Friday, April 29, 2005

Religious Expression and the Public Square

Powerline, one of the conservative Blogs on my daily reads, notes what it describes as "the least gracious apology of the week," referring to a recent remark by Democratic Senator from Colorado, Ken Salazar.

Senator Salazar referred to James Dobson and his group, Focus on the Family, "the anti-Christ." Quickly thereafter, he issued a "sort of" apology, amending his remarks to call Dobson "unchristian, meaning self-serving and selfish."

I get this sort of thing a lot from my liberal friends and family. The questions I want to pose are:

1. How come when a Christian, especially a Fundamentalist, makes a statement of religious conviction, it makes them bigoted, intolerant, oppressive, fascist, etc., but when someone of another faith tradition makes a similar statement, that goes unmentioned? If we have religious views, wouldn't it be both logical and expected that such views might inform our decisions and views about social policy?

2. As a born-again Christian, I can tell you that we have an incredibly wide spectrum of views, in all areas of social policy, legislation, spiritual lives and lifestyles, and attitudes about public and private interactions. But when secular or non-religious commentators speak of Christians, they mention either Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson? For us, that's like comparing every African American clergyman to the Rev. Jesse Jackson.

3. Separation of church and state is a derived constitutional doctrine that the founders never envisioned would be used to eradicate religious expression from public life, just prevent the Federal Government from establishing a state religion. Otherwise, it conflicts with our freedom of religion, the right to worship our conception of God as we see fit. Evangelicals see the current state of affairs as being very antagonistic towards religious expression. Shouldn't freedom of religion apply to Fundamentalists? To legislators? To judges?



LiberalAvenger's
Response:

1. I'm sure that we could both find numerous examples where the opposite situation to what you present in your question happened. That being said, I understand what you mean and I will attempt to answer.

There are several factors at work here.

First, was what the hypothetical fundamentalist said indeed bigoted, intolerant, oppressive, etc? If it was, then it is right for them to be called on it. There is no shortage of bigoted, intolerant and oppressive rhetoric in the world. Some of it is going to come from American Christian fundamentalists. When it happens I would hope that we aren't looking the other way.

The same should apply to non-Christians when they say things that are bad as well.

When the standard is misapplied, I think it has to do with the fact that Christianity is the dominant religion in this country. If a Rastafarian says "Christians Suck," this is wrong, but he is doing so from an almost non-existent power base. On the other hand if a Christian says "Rastafarians Suck," speaking for myself, I would be concerned about the power that Christians could possibly wield over a Rastafarian.

If Rastafarians declared a jihad against Christians in America, would that impact your life here? Would you be constantly looking over your shoulder for men in dreadlocks? I think not.

If Christians declared a jihad against Rastafarians, what sort of impact could Christians have on Rastafarians in this country? I this happened and I was a Rastafarian, I would shave my head and start going to church.

As far as informing decisions about social policy goes, this clearly happens all of the time and there is nothing wrong with this on most levels. It is when Christianity becomes the justification for discriminatory social policy where this is a problem. The easiest example has to do with laws that are discriminatory to homosexuals. The basis for the lobby for anti-homosexual legislation is that homosexuality is a Christian sin. There are a lot of homosexuals in the world. Creating social policy against them when homosexuality is not a sin in *my* worldview nor in theirs is intolerant at best.

#2. Falwell and Robertson are the ones that we know about - and they are the ones who continue to make the most noise. They certainly go to great lengths to portray themselves as God's messengers and leaders of contemporary American Christianity. I almost think that your problem should be with them, not us. If they are embarrassing you, make them stop.

I also think that it is somewhat disingenuous to completely disavow them. They do have millions of supporters in this country and they have tens of millions of dollars at their disposal every year. Somebody's sending them checks and watching them on television and it's not me or anyone in my circle of family and friends.

#3. I don't think that anybody is saying that people in public service must be non-religious. The issue is that people in public service must not use their civil power to impose their religious beliefs, rules, mores or morality on anyone else. It seems so obvious. It boggles the mind that this comes up as an issue.

According to some, homosexuality is a sin, right? At the same time, in Massachusetts, homosexuality is legal. So the civil law says that it is OK while religious doctrine says that it is not.

Hypothetically, let's imagine a homosexual on trial for his homosexuality in front of a judge. The judge is a strict Christian, which is in of itself not a problem. If you're saying that the judge should be allowed to punish the gay guy because homosexuality is a Christian sin, then that is wrong. The law must trump that judge's personal religious beliefs. This is an extreme example, but it is indicative.

The other part of this issue has to do with being fair to the rest of us who aren't Christians - who are either atheists like me or who are Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, etc. There is a negative conservative cry about how America is "supposed to be" a Christian country. Times have changed and the people crying about that need to realize that we are a country of all people and all faiths now. Yes - Christians are the vast majority of us, but in a system where we all pay taxes and we are all subject to the authority of the government, the fact that Christians are in the majority doesn't make the American Hindu any less important in the eyes of the law.

I believe that there is an everpresent dishonest undertone in the "faith in government" movement and that is that when they are speaking about faith in government they mean Christianity in government. They are all for dismantling whatever barriers exist between church and state to let Christianity in but not Hinduism, etc.

Tell me the truth: I would imagine that you don't see the problem with a statue about the Ten Commandments in the lobby of the courthouse. How would you feel if instead of the Ten Commandments statue it was a statue of Ganesh, the Hindu elephant god. Or how about if the "Call to Prayer" was broadcast over the courthouse's PA system 5 times a day to remind Muslim employees and visitors when to pray. The praying itself isn't mandatory, but sitting through a recording of the Call to Prayer five times a day is.

