Nov 18, 2007

Why We Must be First Amendment Patriots. Fortunately We Still Have Some Choice (and a Duty)

An Impossible Scenario?

Imagine that you're abd
ucted and gang-raped--the court agrees and convicts the rapists--but you also get punished for this crime by a six-month prison sentence and 200 lashes! Your punishment is for "meeting with an unrelated male" (who also gets raped by the way). Where in the world did that happen, you may ask. You could assume that no civilized country would do this today. But you'd be wrong. That's the reality in the many Muslim countries where there's no separation of state & religion. This case in point took place in Saudi Arabia this month!*

One of the best things we did early on was the separation of ch
urch & state. The Founders knew of the bloody religious civil wars in Europe and elsewhere. They knew about the Inquisition, they knew that the tyranny of the majority could pose threats to individual liberty--after all, liberalism was about freedom, individual freedom. Our Bill of Rights, and the First Amendment in particular, see to this. Freedom of expression and beliefs, now that's a novel concept!

Now, why would intelligent people--especially those who've studied law, the constitution, and maybe some American history--argue for bringing a theocracy to the US? Good question. Maybe we couldn't thoroughly examine their motives, but their actions are based on wishful thinking, ignorance (willful?), and specific political objectives.

This past few days, the Federalist Society had its 25th anniversary with president Bush delivering the keynote address. Members like Robert Bork, Clarence Thomas, Scalia, Roberts, John "torture-is-OK" Yoo, and several others got their chance to "shine" under the presidencies of Reagan, Bush 41 and Bush 43. These people are the most
conservative judges & lawyers that seek to "restore the law" as intended--not by the Founders and framers of our constitution, by of a ..higher authority. This is another example, among the many in recent history, that the lunatic fringe is not marginal in this country.

Unfortunately today, secular America hangs on a very thin margin in the Supreme Court. It's not too early in the election cycle to point out that there is a huge difference between the Democratic and Republican candidates in jurisprudence and intent on keeping our country secular--and by secular I don't mean non-religious, but a separation of church & state. We knew about this very important difference in the last 2 elections. Bush 43 has had a big impact on SCOTUS by appointing very conservative justices to the hight court; one more and the balance will tip to the other side.

The fact is that the Framers of the constitution (and most of the Founding Fathers) were explicit in maintaining this wall of separation. Here's a brief history:

  • 1787: Drafting of the US Constitution. No "god" in it. Article 6, sec. 3: no religious test for any public office. Madison drafted the First Amendment and defended it in the Federalist Papers. Protecting individual conscience was paramount.
  • 1789: Congress rejected arguments that the First Amendment only meant to protect one religion over another and not the non-believers.
  • 1796: The US signed the Treaty of Tripoli which declared that the US is not a "Christian nation."
  • 1802: Jefferson reiterated that the 1st Amend. was indeed a "wall of separation" between church-state.
  • 1868: The 14th Amendment abolished slavery but also said that the Bill of Rights must apply to all states! [make of note of this Judge Thomas]
  • 1947: The Supreme Court decided that no branch of government could favor one religion over another or over non-believers.
There's a great body of legal precedence and jurisprudence that supports this separation, which, in turn, protects individual freedoms. Yet, Americans have failed to grasp the importance of electing extreme conservatives [note: not all Republicans are like that] to the Senate and the White House. Elections have consequences. A majority of FIVE can change the conditions of freedom we expect from living in a liberal democracy!


We Have to Make the Connection: Guilty by Association
The Republican Party today does not want to safeguard this separation of church-state and observe the tradition established by law. Unlike the Goldwater Republicans, the current crowd is state authoritarians who want to impose on others their religious dogma, intolerance of dissent, and that Scripture is without error! It's no surprise they're anti-science [abortion, evolution, stem-cell research, etc] and anti freedom of conscience!

