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Archive for February, 2012

I wish I could say that the latest bit of Chicken Little Santorum hysteria in the media was amusing, but instead I find it to be another example of the stunning lack of intellectual inquiry by the “guardians of the record” when they have enough to cobble together something commensurate with the narrative they so desperately want to tell.  When you add to the formula otherwise intelligent people who are hellbent on not recognizing simple truths, then the agenda becomes toxic. 

I woke this morning to headlines stating that Senator Santorum doesn’t believe in the separation of church and state, which of course feeds into the trumped-up paranoia about his obvious desire to bring about a theocracy here on our shores.  This can only confirm the worst fears of organizations like Klanned Parenthood, which is fervently pointing to conservatives like Santorum as evidence of a non-existent “War on Women” that is being waged from one end of the country to another.  And because the fourth estate can make this the headline, rather than the historical and unprecedented failures of the guy currently putting his feet on the Resolute Desk, the narrative is doubly served: Reinforce the myth that religion, specifically Christianity, was not central and formative to the men who declared us a nation, and formed the Republic, and deflect the well-deserved scrutiny and criticism away from President Downgrade.

However, the truth is a bit more complex than that, which should not be a surprise to anyone who has been paying attention, and the Senator’s full remarks displayed a greater understanding than his questioner, Democrat operative and pretend journalist George Stephanopoulos, wanted people to grasp.  First, the full exchange regarding John F. Kennedy’s Church and State Speech:

STEPHANOPOULOS: You have also spoken out about the issue of religion in politics, and early in the campaign, you talked about John F. Kennedy’s famous speech to the Baptist ministers in Houston back in 1960. Here is what you had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANTORUM: Earlier (ph) in my political career, I had the opportunity to read the speech, and I almost threw up. You should read the speech.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: That speech has been read, as you know, by millions of Americans. Its themes were echoed in part by Mitt Romney in the last campaign. Why did it make you throw up?

SANTORUM: Because the first line, first substantive line in the speech says, “I believe in America where the separation of church and state is absolute.” I don’t believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute. The idea that the church can have no influence or no involvement in the operation of the state is absolutely antithetical to the objectives and vision of our country.

This is the First Amendment. The First Amendment says the free exercise of religion. That means bringing everybody, people of faith and no faith, into the public square. Kennedy for the first time articulated the vision saying, no, faith is not allowed in the public square. I will keep it separate. Go on and read the speech. I will have nothing to do with faith. I won’t consult with people of faith. It was an absolutist doctrine that was abhorrent (ph) at the time of 1960. And I went down to Houston, Texas 50 years almost to the day, and gave a speech and talked about how important it is for everybody to feel welcome in the public square. People of faith, people of no faith, and be able to bring their ideas, to bring their passions into the public square and have it out. James Madison—

STEPHANOPOULOS: You think you wanted to throw up?

(CROSSTALK)

SANTORUM: — the perfect remedy. Well, yes, absolutely, to say that people of faith have no role in the public square? You bet that makes you throw up. What kind of country do we live that says only people of non-faith can come into the public square and make their case? That makes me throw up and it should make every American who is seen from the president, someone who is now trying to tell people of faith that you will do what the government says, we are going to impose our values on you, not that you can’t come to the public square and argue against it, but now we’re going to turn around and say we’re going to impose our values from the government on people of faith, which of course is the next logical step when people of faith, at least according to John Kennedy, have no role in the public square.

Now, to begin with, Kennedy was trying to address a different brand of religious bigotry at the time he made the speech Santorum was talking about.  In 1960, we had never had a President who had been Catholic, and there was, predictably, some concern regarding how he would govern as President (Mitt Romney, you have a call on the white courtesy phone).  And Kennedy recognized this in the body of the speech that Senator Santorum was talking about:

While the so-called religious issue is necessarily and properly the chief topic here tonight, I want to emphasize from the outset that I believe that we have far more critical issues in the 1960 campaign; the spread of Communist influence, until it now festers only 90 miles from the coast of Florida — the humiliating treatment of our President and Vice President by those who no longer respect our power — the hungry children I saw in West Virginia, the old people who cannot pay their doctors bills, the families forced to give up their farms — an America with too many slums, with too few schools, and too late to the moon and outer space. These are the real issues which should decide this campaign. And they are not religious issues — for war and hunger and ignorance and despair know no religious barrier.

