Archive for the 'Catholicism – Politics' Category

Who are we kidding

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011

I used to be for the death penalty, but when I became Catholic, I changed my mind. I’ll be honest, it’s one Church teaching I have a hard time with. On one level, the consistency of the life ethic makes it easy for me to accept Church teaching, but I can’t deny that I have an instinctive reaction when I hear of what these people have done and desire retribution.

In the end I submit to the teaching authority of the Church and go with the life consistency.

But at some level, it becomes easier and easier for me when I see the statistics on how things work out in practice. Take this data from the state of California:

Since 1978 when the death penalty was reenacted in California, a total of 89 people have died on death row. Yet only 14 of them, FOURTEEN, were actually executed. The rest died of natural causes, suicide or a number of other means:

-Natural causes: 52
-Suicide: 18
-Executed: 14
-Killed: 2 (not clear if the killing was done by guards or other inmates)
-Drug overdose: 2
-Pepper spray induced heart attack: 1

To put those numbers in perspective, looking into the future, there are 720 people currently on death row in California, the youngest of which are about 20. Since people only live to about 80, AT BEST, only 100 or so of the 720 will actually be executed, if we return to our peak rate of about 2 executions a year (from 1999 to 2001, 5 people were executed, our fastest stretch in modern state history).

Forget for a moment the politics or the justice issues… seriously, who are we kidding? The vast majority of people on “death row” are really on life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

Quick hitters – Taxes, the DMV and hell

Friday, December 10th, 2010

Today’s quick hitters:

  • This whole brouhaha about the Bush tax cuts is fascinating to me. I never thought I’d see the Democratic base turn so quickly on Obama like they have over this. He’s even had to call in former President Clinton to his defense. For what it’s worth, this is an area where I see both sides. I see our deficit and wonder if we can afford to keep taxes so low (and the wealthy are more able to take that hit). On the other hand, the income tax code is already HORRIFICALLY biased towards taking taxes from the wealthy. What I pay in taxes now with 3 kids a big mortgage an only 1 income is less than a tenth, yes you read that right, 10%, of what I paid 10 years ago without the kids and two incomes that was only 50% more than I make today. Heck, I’ll give you round number specifics: I paid around $2k in taxes for 2009 on about $50k of post deduction income ($80k pre-deductions). In 2001, I paid around $30k in taxes on $120k of income (and we had no deductions). An additional $28k in taxes for $40k in increased income!?! Something’s not right with that.
  • There’s a story in today’s Chronicle about a transgender person who’s ticked off because the DMV person who took their gender re-assignment paperwork, took their address and started soliciting them with religious material. Let me go on record as saying it was highly inappropriate of the DMV worker to do that. When it’s your job to preserve someone’s private information for the government (and anyone who takes an address down is), you’ve got to do their job, no matter how deplorable the actions of the person are. The transgender person is absolutely right to object to that.
  • That said, it’s just baffling to me that our society allows people to “change their gender”. What does that even mean? We define sex by our chromosomes… and those can’t be changed. Sure, you can slice off the penis, drill a hole in their pelvis, put breast implants in their chest, and give them hormone injections, but the chromosomes don’t change. At some level I understand why because of our noble insistence on liberty in the US we allow the surgery to go forward (although I can make a compelling argument why our liberties end before that). But there’s no reason why someone’s birth certificate/driver’s license should be able to be changed. Those surgeries didn’t change their fundamentals. While it wasn’t right for the DMV worker to take advantage of their role to notify this person of their perversion, the perversion of the nature of our humanity is quite real, as is the associated risk of hell that goes along with it.

Thoughts on Prop. 8/Gay Marriage ruling

Thursday, August 5th, 2010

I could just write a screed here against Judge Walker and all the things he did wrong today, but in the end, it would just be a stupid post that wouldn’t convince anyone of anything. Those who agree with me would agree and those who don’t, who see the world entirely differently, wouldn’t agree and there would be little point of trying to convince them.