Sure, we have great differences with those conservatives. These differences need to brought into the light. I understand that our politics is to a great extend about personality and not substance, but we can't afford to have another folksy president whose policies can be disastrous. It's too costly and we can't afford it right now!


Why shouldn't we press the point that the conservatives hold crazy views? Justice Scalia has said that the First Amendment does not protect the non-believer! He does not accept the concept of freedom of conscience! His pal on the Supreme Court Thomas has said that the "establishment clause" does not apply to the states! And, that every state can establish its own state church!!

Surely, you can find someone guilty by association too! I'm not talking about casual association, but about building alliances, bridges of support, and forming public policy. Mr. Giuliani has to be held accountable for accepting the support of Pat Robertson. The label reverend can be easily obtained but this should not deflect criticism, nor should it bestow any more legitimacy on anyone.

The reverend Falwell wanted to see an America without public schools, where the churches would take them over. He also said this: "I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way -- all of them who have tried to secularize America -- I point the finger in their face and say "you helped this happen." Robertson concurred. Take that Rudy. God punished your city. God was behind the attacks on 9/11. Now, if this isn't lunacy, religious bigotry, ignorance, superstition, I don't know what it is.

This bigotry reveals itself in the overt effort to oppress homosexuals [insert any "deviancy" here]. In 2003, SCOTUS [Texas v. Lawrence] decriminalized private sexual conduct--as it should have. No state can punish consenting adults for what they do to each other. But, only a few years later, this view hangs on a 5-4 margin! In his dissent, Scalia [with Thomas concurring] said that people should be able to use the sense of tradition to criminalize all sexual behavior they deem offensive!!!! [and he's not talking only about homosexuality; NYU student questions Scalia]

We have the federal government mandating the teaching of religious dogma instead of science--i.e., birth control is bad, masturbation can lead to pregnancy, etc. President Bush asked the Pope to direct American Catholic priests to be more political in cases like same-sex marriage and abortion (rights). Religious charities have been funded by Bush and they spread misinformation. Contraception, family planning, the "morning after" pill [not an abortion], sex education, etc, have all been contorted to fit a particular religious dogma. And, in ..supermarket fashion, they pick what they like (or being told) while disregarding other passages from their holy book. Protect life from the moment two cells meet until birth, but after that, you're on your own!
Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't Jesus (allegedly?) said, "there's no justice if people have no shelter," and "there's no justice if people are hungry"? Did he add any qualifiers to this statement? I wonder...

The conservatives talk about limited government but their most popular leaders want to use the government to tell us how to live our own private lives. The next president must support the wall of separation. No Republican presidential candidate is for this! The Supreme Court's future depends on our decision in 2008. The next president should not be a religious preacher. The control of the US Senate is at stake too. Judge Bork had said that the 1st Amendment only applies to political speech (campaigns), and that we should "get over" our objection to school prayer. It was the widespread opposition and a Democratic Senate that prevented this extremist from serving on SCOTUS.

Both parties and all their candidates appeal to religious groups for support. Yet, they differ on what kind of judges we get on the federal courts. This, to me, is a clear choice--among the many that keep liberals and conservatives apart. You have to be partisan today if you want to have a realistic chance of maintaining a secular society where individual freedom of conscience is protected.

We have to be First Amendment patriots!


Footnote
* From Think Progress: The woman, who had been appealing her original sentence of 90 lashes, was sentenced to six months in prison and 200 lashes after her appeal. The Saudi judges more than doubled the punishment for the victim because of “her attempt to aggravate and influence the judiciary through the media.” The Saudi Justice Ministry confirmed that the stiffer sentence handed out on appeal stemmed from the fact that the victim had gone to the media with her story. “Media may have adverse effects on the other parties involved in the case,” a statement said.

Editor's note 11/21: The victim met with a male friend (he was the "unrelated" male) when they were abducted by 7 men. Both were raped; she was 14 times. For her "crime" she was originally sentenced to 90 lashes! But, she had the audacity to challenge this punishment, appealed, spoke to the media, and that was offensive to the theocratic regime that keeps the country firmly in the 12th century. Horrors.

