Four links about abortion and government coercion *UPDATED*

Newborn baby seconds after deliveryI’m running late, but I had to share these four things with you:

First,  a New York Times opinion piece saying that it would be a gross travesty if the Supreme Court were to deny Hobby Lobby employees their absolute right to have a religious company pay for their birth control and abortifacient pills.

Second, an opinion piece by Pastor Rick Warren explaining why it would be a gross constitutional travesty if the Supreme Court were to hold that the First Amendment is limited to allowing people to attend a House of Worship, rather than to live their lives according to their faith.

I leave it to you to determine which of the two articles makes more constitutional, practical, and moral sense.

And to round things out:

Third, a news story from England about the fact that, not only did hospital’s incinerate fetus corpses (from both miscarriages and abortions) in a regular incinerator, two of them used the corpses to help heat the buildings.  I don’t think even the Nazis used the crematoria as heaters.

Fourth, a news story from England saying that the head of England’s largest abortion provider (and, presumably, a feminist) said that it’s perfectly fine to abort infants simply because they’re girls.  That is the reductio ad absurdum of abortion and feminism.

UPDATE:  AJ Strata has a lot of excellent thoughts about England’s newest energy source.

When it comes to same-sex marriage, the Civil Rights Act cannot trump the First Amendment *UPDATED*

Gay-flowerI find irritating gay marriage supporters’ reliance on the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to justify their contention that religious individuals cannot opt out of actively participating in gay marriage ceremonies.  They contend that the Act mandates that (1) a Christian baker, who welcomes gays seeking all other baked goods, must bake a gay-themed wedding cake; (2) a Christian photographer, who would happily take pictures of a gay birthday party, must photograph a gay wedding; (3) a Muslim florist, who would be delighted to sell bouquets to a gay couple, must bedeck a church with flower arrangements for a gay wedding; and (4) an orthodox Jew who owns a small hotel, and who doesn’t quibble at all when same-sex couples check into a room where they have privacy, must host a gay wedding in his reception hall.

I contend that these activists are dead wrong about the scope of the Civil Rights Act.  While, the Civil Rights Act s a virtuous law, it cannot trump the First Amendment.  I’ve made a handy-dandy chart outlining why I believe this to be the case (click on image to enlarge):

Bill of Rights versus Civil Rights Act 1

My usual disclaimer about my views regarding same-sex unions:  It is not semantic quibbling to say that I support civil unions but do not support same-sex marriage. While a religious organization can perform a marriage, it cannot perform a civil union. Civil unions are solely the state’s provenance. Leaving civil unions to the state and marriage to religion perfectly preserves the separation of church and state. (And as always, irony abounds here, because it is the Left that routinely sets up a hullabaloo about even the most minute intersection between church and state.)

If I had my way, I would remove marriage from the government’s vocabulary and make all unions — whether they are heterosexual or same-sex relationships — “civil unions.” States can then promote whatever unions they deem most beneficial for individuals, for children, and for society as a whole, while religious individuals and institutions need not worry that they will be targeted because they hew to the traditional definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman (or women).

People running the entire gamut of the gender-orientation spectrum — as recently defined by Facebook — manifestly believe that it’s important to get the state’s imprimatur on their relationships.  (This makes sense, since most of them are Left-leaning statists, who worship at the Big Government shrine.)  Civil unions joining together various sexual identity configurations (opposite sex, same sex, etc.) would give every American equal access to the benefits and burdens (economic, legal, and social) of a state-sanctioned relationship.  What civil unions would not do is force a direct confrontation between church and state.

The recent Obamacare abortion kerfuffle should warn people that a Progressive government won’t have second thoughts about forcing such a confrontation.  In 2008, when California had its Prop. 8 gay marriage referendum, I first raised my concern that gay marriage would result in a head-on collision between church and state.  A Progressive scoffed at this, telling me that, even though abortions are legal, the government has never gone toe-to-toe with the Catholic Church.  He was taken aback, and had no response, when I pointed out that the Catholic Church doesn’t provide, or withhold, abortions; it simply speaks against them doctrinally.  The Church does, however, marry people, and that leaves open the possibility that a gay couple will sue the church for refusing to perform a marriage service.

Mine was a good argument then, and it’s a better argument now.  With Obamacare, our Progressive-run federal government is forcing religious institutions and organizations be actively complicit in abortion by mandating that they fund abortifacients (and birth control) through “health” insurance.  (It’s “health” insurance, of course, only if the very act of becoming pregnant is a disease — which is funny when you think about it, because feminists in the 1960s and 1970s were outraged at a male patriarchy that treated pregnant women as if they were fragile and sick.)

I welcome your comments regarding this post.

UPDATE:  A lawyer I know commented that the Commerce Clause gives the federal government the power to legislate any type of commerce related activities.  (Sounds like a familiar argument, right?)  My response was a simple one:  The Commerce Clause represents a power that the People granted to the federal government.  The First Amendment represents an right inherent in each individual that the federal government (in theory) may not touch.  It seems to me that, especially when a law is narrowly drawn, the First Amendment, which states the People’s inherent rights, must trump the Commerce Clause, which merely reflects a power the People granted the government under contract.

 

The Left is wrong about AZ’s proposed law, but religious freedom supporters might have to boycott the Super Bowl to make that point

Gay marriage wedding cake photo by Giovanni Dall'Orto, 26-1-2008.I’ve mentioned gay marriage once already today as the latest non-issue to roil the left even as the world around us crumbles (a la the 1930s), the American military is reduced (a la the 1930s), and tyrannies are rattling their sabres (a la the 1930s).  Overnight, the same liberal who have been remarkably quiet about the Obamacare debacle, uprisings in Ukraine and Venezuela, the flat economy, etc., have found a new cause:  Arizona, they scream, is poised to enact the next generation of Jim Crow laws, in the form of Senate Bill 1062, an amendment to Arizona’s existing Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

This Jim Crow claim, which gained instant traction amongst America’s Progressive class, is flat-out wrong as a matter of law and fact.  Nevertheless, presumably in the foolish hope that it can appease the Left into backing off from its ongoing effort to destroy football, the Super Bowl committee is using economic blackmail against Gov. Jan Brewer, promising to pull the upcoming Super Bowl from Arizona if she signs the bill.  To the extent that the Left is using the Super Bowl as a cudgel against religious freedom, it may be time for supporters of traditional marriage to use their own economic pressure against the Super Bowl.

Better people than I have examined the proposed law, so I won’t rehash it.  Without addressing the proposed law’s specifics, though, it’s still possible to show the falsity of the Jim Crow comparison.

First, no mainstream American religion has ever had racial discrimination as a core religious doctrine.  All traditional religions, however, have heterosexual marriage as a central tenet of the faith.  To the extent Southern racists claimed Christianity as their justification for separating the races, all that they could point to was their own twisted interpretations of the Bible, a document that never concerned itself with racial discrimination.

Heterosexual marriage, however, is something quite different.  The Catholic Church elevates it to one of the seven sacraments, and all other traditional religions enshrine marriage between a man and a woman (or several women).  What this means is that the Southerners in times past who asserted their right to Jim Crow laws had no protected First Amendment right.  The contrary is true today:  Those people who will benefit from the proposed Arizona law have a strong First Amendment right that cannot simply be thrown aside.

Second, the Jim Crow laws were actual laws, relying on the state’s coercive power.  In other words, they represented government action discriminating against American citizens.  The Arizona law, however, does  not advocate any type of segregation or discrimination.  It simply says that Arizona’s government cannot use economic coercion, not to mention the threat of imprisonment, to force Arizona citizens to engage in religiously offensive activity.  There are also safeguards is the act:  The protesting citizen must show that he is acting consistently with his faith and that he has a track record of being faithful.

Jim Crow laws meant that the government was discriminatory and coercive in a matter that did not implicate religion.  By contrast, the proposed Arizona law narrows the range of situations in which the government can be discriminatory and coercive against people of faith.

