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September 04, 2012 4:21 PM Does God Need a Shout-Out in the Democratic Platform?

By Ed Kilgore

Oh, God.

I can already feel the viral emails hitting a million inboxes on this one: Christian Right journalist David Brody seems to have done a word-search of the 2008 and 2012 Democratic National Conventions and found that a reference to the Almighty was taken out of the former in the latter.

The passage in question is one of those cliched references to helping Americans achieve their full potential. Said potential was described as “God-given” in 2008, but not in 2012. Some secular-socialist crept in and removed God from the Democratic Platform!

Aside from making the rather idiotic assumption that this was a conscious act (in a purely political document why would a throwaway adjective that would offend almost no one be deleted?), Brody does not note that the platform has a whole section on “faith,” which reads:

Faith has always been a central part of the American story, and it has been a driving force of progress and justice throughout our history. We know that our nation, our communities, and our lives are made vastly stronger and richer by faith and the countless acts of justice and mercy it inspires. Faithbased organizations will always be critical allies in meeting the challenges that face our nation and our world - from domestic and global poverty, to climate change and human trafficking. People of faith and religious organizations do amazing work in communities across this country and the world, and we believe in lifting up and valuing that good work, and finding ways to support it where possible. We believe in constitutionally sound, evidence-based partnerships with faith-based and other non-profit organizations to serve those in need and advance our shared interests. There is no conflict between supporting faith-based institutions and respecting our Constitution, and a full commitment to both principles is essential for the continued flourishing of both faith and country.

So God wasn’t exactly expelled from the platform, it seems.

Now, turning to the GOP’s 2012 platform, we find a not-overwhelming seven references to the Deity. One is like the omitted 2008 Democratic Platform line, attributing talents to God. Two do the same with natural resources and the environment. Two repeat the Tea Party mantra that our rights and liberties (which they typically interpret as including the “rights of the unborn” and quasi-absolute private property rights) are “God-given,” which is their way of saying they can’t be modified by some New Deal or Great Society or egalitarian judge or popular majority. There is, believe it or not, a reference to God being the author of our right to use shootin’ irons to defend ourselves. And then there is a specific pledge to restore the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, “under God” included, in public schools.

As a believer myself, I dislike in particular the attribution to God of various secular ideas of “rights,” which are intended, frankly, to divinize political ideologies. I would, in fact, call that idolatry.

I’m very sure David Brody wouldn’t agree, but then we’re not talking about people who are using their God-given talents to fairly judge words and their actual implications.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

Comments

  • CharlieM on September 04, 2012 4:37 PM:


    I must confess to not being much of a fan of a deity that would leave the important stuff (i.e. "God-Given") to be enumerated by Republicans.
    The less effort spent on being His spokesperson, the better.

  • Peter C on September 04, 2012 4:56 PM:

    This just points out the analytical weakness of the far-right; they try to infer meaning by 'counting words'. They'd be much better off if they read them first.

  • c u n d gulag on September 04, 2012 5:09 PM:

    Maybe if I believed, the Lord would listen to this, my prayer:

    Lord, please rid this planet of these meddling religious busy-bodies.

  • Ron Byers on September 04, 2012 5:16 PM:

    Who removed the reference and how come he or she still has a job? This is exactly the kind of crap Republicans wallow in, why give them something this easy?

  • grandpa john on September 04, 2012 5:21 PM:

    I have a feeling that God is not being pleased by the attempts of many wing nuts to try to pass off their opinions and words as being Gods words and thoughts. As Jesus said in the book of Matthew not everyone who claims to be his prophets will enter the kingdom of heaven.

  • c4Logic on September 04, 2012 5:23 PM:

    My religious convictions are nobodies business. I strongly BELIEVE that I should not foist my views on the subject onto anybody else. It is one thing to be asked about one's views, but it is another to beat other people over the head with them, unasked. And to do it in public using PUBLIC institutions is so offensive I don't know where to begin. You are either enlightened and understand this, or you are hopelessly ignorant, and probably in desperate need of salvation. G-d is not the only idea associated with the Idead of the Holy, or an experience of the Divine Reality. Respect people who do not share your religious agenda, and keep it to yourself, like the Aborigenes do. What does beating people of the the head with the word G-d mean when their are atheists, agnostics, or believe in Gods or the flying spaghetti monster. To take your religious beliefs public is to automatically throw down the gauntlet to the Infidels. That way likes madness and religious warfare. To them that have ears, let them hear!!

  • citizen_pain on September 04, 2012 5:29 PM:

    United States Constitution, Article VI, paragraph 3:


    "The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."

  • bluestatedon on September 04, 2012 5:46 PM:

    I think it would have been prudent to include the dumb phrase simply to deny the GOP a stupid talking point, but how many people are going to NOT vote for Obama or Dems purely and only because of this? The answer is that nobody who would consider withholding their vote over this was going to vote for Obama anyhow.

  • beejeez on September 04, 2012 5:56 PM:

    Jeez, Dems, have a little imagination! Just put an allusion to God in every sentence of the platform and every other sentence of the acceptance speech and then ask why the Republicans didn't do likewise. Sheeh, this is a gimme.

  • Doug on September 04, 2012 5:56 PM:

    Ron Byers, most likely some staffer was trying to keep within a certain word-count, found that the sentiment expressed was already well-covered, deleted the phrase and sent the finalized section quoted by Mr. Kilgore on to be approved.
    As there are a growing number of followers of non-Western religions in this country; I'm particularly thinking of Hinduism, but there may be others, it wouldn't be very inclusive to use the singular "God" when speaking of polytheists. "Faith-based", however, applies to EVERYONE who has a faith.
    But then, we already knew the GOP is not interested in "everyone"...

  • SteveAR on September 04, 2012 6:17 PM:

    "So God wasn’t exactly expelled from the platform, it seems."

    Yes He was. Here's why:

    "We believe in constitutionally sound, evidence-based partnerships with faith-based and other non-profit organizations to serve those in need and advance our shared interests."

