Archive for the ‘religion’ Category
The idea of the separation of Church and State is integral to the United States. Upholding the idea remains as important today as it was when our founders built a nation that expressly forbid the mingling of the Church with the operations of the government.
Rick Santorum, though, disagrees. He says:
“I don’t believe in an America where the separation of church and state are absolute,” he told ‘This Week’ host George Stephanopoulos. “The idea that the church can have no influence or no involvement in the operation of the state is absolutely antithetical to the objectives and vision of our country…to say that people of faith have no role in the public square? You bet that makes me want to throw up.”
Two quick things for Mr. Santorum.
One: I disagree vehemently, and am terrified that a Presidential candidate would claim that the church should have influence and invovlement in the operations of the state. That is unconstitutional, and opposes the very foundation of the US as a nation by people who understood the dangers of allowing the inter-mingling of the two. It’s one of the reasons we decided England just wasn’t for us. Bone up on your Thomas Jefferson.
Two: Your second point is invalid, as the separation of church and state does NOT say that people of faith have no role in the public square. People of faith have every right to civic and public involvement, and any notion that people of faith are somehow kept out of the public square is just straight lunacy. See many atheists running our government, do you Mr. Santorum? Your brand of Christianity already has too much of a role in our government for comfort, and to hear you claim otherwise shows how capable you are of ignoring reality.
You have it backwards, and you need to learn: the idea that the church can have influence and involvement over the operation of the government is antithetical to the objectives and vision of our country. People of faith, of all faiths, are welcome into the process. But the church is not.
As Madison argued in a 1788 letter to Jefferson, religious fanaticism was as serious a danger to religious liberty as excessive state authority. In his words, “rights of conscience” were undermined by “overbearing majorities” who were intent on advancing the interests of a particular “religious establishment.” In plain and simple terms, the founders meant to protect individuals against excessive encroachments by church as well as state.
We might all wish to heed Madison’s further warning: “It is a melancholy reflection that liberty should be equally exposed to danger whether the Government has too much or too little power.” Religious liberty required the protection of state authority, in creating a barrier around the individual and guarding against intrusions from religious institutions.
The fact remains that President Obama is no more a French Revolutionary Jacobin than Jefferson or Madison. It appears, in fact, that the president has a very clear understanding of religious liberty, appreciating the boundaries between church and state just as Madison intended. His promptly conceived compromise solution, respecting religion without restricting rights, fits the balanced, reasonable approach our founders prescribed when they fought, state by state, to eliminate state funding and sanctioning (i.e., disestablishment) of privileged sects.
Getting into the politics, which I know many folks abhor… I’ve said many times in the past week that a public, drawn out fight over birth control will only hurt the Republicans, and that the real issue is the Catholic Church’s attempt to prevent access to birth control. Which isn’t a unique position to TRC. But still.
Quoting this at length, because it is worth it, even it if is overly optimistic.
Obama Punks the GOP on Contraception. Amanda Marcotte, Slate.
The fun part of this is that Obama just pulled a fast one on Republicans. He drew this out for two weeks, letting Republicans work themselves into a frenzy of anti-contraception rhetoric, all thinly disguised as concern for religious liberty, and then created a compromise that addressed their purported concerns but without actually reducing women’s access to contraception, which is what this has always been about.
Read the rest of this entry »
I am following the argument between the Catholic Church and the Obama Administration over how Catholic hopsitals and other non-church Catholic institutions are to pay for contraception. It is a fascinating debate about religious freedom from government, health-care, contraception (which I must say I cannot believe we still fight over), but also the role of religion in government.
I am presuming, since the argument has been made by the Church that this is a religious freedom fight, that today’s compromise requiring insurance companies and not employers to cover the costs will resolve the issue. The Church has claimed this is not political, it is not about the services, it is about the Church’s freedom of conscience, and so this should just about wrap that problem up.
Anyway. There has been much written on this subject. And I wanted to share a few things that I have valued as I learned about the subject.