I’ve also given up hope in trying to explain in a forum like this how to see the world through the lens that an understanding Catholic does. People have such strong opinions and won’t spend the time to challenge their preconceptions, not even to change their mind, but even to appreciate seeing the world in a very different way. Again, it wouldn’t accomplish anything.

So what I hope to do in this post is make an admission: We’ve lost the battle.

It’s not the gay marriage battle we’ve lost. That’s just the tail of the dog. What we’ve lost is the argument of what sex is about. We lost it 50 years ago when contraception became socially accepted and the implications of that loss continues to haunt us. Most people who embraced contraception didn’t realize what they were really embracing and so many of them to this day do not realize why others, who have embraced the fullness of what contraception means, are pushing for things they find reprehensible.

But in the end, I can’t argue against gay marriage without going back to the fundamentals: Sex is about procreation. Any sexual act that is not open to procreation resulting, is a disordered sexual act. There’s a ton of objections that will be raised at this point and there’s no way I can address them all in a post or two. But that’s kinda the point. We’re SOOOOO far past arguing about this fundamental premise about the nature of sex, that one can’t even advance the point, even with people who otherwise embrace a Christian worldview, without thousands of words defending the premise.

So I’m writing today not to those who are all for gay marriage. I’m writing today to those who are baffled and upset by the decision, yet embrace contraception. And here’s what I have to say to you:

The battle was lost when you embraced contraception. Once you separated procreation from the sexual act, then obviously, sex not oriented towards procreation was acceptable. Once that sort of sex was acceptable, it was just a matter of time until alternate ways to indulge yourself sexually, from homosexual acts to masturbation, were the next logical step. Once that was acceptable, the lifelong sexual union (aka marriage) was going to be opened to those who had found other ways to sexually gratify themselves.

Sure, it took 50 years for it to happen, but it nevertheless did happen.

So, while I see the world through a very different lens, one where sex is bound to procreation, the reality is that over 90% of my fellow citizens disagree. And since the underpinnings of my argument rest on sex bound to procreation, I can not deny that only 10%, if that, of American citizens embrace the underpinnings of marriage being between a man and a woman. I can not deny that in the way the vast majority of Americans view the world, the gay marriage proponents are right, that in the way society views the world, their unions are not that different from everyone elses.

I refuse to buy into that view, so I will continue to fight against not just gay marriage, but against the idea that procreation and sex can be separated. Whenever that battle is won, we won’t need to fight against “gay marriage”, because “gay marriage” just won’t make any sense, it’ll be as obvious as it was in 1950, when someone who suggested “there’s no tie between marriage and procreation” would be laughed out of court, out of office and out of about any social group. It was as obvious as night and day.

Today it apparently is not so obvious and there’s only one reason: the prevalence of contraception. So I say to all of you who reject gay marriage and wonder how we got here yet embrace contraception: It’s time for you to look in the mirror.

Bad reporting

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

There’s been lots of talk lately about how the media plays into the sex abuse scandal and while it’s an interesting topic, it’s not what this post is about. The aspect of ‘bad reporting’ I want to talk to is a certain tone-deafness of reporters who are not familiar with the Church to understand what the right headlines are for a statement from the Church.

I figure the best way to do this is by example. I saw this headline on Slashdot: “Pope Rails Against the Internet and Transparency“. The text of the post says:

At a conference on digital media at the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI attacked the idea of transparency in the Internet age, warning that digital transparency exacerbates tensions between nations and within nations themselves and increases the ‘dangers of … intellectual and moral relativism,’ which can lead to ‘multiple forms of degradation and humiliation’ of the essence of a person, and to the ‘pollution of the spirit.’ All in all, it seemed a pretty grim view of the wide-open communication environment being demanded by the Internet age.

