Saturday, October 16, 2004

Speaking of Reverse Decisions

There is no more denying that this race is about a disastrous presidency - on many fronts. There is no doubt that what the Supreme Court mandated upon the very country it serves to uphold was a tragic failure of almost biblical proportions, because the weight of that decision has further divided its people, deteriorated the environment, eroded civil liberties, added vast layers of economic imbalance through staggering amounts of debt and redistribution of wealth, and eroded an already broken health care industry.

If the Supreme Court knew the facts as they are now - what choice would they have made?

A president without the popular vote in his sails acted as if there was a mandate. The events of September 11, 2001 were indeed the beginning of the end of this country as we knew it, and while the moment of unity it delivered lasted only a short time, the administration saw it as a symbol of presidential carte blanche - and without much of a consideration the deconstruction of our resources and freedoms began in the name of defeating islamic radicalism. If we had actually paid much attention, rather than jumping aboard the president's "Freedom Train," we might have noticed that the radical faction causing us more harm was the fundamentalist wing of the Republican Party.

Oh, yes, there is even more to fear in a second Dubya term, and it most of it involves who put us here in the first place - the United States Supreme Court. The administration's record so far reveals what's in store. Thanks to The Preznut, Jay Bybee, the author of an infamous Justice Department memo justifying the use of torture as an interrogation technique, is now a federal appeals court judge. Another selection, J. Leon Holmes, a federal judge in Arkansas, has written that wives must be subordinate to their husbands and compared abortion rights activists to Nazis.

And you can bet your bottom dollar if you aren't prepared for a theocratic takeover by right wing fundamentalists, you better brush up on your separation of church and state debate skills. You're going to need them.

Of course the religious right does not recognize that there is also a separation of church and state in the Constitution, which should make more pragmatic citizens worry a great deal. From The Constitutional Principle: Separation of Church and State Page: Some of the most important/most frequently repeated arguments used by leaders of the religious right to illustrate how the Constitution does not require the separation of church and state. Most of these arguments collapse under closer examination, either on the basis of logical flaws, or because they are in conflict with the evidence. While a few of these arguments have merit, they are invariably misused by accomodationists to prove points that are not at issue, or else they omit important information that puts the argument in a different light. A few of these arguments are complicated; but the devil is in the details and the key points cannot and should not be obscured.

All quotations are taken from Andrew Lipscomb and Albert Bergh, The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, in 20 volumes. Additionally, a great collection of Jefferson quotes can be found on the Jefferson pages at the University of Virginia. A good discussion of Jefferson's attitude toward separation and public education can be found in an extract from Leonard Levy's Jefferson and Civil Liberties: The Darker Side.

The Constitution gives no power over religion to the federal government:
  • Believing that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative 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 (Letter to the Danbury Baptists, 1802).
  • Religion is a subject on which I have ever been most scrupulously reserved. I have considered it as a matter between every man and his Maker in which no other, and far less the public, had a right to intermeddle (letter to Robert Rush, 1813).
  • I consider the government of the United States as interdicted by the Constitution from intermeddling in religious institutions, their doctrines, discipline, or exercises. This results not only from the provision that no law shall be made respecting the establishment or free exercise of religion, but from that also which reserves to the states the powers not delegated to the United States. Certainly, no power to prescribe any religious exercise or to assume authority in religious discipline has been delegated to the General Government. It must rest with the States, as far as it can be in any human authority (letter to Samuel Miller, Jan. 23, 1808).
  • I do not believe it is for the interest of religion to invite the civil magistrate to direct its exercises, its discipline, or its doctrines; nor of the religious societies that the general government should be invested with the power of effecting any uniformity of time or matter among them. Fasting and prayer are religious exercises. The enjoining them, an act of discipline. Every religious society has a right to determine for itself the times for these exercises and the objects proper for them according to their own particular tenets; and this right can never be safer than in their own hands where the Constitution has deposited it... Every one must act according to the dictates of his own reason, and mine tells me that civil powers alone have been given to the President of the United States, and no authority to direct the religious exercises of his constituents (letter to Samuel Miller, Jan. 23, 1808).
  • No provision in our Constitution ought to be dearer to man than that which protects the rights of conscience against the power of its public functionaries, were it possible that any of these should consider a conquest over the conscience of men either attainable or applicable to any desirable purpose (Letters to the Methodist Episcopal Church at New London, Connecticut, Feb. 4, 1809).
  • To suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles on supposition of their ill tendency is a dangerous fallacy which at once destroys all religious liberty, because he being of course judge of that tendency will make his opinions the rule of judgment and approve or condemn the sentiments of others only as they shall square with or differ from his own (Statute for Religious Freedom, 1779).
  • In matters of religion, I have considered that its free exercise is placed by the constitution independent of the power of the federal government. I have therefore undertaken, on no occasion, to prescribe the religious exercises suited to it; but have left them, as the constitution found them, under the direction of state or church authorities acknowledged by the several religious societies (Jefferson's Second Inaugural Address).
  • In justice, too, to our excellent Constitution, it ought to be observed, that it has not placed our religious rights under the power of any public functionary. The power, therefore, was wanting, not less than the will, to injure these rights (Letter to the Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church at Pittsburg, Dec. 9, 1808).