    This is a license to violate the Free Exercise Clause, just as the Obama administration did with the contraception mandate. Just because the administration is against the Catholic Church's prohibition on artificial contraception doesn't mean the government has the power to tell the Church to violate it's canon law, which is what the Obama administration did.

  • trex on September 04, 2012 6:34 PM:

    Just because the administration is against the Catholic Church's prohibition on artificial contraception doesn't mean the government has the power to tell the Church to violate it's canon law, which is what the Obama administration did.

    Nope, it didn't.

    If you make me spell out why it didn't I will, but I'm not going to be civil about it.

  • boatboy_srq on September 04, 2012 6:48 PM:

    The only reason the Democratic platform would include the explicit references to Him (Her?) that Brody seems addicted to would be to attract the Godbotherers to the party. But since those people are likely to demand the othering of women, LGBTQ folk, minorities, card-carrying union members, the poor, immigrants, city-dwellers, environmentalists, scientists, historians, single mothers, public-sector workers, Catholics (excepting Donahue and Dolan) and other unGawdly folk, it's unlikely the Dems would be able to keep them even if they DID mention The Almighty.

    There's a reason the GOTea speaks of Gawd so much: it's dogwhistle to their FundiEvangelist base who wants to make Ahmurrcah safe for right-thinking heterosexual baptized-by-full-immersion Xtian caucasian males and those stupid enough to think that this description includes them.

  • Varecia on September 04, 2012 6:51 PM:

    trex: "Nope, it didn't.
    If you make me spell out why it didn't I will, but I'm not going to be civil about it.

    Do it! Do it! I'm in the mood for some incivility toward wrong-headed, wingnuts who don't have a sense of personal religious boundaries.

  • SteveAR on September 04, 2012 7:49 PM:

    @trex: "Nope, it didn't."

    Yes, it did.

    I've already heard the arguments that it didn't. They're laughable. So be as civil or as uncivil as you like, there isn't anything you can tell me says the new HHS mandate doesn't violate the First Amendment.

  • Snarki, child of Loki on September 04, 2012 9:52 PM:

    Just add to the platform:

    "Willard Romney and Paul Ryan are GOD-DAMNED LIARS"

  • trex on September 04, 2012 10:25 PM:

    @SteveAR

    All right you dumb fuck, let's start on the legal side and move to the Catholic history side.

    Hospitals and health-care systems run by Catholic archdioceses are corporations that are intentionally set up as separate organizations from the church. They are not "the Church." Therefore they are not exempt from federal regulations any more than Halliburton is. Had Obama told local churches that they must provide birth control coverage to rectory employees you might have a case for infringement of First Amendment rights - because they are, in fact, is "the Church."

    All those Jews and Methodists and non-believers working for Catholic-owned health systems - they aren't "the Church" either. They are working for a corporation that receives state and federal tax dollars meant for public assistance. THEY are the ones whose religious rights are being infringed upon by the Catholic Church, you ridiculous fucktard. THEY are the ones whose employer is saying, "You know that money you earn? Some of which comes in the form of benefits? We are going to dictate to you how we spend it based upon our religious beliefs."

    So you've got a corporation that clearly ISN'T the Catholic Church telling employees who aren't Catholics how they can spend their money. There's your infringement, right there, and frankly the employees should sue the shit out of their employers who deny them. If the corporation you worked for were Muslim-owned and said you could not have insurance for any issues related to the consumption of alcohol (liver disease, pumping the stomach, reactions to NyQuil); the eating of pork, blood products, or meat that was not halal (food poisoning, trichinosis); treatment problems related to consumption of food on certain holidays when they believe you should have been fasting; denial of emergency treatment for women who'd been injured while driving cars or walking alone - you would say "fuck that noise" and sue the shit out of them. You'd never stand for that in a religious plural country. But you want special treatment for your religion because something something liberals Obama Hitler First Amendment.

    And forget saying that those employees who have a problem with it can just go work somewhere else. For one, that's not how rights work. Secondly, and less importantly, in some areas Catholic health care systems are the only health-care employers, have been granted something like 20% of the municipal contracts in the country.

    Obama, giving the bishops far more deference than they deserved, removed them from the equation completely, saying the government would step in and cover the cost of health care. So NOW you've got a corporation that clearly isn't the Church telling employees who aren't Catholics that not only can they not spend their own earnings how they wish, they aren't allowed to even receive health care coverage from the government that they don't agree with.

    The bishops' position could not be any more transparently disingenuous had they simply come out and admitted they're just trying to obstruct Obama politically.

    Of course, the argument isn't just about health care providers, it is about all those other large Catholic employers as well like colleges that, go figure, have been providing birth control benefits to their employees ALL THESE YEARS without a problem. How weird is that, right? All of a sudden the bishops who wouldn't take a moral or political stand against a preemptive war threaten this administration over insurance benefits they yawned over providing in the past.

    And guess what? The same Church has no problem with this issue in every other fucking country in the world that offers some variety of universal health care, which, naturally includes birth control, in which they run hospitals and colleges.

    So: Catholics like you do not have a leg to stand on because your argument is farcical, political, unsupportable by your own sta

  • trex on September 04, 2012 10:29 PM:

    So: Catholics like you do not have a leg to stand on because your argument is farcical, political, unsupportable by your own standards, and disingenuous.

    But let's not stop there. We haven't even begun to uncover how disingenuous the American bishops are being on this issue. Hell, the Church didn't even have a moral position on birth control for two thousand years! They simply didn't care! There were no "rights of conscience" or first amendment rights. You were Catholic and you wanted to use birth control? No big deal, go ahead and use it!

    I know, you didn't know that Steve. That's because you're a rabid ignoramus.

    It wasn't until 1936 and Casti Conubii when, Pius XI came along and unilaterally decided to make this an issue. Why did he do this? Because he was concerned that Europeans weren't making enough babies to stave off the Communists in the aftermath of wars that were devastating the population of Europe. That's right, he simply wanted more Catholic babies to fight the bad guys. Did you know that the same encyclical making this radically new change in church teaching - based on political concerns and not based on any new moral theology or as a result of a convocation of bishops or Church council, I might add - also condemned anyone who didn't want to have children for any reason as "wicked."

