Showing posts with label Constitution. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Constitution. Show all posts

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Tactics of Redefinition Leads to the Abuse of Law

A few months ago, people were arguing that a religious  freedom was for individuals, not for businesses. Now, definitions have changed again, and a couple who run a marriage chapel according to their religious beliefs are being told to perform same-sex “weddings” or face penalties of 180 days in jail and $1000 in fines for each day they refuse to perform these services. (For refusing to perform one service for one year, that’s 180 years and being fined $365,000 . . . murderers don’t face those penalties).

The argument is that this chapel is not a church but is "considered a place of [public?] accommodation” and therefore subject to the ordinance.

Now a place of accommodation is considered to include:

A public accommodation is a private entity that owns, operates, leases, or leases to, a place of public accommodation. Places of public accommodation include a wide range of entities, such as restaurants, hotels, theaters, doctors' offices, pharmacies, retail stores, museums, libraries, parks, private schools, and day care centers. Private clubs and religious organizations are exempt from the ADA's title III requirements for public accommodations.

So, basically this is assuming that because a wedding chapel, which approaches marriage from a Christian perspective, serves the public, it cannot refuse performing same-sex ceremonies. This is essentially a use of redefining in order to change the meaning of the law to the benefit of one group and the detriment of another group.

That’s the common practice in America today. When it comes to religious freedom, the government practice is to define the law or court ruling in such a way that they can exclude as many as possible from the exercising of these rights if the exercise of religious freedom goes against the preference of the lawmaker or the judge.

Religious freedom belongs to the Bill of Rights as something the individual possesses independently of what the government bestows—the government simply has no right to infringe on them. The First Amendment essentially enables the freedom to do what one feels morally obligated to do. It’s not a laundry list of separate and unrelated rights. It’s a case of of forbidding the government from coercing people to do that which they believe is immoral to do. The amendment reads:

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.

So according to this, the State cannot:

  1. Restrict one’s right of peacefully living in accord with one’s religious beliefs.
  2. Restrict one’s right to peacefully speak or write to promote what one believes is good and oppose what is evil—openly.
  3. Restrict one’s right to peacefully assemble with people who share one’s beliefs.
  4. Restrict one’s right to peacefully change the government through legal means when we believe it is going in the wrong direction.

But the government and groups allied with it have been restricting these rights by trying to limit the influence of religion in the following ways:

  1. Denying the freedom of religion from applying to all aspects of the life of the person who adheres to it.
  2. Bullying people from speaking out on what is right.
  3. Limiting what kind of groups that assemble can practice religious freedom—for example, denying places of businesses can be run according to religious beliefs of the owners.
  4. Negating laws supported by a majority of citizens on the grounds that it has a “religious motivation.”

These tactics pervert the First Amendment by making the government the judge of which religious values are legitimate concerns, when the whole point of the First Amendment was to prevent the government from behaving in this way. The government being able to restrict whether a person or group may be free to hold to a belief others may dislike is a dangerous one. The Nazi and Communist regimes are obvious examples of a government forbidding anything deemed to be against their interests. But other restrictions by less extreme regimes differ only by degree because the government is still demanding authority over the religion one believes to be right.

Thus the government declares that a university or hospital affiliated with a Church may not refuse to supply coverage of contraception and abortifacient drugs even though the Church believes the use of these things is wrong. It decrees that a wedding chapel, run by Christians according to religious values, may not refuse to officiate over a relationship the owners believe cannot even be a marriage. It says laws passed by a majority of citizens affirming that marriage is a relationship that only can exist between one man and one woman, or laws acknowledging that the unborn child is a human being are not valid because the shared beliefs of the voters is deemed “religious.” (Genetic Fallacy).

The defense currently popular with the government and its allies is to equate these things with historical “discrimination.” For example, laws against contraception and abortion are considered “discriminating” against women. Laws defining marriage as existing only between one man and one woman are labelled as discriminating against people with same sex attraction. The assumption is supposed to be proven, but the fact is people assume it is proof. (Begging the Question Fallacy).

Ultimately, what the government does is to constantly redefine things in order to place something they dislike under the categories of “discrimination,” “establishment clause,” or “equal protection clause” in order to prevent them from being enforced.

What was once recognized as freedom under the First Amendment is now called “discrimination.” This is not because we have become more enlightened (begging the question again), but because it is a convenient way to negate a law the government dislikes without using the legal process to change a law.

Another tactic is the slippery slope fallacy. It is alleged that without the government and the courts overseeing religion, we’re opening the doors for the rise of sharia law or human sacrifice. But that’s asinine. The American concept of the freedom of religion has never recognized the right of a religion to actively harm another person. Nor have the advocates of religious freedom ever advocated such a thing. Catholic bishops condemn abortion—but they also condemn the murder of the abortionist.