How would you feel? If you don't see a problem with this, then think about the folks in your church back home. How do you think they would feel?

As an atheist, my position is that none of it belongs in the courthouse. And to be honest, while it is easy enough to walk by the Ten Commandments statue or the Ganesh figure or to sit through the call to prayer, the real problem is the perception that the standard of justice dispensed in this courthouse is going to be stacked against me as a non-believer. If the judge let's his perception of the Ten Commandments or the story of Ganesh or Sharia Law influence his handling of my matter in court, this would be unacceptable.

One might respond to this by saying, "I am Christian and I don't mind having a judge use Christianity as a basis for his ruling." This is disingenuous, too, I believe, because if we allow one, we have to allow them all.



Dadmanly's
Rebuttal:

1. I think you and I will settle into loose agreement on this point, as I have often found myself offended by remarks made by some fundamentalists. I think the "tethered majority" on both sides of these kinds of disputes need to be more proactive at keeping discussion on both sides civil, and at least try to rein in intemperate speech.

I do think that a statement like, "Christians are in the majority in this country" can mislead unless viewed as a very general statement. Much like the statement today that "whites are in the majority," it depends on how far you Balkanize the populations in question. "Christian" in the sense of non-Animist, non-Muslim, or non-Jewish can usefully describe an entire panoply of descendants of a tradition, but in no way defines a population of likeminded individuals. That is precisely because, in the context I mention, these "Christians" include many people (the majority of this majority if you know what I mean) who neither ascribe to matters of the faith, nor would even consider themselves Christian. Calling Christians a majority requires you to ignore some pretty serious distinctions of faith, religious practice, belief systems, attitudes, and degree of affiliation.

(This is like the South African Bantustan ploy in reverse, the method by which Africaaners tried to keep native blacks in subjugation by breaking their lands up into tiny and disassociated "Bantustans" that tried to prevent native South African blacks an opportunity to unite or form a single consciousness. But the reality is, a non-practicing Roman Catholic bears almost no political resemblance to a devout fundamental Baptist.)

Broken down finely enough, we are all minorities of one flavor or another. Identity politics and over-attention to the rights of the minority can be an exercise of that latin expression which I think means, "reduction to absurdity." I would certainly argue that Fundamentalist Christians, of the sort that you may perhaps be more concerned about, are definitely in a minority. And from their standpoint, the "majority" (everyone else, as represented by legislatures and the courts) have taken quite a toll on what they consider their rights to worship as they see fit.

Your last point, that the consideration of homosexuality as a sin is the basis for legislative efforts is only partially true, and then only for some. Many conservatives object to redefinition of marriage less because of homosexuality itself, and more because of what they perceive as an abrogation of longstanding social policy. We would argue that marriage preferences were meant to protect children and improve their well-being. Marriage as an institution is worthy of support. If marriage can be self-defined, then why can't anyone sign up. If anyone can sign up, then the policy no longer incents or builds in preference for 2 parent households. There is a utilitarian position in support of traditional definitions of marriage, one supported by recent research.

I don't agree with laws being passed or left standing that in any way punish homosexuals. But by the same token, I think citizen-elected legislative bodies may have good cause to limit individual rights when they conflict with broader community interests (the balancing of rights). In other words, a community may decide through their legislators that homosexual partners should not be allowed to adopt if there are traditional two parent homes available for them, or that surrogates be allowed to sell their services so others can be parents.

2. I think you are right that Falwell and Robertson make the most noise, but of course you wouldn't know that if the press didn't delight in publicizing every outrageous thing they say. (And I wonder why that is? Possibly because it sells in the way it stirs people up against them?)

But making them stop? How exactly would we do that? They are public figures making public comments. They have big audiences, many of whom react favorably to them not so much based on what say in their attacks, but who or what they're perceived to attack -- decadence, immorality, moral relativism, debased culture, etc. They are demagogues of the old school, only more "religiously" focused than political (but they are way too much that in my opinion. I think this is the Elmer Gantry school of evangelism, and they aren't the only ones.

Personally, I think they inherited the good will and esteem that many in the heartland felt towards PTL (Praise the Lord ministries) and Jim and Tammy Fay Baker. Many otherwise sincere and devout Christians were very confused by what happened to the Baker's, the scandals, and were I think vulnerable to anyone who could step in and say, that's okay the mission of PTL is still important. I don't think its any accident that ministries of this kind need to keep raising money (for what except grander efforts to raise more money) and finding scapegoats in the classic sense on which to base their appeals.

There are many quiet Christians, many in important ministry, who shy away from and are uncomfortable with these kinds of public expressions. And I do think they are reluctant to criticize and condemn, but as much because they avoid doing that in general, rather than letting a "brother" off the hook.

3. There is a big flip side to your argument here. What many (Evangelical, Fundamental) Christians object to in the current legislative and judicial spheres is precisely what we view as (secular) public servants using "their civil power to impose their religious beliefs, rules, mores or morality" on society (Christian and non Christian alike).

The enforced absence of deity, religious practice, moral judgments, discrimination (in the sense of saying one thing is bad, another good) or ethical benchmarks is religious in nature. Call it the absence of religion in you want, but it is a religious framework. And the more legislatures and judges and executives impose a ban on religious expression on the public square, the more than looks more and more like state establishment of religion, against the establishment clause in the Bill of Rights.

I am a strong and unwavering advocate that justice needs be blind. My biggest problem with the liberal fight against conservative justices is the logical fallacy that somehow atheist or agnostic jurists can somehow set aside their religious beliefs (or lack thereof, but there is still a set of beliefs that they hold about the absence of something supernatural), while a religious minded jurist (of any religion) can not.

