very political. There’s a point to a lot of things they’re doing, but anyways.
So how can we protect our faith through any crisis we… I was talking today to a gentleman who voiced his concerns about school board decisions in Virginia. And head chopped off, which is the way. How can we protect ourselves? So many people get drawn up into these things, Ken.
Ken Starr: One of the things I suggest in the book is we can all really be engaged citizens. Some of our many, many tens of millions of people in the household of faith have political gifts. Please run for office. Please be willing to toss your hat into the ring. But others say, “No, that’s not me or my circumstances.” But we can encourage others. I can see church groups getting together and say, “Mary Row over here,” making that up, or, “John Doe over there. It’s really winsome, attractive, articulate people. Let’s get behind them.” But we’ve got to say we’re going to we’re going to make sure that our local school board and our local city council, our Board of Supervisors… In Virginia, California, Board of Supervisors, etc. Whatever the mechanism of government is. We’re going to engage and engage, again, one of my favorite words, winsomely. But we’re going to make it very clear. “We want you, supervisor, city council person, school board member, to be a friend of freedom. And we also want you to be, honestly, a friend of America and American values.”
And those values are embodied in the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights and in Dr. King’s letter from a Birmingham jail and Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. That’s what we want our children to grow up with. We don’t want you to be telling them that they are inherently, and this is obviously for those who are not people of color, that they are racist, that they enjoy privilege. And please stop with the ideology. And if you don’t stop with the ideology, we’re going to do everything that we can to unseat you and to restore authority to those who love our country, who talked about the greatest generation sacrificially going to European shores, into Southeast Asia, to defend the freedom of the world and human dignity, to join forces with the Churchill’s of the world. And then later, the Margaret Thatcher’s of the world.
To stand up for liberty and to say, with Monterrey and tear down this wall. Why did that wall exist? It was to keep people from leaving the country. Why are we debating a wall and our country. You’re welcome here. We’re a nation of immigrants. Okay, Native Americans got here before we did. But we’re basically a nation of immigrants. But by the way, we believe in rule of law, lawful and gracious. And frankly, I don’t think we allow enough refugees in. I’m going to get right into the point of the persecuted church. We need to be more generous, in my judgment, one person’s view, in admitting refugees from political turmoil and the like, but especially for religious persecution around the world. Let’s, generous and welcoming.
Jeff King: I agree with that, 100%. So I think you’ve touched on some, but how our government officials in lower court decisions undermining their religious liberty of people? And I’m specifically thinking of one case. I want you to talk about whatever you want, but if you could touch on the Philly case. Go ahead and just talk about, what’s going on? What’s being undermined out there?
Ken Starr: Yes. Briefly, the background is Catholic Social Services of Philadelphia had provided placement for foster children services to that beautiful city of brotherly love for well over a century. Extraordinary history of sacrificial and useful service. And then the city of Philadelphia, in our time, reads an article, the city council, reads an article that appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer that the Catholic Social Services follows Catholic social teaching, and chooses as a matter of doctrine, not to place these precious children in non traditional homes, including but not limited to, same sex couples.
Now, there had been zero complaints. But because the Philadelphia Inquirer made this point… Of the 20 some odd, and there are many, social services agencies with which the city of Philadelphia contracts to provide these actual services, so these nonprofit groups, many were religiously affiliated, including Catholic Social Services. My word. Well, if that’s the policy of Catholic Social Services, we’re going to yank their license and not permit them to be in business anymore. So tragic. Well, Catholic Social Services rightfully goes into court. Here is an important lesson within the broader lesson. The District Court ruled in favor city of Philadelphia. Three judges on the court of appeals, very able judges, ruled in favor of the city of Philadelphia.
It goes up to the Supreme Court of the United States. The Supreme Court of the United States just two weeks ago, three weeks ago, ruled in favor of Catholic Social Services. Nine to nothing, nine to nothing. This was no conservative liberal divide. What is it that the culture did not understand? And when I say the culture, many of the iconic institutions of the popular culture, including, as a lawyer, the American Bar Association, wrote briefs in favor of the city of Philadelphia. They lost nine to nothing.