On the benefits of religious liberty:
  • ...(O)ur rulers can have no authority over such natural rights, only as we have submitted to them. The rights of conscience we never submitted, we could not submit. We are answerable for them to our God. The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no god. In neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg (Notes on Virginia, 1785.
  • Reason and free inquiry are the only effectual agents against error. Give a loose to them, they will support the true religion by bringing every false one to their tribunal, to the test of their investigation. They are the natural enemies of error, and of error only (Notes on Virginia, 1785.
  • ...(T)o compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors, is sinful and tyrannical; that even the forcing him to support this or that teacher of his own religious persuasion, is depriving him of the comfortable liberty of giving his contributions to the particular pastor whose morals he would make his pattern, and whose powers he feels most persuasive to righteousness (Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, 1789).
  • ...(P)roscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence by laying upon him an incapacity of being called to offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages to which, in common with his fellow citizens, he has a natural right; that it tends also to corrupt the principles of that very religion it is meant to encourage, by bribing, with a monopoly of worldly honours and emoluments, those who will externally profess and conform to it (Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, 1789).
  • We have solved by fair experiment the great and interesting question whether freedom of religion is compatible with order in government and obedience to the laws. And we have experienced the quiet as well as the comfort which results from leaving every one to profess freely and openly those principles of religion which are the inductions of his own reason and the serious convictions of his own inquiries (Letter to the Virginia Baptists, 1808).
  • Among the most inestimable of our blessings is that...of liberty to worship our Creator in the way we think most agreeable to His will; a liberty deemed in other countries incompatible with good government and yet proved by our experience to be its best support (Reply to Baptist Address, 1807).

Skepticism toward religious authority:
  • The clergy, by getting themselves established by law and ingrafted into the machine of government, have been a very formidable engine against the civil and religious rights of man (Letter to J. Moor, 1800).
  • The clergy...believe that any portion of power confided to me [as President] will be exerted in opposition to their schemes. And they believe rightly: for I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man. But this is all they have to fear from me: and enough, too, in their opinion (Letter to Benjamin Rush, 1800).
  • History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance of which their civil as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purposes (Letter to von Humboldt, 1813).
  • In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own (Letter to H. Spafford, 1814).

Thomas Jefferson, moral relativist:
  • Nature has constituted utility to man the standard and test of virtue. Men living in different countries, under different circumstances, different habits and regimens, may have different utilities; the same act, therefore, may be useful and consequently virtuous in one country which is injurious and vicious in another differently circumstanced (Letter to Thomas Law, 1814).
  • As the circumstances and opinions of different societies vary, so the acts which may do them right or wrong must vary also, for virtue does not consist in the act we do but in the end it is to effect. If it is to effect the happiness of him to whom it is directed, it is virtuous; while in a society under different circumstances and opinions the same act might produce pain and would be vicious. The essence of virtue is in doing good to others, while what is good may be one thing in one society and its contrary in another (Letter to John Adams, 1816).
  • Reading, reflection and time have convinced me that the interests of society require the observation of those moral precepts only in which all religions agree (for all forbid us to steal, murder, plunder, or bear false witness), and that we should not intermeddle with the particular dogmas in which all religions differ, and which are totally unconnected with morality (Letter to J. Fishback, 1809).

Your typical wild-eyed wingnut will need tons of facts to reach beyond the years of cultish brainwashing. Stay focused, your country needs you to remain vigilant. "Ask not what your country can do for you ... " This isn't about Faith or Religion - it's about Freedom from religious tyrants like Falwell, Robertson and Swaggart. Of course, theocratic isolationists like Ralph Reed and Sam Brownback can't be burned at the stake, but they can be stopped at the polls.

Two weeks until freedom.


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