TIME politics

Rand Paul: Government Should Get Out of the Marriage Business Altogether

Rand Paul
Carlos Barria—Reuters Republican presidential candidate Senator Rand Paul waits before addressing a legislative luncheon held as part of the "Road to Majority" conference in Washington on June 18, 2015.

Paul is the junior U.S. Senator for Kentucky.

While I disagree with Supreme Court’s redefinition of marriage, I believe that all Americans have the right to contract.

The Constitution is silent on the question of marriage because marriage has always been a local issue. Our founding fathers went to the local courthouse to be married, not to Washington, D.C.

I’ve often said I don’t want my guns or my marriage registered in Washington.

Those who disagree with the recent Supreme Court ruling argue that the court should not overturn the will of legislative majorities. Those who favor the Supreme Court ruling argue that the 14th Amendment protects rights from legislative majorities.

Do consenting adults have a right to contract with other consenting adults? Supporters of the Supreme Court’s decision argue yes but they argue no when it comes to economic liberties, like contracts regarding wages.

It seems some rights are more equal than others.

Marriage, though a contract, is also more than just a simple contract.

I acknowledge the right to contract in all economic and personal spheres, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a danger that a government that involves itself in every nook and cranny of our lives won’t now enforce definitions that conflict with sincerely felt religious convictions of others.

Some have argued that the Supreme Court’s ruling will now involve the police power of the state in churches, church schools, church hospitals.

This may well become the next step, and I for one will stand ready to resist any intrusion of government into the religious sphere.

Justice Clarence Thomas is correct in his dissent when he says: “In the American legal tradition, liberty has long been understood as individual freedom from governmental action, not as a right to a particular governmental entitlement.”

The government should not prevent people from making contracts but that does not mean that the government must confer a special imprimatur upon a new definition of marriage.

Perhaps the time has come to examine whether or not governmental recognition of marriage is a good idea, for either party.

Since government has been involved in marriage, they have done what they always do — taxed it, regulated it, and now redefined it. It is hard to argue that government’s involvement in marriage has made it better, a fact also not surprising to those who believe government does little right.

So now, states such as Alabama are beginning to understand this as they begin to get out of the marriage licensing business altogether. Will others follow?

Thomas goes on to say:

To the extent that the Framers would have recognized a natural right to marriage that fell within the broader definition of liberty, it would not have included a right to governmental recognition and benefits. Instead, it would have included a right to engage in the very same activities that petitioners have been left free to engage in — making vows, holding religious ceremonies celebrating those vows, raising children, and otherwise enjoying the society of one’s spouse — without governmental interference.

The 14th Amendment does not command the government endorsement that is conveyed by the word “marriage.” State legislatures are entitled to express their preference for traditional marriage, so long as the equal rights of same-sex couples are protected.

So the questions now before us are: What are those rights? What does government convey along with marriage, and should it do so? Should the government care, or allocate any benefits based on marital status?

And can the government do its main job in the aftermath of this ruling — the protection of liberty, particularly religious liberty and free speech?

We shall see. I will fight to ensure it does both, along with taking part in a discussion on the role of government in our lives.

Perhaps it is time to be more careful what we ask government to do, and where we allow it to become part of our lives.

The Constitution was written by wise men who were raised up by God for that very purpose. There is a reason ours was the first where rights came from our creator and therefore could not be taken away by government. Government was instituted to protect them.

We have gotten away from that idea. Too far away. We must turn back. To protect our rights we must understand who granted them and who can help us restore them.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME politics

Sen. Rand Paul: Don’t Trust a Lying Government

The USA Freedom Act, which the Senate approved Tuesday, still threatens the constitutional rights of Americans

This week President Barack Obama suffered a serious rebuke. Congress sent the president a bill that he signed that tells him his illegal bulk collection of phone records must end.

Apologists for collecting all the phone records of all Americans all of the time now belatedly say they are OK with ending the bulk collection program. They want you to know that your records are not really protected by the Fourth Amendment. They are only doing you a favor by granting you this reform.

Former Director of the National Security Agency and Central Intelligence Agency Michael Hayden writes in TIME that the law is clear. According to Hayden, your records—once held by the phone company—have no Fourth Amendment protection. Hayden writes: “The controlling legal authority here is a Supreme Court case decided in 1979, Smith v. Maryland, where the court held that metadata is not, repeat not, constitutionally protected.”

I think the Supreme Court has not yet caught up to an era in which one keeps one’s papers in a cloud, not a castle.

In 1979, the Supreme Court ruled 5-3 in Smith v. Maryland that a few days worth of phone records for a single individual were not protected by the Fourth Amendment. The NSA today, though, collects hundreds of millions of phone records from hundreds of millions of Americans without an individualized warrant. I hardly think Smith v. Maryland contemplated this vast dragnet.

The justices who dissented in Smith v. Maryland, though, were amazingly prescient and on target. Justice Thurgood Marshall—who disagreed with the opinion of the court—wrote that he didn’t share the assumption that customers would “typically know” that a phone company tracked calls internally—and that even if they did, there’s no way individuals would expect the general public or government to be privy to such records.

Privacy, Justice Marshall argued, is not a “discrete commodity, possessed absolutely or not at all.” Citizens who disclose information to a bank or a phone company with a specific intention for business, Marshall maintained, have a reasonable expectation that this information will not be released to outside entities.

Justices Potter Stewart and William J. Brennan also expressed their belief that phone records deserved protection, writing in their dissent that they were ”not persuaded that the numbers dialed from a private telephone fall outside the constitutional protection of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments.”

Stewart and Brennan maintained that a private citizen at home has an assumption of privacy regarding whom he or she contacts, and a constitutional right to privacy. “The numbers dialed from a private telephone—like the conversations that occur during a call—are within the constitutional protection,” Stewart and Brennan wrote. “The information captured by such surveillance emanates from private conduct within a person’s home or office—locations that without question are entitled to Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment protection.”