It tells you that there is a disconnect between, I’ll go ahead and use the term, the elite culture in the United States of America right now and what our constitutional traditions are. Not what George Washington thought. The constitutional traditions that are given voice this very day, this time, in our time, by unanimous Supreme Court. One other example. And that’s what I call, in the great principles, the principle of autonomy. Actually lead off with that. And just very briefly state that a Christian school fires one of its teachers. The teacher then says, “I’m taking you to court. I think you’ve violated the federal civil rights laws.” Let’s give thanks for our federal civil rights laws. They are very important protections. I’m thankful for the 1964 Civil Rights Act, 1865 Voting Rights Act and all that. “I’m going to take you to court.”
And so they go to court. And the question is, that came before the Supreme Court, can a Christian school fire one of its teachers in violation of the civil rights laws? And unanimous Supreme Court said yes. Because it’s so important for Christian Schools, for religious institutions to be able to determine who’s going to transmit the faith. That must have been decided 1000 years ago when people weren’t so enlightened. Now it was decided during the time of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Yes, notorious RBG, unanimous opinion in favor the right of the school. She had devoted her life, before becoming a judge, to the rights of individuals, ACLU.
Here she is, an icon of a progressive worldview, who understood America’s constitutional traditions embodied in the First Amendment. And she said the Christian school wins. So did every other justice. People are surprised by that. What? The Supreme Court of the United States would allow discrimination? Yes, it’s not that they’re applauding. If it was discrimination, that was never litigated. The issue was, could the church be hailed into court? And the answer’s no, leave the church school alone.
Jeff King: That’s excellent. What do you What are you addressing in your book about, what do Americans not understand? It kind of gets to this point of people were so surprised. What do Americans not get about the rights?
Ken Starr: I think they don’t get the power, the capacious nature of those first 16 words of the First Amendment. That the establishment clause, of course it means more than we cannot and should not have, who would want the church of the United States?
Jeff King: That’ll ruin the church if we have that.
Ken Starr: Amen. It means much more than that. For example, I’m pretty sympathetic with the Supreme Court’s decisions, now many years ago, decades ago, invalidating coerced compulsory school prayer formulated by the state itself. Can you imagine? The State Board of Education, that’s what happened in one of the cases, says, “Here’s the prayer. Almighty God.” We say, “Well, I like the prayer. I don’t like the prayer.” Of course, there was no christological reference at all, because it was to be a civic religion prayer. And those decisions then, and so this is part of what the American people, judges didn’t understand. Oh, I think you cannot have any religious activity in the public schools. I talked with you minutes ago about that university case, the Christian group wanting to come in and use the facilities on the same basis as other groups. It was this profound misunderstanding. Oh, we’ve got to keep a religion out of the public schools, including public facilities. They misunderstood that.
As opposed to thinking, we want to protect freedom. We don’t understand that. I’ll be very specific here. Mr. Jefferson’s wall of separation metaphor in his letter as President of the United States to the Danbury Baptists in Danbury, Connecticut, where he talked about a wall of separation of church and state. Well, metaphors can be very useful. We don’t want a Church of the United States or a Church of Texas. But that idea was then lifted up. So we said, “Oh, this is a Berlin Wall. You cannot come in to the land of freedom even though you are in favor of freedom. We’ve got to keep you out behind the wall.” Profound misunderstanding.
What I tried to do in the book is both from the positive side of the great principles of religious liberty. Here they are, I’ve emphasized freedom of conscience and the idea of church autonomy or Christian school autonomy and so forth. We also need to understand that history and tradition support the idea of religious expression. So what Americans need to do is to not accept these shortcuts, these shibboleths that supposedly explain what our system is. And when they do the hard work, I think it’s pleasant work… People like the book, they read the book and stories and so forth.