Being no stranger to how things get taken out of context, I clicked on the link to the underlying article. That took me to a article that was a lead-in article to some documentary, so it still wasn’t mostly about what the Pope actually said, but it does include this paragraph:

“The times in which we living knows a huge widening of the frontiers of communication,” he said (according to our Italian fixer/producer) and the new media of this new age points to a more “egalitarian and pluralistic” forum. But, he went on to say, it also opens a new hole, the “digital divide” between haves and have-nots. Even more ominous, he said, it exacerbates tensions between nations and within nations themselves. And it increases the “dangers of … intellectual and moral relativism,” which can lead to “multiple forms of degradation and humiliation” of the essence of a person, and to the “pollution of the spirit.” All in all, it seemed a pretty grim view of the wide open communication parameters being demanded by the Internet age.

I want you to note a couple things:

  1. Notice the partial sentence quotes. That’s a big red flag. Paragraphs can be taken slightly out of context. Sentences can be taken significantly out of context. Partial sentences, that’s a clue that the reporter couldn’t even find a whole sentence that fit what the point they were trying to make and the REALLY had to stretch it.
  2. Notice how slashdot’s paragraph was mostly a quote from this it is significantly different than what Slashdot had. There’s no mention of transparency, nor any of “attack”. Already we’ve got a morphing sense of what Benedict said.

Which brings us to the transcript of what was actually said. I encourage everyone to read it, but assuming your time is limited here are some key quotes:

Without fear we want to set out upon the digital sea embracing the unrestricted navigation with the same passion that for 2,000 years has steered the barque of the Church.

Dear Friends, you are called to take on the role of “animators of the community” on the Internet too, attentive to “prepare the ways that lead to the Word of God,” and to express a particular sensitivity to “the disheartened and those who have a deep, unarticulated desire for enduring truth and the absolute” (ibid.). The Internet could in this way become a kind of “Court of the Gentiles,” where “there is also a space for those who have not yet come to know God” (ibid.).

As animators of culture and communication, you are a living sign of how much “Church communities have always used the modern media for fostering communication, engagement with society, and, increasingly, for encouraging dialogue at a wider level” (ibid.).

As I thank you for the service you give to the Church and therefore to the cause of man, I exhort you to walk the roads of the digital continent, animated by the courage of the Holy Spirit.

See, when you get right down to it, what the Pope said was that digital media is a powerful forum, one that we should make use of to spread the Gospel. It can be use to spread falsehoods and to tear down humanity or it can be used to build up humanity. He’s encouraging us to make it the latter. It had NOTHING to do with “condemning” the Internet. It had even less to do with transparency, of which there is literally no mention in his speech.

See how different that is from what the naive person who just reads the slashdot post thinks?

The thing is, it’s not that the chain of reporters and commentators that brought it to what was posted on slashdot are trying to be misleading, it’s that they don’t understand enough about Catholicism to understand how to properly report on it. They know when Ralph Nader says that a certain car is “unsafe at any speed” he’s not saying that cars themselves are bad, just that they need to be made more safely. But when they hear the equivalent thing from the Pope, the headline reads “Pope says cars are bad”. I’ve done reporting work and I know how rushed it is. There isn’t time to reflect on what’s said. There’s deadlines to be met. So unless they’re extremely well tuned to the context from which the Pope is speaking, they’re bound to be tone-deaf to the underlying point. They don’t have the context to know that he’s not criticizing the Internet itself, but only the risks that go along with it, just like cars have risks that go along with it.

So I encourage everyone, when you read a headline about “the Vatican” or “the Pope”, don’t take it at face value. Do a little digging and read the full speech. They’re usually not that long. Heck, even get a hold of me and I’ll find you the source material. You may still come away significantly disagreeing with the Pope, but you’ll at least be disagreeing with what he actually said, not the deadline hurried tone-deaf version of it. And everyone will be far better off for it.