I believe you exaggerate the tearing down of that "wall of separation." Frankly, the wall has grown ever thicker over the years, not thinner. You can't possibly convince me otherwise, for my own eyes and experience have proven it. I also lived down south for a year, where there is a church every block and services held in high schools (on the weekends), where life still goes on pretty much as it did when the wall had to do with state sponsorship of religion (faithful establishment clause constructivism) and not public religious expression (first, do not offend those of other faiths).

While I don't think a plaque or statue of the Ten commandments is a big deal or worth a big fight over (aren't there civil liberties being violated in more important ways than that to fight against?), I also don't think fighting to keep them in the courthouse was right, and I think Judge Moore abdicated his primary responsibilities in representing all of his community, especially when he violated an order from a superior judge. Likewise, I would be equally against any enforced or mandated religious expression on a captive population. I don't think we need to insist on organized prayer in school, for instance. But and its a big but, out of fear of lawsuits from an almost vindictive and certainly antagonistic "rights community," local communities are eradicating legitimate public expressions of religion in the public square.

Let me ask you something. If you find yourself suddenly lost and alone in a strange neighborhood, and you see some teenagers heading your way, would you rather they be atheists, or devout Christians? (Or orthodox Jews, or Hindus, or whatever, maybe not Muslim however, given the state and extent of radical Islamic teaching.) My point is, perhaps even an atheist can acknowledge the great public utility of religion and religious expression. (Again, as long as the state does not impose it.)

Your examples seem to suggest that as a society we should care about and strive to prevent unwanted exposure to religious expression people don't agree with or submit to receive. I think society would be much better off if we require our citizens to be more mature and thick skinned, and recognize that there exist people of other faiths, and that of course as we move through our communities and the larger world, we will come into contact with them. This should be a great opportunity for learning and growth. And isn't that what you are asking Christians to do?

On last point about jurists relying on their faith to render religious decisions. I think this goes on all the time, we shouldn't be surprised, and we harm society if we try to eliminate those jurists we think will be "more liable" to do so. The determination of who such jurists would be is grossly subjective, and in the end, discriminatory (and this gives rise to devout Christians smelling the whiff of persecution for their religious beliefs). And a Jewish jurist may use his faith and faith traditions in rendering a more just decision based on law, as might a Muslim, or Roan Catholic, or even an Atheist (see my argument above that the avowed denial of deity and faith objects is a set of religious beliefs).

Any judge, any good judge, and even quite a few bad ones, gets the whole point that one bases one's decisions on law and precedent. Christian's want that even more than many atheists. And that is because legal principle and constitutional bases have been constructed out of thin air by jurists knowing what outcome they want to promote, and constructing unprecedented legal constructs where none had existed before, intended to and successful at overturning legislative law making.

At its best, such legal activism brought us the Civil Rights Amendment, the abolishment of Jim Crow laws, and the end of enforced segregation and separate but equal. But (arguably) at its worst, this has resulted in very poor constitutional decisions and judicial overreach, with Roe v. Wade only the most egregious example.

(On the instigation of my brother in law, and the course he took on Constitutional Law, I read Roe v. Wade in its entirety. Blackmun I believe it was actually penned a paragraph in which he said the termination of pregnancy at any time should be the absolute right of a mother, even if for no other reason than that a continued pregnancy or birth of a child might be inconvenient to the mother. Not a fine or heroic moment in Supreme Court jurisprudence.

(Obviously, this last issue could consume us for days. But it is the 800 Pound Gorilla in the room, so one of us had to touch on it. I will only add that I agree with the proposition that the Supreme Court in 1973 recklessly short-circuited and short cut a vital and necessary public debate on abortion. Each state was ready and prepared to enact the will of their citizens on this issue, and work through legislative bodies a divisive public issue. We would have been better off if this had happened, it is inevitable, and it will be worse for being delayed.

And it set a dangerous precedent for the Supreme Court and the Judiciary in general, whereby activists can circumvent citizenry and their legislative bodies by effecting through court edict what they cannot achieve by referendum or passing of law.

16 Comments:

At 1:39 AM, Blogger Auguste said...

But when secular or non-religious commentators speak of Christians, they mention either Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson?

It goes both ways, though. I had a conservative friend look me in the eye and tell me that Democrats will never win again until we reign in Michael Moore and Jane Fonda. We've apparently allowed them to speak for us for too long and too loudly.

Apparently the same does not apply to Fallwell and Robertson.

 
At 11:40 AM, Blogger dadmanly said...

Michael Moore and Jane Fonda occupy a prominent place and visibility within the Democratic Party. (Note President Carter sitting with Michael Moore at the convention.)

In contrast, Falwell and Robertson, while popular in some circles, will NEVER be featured prominently at Republican events, because their influence is by force of their support, not ideological kinship. They are tolerated, not lauded.

 
At 5:00 AM, Blogger pilgrim_9 said...

My compliments to both of you on a great blog. It's so great to see real and civil dialogue in these times. You give me hope.

The key issue concerns religious action (or stances taken) by the *state*. It's not religious expression in the public square that is a problem, it's when any part of the government is the one doing the expressing. That's what's wrong with the Ten Commandments at the courthouse - the Commandments aren't the issue, it's that the courthouse (or legislature, etc) - a part of the government representing all of us - is expressing any opinion at all endorsing or espousing some religion, any religion. Once that is allowed, then all of the concerns expressed above by LA come flooding in. The government is then no longer representing all of us equally, but instead is establishing a state religion.