22 comments:

Andros said...

By the way, Falwell tried to apologize for his statement on 9/11, but he later said that he meant it.
So, it was not an "unguarded moment" a slip of the tongue, a Freudian slip....

They do believe in religious dogma. Which would be fine with me if they left us alone. But, no, they want to save us against our will...

Erin said...

Good point about Rudy. He has had a close association with Kerik, and he refused to criticize his man when the latter's toubles surfaced. He later recommended Kerik to be the Hommie Czar! (God help us).

lemur said...

You forget the good use of prayer! Why shouldn't we take advantage of the good properties of the Lord and ask him to help us?

I mean the current governor of Tennessee used his good office to pray for rain! And, it did (OK, some deluges were harmful but the overall balance sheet was good!).

Andros said...

Ah, you know, I started writing about this public prayer on the steps of state property, but I turned this posting into the greater concept of separation, the wall that should be maintained....

Where did I hear this lately.. Like Jefferson would say: help me build up this wall!

Andros said...

Correction: It was the governor of Georgia, Sonny Purdue who gathered the sheep, er, the flock into prayer for rain.

Persy said...

I knew that Scalia and Thomas were very conservative, but I didn't know that they were NOT strict constructionists... judging from their interpretation of the constitution!

Not only they're wrong about their interpretation but they're wrong about the "constitution in exile".

Thomas Paine said...

I agree, we MUST make the case for substance when it comes to IMPORTANT issues. The religious conservatives and all those advocating theocracy have understood this. They're winning by electing Bush and very conservative politicians who, in turn, appoint & approve like-minded judges to the federal bench, and state courts.

Despite our divisions in the progressive community, we do have a clear choice as to who would appoint certain judges. Come on. It's no brainer!

Andros said...

My friend and fellow blogger Tuli sent me an email in which she made some interest observations as to why certain rhetoric and policies find acceptance in the US.

Further, she pointed out this article about why Bush has "failed to deliver on his promise to help religious groups serve the poor, the homeless and drug addicts."

The author of this article, David Kuo a former aide to Bush, says that this failure was because the administration lacks a genuine commitment to its "compassionate conservative" agenda.

It's a good read. Of course, I'm not surprised. Being compassionate--like many other good qualities--are perverted and sacrificed by the neocons and current Republican party.

Anonymous said...

At some point you/we have to discuss whether Islam represents a threat to our liberal democracies.

Just a thought...

anderson said...

I wonder if the KKK wanted to endorse a candidate, would the latter be publicly accepting the support? [ok, I mean in the national stage, not some backward section of the South].

I don't think Pat Robertson and his fanatics are much different than the KKK. Maybe they don't use race as their criterion but they are just as bigoted and intolerant of all others who don't share their BRAND of xtianity.

Sure, guilty by association sound very appropriate in this case. Kudos to you for this post.

Anonymous said...

What you don't mention in your criticism of Scalia in a post about the First Amendment is that Justice Scalia has been one of the strongest supporters of the First Amendment on the court. For example, Justice Scalia joined the opinions in both Texas v Johnson (1989) and US v Eichman (1990) upholding the right to burn the US flag in protest. He found a law outlawing flag-burning to be unconstitutional.

anderson said...

I wonder if the KKK wanted to endorse a candidate, would the latter be publicly accepting the support? [ok, I mean in the national stage, not some backward section of the South].

I don't think Pat Robertson and his fanatics are much different than the KKK. Maybe they don't use race as their criterion but they are just as bigoted and intolerant of all others who don't share their BRAND of xtianity.

Sure, guilty by association sound very appropriate in this case. Kudos to you for this post.

Andros said...

