Monthly Archives: March 2016

“Religious Freedom” Laws Violate First Amendment


Much of the discussion about recently passed religious freedom laws in Indiana, North Carolina and Georgia has focused on the belief that “religious freedom” are code words for discrimination against people in the LGBT community.  I believe the issue is broader than that as evidenced by the Supreme Court’s non-decision yesterday (a 4-4 tie) related to the inclusion of contraception in health care policies issued in accordance with the Affordable Care and Patient Protection Act (ACA).

What if someone believes religion was created as a way to bring some order to an otherwise unruly world?  (Comedian Lewis Black reminds us, “When the Old Testament was written, we were just one hair short of being an orangutan.”) What if someone thinks that Catholic doctrine on birth control and Jewish adherence to kosher laws are outdated responses to issues which are no longer relevant?  Those opinions–the right to be non-religious–are also protected by the first amendment.

Back to the recent Supreme Court case.  A group of nuns called the “Little Sisters of the Poor” (actually the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty) filed a suit arguing the inclusion of contraception in an employee health plan violated their religious freedom.  Keep in mind, the ACA does not require anyone to use contraception, it only necessitates the inclusion of contraception as an eligible medical expense.  It also does NOT mandate a religious organization to pay for contraception, only that it be available under the plan.  If the Little Sisters want to persuade their employees that contraception is contrary to God’s law, that too is protected under the First Amendment.

But what if an employee is a member of an organized religion which believes God wants us to be guardians of the earth which is threatened by overpopulation.  Therefore, contraception is one means of achieving that spiritual goal.  For the Little Sisters to deprive this employee of her religious beliefs also constitutes a violation of the First Amendment.  In a previous blog, I referred to Joe Biden’s admonition, “Beware of people who say ‘Power to the People.’  What they are actually saying is, ‘Power to MY people.'”  The same thing applies here.  The advocates of “religious freedom” laws are seeking protection for their followers, not everyone.

For what it’s worth.


Kardashian Politics


Last weekend I visited a friend who has worked for several Republican governors and whose opinion I greatly respect.  Of course, I wanted his take on the Trump phenomenon. His response, “You’ve got to admit, he’s brought a lot of new voters to the Republican party.”

If you only look at the total number of votes in the Republican primaries compared to the last few election cycles you might agree, but I don’t.  Trump is to the Republican party what Mother Kris and her family is to the E! Channel.  Kardashian fans are extremely loyal to their celebrity idols.  But do you honestly believe, if the Kardashians left the E! Channel, their followers would continue to watch E!’s replacements at the same ratings level.

This is the exact same conundrum the Republican Party faces at it’s convention this summer.  If the party establishment figures out a way to replace Trump as their “star attraction,” how many of these new “GOP voters” will remain loyal to the party?  When Trump accuses the GOP leadership of undermining his right to the throne, what is the chance he backs the eventual nominee?  And how quickly will all those new voters disappear?  My guess, faster than a New York minute.

Both Trump and the Kardashians represent the increasing cult of personality, not a political party/ideology or a television network.  Do not confuse the two.

For what it’s worth.


I Can Only Imagine the Reaction


An Iranian Muslim cleric ends a speech with the following:

And I want to leave with an expression of gratitude to Allah in whose hands all things lie. He has a plan for every one of our lives. Everything that comes from Allah is good. Allah is perfect. Allah makes no mistakes. And he has things planned for all of us. And we await eagerly to see what lies ahead.

Some American politicians point out this is the difference between the United States and a theocracy where the leaders use religion to justify their political goals.  They will argue it is this kind of wrong thinking that convinces young Muslims to become terrorists or even, suicide bombers. Jihad is a divine endeavor.

There is just one problem.  With the exception of my taking the liberty to substitute the word “Allah” for the world “God,” this is EXACTLY what former presidential contender Marco Rubio said in his concession speech last night after suspending his campaign.

I have no problem with individuals, politician or otherwise, relying on religious beliefs or spirituality for inner strength.  But comments like Rubio’s suggest something else.

  • Is it a perfect God’s plan that Rubio’s parents would have been denied the opportunity to come to America if the Mariel boat lift happened today?  Remember, in some circles, all Cuban refugees at that time were characterized as criminals.
  • Is it a perfect God’s plan that Rubio join his Senate colleagues in blocking the President’s constitutional duty to replace a Supreme Court justice? How many theocratic leaders suspend their constitutions when the law does not fit their narrative?
  • If God is perfect, than why does Rubio rail against the Affordable Care Act which his perfect God allowed to pass?
  • Why must a politician believe that their view of the world is God’s plan and the opposition’s is not?

When Joe Biden was a freshman Senator, I attended an event where he was the keynote speaker.  Forty years later, I remember his admonition, “Beware of people who say ‘Power to the people.”  What they are actually saying is ‘Power to MY people.'”

Theocracy has been bad for Iran.  It has been used to suppress women’s rights and identify scapegoats for failed policies and misguided leadership.  Just remember, those leaders believe THEIR god is perfect.  He does not make mistakes.  Similar thinking has the potential to be equally disastrous for America.

For What It’s Worth.