    No, I know you didn't, because you're an slavering partisan idiot with no concern for facts or the truth.

    Yes, some pontiffs in the twentieth century decided to turn two thousand years of Church teaching on its head for no other reason than to out-breed the Commies.

    His successor, Pius XII, took up the birth control mantle for the same reasons - the same man who was complicit in the extermination of the Jews - not only by his silence, mind you, but by actually thwarting their attempts to escape to South America at times by turning them over to Nazis. Yes, this paragon of virtue decided the REAL issue of conscience for his time was condom use in order to make more Catholic babies. Good Catholic babies. Right-wing Catholic babies. And that perversity informed his alliance with the horrors of Franco. So the pope ordered that babies be kidnapped en masse at birth from poor and potentially left-wing families and given to right-wing Catholics who had the correct politics. Yes, you heard that right. And the Spanish church complied, and over the decades literally thousands of babies were kidnapped at the orders of the pope. Mothers gave birth in Catholic hospitals and were told that their babies had died, when in fact they'd been stolen. By the Church. At the order of the pope.

    And then again in the UK in the 1950's he had children who'd been placed temporarily in orphanages by poor Catholics kidnapped and shipped to Australia to fight the rising "brown horde" of Aborigines and other islanders that threatened the nice whiteness of civilization there. When parents came to retrieve their children they were told they'd died or were adopted by better parents and that was the end of the matter. The children were told the parents had died or no longer wanted them, but that nice families were waiting for them in Australia. Tragically, those children were used as slave labor by the Christian Brothers, beaten and sexually abused by them, and then turned out into society with no education and no idea that their parents were alive or still wanted them

    So after these Church-borne horrors comes Vatican II. Neither John XXIII nor Paul VI want to address this issue, but you know who does? The majority of the bishops and the faithful, who believe it is wrongheaded for all the reasons I just outlined here and ask that it be revisited. So committees of laypeople and priests and theologians are brought together to investigate it, which they do for years, and every single group overwhelmingly comes to the conclusion that the Church's position on birth control needs to be reversed for obvious t

  • trex on September 04, 2012 10:31 PM:

    So after these Church-borne horrors comes Vatican II. Neither John XXIII nor Paul VI want to address this issue, but you know who does? The majority of the bishops and the faithful, who believe it is wrongheaded for all the reasons I just outlined here and ask that it be revisited. So committees of laypeople and priests and theologians are brought together to investigate it, which they do for years, and every single group overwhelmingly comes to the conclusion that the Church's position on birth control needs to be reversed for obvious theological and social reasons.

    So, as should happen, the Church universal called for reform on this issue, contemplated it, and decided to go forward. But literally at the eleventh hour a few conservative cardinals pressured a willing pope not to reverse it for fear of diminishing papal authority. Period. Because if you reverse any part of Connubii, no matter who stupid it might be, then people might begin to question other Church teachings and maybe the authority of the papal office itself! And they gave him the face-saving out he needed by promising to withhold their support in other areas unless he relented to their demands and preserved the appearance of Vatican authority as continuous and unchanging. So he did.

    No Holy Spirit. No moral theology. Pure politics.

    So the "grave moral Issue" of birth control was created out of whole cloth in the 1930's purely to address falling European birth rates and the rise of communism and then championed by a morally bankrupt monster of a pope. Then it was maintained against the wishes of the Church universal by another pope desperate to hold onto papal authority. Birth control is nothing but a placeholder for political concerns in the Catholic Church and always has been. Right now it's a convenient club for that tiny group of traditionalist Catholics to beat on Obama with - the same group who've sat on their hands and therefore been complicit in ACTUAL material evils like a preemptive war in Iraq and the ensuing carnage, who could not give a shit about addressing poverty or lack of access to health care or anything else that Christ addressed in his ministry if it means points for liberals. That isn't religion, that isn't morality, that isn't spirituality, that's Phariseeism.

    Further, over nine of ten Catholics in the US use birth control happily and guilt-free while the complainants in this matter, the bishops, are just a few hundred celibates in a country of 300 million. So you can take your "First Amendment" complaint and shove it right up your ass.

    Quite honestly, to look at the origin of this issue, the men who promulgated it and the morally outrageous context in which it was conceived and implemented and still suggest that there is an ounce of legitimacy to it as a moral issue is nothing less than blasphemy.

  • SteveAR on September 05, 2012 12:10 AM:

    @trex,

    First off, I'm not Catholic.

    Second, like I said, laughable. I've heard these arguments before. A hospital that is a Catholic hospital is run by the Church. Period, end of story. The Church pays the bills, including insurance premiums in part or in full if they offer the benefit to their employees. Whether the hospital works through a secondary insurance provider or self-insure, the mandate will require the Church to pay for artificial contraception, whether it's through increased premiums or directly. Because the federal government would be forcing the Church to pay for the contraception against the Church's teachings, this is the Free Exercise violation.

    There was a similar situation in Massachusetts not too long ago with Catholic Charities after the courts created a right not found in the Constitution regarding two people of the same sex "marrying" each other. Because the Church was not supposed to put kids up for adoption to gay couples (Catholic Charities was doing it, but it was doing so outside of Church law, and they stopped), the state was ready to file discrimination charges against the Church. Instead of litigating it as this too was a clear case of a First Amendment violation, Catholic Charities closed its doors for adoptions in Boston or in all of Massachusetts (I forget which).

    In this case, the Church wants to fight the government and should easily win in the end.

    What's interesting is Sandra Fluke made a false point about Georgetown not paying for birth control and as a result, some woman died. It was a BS story, and if she had been sworn in before a real committee, she could have been hit with perjury charges. See, Georgetown pays for birth control when it's medically necessary. So the woman who died either didn't know about the policy, didn't get the medication free from one of the several Planned Parenthood operations that are around Georgetown, or Fluke lied about a woman dying; this is quite possible since she lied about what Georgetown offers for student health insurance. (And don't tell me it's possible she didn't know; she's a 30-year old law student.) In the end, Fluke wants people other than her to pay for her to have consequence-free sex. What I'm wondering is, we know she has a boyfriend or fiancee, and a wealthy one to boot; last time I was on the road, the bathrooms at the truck stops had condom machines and the condoms only cost 75 cents. Are you going to tell me her boyfriend couldn't pony up three quarters?

