Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics


Ronald Reagan on the Separation of Religion and State. I Agree. Conservatives Might Not.

Those conservatives might try and seize his conservative card beyond the grave because he did not advocate for the merging of religion and state.  In fact, he advocated exactly the opposite.  This statement came during the 1984 presidential campaign.  It was made in a synagogue out on Long Island.

We in the United States, above all, must remember that lesson, for we were founded as a nation of openness to people of all beliefs. And so we must remain. Our very unity has been strengthened by our pluralism. We establish no religion in this country, we command no worship, we mandate no belief, nor will we ever. Church and state are, and must remain, separate. (emphasis my own) All are free to believe or not believe, all are free to practice a faith or not, and those who believe are free, and should be free, to speak of and act on their belief.

Note that not only does he emphasize that “Church and state are, and must remain, separate,” but he also specifically mentions that persons are free to engage in belief or disbelief.  This stands in stark contrast with today’s Republican Party.

In today’s Republican Party, Christian fundamentalists and their social conservatism reign supreme.  All serious Republican candidates must align themselves with social conservatism.  No serious Republican leader can support a woman’s right to control her own body or support marriage equality or support equal pay for equal work.  All serious Republican leaders must emphasize their religion and their support for taking those religious beliefs and making them the law of the land.

To borrow from Reagan, today’s Republican Party seeks to mandate belief through their actions.  That is the exact opposite of the religious liberty they claim they seek to preserve.

Our Founding Fathers saw the danger of mandating religion.  They saw all the blood that was shed in Europe because of that mandate.  That is why we require no religious test for office.  That is why we have an establishment clause.  That is why we have free exercise.  They are there to protect the majority from imposing upon the conscience of the minority.

In the past, I have quoted Thomas Jefferson and his Letter to the Danbury Baptists and James Madison and his Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments.  Now, however, I thought it was time that I quoted Reagan to demonstrate to conservatives that even their beloved Ronald Reagan support the very separation that they oppose.

What’s to Prevent Segregation in the Post-Hobby Lobby World?

I am not talking just racial segregation here, but all forms of segregation.  So long as it is a sincerely-held religious belief and separate but equal facilities are provided, what is there to stop a closely-held corporation from imposing segregation post-Hobby Lobby?

Imagine there is an owner who believes, as a matter of sincerely-held religious beliefs, that the sexes should not mix, what is there to prevent that owner from establishing separate aisles in his or her store and separate checkout lines so long as the aisles are identical, there are an equal number of checkout lines and those checkout lines are always equally staffed.  What exists to prevent that owner from establishing that system?

What if the owner of such a closely-held corporation has such beliefs except that instead of the sexes mixing, he or she believes that it is whites and non-whites that should not mix?

What if the owner believes that members of his or her religion should not mix with members of another religion?

Where, exactly, will this all end?

There is a reason for generally-applicable laws.  There are reasons that in certain instances persons can receive religious exemptions.  Persons, however, are not for-profit corporations that are created with the primary purpose of making money.  If we were discussing religious employers here, then, yes, I could see why there can and should be a carve out.  However, we are discussing for-profit corporations.

The logic put forward today by the Supreme Court has no end.  Just as it easily justified the idea that men and women should be treated differently when it comes to the provision of their health care, it can be used to justify differential and/or separate treatment for all different groups.

A Humble Petition for Public Prayer in Light of Today’s Supreme Court Ruling

I humbly propose that the following invocation be given whenever a public meeting in the City of New York (and anywhere else that seeks to adopt it) is convened:

May Hashem’s wisdom guide us and may His laws guide us.  May we take on more mitzvot [commandments] and may we therefore merit the coming of Moshiach, bim’hera v’yameinu.  Amen.

After all, if this prayer:

Lord, God of all creation, we give you thanks and praise for your presence and action in the world. We look with anticipation to the celebration of Holy Week and Easter. It is in the solemn events of next week that we find the very heart and center of our Chris­ tian faith. We acknowledge the saving sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. We draw strength, vitality, and confidence from his resurrection at Easter. . . . We pray for peace in the world, an end to terrorism, violence, conflict, and war. We pray for stability, de­ mocracy, and good government in those countries in which our armed forces are now serving, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan. . . . Praise and glory be yours, O Lord, now and forever more. Amen.

meets constitutional scrutiny for public governmental meetings, then the prayer I so humbly propose should meet that scrutiny as well.

