Uncommon Sense

February 10, 2021

Religious Privilege and What It Buys Us

The wages of sin religious privilege are death.

This is quite worth reading, regarding recent Supreme Court rulings on religion.

No Place for Science in the Supreme Court’s Christian America

December 8, 2020

Really? Supreme Court Says that Limits on Religious Gatherings are Unconstitutional

The pertinent part of this “rulings” basis is the first amendment to the Constitution which says “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . .”

Plus the 14th Amendment includes:

“No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

Clearly the state emergency regulations do not comply with the exact wording here.

I can understand the reasoning behind a literal ruling, albeit is a stupid one. If a religion decided that sacrificing babies was to be part of their ceremonies, do you think the government (aka all of us) would have any say? How about stoning people who are guilty of infracting the rules of the church? Yes? Well, obviously so. These are obviously extreme examples in which government intervention seems appropriate but most cases are between the strict literal interpretation of the words and such extremes. The divide is often decided upon whether the government has a “compelling interest for its actions.” In this case, the action of the government was to establish rules for mass gatherings, be they at football games, political rallies, or churches is irrelevant, the motivation is to save lives during a pandemic.

Seems compelling to me.

Wisdom seems to be lacking here in the SCOTUS majority. Nowhere did they seem to take into account that facts that such services are typically indoors, take hours and include people singing and speaking out loud . . . in close proximity to one another, all of which run counter to what behaviors are recommended to stop the spread of the disease. Visits to stores are usually shorter, with people being more spread out, with no singing, shouting, or speaking loudly.

But, I have to hand it to the religious, their exuberant behaviors are perfect tests of whether those rules were sensible if not. Already one church service has been characterized as a superspreader event, where one person infected around 50 others. All of those church goers who will die to prove these precautions are sensible for everyone, will no doubt receive special rooms in Heaven’s mansions.

September 27, 2020

Should Amy Barrett’s Faith Be Part of Her Qualifications?

An op-ed in today’s The Guardian is entitled “Amy Coney Barrett should be judged on her ability, not her faith” (by Kenan Malik) The article could have been written identically for any of the other recent nomination processes.

This article and this attitude misses the point, however.

The point is not just her qualifications but the court’s qualifications to judge legal issues. If seated on the court, the court would be made up of six Catholics, two Jews, and one half Episcopalian-half Catholic. Is this representative of this country? Is this a court that can decide political issues that have religious undertones, fairly and in accord with precedent’s, etc.?

The question is not “Should her faith be part of her qualifications?” but “Should the court be packed with members of minority religions?”

There are more protestants than Catholics, yet not a single one of those could be found who is qualified to sit on that court?

Trump, Master of Distractions

Filed under: Politics,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 8:18 am
Tags: , ,

Upon what criteria would Mr. Trump base a nomination for a new associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States? I believe there was exactly one. Create a ruckus, a distraction that, if possible, makes his opposition look bad. (“See, they can’t even support another women on the bench.”) The Ruckus distracts from the real failings of the President. He has fulfilled his duty in this matter (nominating a person to fill a vacancy on that court) and now he is done. The rest of us get to whirl around the distraction for weeks when we should be concentrating on getting rid of his sorry ass.

And, another Catholic? He couldn’t find a qualified Evangelical, or even a Protestant? (Repeat after me. Repeat after me. Rinse and repeat.)

June 16, 2020

Supreme Logic

I was reading about a supreme Court’s ruling in the recent case as to whether the 1964 Civil Rights Act also protects gay and transgender workers from workplace discrimination.

You have probably heard that according to this SCOTUS, it does. However, as one article put it: “Justice Samuel Alito wrote the dissenting opinion saying, ‘The common understanding of sex discrimination in 1964 was bias against women or men and did not encompass discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. If Congress wanted to protect gay and transgender workers, he wrote, it could pass a new law.’

The article went on to comment: “Let me break down Alito’s argument: Because homophobia was more acceptable in 1964 when the anti-discrimination act was written and the creators of that law had no intention of protecting LGBTQ people, that law should not protect LGBTQ people.”

I wonder if Justice Alito’s logic extends to the Second Amendment right to bear arms, in that the amendment was referring to smooth bore, single shot muskets and swords and “If Congress wanted to protect the right to own and bear modern firearms, it could pass a new law.” I wonder how the Justice’s NRA supporters would view throwing that idea open to Congress.

And wouldn’t it be simpler to restrict employers as to hiring and firing to “job related performance” and nothing else. This would allow firings for not having the money to pay the worker, or the job was no longer needed, or the employee stinks and refuses to bathe, or . . . etc., but shouldn’t the reasoning be related to the job and not the category one wishes to stuff the employee into?

January 21, 2020

Public Funding of Religious Schools?