Scare tactics like that make no sense. It’s wrong for Person A from Religion B to murder another person, so it’s wrong for person A to oppose contraception and abortion?

If anything, it’s government that is behaving in a coercive way. Imposing support for anti-Christian values against the will of the Christian citizen is merely a bloodless version of something like ISIS is doing in the Middle East. Go along or be targeted—by law or by bullying in our case. I don’t use this image insensitive of the suffering of the Middle East. Rather I am pointing out that, regardless of whether one uses law or terror to impose a position, one is actively forcing believers to do what they believe is wrong (which is quite different from forcing everybody to do what a religion wants). It is a violation of religious freedom

So ultimately, we have to beware the government because the government changes the meaning of words (fallacy of redefining). When it changes the definitions of words and legal terms, such as “religious freedom” and “marriage,” it does so to vilify the opponent or to promote its own agenda. The danger is, when we allow the government to do such things, it can easily change anything it wants. The only defense is to hold it to the true definition every time.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Just a Pinch of Incense...

In ancient Rome, there was an obligation to burn a pinch of incense before the statue of the emperor. Doing so was essentially an act of worship of the emperor as a god. The monotheistic Christians could not do this without denying their beliefs in one true God... or give scandal by appearing to do so. But if they refused, they would suffer consequences for standing up for what they believed.

To the morally lax pagans, the Christians doubtlessly were viewed as intolerant. However, by insisting that the Christians burn this incense and do what they believed was morally wrong, the pagans were the intolerant ones. They thought the Christian beliefs were either a threat or something so insignificant that the Christians shouldn't make a fuss about it.

Fast forward some 1700 years to the present. The Christians who, because of their belief in one God, find themselves in a dilemma. Either let your business acknowledge the so-called "gay marriage" (or cause the scandal of appearing to do so), or suffer the consequences.

Again, to a good many people, the Christians are viewed as either intolerant or fussing over something "not important."  Laws seeking to protect Christians have been proposed, but they have been portrayed as discriminatory laws.

What makes it so sickening now is the First Amendment was intended to prevent the state from coercing someone into doing what they believed was morally forbidden. But now, it is the defense of these religious rights that is considered unconstitutional.

Once again, Lincoln's words have shown themselves prophetic:

"As a nation, we began by declaring that "all men are created equal." We now practically read it, "All men are created equal, except Negroes." When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read, "All men are created equal except Negroes, and foreigners, and Catholics." When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some other country where they make no pretense of loving liberty - to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, without the base alloy of hypocrisy."

I first posted these words in 2007. Each year, they seem more amd more reflecting our government.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Reflections on Religious Freedom vs. The Judiciary

Introduction

The Washington Post has a rather asinine article about the issue of religious freedom and posting offensive objects under religious freedom under the First Amendment.

The idea of a Satanic monument to be next to a display of the Ten Commandments may, at first glance, seem to be a reductio ad absurdum to the defense of the Ten Commandments being displayed. After all, isn't it favoritism to allow one religious display, but not another?

Preliminary Notes

Now, for purposes of this article, I'll leave out the repugnance of  Satanism as a man made religion which is an express repudiation of Christianity.  I'll also leave out the consideration of Christianity having any special rights because it is the true religion.

While I both believe Catholic Christianity is the true religion and Satanism is offensive and a lie, the focus here is about freedom of religion in general and the all or nothing view of the judiciary.

The Principal Problem

I think the problem is the courts commit the fallacy of equivocation. They take the concept of religious freedom with different meanings, when it needs to keep a consistent meaning.

The freedom of religion involves the right of the individual to seek out and follow God according to their conscience without interference from the state, either by mandating the attendance in one religion (an official state Church like Anglicanism in Elizabethian England) or by restricting a religion from functioning (like the Soviet Union).

However, the freedom of religion does not mean an approach of either all get the same amount of attention in the public sphere or none do.

Distinguishing Protection of a Minority from Suppression of a Majority

Law has had an emphasis on protecting the rights of a minority from the tyranny of the majority. This is a good concept when properly understood. We recognize it is unjust to mistreat a minority and restrict them from practicing the rights all people possess.

Unfortunately, the judiciary seems to take a view that if we can't give all religions the same weight, we can't allow any of them to have a public presence. It ignores the fact that the majority of Americans do have a shared religious culture and heritage and tries to pretend it doesn't exist.

America tends to get bizarre here by forgetting a sense of proportion. The percentage of Christians in America is about 78.4%. The next largest  religion is Judaism (1.7%). Islam is 0.6%.  While 16.1% is unaffiliated with religion,  only 1.6% are atheists.