New York Times blogger Andrew Rosenthal: In case you haven’t been paying attention – and I guess I wouldn’t blame you – the issue is this: The rule exempts religious institutions, like churches, but not religiously affiliated institutions, like Catholic hospitals, that serve the general public. Some social conservatives are calling this an unconscionableassault on religious freedom, since Catholic doctrine prohibits women from using artificial contraception.
It’s pure election-year shenanigans, led by Republicans who want to make Mr. Obama seem godless. There are already 28 states with similar rules in place, and the Catholic Church continues to operate in all of them (last I checked, anyway).
Sarah Kliff (whose work on the Komen debacle and this issue has shown what modern internet journalism can be) at the Washington Post: Outside the political punditry, most Catholics agree with the administration on the issue,” says one Obama campaign official, explaining the view that this could be a political win.
And a lot of this likely isn’t about Catholic voters at all.
Rather, it may well be about the demographics that are most supportive of this particular health reform provision: young voters and women. In the PRRI poll, both groups register support above 60 percent for the provision.
New York Times Opinion Page, Linda Greenhouse: These institutions, as well as Catholic universities – not seminaries, but colleges and universities whose doors are open to all – are full participants in the public square, receiving a steady stream of federal dollars. They assert – indeed, have earned – the right to the same benefits that flow to their secular peers. What they now claim is a right to special treatment: to conscience that trumps law.
But in fact, that is not a principle that our legal system embraces…
In a 1990 decision, Employment Division v. Smith, the Supreme Court disagreed. Even a sincere religious motivation, in the absence of some special circumstance like proof of government animus, does not merit exemption from a “valid and neutral law of general applicability,” the court held. Justice Antonin Scalia wrote the opinion, which was joined by, among others, the notoriously left wing Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist.
Star Tribune Opinion Page. John Lesch, DFL-St. Paul, member of the Minnesota House.: The church, with one hand, waves the bus of government through the intersection of Church and State, and into your choice of spouses; with the other hand it seeks to halt otherwise free access to contraceptive health care for its employees.
In lamenting the requirements for equal birth-control coverage for women, a spokesperson for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops bewailed, “Government has entered the sanctuary.”
Is it ironic that this holy hand-wringing comes just as those same bishops seek to stand in your polling booth on the issue of marriage?
Daily Beast blogger David Frum: If the audience is paying attention, for example, it will notice that Republicans are not proposing to allow employers and plans to refuse to cover blood transfusions if they conscientiously object to them (although there are religious groups that do). Or vaccinations (although there are individuals who conscientiously object to those as well). Or medicines derived from animal experimentation. (Ditto.)
No, Marco Rubio’s Religious Freedom Restoration bill provides for one conscientious exemption only: contraception and sterilization.
Which means it will be very hard if not impossible to persuade the target audience that this debate is not in fact about contraception. Everybody quite sure that’s a wise debate to have?
And finally, for TRC the worst part here is not the argument that the government is overreaching into areas where the government has no legal or moral right to be. The story is the opposite: the Catholic Church is once again attempting to insert itself from the pulpit into policy making. The Church can disregard modern science and the irrefutable preference for contraception all it wants. But it cannot keep our government from providing Catholics and non-Catholics with services it opposes. The Church is opposing access to women’s birth control services, and that is a fight it is going to lose.
Mary Sanchez in the Chicago Tribune. The truth is, the desire to control, to assert one person’s view of morality over another’s choices, is coming from the other direction — from religious conservatives who see this as a skirmish in a new culture war. It’s being played that way because it’s politically expedient to do so in 2012, an election year.
The backlash is an effort to limit a women’s right to have access to health care, including the right to make decisions about reproduction. If that reminds you of the abortion issue, you’re not alone. That was the old cause. This is the new one. Access to contraception is the next target for religious conservatives bent on their version of morality trumping individual rights.
This isn’t primarily about the separation of church and state. Health care is the issue. It is a woman’s right to have access to contraception if she so chooses. And that means including it in prescription drug coverage.