Third, the Jim Crow laws mandated that Southern citizens refrain from providing goods, services, or jobs to blacks, or they mandated that those goods, services, or jobs, if provided, must be provided in the most limited, demeaning way possible.  The proposed Arizona law not only does not mandate any conduct, it’s also extremely narrow in scope.  It says only that genuinely religious people cannot be forced to participate actively in a specific event that clashes with their faith.  It’s worth keeping in mind here, as Eidolon so beautifully explained, that up until just a few years ago, every mainstream Democrat politician in America (including Obama and the Clintons) rejected gay marriage, a position consistent with all known human history.

Super Bowl ArizonaI have no doubt that Gov. Brewer is going to cave to Leftist pressure because of the economic risk that the Super Bowl will pull out of Arizona.  That seems to be the ultimate leverage, right?  But supporters of traditional marriage — or supporters of a religious individual’s right not to participate in a ceremony that mocks his beliefs — actually have an even bigger stick than the Super Bowl.  Just as the Super Bowl can boycott Arizona, believers in religious freedom can boycott the Super Bowl.  I mean, it’s a great game, but sometimes we have to subordinate pleasure to principle.

This is not how you get religious people to change their minds

Little Sisters of the PoorMona Charen has written an excellent article about the Obama administration’s use of Obamacare as a vehicle for attacking religion and religious people.  I urge you to read it.

I was particularly struck by one point Charen made, regarding Sebelius’s previously stated view about religious accommodation — to wit, that the religion, not the state, has to adapt:

Two years ago, announcing that non-profits like the Little Sisters would be required to go along with providing all contraceptives and abortifacients even if it violated their religious convictions, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius sniffed that the religious would “have to adapt.”

Put aside the fact that the Constitution, by making freedom of worship religion one of the paramount rights vested in the individual, means that the state, not the individual (or corporate collections of individuals), must adapt.  After all, we’re now used to hearing this combination of ignorance and disdain when the Obama crowd talks about the Constitution and constitutional rights.  That Sebelius erred there is a no-brainer.

The thing is that Sebelius didn’t just err about the Constitution.  She also erred about the way assimilation has always worked in America.  It hasn’t worked by persecuting religions (which is what the administration is doing now).  Instead, if you want to get rid of religion in America, you make the secular popular culture so attractive that religious people voluntarily abandon their doctrinal and procedural commitments to God.  Coercion begets resistance.  Enticement is what gets results.

Perhaps I should be grateful that, when it comes to Obamacare, the administration is clueless about this fact.

Does the Obama administration really want to get involved in a fight with the elderly nuns of the Little Sisters of the Poor?

Although Ted Cruz didn’t mention this during his magnificent 21 hour marathon attempt to reach past the media and speak directly to the American people, one of the things he’s fighting for is religious freedom.  Case in point:  Mother Theresa’s The Little Sisters of the Poor, which is made-up of mostly elderly, and definitely celibate, nuns has been forced to file suit in order to avoid the Obamacare mandate that it must provide all of its employees with insurance that includes birth control and abortifacients.

I can’t wait to see the wits in the internet come up with poster memes for that one.  Anyway, if you’d like to know more about this one and understand just how tyrannical Obamacare is, please check out the Anchoress’s post.

Should people who oppose war be obligated to pay for it via taxes?

Don Quixote and I were talking today about the Commerce Clause.  We weren’t saying anything original.  We were simply wondering whether the Supreme Court, in ruling on ObamaCare, will address the vast reach of the Commerce Clause and whether it will (a) reaffirm that reach; (b) reverse that reach entirely (which requires reversing the 1942 decision Wickard v. Filburn); or (c) chip away at Wickard because destroying it in one fell swoop would create a constitutional crisis.

Right now, the pro-ObamaCare people are actually correct when they argue that there’s no real difference between Wickard and ObamaCare.  In the former Congress forced a farmer to grow wheat, and the Supreme Court gave that coercion a judicial nod.  Under ObamaCare, Congress is forcing Americans to buy insurance, so why shouldn’t that get the nod too?.  We can parse the difference by saying that the real issue is whether the federal government benefits from the forced activity (which is essentially a tax) or whether third party companies profit (making the coercion a form of something else).

The real issue, though, isn’t where the money goes.  It is, instead, determining how far Congress can go in dictating American activity.  After all, to the extent our money supply is federal, every decision we make, including the pennies we toss into a Salvation Army pot, implicates federal monetary policies.

That talk led DQ and me to the intersection between taxes and religion.  The Constitution guarantees that the Federal government will not establish a religion and then force Americans to yield to that government church’s doctrines.  That right has been understood to mean that citizen’s religious beliefs are excluded from Congressional oversight.

The Constitution, however, also authorizes Congress to extract taxes from American citizens and nowhere does it say that citizens can withhold those funds based upon their religious beliefs.  To the extent that the Quakers were already a pacifist organization at the time the Constitution was first ratified, it cannot have escaped the Founders’ notice that, by specifically authorizing War powers in the Constitution, they were requiring pacifists to fund any war started under that constitutional power.

Beginning with the Vietnam War protests, peace activists of all religious and non-religious stripes have objected to having their tax dollars spent on War.  Two constitutional principles — the federal government’s authorization to wage war and the individual’s absolute right to freedom of worship — are in permanent opposition.

What do you think?  Does the natural right of the individual to freedom of worship trump the government’s power to tax and wage war?  Or is taxation and war such an inextricable aspect of government that civilization functions only when people cannot opt out?

My feeling is that, to the extent we have a republican democracy, those who don’t like war have the option of voting into power others who share their feelings.  If a sufficient majority of anti-war activists enter Congress, Congress can refuse to fund wars (as it did when a Democrat congress abandoned the South Vietnamese); or it can enact laws allowing people to deduct a certain percentage from their taxes, equal to the percentage cost of war in the federal budget; or, if the anti-war crowd has sufficient numbers, it can amend the Constitution to turn America into a pacifist nation or one that sees only pro-war people pay for war.

For me, this is an idle (albeit enjoyable) mental exercise, but in the larger scheme of things it’s not.  It is, instead, the real deal in determining whether, when it comes to core religious or moral beliefs, the government or the individual prevails.

In the context of the ObamaCare debate, it ties back into the mandate requiring religious institutions and organizations to pay for insurance that will provide birth control and abortifacients, even if those practices are antithetical to the payors’ core doctrinal beliefs.  I can understand how there could be a battle royale when it comes to asking pacifists to pay for war, since there are two conflicting constitutional rights involved.  I do not understand, though, how the government can force people to abandon an explicit constitutional right (freedom of worship) in favor of a right there is nowhere mentioned in the constitution — women’s alleged right to free birth control and abortions.

All of which leaves me very curious as to the ultimate outcome of the ObamaCare decisions.

As always, I love hearing your opinions, especially since so many of you are better informed or more analytical than I am.

I’m shocked! Shocked! The Obama administration has been lying again.

Conservatives of all religious stripes have been attacking the ObamaCare mandate regarding birth control and abortifacients on religious grounds.  The Obama administration’s response was to introduce an “accommodation” under which the insurance companies will henceforth offer these medicines and services for “free.”

Anybody past the age of five understands that, in this life, nothing is free.  The same opponents immediately pointed out that religious institutions and people of conscience will still be funding an insurance package that includes morally reprehensible products.  After all, someone has to pay, right?

Wrong! says the administration.  No one has to pay because all “health care” products have a negative cost effect on the insurance companies.  By forcing the companies to provide preventive services for free, the Obama administration is actually saving the company’s money.  Never mind the fact that, in the real world, if there really was a cost savings, the insurance companies would already be offering these products and services for free — and then, in order to compete in the insurance market, they would be passing these savings along to their customers.

Aside from ignoring marketplace realities, the Obama administration is apparently lying as well:

[T]here is no evidence that a mandate on insurance companies to provide contraception is cost-neutral. A search of PubMedturns up nothing.

Tory Bunce, policy director at the conservative Council for Affordable Health Insurance, told IBD, “In our research, we’ve looked at the cost of mandates on the state level. We’ve asked our members to price these mandates in their actual policies. What we’ve been told from the actuaries is that the contraceptive mandate costs 1%-3% of premiums.”