The concept of legal privileges

Thursday, May 22nd, 2008

(NOTE: This is a post that originally was posted on my Cal blog, Excuse Me For My Voice. Because that blog is host to both Jason Snell and myself, I have moved this post to here, to remove any implication that I spoke for the both of us. The first 4 comments are also moved and so reflect having been posted on the other site (particularly #4).)

I want to talk about a matter of significant importance, one that it amazes me just how few people, including the justices of the California Supreme Court, seem to recognize.

This matter has nothing to do with religion, as I suspect most of my readers would guess that my perspective on the subject would guess, but simple logic and the principles on which this country is founded. In this post you will find no references to God.

The principle not only affects the immediate issue I’m going to discuss, gay marriage, but a myriad of other political topics, both conservative and liberal leaning, on which the country has been heading the wrong direction.

The principle is called legal privileges.

The word “rights” is thrown around these days with amazing abandon. Everybody has a “right” to an amazing number of things, if you believe the various pundits out there. We’ve got the right to affordable gas, health care, owning a car, to get various medical procedures, to do business with others whether or not the other party wants to, to own a home, to a free education, the list goes on and on.

The problem is that none of things are rights. Rights are things that all humans deserve. They are not granted by a government. They transcend every location and generation. They are inherent to the fact that we are alive and human. In fact, the declaration of independence makes this very clear:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

The point is that rights are not granted by the government, they are upheld by the government.

As such, the list of rights we all have are few but broad in implication. We have the right to live out the course of our natural lives. We have the right to work to obtain the means to continue living (air, water, food and shelter). We have the right to freely associate with others. We have the right to believe what we want. We have the right not to be discriminated against because of who we are, as is separate from our actions. Really that’s about the limit of our fundamental rights. These rights transcend all governments.

Certain governments, including ours, extend additional rights to their people, rights that although not fundamental, make for a better society. Rights that likely make it easier for people to keep their fundamental rights. The right to freely publish and the right to bear arms fall within this set of extended rights. We in the United States are granted a number of these rights.

In any case, whether rights are fundamental, and thus apply to every human being, or extended, and then only apply to those within the government that has established them, rights are things that apply to EVERYONE.

All of this is a very long introduction to the concept of legal privileges. I wish I didn’t have to spell these things out so explicitly because it seems self-evident to me (and apparently to the founders of our country), but it apparently is no longer evident to the general public and much of the judicial system.

Legal privileges are things that either only apply to subsets of the population or if applied universally, can be regulated or limited in their application. All of our laws, that which is not in the Constitution, are legal privileges. Things like all of our social services, tax breaks, public services like fire protection, libraries and emergency relief, inheritance privileges, education, all of these things are legal privileges that the government has granted a wide swath of the public. Similarly all of the regulations that exist, how we must build a house (or stadium), speed limits and drivers licenses, banking rules, incorporation rules and the rest, they can not infringe on our rights and be just or legal regulations. These privileges and their corresponding restrictions are granted by the government for the good of the people. It is the government’s job (and in a democracy the people are responsible for making the government do its job) to decide what legal privileges and what restrictions are wise and for what reason.

All of this finally brings me to the topic of gay marriage.

Marriage, in the legal sense, is a privilege, not a right. If it were a right, the government would be forced to find the ugliest, poorest, meanest jerk of a man someone to marry him if he desired marriage. If it were a right, it could be denied to no one, not criminals, not polygamists, not gay people.

But marriage is a legal privilege. It is a set of laws that the government created with the purpose of giving privileges and protections to a man and a woman who come together to live together as one legal entity. These privileges include tax breaks, medical decision making power, inheritance incentives and other legal privileges.

As such, it is also perfectly acceptable for the government to regulate marriage and limit its applicability. There is no basis for a court stating that certain people, who don’t fit the definition of the privilege by their actions or fall outside the regulations created, have a “right” to that privilege. It just doesn’t make any sense to say that. Nobody has a right to a privilege.

Is that clear?