And those “feminist allies” Buchanan talks about. Who are they?
When it comes to users of birth control, it’s nearly every woman in America.
Here are a few sentences from the American Spectator, in a lesson TRC wants to give to readers of news:
The recent litany of Obama’s odiousness begins with his growing, unambiguous war against traditional Christianity. He has now left no room for any pretense otherwise to be believed.
Any individual with critical thinking skills should be able to recognize that anything that comes before or after those two sentences will be completely unfounded, anti-Obama horseshit. I can think of no other way to put it.
Of course we shouldn’t be surprised that such sentiments are expressed in the American Spectator, but that does not mean that they should go unchallenged. And we should certainly educate Americans to be able to recognize propagandistic fear mongering when they see it.
I found this article linked from Real Clear Politics, an aggregate source that I value, but that I think has lost any interest in discerning valuable political discussion in the heaps of outlandish uber-conservative Anti-Obamaism. Such as this essay from American Spectator.
The real sad part of this is that the author of this essay, Quin Hillyer, has a reasonable beef with the President, one that has a place in the discourse of contemporary politics and the 2012 election. He has no interest, obviously, in reasonable discourse, however, because President Obama is not reasonable. President Obama is “inept,” “odious,” “feckless” (good one), wants to “starve the American forces” (REALLY!), and pretty much hates everything and everyone Quin Hillyer identifies as “American”.
Here’s the conclusion of this piece.
This is a man who has no interest in serving the United States that most of us know and love. Instead, he’s a man who, by hook and definitely by crook, serves the despicable vision of the utterly foreign America he wants to impose on us.
Four more years of this guy in power, and we are doomed. He is a menace, and, by every legal means possible, he must be stopped — and his maladministration reversed and thoroughly buried.
If you want to save Christianity, America, the World, and everything that “most of us know and love,” we must align our interest against the man who seeks to destroy Christianity, America, the world, and everything most of us know and love.
Because it is not possible that Obama, a Christian and seemingly pretty good guy, just disagrees with Quin Hillyer. No, Christianity and America, and all that is good, lay in the balance. If Obama wins, the America will likely be destroyed, or worse, Foreignized.
That’s the point: Obama is not American. Obama is not a Christian. He is a foreigner.
I’m sad and mad about this. What a disgrace. And I blame Real Clear Politics for sending me there.
A major media outlet finds it necessary to write this sentence:
Obama is a Christian, but hasn’t been able to persuade many Republicans that he is, despite going to church and praising Jesus Christ publicly.
Help me understand how this is possible? We have a Christian president, who displayed during the 2008 election that he was very much at home talking about Jesus Christ and his personal faith. But our country chooses not to believe him. Why?
I’m told that it’s not racism, and I don’t want it to be racism. I don’t want it to be xenophobia, or religious intolerance, or any such nonsense. But 18% of Republicans is a lot of people. Those kind of numbers are not easily cast aside as some kind of fringe nonsense. That’s millions of people disregarding reality to support a fantasy based on…what?
And yes, Rick Santorum, it is your responsibility to correct your supporters who are telling lies.
Oh Rick Santorum. I don’t want to continue blogging about you, but so badly I do. So two great notes on Rick Santorum.
- Rick Santorum was recently quoted during a campaign stop as saying: “I don’t want to make the lives of black people better by giving them other people’s money. I want to give them the opportunity to go out and earn their money and provide for themselves and their families.” That upset some in the black community, because it essentially equates black life with life on welfare. Very nice.But now Rick Santorum has looked at the evidence, and upon further review, he has determined that is not what he said at all! According to Santorum: ““I’ve looked at that quote, in fact I looked at the video…In fact, I’m pretty confident I didn’t say black. What I think — I started to say a word and then sort of changed and it sort of — blah — mumbled it and sort of changed my thought.”So, you said “black”, which would make sense in a sentence, or you said ”blah” which is much better. And to be fair, it doesn’t sound like “black” in the video. I heard Bligh, which of course would make sense if Santorum isn’t too eager to help Lt. Bligh, famously stern commander of the Bounty, whose actions led to a mutiny of historical fame.