Read more here about yet another administration lie, one that a complicit MSM cheerfully passes along to a credulous public.

Kathleen Sebelius’ defense of the new ObamaCare mandate is pathetic

Pathetic is a very strong derogatory word, but I think it’s apt when looking at Kathleen Sebelius’ defense for the Obama administration’s recent mandate that all employers must purchase insurance that provides their employees with birth control, sterilization and morning-after pills.  A fisking is in order (all hyperlinks in original omitted):

One of the key benefits of the 2010 health care law is that many preventive services are now free for most Americans with insurance. Vaccinations for children, cancer screenings for adults and wellness visits for seniors are all now covered in most plans with no expensive co-pays or deductibles. So is the full range of preventive health services recommended for women by the highly respected Institute of Medicine, including contraception.

[Don't you love that concept of "free"?  In fact, nothing's free.  It's simply that the plan shifts the cost from employee to employer -- so that the employer has less money for salaries, other benefits, new job creation, facility maintenance, etc.  But it's all good in Obama-land.  I also like the way that the only one of the "full range of preventive health services recommended for women" that Sebelius names is the fairly non-controversial "contraception."  To those who haven't been paying attention to the details, the message is clear:  all those conservatives are getting their knickers into a twist for nothing.]

Today, virtually all American women use contraception at some point in their lives. And we have a large body of medical evidence showing it has significant benefits for their health, as well as the health of their children. But birth control can also be quite expensive, costing an average of $600 a year, which puts it out of reach for many women whose health plans don’t cover it.

[Again, in a marvel of sleight of hand, Sebelius is pretending that this whole uproar is about nothing more than contraception.  As a matter of law, deceit includes misrepresentation through omission.  This is deceitful.  Also, note that careful language, to the effect that "birth control can also be quite expensive."  Aside from the fact that those are wiggle words, she's doing the same thing that Babs Boxer did, which is to try to cast this as an economic issue, when it is, in fact, a much deeper one:  the morality and Constitutionality of forcing religious institutions to subsidize a doctrinally offensive practice.]

The public health case for making sure insurance covers contraception is clear. But we also recognize that many religious organizations have deeply held beliefs opposing the use of birth control.

[Is that all she's got?  The fact that for some people birth control can cost $600 per year is her entire "public health case for making sure insurance covers contraception" is her justification for a vast cost-shifting program that requires practically every employer in America to subsidize insurance that covers women in the workforce between age 16 and menopause?  Remember, this "clear" case will cost employers a bundle, a cost that will inevitably be shared out to old people, infertile people, gay people, celibate people, etc.  How nice of Sebelius, secure in her own lack of logic, to recognize that her little economic scenario might offend core religious beliefs.  Fear not, though.  She's got an answer for those offended people.]

That’s why in the rule we put forward, we specifically carved out from the policy religious organizations that primarily employ people of their own faith. This exemption includes churches and other houses of worship, and could also include other church-affiliated organizations.

[We covered this often, so I won't go on at length.  The exemption is so narrow that it pretty much covers only the smallest of churches, the one staffed by two nuns and a priest, all three of whom do the janitorial and grounds maintenance work too.]

In choosing this exemption, we looked first at state laws already in place across the country. Of the 28 states that currently require contraception to be covered by insurance, eight have no religious exemption at all.

[This one really steamed me.  Someone in the Obama administration forgot to read the Constitution.  You see, states have broader rights vis a vis individuals than does the Federal government.  This makes sense because (a) the feds have more coercive power than the states and (b) it's easier to relocate from a state you don't like, than to be forced to emigrate from a country that's oppressing you.  If Alabama is too rough, go to California.  If the Obama government is coming after you, though, it's a lot harder to find a safe haven.]

The religious exemption in the administration’s rule is the same as the exemption in Oregon, New York and California.

[See comments above.]

It’s important to note that our rule has no effect on the longstanding conscience clause protections for providers, which allow a Catholic doctor, for example, to refuse to write a prescription for contraception. Nor does it affect an individual woman’s freedom to decide not to use birth control. And the president and this administration continue to support existing conscience protections.

[Again, sleight of hand.  What doctors can or cannot do is not the issue.  The issue is that faith-based organizations are being forced by the federal government to subsidize a product that offends core doctrinal beliefs.  If that isn't a violation of the First Amendment, I don't know what is.]

This is not an easy issue. But by carving out an exemption for religious organizations based on policies already in place, we are working to strike the right balance between respecting religious beliefs and increasing women’s access to critical preventive health services.

[To which I have a last word:  Feh!]

To its credit, USA Today, which hosted Sebelius’ advocacy piece, openly disagrees with her — and provides a link to its opposition right in the body of her dishonest little essay.

Barbara Boxer’s Orwellian defense of the way in which the new healthcare mandate advances religious freedom *UPDATED*

Barbara Boxer has taken to the pages of the Huffington Post to explain why the administration’s mandate that all insurers provide birth control, including drugs that induce abortion, advances rather than restricts, religious freedom.  If you like Orwell’s Newspeak, Boxer’s writing is a thing of beauty and will certainly be a joy forever as a model of obfuscation and deceit.  I think it deserves a nice fisking, I really do:

When President Obama announced that because of health care reform, birth control would soon be available for free in new insurance plans, you would have expected universal approval.

[Why in the world would there be universal approval for a policy that requires people to underwrite birth control for everyone, including the 1%?  It's not as if birth control was unavailable before ObamaCare.  Nor is birth control expensive.  Condoms will not break anyone's bank and the pill is one of the cheapest products around.  So remind me again why I'm celebrating being forced to pay for other people's personal birth control choices?]

After all, virtually all women, including 98 percent of Catholic women, have used birth control at some point in their lives and 71 percent of American voters, including 77 percent of Catholic women voters, support this policy.

[See above.  It's not about who uses birth control, Catholic women included.  It's about who pays for birth control.  Welcome to Boxer's first piece of Orwellian sleight of hand.]

That is why I was stunned to read E.J. Dionne’s column in the Washington Post today denouncing a decision that should instead be lauded, especially by those of us who care about religious freedom, women’s health, and economic fairness.

[Now we get to it:  the policy advances "religious freedom . . . and economic fairness."  I'm completely unclear what's economically fair about a working class Mom or a small business having to fund a policy that will help Paris Hilton get her birth control for free.  But let's get to the real meat.  Let's find out how, in Obama/Orwell land, forcing everyone to pay for birth control and abortion pills advancing religious freedom.]

The truth is, the president’s decision respects the diverse religious views of the American people, who deserve the right to follow their own conscience and choose whether to obtain contraceptives, regardless of where they work. [Uh, Babs -- nobody is banning them from getting contraceptives now.  Last I looked, I could walk into any pharmacy and, for a very affordable price, get myriad over-the-counter contraceptives.  And I can go to my doctor and get a prescription for other affordable contraceptives.  This isn't about access; it's about funding.]  And that is what this policy guarantees — with one carefully drawn exception. This decision respects the deeply-held views of religious institutions. If their mission is primarily religious and the majority of their employees and clients share that faith, religious institutions do not have to provide contraceptive coverage to their employees.  [Here's where the real double-speak lies, since it overlooks the fact that the only entirely religious institutions are convents and monasteries.  Whether we're talking a vast Catholic educational institution, a soup kitchen, or the local parish, outside of ministering positions, the Catholic Church is required by law to hire people of different religions.  In any event, my understanding is that, again outside of the core religious functionaries, the Church freely hires those who are willing to accommodate its vision and goals.  In other words, the so-called "exception" probably covers six convents and a monastery.]

So, despite what his critics claim, the president’s policy does in fact respect religious freedom. [No, it doesn't, because it aims to prevent any Catholic institutions from competing in the employment marketplace, by intentionally creating a situation in which Catholic institutions can no longer give their employees insurance coverage.]  In addition, opponents of this policy shockingly ignore the facts: that it will reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and abortions in our country — a goal I thought we all shared.  [Non sequitur.  We're not talking about reducing unintended pregnancies.  We're talking about a government policy that forces a religious organization to fund a practice that is doctrinally abhorrent.]

