Uncommon Sense

July 3, 2022

If SCOTUS Continues to Blend Church and State, Should Religious Institutions Pay Taxes?

For example, in their recent ruling that the State of Maine had to provide funding for religious schools if they provided funding for private secular schools (to educate Maine children too far from a public school), they fell into a trap. States tend to exempt private schools from income and property taxes, but not payroll and sales taxes. Why a for profit school should be so treated needs to be reexamined, but until that time, church schools will find themselves having to account for taxes on cafeteria sales, school clothing, etc.

Note Private schools, religious or not, are not charitable institutions. Charity is not involved any more than in a “Christian” trucking company, or “Christian” party store, or a “Christian” bakery. These are profit seeking enterprises. How they choose to seek profits is up to them.

If SCOTUS continues to fold religions into the state, more and more taxes will be trotted out for those schools. Every time some religious school rolls out their hate agenda for everyone in the school district to view, people will begin to question why they are supporting such schools with their taxes, when they are given huge tax advantages for just being a religious school? (How would you like to not have to pay income or property taxes?)

Most of this current crop of legal ignoramuses pushing these abuses of the separation of church and state are ignorant of the separation of church and state concept. It is not just to protect the state from church meddling, but also to protect the churches from state meddling. If you want examples of state meddling in churches, look up Henry the Eighth of England, and Adolf Hitler (Churches in Hitler’s Germany had Nazi overseers—look it up). And, realize that evangelical churches in 1789 supported the new constitution because they understood if states could adopt “official” religions, they would be on the outside looking in, with their “competition” fat and sassy, flush with public funding. And this is what happened until the 14th Amendment was passed, restricting the states as the federal government was restricted, by the First Amendment.)

Since the current crop of malignant Republicans will not be in power forever, they have just opened the door for the state to meddle in Church affairs—if you take their money, you have to pipe their tune. For a currently example, look at the Church of England. The Church gets regular tithes from the British government, and it is literally dying on the vine. The priests have no incentive to recruit or proselytize, they get paid no matter how many people show up for services . . . and so few are showing up that churches are being shuttered right and left.

All Hail the Law of Unintended Consequences! (Forgive them, for they know not what they do.)

June 26, 2022

If We Held the Senate . . .

Filed under: Politics — Steve Ruis @ 10:45 am
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It is clear that all of the Trump’s nominees for the Supreme Court lied when they stated that Roe v. Wade was “settled” law. And, well, you know that lying to Congress under oath is against the law . . . and . . . Supreme Court Justices are impeachable. Just sayin’.

For you history buffs, the only Justice to be impeached was Associate Justice Samuel Chase in 1805. The House of Representatives passed Articles of Impeachment against him; however, he was acquitted by the Senate. But this court is all for breaking new ground, setting aside precedents, so we could do it.

June 23, 2022

Release the Kraken! . . . Er, the Law of Unintended Consequences!

The Supreme Court of the U.S., hereafter SCOTUS, in a recent decision (Carson v. Makin) made the bizarre decision that the state of Maine was required to fund religious schools because the state subsidizes private schools where no public schools are available.

In other words, Maine (and all other states with similar laws, etc.) has to choose between the separation of church and state and funding secular private schools, but now including funding discriminating religious schools (schools that ban gays, teach creationism as science, etc.)

There are a number of “workarounds” of this ridiculous SCOTUS ruling.

One would make be to pass a state law restricting state educational funding only to those schools which abide by the states anti-discriminatory statutes (and other rules governing schooling). Then the religious schools would have to decide how much they want that state funding. Do they want it enough to not implement their doctrines of hatred?

Another workaround would be simply to abide by the decision: since secular private schools are funded, so must be religious schools, so stop using state funds to support all such private schools. Be fair, be equitable.

Which is more important constitutionally: separation of church and state (first amendment rights) or funding of private schools? Those too far from public schools made their decision to live where they do in full knowledge of the schools issue. So, let their children be homeschooled or remotely schooled from the nearest secular public school.

Actually, I would just like to see what happened in Maine when Islamic schools applied for school funding, or radical yeshivas, heck, a Taliban School for Domestic Terrorism.

May 16, 2022

How to Resolve the Abortion Issue

Filed under: Politics,Reason,The Law — Steve Ruis @ 2:16 pm
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It appears that the SCOTUS is going to return the power to make laws about abortion to the states. In this, they will not have gone far enough. They need to return that power to the people.

Since the nation’s citizens are so widely divided on the topic, no federal or state can say that it is representing its people with any particular legislation. In other words, the states have no compelling interest in the topic, certainly not any interest that imposes any particular viewpoint upon millions of people.