Religious people often seem to confuse morality with religion, something which I think they do because, at bottom, they think religion is the source of morality. Any person of any faith - and any atheist, in fact - can without doubt be extremely moral, extremely immoral, or anywhere in between. But if you define morality as doing what the Christian Bible says, or what you interpret the Bible to mean, then someone who does not share your faith is immoral, by definition. Even that is okay with me, as long as you're a private citizen. But if you are a legislator, or a judge, or any other agent of the state who acts on behalf of the government of all of us, then your religious faith is being imposed on all of us, and that is improper. Of course, it's usually hard to detect. If a legislator or judge in the privacy of his home or chambers consults his heart, his God, his Bible etc for private guidance on a public decision, I don't have a problem with it. Our private sense of morality, even if it comes from a source such as the Bible, is indeed inseparable from us and properly guides us all. But when those religious views are put on public display, and the implication however slight is made that the government of us all sanctions particular religious views, doctrines, holy books, etc, when the government acts out of religious principles to enact laws that force compliance and/or prevent individual choice, then I believe that to be completely unconstitutional and improper. Personally, as an American citizen I am profoundly offended whenever I hear any politician or judge even mention God, the Bible, Christian virtues, etc. It has no place at all in what is and must remain a secular government which is entirely neutral to the religious beliefs of its constituents.

This to me is the essence of the great wisdom of the separation between church and state, and yes the founders indeed clearly intended them to be separated. The infusion of religious beliefs into matters of law, civic affairs, and civil rights is a very, very bad thing. Dadmanly says: "Separation of church and state is a derived constitutional doctrine that the founders never envisioned would be used to eradicate religious expression from public life, just prevent the Federal Government from establishing a state religion. Otherwise, it conflicts with our freedom of religion, the right to worship our conception of God as we see fit." Not so. If you're a private citizen, worship freely as you will. If you are part of the government (federal or state), any religious expression when carrying out your duties precisely constitutes the establishment of a state religion, because the state is expressing particular religious views. If by "public life", you mean citizens expressing their personal views in the public square, I agree with you, the founders saw that as freedom of religion and freedom of expression, and it is protected. If instead you mean the statements or acts of any part of the government, i.e. legislators, executives, administrators, judges, public school boards, or other public officials acting in their public capacities, then in my view the injection of religious views has no place at all and is inherently unconstitutional. If your religious convictions require you to champion your religion in your words and actions - such as insisting that the Ten Commandments be displayed at city hall - then you have no place as part of the representative government that purports to represent all of us.

To say that keeping religion out of government is itself a religious stance is, to me, at best a confusion and at worst specious word-play. Keeping religion and government apart in their separate spheres is not only possible, it is of the utmost importance to a constitutional democracy. Jefferson wrote that there should be "a wall of separation" between the two. One is private and individual, the other is public and affects everyone. Mix the two and you get disaster.

A word about Roe v. Wade and the legislative process. Many conservatives these days seem to see the legislative process, i.e. the "will of the people" expressed through a voting majority, as the paramount political statement that should settle all issues. In general, I support that process, and I'm a great believer in states' rights and representative government. But where the issue at hand concerns individual rights and liberties, the great danger is of what the founders called the "tyranny of the majority". They wrote extensively about it. Something must protect the minority from the duly passed, repressive laws of the democratically elected majority. The Nazis were the majority, and the Jews and homosexuals and gypsies were minorities. This is precisely why we have a judicial system in place to balance the legislative and executive branches, and why federal, constitutional law sometimes must override state law. Roe v. Wade in my view is a triumph of democratic law and the proper action by the judicial branch to protect the rights of individuals from the tyranny of the majority. The court stepped in and said no, this is not a suitable matter for legislation, this concerns the fundamental right of an individual to be free from the imposition of the will of the majority on what is inherently a personal, individual decision. Even if the states had individually debated the issue and come up with their own state laws about it, the issue transcends the states as a matter of constitutional protection. Suppose the Alabama legislature passed a law saying it was legal to discriminate against blacks, deny them civil rights, even lynch them. A state could pass such laws with a majority vote. Suppose Wyoming decided it was okay to subject homosexuals to curfews or attack them, whatever. The federal courts would rightly step in and say no, that's unconstitutional and it doesn't matter what your legislatures say, these are individual rights being invaded by the state. Personally I think Blackmun was correct, it is not a decision for the government to make and the individual is free to make the best decision she can on whatever grounds she wants. If it were clear to all what the legal status of a fetus is and should be, then there would be no disagreement, no debate. But because it's not at all clear, it is not a proper decision for the government to make and impose on individuals. The freedom from government interference in personal, private, individual decisions is indeed something that pervades the entire constitution, and the court was not wrong to base their decision on a fundamental right to privacy. We all should remember that the rights specifically enumerated in the constitution are not an exhaustive list, and the right to privacy does not need to be specifically described in order to be a real and fundamental right. In my opinion it's one of the most basic and fundamental rights we all have, and we have a great need these days to protect it.

Thanks for listening to a long post. And thank you both again for your constructive dialogue, we all learn from it.

 
At 5:03 AM, Blogger Ryan said...

The notion that the likes of Robertson and Falwell are out of the Republican mainstream is sadly untrue. Robertson's 1988 run for the Republican nomination led to the creation of the widely successful Christian Coalition.

Who made the Christian Coalition successful? That's right: Republican strategist and Georgia Chair of the George W. Bush's reelection campaign Ralph Reed. Then again, I remember hearing all over the place that "values voters" decided this last election. Do you disavow this, dadmanly?

I should come out and admit that, yes, all of us atheists are a bunch of baby killers who want to force public displays of religion back into places of worship. I guess it goes along with the psychopathy that would make me choose those kids walking down the street to be muslim, just because of your bigoted belief that Muslim Americans are somehow more prone to violence.