The president followed the advice of the Institute of Medicine and other independent medical experts who recommended that health plans cover preventive services that women cannot afford to miss, including annual exams, HIV screening and, yes, contraception. These experts know the truth: The best way to prevent unintended pregnancies and reduce the number of abortions is to make birth control more accessible to women and men. Period. Without birth control, a couple has an 85 percent chance of having an unintended pregnancy within a year.

[See my last comment, above.  This is mixing Marxist apples with religious oranges.  We have a free country in which women already have access to birth control, sterilization, and abortion.  It's just that, until today, the government hasn't forced religious organizations to sponsor these practices.  It also ignores the fact that the Church believes that the best way to protect women is to teach them to treat sex as a sacred obligation within the bounds of marriage.  In other words, the Church's birth control is to take a stand against a promiscuous, hook-up culture.]

Finally, this decision will help working families by giving them access to free birth control. The cost of birth control can be prohibitive for many women, particularly in these difficult economic times. In fact, 34 percent of women voters report having struggled with the cost of prescription birth control. Surprisingly, Dionne glosses over the crucial issue of cost by recommending that the President simply require plans that won’t cover birth control to tell their employees where else they can buy it. He dismisses it as a “modest cost.” Well, tell that to the woman making minimum wage and struggling to buy groceries for her children — paying an extra $600 a year for birth control pills is a major expense for her, not a “modest cost.”

[Another red herring.  I have a suggestion, Babs.  Rather than making the Church pay for this "modest cost," why don't you tell the President to authorize the Keystone Pipeline?  That will create thousands of jobs and substantially drop the cost of oil.  This latter cost drives up the price of everything.  But it's clear that the President would rather attack the Catholic's core doctrines, than the Gaia worshippers' core doctrines.]

Improving access to affordable birth control is not a controversial issue for the American people, the vast majority of whom support family planning. The president’s decision should bring all sides together because it will help millions of women and their families. Certainly, that is a policy worthy of our praise.

[Doublespeak, doublespeak, doublespeak.  We have complete access in this country to birth control.  We have women who might be struggling to meet the cost because Obama's policies, including the stimulus and the refusal to exploit our energy resources, have made many things more expensive for many people.  Forcing religious institutions to fund practices that are morally abhorrent is not the way to balance out Obama's economic failings.]

Okay, enough with wandering around the cesspool that is Boxer’s brain and moral decency. If you really want to know what’s going on, I recommend Elizabeth Scalia’s article on the opening salvo in Obama’s war against the Catholic Church (and, of course, other religious organizations).

UPDATE:  Welcome, David Hogberg readers!

ObamaCare, the Catholic Church, and mandatory abortion payments

In the halcyon pre-Obama days, when Prop. 8 meant that gay marriage was a hot blogging issue, I argued that religion organizations, not the state, should be allowed to define what constitutes a “marriage,” with states confined to authorizing “civil unions.”  In that context, I commented upon the religious implications of the government mandating that a church engage in something that touches upon a core doctrinal belief:

The second problem right now with the emphasis on changing state definitions of marriage, rather than religious definitions, is the risk that there will be direct challenges between church and state. A lawyer I know assured me that this couldn’t happen because, for example, the Catholic church does not get sued because it opposes abortion.  That was facile reasoning.  While abortions may be a civil right, the Catholic church does not provide abortions.  What the Catholic church provides is communion, which is not a civil right, so the church can withhold it at will.  What happens, though, when the church provides something which is both a core doctrinal belief (marriage) and a state right (marriage)?  It’s a head-on collision, and I can guarantee you that the courts will get involved and that some activist judge will state that the Catholic Church is constitutionally required to marry gay couples.  (Emphasis added.)

I was prescient.  Mandating that the Catholic Church provide abortions is precisely what the Obama administration is doing.  Institutions such as the Catholic Church, which considers the right to life one of its core beliefs, must nevertheless fund abortions by providing insurance that makes abortion drugs available to all women on demand.  Funding an act is tantamount to committing that act yourself.

Whether you support a woman’s right to have an abortion or not, surely anyone who is intellectually honest must see that it is morally wrong to make a religious institution fund it.  To use an extreme analogy, this is the beginning of a continuum that ends with Jews being forced to dig their own mass burial pits before being lined upon along the edge of those pit and shot.

I assume that those who are celebrating this mandate will contend that, throughout the Bush years, they were forced to see their tax dollars go to fund a war they did not support, one that saw thousands of people die.  Likewise, those who oppose the death penalty must nevertheless pay taxes that fund the judicial and prison system.  That argument is a red herring.  The Constitution explicitly authorizes both war and capital punishment, which are legitimate government powers.  Those who don’t like that reality are welcome to try a Constitutional amendment to wipe out the government’s war powers and do away with capital punishment.  I don’t see that happening anytime soon.

There is nothing in the Constitution, however, that authorizes the Federal government (and, by extension through the 14th Amendment, any state government) to mandate that a religious institution be complicit in an act it believes constitutes murder.  More to the point, the Constitutional grant of religious freedom, by which the government agrees to stay out of managing a religious institutions affairs, either practical or doctrinal, should prohibit such conduct entirely.  This is one more example, as if we needed it, of the Obama administration’s fundamental lawlessness.

 

Hey, I want free medicine too

People are rightly protesting on religious grounds the fact that Obama has mandated that health care plans must cover birth control and morning after pills:

Most healthcare plans will be required to cover birth control without charging co-pays or deductibles starting Aug. 1, the Obama administration announced Friday.

The final regulation retains the approach federal health officials proposed last summer, despite the deluge of complaints from religious groups and congressional Republicans that has poured in since then. Churches, synagogues and other houses of worship are exempt from the requirement, but religious-affiliated hospitals and universities only get a one-year delay and must comply by Aug. 1, 2013.

Aside from the religious aspects, I think this whole thing is grossly unfair.  What about my migraines?  I should get free medicine.  And how about the heartburn that’s plagued me since my pregnancies?  I want free Prilosec.  Many of you, I’m sure, have medicines that you think should be free too.

My point is that, entirely aside from the ethics of forcing religious institutions to fund birth control, it’s simply wrong to make everyone in America underwrite one specific type of prescription.  Of course, in the world of socialized medicine, where the president gets to call the shots, rather than the people who actually foot the bills, there is no right and wrong:  there’s only politics.  The Hell with religious freedom or other outdated Constitutional doctrines.  We live in a modern age, with a modern president, one committed to turning us into the dying old world of Europe.

The President’s religious desire to reverse Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

On the subject of the “secular humanism religion” that guides liberals, it’s informative to read this quotation from William Kristol, writing about Obama’s sudden imperative need to do away with Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in the American military:

But the repeal is something that Obama campaigned on. He believes in it. But with all due respect to his sincerely held if abstractly formed views on this subject, it would be reckless to require the military to carry out a major sociological change, one contrary to the preferences of a large majority of its members, as it fights two wars. What’s more, it isn’t a change an appreciable number of Americans are clamoring for. And even if one understood this change to be rectifying an injustice, the fact is it’s an injustice that affects perhaps a few thousand people in a nation of 300 million.

But, “It’s the right thing to do,” said the president.

Here is contemporary liberalism in a nutshell: No need to consider costs as well as benefits. No acknowledgment of competing goods or coexisting rights. No appreciation of the constraints of public sentiment or the challenges of organizational complexity. No sense that not every part of society can be treated dogmatically according to certain simple propositions. Just the assertion that something must be done because it is in some abstract way “the right thing.”

In other words, although the liberal’s faith doesn’t derive from God, it’s a faith all the same.  The only difference is that liberals, because their unnamed God is the government itself, have no problem crossing the Constitutional dividing line and using the coercive power of government to force people to worship at their shrines.