One could ask why charter schools are resisting government oversight so very vigorously, but one would question that only if one didn’t realize who is behind the charter school movement as it is currently constituted. These movers and shakers are conservatives looking to make money, a great deal of it, in a deregulated business. After having hoovered up as much money as could be made in the private sector, they looked at the pile of money that was being spent on public educations and said “I want me some of that!”

But these blood sucking assholes are not just out for #1, they are also a stalking horse for the public funding of private religious schools.

Tomorrow, the United States Supreme Court will hear arguments in a crucial case called Espinoza v. Montana. The goal of the Espinoza plaintiffs is to strike down state laws that prohibit public funding for religious schools. This is a case that could not only erase the line between church and state but could actually compel states to fund religious schools. It would require states to fund religious schools of every kind, and no one knows who will determine what is a legitimate religious school. It would divert funding from public schools to support students enrolled in religious schools, now and in the future.” (Source: Diane Ravitch’s Blog)

To my mind, there are a number of ways that this could occur and that would be if all religious schools were included in the deal (Ashrams, Yeshivas, Catholic schools, Sikh schools, Scientology schools, Jehovah’s Witnesses’ schools, Evangelical schools, etc.), that would eliminate showing some of the favoritism which is expected and government wouldn’t be sponsoring a religion, it would be sponsoring all of them. And, of course, the cost of accepting the funding would also include accepting government oversight and complying with the national hiring laws, anti-discrimination laws, etc. This is under the well-attested constitutional principle of “He who pays the piper names the tune.”

Oh, the religious schools are no longer interested? Ah!

SCOTUS

You’d think that the evangelical Christians behind this effort would be more aware of Church History. These folks seem to be quite anti-intellectual, and that includes with regard to their own documents. That notwithstanding, the Christian Church of the time, the “Orthodox Church” as it came to be named, even later to be called the Catholic Church, made a deal with the Devil by accepting status within the Roman Empire, first as a official state religion of Rome and then the official state religion of Rome. Think about this . . . Rome, represent Jesus’ executioners in this corner, and the relatively powerless nascent Christian Church in the other corner. A marriage made in . . . Hell.

The Christian Church officials of the time, like those behind this case, drooled over the prospects of exerting Roman state power in support of their religion. When they first acquired it, it was applied to the extermination of pagan cults (aided by Roman officials cashing in by claiming the confiscated lands and buildings of those cults). Once the pagan cults were vanquished, they took on the heretics. Of course, the definition of heretic was actually anyone who opposed the power of this or that ambitious prelate. (There was no central authority in the church at the time, there were just ambitious church politicians looking to claim it. Are you at all surprised that the church in Rome won that contest?) Those prelates used theological wars to provide the basis for greater power acquisitions.

Oh, and the cost of having state power at their beck and call? Well, it was steep. Most of the practices of the Christians of the third and fourth centuries no longer exist. They have been replaced by formalisms urged by Roman cult officials. (The separation of laity and priests, heck—priests and preachers, music in church, funny robes being worn by presiding officials, oh—presiding officials, funny hats being worn, you name it.) All adopted because of the Romans.

So, if the religious schools would sign on to play by the rules every other public school has to play by, then I might not oppose this move. Of course, the religious would be getting in bed with secular types who might just strangle them in their sleep. We can only hope.

 

August 16, 2019

A New Slant on the Second Amendment Debate

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State,
the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
(Second Amendment, U.S. Constitution)

Quite a few people are unaware that until quite recently most people and most Supreme Court Justices viewed the Second Amendment as addressing other than an individual right. Since its ratification, Americans have been arguing over the amendment’s meaning and interpretation. One side interprets the amendment to mean it provides for collective rights (of militia members), while the opposing view is that it provides individual rights.

Until quite recently, this was considered mostly a collective right, not an individual one, with few Supreme Court cases addressing that matter (in effect, they were hiding from an definitive decision). That all changed with District of Columbia v. Heller in 2008. (Yes, 2008, eleven years ago, peeps! Pay attention!) The case centered on Dick Heller, a licensed special police office in Washington, D.C., who challenged the nation’s capital’s handgun ban. For the first time, the Supreme Court ruled that despite state laws, individuals who were not part of a state militia did have the right to bear arms. As part of its ruling, the court wrote, “The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home” (Empahsis mine. SR).

So now the Second Amendment addresses the government’s ability (inability, actually) to control an individual right. And that will be the case until a reversal of this opinion is had, so basically forever.

But, consider this. If you strip out all of the militia verbiage (which creates the collective vs. individual brouhaha) and just look at the rest of it, it says:

“. . . the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Keep and bear. “Keep” refers to people who already have an “arm” and that they are to be allowed to keep (store, house, etc.) those arms and “bear” means to carry and, in this case, use the arms involved. But it says nothing about the government infringing upon the right to acquire firearms. (None other than Antonin Scalia stated in that 2008 decision the opinion that for him, “to bear” was simple enough, meaning “to carry.” And “arms” were just weapons. He conceded that there was an idiom, “to bear arms,” which meant to belong to an organized military force. But this was only a possible import of the phrase, not its core meaning. So, while establishing this new individual right, he also established with the terms “keep” and “bear” were in this amendment.)