The numbers dialed are “not without ‘content,’” they argued—and despite that phone books are in the public domaine, most customers would not want their call log revealed to the world. “This is not because such a list might in some sense be incriminating, but because it easily could reveal the identities of the persons and the places called, and thus reveal the most intimate details of a person’s life,” they argued.

If the government has unrestricted access to the call logs of individuals without probable cause, Justice Marshall feared the suppression of speech would “impede certain forms of political affiliation and journalistic endeavor that are the hallmark of a truly free society.” Here Marshall was incredibly prescient to be suspicious of government efforts to track anonymous sources. Records of outgoing phone calls and phone numbers, Marshall concluded, deserve protection equal to speech.

Just as one who enters a public telephone booth is “entitled to assume that the words he utters into the mouthpiece will not be broadcast to the world,” Marshall maintained that “he should be entitled to assume that the numbers he dials in the privacy of his home will be recorded, if at all, solely for the phone company’s business purposes.”

And if law enforcement officials deemed privacy speech necessary because of reasonable suspicion, Marshall insisted that telephone companies disclosed any secure information otherwise inaccessible to government only when presented with a warrant.

General Hayden knows full well the powerful and invasive nature of metadata. Hayden is so confident of the “truth” discerned from metadata that he once remarked that “we kill people based on metadata.”

If so, we should be duly alarmed that metadata is collected in bulk and nothing in the Patriot Act prevents the government from using data collected in this less than constitutional way from being used in prosecuting domestic crime.

In fact, the section of the Patriot Act that authorizes the government to legally search and seize properly without telling the owner right away, is used 99.5% of the time not to prosecute terrorists, but to prosecute Americans for domestic crimes.

General Hayden tells us he is “willing to give the USA Freedom Act a try.” But that is only after the intelligence community is forced to admit that they lied about the very existence of bulk collection. My guess is that their easy acquiescence to transferring the bulk collection from the government to the phone companies is somewhat disingenuous since no reform would have ever been possible but for Edward Snowden revealing that the intelligence community was lying to Congress.

I, for one, will remain constantly vigilant of a government that admits its transgressions of liberty only when they are caught lying.

Read next: Former NSA Director Michael Hayden: Rand Paul Is Wrong About the NSA

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TIME politics

Sen. Rand Paul: I Will Stop the Illegal NSA Spying

"We have all the tools we need to preserve both security and liberty"

Sunday, I will continue my fight to end the illegal collection of American phone records. The Second Appeals court has ruled the NSA’s bulk collection of phone records illegal. We should not be debating modifying an illegal program. We should simply end this illegal program.

How will we defend ourselves if the Patriot Act expires? Well, perhaps we could just rely on the Constitution and demonstrate exactly how traditional judicial warrants can gather all the info we need—and how bulk collection really hasn’t worked.

We have all the tools we need to preserve both security and liberty. What we now need is a president with the will to do just that.

I have fought for several years now to end the invasive and illegal spying of the NSA on ordinary Americans. I am ready to debate how we fight terrorism without giving up our liberty.

Let me be clear: I acknowledge the need for a robust intelligence agency and for a vigilant national security. I believe we must fight terrorism, and I believe we must stand strong against our enemies.

MORE: Here’s What Could Happen If the Patriot Act Expires

Yet the expiration of the NSA’s sweeping, all-encompassing and ineffectual powers will not relinquish functions necessary for protecting national security but will instead do what we should have done all along—rely on the Constitution for these powers.

Of particular concern is allowing law enforcement to continue surveillance on suspected terrorists. This tool will still be available but through constitutionally sound warrants permitted by the Fourth Amendment. The only change is that the FBI must obtain a specific warrant for each device used by the suspect under surveillance through individualized warrants granted by the courts.

Bulk collection of phone records didn’t find or stop the Tsarnaev brothers from the massacre in Boston. In fact, one might argue that all of the money spent on bulk collection takes money away from human analysts that might have noticed the older brother’s trip to become radicalized in Chechnya. Just this week the FBI opined that they don’t have enough resources to monitor jihadists suspects in the U.S.

I would take the billions spent on collecting records of suspicionless Americans and spend it instead on FBI agents to monitor suspects who have given probable cause that they are a danger to us. In the recent jihadist attack in Texas, one of the terrorists was well known to authorities. He had already been convicted of a terrorism charge. I would spend more money and more time developing probable cause warrants to delve deeply and effectively into individuals like this.

Individual warrants every day are used to arrest dangerous people. I see no reason we can’t defend ourselves using the same Constitutional processes we’ve used for over two centuries.

Our country was founded on the principle of individual—not general—warrants.

After the current illegal powers end Sunday night the government could still get a warrant. It will just have to say on it Mr. John Smith, not Mr. Verizon.

One suspect, one warrant. Not hundreds of millions of records swept up in one illegal order.

I would argue this will make us more safe, not less. It has been said that finding a terrorist is like finding a needle in a haystack. Well, for years, your government’s answer has been to make the haystack bigger by gobbling up every American’s information.

That must end.

The Second Circuit recently ruled that Section 215 of the Patriot Act does not authorize bulk collection of phone records, and an alternative collection mechanism is unnecessary. In fact, the recent Department of Justice Inspector General report showed that the government is using broad terms in these letters to receive mass electronic transactional records.

The Inspector General report also concluded Section 215 was not responsible for preventing any terrorist plots because agents queried “did not identify any major case developments that resulted from use of the records obtained in response to Section 215 orders.”

Opponents of civil liberties cite the expiration of the “lone wolf” provision as dangerous, but this provision allowing law enforcement to track suspects who are unaffiliated with a formal terror network has never been used in a single investigation during the 14 years of the Patriot Act’s existence. Again, even when this provision expires, law enforcement will still be able to track foreign individuals who are suspected of engaging in terrorism through courts empowered to grant warrants if there is probable cause or reasonable suspicion.