By the way, one of the things that I’ve heard now from several different sources is, we’re reading, the family, “We’re reading it aloud after desert, we’re reading the book aloud. We’ll read three or four pages. Or we’re trying to read a chapter.” There are 13 chapters, so takes 13 nights to do it. That way you know you’re transmitting one of the colossal failures of my generation, the baby boomer generation, is that for whatever reason, the culture… and so were we to blame in part individually, but certainly, as a generation. We failed to transmit the culture of freedom to our children and now to our grandchildren.
Jeff King: Yeah, I’m not sure how much we can pin it on you, Ken, standing up as the representative for your regeneration. But I just always think too of a Winston Churchill quote that says, “Nothing is so unbearable as a string of prosperous days.” And if you get the full meaning of that, it’s just there’s excess in ease and we’ve been so blessed. But things have gone so far astray. Getting back to your answer there, in those in that famous phrase from the Bill of Rights. If I’m listening to you, tell me if I’m off here. It seems like in effect, look, the Constitution says, the Bill of Rights says the government shall not respect any particular church. But we will not restrict either. And it’s this tension that people miss. And all they think of is we will not, we cannot, we can’t condone. They say we need to get religion out of the public square. Is that what’s going on out there? Is that the viewpoint?
Ken Starr: Yes. It’s a total misunderstanding is so right. Imagine, let’s get religion out of the public square. Dr. King, please make no references to the New Testament, or for that matter, the Old Testament. Someone will take offense. We can’t offend anyone. So yes, baseline here is the fundamental proposition. My friends on the city council, the baseline is freedom. Don’t take away our freedom. And that includes religious freedom. And that means that that valedictorian gets an address, and if it’s in the form of testimony, don’t you dare try to censor that speech. That’s her view. She is expressing her worldview. She’s the legitimately, these are real cases, legitimately the valedictorian. You cannot censor her. Censorship is bad.
If you’re a public official, and you censor that valedictorian, you will probably find yourself facing individual liability and possible exposure to punitive damages. Believe me, that observation, you, public official, may be subjected personally an award of punitive damages, hence to get their attention.
Jeff King: Well said.
Ken Starr: You can lovingly and kindly, but…
Jeff King: Ken, you talk in the book about the age of uncertainty we find ourselves in Can you just talk about that for a second?
Ken Starr: People are confused. Or at least they just say, “Well, I don’t know what my rights are. I don’t know if the governor has gone too far. I have an opinion.” And that has given rise to this uncertainty and maybe of anxiety. And so what’s the answer to this? Let’s get certain. Let’s have certainty in the sense of, let’s know what our… You said, “Oh, you’re just totally rigid and mean spirited.” No, no, we’re definitely not mean spirited. We love everyone. But when it comes to the issue of our first freedoms, you betcha, we’re going to stand up and be heard and be counted.
And so I’m not going to languish and wallow in uncertainty, a Hamlet type person in my community. “Oh, I just don’t know.” Of course you know, you know it in your heart that you believe in freedom. And now you just need to learn the lessons of freedom. “Oh, don’t toss me into the water. I don’t know how to swim.” Well, then let’s have a swim lesson.
Jeff King: There you go.
Ken Starr: And that’s what this book is all about.
Jeff King: Well, I so appreciate you, Ken, and what you’ve done in your effort. I know you didn’t do this for the 1000 bucks or a couple 1000 you’re going to get from it. I know this is out of a heart of service to the country and out of a love of freedom. And you are, I love that reference, you are a Paul Revere who is writing in the night and saying, “Wake up, the British are coming.” And they are. What I heard you say, among other things, is run for office, people. It’s like, especially the smaller ones. Go for the school board and church. Let’s get behind each other, and those who believe in freedom. And freedom is the baseline. I love that quote.
Thank you for an amazing career. I apologize. I guess you have done a few things in your career, after reading your CV, sorry. Just such an amazing career. And thank you for your years of service and advancing the cause of freedom.
Ken Starr: Well, thank you. And thank you for yours and again, the service of your ministry. Let’s stand up for freedom. God bless you.
Jeff King: Amen. God bless, brother. Thank you so much.
Ken Starr: Thank you.