So, while the government cannot infringe the right to keep and bear arms, it is free to legislate who can acquire arms and for what purposes. We can limit what arms can be acquired, how many, how much ammunition, etc. and the conditions that need to be met to be able to acquire them, which includes having a license, passing a training program, being sane, providing insurance against criminal use, etc.

Well, what do you think?

May 3, 2019

Some Have More Equal Rights Than Others

No, we are not talking Animal Farm here, we are talking about Republican court packing which has created a Supreme Court consisting of five Justices wedded to the Religious Right. If the Republicans win the next presidential election and retain control of the Senate, it is quite likely that Justice Ginsberg will retire from the Court and be replaced with a sixth Justice wedded to the Religious Right.

The consequences of this are huge. We are faced with avoiding taking cases on church-state separation to the Supreme Court out of fear as to how they might rule. (Look what they did with Citizens United.) And, once the federal courts indicate that they favor religious exceptionalism, look to the more conservative states to be making laws favoring religious groups by the score.

Right now, the recent history of the court has provided exclusions for religious groups from obeying the law. They say, everyone must obey the law . . . except . . . if you have a profound religious belief, you do not have to. Consider the Obamacare contraception coverage situation, as just one example. You must obey the law, they do not.

The whole idea of the separation of church and state was to keep religious squabbles outside of government . . . and . . . to not have government bodies deciding religious issues. It protects the government from religion and religion from government. Once that barrier is broached (and there are already holes in the dike) then where is the line to be drawn as to how much the government can favor the religious over the non-religious? There is no natural divide, so as the metaphor goes, the flood gates will be open. Once that happens, how long will it be before states pass laws favoring one religion over others? (You will only need a stopwatch to measure how long that will take.)

Any number of current justices believe that the religious can be favored over the non-religious under the Constitution. This leaves the non-religious in a second class status, with only the freedom of speech provision of the Constitution to protect us.

And so many of the religious wonder why atheists are so “hostile” to religion! Even when religious people, some–not all, are actively working to get the law to favor them over us. That’s one reason for the hostility. (D’ya think?)

Elections have consequences. If you want to continue the Repubs court packing practices, then indeed vote for Republicans for Senate and President. Ruth Ginsberg cannot live forever. If the Supreme Court gets packed with even more adherents for the Religious Right movement, then the GOP will have its fondest wish, for trickle down religiosity incorporated into our governments, to become the state of this country for decades to come.

March 5, 2019

SCOTUS … Wandering … Wandering

Filed under: Politics,The Law — Steve Ruis @ 11:32 am
Tags: , , ,

The US Supreme Court decided to stay out of a case from New Jersey about taxpayer funding of the historical preservation of churches. This leaves in place a decision by the New Jersey Supreme Court that held the denial of state funds to religious establishments did not violate the church’s free exercise rights.

Of course, the unwise and unwary justices couldn’t leave well enough alone:

“At some point, this court will need to decide whether governments that distribute historic preservation funds may deny funds to religious organizations simply because the organizations are religious. … [B]arring religious organizations because they are religious from a general historic preservation grants program is pure discrimination against religion.” Justice Brett Kavanaugh

He says “discrimination” as if it were wrong. In this case discrimination is right. The word “discrimination” has taken on as a primary meaning of discriminating for illegal reasons, such as racial or age discrimination in hiring. But the word just means being able to recognize a distinction; to differentiate. In the justice’s case, he is supposed to discriminate between actions the government is legally allowed to take and actions the government is not. If I may quote from the First Amendment to the Constitution:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;. . .”

Since the adoption of that amendment, the courts have ruled over and over that the government cannot use funds in support of any religion and that this rule applies to the states as well as the federal government. So, according to the Constitution, the SCOTUS is supposed to discriminate between funds spent legally and funds spent illegally, in this case “in support of any religion.”

So, in response to Justice Kavanaugh’s “is pure discrimination against religion.” Yes, thank you, for recognizing what the Constitution stipulates we must do. You have finally recognized your duty and my hope is that you continue to discriminate for the Constitution as you have sworn to do.