For a cogent discussion of the practical problems that repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell would create, read J.E. Dyer’s article and her earlier post on the subject.  And for a revealing look at the military bureaucracy’s lumbering agreement to comply with the President’s ill-thought out wishes, check this out, at the Daily Caller.

Leftist tactics to scare the uninformed about America’s religious freedoms *UPDATED*

I got a very hysterical form letter from Americans United for Separation of Church and State.  What’s impressive about it is that Barry Lynn, the Executive Director who purportedly authored this fevered screed, is totally uninformed about the nature of America’s Constitutional mandates regarding religion.  Here’s what the First Amendment says:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Boiled down to its essence, the First Amendment says that government in American may not control people’s religious worship.

By stating this principle, the Founding Fathers sought to distinguish themselves from the European tradition that saw government actively interfering in people’s religious practices.  On the one hand, European governments dictated which religion citizens should worship and often controlled the doctrinal substance of that state approved religion.  On the other hand, these same governments brought harsh civil penalties to bear on those who refused to comply with state religious mandates.  The easiest example to point to, of course, is England, which was the situation against which the Founders were reacting.  Not only were the State and the Church of England inextricably intertwined (with the monarch as head of the church), but England in the late 18th Century still had multiple laws on its books barring people who were not C of E from serving in the government or even obtaining a higher education.

Although Leftists deny it, Thomas Jefferson was imply reiterating the principles in the First Amendment when he coined the phrase “separation of church and state” (a phrase found nowhere in the Constitution itself).  Although Progressives like to forget this fact, Jefferson was a very religious man, although he was sufficiently private in his worship that he avoided incorporating it into public ceremony, as Washington and Adams had done.

In late 1801, while still President, Jefferson received a letter from the Danbury Baptist Association complaining that, as a religious minority in Connecticut, the state was treating their religious rights as privileges from the legislature, rather than immutable rights inherent in all citizens.  Jefferson’s reply makes it plain that the Legislature can neither grant nor deny religious rights, since it is not the responsibility of the American government to interfere in church function and doctrine (emphasis mine):

To messers Nehemiah Dodge, Ephraim Robbins, & Stephen S. Nelson a committee of the Danbury Baptist association in the state of Connecticut.

Gentlemen

The affectionate sentiments of esteem & approbation which you are so good as to express towards me, on behalf of the Danbury Baptist association, give me the highest satisfaction. my duties dictate a faithful & zealous pursuit of the interests of my constituents, and in proportion as they are persuaded of my fidelity to those duties, the discharge of them becomes more & more pleasing.

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man & his god, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state. [Congress thus inhibited from acts respecting religion, and the Executive authorised only to execute their acts, I have refrained from presenting even occasional performances of devotion presented indeed legally where an Executive is the legal head of a national church, but subject here, as religious exercises only to the voluntary regulations and discipline of each respective sect.] Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.

I reciprocate your kind prayers for the protection and blessing of the common Father and creator of man, and tender you for yourselves and your religious association, assurances of my high respect & esteem.

(signed) Thomas Jefferson
Jan.1.1802.

It is manifestly clear from perusing both the Bill of Rights and Jefferson’s own letter that none of the Founders intended that religious people must be barred from civil participation.  They can bring their values to bear in the civic arena, even if those values are religiously inspired.  What they cannot do is hijack the government so that the government uses its coercive powers to force people to worship a specific faith, to interfere with a religion’s doctrine, or to punish or ostracize people for practicing a faith that the government does not sanction.

These subtleties — the difference between government controlled religion, which is bad, and a religious people whose religion informs their conduct, which is constitutionally neutral — completely eludes the anti-religious Left.  They want people who enter government to check their religion at the door.  They are incapable of understanding that the complete absence of religion is a religion in and of itself, with faith in government and its bureaucracy being substituted in place of faith in God and his morality.

During the 1980s, religious people called this Leftist faith “Secular Humanism.”  As a thoughtless, knee-jerk Leftist myself during those years, I actually appreciated the label (“Hah!  I’m a Humanist”), but rejected the Religious Right’s contention that Secular Humanism is itself a religion.  To the Left, something can be a religion if the word “God” (or, if you’re polytheistic, “Gods”) is involved.  None of us on the Left understood (or, at least, the thoughtless amongst us refused to understand) that Secular Humanism is a religion because it is a comprehensive belief system.  The only difference between Secular Humanism and traditional “religion” is that, in place of an omnipotent deity, secular humanists worship an omnipotent government that rejects traditional Judeo-Christian moral and social values.

It is this Secular Humanist faith that explains the letter I received today, parts of which I reproduce below, along with my interlineations in red:

Do you know how the Religious Right is now targeting your neighborhood, and every town and city in America?

By joining local school boards and local communities . . . winning local elections . . . and creating local precedents with NATIONWIDE consequences . . .

Dear Friend,

They want to hit you right where you live.

The Religious Right has hijacked Christianity and claims to speak for all people of faith . . . and its leaders and activists want to force their ultraconservative agenda on you and your community[You'll notice that Americans United does not argue, because it can't, that religious Christians are trying to enforce their faith on Americans, which would be unconstitutional.  Instead, it just makes it sound utterly evil that religious people want to get involved in local politics to advance their values, something that the Founders generally and Jefferson specifically would appreciate.]

The goal of the movement’s members is nothing less than to shatter the wall of separation between church and state . . . and force you to live a “moral” life.

Their morals!  [Again, this statement ignores the fact that our government is set up so that all citizens, including religious citizens, are welcome to get into politics to advance their values, including their "moral" values.  They just can't use politics as a means of forcing you into their church, something even the hysterics at Americans United cannot say is the case.]

And if they can’t get into your public schools with creationism . . . if they can’t get into your pharmacy to deny patients and their doctors the right to make medical decisions . . . if they can’t use the power of their pulpits to choose your political representatives . . .  [If they can't do all that, then they'll leave more room for the Leftists to get into your public schools with endless scare tactics and indoctrination regarding anthropogenic climate change, pro-illegal alien propaganda, pornographic sex education, and identity politics and anti-marriage activism.]  UPDATEPer Atlas Shrugged, we now know that Lynn’s particular brand of non-deity center religion is being actively foisted onto American students.

. . . Then they’ll zero in on friendlier, more willing targets to get the political clout and legal precedents they need . . . which then may have nationwide ramifications.

FROM THE BOTTOM UP, THE RELIGIOUS RIGHT IS WORKING TO CHANGE NATIONAL AND LOCAL POLICIES

[I've deleted the bit in Barry Lynn identifies himself, his career and his organization.]

Throughout those years, we’ve seen what happens when religious extremists like Pat Robertson and James Dobson get their way:

* A tax-funded “faith-based” initiative that forces citizens like you and me to pick up the tab for the Religious Right’s ideology-based social agenda.  [I have no idea what Lynn is talking about here.  As I detailed above, as a tax payer and a parent, I'm currently paying for my children to learn about increasing discredited AGW, the virtues of illegal immigration, radical sex education, anti-marriage values, victim-based identity politics, etc., all of which are part of the Leftist religious canon.  After all that kind of intellectual garbage, just how bad can the Religious Right's "ideology-based social agenda be?]

* “Marriage amendments” that turn out anti-gay voters and swing elections.  [This is a perfect example of Lynn's confusion about the different between a state religion, and religious people speaking up within a state.  The religious right did not seek to force people into a religious viewpoint about marriage in California.  That is, no one said, when we pass this law, you'll all have to become Mormons.  But people who are religious and take seriously the fact that Western religions limit marriage to a man and a woman certainly did get out and vote.  What's really ironic about Lynn's sentence here is that it was Obama's presence in the election that was the "swing" factor, since the same blacks who made their way to the polls so they could vote for him, also happen to come from religious backgrounds that created in them values antithetical to gay marriage.]

* Houses of worship endorsing political candidates, violating their tax-exempt status.  [If I remember my election history correctly, the Democratic candidates were barely able to peel themselves out of Leftist houses of worship, and had Leftist religious people crawling all over them.  I'm unaware of any celebrated case in which the IRS went after any church, Left or Right, for encouraging its voters values in such a way that the voters learned towards one candidate or another.  Churches are allowed to teach values -- and in heated elections, those values may steer voters in one direction or another.  This is not the same as endorsing a candidate.]

