Low Hanging Fruit on the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil

This is a special post for Blog Against Theocracy Weekend. Yesterday’s post was a repost of my 2007 offering.

Nobody is harmed by the fact that “In God We Trust” appears on our money.

Most of us can ignore public prayers at a public school event —  or compose our own alternate prayers and meditations in our minds.

Some of us held our noses when considering the political implications of who was chosen to offer prayers at President Obama’s inauguration, but nobody died as a result.

But church meddling in our newly passed Health Insurance Reform bill may well cause harm and perhaps even death to some people. However, since those people are women, some people don’t care. Moreover, church meddling in civil law may well bring harm to the poor in Washington DC.

It is of course the low hanging fruit: the Catholic Church.

In a petulant fit of pique, Catholic Charities threatened to cut off services to Washington DC if they actually made it legal for gay people to marry. When they realized that they could not in fact do that without legal repercussions, they instead decided to deny benefits to all new employee partners, gay or straight. Further, they demanded that new employees sign a statement that they won’t violate the tenets of the Church!

Remove the plank from thine own eye, Catholic Church!

If there were ever a stronger case for a public safety net rather than depending on the fickleness of charitable organizations deciding that this issue is important and this not, I am not familiar with it. As much as we all appreciate the work that charities do, it is simply not acceptable to pick up your ball (or shelter, or food kitchen) and threaten to go home if you don’t get your way. And pressuring new employees into signing documents regarding their private lives is just a little onerous, particularly in the middle of a recession where the only new jobs really being created are temp positions with the Census. Denying partners health insurance within weeks of a law being signed requiring mandatory insurance in a few years? Just twist the knife already in the new employee’s back.

Of course, it is now well known how the Catholic Bishops meddled in the Health Insurance Reform Bill, even over the objections of the Catholic Nuns — who for all their own faults aren’t accused of covering up dozens of priests who committed sexual crimes against thousands of minors under the age of consent. There. I didn’t call them pedophiles, but what they did is criminal and should be prosecuted. Since there was a clear conspiracy, no statute of limitations applies.

So then, when something tragic happens to a woman in your life and she must make the terrible decision to abort an embryo or fetus, remember that it would have been covered under her mandated health insurance policy if it weren’t for these meddling kid-molesters. If she finds it difficult to find a provider who will help her, remember that it is Catholic groups that have hounded doctors out of the business. And remember, not a single one of these Bishops will ever get pregnant, will ever have a wife who might get pregnant, will ever have a daughter who might get pregnant. Talk about no skin in the game.

As easy as it is to lob shots at the Catholic Church right now, I don’t want to overlook another serious threat to the separation of Church and State. Susie Madrak has pointed out that there is now an investigation by CREW into whether the shadowy religious group known as “The Fellowship” or “The Family” has been breaking the law by providing below market rents to the Congressmen who live in their C Street residence. Rep. Stupak and Sen. Ensign both could have [additional] problems as a result. Since it is relatively well documented that the purpose of this group is to put control of Congress in “godly” handstheir narrow definition of godly, of course — this investigation is necessary and overdue.

In Closing: They don’t make recoveries like they used to; job creation looks even worse compared to population growth; huh, I guess it is possible to teach a large number of students at once; I’ll say it again on the 19th, but this is what Militias are about; You can’t talk bad about your boss!; bankruptcy filings up you say? Well, as long as they aren’t spiking!; it’s surely a sign of Armageddon for me to link to Politico, but Banking Hypocrisy; melanoma may be more complicated than staying out in the sun too long (which never seemed to hurt our great grandparents much); and no, you should not laugh out loud if you see somebody drowning.

Blog Against Theocracy Weekend Kickoff

Blog Against Theocracy Weekend is underway! While I intend to have an original post up this weekend, please enjoy this bonus repost (with minimal editing) from the the 2007 Blog Against Theocracy Weekend. It was originally titled Church | <====> | State. I am especially pleased that I managed to make a Biblical argument for separation of church and state!

A Special Item for the Blog Against Theocracy Weekend

I have been asked to say a few words on Separation of Church and State this weekend. If I may, I’d like to point out a couple of very good items I read earlier this week: “A look at the Christian Right’s legal muscle leading the fight to end the separation of church and state”; from CNN we have the very provocatively titled What Would Jesus Really Do?. This item is so full of wonderful quotes that I wouldn’t blame any preacher who stood up and read the whole thing Sunday morning as part of the sermon, but this is my favorite passage:

An African-American pastor I know in the Midwest was asked by a group of mostly white clergy to march in an anti-abortion rally. He was fine with that, but then asked the clergy if they would work with him to fight crack houses in predominantly black neighborhoods.

“That’s really your problem,” he was told.

They saw abortion as a moral imperative, but not a community ravaged by crack.

If you don’t mind, I am limiting the discussion on the religious side to Christianity, because many believe this nation is and was founded as a “Christian Nation.” There is no credible movement in this country to have a theocracy based on Jewish or Moslem or Hindu or Buddhist scriptures, but there is a movement to make our government more closely aligned with a rather narrowly defined Christian ideology.

Let’s begin with the Biblical reasons that Christians should support Separation of Church and State. I’ll begin In the Old Testament with Samuel 8:1-22. Something like the following conversation occurred with the Prophet/Judge Samuel as intermediary:

Israelites: GOD! All the other nations have kings and we don’t!

God: Um yeah, and you know what else they have that you don’t? Idols and high taxes and drafts of military aged men and corrupt government officials. And you know what they don’t have? A sovereign omnipotent God!