But because I am a Catholic, and no Catholic has ever been elected President, the real issues in this campaign have been obscured — perhaps deliberately, in some quarters less responsible than this. So it is apparently necessary for me to state once again — not what kind of church I believe in, for that should be important only to me — but what kind of America I believe in.

I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute; where no Catholic prelate would tell the President — should he be Catholic — how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote; where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference, and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the President who might appoint him, or the people who might elect him.

I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish; where no public official either requests or accept instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source; where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials, and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all.

For while this year it may be a Catholic against whom the finger of suspicion is pointed, in other years it has been — and may someday be again — a Jew, or a Quaker, or a Unitarian, or a Baptist. It was Virginia’s harassment of Baptist preachers, for example, that led to Jefferson’s statute of religious freedom. Today, I may be the victim, but tomorrow it may be you — until the whole fabric of our harmonious society is ripped apart at a time of great national peril.

Kennedy, then, much like Santorum now, was faced with questions that focused not on the issues he came to address, but on his character, and how some believed it threatened the integrity of the Republic.  That said, while he qualified the premise that he set forth, that is that the “separation between church and state should be absolute”, he went on to tell us what that meant, and in his day and age, the militant atheist movement had not yet coalesced into the movement that today expends so much effort to remove the influence of religion (specifically Christianity) from any discussion regarding government, on the basis of that deliberately misconstrued phrase that has no home in the Constitution.  Yet this is the phrase seized on by those in today’s society who are determined to ignore the fact that the current understanding would have been completely foreign to those who argued the contents of the Constitution and who signed the finished product, let alone the man who wrote it so long ago to a Christian sect complaining of the favor given to another sect by the state,  to their detriment.

But then, there is little reason to believe that then Senator Kennedy would object to a town council opening a meeting with a prayer, when Congress had been doing it pretty much from inception.  Or that posting the Ten Commandments in a courthouse would so violate this concept of separation when it is part of the building that houses the Supreme Court.  Or that a prayer at a high school football game is contrary to the principle, when Washington and Madison declared days of prayer and thanksgiving when President.  Or that it should be impermissible to let a church meet in a public school building when the author of the storied phrase himself attended Sunday worship services on a regular basis in the US Capitol with members of Congress during his Presidency.

The fact is that Senator Santorum was correct.  The application of this “wall of separation between church and state” has far advanced any discernible original meaning, and now is a means to delegitimize an entire viewpoint by people who fail to understand that excluding and marginalizing it from the national dialogue has not resulted in a healthier society, but one in which we enjoy fewer freedoms than our parents and grandparents, because of the attempt to replace the restraint and prudence that too many today eschew for instant gratification and selfish pursuits.  It is a world where people who can ill-afford them will riot over new tennis shoes, and violence and hypersexualized predators stalk our children wherever they can be found.

Santorum’s crime is not that he tries to “impose” his views on anyone.  It is that he tries to reinject a voice that itching ears do not want to heed and consider.  I’m sure I could find legitimate reasons for not liking him, and I much prefer that idea than disliking him for being right without understanding that I’m being fed a line by a media that has its own story to tell, and hopes that I’ll be too lazy to suss out the truth.