So, whether to abort a fetus or not is a decision to be made by a woman, in consultation with others of her choosing (husband, doctors, friends. clergy, relatives, etc.). The only role for government is to ensure that safe practices be followed in any such procedures.

In the Bill of Rights it says “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” (Amendment IX) which indicates that the people do have powers in our system of government.

My recommendation is based upon “government of the People, by the People, and for the People.” Who better to adjudicate an abortion question than the only people who it affects, the pregnant woman and her advisors. No one else should have any say in the issue because they have no stake in the game. Anyone who claims to support “freedom” should support this, otherwise they claim to support freedom, except when they use the government to take away the freedoms of others. Those exercises of governmental power don’t count.

As to those who claim the fetus has a stake in the game, that may be true, but all current laws support total bodily autonomy of the mother in such matters. The government cannot force someone to donate part of their body, even blood, even in extreme cases. It can only ask or beg. Government cannot demand a kidney for transplantation into another person, or any other organ either. So, the government cannot demand that a women’s uterus be used to their ends, either.

Power to the People, baby!

. . . the full scope of the liberty guaranteed by the Due Process Clause cannot be found in or limited by the precise terms of the specific guarantees elsewhere provided in the Constitution. This ‘liberty’ is not a series of isolated points pricked out in terms of the taking of property; the freedom of speech, press, and religion; the right to keep and bear arms in the United States; the freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures; and so on. It is a rational continuum which, broadly speaking, includes a freedom from all substantial arbitrary impositions and purposeless restraints. (Emphasis mine.)
—Justice John Marshall Harlan writing in Poe v. Ullman, 367 U.S. 497, 543 (1961)

Oh, but this SCOTUS is no longer interested in stare decisis.

December 16, 2021

Equal Protection Under the Law

Filed under: Culture,Reason,Religion,Science,The Law — Steve Ruis @ 11:32 am
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Conservatives, especially conservative SCOTUS justices, would like nothing more than to repeal Roe v. Wade and turn the issue over to the states.

They are claiming this is the “democratic” thing to do.

Political cartoonists are our modern court jesters, but that doesn’t mean they play fair.

But this is not the issue. The issue is whether there is equal protection under the law. If this issue is detailed to the states the following scenario is very likely to happen. In one hospital, a woman receives a safe abortion, paid for by her medical insurance, and is released into the care of her family. Twenty miles away, a doctor giving a woman an abortion is arrested and charged with murder. So is the woman who hired the doctor to do the procedure, so is her husband for driving his wife to her medical clinic.

The difference? In the twenty miles separating the two facilities is a state border.

The federal government has stepped in over and over . . . and over, to make policies consistent across state lines to ensure “equal protection under the law.”

There are only a few issues over which it has demurred, e.g. capital punishment, although it has restricted the methods by which capital punishment can be imposed.

Surely the legality of the procedure is a matter of interstate commerce, no? Can a legal procedure in one state carry a death penalty in another?

Instead of turning it over to the states, we would be much better off to do what Canada has done; it forbade legislation on the matter, declaring it a personal matter, not a public matter. Canada has no laws, other than the health and safety laws governing all medical procedures, on the topic . . . none. And I just can’t believe that all Canadians are going to Hell because of their sensibility.

December 5, 2021

Decisions Have Consequences

Filed under: Politics,The Law — Steve Ruis @ 8:45 am
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It now looks like the current majority on the Supreme Court of the U.S. has its wish, a case that will allow it to set aside almost forty year old precedent and eliminate the guideline of Roe v. Wade. The basis for this decision will more than likely not be made clear, as the Roe decision simply limited the ability of the states to restrict abortion to prior to a certain time in a pregnancy. It is not about abortion per se, but is about limiting the ability of state to declare medical procedures as legal, illegal, etc.

If they return this power to the states, what happens to the Federal requirement to provide “equal protection” under the law.

States will then be allowed to declare this or that medical procedure as restricted or even illegal, while in a neighboring state it could be perfectly legal, as surely will happen if they return control over medical procedures to the states.

The objections to abortion are almost solely vested in religious organizations and beliefs. What happens to freedom of religion and from religion is a dominant religion in a state gets laws passed that support their religious position and not the others. Do, we just let the religious wars begin?

And why are conservatives so hell-bent to restrict the personal freedom of couples making serious medical decisions in consultation with their doctors? Apparently they want the “freedom” not to wear masks and social distance themselves in a deadly pandemic, but don’t want people to have the freedom of choosing a safe medical procedure for family planning.

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
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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.)

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