 

October 15, 2018

Defining Conservatives

Filed under: History,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 11:24 am
Tags: , , , ,

A self-defined conservative laid out a number of points why he finds conservatism attractive. These are not all of his points, just some and I respond to these. Here is my truncation of his list, mostly without the supporting commentary:

  1. Conservatives are in favor of less government.
  2. Conservatives are in favor of following the law.
  3. Conservatives seem to support lower taxes. Government can’t really do anything right, companies are much better at getting the right products to the right people at the right time. The higher taxes go, the less well they can do that and the more government will step in and screw things up even further.
  4. Conservatives want people to reach their full potential. They want people to enjoy life and be the most that they can be – without interference from anyone else or from the government – especially from the government.
  5. Conservatives are pro-immigration … but they want legal immigration, not illegal immigration.
  6. Conservatives value life.
  7. Conservatives believe in helping out people who have less than they do. Did you know that 80% of charity money comes from conservatives?
  8. Conservatives believe in the Constitution and that the Constitution is the paramount law of the land. They believe the government should follow the Constitution and the law and not butt into people’s private affairs.
  9. Conservatives will fight for your right to say whatever you please even if they disagree with it.
  10. If you’re poor, a conservative will give you a chance at a job, they will try to help you get an education and a place to live, food and clothing if you need it. But they also expect you to take responsibility for your own life.
  11. The way I see it, is that conservatives want things – like in politics – to work.
  12. Conservatives favor capitalism over socialism because they know that capitalism works better.
  13. Conservatives believe in a strong defense because every country that has dropped their defense has been attacked by some other country.

I don’t know how far I will go with these, but here are some of my responses.

Conservatives are in favor of less government. Well, yes and no. The federal government has expanded under all Democrats and Republican presidents in my lifetime, so no matter what is said, we have gotten more government and not less. The claim that conservatives are in favor of less government is ideological support for their attempts to cut parts of the government they do not like. They tend to follow actions in this vein, for example, with irrational demands to expand military spending (often as a way to support military-industrial corporations, which donate heavily to their political coffers e.g. ordering new tanks when many of the tanks we have are being scrapped because they are unneeded). They seem to be in favor of what they like and not in favor of what they do not. So, there is no position here, just ideological support for “smaller government” in the areas they do not like and larger government in the areas they do.

Conservatives value life. Uh, again, yes and no. Conservatives are frequently anti-abortion. Once you are born, however, you are on your own. And if you make a really big mistake, like breaking the law while black or brown, they are staunchly in favor of the death penalty. So, again, this is a statement meant to portray conservatives in a good light, but really, who doesn’t value life, especially their own? Everyone values life. But being “pro-life” is just ideological cover for what they want to do, like banning abortion, which is a huge government intrusion into people’s private lives. So, here again, their desire for smaller government doesn’t extend to government restrictions on abortion. They want more government regulations in this area, but less in business.

Conservatives believe in helping out people who have less than they do. They just do not want the government involved. They prefer a situation in which the poor know who is giving them a handout. They prefer “charity” as the mode in which we help out our fellow citizens who are struggling. Clearly studies show that “charity” is not up to the task, but still the government, which is really the collective “we” as in “we the people,” should not be involved, say critics. Examples of other countries which have effectively figured out how to provide their citizens with basic supports (healthcare, education, etc.) we cannot copy because well, it would make government effective and the last thing conservatives want is a perception of the government being effective. The government is the only power in play that can rein in uncontrolled capitalism and the richest conservatives do not want that. Government has to be perceived as being inefficient and incompetent … except in the areas they like, such as the military.

Conservatives want things – like in politics – to work. Uh, like everybody else? Actually, they seem to want politics to work the way they want it to and, if it does not, they set about changing how politics works. They recently have been gung ho for voter suppression when historically they have been in favor of the act of voting for everyone. It was just that they began to lose too many elections because the wrong kind of voters were voting.

Conservatives believe in the Constitution and that the Constitution is the paramount law of the land. Well, who doesn’t? It is interesting, however, that whenever the conservatives discover the Constitution doesn’t say what they want, they set about changing it. For example, the Second Amendment right to bear arms was viewed since its writing as a collective right for Americans to bear arms in support of militias. But that wasn’t good enough, so centuries old settled law was changed so that bearing a firearm became an individual right. (With regard to the NRA’s campaign to change the “normal” interpretation of the constitution, Chief Justice Warren Burger publicly characterized the N.R.A. as perpetrating “one of the greatest pieces of fraud, I repeat the word fraud, on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime.”) More recently, the Supreme Court’s conservatives have given corporations free speech rights as well as the right to donate as much political money as they want, as if those “powers” of corporations were not just manifestations of their executive officers, giving them super powers as citizens.

Basically, I guess I am arguing that we need to stop using broad descriptive generalizations and, actually, I intend to stop talking about conservatives as people. A responder on Quora who was asked “can conservatives say anything nice about liberals?” responded that he had many nice things to say about people who claim to be liberals but what constitutes a liberal is way too broad for generalizations (epithets yes, generalizations no) so that there was nothing he could say which applied to all liberals. I think the same thing can be said to apply to conservatives.

So, I will try mightily to not talk about conservatives … but conservative ideas and ideology, well, I think there is an open season on those.

Next Page »

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.