  • Tom on September 05, 2012 12:39 AM:

    Whoa! Hate to follow trex with something mundane but here goes:

    So the Republican platform has "a specific pledge to restore the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, "under God" included, in public schools." A FB friend recently sent a Tea Party link about the same thing. Skimming the over 1,000 comments, I read many that said their schools still say the Pledge but I did not see one that claimed to know of a school that does not. Are there any schools that don't say the Pledge? If so, how many? This smells like yet another right-wing "outrage" that has little or no basis in fact.

  • trex on September 05, 2012 12:51 AM:


    Well, your effort at trying to change the subject my impugning the character of Sandra Fluke is duly noted, as clearly you don't have any arguments or responses to any of my arguments, just hysterical assertions. 

    For starters, you're just ASSERTING (falsely) that a Catholic hospital is legally equivalent to the Church, when clearly it is not. For instance, when malpractice happens at that hospital the plaintiffs don't sue the Church, they sue the hospital. 

    Not the Church. No First Amendment complaints. 

    Secondly, you haven't answered the scenario regarding the Muslim hospital because you can't. You know you would never support such a scenario in which Muslims dictated their religious beliefs to average Americans and no one else would either. No Republican, Libertarian, conservative or IQ-challenged Teabagger would defend that for a fucking second. And clearly there is no difference in argument between that and the Catholic scenario. So...you got nuthin', and have to change the subject and talk tough about Sandra Fluke because now you've just been revealed as a dipshit and political opportunist. 

    Then, to the meat of the argument, religious freedom does not mean compulsory actions for somebody else. No one is forcing Catholics to use birth control. No one is forcing them to dispense it at their churches. If either of these scenarios were happening that would be interfering  with their religious rights. Telling your employee that they can't receive insurance coverage for some religious reason or another is, however, the very definition of trampling someone's First Amendment rights, you fucking moron. It's further outrageous when it is a corporation doing so and even further outrageous when the government has relieved you of any real or contrived burden and you're still pretending it's an issue, because, you know, Obama Hitler socialism!!!

    It's FURTHER outrageous when as a Church you never gave a damn about it until a Democrat was elected and, to distract from your gigantic pedophile problem you decide you need a juicy, red herring; something, ANYTHING to distract from the fact that you as an organization allowed your members to prey on tens of thousands of children for decades while you not only covered it up but allowed it to continue to happen.  

    And the piece de resistance is when people find out that, lo, you put up with this same situation with insurance and birth control in dozens of countries around the world. 

    So: baseless argument made worse by cynical politics is cheap ploy. That's what it boils down to.

    And you've got nothing to refute this, peabrain, except to assert "But I say it is!"

    That's not to mention the half-dozen other historical and theological arguments that show that this really isn't an issue of conscience for Catholics, except for the right-wing ones who want to attack Democrats. 

    So, in sum: this is a big-boy blog. Here you take responsibility for arguments. If you've got nothing but raspberries and unsupportable a priori notions hit the road and take that weak shit with you. 

  • trex on September 05, 2012 1:01 AM:

    @Tom

    That's a great point and not mundane at all. This is obviously an empirical issue, i.e. some percentage of schools say the Pledge, but I think we can all rest safely in the assumptions that:

    1) Schools aren't saying the Pledge but dropping the "under God" phrase as part of a socialist plot, and

    2) This is just another contrived issue placing symbolism over substance to throw red meat to the base.

    As a side note of irony, while this plank is being putatively pushed by Christians, I would guess that there are any number of Christian religous schools (and possibly other religions) that do not recite the Pledge of Allegiance for the fact that it attaches an inordinate amount of importance to one country over the precepts of religion. I know of one myself.

  • Doug on September 05, 2012 1:19 AM:

    "The Church pays the bills, including insurance premiums..." SteveAR @ 12:10 AM

    Reading comprehension is NOT one of your strong points, is it? As pointed out, the "Church" does NOT own those hospitals, clinics, colleges and universities. They are SEPARATE, corporate entities, AFFILIATED with the "Church". You know, just like radio and tv stations are "affiliated" with various ML teams? One reason for the "affiliation" is that otherwise these institutions would be unable to accept government funds. These institutions CHOSE to step away from complete control by the "Church" IN ORDER TO GET THOSE FUNDS!
    Nor does the "Church" provide 100% of the funding for the operation of these corporate entities. Some of the funding consists of "Church" funds, but there's also private donations/trusts and a very considerable amount consists of governmental funds; payments for Medicare patients, grants-in-aid, etc.
    The same applies to the "Catholic Charities" that you referenced. They were also receiving government funds and one of the requirements in receiving those funds is that, regardless of your PERSONAL beliefs or the dogma of the "Church" that established the corporative entity that is providing these services, you cannot practice discrimination based on your beliefs or dogma. The fact that those personal beliefs are also backed by a major denomination has no bearing, in law, reason or fact.
    As you succinctly put it: "Period, end of story."
    Hint: There are many, many hospitals out there associated with the Catholic Church. Those that are completely owned and operated solely by the Catholic Church will say so in their name; ie, "St. Luke's CATHOLIC Hospital". A hospital that is a corporation AFFILIATED with the Catholic Church, but NOT owned by it, will be named simply "St. Luke's Hospital"
    Oh, and congrats on keeping it classy with those last several sentences.
    NOT!

  • Jeremy on September 05, 2012 9:31 AM:

    God isn't mentioned in the Constitution either - and exactly once in the Declaration of Independence.

    So did the founding fathers purge God too?