Now while not all people who profess Christianity actually practice it, it does mean that the influence of Christianity plays a large role in how many Americans view life.  The Cross, the Ten Commandments... these are things which are meaningful to the vast majority of Americans. For example, even to nominal Christians, the Ten Commandments  have meaning in terms of law and justice.

The Abundance of Christian Symbols is not Infringement of Religious Rights of a Minority

Now, the 78.4% of Americans who recognize Christianity as true would do wrong to suppress the human rights of 21.6% of the population who don't.

But suppression of religious rights involves either the forcing actions which the believer finds condemned by their conscience or forbidding actions the believer feels morally obligated to do.  For example,  the Obamacare Contraception Mandate involves the forcing of funding contraceptives and abortifacients by people whose conscience forbids them from doing so.

It doesn't mean that symbols of a religion consisting of 0.6% (Islam) of the US population has to be as visible as the symbols of a religion consisting of 78.4% or else it is discrimination. Nor does it mean that the 1.6% of the population that is atheist has the right to suppress the existence of religion in the public sphere because they deny the Divine exists.

Trolling and Harassment

Another consideration is that when a group puts up a counter monument for the purpose of showing their disagreement with the Christian symbol, this is not an issue of religious freedom for the countering group. It is an issue of harassment. The original Christian monument is not put up for the purpose of propaganda. But the counter monument is.  Belief in the Divine is a delusion!  these monuments proclaim.   Don't believe in Christianity, believe in us! they say.

But the War Memorial built in the shape of the Cross is not made to promote Christianity. It exists as a prayer for the war dead, remembering the salvation Christ died and rose to bring us.

Now, some don't believe that Christ was anything more than a man. But to take offense in the hope and prayers that the war dead may rest in God and demand the removal is not an action of religious freedom. It's an act of religious oppression, saying "I disagree with Christianity. So take it down!"

Conclusion

The problem with the legislature and the courts is they begin with a faulty assumption... that any religious symbol on public land counts as the establishment of a religion. But in accepting the demands that no religious symbol exist on public land actually favors the establishment of atheism. The accepting of demands to establish a monument that exists for the purpose of rejecting a religion when the original monument has no propaganda intent actually establishes a religious harassment as a right.

A government which wants to respect the rights of the freedom of religion needs to consider these things. It ought to distinguish intent instead of blindly taking a one size fits all approach without considering whether the appeal is done for a legitimate redress or for harassment.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Thoughts on the American Situation

Truth be told America is becoming precisely what our Founding Fathers wanted to prevent -- a government suppressing the inalienable rights this nation was founded on recognizing.

At this time, the right of religious freedom is under attack. The government and certain elites are seeking to restrict the rights by which we live according to how we ought.

At first, the attacks were based on trying to silence people with religious convictions seeking to enact just laws. Christians were told they were wrong to "force" their views on others while those who were trying to overturn laws based on Christian morality were hypocritically forcing their own views.

Then came attacks which sought to bully Christians into silence by slandering them as being motivated by hatred. Homophobe! War on Women! Being concerned for the well being of their immortal souls was misrepresented as irrational fear and hate. It's gotten to the point that a Christian who openly agrees with Christian morality risks repercussions if their place of education or employment should hear.

Now comes the legal attacks. It started in 2009 when Obama threw out the executive orders on conscience protection. Then people could be fired if they refused to do things they found morally objectionable. Then we had the contraception mandate which forced businesses and institutions to provide coverage for abortion and contraception even if it went against what they believed they were obliged to do before God.

Currently we have seen businesses face lawsuits and legal action for making a stand on what they felt obligated to do. Bakeries have been slapped with discrimination charges for refusing to participate in a so-called "gay marriage."  Catholic hospitals are threatened for their refusal to perform abortions.

Consider all of that.  Now consider the first amendment:

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.

This amendment is about the limitations of government in regards to what sort of laws they may impose. The government may neither impose a state religion nor restrict how religion can be practiced.

The government today behaves in a way that violates our Constitution with impunity.

This puts the religious believer in a bad position. Instead of having "certain unalienable Rights" according to the Declaration of Independence, we have a government which treats all rights as if they were favors granted and can be removed at their whim.

In other words, a government that contradicts what America was supposed to be.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

TFTD: Corporations Have No Rights?

On the CNN newsfeed, I saw an editorial claiming that individuals have rights but corporations do not. Therefore corporations like Hobby Lobby should not be able to get an exemption from the mandated contraception/abortion coverage since such rights only extend to the individual practice of religion -- which the author seems to interpret as worship.

But that's too narrow. The First Amendment reads:

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.

The key words in this case are, "prohibiting the free exercise thereof." The free exercise of religion involves all aspects of a person's life... including the right to go into business.