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‎”Dear Hamid:
I see that your goat humpers and assholes for allah are angry that we intercepted the messages they wrote inside the Korans as they desecrated your pedophile prophet’s book, and disposed of the infernal tomes properly.
If you can’t keep your primative screwheads in check, then we’ll “fire” you and get someone who can, because someday, we’d like to come home from your dusty little manure pile and come back to the land of 4 X 4s, Big Macs, bacon, beers, booze, boobs, and the freedom to indulge or refrain from each and everyone as much as we each desire.
I know you don’t really understand this, but trust us, it beats the hell out of being a splodeydope for 72 raisins. However, if you can’t get your rock-worshipping savages under control, the gloves WILL come off, because there is a new sheriff in town here, and we don’t really give two shits about “world opinion” until the world starts policing their own shit.

Hugs and kisses,

President Unrepentant American”

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Not everyone in the Federal Government is as adverse to the First and Ninth Amendments as the Obama Administration.  Our Local Federal District Court recently upheld the right of conscience as practiced by pharmacists in the state of Washington who refuse on such grounds to sell Plan B to customers.

I wrote about this a while back, and I’m glad to see that the District Court has upheld its prior ruling in this matter.  The fact that ignoramuses and fascists were hardest hit is merely a bonus.

To the usual suspects who will want to caterwaul about how this is yet another tragedy in the non-existent “War on Women” that the Administration’s dutiful lapdogs in the media are ginning up to distract from the abysmal record that President Downgrade dares not run on, you need to read all links and comments to my previous piece before bleeding stupid all over my comment thread.

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“All forms of tampering with human beings, getting at them, shaping them against their will to your own pattern, all thought control and conditioning is, therefore, a denial of that in men which makes them men and their values ultimate.”Isaiah Berlin

“We must create out of the younger generation a generation of Communists. We must turn children, who can be shaped like wax, into real, good Communists. … We must remove the children from the crude influence of their families. We must take them over and, to speak frankly, nationalize them. From the first days of their lives they will be under the healthy influence of Communist children’s nurseries and schools. There they will grow up to be real Communists.”Communist Party Education Congress

“Any power must be an enemy of mankind which enslaves the individual by power and by force, whether it arises under the Fascist or the Communist flag. All that is valuable in human society depends upon the opportunity for development accorded to the individual.”Albert Einstein

“Man exists for his own sake and not to add a laborer to the State.”Ralph Waldo Emerson

Last year, I was surprised to read about Chicago Public Schools banning students from bringing lunches and snacks from home.  The rationale was typical.  “Educators” were alarmed that when students had a choice, their choice didn’t include broccoli and whole wheat pizza with goat cheese and tofu, and like good little tyrants, substituted their judgement for that of the parents and their children.  Now in a school where the kids MUST eat what the school provides, the opportunities for graft and corruption become endless, so it wasn’t entirely surprising that this is “the Chicago Way”. In an era when the First Lady has made it her mission to cajole and browbeat various restaurant chains into removing french fries from children’s menus, and lecturing every one else how to eat, while enjoying a burger and fries, it was inevitable that other localities would ignore the disconnect of a society that doesn’t want any government in their bedrooms and see nothing wrong with putting that same government in your kids’ lunch boxes.

Which is why the only part about this story that is surprising is why parents let it happen in the first place.  The only bright spot in this story is that this wasn’t an act of federal overreach.  The bad part is that states should know better.  In an era of unfunded mandates and huge state budget deficits for many of the states, a smart person might ask themself “Does it make sense to usurp parental authority, and hire new state employees to be nosy busybodies?”  In truth, I wouldn’t be surprised if this was funded by some sort of federal grant, but the principle remains the same:  The state has absolutely no business assuming my duties as a parent, regardless of their motive.  This is not the intervention necessary to prevent an immediate imminent harm; this is deciding for the parent what their child will eat.  And while I’ve read some arguments that attempt to make this kind of base encroachment on parental authority akin to the same thing as an immediate imminent harm, you may now color me unimpressed, because if it is all about fostering healthy habits and taking care of one’s body, then there is no reason to market sex and contraceptives to older children, who may be physically mature enough for sex, but who are still children who don’t need to be encouraged to engage in risky behavior which is only made marginally less risky if they are “responsible”, and who are often not prepared for the emotional effects that sexual activity can have on them either.