  • SteveAR on September 05, 2012 10:27 AM:

    @trex,

    I didn't read most of your comments because it was too late and they were too long. It doesn't matter; I've heard all those arguments before and they are all dismissable. The bottom line is, despite what you and others say, the Church pays the bills for the enterprises they own; that is the way it works. They don't pay for things that go against their teachings, and the government, by law, cannot force the Church to do so.

    And speaking of changing the subject, your point regarding the Church's horrific handling of their pedophilia scandal is completely irrelevant.

    Whereas Sandra Fluke was very much center stage in supporting the federal government's illegal mandate, telling a lie to back up her story, that Georgetown never pays for birth control, even for medicinal purposes. Georgetown's president confirmed the opposite of what Fluke said not long after she gave her spiel to Democrats. She and Democrats, including Obama, tried to ignore the Constitution's guaranteed Free Exercise rights.

    One other thing. It doesn't matter if the Church accepts some federal funding for its operations. They don't lose their rights. If they did, then challenges against laws requiring people on welfare to undergo drug testing wouldn't be allowed.

  • boatboy_srq on September 05, 2012 1:15 PM:

    I've heard all those arguments before and they are all dismissable.

    IOW, their (your?) faith is stronger than our laws.

    ANYONE ELSE READING THIS COLUMN: THIS is what "separation of church and state" is designed to inhibit. ANY suggestion that the Xtian Conservatists intend to support tolerance - in any fashion - of differing beliefs from their own is refuted by that one sentence above.

  • Midnight Rambler on September 05, 2012 1:42 PM:

    The bottom line is, despite what you and others say, the Church pays the bills for the enterprises they own; that is the way it works.

    Yes, but what you seem to be completely incapable of comprehending is that entities like Catholic Charities, Catholic-affiliated hospitals, and universities like Georgetown and Notre Dame are not owned by the Church. They are run by Church members and often officials, but are separate organizations and employ non-church members.

    One other thing. It doesn't matter if the Church accepts some federal funding for its operations. They don't lose their rights.

    Again, you're demonstrating a complete failure of understanding. A private organization can discriminate as much as it wants (outside of the "public accomodation" requirements of the civil rights act), and religious organizations have even more leeway that others. That's why country clubs like Augusta National can still be all-white and all-male, and churches can expel anyone they don't like, for any reason at all. But any group that accepts government money is legally bound to abide by non-discrimination laws, because the government itself can't discriminate.

    That's why the case of Catholic Charities in Massachusetts that you brought up is so revealing. You failed to mention that they were only sued for that because they accepted state funds for adoption services. They had two choices - either stop discriminating and comply with the law, or give up state money and deal only with whomever they want. Instead they chose to shut down completely. Goes to show how much they actually care about people.

  • trex on September 05, 2012 3:37 PM:

    @SteveAR

    I've heard all those arguments before and they are all dismissable.

    Ah, no. Not only have you lost the debate you've now been kicked out of debate club. You have to refute a point, not appeal to your own authority that it is dismissible. Fail.

    Now you're just trolling but that's OK, I got what I wanted, which was to explore the background of this issue in more depth so people understand it better and get just how disingenous the American Catholic bishops are being. Not only are they not being discriminated against, in point of fact they are discriminating against others and crying victim.

  • SteveAR on September 05, 2012 6:39 PM:

    @trex: "You have to refute a point, not appeal to your own authority that it is dismissible."

    You didn't have a point. That's my point. I mean, look at this quote from boatboy_srq:

    "THIS is what 'separation of church and state' is designed to inhibit."

    If you want to look at it that way, the government is violating the Establishment Clause as well, along with the Free Exercise Clause, telling churches they must conform to the government's belief system instead of their own. The EEOC tried to do this in the Hosanna-Tabor case, where the government tried to dictate to a school owned and run by a Lutheran church how it dealt with ministers who were also teachers. In a 9-0 smackdown of the government, the Supreme Court sided with the school. That is exactly what the Obama administration is doing with the contraception mandate. Far from the Church trying to incorporate its doctrine into U.S. law, the Obama administration is trying to incorporate his beliefs (whatever those are) into Church doctrine. If anyone who is violating the "separation of church and state" it's Obama. And you can take that to the bank, based on Hosanna-Tabor.

    Did you provide any such argument in your dissertation? No. That's why I dismissed them outright. And the government's arguments in Hosanna-Tabor were not only laughable, they drew a stern rebuke by the Court. So I have heard this all before and dismiss any "arguments" you could make out of hand.

    @Midnight Rambler: "But any group that accepts government money is legally bound to abide by non-discrimination laws, because the government itself can't discriminate."

    Answer me this. When an individual accepts government money in the form of welfare, why can't the government make sure the person receiving the money does a drug test so that our tax dollars aren't used to support an illegal drug habit? After all, using illegal narcotics is just as much against the law as discrimination, even if not in degree, right?

  • trex on September 05, 2012 7:13 PM:

    @Moron:

    Hosana-Tabor applies only to churches and specifically to a narrow exception to employment law regarding the selection of church leadership. Fail. You're done.

  • Blaise Pascal on September 05, 2012 7:16 PM:

    Tom,

    When I was in school in the 1980's, there was a daily recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, but I didn't partake. It was a common belief at the time that the pledge was mandatory, and there was peer pressure to participate.

    I fully expect that schools still do the daily recitation of the pledge, but I also expect that more kids today are aware that it is not mandatory and don't participate.

    This is what has the right in a tizzy, I assume: the idea that kids may be sitting out the pledge. The right doesn't want the pledge to be voluntary, they want it to be mandatory -- just like the don't want prayer to be voluntary but mandatory.

  • Mitch on September 05, 2012 8:40 PM:

    Regarding the Pledge: I was a military brat and attended 7 different school districts in various parts of the nation during my K-12 years, from 1985 until 1998.

    The only school system where we did not recite the Pledge was the only one that I attended that is located in the Bible Belt. Every other one, from South Carolina to Rhode Island, had us recite the Pledge every morning, with "under God" included.