If corporations founded by religious believers may not be run according to the religious convictions they hold, this is a restriction on the free exercise of religion.

Moreover, if religion is merely a right of individuals, then it follows that freedom of speech, press, peaceable assembly and petition of grievances are also individual rights.  That means organized social justice groups, the New York Times, unions and organized protests are also restricted.

That means Elizabeth B. Wydra has the individual right to opine on religious freedom but neither CNN (which published the linked article) nor the group she represents has that right.

Ridiculous? Of course. But that is what follows from her argument.

What we have here is not an appeal to reasonable constitutional law. We have partisan behavior seeking to abuse the laws and courts to compel a group to support a behavior the author approves of but they oppose.

Usually we call that fascism.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Commenting on the New Comment Period

Reports are that we're having a new comment period for those institutions which are non-profit, but don't fall under the Obama administration's exceptionally narrow definition of a religious organization, like say Catholic Hospitals and Universities.  I'm not impressed.

First of all, the Obama administration doesn't even have the Constitutional authority to do this.  The Constitution forbids laws which interfere with the free practice of religion.  The only reason this can happen is because members of our government aren't bothering to stand up to the Obama administration's violation of the Constitution and the Presidential Oath of Office:

Before he enter on the Execution of his Office, he shall take the following Oath or Affirmation:--"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States." (US Constitution Article II, Section I).

Merely commenting on the extent of the violation of the Constitution ought to be allowed falls short of the defense of the Constitution.

Second, Those who have freedom of religion under the Constitution do not merely consist of churches and non-profit organizations.  Men and women who are religious believers but also work in a for-profit business also have the freedom of free exercise of religion.  If Catholics in the Insurance industry believe it is their moral obligation not to cooperate with the moral evils of contraception by funding them, and if the government forces insurers to fund contraception and abortion, then it follows that the government is interfering with their moral obligations according to their religion.

No matter how Obama and his supporters may spin it, the HHS Mandate, and even the Comment Period are open and flagrant violations of the Constitution simply by their existence.

Ultimately, the morality of contraception and abortion will have to be settled in America, and the Catholic Church will certainly need to make clear why our teaching is not mere opinion in order to lead people to the truth – and this is what they are trying to do.  They are not trying to pass any "stealth legislation" to ban these things by trickery.  So long as the voters and politicians of America fail to recognize this truth, the issues of contraception and abortifacients will continue to be accepted.

However, even the acceptance by a majority does not mean it is permitted to force the minority, who believes it to be evil, to accept it.

We used to recognize this was tyranny (oppressive and arbitrary rule seized without legal right to do so).

Why not now?

 

+Pray for our Country

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

What Will You Do If They Come For You?

With the recent news of the government first forbidding the reading of the letter issued by Archbishop Timothy Broglio (who oversees the Catholic chaplains) condemning the HHS decision, and then after a protest, censoring the letter that was read, we must ask… how can anyone pretend that the Obama administration is not a menace to the rights and liberties of all Americans?

First we have the imposing of a directive which demands that religious institutions either comply with providing coverage for contraception, sterilization and abortifacients or shut down.  Now the government is beginning to stifle the freedom to oppose such directives.

Now I recognize that not all Americans share the views of this blog or of the Catholic Church that this blog seeks to reflect.  However, even those who do not share these views need to consider something.

If the Obama administration succeeds in their tactics, then there is nothing to prevent them from using these tactics against any other body who displeases them.  Moreover, if the administration is removed from power and if these tactics are left in place, then whoever succeeds the Obama administration will also have these tools to stifle dissent.

Regardless of one's views of politics or morality, the Obama administration is taking a path which all people of good will must oppose.  Otherwise the American concept of freedom ends in failure and we become yet another nation with an authoritarian regime. 

USCCB Rebuts Obama Administration

You can find the article HERE.

We're in a nasty battle for the freedom to do as we ought to do, with the propagandists for the government seeking to mislead people into thinking we're mindless bigots.

This is the time for all people to do what they can depending on their talents.  We're now in a battle over the souls in our nation.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The State of Our Union

Introduction

Personally, I wanted to let my blog fade away into obscurity… well into more obscurity… and retire.  But like it or not, our nation has a crisis on its hands.  The crisis is the Constitutional Right of religion is being negated by a government which is so determined to force a set of values on us that they do not care what they violate in doing so.

The issue is that the Obama administration is determined to force certain things (sanctioning of homosexual relationships and requiring employers to pay for contraception and abortions) even when such things force us to disobey God.  This is an action that no state has the right to demand.

Good and Evil

Ultimately the state is considered good or evil based on how it positions itself in relation to God's law.  The state is considered free or not free depending on whether or not it harasses or restricts people who do seek to follow God's law.  I think it can be argued that America has been an evil nation for quite some time with the government making legal and supported things which violate God's law.