Of course, I somehow doubt that the five justices that effectively declared today it was okay to effectively establish Christianity as the religion of state simply because the majority of Americans practice it would find a prayer so overtly Jewish acceptable.  Similarly, a prayer overtly Muslim or of any other religion would also not meet their scrutiny.  And those that scream loudest in favor of the prayer offered by clerics at the public meetings of the Town of Greece, New York, would scream for the separation of religion and state the moment a sectarian non-Christian prayer was offered.

Oh, and one more thing.  Justice Thomas reiterated his belief today that the Establishment Clause protects state establishments of religion and merely prohibits the federal government from establishing a national religion.  I would love to see a state establish a non-Christian religion as its state religion and then see if Justice Thomas possesses the courage of his convictions or if those beliefs only apply when a state adopts some form of Christianity as its state religion.

WSJ Gets Existence of Double Standard Right. Naturally Analyzes it Wrong.

New York Daily News

From today’s Wall Street Journal explaining how Chris Christie is so much better than President Obama when it comes to showing contrition in the wake of misconduct by his underlings:

Not that this should make Mr. Christie or any other potential GOP candidate complacent. Republicans operate under a double media standard that holds them to a much lower scandal threshold. (emphasis my own) In that sense the pathetic New Jersey traffic-lane scandal may be, as Mr. Obama likes to say, a teachable moment.

Perhaps the Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal hasn’t watched its sister outlet, Fox News, try and stir outrage over Benghazi 24/7 on a story that doesn’t exist.  Perhaps it hasn’t watched the same channel on Fast and Furious.  Perhaps it hasn’t watched the same channel on the IRS scandal.

Perhaps they consider reporting on Iran Contra or the no-bid contracts of the Iraq war not newsworthy and therefore any reporting on them is creating a double standard.  Perhaps they consider petty political revenge because a politician from the other political party did not endorse their candidate for re-election.  Perhaps they consider investigating whether that revenge broke federal law and whether it affected emergency response to be a non-story that is only reported because it is a Republican.

Jersey City Mayor Gives Best Response to Gun Control Equals Holocaust Meme

Many conservatives have invoked Holocaust comparisons – and claimed that if European Jews only had guns in the 1930’s and 1940’s there would have never been a Holocaust – when it comes to any effort to implement new gun control laws.  This time, the focus of their anger is Jersey City mayor Steven Fulop, himself a grandchild of Holocaust survivors.

Mayor Fulop’s offense is that he supports a measure which would require gun vendors that seek contracts with Jersey City to fill out a gun safety questionnaire.  For this, his grandparents ordeal in the Shoah was invoked by Scott Bach, a member of the National Rifle Association’s board.

Mayor Fulop’s response to the claim that if only his grandparents, and other Jews, had guns when the Nazis came for them:

If my grandparents had guns in their house when the Nazis came, my grandparents would be dead and I wouldn’t be here. (emphasis my own) So that’s probably the reality of the situation. But I don’t think that you can equate religious persecution to a manipulation of the intent of the Second Amendment.

These conservatives seem to forget exactly what would happen if you had one or two people go up against fully equipped soldiers.  Maybe one or two or even three soldiers would get killed, but, in the end, it would be the ordinary people that were killed.  No, it wasn’t a lack of guns that caused the Holocaust, but the complicity of millions of people in Germany and occupied Europe who actively assisted in the Shoah and those, throughout the world, that turned a blind eye to what was happening and the countries that closed their doors to Jewish refugees fleeing for their very lives.

The Nightmare of Extraordinary Measures to Avoid Default

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Back on October 4, Vincent Reinhart wrote in The New York Times’ Deal Book that despite all the political maneuvering currently going in Washington the contingencies to prepare for a default are “a waste because the United States government is not going to default, ever.”

Reinhart argues that government officials will be forced to violate one of three laws or constitutional mandates:

  1. The Second Liberty Bond Act of 1917 that establishes the debt ceiling;
  2. The Federal Reserve Act that prohibits the Fed from lending directly to the Treasury; or,
  3. The 14th Amendment of the Constitution, which holds that the debt of the United States government, lawfully issued, will not be questioned.