 
At 9:43 AM, Blogger jtu said...

Could the teenagers be wiccan transsexuals?

Is this a debate between religion and godless liberalism? Since when does Jane Fonda have the same influence on Democrats that Jerry Falwell has on Republicans? That's ridiculous. As for the press, they report on whoever says anything sensational. That's why the Rev. Al Sharpton's public statements got less press attention when he became a presidential candidate. His comments weren't as controversial as before.

 
At 4:22 PM, Blogger dadmanly said...

Pilgrim_9 makes a couple of rhetorical leaps that I want to note.

In discussing freedom of religious expression, Pilgrim implies that any time an elected or appointed public official speaks of God, that constitutes establishment of religion, since as a representative of the government, the "state" has made that statement. Pilgrim then lumps in other acts that I would call intentional and official, such as mandating that the Ten Commandments be posted on the courthouse walls.

There is a footfall field in front of the wall of separation between state and religion in the two examples. If any utterance by a p;ublic official must not include any reference to God or Diety, you are pretty much excluding devout people of faith from government, and that's discriminatory. Its also entirely contrary to 200 years of practice of American statesmen and women, who have included references to God and divinity in all of our foundign documents, many Bills, laws, and mountains of public utterances and documents. These same founders would be appalled that you would suggest that any mention of God constitutes establishment of religion.

Jefferson was a Unitarian, and this represents perhaps a fringe of the founders on the matter of church and state. Washington, Madison, Adams, et al were very religious men and their acknowledgement of diety was continuous and part of regular conversation and expression.

If any atheist official does not reference God, and there's an exclusion of references to diety, say at an official commemoration, isn't that state sponsorship of atheism?

Any reasonable consideration of the citizens of the U.S. would acknowledge that an overwhelming majority of Americans hold some kind of religious beliefs. It would be reasonable to expect that officials might very well hold some kind of belief, that it would inform their morality and ethics, and that they be allowed to express their faith as others without it constituting endorsement.

But even at that, many of the founders heartily endorsed having faith and practicing it, as they considered it absolutely necessary for citizens to maintain it, or our liberties would perish!

Two last points.

Suppose elected or appointed officials (despite their own personal faith) withhold any public expression of their own personal faith to preclude some perceived establishment of religion (and this is very much a dishwater argument). I think this discourages religious expression. To people of no faith, that is probably preferred. To people of faith, it is part of the "forgetting" of what used to be considered public virtues.

The segment on Roe v. Wade is a distraction. If there were only one humna being involved in the matter of each individual instance of abortion, the civil rights analogy holds. But the biological fact of the matter is, there are actually three individual humn beings involved: the mother, the father, and the unborn child/fetus. Roe v. Wade is stunningly silent on the right to life for a human being in utero. It relied on bad science, exaggerated statistics, and it suggested some arbitrary boundary between life and non-life that is absurd on its face. (As anyone who studies modern ultrasound results can attest to with their own eyes.)

 
At 9:27 PM, Blogger Huntress said...

I must admit that there is alot of hypocrisy and lack of clarity on the issue of status of a fetus.

IF abortion is in fact NOT murder,if killing of a fetus is irrelevant, because we cannot prove its "Status" then why was Scott Peterson charge with TWO murders: That of Lacey's and HIS UNBORN CHILD!


Yet Roe V Wade does by fiat make it acceptable for a fetus to be terminated legally i.e. legally murdered! Does this seem right?

Truth is, Roe V Wade was based on a LIE...actually TWO lies. The lie of Rape being first.

Laws made at one time in history are not exempt from being revisited and revised.

I have to also point out DadManly that in the most southern of Red States, sex is allowed with girls at the age of 15. Should that law be upheld? It seems very hypocritical or perhaps inconsistent to allow girls to have sex as teens, but not encourage birth control, and not allow the child the right to terminate her pregnancy. Should 15yr old girls be having babies? Should they be having abortions without parental consent? Should they be allowed LEGALLY to have sex at that age? If they are by law allowed to have consensual sex, then by law, they should be allowed to have an abortion.

See what Im getting at!

Our laws are too inconsistent, but before we change abortion laws, we need to examine all kinds of other laws, and review all options in light of the times TODAY.

Teen age pregnancy is on the decline, abortion on demand is NOT what the majority of women support and we have studies to SUPPORT THAT TRUTH. Studies that were conducted by Fay Wattle, former Pres of Planned Parenthood, that proved unequivocably that ENLIGHTENED, PROGRESSIVE, SUCCESSFUL WORKING WOMEN, ALL across America DO NOT SUPPORT ABORTION ON DEMAND, and want restrictions placed on teens being able to seek abortion without parental consent. But I feel that we also need to change the laws in place that allow for consensual sex at any age UNDER 18.

A teenager cannot have a freaking appendectomy or life saving operation without the explicit signed consent of her parents, and yet she should be allowed an abortion without parental consent?

We need to closely examine ALL these laws before we randomly change Roe V Wade. There is a middle ground on this issue, and we should be able to find it!

DadManly with all due respect, you may want to believe that there are three people who are involved in that decision, but the time I got pregnant, the guy refused to even believe he was responsible.

Gratefully, I had access to a clean safe abortion.

There are many men who are derelect fathers, and refuse to pay child support even when mandated by law. Lets not kid ourselves here...most guys want the thrill of getting laid...but NONE of the responsibility that come with the consequences! Im not saying women are blameless, certainly we can say no. But you know what, at 23 I had the right to have sex, while on the pill, and since Mr HardOn, wanted nothing to do with me once I got pregnant, an abortion was the best option for me. Even if he had wanted me to carry the pregnancy, its not likely I would have.