I also think it can be argued that America has passed from being a free nation (tolerating Christians who seek to do God's will) to being a not free nation (harassing and restricting religious groups who seek to follow God's way rather than to disobey God and follow the state).

Forcing Beliefs on Others?

It is true that not all Americans are Christians, or even believers in any religion at all.  Some may take that fact in saying, "You're just forcing your beliefs on others!"  However this shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the issues.  Jewish Americans approach American life from the perspective of their values.  Muslim Americans, Buddhist Americans, atheistic Americans all do the same.  However, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist and atheistic institutions are not being forced to act in a way contrary to their beliefs, while Christian institutions are told they have one year to comply with directives which run counter to their beliefs.

Now, as to the issue of "imposing views on others."  This is a common accusation, which essentially works like this:

  1. Opposition to Abortion is a "personal value"
  2. These opponents want to make abortion illegal.
  3. Therefore opponents to abortion want to push their personal values on others.

The problem is, even if one accepted this argument (which I do not), it overlooks the fact that supporting abortion is also a personal value, and one can simply reverse the argument and say supporters of abortion want to push their views on others – and such a charge would be absolutely true!  If we who believe abortion is wrong can be charged with "pushing values on others," then those who want to promote abortion can be accused of exactly the same thing.  If it's wrong for us to do this, obviously it's wrong for them to do this as well.

Therefore, to oppose Christians on this ground is hypocrisy pure and simple.

Objective Truth Dictates What Must Be Done

To avoid such a charge of "pushing values," we have to recognize that certain things are absolute and are always wrong even when society does not recognize it is wrong.

Take the issue of slavery.  Our country once thought (and still struggles with in some aspects) that certain races were inferior and less than fully human.  Despite some arguments on the subject, the majority of the nation at one time accepted it as reasonable.  Even some abolitionists doubted that African-Americans had the ability to act like human beings and fit in as American citizens.

Today we recognize that this was a terrible belief that dehumanized others and refused to treat people as the human beings they were.

That is why we don't accept arguments that the opposition to slavery was nothing more than one group "pushing values" on another group.  When a society supports a view that contradicts objective truth, that society is doing wrong even if members of that society don't realize it.  However, our revulsion with such a society is that there is no valid reason for people to think in such a way.  Either they close their eyes and mind to the truth to avoid difficult questions or they deliberately choose what they know is wrong.

Such a view recognizes there is a knowable truth which people fail to reach through their own fault.  Such knowable truth is demonstrated by the praising or condemning of behavior based on this.

Essentially, the Obama administration and their supporters believe that their views are absolutely true – abortion and gay "marriage" are good in and of themselves and whoever disagrees is acting from intolerance.  Such a view – especially with the condemnation of Christians as "intolerant" – indicates that they believe their views are objectively true and can be known.

Twofold Problem With the Attack on Christianity

The problem is twofold.  First, they cannot show the objective truth for their claims but can only make use of logical fallacies to claim their situations are similar to objective truths we recognize.  Secondly, they assume four thousand years of Jewish moral beliefs and two thousand years of Christian moral teaching was dead wrong based on intolerance.

The logical fallacies are largely appeals to emotion and fear, while misrepresenting the motives of those who oppose them: "How can you want to prevent people who love each other from marrying?"  "How can you want to force a woman to be pregnant?"  These are not at all our motives.  However, these false statements gain acceptance simply by having people repeat them over and over.  It's like those people who believe Catholics worship Mary.  We don't, but the lie is so often repeated that people accept it as true.

The assumption that Christian moral teachings are nothing more than 2000 years of intolerance leads to the question, "On what basis do you say this?"  Usually what you get in response is a litany of supposed abuses (mostly repeated lies or else distortions of what is true) which are unrelated.  Some ignorant peasants burned suspected witches, therefore the opposition to homosexual "marriage" is the result of ignorant Christians.  The problem is, the hysteria over witches by uneducated peoples in the 15th and 16th centuries is not the same as the reasoned condemnation of homosexual acts even in times and cultures where it was tolerated in decadent societies. 

Basically it is an argument of chronological snobbery which assumes that an advance of 2000 years of scientific knowledge automatically means an advance of 2000 years of moral knowledge.  I think history will show that this assumption is not true.

Conclusion

So ultimately the state of our Union is troubled and ominous.  The present administration and those who agree with it assume they know what is good and can force those who disagree with them to comply, contrary to the Constitution of the United States.

Those people who support the Obama administration should beware.  Once it is accepted as true that the government can overrule the obligations of conscience, there are no limits to what they can do.  History is full of examples of government ideologies which were forced on the people.  The results were the gulag and the concentration camp in those cases. 