Anonymous said...
What you don't mention in your criticism of Scalia in a post about the First Amendment is that Justice Scalia has been one of the strongest supporters of the First Amendment on the court. For example, Justice Scalia joined the opinions in both Texas v Johnson (1989) and US v Eichman (1990) upholding the right to burn the US flag in protest. He found a law outlawing flag-burning to be unconstitutional.

11/19/2007

<<<<<<<

You are right, and I do appreciate Scalia's stance on the flag-burning question, and thank you for making this point. I believe that even "deplorable acts" if they don't endanger others are a matter of expression that must be protected.

I think the burden is on Scalia to explain to us why he does not believe in freedom of conscience! Why, for example, the state has an interest to regulate my sexual behavior?

And, it's not a legalistic interpretation--as the constitution doesn't provide for such! Scalia does not accept the establishment clause for goodness sake!

The bottom line for me is this: Conservative justices on SCOTUS have NOT advanced individual freedom. Not for the last several decades. It's the "liberal courts" that have advance civil rights, legal equality, opening up opportunities, etc., etc, etc.
Yes, there have been a few exceptions here and there, but I can't take a risk having a conservative judge like Scalia on any court [well, maybe traffic court]. They tend to be moral authoritarians over all.

Andros said...

Anonymous said...
At some point you/we have to discuss whether Islam represents a threat to our liberal democracies.

Just a thought...

11/18/2007
<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

Yes, this is good topic for discussion and I've been wanting to post something about it.
Care to share any more of your thoughts on this subject?

What are some of the questions we should ask?

It's a sensitive subject--any time you challenge an ideology of any sort, especially religion--but I believe we can give this an academic treatment.

Drew said...

It seems that Giuliani gets lots of support in the Republican party, and, at least on paper, his previous policies wouldn't make him such a strong candidate. What is it that makes him such an attractive choice to Republicans?

I thought that the activists (the ones that bother to come out during the primaries) were much more conservative, so they wouldn't support anyone like G.

On the other hand, he projects authority and most conservatives crave the stern father figure!

Bruno at the stake said...

If the KKK publicly endorsed someone and he/she accepted it, wouldn't that cause an uproar?
Why is it different when religious bigots do the same???

circe said...

If were a true enlightened society we should have had a debate about the religious beliefs of our candidates.

ESPECIALLY WHEN THEY DON'T KEEP THEM AS A PRIVATE MATTER BUT WEAR THEIR RELIGION ON THEIR SLEEVES!

Andros said...

Well, I agree Circe. If someone believes in scriptures without error, then there's a question about the judgment and reasoning of such individual.

If Joseph Smith claims that an angel woke him up, told him to go to the forest to find the "new" and "final" word of God, along with tablets & stones to decrypt the message.... [remember: there's no independent account of such occurrence--only Smith's claim] and that blacks were the disciples of the devil....

If anyone who believes such things (God bless them) are not good enough to get my vote. But, that's my take...

brother luie said...

Of course we have to judge the leaders by the company they keep--more accurately, the people they appoint to positions of power!

Bush's administration elevated political patronage and corruption to an art form.

Anonymous said...

as if Clinton didn't do the same....

rover said...

No, Clinton did NOT do the same. No one in his administration was convicted, resigned in disgrace, etc. UNLIKE Dubya's clique.

Andros said...

I'd draw a list of misfits, miscreants, lawbreakers, incompetent, corrupt, extremists, etc, that were empowered by Bush! But, I think I may miss many... Be my guest..

Do you know why the ..vacationing Senate is "in session" these days?

Because Bush uses such occasions to appoint high officials WITHOUT the consent of the Senate, as provided by our Constitution!

In the very old days, this way necessary for the government to operate smoothly. No good communications, long distances (long travel time), etc. But, el presidente is a trickster and violates the spirit and letter of the law!

So the US Senate's leader, Harry Reid, decided to have 1 senator come in, gavel for 30 seconds, and keep the senate "in session" to prevent Bush from appointing persons like someone who believes gays can be "curred" from being our next Surgeon General!!!!!