* More restrictions on reproductive choices chipping away at the right of access to contraceptives and services that citizens have worked so hard to win since the 1960s.  [I don't need to make my argument here again about the difference between religious people using the government to force all people to Catholicism or Baptism, so that they forswear abortion, something that hasn't happened and won't happen, and the fact that people of faith are disturbed by the number of abortions performed annually, and who seek to change the laws to change that situation.  What I do find interesting, however, is the way in which Lynn's sentence makes it sound as if religious people aren't "citizens."  "Citizens" work for abortion; religious people are scary zombies who block citizens from their Progressive-guaranteed rights.  That kind of phrasing highlights the way in which the Left is incapable of acknowledging that religious people are citizens and that the Constitution clearly allows them to use government to advance their values, although not to advance their specific faith.]

I’ll stop here.  Believe it or not, there are three more single-spaced hysterical pages with this types of ignorant, mean-spirited demagoguery.

Long-time readers know that I don’t even really have a dog in this fight, as I am a non-religious Jew.  I am, however, intellectually honest, and it disgusts me to see the Left try to use our Constitution and the deeply religious Thomas Jefferson as vehicles by which they shut religious people out of politics and civic discourse.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News

Civil and religious marriage *UPDATED*

This is the second in my series of marriage posts.  My first draft, which was a failure, tried to trace the history of marriage, something that’s much better done by better informed people.  What I realized from that valiant, although pointless and time-wasting effort, is that what I’m really interested in is a religion’s interest in marriage, a state’s interest in marriage, and the intersection between those two in America.  This post may ultimately not end up being any more useful or interesting than my abandoned effort, but it still accurately represents some of the things I believe we need to think about before signing off on gay marriage.

Before I dive into the substance of my post, let me say here what I always say in connection with these gay marriage posts.  I think gay marriage represents a sea change in human relationships.  Since the dawn of time, in all cultures, marriage has involved men and women, and that’s true whether we’re talking polygamy or monogamy.  Even in Greece, a culture people like to point to as one that encouraged homosexual relationships, marriage itself was still strictly a male/female event.  This traditional approach to marriage reflects basic biology, something I explored more here, in my post about the procreative component of marriage.

In other words, what’s being proposed now is something that runs counter to all of human history — and a facet of human history deeply rooted in human biology.  That’s not in and of itself a good reason to issue a categorical “no” to gay marriage.  It is, however, a very good reason not to rush into the subject and definitely not to let judges, who are one of the weakest links analytically, intellectually and emotionally in modern society, to make the decision for us.  This is a topic that requires debate and thoughtful analysis, and I’m doing my bit here, at my blog.  So, back to the post:

Religion and marriage:

As far as I know — and please correct me if I’m wrong — all of the world’s major religions incorporate marriage as a component of faith.  The Catholic Church defines marriage as one of the sacraments.  For the uninitiated (and I count myself among that crowd), Wikipedia has what seems to me to be a nice summary of what the sacraments are:

According to the Catechism, Jesus instituted seven sacraments and entrusted them to the Church.[46] These are Baptism, Confirmation, the Eucharist, Penance, Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders and Holy Matrimony. Sacraments are visible rituals which Catholics see as providing God’s grace to all those who receive them with the proper mindset or disposition (ex opere operato).

In other words, marriage, if it is at all possible to achieve that state, is an integral part of the Catholic faith.  Deliberately shunning marriage is, I presume, tantamount, to turning your back on God’s grace. Although I’m shaky on Protestant doctrine when it comes to marriages, I have the sense that, while Protestantism abandoned the terminology of the “sacraments,” it kept the concept, with marriage being an integral expression of religious faith.

Jews too see marriage as an essential act of faith, putting into effect both (1) God’s direct command that his followers are fruitful and multiply, and (2) God’s intention, expressed when he created Eve as Adam’s companion, that men and women form lasting companionable partnerships.

And as we all know Islam also strongly advocates the marital relationship.

A little research reveals that in Hinduism, too, marriage is a sacred religious covenant.  About.com has a brief summary, which I quote from here at length, since it leads to my next point about religion and marriage:

In Hinduism, man and woman represent the two halves of the divine body. There is no question of superiority or inferiority between them. However, it is a scientific fact that the emotional side is more developed in women. This does not mean that intellectually, women are inferior. Hindu history is witness to the super-women, like Gargi, Maitreyi and Sulabha, whose faculty of reasoning was far superior to that of ordinary mortals. But owing to organic differences in their physical and emotional constitutions, women are temperamentally more emotional than men.

[snip]

The idea behind the institution of marriage in Hinduism is to foster, not self-interest, but love for the entire family. Practice of self-restraint is the ideal of marriage in Hinduism. It is the love and duty cultivated for the entire family that prevents the break-ups.

[snip]

The present-day Hindu husbands fail to recognize the sacrifices and lofty ideals of Hindu wives, and thus compel them to follow the worst of the West. During the nuptial ceremony in a Vedic marriage, both the bride and the bridegroom take oath for the practice of self-restraint, to work together for the welfare of the family and to help each other to attain spiritual peace. This lofty ideal of sanctity is a great gift of Hinduism to the world at large.

As you probably noticed, the above description has all sorts of pragmatic reasons for marriage:  self-restraint, companionship, family and the complimentary nature of male and female emotional lives.  Judaism, too, has a focus on marriage that can be seen as very pragmatic, and untied to things spiritual:  children and companionship.  Indeed, I’m willing to bet that, if you go back in time and study the origin of marriage in each of the world’s religion, you’ll see that it’s tied to some practical goal.

At this point, of course, advocates for changing marriage start to argue that since marriage is a pragmatic means to an end even in the context of religion, religions should be changed to accommodate gay marriage, which is also a means to an end of companionship, family and (through adoption or insemination), children.  This argument is plain wrong, though.

Regardless of the reasons the religions advance for marriage, the fact remains that heterosexual marriage is an integral part of each religion, and is seen as a necessary step for any given religion’s practitioners to take to achieve religious fulfillment or commitment.  A civil society cannot change these fundamental doctrinal facts, no matter how much it is able to rationalize the reasons for the nexus between marriage and faith.  Any given religion’s control over the marriage of its practitioners is sacrosanct and untouchable no matter how much you try to rationalize it away.

The state and marriage:

The modern state encourages marriage.  Why?  Originally, states were inextricably intertwined with religion.  Starting with Constantine, where the ruler went, so went the people.  If religion demanded marriage, well then, dammit, so would the religious state.  That’s not the case anymore, especially in America.  Thanks to the First Amendment, the American government cannot mandate that everyone get married because “X” religion says so, nor can it demand that all who want to get married have to do so under the aegis of “X” religion.