We also have to ensure that women that get pregnant are protected from employers who refuse to allow for paid maternity leave, and are not flexible enough to agreeable allow women to work from home.

At the end of the day in a two career home, its rarely the man that stays home to take care of his sick kids. Few companies would look upon that favorably...a male employee staying home to take care of his kids while his wife was at work.

Corporate America has YET to move away from archaic male dominated 1950's ideal when it comes to fair practice in the workforce.

Like I said, we need to make HUGE fundamental changes in our laws, our business models, and archaic memes that men still possess before we go about eliminating Roe V Wade.

 
At 10:20 AM, Blogger Rhiannon said...

Pilgrim has a valid point "But where the issue at hand concerns individual rights and liberties, the great danger is of what the founders called the "tyranny of the majority"."

I have no faith in the theory of "might makes right" equation. Majorities have been, historically speaking, wrong time and time again. It was a majority that believed the world to be flat, that the sun revolved around the Earth, that man could never fly or reach the moon, etc.

I would also like to point out since we were on the topic of religion. That you cannot prove a negative. (not speaking mathematically mind you) I could say that GOD is really a pansdiminsional giant lobster and you could not prove that I was wrong. You could site reasons why you don't BELIEVE that he is, but that is your SPECUALTION and BELIEF and cannot be proven nor disproven as well. In the end relgion is just that: strongly BELIEVED SPECULATION.

The same goes for "when life begins" it's all BELIEF and SPECUALTION... and even if a MAJORITY agrees on when that is, does that make them right? Certainly not, history tells us that much. So should the majority be able to impose laws upon EVERYONE based on SPECULATION and BELIEF? Or would humanity be better served by working on fixing the problems that cause this "abortion rights" thing to become an issue? (Poverty, Deadbeat dads, Rape, Irresponsible sex due to Ignorance or lack of access of ones options, etc).

 
At 4:29 PM, Blogger pilgrim_9 said...

Dadmanly: "If any utterance by a public official must not include any reference to God or Diety, you are pretty much excluding devout people of faith from government, and that's discriminatory." Not at all. All the devout official needs to do is not talk about God or Deity in his public capacity, ie in official utterances where he is purporting to speak for the government. We elect or appoint such officials to do a secular, government job that has nothing to do with religion - my congressman can be as devout a person of faith as he wants to be in private actions, statements, beliefs, etc, and he can talk on TV about himself and what he personally believes all he wants, but when acting or speaking as my governmental representative, saying or doing something in his official capacity, I believe he has a duty to leave his personal religious beliefs at the door.

No one should be excluded from public service based on their religious beliefs. They can be atheists, agnostics, devout Christian fundamentalists, members of some obscure sect I've never heard of, I don't care. The issue for me is personal action/belief/speech, vs. official and public action/belief/speech. Public/private is the difference, and it makes all the difference. As you point out, many of the founders were personally very religious, but they took great care that the government they were creating be separate from personal religious beliefs. We depended on Kennedy to leave his Catholicism entirely out of his administration as president, and rightly so.

"If any atheist official does not reference God, and there's an exclusion of references to diety, say at an official commemoration, isn't that state sponsorship of atheism?" No - to intentionally refrain from bringing something irrelevant into the discussion is to be silent about it, that's all, recognizing that it has no place in the business at hand...it's not an endorsement of its opposite. I know officials do say things like "God bless America" and "so help me God" etc. I would prefer they didn't, but it's not so serious because such things don't have the force of law and don't directly affect people's lives. I supported taking "one nation under God" out of the Pledge, for example, and I would rather see "In God we trust" off the money. I am not an atheist - I just think such things have no place in our government.

By the way, I neglected to answer your earlier hypothetical question - I have no preference for the religious orientations of the young people walking my way in the unfamiliar neighborhood. The devout Christians might in fact be more dangerous to me than the atheists. Religion and morality are not the same thing, and often walk separate paths.

Not sure what is meant by a "dishwater argument", but it doesn't sound good ;) ...but with many thousands of places of worship throughout the land, full freedom of expression by private citizens in many forums, etc, I don't see how the government refraining from religious expression discourages anything. It is not the government's proper job to remind people of what it considers "public virtues". For that matter, maintaining a clear and wide separation between private religious belief and the government is something I personally would consider a public virtue.

Roe v. Wade - I agree the father should be involved in the decision, but again for me that is the business of the private individuals involved and not the government. People obviously disagree about what is meant by terms such as "life" and "human being". This is exactly why the decision was "stunningly silent on the right to life for a human being in utero", and why the government should not make this decision for us. There is a spectrum running from the sexual act (clearly, no human life yet) through conception, various stages of biological development, and birth (by this stage, universally recognized as a human life). The key question is at what stage we attach legal rights to that developing thing (e.g., society's protections against taking the life of another). Many people do not consider it a "life" yet when the abortion occurs. Even if it is a life, the circumstances always make a difference - consider premeditated murder vs. killing in self-defense vs. a positive duty to kill the enemy in war - each takes life, each is treated differently because the circumstances are different. The circumstances of mother and fetus are unique, and could not get more personal and more private. Precisely because it's a subjective and difficult question about which reasonable people disagree, it should remain in the private, individual sphere and not in the government's sphere.

If you consider Roe v. Wade off topic, okay - I've just been replying to your discussion.

 
At 1:44 PM, Blogger Synova said...

Perhaps no one is watching this topic any longer since it's from last week, but I'll post anyway and start with an anecdote.