The final thing I’d like to reference is the commonly used argument attempting to equate the issue of gay marriage and inter-racial marriage. If you go way back to the top of this post you’ll see that one of the fundamental rights is not to be “discriminated against because of who we are, as is separate from our actions”. This is the factor that differentiates between inter-racial marriage and gay marriage. In inter-racial marriage the man and woman involved are not different in nature from a same-race marriage. Their actions are also the same and can fit within the same regulation on marriage.

Gay marriage is entirely different. Men and woman are not the same. It is acceptable to make laws regulating men from going into the women’s bathroom. As such, a marital relationship between a man and a woman is by the nature of the fact that men and women are different, a different type of a relationship than two men or two women. The actions in which that couple can engage, are again different. The most obvious example is that two men and two women can not duplicate the sexual activity of a man and a woman. They can simulate, but not duplicate.

As such, that is the inter-racial marriage comparison is a false comparison.

Eucharist and ‘separation of Church and State’

Wednesday, March 12th, 2008

Since I’ve already taken on one hot-button topic today, might as well keep the ball rolling:

One of the main complaints brought up when a bishop or priest threatens to deny the Eucharist to a politician who supports legislation that is contrary to Church teaching is that it is a violation of the separation of Church and State. This is another one of those ridiculous assertions that has no basis in the truth.

For there to be a violation of the separation, one or the other must have some authority in the other. As an example, if the bishop could say that the politician couldn’t be elected because of his views, THAT would be a violation of the separation. Similarly, if the state could dictate who could have Eucharist in the Catholic Church, that too would be a violation of the separation. But that’s not what is happening in this case.

All the bishop is doing is saying “Look, when you step inside my building, you’re now on the Church’s turf. Here, you play by our rules.”

That’s no different than the government saying to the bishop as he enters the court-house for his speeding ticket saying “God has already forgiven me”, the court can say the same thing to him.

Why is this so hard for people to understand?

Gay “marriage”

Wednesday, March 12th, 2008

With the California Supreme Court hearing arguments last week on whether it violates the California Constitution to disallow gay “marriage”, I thought it was wise to remind everyone things that the pro-gay agenda wants everyone to forget:

  1. Marriage is a legal privilege, not a right. The goverment is allowed to extend privileges (like say tax breaks) to groups who do things that they desire (and thus limit who has access to those privileges).
  2. It is desireable that all children be raised by BOTH their biological parents
  3. No gay couple can BOTH be the biological parents of a single child
  4. Marriage is an institution that encourages sexual couples to remain together for their life and therefore will raise together whatever children result from that union.

Pretty simple, yes? Government wants children raised by biological parents and gives benefits of marriage to those’s union has the potential to create those children. Gays can’t be biological parents, so gays can’t get married.

A further point:

When the government gives legal protections to a group, that convers certain things. It’s not just being tolerant of something, it’s ENDORSING that thing. It is a completely reasonable thing, speaking governmentally in a free society, that both gay people think their is nothing wrong with their behavior and that other people think their behavior is immoral. If the government says that gay “marriage” is acceptable, it is effectively saying that it is unacceptable for people to think gay “marriage” is immoral. When inter-racial marriage was finally allowed (and obviously good thing) it was a statement that other races are equal to whites. It is NOT ACCEPTABLE in the US to think that being black or hispanic (or pick your race) is a lesser race than whites. The same thing would happen with gay “marriage”.

As can be seen from countries like Canada where preachers are brought before “human rights commissions” for reading from the Bible, it is not acceptable in a society that allows freedom of religion to allow gay “marriage” and all that goes along with it. Gay “marriage” will lead to the outlawing of certain Christian beliefs.

What to do with accused priests

Thursday, April 26th, 2007

I found this article about the lack of due process for accused priests very interesting.

One of the most overlooked aspects of the sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church is how to deal with priests who have been accused.  Of course, it goes without saying, that it is more important to first consider protecting children before one considers the issue of handling the priests.  However, that doesn’t remove our obligation to treat every human being with the dignity they deserve.  The reality is that even the worst criminals who are put in jail are still given a place to live (the jail) and food to eat.  So what do we do with priests who are accused to both protect our children while accepting that when the priest was ordained the Church took on the duty to provide for them?