Although there can be no religious element to marriage in American, the state is nevertheless heavily vested in the union of men and women.  This involvement is completely separate from religious unions, although, confusingly, they share the same name:  marriage.  The deal in America is that, if you want to have a solely religious marriage, that’s fine — only you won’t get any of the benefits the state extends to people who simultaneously enter in a civil marriage contract.  What are those benefits?  Here’s a partial list proponents of gay marriage assembled (from an alleged total of 1400 benefits), along with some comments from me, in blue:

  • joint parenting; [This is a biological one:  his sperm, her egg.  However, it can be circumvented by having the non-biological parent adopt the child, something that has happened in step-families for centuries]
  • joint adoption; [My understand of adoption is that both parents have to be vetted.  I assume there's an extra procedural hurdle to issue the adoption papers for John Smith and John Doe, as opposed to Mrs. and Mr. John and Jane Doe.  However, it certainly hasn't stopped numerous gay couples I know from adopting.  Adoption is always a procedural pain in the neck from the stories I've heard.]
  • joint foster care, custody, and visitation (including non-biological parents); [See above.]
  • status as next-of-kin for hospital visits and medical decisions where one partner is too ill to be competent;  [This can be arranged contractually.]
  • joint insurance policies for home, auto and health;  [This can be arranged contractually.]
  • dissolution and divorce protections such as community property and child support; [This can be arranged contractually.]
  • immigration and residency for partners from other countries;  [I'll agree that this is definitely a difference between people married, versus people merely committed to each other.  Marriage would seem to add some credibility to the claim that the non-resident is involved in a true relationship with the American citizen, rather than a sham for immigration purposes.  Given that both our immigration policies and are marital policies are increasingly sham-like themselves, it's hard to believe that this is an insurmountable hurdle.]
  • inheritance automatically in the absence of a will; [Write a will.  Most married people I know have written wills anyway, because the "one size fits all" of an intestacy statute is a disaster waiting to happen.]
  • joint leases with automatic renewal rights in the event one partner dies or leaves the house or apartment;  [In San Francisco, landlord tenant laws are such that this is not a valid reason to claim marriage as a benefit over non-marriage.  Once you're in an apartment, you've got squatters rights, which is one of the reasons I refused to yield to my husband's importuning that we buy residential properties in SF to rent.  I don't know the law in places that don't protect tenants as much.  Again, though, change the contract.]
  • inheritance of jointly-owned real and personal property through the right of survivorship (which avoids the time and expense and taxes in probate); [Properties can be held in joint tenancy by non-married people.  This is again a contractual matter.  You can set up trusts, re-title property, etc.]
  • benefits such as annuities, pension plans, Social Security, and Medicare; [I have no idea about this, but suspect that it's true that federal government benefits cannot be amended by contract.]
  • spousal exemptions to property tax increases upon the death of one partner who is a co-owner of the home; [I don't know about this -- taxes are a blank slate for me -- but I assume that there are again contractual or commercial steps one can take to circumvent this problem.  I freely concede I may be wrong here.]
  • veterans’ discounts on medical care, education, and home loans; joint filing of tax returns;  [Joint filing of tax returns is no privilege, it's a penalty.  I don't know about veteran's benefits but, given that the military won't recognize homosexual relationships, I'm sure it's true.]
  • joint filing of customs claims when traveling; [BFD.]
  • wrongful death benefits for a surviving partner and children; [If you've adopted the children, I don't believe that they can be deprived of wrongful death benefits.  I don't know about the surviving partner, although I assume that, again, most business and insurance companies have set this up so that a person can be named contractually.]
  • bereavement or sick leave to care for a partner or child; [Again, adoption solves the child problem; and I don't know about the partner problem.]
  • decision-making power with respect to whether a deceased partner will be cremated or not and where to bury him or her; [This can be resolved contractually, if the deceased is an adult.]
  • crime victims’ recovery benefits;  [Don't know.]
  • loss of consortium tort benefits; [Probably depends on the state in which the consortium tort benefits are claimed.]
  • domestic violence protection orders;  [Depends on the state, I guess.  Also, anyone who is the victim if violence can, in theory, get a protective order.  The problem is that, whether you're partnered or not, they don't do much good.  Also, if you're not married, you theoretically have an easier time getting out of the domestic violence situation than someone who is married and whose life, as a matter of law, is deeply entwined with that of the violent partner.  In other words, this sounds redundant.]
  • judicial protections and evidentiary immunity [Evidentiary immunity -- no doubt about it.  There is no law saying a gay partner cannot be forced to testify.  I don't know about other judicial protections.]

Clearly, a lot of the automatic benefits — and burdens — bestowed on married couples require some extra work for gay people.  And there are definitely some benefits that won’t go to gay people at all.  None of these details, though, change the fundamental question:  Is it in the state’s interest to make all these benefits automatically available to gay people?  States that have legalized civil unions have said yes, taking away the complaint that the local state government is depriving gays of the same ease of access to government benefits that is granted to straight married couples.  Presumably, the federal government could do the same thing without actually calling it marriage.

But I’ve digressed — again.  Let me restate my question:  Why the heck does a civil state care about marriage to the point where it extends all these benefits?  There are lots of answers.  I’ll start with a few, and leave you to fill in the rest.

One of the primary reasons is convenience, both for the married people and for the state.  Since our culture’s default setting is for heterosexuals to pair up, and since our Judeo-Christian heritage has seen to it that this pairing up falls under the rubric of marriage, it’s infinitely easier if the state treats these pairs as a single entity.  Half the tax returns (even if people are penalized for filing them), half the number of adoption forms, half the this and half the that.  This also allows for huge numbers of presumptions about parenting — who has genetic rights in the children, who can be relied upon to care for the children, who would want his or her estate to go to the children, etc.  The efficiency of treating permanently joined couples as one, and of making certain presumptions about them as a matter of law, is overwhelming.  This benefit — to the state and to married people — would not change if marriage were extended to gay couples.

Intangible societal benefits also flow from marriage, and this is one of those things where the state’s benefit is our benefit too.  As I’ve mentioned in my first post about gay marriage, marriage stabilizes men by focusing their testosterone on the protection of their wives and children and, by extension, on the protection of a stable, coherent society that will provide the maximum benefit to those same wives and children.  Marriage is also beneficial to women since, biologically, they spend a lot of down time being pregnant and caring for children.  A stable marriage ensures that they won’t have to be dependent on themselves, strangers or the state for these basic needs.

Stable married couples also tend to demand stable communities.  To begin with, they want safe, attractive communities for their children.  They also tend to be much, much more sociable.  The moment I had children, I realized I’d joined the largest club in the world.  It was no longer a matter of sporting the right clothes, or walking a dog in the right neighborhood, or having the right hobby in order to find people to talk to.  Everyone who has ever had or wanted a child was an instant acquaintance.  This creates intangible community bonds that are invisible to those who don’t have children.  These bonds, again, encourage a thriving society where everyone, for his or her own benefit, works for the common good.

Frankly, gays with children can join this club too, and would have these interests too, so the state should be encouraging gays to have children.  The question, of course, is whether marriage is a necessary prerequisite to encourage gays to have children.  I don’t have the answer to that.

Do the above factors include “encouraging traditional values?”  I don’t know.  If by “traditional values” we mean having children and raising them to be useful members of society, defending our country, keeping our communities safe and thriving, etc., the factors I’ve set out above are definitely policies aimed at preserving and encouraging traditional values, whether or not civil marriage is extended to gays.  If we think “encouraging traditional values” must include as one of those values “heterosexual marriage,” we come to a standstill.  In that case, the state cannot simultaneously preserve heterosexual marriage while opening marriage to gays.

At the civil side, it all seems to boil down to what one believes should be the state’s ultimate goals.  If one believes that heterosexual marriage is an ultimate goal, or if one believes that the nature of the gay lifestyle is such that, even extending marriage to gays would not bring them into the “stable society” fold, the debate is over.  There is no societal virtue in having the state recognize gay marriage.  If one believes, however, that gay marriage would increase the state’s ability to impose on its citizens all of the traditional virtues (but for heterosexual marriage, of course), while simultaneously increasing convenience for both the state and its citizens, gay marriage becomes a viable option.

Religious freedom in America versus gay marriage

Again, though, that’s not the end of the analysis.  We continue to have problems because of America’s unique nature, which has seen the law develop so that the courts and the government have the power to prevent private individuals and organizations from depriving fellow citizens of rights.  Even if we agree that the state will not be compromised by allowing gay marriage, we still run the risk of creating a Constitutional Frankstein’s monster.

As we’ve seen already from legions of newspaper stories, both at home and abroad, gays are routinely, and successfully, suing religious individuals and organizations (or bringing administrative proceedings) in an effort to force them to fall in line with state norms about homosexuality, even if those norms are antithetical to religious norms.  Individuals and organizations that don’t want to extend benefits to same sex partners, or who don’t want to arrange adoptions for gay couples, or who don’t want to use their venues to host same sex marriages, or whatever else is being asked of them, are being challenged through the courts and through government bureaucracies.  Their religious convictions are being attacked through state vehicles.