The vast expansion of the spy state and the corresponding erosion of our Constitutional rights has not made America safer. Even the most vocal defenders of the program have failed to identify a single thwarted plot as a result of the government’s sweeping, undefined, and illegal war on civil liberties.

The Obama presidency will be recalled as the era when most Democrats, with the notable exception of the principled Senator Ron Wyden, abandoned civil liberties for the tyranny of power—a far cry from then-Senator Obama’s stirring defense of liberty in 2007. “Our Constitution works,” Obama said. “We will again set an example for the world that the law is not subject to the whims of stubborn rulers, and that justice is not arbitrary.”

It was a danger that Democratic Senator Frank Church presciently foresaw, warning that a dictator through the N.S.A. “could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back.”

Our government is not comprised of angels, and we must have rules in place that acknowledge that, and protect our rights while protecting our national security.

Now, it’s time for Republicans to lead when it comes to protecting the liberty of all Americans from the whims of stubborn rulers.

This president could fix the problem by himself but he hasn’t done so. I stand ready to help lead the way on this important matter. On Sunday I will stop the illegal NSA spying.

TIME politics

Sen. Rand Paul: What You Discuss on Your Phone Is None of the Government’s Business

This undated photo provided by the National Security Agency (NSA) shows its headquarters in Fort Meade, Md.
NSA/Getty Images This undated photo provided by the National Security Agency (NSA) shows its headquarters in Fort Meade, Md.

Paul is the junior U.S. Senator for Kentucky.

The sacrifice of our personal liberty for security is and will forever be a false choice

I’ve long said what you discuss on your phone is none of the government’s business, and the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit agrees.

Today, the federal court struck down the government’s sweeping, undefined, and illegal war on civil liberties, ruling that it is unlawful for the National Security Agency to collect the bulk phone records of American citizens.

The three judge panel slams the overreach of the NSA’s limitless metadata collection and privacy intrusion, writing in the opinion that the program was an “unprecedented contraction of the privacy expectations of all Americans.” The court judges the program’s premise as ineffectual, stating “the records demanded are all-encompassing; the government does not even suggest that all of the records sought, or even necessarily any of them, are relevant.”

This is an important victory for privacy, but the fight for liberty must continue in the Supreme Court and Congress until this grave miscarriage of justice is completely repealed.

The current ruling concludes that Section 215 of the Patriot Act does not authorize bulk collection of phone records. While this is great news, it also raises an important question. One of the reforms being offered in Congress is the USA Freedom Act, which bans bulk collection but replaces that collection with a new authorization for collection from phone companies.

Now that the appellate court has ruled that Section 215 doesn’t authorize bulk collection, would the USA Freedom Act actually be expanding the Patriot Act?

That would be a bitter irony if the attempt to end bulk collection actually gave new authority to the Patriot Act to collect records.

Senator Wyden and myself have a simpler approach to the problem. We simply ban the collection of phone records and do not replace it with an alternative collection system. We presume the replacement system would be constitutionally sound Fourth Amendment warrants.

The Supreme Court must strike down the government’s illegal spying program as a violation of our Fourth Amendment right to privacy. The Supreme Court will also determine if there is a First Amendment violation; the Second Circuit opinion asserts there is “a concrete, fairly traceable, and redressable injury” to the right of free association.

Congress must repeal the Patriot Act’s Section 215 provision that is used as the justification for the program’s legality. Without Congressional authorization for the program’s expiration at the end of the month, the government’s warrantless collection, as the court puts it, was never legal. “Congress cannot reasonably be said to have ratified a program of which many members of Congress — and all members of the public — were not aware,” reads the opinion.

Congress can also take other immediate action to prevent the Washington machine from collecting any American’s personal communications. I sponsored the Fourth Amendment Preservation and Protection Act to block federal, state, and local governments obtaining information on individuals or groups of individuals held by a third party in a system of records without a warrant. Congress should pass this bill immediately. I will also continue to fight for our civil liberties in the courtroom as part of a class action lawsuit filed on behalf of all Americans in protest of this unconstitutional program.

Opponents of civil liberties contend the NSA data collection has made our country more safe, but even the most vocal defenders of the program have failed to identify a single thwarted plot. If anything, the terror attack during the Boston marathon is a tragic reminder that casting too wide of a collection net for intelligence can be a distraction from the analysis necessary to stop plots — and, I’d argue, push us further from the fundamental reform necessary for our intelligence agencies to successfully counter terrorism.

The NSA should keep close watch on suspected terrorists to keep our country safe — through programs permitting due process, the naming of a suspect, and oversight by an accountable court. The sacrifice of our personal liberty for security is and will forever be a false choice, and I refuse to relinquish our Constitutional rights to opportunistic and overreaching politicians.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME politics

Sen. Rand Paul: Break Down the Wall That Separates Us From the ‘Other America’

US-POLICE-RACE-JUSTICE-PROTEST
Timothy A. Clary—AFP/Getty Images Protesters stand during a demonstration against the chokehold death of Eric Garner in Foley Square in New York City on Dec. 4, 2014.

Paul is the junior U.S. Senator for Kentucky.

We need to notice and be aware of the injustices embedded in our criminal justice system

In his 1967 address to Stanford University, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke of two Americas. He described them as, “two starkly different American experiences that exist side by side.”

In one America, people experienced “the opportunity of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in all its dimensions.” In the other America, people experienced a “daily ugliness” that dashes hope and leaves only “the fatigue of despair.”

The uneasy coexistence of the two Americas is brought to bear by the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown.

Although I was born into the America that experiences and believes in opportunity, my trips to Ferguson, Detroit, Atlanta, and Chicago have revealed that there is an undercurrent of unease.