The nannyism that pervades certain parts of government today is an affront to humanity.  The only possible compelling reason the state would have to substitute its judgment for your own, such as in this example, is that you are either too stupid to do it correctly yourself, or that you simply cannot be trusted to make the right decisions.  Neither option is flattering, and both would lead to subsequent queries about why we are allowed to do so many other things without such flagrant interference.  This only underscores the real reason for such intrusion: power (and the wealth to be made in exercising it).  For quite sometime now, government has been engaged in the act of saving us from ourselves, not out of any altruistic motive, but because its natural inclination is towards tyrannies, large and small, and it was long ago revealed that intrusion on individual sovereignty was much easier to sell if it was packaged as something “good” for us.  Whether it has been a damnation of safety nazi laws and regulations, or benignly offering a pecuniary incentive to do something government’s way until it becomes a habit, or until it has built up a bureaucracy with the motive and determination to defend its financial turf, the beast keeps growing, just like the dependence on government that it was intended to foster.  It isn’t an accident, and it is now accelerating.

 

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There has been no shortage of commentary and opinion about the HHS rule that would require religiously affiliated charities, universities, and hospitals to provide health insurance plans to their employees that include contraceptives and abortifacients free of charge to their plan enrollees.

The most vocal critic of this rule has been the Catholic church, which took the step of distributing and reading a very critical letter of this policy from the pulpit, and stating firmly that the Church cannot and will not comply with this law.  The basis of this objection is that such a regulation would compel the Church to purchase something which is repugnant to its stated doctrine which has been it’s doctrine for centuries, and by its very nature, makes it complicit in something that it regards as a sin.

This predictably drew criticism ranging from the sublime to the idiotic, depending upon the personal prejudices of the critic.  One such criticism is that “the Church is out of touch with its own followers, since 98% of Catholic women use birth control.”  Putting aside the source and veracity of the statistic (including the reason for gathering the data and the methodology used in doing so), it misses a fundamental point about Catholicism:  It is not a democracy.  This is a point not considered by those who spend a great deal of time criticising religion without understanding it.  At the heart of judeo-christian philosophy is the idea that man is an imperfect creature that while cast in the image of his creator is none the less prone to sin.  The Church exists to address this condition, and to offer correction and guidance in overcoming sin.  It could no more abdicate this duty and adopt the belief that since a majority of its female parishioners take birth control, that it must be correct any more than a responsible parent could conclude that ice cream and cake would make an excellent breakfast for their children simply because it is what the children would make for themselves if given the opportunity. 

Of course, my favorite outburst so far was from a colleague in the blogging world who has some very strong feelings on the subject:

Nothing is being imposed. On the contrary, a government that should be ignoring ignorant religious doctrine in favor of modern science is ACCOMMODATING the Catholic church with a one to two year waiting period to figure out how both desires can be served: the desire to maintain the religious prohibition and the desire to get women the contraceptives they want.

Did you get that?  Nothing is being imposed…except for a rule that requires the Church to be complicit in behavior it finds abhorrent for religious reasons.  And since he believes the doctrine to be “ignorant”, the government obviously should be ignoring it, and implementing it NOW.  Why is the doctrine “ignorant”?  Because it ignores “modern science”.  But that phrase in and of itself implies an important truth:  that science is not static.  Anyone who has made an even semi-serious study of the history of science knows that its “truths” often come with an expiration date.  After all, it was once modern scientific fact that the earth was flat, that the planets revolved around it, that life spontaneously generated, and that phlogiston was present in everything that was flammable and was release when those materials were burned.  Illnesses were caused by bad humors that could be excised by bleeding the patient.  Species developed unique characteristics because they willed it to be so.  