Israelites: But God!!! We want a King like all the other nations!

God: If all the other nations jumped off a bridge would you?? Fine, have your King, but don’t come crying to me if it doesn’t work out the way you’d like!

Samuel of course then sought out a king, and found Saul. Who of course didn’t turn out to be all that. Saul had to choose between doing what God said and what the People Who Wanted A King In The First Place wanted (I Sam:15:24). And then he tried to kill a political adversary (I Sam 19:11). Even a government appointed by God was corrupt. But how do the people challenge a divinely ordained government?

The next King was really only marginally better. He had a civil war to deal with (II Sam 3:1), and his very own sex scandal (II Sam 11:2-12:23) — quite a feat when you already have a harem — and even a traitorous son (II Sam 13-18). And this was the King everybody says was so Godly.

If you don’t like the Old Testament, let’s go to the New Testament. Even Jesus himself thought Church and State should be kept separate, most succinctly put in Matthew 22:21, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s. and to God the things that are God’s.” This caused the listeners to “marvel.” Frankly, by this standard even Christians should object to “In God We Trust” being on coins. What Would Jesus Do indeed.

Just in case you don’t think Jesus meant we should extend this thought to mean Christians should follow all the laws of God in addition to all the laws of the State — and that there would be minimal overlap — the Apostle Paul spells it out nicely in Romans 13:1-10, which begins “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities.”

Let’s follow up with the reasons every American should support Separation of Church and State. I will set aside my Bible (RSV if anybody cares) and get out the Constitution. As I have pointed out before, it was written by men who knew a thing or two about history.

They knew that many of their forbears had come to this land seeking religious freedom, including freedom from the Government-sponsored Church of England.

They knew there had already been religious persecution in the colonies.

They knew what happened in Salem.

Extremely well read gentlemen like Thomas Jefferson had a basic familiarity with world religions; Mr Jefferson even owned a copy of the Quran.

For these men to have turned around and written “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof….” means they thought Government and Religion should keep a respectful distance of one another.

People who think our Government needs more Old Time Religion need to turn around, and clothe the naked, feed the hungry, and visit the sick in their own communities (Matt 25:31-46).

Twist the Facts

Yesterday morning, I wrote a post over at Age Against the Machine on British research showing that oral contraceptives reduce women’s risk of death from cancer and cardiovascular disease. Those happen to be the top two causes of death for American women, so it’s a big deal. And we aren’t talking about some teeny study, but over 46,000 women in a study that went on for 39 years. I think this is good news for the vast majority of women!

Yet I could not help but think that this news might not be welcomed by all. After all, there is a segment of our society that might think this encourages promiscuity. When I ran this past my partner, he thought that was just nuts.

But unfortunately, we live in a society where parents withhold vaccines that could someday save a woman’s life not because of safety concerns with the vaccine itself, but because they think she might think it’s ok to have sex (because good girls don’t like sex, good girls are never sexually assaulted, and good girls certainly never have cheating husbands). We live in a society where pharmacists who should know better are arbitrarily deciding not to dispense oral contraceptives because of “moral objections” and/or the mistaken belief that they can cause “abortion” of an embryo that has not implanted (never mind the other medical indications for oral contraceptives, and never mind that these pills prevent pregnancy rather than end it; arguably they prevent abortions by preventing unwanted pregnancy). We live in a society where the so-called-pro-life crowd thinks abortion causes breast cancer. We live in a society where some people value the lives of embryos more than the lives of full-grown adult women and their families.

So yes, I expect this study to be either ignored, mis-quoted, or mis-used by the Religious Right. They will focus on the small but unexplained increased risk of death by accident or violence — See? The Pill increases your risk of [violent] death! —  if they acknowledge the research at all.

Mere minutes after posting, I found this article at the Christian Science Monitor — hardly a “liberal media” source — with the headline “High divorce rates and teen pregnancy are worse in conservative states than liberal states.” It turns out that educated women and access to contraceptives lead to greater family stability and fewer unwed or teen mothers than “that old time religion.” Yet the Religious Right  has hamstrung both trends by getting the Feds to go along with “abstinence only” sex ed, which not only doesn’t work, fails to teach about contraceptives and disease control, and outright lies to children, but attempt to reinforce very outdated gender roles.

And then I read about how the Texas State Board of Education has decided to re-write history, decreeing what may and may not appear in textbooks. Sure, the Civil War was about “states rights” — specifically the right of states to say it’s ok to own other human beings! Sadly, Texas is a large enough textbook market that students around the country may be subjected to this ultra-conservative, highly Protestant, reinterpretation of reality.

You can say what you like about reality, but you can’t change it.

In Closing: 30! 30 bank failures this year, ah ha ha ha! (reference); fattiest fast foods; mortgage insurance providers say “sorry, we won’t cover this fraudulent claim“; obligatory health insurance reform items (notice I don’t call it health care reform, or worse yet HCR which always makes me think HRC instead) includes Go Grayson Go! Put them on the spot of either saying yes to a real public option, or going on the record as being against Medicare!; oh sure, let’s make it more complicated; what recovery?; Oh No! Obama’s Liberal base is “disengaged!” Could that be because they’ve kicked it in the butt at every opportunity?; most Americans think Wall Street needs better (i.e., more) regulation; for that matter, most Americans would like to see the Government make some progress on anything; don’t take the battery for granted; median wealth, $5; and Blog Against Theocracy weekend is coming.