Congressman John Lewis, who heroically marched in Selma, still sees two Americas. He writes: “One group of people in this country can expect the institutions of government to bend in their favor, no matter that they are supposedly regulated by impartial law.”

The other group: “[C]hildren, fathers, mothers, uncles, grandfathers . . . are swept up like rubbish by the hard unforgiving hand of the law. They are offered no lenience, even for petty offenses, in a system that seems hell-bent on warehousing them by the millions . . . while others escape the consequences of pervasive malfeasance scot-free.”

We need to notice and be aware of the injustices embedded in our criminal system. However, we shouldn’t be misled to believe that excessive force is the norm, not the exception. I believe that most police are conscientious and want only to provide safety for us.

The blame should be directed to the laws and the politicians who order police into untenable positions, that insist on “taking down” someone for selling a couple of untaxed cigarettes.

Our pursuit of justice should not obscure the fact that on many occasions, good people do step forward to find justice.

This past fall, Helen Johnson was desperate to feed her two daughters and their small children who had gone two days without food. When she got to the store, she discovered that the $1.25 she had was not enough to buy eggs. She was a mere fifty cents short, so she stuffed the eggs in her pocket.

Helen didn’t even make it out of the store before the police were notified.

When Police Officer William Stacy arrived, something special happened. Instead of handcuffing Helen and taking her to jail, he used discretion and compassion to mete out justice. He warned Helen not to steal again and he bought her the eggs himself. Helen saw Officer Stacy again on Thanksgiving Day. He delivered a truckload of groceries to Helen’s home. Her grandchildren were overjoyed and proclaimed that they had never seen so much food in all their lives.

It isn’t hard to find injustice around us, but we must not let injustice smear the good deeds that do occur everyday.

I am optimistic, but peace will only come when those of us who have enjoyed the American Dream become more aware of those who are missing out on the Dream.

The future of our country will be secure when we break down the wall that separates us from “the other America.”

Let’s commemorate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King by uniting the two Americas into one: an America that includes justice for one, and justice for all.

Paul is the junior U.S. Senator for Kentucky.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME politics

Rand Paul: Cuba Isolationists Just Don’t Get It

marco-rubio-rand-paul
T.J. Kirkpatrick—Getty Images; Rogelio V. Solis.—AP

Paul is the junior U.S. Senator for Kentucky.

Let's hope cooler heads will ultimately prevail and we unleash a trade tsunami that washes the Castros once and for all into the sea.

I grew up in a family that despised, not only communism, but collectivism, socialism and any “ism” that deprived the individual of his or her natural rights.

As a kid, I listened to the stories of an old Ukrainian fisherman who talked of fighting the Bolsheviks. More times than I can remember, I’ve heard horror stories of those who fled Castro’s Cuba. I ran for office to fight for the individual and against statism of any kind anywhere and yet… I think a policy of isolationism toward Cuba is misplaced and hasn’t worked.

I support engagement, diplomacy, and trade with Cuba, China, Vietnam, and many countries with less than stellar human rights records, because I believe that once enslaved people taste freedom and see the products of capitalism they will become hungry for freedom themselves.

President George W. Bush wrote that “trade creates the habits of freedom,” and trade provides the seeds of freedom that begin “to create the expectations of democracy.” Once trade begins it is hard to hide the amazing products of capitalism. The Soviets used to produce documentaries depicting poverty in America but it backfired when Russian viewers noticed that even in the poorest of circumstances you could still see televisions flickering in the windows. Once trade is enhanced with Cuba, it will be impossible to hide the bounty that freedom provides.

The supporters of the embargo against Cuba speak with heated passion but fall strangely silent when asked how trade with Cuba is so different than trade with Russia or China or Vietnam.

It is an inconsistent and incoherent position to support trade with other communist countries, but not communist Cuba.

Even the supporters of the embargo agree that it has not worked. A policy of isolationism with Cuba and engagement with China and Vietnam does not make any sense. Communism can’t survive the captivating allure of capitalism. Let’s overwhelm the Castro regime with iPhones, iPads, American cars, and American ingenuity.

My family’s opposition to communism was so fierce that when Nixon said the U.S. would trade with Red China our response was heated and passionately opposed. But over time my family and many conservatives came to believe that trade was better than war and more effective. While China’s human rights record leaves much to be desired, our engagement and trade has without question helped to open Chinese society.

Over the years, many conservatives have come to believe that trade with China and Vietnam is the best way to overcome and defeat communism. Trade and relations also make it less likely that we ever go to war with China, because the two countries have become economically intertwined.

That being said, it is ultimately Congress not the President who will debate and decide whether the embargo will end. Congress, not the Executive, has dominion over many aspects of the trade and travel embargo. I doubt Congress will vote to end the embargo at this time, but my hope is that restoring diplomatic ties will induce Cubans to rise up and demand more freedom and more trade with the U.S.

Those who love freedom and want to see a free Cuba should continue to demand nothing less than a democratic republic that defends the rights of the individual. After 50 years of embargo and no evidence of tyranny losing its grip, maybe it’s time for a new approach.

Public opinion is changing on this issue. Young Cuban-Americans have shifted their position on the embargo, and many young people support a change in policy. American farmers and other exporters would benefit by being able to sell more products to a country right off the coast of Florida.

Doug Bandow, of the CATO Institute writes that proponents of the embargo have it all wrong when they make the fear mongering claim that diplomacy with Cuba will make America less safe. Bandow argues that “America has engaged in years of on-and-off discussions with North Korea’s Kim dynasty stretching back to the Clinton administration. Under President Obama Washington has been negotiating with Iran’s government for months: most people recognize that a diplomatic settlement, no matter how difficult to achieve, would be better than war.”