Now I’m not a Luddite, and I am grateful for what man’s intelligence has drawn from scientific inquiry and experimentation.  Whether it is antibiotics, materials sciences, or harnessing the power of numbers and revolutionizing everything in our lives by applying the binary paradigm of digitization, our lives are better for the application of science.  But it is not sustenance for the soul, nor should it ever be used as a cudgel to beat the submission of one’s conscience into conformity with the best laid plans of technocrats.

The third argument that has been deployed against the religious resistance to this regulation is the argument that contraceptives are a “right”.   It is the most facially compelling argument, as long as one doesn’t dwell too much on it, because doing so requires the hearer to define what is a right, and why contraceptives fit the definition, and then the implications of such a statement.

What is the origin of this “right”?  Does a man or a woman in a state of nature have a right to contraceptives that are “free”?  Of course not.  This “right” is only conditioned upon the government being beneficent with other people’s money, which is the essence of the modern state’s beneficence.  That recognized, this “right” is nothing of the sort, and is at best, a privilege, which is subject to revocation by the same government which conferred it in the first place.

That said, there are true rights at stake, and it very much IS a First Amendment issue.  I have read the assertions that freedom of religion or the free exercise clause is not implicated in this scenario, because the Church chose to provide medical services, education, and charitable assistance to those who are not members of the Church, and that in doing so, they have “intruded” on the territory of the secular world, and should therefore be subject to its mandates.  This is a seductive rationale, especially for those who are know nothing of Christianity, or are hostile to it, because they are incapable of seeing the provision of medical care, of providing an education, or of providing charitable assistance to the needy as the very expression of that faith, and in keeping with the example set by Christ himself, and consistent with his commandments to the individual believers, and their corporate bodies.  These activities are undertaken as ministries, and to be the face and works of Christ to a world which Christians believe need him.  Those who believe that this is not about the practice of religion fail to see that these are the works commanded by a savior who knew that not all who received what he had to give would be changed, but that did not and should not change the will and desire to give anyway.  Christianity is not a religion that can be practiced within the walls of the church alone; it is not something that gets turned on at 9 am Sunday morning, and turned off again when you leave the parking lot.  There is, however, another nuanced point that is being ignored in this controversy.  This regulation offends a right that is fundamental to every right recognized and guaranteed in the First Amendment:  The right of conscience.

If man does not possess the right of conscience, then he is not free to speak as he pleases.  If he does not possess the right to report the events that he wishes to report on.  If he does not possess the right of conscience, then he does not possess the right to worship as he pleases, or not at all if that is what he would chose.  If he does not have the right of conscience, then he has no right to assemble with those who share his beliefs.  If he has no right of conscience, he does not have the right to bring his complaints to the government.  He who has no right of conscience does not have these rights,  his very thoughts, which are also necessary to these rights, are subject not to him, but to the state which so enlists him into its service.

I know that it is not a subject often discussed these days, and that worship of the state while pretending at neutrality is much more in vogue than the free exercise of religion, but this freedom of conscience was recognized by the men responsible for limiting the power of government with respect to the exercise of religion, including Thomas Jefferson, who recognized that religion was necessary for society as a source of morals, but that it was dangerous to have conditions that would allow one sect to have favor and power over the others.

The error seems not sufficiently eradicated, that the operations of the mind, as well as the acts of the body, are subject to the coercion of the laws.  But our rulers can have authority over such natural rights only as we have submitted to them.  The rights of conscience we never submitted, we could not submit.  We are answerable for them to our God.  The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others.

The fact is the federal government is trying to force Christian religious institutions to compromise their beliefs as they practice their faith in various ministries that use church members and non-church members alike in the service of the God they subscribe to.  This suborns their conscience, and enslaves it to the desire of government to provide a product that has been speciously and facetiously referred to repeatedly as a “right”, with the apparent belief that the very real rights of conscience and free exercise of religion must yield to a privilege that will be afforded only as long as the state desires to compel others to provide it.  Whether or not you are a person of faith, and whether or not you have any respect or love for the Catholic or any other church, you are a fool not to see that if the right of conscience central to the exercise of enumerated rights must give way to the dictates and desires of the federal government, then NO enumerated right is safe, and “We the People” are little more than “We the Serfs”.