Many years ago I was watching a television program that had a couple of ACLU guests who were explaining why it was discriminatory not to mention black persons in school history books. The absence itself sent a message to black students that they weren't present or important in history. Occasionally the ACLU gets things right. Even if the omission is unintentional it sends that message. Now, we could say, so what? Let parents teach about their own cultural and ethnic history in their homes. Certainly that would be enough.

But it wouldn't. Nevermind that culture and ethnicity and heritage are individual things. Portraying only white men (who certainly deserve to be portrayed) in a government sponsored mandatory curriculum does, in fact, establish racial discrimination by the state.

And dadmanly is correct, scouring our public life from expressions of religious belief does, in fact, establish a state endorsed preference for athiesm.

I'd like to suggest, also, that this isn't going to encourage tolerance toward minority religions. To encourage acceptance of diversity and tolerance toward people's faith we need to practice those things in public. It's not that Christians need to retreat into closets but that people of other faiths need to be encouraged to participate publically.

Many religions require distinctive clothing. What message does it send when a teacher wears a turban or a head scarf? Should they be required not to wear them because students will know, just as if the teacher announced in class that he is a Southern Baptist, that they are Sikh or Moslem?

I can understand that some people may feel rather outnumbered (though dadmanly is also correct about the fragmented nature of the group people call "Christian") but freedom is freedom for everyone and suppression is suppression for everyone. The Mt. Solidad cross is no more offensive than the pagan goddess on the Los Angeles seal. We can take it all away, or we can promote tolerance.

I'd prefer tolerance, actually.

 
At 3:51 PM, Blogger dadmanly said...

Synova, it obviously won't be the absolute last word (I'm posting this :), but it's the last best word. Thanks for stopping by.

 
At 9:45 AM, Blogger pilgrim_9 said...

Teaching accurate and balanced history differs enormously from the issue of separating church and state. One deals with educating children about the facts of what happened, the other with the mixing of private and individual spiritual belief with the statements and actions of our common government. They are totally different. To exclude blacks from the history we teach is demonstrably false and racist, by distorting the facts of what happened. The job in question is to teach. Is it the state's job to teach us to be religious? If it were, then being selective about what it taught would indeed be a problem.

For the government to refrain from religious endorsements should not make religious citizens feel discriminated against, like the blacks left out of history. The vast majority of citizens are religious in some way, with plenty of options for privately expressing their views and living their faiths. The state's job is to govern for the common welfare, not to be an instrument of religious instruction.

I'm really puzzled by the view that by being silent about religion and refraining from making religious acts or statements, the state is therefore endorsing atheism. By Synova's logic, when the state refrains from involvement in an issue it implicitly takes a stand anyway, endorsing its opposite. The government says nothing about rock and roll, eating meat, or being right-handed either. Is the state therefore endorsing country music, vegetarianism, and being left-handed? No mention of coffee - does the state endorse tea? Instead, we all realize that these are private and individual matters, unrelated to the business of government, so the state is properly silent about them. And just as our political representatives can listen to music they like while eating what they choose with either hand, for the government to steer clear of any religious involvement would not affect the free exercise or expression of the private faith of those representatives (or their constituents) at all.

I have no problem with the public-school teacher wearing a turban. The message it sends is that the teacher wears a turban, an individual choice of dress, and is free to do so. It teaches the students to tolerate diversity. But suppose the teacher goes farther than such personal choices for himself, and includes his religious instruction in what he teaches in the public school? Suppose he instructs all of the students that they should wear turbans too? Suppose the teacher stops class five times a day so all present can pray? Suppose he posts excerpts from the Koran or the Torah or sacred Hindu texts or arguments for atheism on the classroom walls? I think (I hope) we would agree that the teacher has gone beyond expression of his own faith and crossed into an inappropriate area where the teacher should respect the beliefs of others (including atheists) by refraining from such religious activities in his public capacity as teacher. Now extend this and say the whole school district engages in activities and displays designed to teach students how to be good Buddhists. Now suppose the city posts religious texts, such as the Ten Commandments, on a plaque at city hall...

People of other faiths do in fact participate publicly. But I don't see them trying to pass legislation about their faith or insisting that their religious doctrine be a part of public displays and discourse. Surely the state should not explicitly involve and promote all religions. I can see it now: the Pledge saying "one nation under the Goddess"; the courthouse plaque with engraved excerpts from the Koran; our currency proclaiming "In Allah We Trust", and the president exclaiming "Buddha bless America". And how would such a government purport to represent and include atheists and agnostics? To avoid promoting any religious views over others, the state's only (and best) option is to remain entirely secular and leave religious expression to the individual and private sphere, where it belongs.

Personally I think the Mt. Soledad cross is a beautiful thing, and for years I assumed it was (of course!) on private land. I have since learned that it is on city land (a war memorial), and there have been many years of legal wrangling about it, to remove it or move it onto private land. It’s a preeminent Christian symbol on public land, and clearly violates the "no preference" clause of the state constitution. I think the best solution would be for the city to sell the land involved to a private citizen so there is no conflict, and leave it where it is. By the way, check out http://lacounty.info/seal.htm for a description of the Los Angeles seal - the woman is not a pagan goddess, she is a Native American represents the early inhabitants of the area.

 
At 11:27 AM, Blogger Synova said...

"The government says nothing about rock and roll, eating meat, or being right-handed either. Is the state therefore endorsing country music, vegetarianism, and being left-handed?"

Nor does the constitution state that all food and music is created equal.

I think that equating race and religion is a meaningful thing because we have the right to both of those things without fear of reprisal, discrimination, or anything. Religion really is given the same constitutional protections as our condition at birth.