Now the gulag and the concentration camp may never show up in America, so let's not be distracted by arguing over whether they will. That misses the point of danger which is:  If you think the government has the right to force people to act against conscience, then when the wheel turns and those out of power come into power, you will have no justification to object when the government turns on you.

And that's why even people who don't recognize the truth of Christianity should be alarmed about Obama's decrees.  If you are silent when the government turns on us, who will speak up when it turns on you?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Sooner We Realize America Is No Longer Free, The Sooner We Can Take Action

So this is how liberty dies... with thunderous applause

Revenge of the Sith

 

This is what Happens When You Try To Link This Article to Facebook

(This is what happens when you try to post the linked article to Facebook)

An article was written on a Catholic blog concerning a Catholic couple being sued for refusing to allow their business to host a reception for a Homosexual "marriage."  It's an excerpt from a longer article found here.

The couple stated:

“We have never refused rooms or dining or employment to gays or lesbians,” they wrote. “Many of our guests have been same-sex couples. We welcome and treat all people with respect and dignity. We do not however, feel that we can offer our personal services wholeheartedly to celebrate the marriage between same-sex couples because it goes against everything that we as Catholics believe in.”

So it's come to this.  A Catholic who tries to keep to his faith and stand against what he believes to be immoral can now be sued for standing up against the state.  I'm sorry but this sort of a thing is against everything I ever was proud about to be an American.  Nazis can march on Skokie, Illinois.  Klansmen can burn a cross on public land.  Artists can show desecrated religious icons and all is well.  But let a Christian seek to make a stand for what we believe and this is what happens.

We should pray for our nation, that the courts and the lawmakers see this and recognize that if this is allowed to go forward, we can no longer consider ourselves to be a free nation, but rather we can be said to be at best partially authoritarian.

It is also alarming that this sort of acceptance of losing our freedoms spreads further.  Facebook censors this article from being posted.  It is acceptable for people to post anti-Catholic material from pro-homosexual links, but this – which is simply a news article – is blocked because it is now determined we are not free to speak out on what is right or wrong.  Think of it.  This is not a Fred Phelps kind of article using slurs against homosexuals.  It merely reports that Catholics are being sued for standing up for their faith.  So it seems that speaking out against immoral acts is no longer permissible in society and perhaps it will soon be forbidden by law as well.

It is a sad thing.  Our Bill of Rights once gave us the freedoms to do what our consciences obligated us to do.  Now, we have favored classes which may never be questioned and certain beliefs that may never be questioned.

Yes, I know that Jesus did tell us:

22 Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude and insult you, and denounce your name as evil on account of the Son of Man.

23 Rejoice and leap for joy on that day! Behold, your reward will be great in heaven. For their ancestors treated the prophets in the same way. (Luke 6:22-23)

However, that does not mean those who do this to us do right to persecute us.

Very well.  I will follow the example of St. Thomas More and be faithful to my nation insofar as my nation does not ask me to disobey my God, for I must obey God instead of man if the laws of the nation are in conflict with Him, and I pray I will not falter if God calls on me to suffer for my faith and that He give me the grace to press on.  Perhaps I worry for nothing.  I am nobody important.  But then, neither was this couple.

Just know that the injustice is not being done by the Catholic couple with a Vermont inn.  It is being done by those who would deny us the right to follow our conscience and obey God.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Recommended Article: The Establishment Clause

I've been working on an article about the First Amendment and the Establishment Clause in terms of the oft-cited "Separation of Church and State."

However, today I see that the blog Outside the Asylum has an article on this subject which seems far superior to my own efforts on the subject.

So instead, I'll just refer you over to this article then: http://tonylayne.blogspot.com/2011/06/secularism-and-establishment-clause.html

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Reflections on The Constitution, The Supreme Court and Justice

Much of the political debate going around today is based on the idea that because the Constitution permits a thing, there can be no complaint against it.  Setting aside for the moment specific issues of dispute in America, the theory ignores one crucial question:

Can the Constitution (or an interpretation of it) err or be unjust?

I believe the answer can clearly be yes to both.  I recall in High School civics class that the Constitution can be amended if a problem is perceived.  Certainly before 1865, the Constitution was flawed in that it denied citizenship to certain parts of the population simply on the basis of the color of their skin.

This shows the problem when certain politicians rally around the "Constitutional" Right of the woman to choose [abortion].  The right may be decreed constitutional by the Supreme Court, but neither it, nor the right to privacy it is based on can be found in the Constitution.

If the interpreters of the Constitution are unjust, it follows that the interpretations they give can be unjust.  This kind of rhetoric goes on frequently.  Today, there is a dispute over whether Obamacare is constitutional.  Nine years ago, there was a dispute over whether the Supreme Court "unjustly installed" George W. Bush as president.

