21 May 2011

From the Wall of Separation's rubble.

In the United States, the First Amendment's Establishment Clause ("Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion") was once respected by President and Founder Thomas Jefferson as "a wall of separation between church and state."

In 1947, Justice Hugo Black pronounced the classic legal definition of the Establishment Clause:
The "establishment of religion" clause of the First Amendment means at least this: Neither a state nor the federal government can set up a church. Neither can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion over another. Neither can force nor influence a person to go to or to remain away from church against his will or force him to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion. No person can be punished for entertaining or professing religious beliefs or disbeliefs, for church attendance or non-attendance. No tax in any amount, large or small, can be levied to support any religious activities or institutions, whatever they may be called, or whatever form they may adopt to teach or practice religion. Neither a state nor the Federal Government can, openly or secretly, participate in the affairs of any religious organizations or groups and vice versa. - Everson v. Board of Education, 330 U.S. 1 [emphasis mine]
This definition, over the last couple of decades, been laid utterly to waste. By 1989, the Rehnquist Court chose to reduce the Wall of Separation to a speed bump, ceding only that:
...government may not promote or affiliate itself with any religious doctrine or organization, may not discriminate among persons on the basis of their religious beliefs and practices, may not delegate a governmental power to a religious institution, and may not involve itself too deeply in such an institution’s affairs. - County of Allegheny v. ACLU, 492 U.S. 573 [emphasis mine]
Two justices from that decision are on the current incarnation of the Rehnquist/Roberts Court: Scalia and Kennedy. Neither agreed with the Allegheny v ACLU holding, finding religious displays in courthouses and other buildings where the public transacts its business with government in no way offends the Establishment Clause. Indeed, Justices Scalia and Kennedy agree that clause does not, in fact, mean what it says. Rather, they insist the clause actually demands official respect for religion:
The requirement of neutrality...does not require a relentless extirpation of all contact between government and religion. Government policies of accommodation, acknowledgment, and support for religion are an accepted part of our political and cultural heritage, and the Establishment Clause permits government some latitude in recognizing the central role of religion in society. Any approach less sensitive to our heritage would border on latent hostility to religion...Id. [emphasis mine]
These two would be guided less by the words and spirit of the Establishment Clause than by religious America's faithful custom of ignoring it.

During the '90s religious conservatives took over the Republican Party and decided the Berlin Wall wasn't the only one deserving to be torn down. By early 2001, President Bush the Lesser had gone so far as to (ahem!) establish a White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives requiring five federal cabinet agencies to provide religious establishments access to what was at the time $40 billion of taxpayer funds. In a 2004 speech in New Orleans, the president stated the goal of the program unambiguously; "we want to fund programs that save Americans, one soul at a time.

In 2004, an amendment to the faith-based initiative budget bill intended to ensure that religious establishments providing taxpayer-funded services on behalf of the government couldn't discriminate on the basis of religious beliefs and practices was proposed. It failed miserably.

Nor is our current president above using public money to purchase the indulgence of religious voters. Among President Obama's first official acts — announced at the 2009 "National Prayer Breakfast," no less — was a minor retooling and expansion of GWB's faith-based initiatives. President Obama subsequently granted Catholic Charities an unprecedented $100 million federal contract delegating to them the ability to act on behalf of the Department of Health and Human Services during disaster emergencies.

This all means that, in the last decade, even the absurdly minimal "Speed Bump of Separation" has become a functional nullity. Under current law and policy, state and federal governments now freely promote religion, affiliate with religious establishments, and delegate governmental powers to religious institutions; all while allowing religious establishments the special right to discriminate on the basis of religious beliefs.

Have a problem with this? Well, the Rehnquist/Roberts Court has a message for you: "Tough shit."