- Even better (and by better I mean much, much worse) than Mr. Blah is “Mr. Santorum: Jesus Candidate.” Presumably of course, he meant himself, rather than, I don’t know, the Joseph Smith Candidate? (Hint: That means Mitt Romney, Reminder: Mitt Romney is a Mormon, Reminder 2: Real Christians consider Mormonism cultish). Anyway. At a Q&A in New Hampshire, Santorum was told: ““We don’t need a Jesus candidate, we need an economic candidate.” Of course, that must be true, because our nation is in an economic crisis, and since the United States is not and can never be a Christian Nation, having a “Jesus Candidate” is not terribly appropriate role for the Chief Executive. Mr. Santorum of course disputes my interpretation of this, and responded: “My answer to that was we always need a Jesus candidate.We need someone who believes in something more than themselves and not just the economy. When we say, ‘God bless America,’ do we mean it or do we just say it?”This is a very peculiar response, and one that makes my spine twinge. We emphatically do NOT need a Jesus Candidate for President. Religious Candidates are fine, and in fact are probably quite necessary. Everyone should believe in something more than themselves, as trite and meaningless as such a statement is. But a Jesus Candidate is a terrible idea, runs in clear opposition to the founding of this nation (BOOM, take that originalists), and should be openly rejected even by Christians.
We’ve had fun with Mr. Tebow at TRC. He’s a fun public figure to engage with, because, well, he’s so public, so evangelical, so mediocre at his job, and so beloved. From the moment he was drafted higher than anyone expected, to the moment he starred in the Focus on the Family television ad at the Super Bowl, Tebow had blood boiling.
And it hasn’t stopped now that he is a starting QB and winning (most of) his games. If TRC thinks so little of Tim Tebow the footballer and evangelical spouter of Christian cliches during post-game interviews, then why is this man among our Best Things of 2011? Good question.
Because Tim Tebow, all by his lonesome, just by being extra-smiley and kind and overly enthusiastic in his heaven pointing and highly-public prayer oriented, causes (some) people to have serious conversations about the role of religion in popular society, to discuss the standards of journalism, to argue over culpability of religious beliefs, to question the motives of the uber-evangelical cultural forces in the United States. Regardless of where one comes out on any of these discussions, there is value in our country in just digging in to a lot of the murky American Life that seems every day second nature.
So, Tim Tebow is among our best things of the year. To illustrate, Tim Tebow managed in the last 24 hours to have this written in an article called Tebow’s Religion: Fair Game:
Tim Tebow became “compelling” because he became a character in the great national dumbshow that is our culture war. And we should be very clear about one thing — he wasn’t dragooned into this. Nobody drafted him. He walked into this role with his eyes open. Before he ever took a snap in the NFL, he appeared in an anti-choice television ad with his mother that was sponsored by Focus on the Family, an influential anti-choice, anti-gay-rights organization founded by the Rev. James Dobson. He knew what he was doing.
AND this, in an article called Tebow Sacks Socialism:
Everyone wants a piece of 24-year-old Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow. Most people settle for a high-five or an autograph. Others ask him to surrender his values, like the young women who beg him for fan photos and then start stripping off their shirts—sending Tebow darting away.
Tebow has All-American character. He espouses capitalistic values that are foundational to America: Competitiveness, ownership, responsibility, hard work, optimism, faith and persistence.
That’s quite an accomplishment for 24-year old kid who is paid millions of dollars to be a professional ball-thrower.
A final example of why Tim Tebow deserves a spot in TRC’s Best Things list. In an email exchange I was involved in that began as a conversation about Tebow, I somehow eventually wrote the following, which sums up my feelings about just how dynamic a cultural place the whole damn Tebow Affair has taken:
Here’s something worth sharing. It get’s to the differences that exists among Christians (one could say between left and right, but I’ll leave such distinctions to those in the pews). It’s from Andrew Sullivan.