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Yeah, consider the headline your early April Fool’s.  We know that the “wall between church and state” is only to be deployed if it is an evvvvvviiiiiillllll Republican talking about God in the context of policy, the same way that it is perfectly ok to turn to pulpit over to campaigning Democrats in election years.  You’ll never hear threats and menacing statements about revoking anyone’s 501(c)(3) status then.

That said, Christians should be pleased.  This is the third time President Downgrade has dragged his junior partners out from the closet they reside in when he isn’t claiming that they would support his various policy initiatives.  And it is a curious strategy.  I can’t think of anyone else who could campaign showing so much disdain for a religious group bitterly clinging to their Bibles and guns, and then just earlier this week, stand by while his HHS secretary issues a ruling that will clearly violate the religious principles of Catholic organizations and entities, and yet he comes to a Prayer Breakfast, makes a campaign speech which selectively quotes Jesus in support of what he wants to do, and he isn’t rebuked, corrected, or laughed out of the room.  And what he said called for all three.

He presented his threadbare class warfare point of view about difficult times requiring a greater sacrifice by some, and then rolled into :

““And I think to myself, if I’m willing to give something up as somebody who’s been extraordinarily blessed and give up some of the tax breaks that I enjoy, I actually thinks that’s going to make economic sense.”

“But for me as a Christian, it also coincides with Jesus’ teaching that, ‘for unto whom much is given, much shall be required,”

Now this statement requires me to repeat what astute people have been saying since Warren Buffett opened his mouth and started pontificating about how he SHOULD pay more, and how it is government’s job to make sure that this patriotic duty is fulfilled by all wealthy people (despite the fact that he owes a ginormous sum that he already ISN’T paying): No one is stopping you from paying more if you think that you should.   The US Treasury is happy to take any and all contributions above and beyond the tax bill than anyone is willing to make.  This is true of Warren Buffett, President Downgrade, or anyone else who keeps talking about how they believe that they should pay more, but aren’t getting their checkbooks out.  But more importantly, he misses the point of a lot of what Jesus says in order to leapfrog his way to this convenient conclusion.  Like the fact that the commands Jesus gave regarding caring for people, especially the less fortunate, were made to individuals, not Rome.  Jesus also wanted those individuals to do this voluntarily.  That point cannot be stressed enough.  Still, I don’t imagine that we’ve fallen so far intellectually as a nation that he could quote Marx directly and have it as well received as only quoting the part of Jesus that is actually favorable to you in a speech, so this is what he was reduced to.

He wasn’t done, however. 

“We can’t leave our values at the door,” Obama said. “If we leave our values at the door, we abandon much of the moral glue that has held our nation together for centuries and allowed us to become somewhat more perfect a union.”

I’m sure the Catholics in the audience who were told earlier this week that starting in August, they were going to have to leave their values at the door were very comforted by this statement.

The President then went on to talk about his prayers and devotionals, and meeting with faith leaders in private, leaving me wondering if this was a case of him not listening to what they say, or if they were grossly incompetent in imparting the full meaning of the gospel message. 

There is a silver lining to this, however.  The more he drags God out of the closet where they currently store him, the harder it becomes to ignore him or put him back like some political prop.  God’s funny like that, and the President wouldn’t be the first person to think he had God where he wanted him, only to find the reality of the situation to be very different.  And the more he does it, the harder if becomes for his side to criticize others for doing it.  And while that raises the likelihood for some serious rhetorical exchanges between people, it also means that we will be talking more about Jesus, and God, which is an opportunity to set straight a record that the Left has been skewing since 1949. 

That is an opportunity that I relish.

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Comparisons have already started.  The folks at the People’s Cube have focused their considerable talents on this.
h/t Matthew Morris

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