I think it is a very difficult issue, one that I’m not sure the article did a good job of addressing.  Furthermore, I think it is important to note that we face the same issue in civil society.  When a crime merits refusing bail, we still take the freedom of that criminal away while they are still presumed innocent.  If they later are found not-guilty they get no more than an “oops” from the state despite the fact that the state took their life away from them for at least a year in most cases.  Similarly the complaints about feeling obligated to take early retirement feel a lot like a plea-bargain.  Often times they are done not to admit guilt but to find the most pain-free way out of a bad situation.  I’ve seen many articles in the news where the accused felt “forced” to accept a plea-bargain in a civil trial.

To some degree, it sounds like the current process within the Church has a similar format to civil courts.  There is an initial analysis/hearing to determine if there could potentially be any merit to the case, similar to an arraignment.  Then there is what is effectively a “preliminary trial” done by the diocese.  The final trial does not occur until the Vatican gets involved.  That all sounds pretty good.

However, there are three aspects of the current process that worry me:

  1. The most troubling to me is the level of penalty the “preliminary trial” can assess.  Layicizing a priest doesn’t sound like a “preliminary” action.  While removing them from ministry and even notifying the public of that may be necessary for both safety and PR issues, denying that person their ordinational right while still awaiting the full trial seems inappropriate.
  2. The next issue that exists is one that is addressed in US law that probably is missing from the Church canonical process: the right to a speedy trial.  I know it can take the Vatican years to get around to these types of trials, which is unacceptable if a man’s life is hanging in the balance.  It further makes the “preliminary trial” all to much like the final trial.
  3. Finally, the housing and income of the priest.  I’m very concerned that they can be cut loose when guilt has not been conclusively determined.  I’m fine with forcing them to live at a retreat house or something similar, but denying them their Church income and telling them to go find their own means of living while they are still presumed innocent is unfair.

To some degree I am OK with the idea that the Church overshot in its initial reaction to the crisis.  It was an important time to make sure as many loopholes as possible were closed for those who were abusing our children and, as a result, robbing our money through the lawsuits brought against the Church.  However, it is important that over time the Church refine its processes so as to protect both the rights of our children and the rights of our priests who have dedicated their lives to serving God and the Church.

Hopefully articles like this can help the Church to continue in a prayerful and thorough analysis to determine what if any revisions of the norms need to be made.

What does freedom of religion mean?

Monday, April 23rd, 2007

I’m a pretty precise kinda guy.  I like things to have clearly defined lines, particularly when it comes to the goverment.  The reason I bring this up is because I find myself more and more confused as time goes on with what exactly the 1st Amendment means and should mean.  In my latest moment of confusion I read this blog post about a lawsuit against the city of San Francisco for their resolution condemning the morals of the Catholic Church.

Obviously I think the city of San Francisco is run by anti-Catholic bigots who are the biggest hypocrits ever for their constant message of “just let people live their lives the way they want… unless you want to live a Christian life.”  But just because I think it was a horrible resolution doesn’t mean I think it is worthy of a lawsuit based on 1st Amendment grounds.

Just for clarity, The 1st Amendment states:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

It’s a pretty broad statement that says more than just “freedom of religion”.  But in regards to religion is says 3 things:

  1. It is illegal for the government to set up its own religion (called ‘the establishment clause’)
  2. It is illegal for the government to prevent people from practicing their own religion (called ‘the free exercise clause’)
  3. It is illegal for the government to prevent people from preaching their religion to others (called… um… the free speach clause?)