Finally, of the consequences, Reinhart writes:

An official anticipating stretching the law ranks alternatives by precedent, punishment as specified in the law and standing as to who can claim a violation of the law. Either a secretary of the Treasury who holds No. 3 as the overriding instruction or a chairman of the Federal Reserve who waives No. 2 saves the global financial system and, at most, risks being impeached or fired. That seems to be a reasonable risk and reward trade-off.

That, however, ignores the real nightmare that would happen immediately after any of those actions were taken to avoid default by the United States Government.

Scalia: Activist Judges Responsible for Holocaust

Add yet another reason that Antonin Scalia has made himself an embarrassment to the office he holds, along with any other person that possesses one, small, iota of basic human decency.  Speaking before the Utah Bar Association, Scalia reportedly said:

Scalia opened his talk with a reference to the Holocaust, which happened to occur in a society that was, at the time, “the most advanced country in the world.” One of the many mistakes that Germany made in the 1930s was that judges began to interpret the law in ways that reflected “the spirit of the age.” When judges accept this sort of moral authority, as Scalia claims they’re doing now in the U.S., they get themselves and society into trouble.

How many more times will the greatest crime in Jewish history be used to score cheap political points?  Scalia is hardly the first person to so misappropriate the Holocaust to make such points and I doubt he will be the last.

While Scalia is known for vitriol directed against many groups he does not like, this case is particularly egregious.  It makes me wonder what evil he will not blame on those that he deems ‘activist judges.’  Of course, this is only made all the more egregious by his hypocrisy when it comes to ‘judicial activism.’  It seems that the only ‘judicial activism’ he dislikes are those cases of ‘judicial activism’ that affirm the rights of unpopular groups from tyranny of the majority.  He is also willing to use any evidence, no matter how offensive and wrong, to prove his ‘point.’

Bypass Congress to Overturn Citizens United

When I saw that Oregon became the latest state to call on Congress to pass a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United it caused me to begin thinking.  I know that in most civics classes we are taught how the Constitution is amended:  A proposed amendment must be passed by a two-thirds majority in each house and then ratified by three-quarters of state legislatures.  It seems straightforward and simple enough.  The truth, however, is that it is not.

There are two ways to amend the United States Constitution.  One is through the process mentioned above.  In fact, all 27 amendments to the Constitution have been proposed and ratified in this manor.  That said, there is another method, one which would allow proponents of a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United to bypass a congress highly unlikely to pass such an amendment.  Follow below the fold.

“The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”

Those words (or some slight variation on them) are found in many constitutional amendments to formally enable the Congress to enact legislation to give those amendments meaning.  Among those amendments that possess these words are the Fourteenth, Fifteenth, Nineteenth and Twenty-Sixth, which form the basis of the constitutional guarantee of the right to vote.  It seems that Chief Justice Roberts and the four other justices that joined him in today’s tragic opinion ignored those very basic words.  Perhaps they need a basic refresher in the words of the Constitution.  I’ll start with the Fourteenth Amendment below the fold.

On the Merits and Nature of Government’s National Security Powers

Let me start out with words advanced by both Justice Robert Jackson (chief American prosecutor at Nuremberg) and Justice Arthur Goldberg (U.N. Ambassador during the Johnson Administration after leaving the Court):  The Constitution is not a suicide pact.

The premise of that statement is quite simple.  Despite what we might like to think, there is no such thing as an absolute right.  Rights end when they bring harm upon, and conflict with the rights of, others.  For example, if your religion calls for you to go out and assault one person every day you will not be able to claim freedom of religion as a defense in the subsequent criminal trial.  Instead, you will be convicted and, depending upon the severity and frequency, be sentenced to a term of incarceration.

This same premise holds true when it comes to national security and the responsibility of our government to keep American citizens safe.  To start with, it must be asked what is the primary purpose behind the government action in question?  Is it a standard criminal investigation with the ultimate of bringing a prosecution?  Is it an attempt to collect intelligence to thwart a terrorist attack directed at United States citizens or at American soldiers?

The distinction between the two might not seem particularly important, but it actually is of the utmost importance.  The former instance is exactly what the Fourth Amendment was designed to for to limit government power.  Much of our Bill of Rights is inspired by (and lifted from) the English Bill of Rights, acceptance of which was a condition of William and Mary taking the throne.  Another was the old English maxim that demonstrated the power of government to squelch dissent:

The greater the truth, the greater the libel.

The latter, especially because it comes to matters of national security, affords the government some degree of greater deference, although not absolute deference.