These bureaucratic and judicial attacks would seem to run directly counter to the First Amendment’s first clause: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”  The government is prohibiting the free exercise of someone’s religion if it forces that person to lose his livelihood or his home or his business if he won’t engage in acts antithetical to what are still fairly mainstream religious beliefs.

In other words, no matter how one tries, as I did, to make a pro and con list of the religious and civil aspects of marriage, one still runs into a single, possibly insurmountable problem:  For the state, in the form of the federal government, to impose gay marriage throughout American means that Congress will, by definition, have enacted a law prohibiting the free exercise of someone’s religion.  That violates the First Amendment.  The only way not to violate it is to enact a Constitutional amendment, something that might state “Congress may pass a law allowing gay marriage and that will be the exception to the prohibition against Congress passing a law prohibiting the free exercise of religion.”  Absent that change, which is an enormous undertaking, I actually don’t see how the feds can allow gay marriage without violating the existing Constitution.

Of course, given the increasing activism of the Courts and government bureaucracies, and their routine willingness to subordinate religious freedom to the intangible goal of equality of outcome, my question, while academically interesting is probably moot.  I can assure you that, in an Obama Supreme Court, the justices will easily find some intangible right to gay marriage that entirely trumps the First Amendment.

I feel I should state some sort of conclusion here, but I don’t rightly now what my conclusion is.  I can summarize my argument, though:  Most religions do not and cannot be forced by the state to recognize gay marriage.  The state’s more pragamatic interests in marriage probably would not be too greatly compromised by gay marriage.  The state’s vision of society might or might not be comprised by gay marriage, depending on what that vision is.  But all of that may be moot because it appears that, if Congress recognizes gay marriage, which is the ultimate gay demand, it will create a fundamental clash with the First Amendment that will be resolved only by the Supreme Court.  And as the tight victory for the Second Amendment reveals, even the currently composed Supreme Court could go either way.  An Obama Supreme Court will toss religious freedom out the window.

As is always the case, the way this should be resolved is through a Constitutional amendment (which is how the abortion matter should also be addressed), but the activists will never go that route when they think they have the Courts in their pockets.

Your thoughts?

UPDATE: Here are to further points. First, this is an example of what happens in a society when men don’t get the calming influence of marriage and the societal-beneficial investment into a family.

Second, I wanted to point out something I hadn’t made clear in my post, namely the fact that, in America, freedom of worship is not limited to doctrinal practices.  That is, it’s not simply that the government can’t make a law prohibiting church services or banning the reading of the Torah.  In case after case (many involving Jehovah’s witnesses in the 30s through 50s), the Court’s have held that people cannot be forced to engage in day-to-day life practices antithetical to their beliefs.  The most obvious example is the fact that the government has routinely issued conscientious objector status to those who can show that they are true adherents of religions that genuinely have pacificism as a core part of the belief system (such as Quakers).

UPDATE II:  It’s people like this gentleman (and I’m being generous saying, not only “gentleman” but also “people”), who are common fixtures at gay pride parades, who may give some Americans the impression that gays are agitating for marriage for reasons other than merging with societal norms.  That is, perhaps they’re just making a political point:  We want it, not because it leads us to our ultimate goals of societal normalcy, but because we currently don’t have it.

UPDATE III: Scott’s comment and an email from DQ both tell me I need to clarify something. Here goes:

The distinction I have in mind when I make my First Amendment argument is predicated on the differences between “mere” cultural practices and core religious doctrine. Both Scott and DQ are correct that there is nothing to stop the state from issuing civil marriage licenses. No one would contend that, if it did so, though, that law would force religious authorities — rabbis, priests, imams, etc. — to perform gay marriages.  I know that the state would not get involved in church affairs in that way.

The people I’m thinking about are the ordinary citizens whose lives or livelihoods intersect with the marriage business. Examples of this would be the Massachusetts Catholic charity that was put out of business because it felt doctrinally barred from giving children to gay couples. Another example, which happened in England (but could happen here under new laws) is the owner of a fancy reception hall being fined and put out of business because he won’t open his home to gay weddings.

Incidentally, the ban against polygamy (which DQ mentioned in his email to me as an example of the US messing with religious marital principles) was grossly unconstitutional if one believes that, as of the 1860s, Mormonism was, in fact, a true religion. The only way the US gov got away with it was (1) because Mormonism was not an established religion and (2) Utah wanted desperately to move from being a territory to becoming a state.  Islamic polygamy, which is banned under anti-polygamy laws, actually has the same problem, although I don’t know Islam enough to know whether one can argue that polygamy is a cultural practice, not a doctrine.  If the former, it can be banned.  If the latter, it’s questionable whether it can be.

With the major faiths – Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Islam, etc. – we take it as given that they’re true religions and not merely convenient fictions for certain behaviors (which is the negative view Americans of the 1860s took of Mormonism). Even when we separate core doctrines, central to the religion itself, from practices rising up around the religion, we see that marriage is a central practice to each religion. Given that marriage is not merely a ritual or habit but is, instead, vital to the religion, the US theoretically should not be able to force religious citizens (as opposed to their priests, rabbis and imams) to participate in gay marriage ceremonies – or, worse, to be punished for refusing to participate.

So, again in theory, not only does not the rabbi not have to perform the ceremony, the Jewish caterer should not be sued for hundreds of thousands of dollars for refusing to provide the food. It’s the latter person who concerns me at a Constitutional level (the caterer), not the former (the rabbi), whom I know the government will leave alone.

Life under Sharia law

A year or two ago, the press reported on a rather charming religion called the Sky Kingdom cult that had popped up in Malaysia. The worshippers had built a Disney-esque little temple that centered on a giant teapot that symbolized the beneficence of love and the purity of water pouring from heaven. As is typical for a religion that always seems to operate from the paranoid viewpoint, the Malaysian government (which is Islamic), declared the little shrine heretical and leveled it. While regretting the destruction of this charming site, I thought that was the end of it. I was wrong. The Muslim government is also working hard on leveling the worshippers as well:

A sharia court in Malaysia jailed a woman for joining a “tea-pot worshipping” cult.

Kamariah Ali, a 57 year old former teacher, was arrested in 2005 when the government of the Muslim majority country demolished the two storey high sacred tea pot and other infrastructure of the “heretical” Sky Kingdom cult.

For the eccentric sect, which emphasised ecumenical dialogue between religions, the tea pot symbolized the purity of water and “love pouring from heaven”.

But in Malaysia, despite constitutional guarantees of freedom of worship, born Muslims such as Mrs Ali are forbidden from converting to other religions.  (Emphasis mine.)

Passing sentence, the Sharia judge Mohammed Abdullah said: “The court is not convinced that the accused has repented and is willing to abandon any teachings contrary to Islam. I pray God will open the doors of your heart, Kamariah.”

So, there it is in a nutshell:  freedom of worship in a sharia country means freedom to worship as you please so long as you don’t have the misfortune to be born Muslim. (For the significance of this “being born or raised a Muslim” issue vis a vis Obama, check this out.) More interestingly, the judge genuinely seems to believe that tossing a person in prison is the way to reach that person spiritually.  This is brute force conversion that doesn’t even pretend to enter the marketplace of ideas and explain why Islam is better than any alternatives.  It’s tempting to say that this is because Muslim enforcers suspect that they can’t win in the marketplace of ideas, but I believe it probably simply has more to do with the culture of coercion that Muhammad built right into the religion.

As it is, I don’t think that Kamariah Ali is going to bend very far, even if placed in prison as part of of her constitutional guarantee of religious freedom.  The same story reports that, back in 1992, she was already imprisoned for 20 months for the “sin” of rejecting Islam.  If 20 months in an Indonesian prison doesn’t make you recant the first time, does this judge really think it’s going to make her recant the second time?

As for me, I keep my eye open for creeping sharia.  For when it comes to a truly Muslim country, life is precisely the same as it is in a truly Communist country:  outside of a select cadre of true believers who are then, ironically, relieved from the harsher burdens of their belief system (collectivism, renunciation of alcohol, etc.), life for everyone else is an always scintillating blend of bad and worse.