There’s been some internal debate among evangelicals over whether to forgive Newt his past – and the consensus seems to be yes. Note why:
On the same e-mail chain, which CNN obtained from a conservative activist, prominent Atlanta preacher Richard Lee said the nation’s evangelicals needed to support Gingrich. Lee called Gingrich “the only forceful Christian candidate who can at this point be elected and cleanse the White House next November.”
Don’t you love that word “cleanse”? The current president is a devoted family man, devoid of any personal scandal, and a committed Christian, as his speeches and books testify to. And this must be “cleansed”? The reason is that Obama represents a more liberal and live-and-let-live version of Christianity, and believes in the separation of church and state. That’s what needs to be cleansed (assuming we are not talking bald-faced racism here).
Our language matters, and it should be used carefully. So, to those who want to win the Presidency by “cleansing” the White House, you might want to think twice about how you put that.
This comes back the Rick Perry advert, too, in which President Obama is warring against the Christians who are actually Christians, not “christian” like the President.
A follow up to yesterday’s rant against the evangelical Rick Perry’s evangelical commercial about President Obama’s War on Religion. You’ll remember the key quote from the political spot: ““You don’t have to be in the pews every Sunday to know that there is something wrong with our country, when gays can openly serve in the military but our kids can’t openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school.” Besides being totally aggravating, Perry is actually wrong. TRC was in no place to highlight legal nuance yesterday, but today this is still bothering us, so here you go.
There is nothing keeping prayer out of schools in the United States. There is no law banning school prayer. At least, not in the manner that Rick Perry, and many other religious individuals in America think there is. For some reason, it has become a de facto position of many evangelicals, and the Religious Right, and the Catholic Church, among others, that the Supreme Court banned prayer from public schools in the 1960s.
In the interest of people knowing what the hell they are talking about, here’s some clarification. Prayer is allowed in public schools. It has never been banned, and the right to pray in schools has been defended by the US Gov’t, the ACLU, the American Center for Law and Justice, etc, etc, etc. Prayer in school is legal and safe and well protected by the Constitution. Glad we cleared that up. Unfortunately, that point has been quite difficult to make to the public. Jeffrey Weiss at Real Clear Religion points out the key distinction that was made in the Supreme Court, and the sloppy coverage from the press that accompanies the infamous prayer in school decision.
No matter what one thinks of Perry’s candidacy, this one is another major “oops” for the campaign.
I admit, he’s not alone in making his error. The Associated Press’s analysis of the ad was critical, but also veered off the tracks and into the legal abyss.
Wrote AP political reporter Beth Fouhy: “The Supreme Court prohibited school prayer in two landmark decisions in 1962 and 1963, calling it an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment.”
Which is sooo close to being correct. The court actually prohibited mandatory school prayer. And that one word makes all the difference. (See: Twain, Mark on lightning-bug vs. lightning.)
The truth is that kids pray in schools and on school grounds all the time. Many surely do it silently before the math midterms. But they also pray very publicly, in organized events. They do it plenty in Rick Perry’s Texas, as a matter of fact.
As an example, Weiss highlights See You at the Pole, a very public, Pray-to-Jesus-oriented event that happens once a year at schools around the country. I remember that event from my high school days. Such an activity is quite constitutional, as it should be.
And due to such events, every student who has ever gone to a public school is very much aware that prayer, quiet and self-contained or over-the-top public displays of hand-holding, is allowed. To suggest otherwise is to deceive. Is Rick Perry in favor of mandatory prayers in school? Or does he just not know that prayer is actually allowed in school? Or is he an idiot? Liar? These seem to be the options.
Again, Rick Perry’s political advert is not important. It’s a politician abusing religion and religious individuals to make hay in a primary election that Perry won’t win anyway. But sticking up for the actual legal rights of Americans is a worthy pursuit. Clarifying misrepresentations of the US Constitution matters a lot more than Perry’s forgetful campaign for President. No one may learn the difference, but that doesn’t make the difference any less important.