What this demonstrates is [Regardless of whether the charges are true or not], we do have interpreters of the US Constitution whose decisions are binding and not able to be appealed.  If they are unjust in their decisions, there is very little we can do to stop them.

This isn't mere theory.  The Supreme Court has made some historically bad decisions and have been forced to contradict previous precedent, such as the Dred Scott case and Plessy vs. Ferguson.

I believe this shows that the Supreme Court can give an interpretation which they call Constitutional, but is also unjust.

This demonstrates that to invoke the Constitutionality of a law is no evidence as to whether or not it is just.

On Justice

However, justice in law is what separates the good forms of government from the immoral forms of government, and here the person who argues against any moral absolutes have hamstrung themselves when opposing injustice.

Justice can be defined as giving to another their due, and behaving in right conduct with other people.  All human persons are considered to have human rights simply on the basis of their being human.  Each person is entitled to the due of not being treated in a subhuman condition.  In America we have in the Bill of Rights which assumes all people have certain rights.

The Catholic Church speaks of justice between men as follows:

1929 Social justice can be obtained only in respecting the transcendent dignity of man. The person represents the ultimate end of society, which is ordered to him:

What is at stake is the dignity of the human person, whose defense and promotion have been entrusted to us by the Creator, and to whom the men and women at every moment of history are strictly and responsibly in debt.35

1930 Respect for the human person entails respect for the rights that flow from his dignity as a creature. These rights are prior to society and must be recognized by it. They are the basis of the moral legitimacy of every authority: by flouting them, or refusing to recognize them in its positive legislation, a society undermines its own moral legitimacy.36 If it does not respect them, authority can rely only on force or violence to obtain obedience from its subjects. It is the Church's role to remind men of good will of these rights and to distinguish them from unwarranted or false claims.

In other words, because a person is human they possess certain rights independent of the government, and no government can take them away without being unjust.  Moreover, any government which denies these rights lacks moral legitimacy to their rule, and can only use force to make their decrees followed.

The Difference Between the Constitution and Justice

Whether or not the Constitution, or its interpretation, can be considered as possessing moral authority depends on whether it respects the human person or not.  If it does not respect the human person, the law may be binding by force, but it is not a law which we are morally obligated to follow, and in fact are morally obligated to oppose.

The Abortion Example

In 1973, the Supreme Court decreed abortion legal, and since then we have been told that it is based in the Constitutional Right to Privacy, which is not in the Constitution, and was not described as a right until 1965, in Griswold v. Connecticut.  This invokes the Ninth Amendment, which is a circular argument which one can dismantle with a reductio ad absurdum.  [The Constitution doesn't say I can't murder anyone either, therefore I have a constitutional right to do so].

Now, one can argue that the right to privacy is a basic right which precedes the Constitution.  However, this overlooks a crucial consideration: Are the unborn human persons?  If so, then their right to life precedes the Constitutional Supreme Court Right to abortion.

The Supreme Court decision, Roe v. Wade entirely ignores this consideration, when it declares:

3. State criminal abortion laws, like those involved here, that except from criminality only a life-saving procedure on the mother's behalf without regard to the stage of her pregnancy and other interests involved violate the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, which protects against state action the right to privacy, including a woman's qualified right to terminate her pregnancy.

This is entirely a circular argument, which assumes what it needs to prove: That a woman does in fact have the right to terminate a pregnancy.  It calls the unborn a potential life, but this is to be proven, not assumed to be true.

Indeed, without proving the fact that the fetus is not a person, the Supreme Court appears to have violated the 14th amendment:

1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. (Emphasis added)

If the assumption that the fetus is merely a potential human being is false, then the Supreme Court has created a situation where the unborn are denied the equal protection under the law.

The Roe v. Wade decision relies on an irrelevant appeal to past decisions of legal precedent, which selectively chooses certain examples and ignores others.  The reason it is an irrelevant appeal is that many of the precedents they cite are based on the scientifically erroneous ideas of quickening of the fetus, ignoring later medical advances.  From this we see the argument that since the actual forbidding of abortion in America was based on the fact that outright forbidding of abortion did not exist until the 19th century in America.

However, this is an argument from silence.  "We don't know of laws forbidding abortion until the 19th century.  Therefore it was permissible before then."  That laws were made in the 19th century does not prove that abortion was acceptable before.  Positive evidence that the nation, prior to the 19th century, sanctioned abortion is necessary.

Even from this, it does not follow that abortion is right.  To judge abortion as being morally neutral, it has to be established that the fetus is not alive.  If the fetus is a human person, it contains human rights which precede the laws of the United States.