For 70 years we had diplomatic relations with Russia, despite the gulags, despite the atrocities of Stalin and others. Reagan, himself, engaged and negotiated with Communist Russia.

The 50-year embargo against Cuba has not worked. If the goal was regime change, then it sure does not seem to be working. It also hurts the people more than the regime, because the regime can blame the embargo for hardship.

Emotions understandably run high for those whose parents and grandparents had their land and their lives taken from them. But if our goal is to defeat Castro and defeat communism then perhaps we should step back and ask ourselves, “Has the embargo worked?” If we allow the passions to cool, maybe just maybe, we might conclude that trade is better than war and that capitalism wins every time a people get a chance to see its products.

Let’s hope cooler heads will ultimately prevail and we unleash a trade tsunami that washes the Castros once and for all into the sea.

Paul is the junior U.S. Senator for Kentucky.

Read next: Rand Taunts Rubio On Cuba Policy

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Race

Rand Paul: The Politicians Are To Blame in Ferguson

Paul is the junior U.S. Senator for Kentucky.

The failure of the War on Poverty has created a culture of violence and put police in a nearly impossible situation.

We are witnessing a tragedy in Ferguson. This city in Missouri has become a focal point for so much. The President and the late Michael Brown’s family have called for peace. I join their calls for peaceful protest, but also reiterate their call to action — “channel your frustration in ways that will make a positive change.”

In the search for culpability for the tragedy in Ferguson, I mostly blame politicians. Michael Brown’s death and the suffocation of Eric Garner in New York for selling untaxed cigarettes indicate something is wrong with criminal justice in America. The War on Drugs has created a culture of violence and put police in a nearly impossible situation.

In Ferguson, the precipitating crime was not drugs, but theft. But the War on Drugs has created a tension in some communities that too often results in tragedy. One need only witness the baby in Georgia, who had a concussive grenade explode in her face during a late-night, no-knock drug raid (in which no drugs were found) to understand the feelings of many minorities — the feeling that they are being unfairly targeted.

Three out of four people in jail for drugs are people of color. In the African American community, folks rightly ask why are our sons disproportionately incarcerated, killed, and maimed?

African Americans perceive as true that their kids are more likely to be killed. ProPublica examined 33 years of FBI data on police shootings, accounted for the racial make-up of the country, and determined that: “Young black males in recent years were at a far greater risk of being shot dead by police than their white counterparts – 21 times greater.”

Can some of the disparity be blamed on a higher rate of crime in the black community? Yes, but there is a gnawing feeling that simply being black in a high-crime area increases your risk for a deadly altercation with police.

Does bad behavior account for some of the interactions with law enforcement? Yes, but surely there must be ways that we can work to prevent the violence from escalating.

On the other side of the coin, defenders of the War on Drugs say, look at Mexico if you want to see drug violence unchecked by police power.

Isn’t there another alternative where we utilize police power to counter violence, but for the most part leave non-violent citizens alone?

As I’ve visited our nation’s urban centers and predominantly white, impoverished rural areas, I sense an undercurrent of unease. It’s not just lack of justice, but also a cycle of poverty, to crime, and back to poverty again. There is a sense of helplessness. To be sure, we all hold a certain degree of responsibility for our lives and it’s a mistake to simply blame others for our problems.

Reforming criminal justice to make it racially blind is imperative, but that won’t lift up these young men from poverty. In fact, I don’t believe any law will. For too long, we’ve attached some mythic notion to government solutions and yet, 40 years after we began the War on Poverty, poverty still abounds.

When you look at statistics for the white community alone, you see that we’ve become two separate worlds in which the successful are educated and wait to have children until they are married, and those in poverty are primarily those without higher education and with children outside of marriage.

This message is not a racial one. The link between poverty, lack of education, and children outside of marriage is staggering and cuts across all racial groups. Statistics uniformly show that waiting to have children in marriage and obtaining an education are an invaluable part of escaping poverty.

I have no intention to scold, but escaping the poverty and crime trap will require more than just criminal justice reform. Escaping the poverty trap will require all of us to relearn that not only are we our brother’s keeper, we are our own keeper. While a hand-up can be part of the plan, if the plan doesn’t include the self-discovery of education, work, and the self-esteem that comes with work, the cycle of poverty will continue.

I will continue to fight to end the racial disparities in drug sentencing. I will continue to fight lengthy, mandatory sentences that prevent judges from using discretion. I will continue to fight to restore voting rights for non-violent felons who’ve served their sentences. But my hope is that out of tragedy, a preacher or teacher will arise — one who motivates and inspires all of us to discover traits, ambitions, and moral codes that have slowly eroded and left us empty with despair.

I will continue the fight to reform our nation’s criminal justice system, but in the meantime, the call should go out for a charismatic leader, not a politician, to preach a gospel of hope and prosperity. I have said often America is in need of a revival. Part of that is spiritual. Part of that is in civics, in our leaders, in our institutions. We must look at policies, ideas, and attitudes that have failed us and we must demand better.

Real solutions will include a revival of spirit, purpose, and action. I, for one, pledge to be part of those solutions.

Read next: Ferguson Is the Wrong Tragedy to Wake America Up

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME TIME for Thanks

Rand Paul: What I’m Thankful For

Rand Paul Missy Paul
Courtesy Rand Paul

I am thankful that Missy Paul is safe. Missy was kidnapped by Boko Haram and survived a harrowing ordeal in which her school was burned to the ground in Nigeria. With a gun to her head, she was forced into the back of a truck with thugs who said they intended to “marry” her. As the truck sped her away from safety, from her school, and from her friends, she made the decision to jump. She was warned they would shoot her if she tried to escape, but she chose to tumble into the bush at a high-speed rather than become prisoner.

Missy is a survivor. She survived the kidnapping and the deaths of her friends. She survived as a Christian amidst the chaos of religious extremism so intolerant it would rape, savage, and butcher people of another faith.