    I always wondered why this was, but did not find out until I was in my mid-twenties. I mean, you would figure that the school in Appalachian God country would have the Pledge front and center. Turns out that certain churches objected to it, mostly Holiness/Pentecostal, who believe that the Pledge amounts to idolatry. It is, after all, swearing loyalty to a created image, and expressly forbidden by the Commandments.

  • Enoni on September 05, 2012 9:53 PM:

    @trex

    I don't comment on the web often but felt compelled by your 3 part post on the 4th. It was so clearly delineated one would have to be blind to ignore the obvious truths you so eloquently expressed (also the occasional smack-downs made me laugh out loud).

    I think it might be the longest comment I have ever read all the way through :)

    Thanks

  • trex on September 05, 2012 11:34 PM:

    @Enoni

    Thanks, I appreciate that, I really do. And just for the record, I do have the ability to be civil, just not to trolls.

  • Enoni on September 06, 2012 12:06 AM:

    @trex

    I don't doubt you have the ability to be civil, actually I was slightly taken aback at how civil your response was overall, and as I recall you gave fair notice regarding the vitriol that would accompany a full explanation of your position :)

    To be honest I did not expect you to come through on your offer so thoroughly. I actually read ahead on the comments specifically to see if you would. What I found was (no offense to the article author) more enjoyable and educational than the link that brought me here in the first place.

    I don't posses your level of insight in these specific matters, however I do like to pontificate via satire on a site I recently setup. I think you might find it enjoyable. Or you might find it to be a freely available verbal Niquil replacement. Regardless I both humbly and shamefully submit it for your possible entertainment:

    http://perplexingly.com

    Take care. I'm off to spend the next half hour trying to get the reCAPTCHA right :P

  • trex on September 06, 2012 1:02 AM:

    @Enoni

    Very nice work. Clever and biting. I give it two vestigial arms up.

  • SteveAR on September 06, 2012 5:48 AM:

    @trex: "@Moron"

    And this is why I won our little debate a long time ago.

    And by the way, Hosanna-Tabor was a case about a school, not a church. If you had bothered to read the actual ruling instead of relying on a false interpretation from Democrats, you would know that. You would also know it wasn't as narrow as you've been told. That case goes to the heart of telling the federal government it can't regulate church doctrine, in this case determining who is a minister or not.

    Since it's obvious you didn't read it, here is a link: http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/pdf/10-553.pdf

    Hopefully, you'll learn something. But I doubt it.

  • boatboy_srq on September 06, 2012 9:33 AM:

    @SteveAR on September 05, 2012 6:39 PM

    Talk about "out of context quotes"...

    The Establishment and Free Exercise clauses are boundaries around the functions of religious groups, allowing them to exist without creating classes of citizens, while inhibiting their incorporation into governmental institutions or codifying the specifics of their beliefs into public policy. They are NOT a guarantee of a state subsidy: that behavior is a courtesy provided by the US (and any other) government to promote (as a social good) the non-profit charitable work and community-building that explicitly religious groups do. Requiring that they adhere to the ACA does not interfere with that work. Would you have them exempted from ADA? OSHA? Any of the other requirements that they treat all the people of the country fairly? Really?

    Oh and BTW as has been mentioned earlier: you're demanding identical treatment of a religious organization and multiple secular marginally-religious-affiliated bodies. Unless you're prepared to give the Washington Times (Unification Church), Marriott Hotels (Mormon), Sterling Management Systems (Scientology) and other similarly tangentially-attached for-profit entities the same break, drop it.

    You're using the codified prohibition of a state-sanctioned faith to justify enforcing that faith's moral code while providing that faith preferential public policies in contravention of that prohibition. You're saying (as I pointed out earlier) that the beliefs of these sects trump US federal law, and you're using Constitutional principles specifically designed to prevent that condition in order to defend it. And you're using my illustration of why that's wrong, thinking I'm saying that you're right.

  • SteveAR on September 06, 2012 10:22 AM:

    @boatboy_srq: "The Establishment and Free Exercise clauses are boundaries around the functions of religious groups, allowing them to exist without creating classes of citizens, while inhibiting their incorporation into governmental institutions or codifying the specifics of their beliefs into public policy."

    Wow. Just. Wow. Who in the world taught you about the Constitution, and which Constitution did they teach you? Because it certainly wasn't the U.S. Constitution that you learned about.

    The Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses, along with the rest of the Constitution, are boundaries around the functions of the federal government (and other levels as well, per the 14th Amendment), not the other way around as you've ascertained. That means government can't establish one faith as the faith to be practiced by all the people in the U.S., and it means the government can't create laws that contradict a faith's core doctrine (within reason; human sacrifice would not fall under the Free Exercise Clause, and neither would polygamy); in the case of the HHS mandate, having the Catholic Church pay for artificial contraception, or in the example of the Hosanna-Tabor case, the government dictating to a church who is and who isn't a minister.

    "They are NOT a guarantee of a state subsidy: that behavior is a courtesy provided by the US (and any other) government to promote (as a social good) the non-profit charitable work and community-building that explicitly religious groups do."

    The only reason religious groups get state money is because politicians give it to them. That doesn't give government has the power to promote a contridictory government doctrine. A recent case regarding the packaging of cigarette packs by the FDA was overturned by a federal judge on Free Speech grounds is an example of this.

    "Requiring that they adhere to the ACA does not interfere with that work. Would you have them exempted from ADA?"

    Interesting you should mention the ADA. The Hosanna-Tabor case started out as an attempt by the EEOC to use the ADA against the school to have the government determine who a faith's clergy is. As seen by the Supreme Court unanimous and scathing ruling, this was a complete violation of the First Amendment.

    "Unless you're prepared to give...other similarly tangentially-attached for-profit entities the same break, drop it."

    I would give them the same break. The HHS mandate isn't just an attack on the Catholic Church, but on the religious freedoms of all Americans. There are more than just lawsuits by churches against the mandate. The First Amendment applies to individuals as well as religious organizations.

    "You're using the codified prohibition of a state-sanctioned faith..."

    I've already responded that you have this completely backwards. There is no such thing as a state-sanctioned faith in the U.S. What is going in by the Obama administration is an attempt to put in its own state-sanctioned faith into the law.