The Quadrilemma of abortion

A right to abortion requires us to create some categories.  First, whether or not the fetus is a human person.  It either is or it is not.  Second, we need to determine whether we know this to be true.  This leaves us with four categories:

  1. The unborn is a human person and we know it.
  2. The unborn is not a human person and we know it
  3. The unborn is a human person and we do not know it
  4. The unborn is not a human person and we do not know it

In these four cases, we have three levels of guilt or innocence.

  1. In the case of us knowing the unborn is a human person, government sanctioned abortion is the murder of a human person.
  2. In the case of us knowing the unborn is not a human person, there is no problem with abortion.
  3. In not knowing whether or not the unborn is a human person (cases 3 and 4), abortion becomes a reckless, grossly negligent act.

We can demonstrate these cases with another scenario.  You and a friend are deer hunting, and get separated.  You hear motion in the bush.  There are four possibilities:

  1. The movement is caused by your friend and you know it
  2. The movement is caused by a deer and you know it
  3. The movement is caused by your friend and you do not know it
  4. The movement is caused by a deer and you do not know it

When is it legitimate to shoot?  Only in case two.  Why?

  1. In case 1, shooting when you know it is a person is willed murder
  2. In case 2, shooting when you verified you can shoot safely is morally acceptable
  3. In case 3, you are guilty of gross negligence and manslaughter at the very least
  4. In case 4, you are still guilty of gross negligence.

Yet, instead of proving when the human person begins, the Supreme Court acts with gross negligence.  it "fires into the bush" without verifying the target, when it argues:

A. The appellee and certain amici argue that the fetus is a "person" within the language and meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment. In support of this, they outline at length and in detail the well-known facts of fetal development. If this suggestion of personhood is established, the appellant's case, of course, collapses, [410 U.S. 113, 157] for the fetus' right to life would then be guaranteed specifically by the Amendment. The appellant conceded as much on reargument. 51 On the other hand, the appellee conceded on reargument 52 that no case could be cited that holds that a fetus is a person within the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Whether or not past law has made a statement on whether or not the fetus is a person has no bearing on whether the fetus IS a human person.  To assume that the fetus is not a human person based on interpretations of the 14th Amendment is an evasion of the issue, when it says:

All this, together with our observation, supra, that throughout the major portion of the 19th century prevailing legal abortion practices were far freer than they are today, persuades us that the word "person," as used in the Fourteenth Amendment, does not include the unborn.

This is an appeal to irrelevant authority fallacy.  Does the lack of laws that declare the fetus a person make it so?

Dangerous Precedents

Certain nations, including the United States, have at certain times determined that certain human beings were not persons on the basis of their ethnicity.  The most extreme example is that of Nazi Germany with its claiming that Jews and Slavs were subhumans which lacked human rights.  We are of course horrified by the actions the Germans justified by a legal claim.  Through a legal ruling, human persons were terribly mistreated.

Now of course Nazi Germany was an extreme example.  However, the United States once considered the blacks to be less than fully human, and such a view was upheld by the Supreme Court.  Under the logic of Roe v. Wade past precedent could be used to deny any African American was a "human person."  After all, before 1865, there were no laws which held that view.  It instead took a war and some amendments to overturn the bad logic of the Supreme Court.

Constitutional Is Not the Same as Just: QED

We are back to the beginning, and the conclusion is clear.  Just because the Supreme Court or the Constitution says a thing is constitutional has no bearing on whether a thing is just.  So despite what the Supreme Court says, it still must be assessed as to whether it is just or not.  If it is not just, it must be opposed.

Yet, the whole problem is a thing is not defended as just, it is merely called "Constitutional" as if that was all the sanction which was needed.

Unfortunately, in America, there is little recourse to an unjust ruling by the Supreme Court.  It is the state legislatures which can vote for a proposed amendment (which first requires 2/3 of both House and Senate to vote in favor of a proposed amendment), not the people (unless the states call ratifying conventions… which happened once).

So where does this leave the Christian who feels he must oppose an unjust ruling?

An Unjust Law is not a Law

One may want to ask: "How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?" The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that "an unjust law is no law at all"

Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust.

—Martin Luther King Jr.  Letter from a Birmingham Jail

This is ultimately what must put the Christian unwillingly in conflict with the government of the United States at times.  When the government decrees that it is permissible to degrade the human person, we must speak out against it, not bowing the knee to the unjust law… even if it comes from the Supreme Court or the Constitution itself.

However, there is a limit to what we can do.  If it comes to a choice between doing evil and suffering evil, we must choose the suffering of evil, as we may not choose an evil means to achieve the desired end.  Nor can we participate with the evil law.

So, in short, our opposition to injustice must be done in keeping with making a Christian witness.