I am thankful to my friends Doug and Myriam Wead for bringing Missy Paul to America and giving her a chance. The Weads have provided Missy with a full scholarship to a Christian school in Oregon. When I met Missy, I sensed that she was beginning to understand the possibility of hope, but I also sensed that it would take a while for her to believe that she is truly safe.

I asked Missy about her dreams for the future. Her dream, she said, is to become a doctor.

Amidst so much violence, hatred, and cruelty, miracles do occur. Einstein wrote that you have a choice—you can view life as if miracles are everywhere, or as if they are nowhere. I choose to acknowledge the miracles and truly believe that if we allow ourselves to be blinded by conflict and carnage, we will miss the God-given goodness that surrounds us.

Evil can and is overcome every minute of every day. If we paid more attention to the hope that emanates from the tentative smile of Missy Paul, maybe then, evil would begin to lose its grip. As my time with Missy Paul came to an end, I told her, “We share the same last name. We must be relatives.” I smiled, “I want you to know that in America, you have a relative and you can count on me if you ever need help.”

I am thankful every day for my wife Kelley, my sons William, Duncan and Robert and all of my family and friends who bless my life every day. I am thankful to have the honor to fight for the people of Kentucky and for the causes I believe in as a U.S. Senator from Kentucky. I am thankful for America. I am thankful for this great nation that acts as a beacon of hope for those that are oppressed throughout the world. And this year, I am most thankful for Missy’s safety and her promising future.

*Missy’s name was changed to protect her identity.

Rand Paul is the junior U.S. Senator from Kentucky.

TIME faith

Rand Paul: America Is in a Full-Blown Spiritual Crisis

Sen. Rand Paul speaks at the 2014 Values Voter Summit on Sept. 26, 2014 in Washington.
Mark Wilson—Getty Images Sen. Rand Paul speaks at the 2014 Values Voter Summit on Sept. 26, 2014 in Washington.

Paul is the junior U.S. Senator for Kentucky.

How did we stray so far from the Constitution? And how do we find our way back to the traditions of our founders?

America is not just experiencing growing pains. America is in a full-blown crisis — a spiritual crisis.

Soothing voices seek to reassure us that everything is OK. Everything is just fine. All is well. All is well until… Until one day all is not well. The problem, as Os Guinness puts it, is not wolves at the door but termites in the floor. Our foundation is cracking. It’s not that we’ve chosen the wrong politicians. It’s more fundamental than that.

We have arrived at that crossroads. We have arrived at a day of reckoning. Will we falter? Or will we thrive and rediscover our mojo?

America has much greatness left in her. If we believe in ourselves, if we believe in our founding documents, if we believe in the system that made us the richest, freest, and most humanitarian nation ever. But cracks are evident. The sand is shifting. Our moral compass is wavering.

Guinness makes this point. When he states that: “The only proper restraint to freedom is self-restraint.”

What does that mean? It means that those who love freedom must realize that freedom is not a license to do as you please, freedom can only be realized when citizens know self restraint, or put another way — virtue. This parallels George Washington’s belief that democracy requires a virtuous people. Laws don’t really restrain people. Ninety-eight percent of people follow a virtuous course with or without laws. This is not an argument against laws but an argument that laws alone are not enough to civilize a nation.

What America needs is not just another politician or more promises. What America needs is a revival.

Two hundred years ago Thomas Paine wrote, “These are the times that try men’s souls.” The question is now as important as it was then, will you be “sunshine patriots” shrinking and gone when the going gets tough or will you stand, shoulder to shoulder to defend the Republic!

As your representative, I swore an oath to defend the Republic against enemies foreign and domestic. Now that I’ve been to Washington and seen the belly of the beast, I can tell you that I’ve met the enemy and the enemy is too often right here in this town.

In the White House. In Congress. In both parties.

In bipartisan fashion, Congress defies its own rules on publishing bills online in advance of votes.

The President acts as if he were a king. He ignores the Constitution. He arrogantly says, “If Congress will not act, then I must.” These are not the words of a great leader. These words sound more like the exclamations of an autocrat.

In the face of war, the President is just as arrogant. Instead of coming to Congress, he illegally acts on his own.

We are faced with a crisis in the Middle East that does require action. While I am one who is hesitant to involve us in their civil wars, ISIS is now a threat to our consulate in Erbil and possibly to our embassy in Baghdad.

We must act but we should act within the rule of law. The Constitution states that only Congress may declare war, yet this President has, in Libya, and then again this week in Syria, committed our sons and daughters to a war that is not authorized by Congress.

Had I been President, I would have called for a joint session of Congress, laid out the threat, and requested Congressional authority to respond. By failing to follow the Constitution this President missed a chance to unite the nation. He missed a chance to galvanize the country. He missed the chance to become a great American leader.

How did we stray so far from the Constitution? And how do we find our way back to the traditions of our founders?

Don Devine writes of how Freedom and Tradition are intertwined: “Freedom needs tradition for law, order, and inspiration. Tradition needs freedom to escape stagnation, coercion, and decline. The great achievement of the Constitution’s framers was in providing a means for synthesizing freedom and tradition.”

America needs to revive tradition. America needs to revive virtue. America needs to revive the hope that springs eternal from the transcendent teachings of a humble carpenter who died on a cross. Government can supply bread, but it can’t mend a broken spirit.

Mother Teresa was once praised for her social work in India. She replied, “We are not social workers. We do this for Jesus.” No secular government, no social worker can claim the same motivation. No government, no law, can force a people to be virtuous. Our churches, schools and parents must fill that void.

This is not the norm right now. Speaking of a revival, speaking of our values, is sadly considered nonconformity in this day and age.

In other words, we must do something that our world often tells us not to do: Seek God.