    And I never tried to claim you were agreeing with me. What you said above triggered something that shows that the HHS mandate not only violates the Free Exercise Clause, but the Establishment Clause as well. How you took it is your own problem.

  • boatboy_srq on September 06, 2012 11:09 AM:

    @SteveAR on September 06, 2012 10:22 AM:

    I do love how you quote me, paraphrase what I said, call the words your own, insist you're saying something different, and claim an entirely different interpretation.

    The Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses, along with the rest of the Constitution, are boundaries around the functions of the federal government. That's true: but part of the truth of that is written in prevention of faith-specific and faith-driven government (as was conventional in Europe at the time). What we have is a system that was designed to allow Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs et al to participate in society as free citizens without fear of discrimination or bias based solely on their beliefs; what we do not have is a legal system designed to allow them to do so only so long as they adhere to Christian (and minutely sectarian Christian, at that) observances and behaviors.

    You're using a prohibition on government to permit excessive influence imposed by the very religious entities the Constitution sought to constrain individually by unencumbering collectively.

    it means the government can't create laws that contradict a faith's core doctrine

    FALSE. It means government cannot create laws that enforce a single faith's core doctrine where that core doctrine is not universally agreed, while allowing adherents to practice as they see fit without legal repercussion. If your assertion were true, then we wouldn't be able to justify capital punishment (Thou shalt not kill - common to all three Peoples of the Book), and there'd be a lot of argument about how to punish theft (Judaism says stoning, Islam says amputation, Christianity says lots of things depending on the circumstance), labor from sundown Thursday through Sunday night would be illegal, and a host of other civil offenses where maintaining a civil society is at odds with the scriptures of several beliefs.

    Hosanna-Tabor, as trex mentioned, has already been answered here. And ADA had nothing to do with that decision: it was EEOC based - unless you consider belonging to a different sect than your employer a "disability."

    What is going in by the Obama administration is an attempt to put in its own state-sanctioned faith into the law.

    IOW, by refusing to bow to the demands of a particular sect, the government is enforcing atheism. How typically FundiEvangelist of you to assume that the particular principles of one specific sect's beliefs are universal (they're not usually) and that public sector forbearance from agreeing is active advocacy for no belief at all.

    Next you'll say that teaching evolutionary biology and paleontology are Unconstitutional because they contradict Genesis.

  • trex on September 06, 2012 12:28 PM:

    And this is why I won our little debate a long time ago.

    Wow, you really live inside of your own little dream world, don't you Steve? Not only have you not won any debate with any of the posters here, you haven't been able to offer a substantive rebuttal to a single point except to point at one irrelevant Supreme Court case and scream ”I win!"

    The case was about a Church's right to select it's leaders based on the Establishment Clause, you goddamm idiot, it wasn't about schools. The judges said that churches are free to hire and fire their ministers under the rights assigned them by the First Amendment and as a consequence they are exempted from state and federal employment law when it comes to hiring and firing other leaders in their sects, in this case a teacher. You moron.

    So, a little googling has showed me that do this same shtick all over the web, Steve: go to liberal websites and make nasty little raspberries while offering some thick-headed, dimwitted argument for the sheer pleasure of attacking Democrats, liberals, and Obama. That's not engagement, that's trolling. I'm sorry you hate Democrats so much and feel the need to ascribe all sorts of evil motives and false beliefs to them. Have you considered therapy?

  • boatboy_srq on September 06, 2012 12:58 PM:

    One additional point: SteveAR seems committed to the religious-institution-as-citizen in the same vein as the Supply-Sider corporation-as-citizen meme. The Constitution provides freedom of religious practice for the US' citizenry: it does not provide carte blanche for a religious entity (church, religious organization etc) for the same. Outside the explicit prohibition of adopting a state-sponsored faith, the rights/recognition of a church (or temple, or mosque, or whatever) are not mentioned in the Constitution even once: every other mention regards the individual citizen's observance of his/her faith individually. Unless and until a church/temple/whatever is explicitly identified by law as a citizen of the United States in the eyes of the law, then the whole argument is moot, since requiring a religiously-offiliated business entity to comply with a non-sectarian public mandate does not infringe on the rights of the individual members of the affiliated faith to practice as they see fit. It does, conversely, protect employees of that entity, enabling them to observe their respective religious practices (or lack thereof) without having their rights compromised by their employer.

  • trex on September 06, 2012 1:59 PM:

    boatboy_srqIt does, conversely, protect employees of that entity, enabling them to observe their respective religious practices (or lack thereof) without having their rights compromised by their employer.

    Precisely. Very well put.

    And the bishops really do not want the exemptions they are asking for to be applied universally, because if this precedent were set it could mean Catholics working for employers of other faiths having their right to free religious practice infringed in some way. There are Muslim, Wiccan, and Hindu employers out there, after all. Every Catholic I know drinks: do the bishops want the Muslim employer to be able fire Catholics at will for this recreational practice? Some Orthodox do not believe in birth control at all, including the rhythm method. Should they be able to fire members of childless couples?

    And finally, do Christian white supremacists who own corporations get to refuse to hire blacks? Because that is where this road eventually leads.

    Free exercise is for the individual, not for the religiously-affiliated corporation.

  • Anonymous on September 06, 2012 5:02 PM:

    @boatboy_srq: "You're using a prohibition on government to permit excessive influence imposed by the very religious entities the Constitution sought to constrain individually by unencumbering collectively."

    Excuse me, but the Catholic Church is not trying to impose its prohibition on artificial contraception on anybody outside of the Catholic Church. What the Church rightly says, is that the government cannot force the Church as an employer to pay for something it prohibits in its doctrine. They aren't saying other non-Catholic employers aren't allowed to provide this benefit, nor are they lobbying the government to put their doctrine into the law. That is the reality of this whole situation; the Obama administration trying to impose its beliefs upon the Catholic Church, its adherents, and others who believe similarly. That is why there is a First Amendment.