In the curious case of Hein v. Freedom From Religion Foundation, 551 U.S. 587 (2007), the court's five conservative Catholics agreed that these faith-based programs and spending were magically immune from taxpayer's Constitutional challenge because the president performed the contested acts but legal precedent involved cases contesting acts of CongressThe astonishingly ultraregressive logic is that the degree (or even existence) of a violation is determined by the status of the violator

The president is dead, long live the king.

This decision also provides the eye-popping spectacle of the Judiciary encouraging the Legislature to further violate the Constitution by laundering money through the Executive, then slamming the courthouse door in the public's face. Singular work there, Justice Alito. You are indeed a conspicuous douchebag among several uniquely distinguished douchebags.

Our government's reflexive genuflection has merely encouraged increasingly aggressive and extremely bizarre state-sponsored religion-run-amok displays around the country, including this one I found particularly alarming.

I first learned of "Reverend" Bradlee Dean and his You Can Run But You Can't Hide ultraconservative self-styled "rock and roll" ministry during the Target/MN Forward/Tom Emmer controversy. Naturally, Dean has a radio show, where he commonly calls for jailing gay people, but in this episode, he actually endorsed the religiously justified murder of gays by claiming we're all rapacious serial sex-offenders.
Muslims are calling for the executions of homosexuals in America. This just shows you they themselves are upholding the laws that are even in the Bible of the Judeo-Christian God, but they seem to be more moral than even the American Christians. They know homosexuality is an abomination. If America won’t enforce the laws, God will raise up a foreign enemy to do just that. The bottom line is this…[gays] play the victim when they are, in fact, the predator. On average, they molest 117 people before they’re found out. How many kids have been destroyed, how many adults have been destroyed because of crimes against nature?
Reverend Dean also endorses the manifestly false revisionist history, originated by Bryan Fischer, spokesbigot for the Christian hate group American Family Association, that — contrary to all evidence that exists outside these morons' fevered imagination — the Nazis didn’t really persecute gays, Hitler was gay, the SA was a gay organization and together they promoted some big fascist homosexual agenda that caused WWII.

In short, Bradlee Dean is as slanderous as he is murderous, and a degenerate liar of truly Biblical dimensions.

And yet it was his Christian bona fides that caused Representative Ernie Leidiger to invite Dean to pray open Friday's session of the Minnesota legislature, on the day Minnesota's marriage discrimination amendment was scheduled to be debated. In his remarks, Dean managed to leave the gays alone, but took the opportunity to call into question President Obama's Christianity.

The leadership hastily claimed a religious mulligan and called for another prayer. All parties involved hastily distanced themselves from Dean and his ideas.

Leidiger himself insisted that he doesn't share Dean's views and the invitation he extended was "an honest mistake." Of course. So does he still support Minnesota's marriage discrimination amendment? Of course! Rep. Leidiger says the amendment "has nothing to do with gays. It's all about a statement on what marriage is."

No, Ernie, it isn't and if you were honest you'd admit it.

These antigay statutes and amendments don't exist to define what the institution of marriage is, they exist to exclude one lawful minority from the institution.

But even assuming you are correct, if marriage discrimination statutes and amendments are indeed a statement, they are most certainly a religious statement, and you have proven it so. Indeed, these statements are an overt endorsement of Biblical law writ as public law, imposing by force of public law the majority's religious doctrine upon believers and unbelievers alike; a punishment the state levies upon gays for their sins, not their crimes.

There was a time the Establishment Clause might have prevented this, rather than encouraged it.

1 chimed in:

Anonymous said...

You forgot to mention that in 2009, Catholic Bishops were invited to assist in the drafting of the Obamacare legislation. Since when does a tax-free religious organization have authorization to voice its opinion through lobby on legislation? Same with DOMA. Same with abortion legislation. That's what I have a big problem with. 501(c) organizations are not supposed to be politically active - but the Catholic Church is. So are other religious organizations. I'm in total agreement with you. Get religion out of the damn government; Jefferson was right about this and he was right about plenty of other things too. Too bad we haven't followed his advice. Our government already has enough problems as it is. Do we even have a constitution anymore?

Aubrey