Walker Percy laments in “The Moviegoer” that we’ve left no room for the seeker. Maybe, our country’s revival depends on seeking and re-discovering the synthesis of freedom and tradition.

Some seem to believe you must choose either liberty or virtue — that to be virtuous you can’t have too much liberty. That is exactly wrong. Liberty is absolutely essential to virtue. It is our freedom to make individual choices that allows us to be virtuous. Government cannot impose virtue, we must impose it on ourselves.

This does not mean our government should or cannot reflect our values. In fact, it must. The first Amendment is not about keeping religious people out of government, it is about keeping government out of religion. Some seek to separate the issues of our day. Separate our debt, from the issue of life. Separate our charity from our education policy. Separate our values from our government. This does not work.

Obamacare tries to force us to separate our faith from our business. Fortunately, The Supreme Court thought otherwise.

Reagan understood this unity of message when he wrote: “We do not have a separate social agenda, separate economic agenda, and a separate foreign agenda. We have one agenda, just as surely as we seek to put our financial house in order and rebuild our nation’s defenses, so too, we seek to protect the unborn, to end the manipulation of schoolchildren by utopian planners and permit the acknowledgement of a Supreme Being in our classrooms.”

As Christians, we should always stand with the most defenseless. I believe that no civilization can long endure that does not respect life from those not yet born to life’s last breath.

The debate isn’t really about whether government has a role in protecting life. The debate really hinges on when life begins. I’ve held one and a half pound babies in my hand. I’ve seen them sucking their thumb on ultrasound and I’ve seen surgeons operate on babies still in the womb. So don’t tell me that five and six pound babies have no rights simply because they are not yet born. I am one who will march for Life and will continue to stand up in defense of life as long as I am privileged to be in office.

Another way we as Christians should stand up to the current status quo is in foreign policy. Reagan in his first speech to the UN said: “The record of history is clear: citizens of the US resort to force reluctantly and only when they must.” Reagan believed in strength, but also peace. He said: “As for the enemies of freedom, they will be reminded that peace is the highest aspiration of the American people.”

Our foreign policy, though, has too often accepted war instead of peace, and intervention instead of strength, leading to a host of unintended consequences. Toppling secular dictators in the Middle East led time and time again to chaos and ultimately that chaos enabled and abetted the rise of Radical Islam. As secular dictators fell in Libya, Egypt, Iraq, and now Syria, radical jihadists exploited the vacuum and Christians have been forced to flee. Where will the Syrian Christians go when the civil war breaks down their door?

Across the Middle East, the story is the same. Christians are either persecuted or on the run. In Sudan, Meriam Ibrahim is on the run. She is a Christian. For her beliefs she was sentenced to death by the Muslim courts of Sudan. Meriam was raised by a Christian mother and married a Christian man. At the time of her arrest, she had a young son and was pregnant. Because Meriam’s father was Muslim, Islamic law considers Meriam and her son to be Muslim. So when she was arrested, Meriam and her young son were taken and kept in prison. Meriam was forced to give birth in prison, shackled to the floor. When Meriam’s Muslim brother was asked about her sentence, he replied: “If she repents and returns to our Islamic faith, then we are her family. But if she refuses she should be executed.”

After her conviction, Meriam was given a chance to recant her Christianity and save her life. She refused, declaring: “I am a Christian and I will remain a Christian.” Luckily, Meriam was granted asylum and in August she was allowed to come to the United States. But there are more like her.

Across the globe, Christians are under attack as if we lived in the Middle Ages or as if we lived under early pagan Roman rule.

In Libya, once the secular dictator Muammar Gadaffi fell, radical jihadists raided Christian churches rounding up over a hundred Christians accusing them of being missionaries because they possessed Bibles and crosses. Many were tortured and one Christian died while being tortured.

In Pakistan, Asia Bibi, a Christian, sits on death row for blasphemy. She says it all began when she drew water from a Muslim villager’s well. As she was filling her bowl of water, a crowd formed chanting, “Death! Death to the Christian!” She pleaded for her life. She was pelted with stones, punched in the face and drug through the streets. The local Imam finally intervened only to say, “If you don’t want to die, you must convert to Islam.” The crowd descended on her again beating her with sticks. Finally, the police stopped the attackers only to arrest her. For several years now, Asia Bibi has been on death row for the alleged crime of blasphemy.

Until Asia Bibi is freed, Pakistan should not receive a penny of U.S. aid! Not one penny should go to any nation that persecutes or kills Christians!

You would think your representatives would get that message but they don’t. This summer I introduced legislation to stop foreign aid to any country that gives the death penalty or life in prison to Christians for religious choices. Both Republicans and Democrats voted overwhelmingly to continue funding countries who persecute Christians. The committee voted 16-2 to continue aid to countries persecuting Christians.

Our foreign policy must also let us Stand with Israel. That’s why this year, I introduced a bill to cut off all aid to the Palestinian Authority and Hamas until they laid down their arms, stopped firing their rockets, and publicly recognized Israel’s right to exist. The irony is impossible to escape: Our taxpayer dollars may well end up funding Hamas, allowing them to buy more missiles to attack Israel with. My bill was opposed by Republican and Democrat leaders.

Instead, this past week Congress voted to arm Islamic rebels in Syria. One group of these so-called moderate rebels has stated publicly that when they’re done in Syria, next they will head to Israel. I asked on Senate floor last week: “To those of you who wish to arm these Islamic rebels, tell me who among them will recognize Israel’s right to exist?” No one answered because not one of these Islamic rebels will ever think about recognizing Israel.

In country after country, mobs burn the American flag and chant Death to America. Congress responds by sending more of your money to these haters of Christianity. I say not one penny more to any nation that is burning our flag!

It is time to put a stop to this madness, re-examine our foreign policy, halt all aid to Islamic radicals in Syria, Egypt and elsewhere, and take a good hard look at what our foreign policy has done. You and I must and should stand with our fellow Christians in the Middle East and around the world — but that does not necessarily mean war and it certainly does not mean arming both sides in every conflict.