Generally the thing that I find difficult to determine is what a “religion” is from a legal standpoint.  Lots of people have religious beliefs that are illegal.  I’m pretty sure it is still illegal for canabals to eat human flesh, even human flesh of someone who consented to be eaten after their natural death.  As such, for obvious reasons, there is both a history and a good reason to bound the free exercise clause to mean “within reason”.  But who decides what “within reason” means?  It’s not just about infringing on the rights of others, as my canabal example shows.  And who is to decide what “within reason” means?  It can’t be the general population/majority because this clause is a right that is there to protect the minority.

So it’s all very confusing to me from a purely theoretical standpoint.  What I do know is that my Catholic faith should be protected because it historically and currently falls “within reason” and I’m fairly sensitive to the way our country is going with regards to infringing on Catholics right to practice our religion.  There are currently laws on the books in regards to abortion and birth control that place minor limit the rights of Catholics to practice their religion by compelling them to either act in a way their religion finds objectionable or refer others (which is in itself an afront to Catholics) to someone who will act in an objectionable way.  I fully believe that this trend will continue and there will be more significant legal abuses of the 1st Amendment against Catholics that will have to be fought all the way up to the Supreme Court.  As such, despite my theoretical confusion, I find in practice the 1st Amendment essential for Catholics in this country, despite being vague and confusing.

But this case against the city of San Francisco has nothing to do with my above confusion.  The city council is in no way preventing people from exercising their faith nor from having free speach.  So really, at least based on numbers two and three in my list, there is no case against SF.

Which brings me to my new confusion.  What does the establishment clause really mean?  And I guess in some way this comes back to the original confusion of, what exactly defines a religion?  We know that athiesm is indeed a religion from the various lawsuits athiests have brought forward protecting their right to practice their religion, so “having a God” is not a requirement for a religion.  So is all that is required a set of moral beliefs?

If that is the case, any time the goverment speaks to what is right and what is wrong (separate from what is legal and illegal), they’ve broken the establishment clause.  They have created a moral framework and if that’s all that is required to call your beliefs a religion, the government does it ALL THE TIME.  It does this on both sides.  We’ve got the various sex education measures that are constantly pushing a certain morality.  Yet on the other side, the Catholic Church in the US, which is very aware of the issues surrounding the 1st Amendment and is very protective of its freedom is constantly calling on the government to make moral proclamations.

So it’s all very confusing to me.

One take-away I have from this case is that I think it would be wise for the government to take a step back from the highly public service announcement model it has evolved into, including how it teaches things in public schools.  While there are minimums that can reasonably be taught without getting into murky areas, we long ago crossed over that line.  Somewhere the line between reasonable minimums like “don’t break the law” or getting the facts out like “AIDS can kill you” and making moral pronouncements like “teen pregnancy is bad” (purposely chosen for it’s lack of controversy) got blurred and then forgotten.  Perhaps it is time to re-draw that line.

As to whether there is actually a case against SF, I’m still not sure.  My gut says yes because not only were they making a moral statement, one that reeks of a anti-Christian religions mindset, but also because their statement was directed at a specific religion as opposed to a general “this is good” statement.  At the same time, I’m not so sure how to specifically corolate that to the specifics of what the 1st Amendment requires without breaking tons of reasonable precident.

Thanks be to God!

Wednesday, April 18th, 2007

After years of crummy decisions by the Supreme Court regarding abortion, there was finally a minor victory for the unborn.  The federal partial birth abortion (also called Intact Dilation and Extraction or Intact D&X or IDX) was upheld.  The radically morally repugnant proceedure, which is illegal in most countries, even liberal European countries like Sweden and not used in most of the rest including the UK, is now finally illegal in the US.

Of course I would like to see the high court go further.  I would first like them to overturn Roe v. Wade, which will allow states to make their own laws on the subject, and then to go futher to protect the lives of the unborn (when it does not explicitely risk the life of the mother).  But those desires are for another day.  Today is a day to praise God for giving the justices the wisdom to stem the tide of Roe v. Wade, the worst decision in the courts history since Dred Scott v. Sandford.