    "FALSE. It means government cannot create laws that enforce a single faith's core doctrine where that core doctrine is not universally agreed, while allowing adherents to practice as they see fit without legal repercussion. If your assertion were true, then we wouldn't be able to justify capital punishment..."

    I'm not sure how you believe what I said was false. You are saying exactly the same thing I am. Regarding capital punishment, the Catholic Church is completely and vocally against it, and I have no doubt has done extensive lobbying to have it outlawed. Not being a Catholic, and believing the part of the 10 Commandments that says "thou shalt not kill" is actually "thou shalt not murder" (a proper translation of the original word that was written in ancient Hebrew), there is a real difference in the meanings. To me, capital punishment is not murder since a person convicted of a heinous crime and sentenced to death and executed is acceptable. Plus, I don't believe I would be punished by God for using deadly force against someone who illegally entered my home.

    "IOW, by refusing to bow to the demands of a particular sect, the government is enforcing atheism."

    Not at all. Pelosi is a Catholic. Sebelius is a Catholic. Biden is a Catholic. Reid is a Mormon. But everyone of them supports the federal government funding all abortions, no matter the reason and no matter the term of a pregnancy, which is why the Hyde Amendment exists. What these Democrats are doing is enforcing the hypocrisy of the party's politicians who ignore the teachings of their faiths.

    "Hosanna-Tabor, as trex mentioned, has already been answered here. And ADA had nothing to do with that decision: it was EEOC based - unless you consider belonging to a different sect than your employer a 'disability.'"

    This is to trex as well. You haven't read the case, have you? This whole thing started because the teacher in question went to the EEOC to get an ADA lawsuit filed. Read the freakin' thing.

  • trex on September 06, 2012 6:25 PM:

    Dear Dipshit,

    In no particular order:

    Hosana-Tabor has no bearing on this issue. The scope of its ruling has to do with churches, not with corporations. You keep saying you've read it but clearly you haven't understood it.

    FURTHER: the requirement in the ACA of large employers to cover birth control is and has been the law in 28 states for some time now. In those states Catholic institutions have either complied or self-insured, with not so much as a peep from the bishops. When this law has been challenged it has stood.

    The Catholic church in America, in fact, HAS successfully lobbied to either make or keep contraceptive use illegal for everyone, you ignoramus, and it's been doing it for a hundred fucking years, Just one more fact you're wrong about. For an overview, take a quick gander at the wikipedia entry for the Birth Control Movement in the United States. Birth control used to be generally illegal by state and local statute, and in the 1920's when the pro-birth control movement began picking up speed Catholic clerics stepped up resistance to its adoption in all sorts of ways, from lobbying to thug tactics, despite the fact that the church universal had no clear doctrine against its use at the time. Then later Cardinal Cushing helped personally defeat an initiative to relax a ban on contraceptivesl, although interestingly later in life he was instrumental in allowing allowing the ban to be lifted.

    In point of fact, the Catholic Church has and continues to lobby to make or keep access to contraceptives illegal for everyone all over the world, from South America to Africa and the Philippines, where they are currently instrumental in resisting a bill to make contraception (which is legal there) affordable for everyone, even promising civil disobedience if it is enacted.

    And that's where the outrage lies, because they're pretending their religous liberty is being threatened when in fact it is they who are actively trying to deny religous liberty to the rest of us. And the real icing on the cake from this bunch is that their stated position is that the laws of the United States do not apply to them and that they follow them at their own discretion, which is how they justified keeping pedophiles employed and in contact with children for so many decades and their excuse for destroying evidence and obstructing investigations into the matter.

    So yes, Steve, you're ignorant and uninformed. But your worst quality is this dogged bias that allows you to keep pressing on in the face of rebuttal because you hate your political opponents. Are you some flavor of Christian? Orthodox maybe? Because if you are, I'd suggest examining your conscience. Christ instructs you to love all people, including Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama. From where I'm standing I'm not sensing much love. Tsk tsk.

  • SteveAR on September 06, 2012 7:07 PM:

    [expressions of loathing and condemnation for Democrats and their policies are better suited to other blogs. you've had your say - mod.]

  • boatboy_srq on September 06, 2012 9:40 PM:

    @Anonymous (SteveAR?)

    I was halfway through ripping your creative misquoting and misinterpretation of everyone else here apart, and calling you on your misrepresentations, when it dawned on me:

    You think that, by requiring what every other remotely civilized nation on the planet that's not in thrall to some religious extremist sect calls rational and responsible healthcare, the US is imposing some bizarre national "faith" from Washington. You're equating permitting the citizenry some control over their health (in this particular case, the female citizens at least) with the imposition of religious practice, which contradicts both the practices of several (though hardly all) faiths represented among the citizenry and federal law. And you're equating a medical treatment regimen with some arcane quasi-religious rite.

    And for whatever reason, you just don't seem to understand that not explicitly, overtly agreeing with what you think "faith" requires is not in itself refutation of that faith, nor is it sworn adherence to a faith different from what you profess.

    Now, the last time I checked, even the Satanists preferred their human sacrifices to be breathing on their own, so birth control in itself is obviously not the problem. So I'm guessing you just don't like women, or something. And from what you said about the Democratic leadership, you don't think much of Catholics - but you like Catholicism just fine. So Establishment, while a convenient cudgel you can use against those with whom you disagree, isn't really as important as you make out.

    You can bleat about "tolerance" all you like - but the things you advocate don't support that. You'd probably be quite content with federal law that allowed the burning of heretics, dunking of witches and stoning of adulturesses (funny how often it's the womenfolk who suffer under those kinds of constraints) so long as it was an agreeable faith that carried out the judgment.

    I don't know how else to say it: that kind of zealotry - however incremental - is the very thing our founding documents are designed to guard against. Because sooner or later, following that model, there'll be an entire state that elects only the followers of the same faith to public office, and it'll be people like you who advocate for a state-level exemption to the Establishment clause the moment that state achieves a homogenous religious population. You'll obviously do that a lot faster than you'll stand up to defend the last adherent to any other belief system there.

    That doesn't merit counterarguments - only pity.

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