As Christians, we understand that the right to life, and freedom of religion, pre-exist all government. These rights are not granted to man by other men, these rights are granted to us by our Creator.

God, help us in these troubling times to make wise decisions, to make moral decisions, and to listen to the voice of God that lives and breathes and resides in us all. Amen.

Paul is the junior U.S. Senator for Kentucky. These remarks are as prepared for delivery to the Value Voters Summit today in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME politics

Rand Paul: ‘I Am Not an Isolationist’

Rand Paul, Rod Blum
Charlie Neibergall—AP Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. listens he is introduced to speak by Iowa Republican congressional candidate Rod Blum, left, during a meeting with local Republicans, Aug. 5, 2014, in Hiawatha, Iowa.

If I had been in President Obama's shoes, I would have acted more decisively and strongly against ISIS

Some pundits are surprised that I support destroying the Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) militarily. They shouldn’t be. I’ve said since I began public life that I am not an isolationist, nor am I an interventionist. I look at the world, and consider war, realistically and constitutionally.

I still see war as the last resort. But I agree with Reagan’s idea that no country should mistake U.S. reluctance for war for a lack of resolve.

As Commander-in-Chief, I would not allow our enemies to kill our citizens or our ambassadors. “Peace through Strength” only works if you have and show strength.

Our recent foreign policy has allowed radical jihadists to proliferate. Today, there are more terrorists groups than there were before 9/11, most notably ISIS. After all the sacrifice in Afghanistan and Iraq, why do we find ourselves in a more dangerous world?

And why, after six years, does President Obama lack a strategy to deal with threats like ISIS?

This administration’s dereliction of duty has both sins of action and inaction, which is what happens when you are flailing around wildly, without careful strategic thinking.

And while my predisposition is to less intervention, I do support intervention when our vital interests are threatened.

If I had been in President Obama’s shoes, I would have acted more decisively and strongly against ISIS. I would have called Congress back into session—even during recess.

This is what President Obama should have done. He should have been prepared with a strategic vision, a plan for victory and extricating ourselves. He should have asked for authorization for military action and would have, no doubt, received it.

Once we have decided that we have an enemy that requires destruction, we must have a comprehensive strategy—a realistic policy applying military power and skillful diplomacy to protect our national interests.

The immediate challenge is to define the national interest to determine the form of intervention we might pursue. I was repeatedly asked if I supported airstrikes. I do—if it makes sense as part of a larger strategy.

There’s no point in taking military action just for the sake of it, something Washington leaders can’t seem to understand. America has an interest in protecting more than 5,000 personnel serving at the largest American embassy in the world in northern Iraq. I am also persuaded by the plight of massacred Christians and Muslim minorities.

The long-term challenge is debilitating and ultimately eradicating a strong and growing ISIS, whose growth poses a significant terrorist threat to U.S. allies and enemies in the region, Europe, and our homeland.

The military means to achieve these goals include airstrikes against ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria. Such airstrikes are the best way to suppress ISIS’s operational strength and allow allies such as the Kurds to regain a military advantage.

We should arm and aid capable and allied Kurdish fighters whose territory includes areas now under siege by the ISIS.

Since Syrian jihadists are also a threat to Israel, we should help reinforce Israel’s Iron Dome protection against missiles.

We must also secure our own borders and immigration policy from ISIS infiltration. Our border is porous, and the administration, rather than acting to protect it, instead ponders unconstitutional executive action, legalizing millions of illegal immigrants.

Our immigration system, especially the administration of student visas, requires a full-scale examination. Recently, it was estimated that as many as 6,000 possibly dangerous foreign students are unaccounted for. This is inexcusable over a decade after we were attacked on 9/11 by hijackers including one Saudi student who overstayed his student visa.

We should revoke passports from any Americans or dual citizens who are fighting with ISIS.

Important to the long-term stability in the region is the reengagement diplomatically with allies in the region and in Europe to recognize the shared nature of the threat of Radical Islam and the growing influence of jihadists. That is what will make this a comprehensive strategy.

ISIS is a global threat; we should treat it accordingly and build a coalition of nations who are also threatened by the rise of the Islamic State. Important partners such as Turkey, a NATO ally, Israel, and Jordan face an immediate threat, and unchecked growth endangers Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Gulf countries such as Qatar, and even Europe. Several potential partners—notably, the Turks, Qataris, and Saudis—have been reckless in their financial support of ISIS, which must cease immediately.

This is one set of principles. Any strategy, though, should be presented to the American people through Congress. If war is necessary, we should act as a nation. We should do so properly and constitutionally and with a real strategy and a plan for both victory and exit.

To develop a realistic strategy, we need to understand why the threat of ISIS exists. Jihadist Islam is festering in the region. But in order for it to grow, prosper, and conquer, it needs chaos.

Three years after President Obama waged war in Libya without Congressional approval, Libya is a sanctuary and safe haven for training and arms for terrorists from Northern Africa to Syria. Our deserted Embassy in Tripoli is controlled by militants. Jihadists today swim in our embassy pool.

Syria, likewise, has become a jihadist wonderland. In Syria, Obama’s plan just one year ago—and apparently Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s desire—was to aid rebels against Assad, despite the fact that many of these groups are al-Qaeda- and ISIS-affiliated. Until we acknowledge that arming the Islamic rebels in Syria allowed ISIS a safe haven, no amount of military might will extricate us from a flawed foreign policy.

Unfortunately, Obama’s decisions—from disengaging diplomatically in Iraq and the region and fomenting chaos in Libya and Syria—leave few good options. A more realistic and effective foreign policy would protect the vital interests of the nation without the unrealistic notion of nation-building.

Paul is the junior U.S. Senator for Kentucky.

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