Besides, what if white men really *are* the most important movers in history? What if the selection of biography in our history books was entirely color blind and historical figures were selected by what they've done and there's a limited amount of space and the committe ends up with all white men? What then?

Certainly that would be *accurate* history. No, it wouldn't be balanced history, but what are we balancing? And why?

Failing to teach about the Christian motivation of historical figures isn't even accurate. Removing Christian symbols from public displays that have historical significance isn't just keeping things separate, it's retroactively removing part of our history.

But if we don't want to mess with monuments from our childhood, do we want to enforce a separation now, today?

There's a sign posted at my local community center that says "No religious activity allowed in this facility." I would rather, really seriously rather, that the city let out the community center to any group in the community who wanted to use it, no matter what religion they are, than to send a clear message that religious groups aren't a welcome part of the community. By barring one religion from public facilities they have barred all religions from public facilities. Most Christians have church buildings, so obviously, the ones most hurt by the inability to rent the public hall are minority religions.

It's hard to escape the idea that in an effort to avoid any appearance of endorsing Christian faith, rules are being made that will hurt other faiths as well, if those rules are applied equally under the law.

It won't hurt athiesm one bit, of course. Athiests can rent the community center any time they like.

 
At 12:06 PM, Blogger pilgrim_9 said...

I think we're maybe talking about slightly different things, and more in agreement than might appear. I hear you objecting to an abundance of "political correctness", in which the government sees a positive responsibility to include all, offend none, etc. To me, that's a somewhat different issue and such policies can lead to results sometimes that seem quite silly.

I disagree with the policy at your local community center, for example. To allow private groups to express their religion (or lack of it) in a public center seems fine to me - the state is not doing the expressing, citizens are. A Christian ceremony one day could be followed by a pagan ceremony the next day, and who cares? The state is not endorsing either. Religious expression is indeed protected by the First Amendment, as is public assembly. But if the state sponsors and promotes that event, installs a Christian cross on the property, etc., then the state is taking action which puts its stamp of approval on it, and that to me crosses the line.

I don't object to teaching about the Christian motivations of some historical figures, or the atheistic beliefs of others. All I would ask is that the teaching be accurate and balanced. I think most of the founding fathers, for example, held Christian beliefs typical of the day...yet I don't think that their purpose was to create a Christian government or that religion was really any part of their motivations when drafting the Constitution, other than to protect its free and private expression. Therefore when teaching about the Constitution I would not emphasize their religious beliefs any more than I would emphasize their ethnic heritage, the crops they grew, or their theories about astronomy. In doing their work they were motivated primarily by principles of democracy and self-government and the inherent natural rights of people, and took special care to keep religion apart from the government they were creating. They had seen what the combination of religion and government had produced in England and elsewhere in Europe, and it seems unquestionably true that they intended a completely secular government here.

 
At 1:21 PM, Blogger Rhiannon said...

As an Atheist leaning Agnostic, it bothers me when I hear about things like judges installing a religious item at a courthouse. It makes me think, would those of my bent be welcome there? Would they be persecuted for not conforming to the obvious bent of religion in that courthouse? Does this religious symbol represent all those in the courthouse, or is is just that one judge... and if so then why doesn't that judge just have it put on his front lawn instead? I would feel equally unwelcome at his house as I would at *his* courthouse. It's a form of persecution because it causes the avoidance of those whose beliefs are not the same. It causes doubt, worry, fear, resentment, and a feeling of being unwelcome and left out of the justice system.

It does not bother me to hear someone speak a prayer, and although it may cause me to worry about their sanity and whether or not their zealots ready to *convert* the next person who passes their way, I can accept people praying in groups in a public square.

...

Another blogger on another site wrote this:

"Think of an Apple.

What color is it?
What shape is it?

Hmm, that’s neither the color nor the shape of the apple I thought of…Mine had a worm… mine was green and red… mine was just the core…I got a rock (oops, Peanuts... wrong story)

Why? Why didn’t we think of the same apple?

Simply because each of us as individuals, have thoughts within our own minds and not anywhere else. Sounds silly, but that’s how it is - it’s the only way things can be.

Back to the apple…

An apple is something that all of us have seen, felt, smelled,touched, etc. It is something tangible
something we can touch. It is a thing that is very familiar, a thing we have direct knowledge of, a thing we have a common reference with. When we talk about “that apple” in our minds, it’s never like the one that someone else thinks of it simply cannot be. It exists in our “own mind” and at that moment and nowhere else.

Now Think of God.
You can keep all the religion and religious iconography that’s been injected into your lives, or you can dismiss it, it matters not for this little exercise.

Go ahead…Think of God

Do you think two people are going to think of the same exact thing? Is it realistic to expect two people to think of the exact same thing when asked to think of God?

It’s not gonna happen. It cannot.

Even if the two people have been brainwashed with the exact same information the simple fact that they are individuals makes their beliefs their own and as such their expressions of the thoughts are individual...

If we can’t even think of the same thing when dealing with a common object like an apple, how can individuals have the exact same ideas about something we can’t see, nor touch - something we have no direct knowledge of … The answer is that we simple cannot.


The point is simply that Religion, belief and faith is only truly real when kept to one's self. The moment you open your mouth and start telling people what you believe and what they should believe because it’s what you believe your God believes, you have simply fallen out ot the apple tree."

 
At 7:38 AM, Blogger The Phnom Penh said...

On those teenagers heading my way in a strange neighborhood, I think that I, like most people, would prefer that they be people "like me" - which of course is different for everyone.

If I were a homosexual transvestite, the last people I would want to see would be fundamentalists of any anti-gay religion.

 

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