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The Jaffe Memo – Part 6; EVERYTHING is Now Political

In Part 5, I concluded that something very significant has happened over the last three decades: ‘politics’ has become all-encompassing.

In short: everything has become political.

And if everything has become political, and Christians are supposed to butt out, that means that the Christian is being asked (or told) that he can have absolutely no opinion at all about anything that happens in society that they are permitted to all. I’m not talking about abortion, or gay marriage. I’m talking about everything.

For example, let’s say we were talking about the minimum wage. At first blush, if ever there were a topic where good men could have different points of views and still be good men, it would be this topic… until, perhaps, you discover it was (and still is?!?!) a tool for targeting poor black people for elimination from society.***  Now, we are told that we are not allowed to bring to bear ‘religious’ or ‘moral’ arguments on public policy. I happen to think it is immoral beyond words to try to make it so that poor black people starve to death, and frankly this will over ride any other consideration I might have. I’m not going to sit around crafting a ‘secular’ version of my abhorrence to this public policy so that the atheists will allow me a hearing. You don’t deliberately try to starve people to death via government policies, period. It’s wrong and immoral, end of story.

But remember, I’m not allowed to let my religious morality drive my views on public policy!  If a ‘political majority’ decides that it is not “morally acceptable and socially desirable” and that is why they oppose this, that, we are told by the liberal elitists, is an establishment of religion, and therefore out of bounds.

The liberal elitist is, of course, is not so encumbered.

So, you see how this works. You have something ostensibly innocent that is potentially sinister, but you are forbidden from addressing it in those terms, while they are permitted to carry on however they please, since they are not ‘religious,’ and so, by (their) definition, their every act and motive must be ‘secular.’

This being the case, as the secularists continue to marshal the government for their various ‘secular’ goals, more and more areas of human experience fall within their control. Things that in previous generations politicians would never dream of touching are now the playground for the Government Nanny.

Think about it. Can you think of anything in your life that the government does not have its fingers into at present?

Let’s see.  We were just inches away from no longer being allowed to purchase non-Government approved light bulbs, and in California, as I recall, you no longer can.

New York passed a ban on trans fat a couple of years ago.  (The Health Commissioner at the time, Thomas Frieden, is an avowed utilitarian;  no worries, he’s only the director of the CDC now;  no one should believe he’ll act on his moral principles in that position, right?  Utilitarianism is neutral towards morality, right?  Right?)

The government has required ‘environmentally friendly’ plumbing and such for some time.  For this reason, my toilet uses half the water that it used to, and it is now necessary to flush it twice to finish my business, if you get my meaning.

Maryland was prepared to dictate who and who could not apply sunscreen lotion at summer camps this summer.

Numerous lemonade stands run by kids were shut down over the summer for lack of the necessary permits.  Ex 1., Ex 2., Ex 3., etc.

Many communities add fluoride to the water supply- even wealthy communities- presumably because poor people in the United States cannot afford $10 a year for fluoridated toothpaste.

The Obama administration not long ago passed their first phase towards socialized, universal health insurance, requiring everyone who (they deem) can afford it to obtain insurance, or else pay a penalty;  the insurance plans themselves are now even more encumbered with requirements and regulations than ever before.  Ezekiel Emanuel (known to some as ‘Dr. Death’, and brother of former Obama chief of staff ‘dead fish’ Rahm Emanuel) heads up the committee that is tasked with deciding how much every procedure available in America costs, what its success rates are, and whether or not YOU should get that procedure, taking into account ‘scarce medical resources.’   This should not be confused with rationing;  it is just phase one, after all.

Some schools give out condoms to their students.  In 2010, one school district in Mass. was prepared to give out condoms to children as young as first grade– without parental involvement.  They have since ‘clarified.’   This was probably because of the moral outrage that ensued, which for the purposes of this post is particularly interesting, because many people believe that morality has no place in public society- unless of course it is the morality of the secularists, because of course their moral viewpoints are not religious.

Or, how about my favorite new piece of regulation?  The requirements that your gasoline cans have ‘self-venting’ caps.  Apparently, 70,000 gallons of gasoline are spilled annually, releasing earth-killing fumes all the while.    Setting aside the fun question of how this number was derived, let’s speak just to the caps: they are RIDICULOUS and asinine.  I had to use one this summer and there was no way to use the dumb thing without spilling all over.  And I did.  I spilled and spilled all over my vehicle and myself.  There was no way to do it without spilling.  Infuriated, I went into my garage to find an old spout;  I didn’t spill another drop.   (Read about other experiences with the new caps).    Thanks to the government trying to stop spillage, I have now spilled more gasoline than I ever have before.   By interesting contrast, these stupid can caps were supposed to address the 70,000 gallons of spilled gasoline each year… the Deep Water Horizon spill put 4,900,000 BARRELS of oil into the ocean.   An event of great consequence, and yet life on this planet did not expire, nor is it expected to from the event.

I could go on and on.  And so could you, if you were honest.  Just looking at this short list, we see that everything from our plumbing to our choice of light fixtures to the type of fat allowed in a city to the nature of the health care you receive to the sexual behaviors of school children have all become political to the kinds of caps on my gasoline cans.  From the major to the minor, our government has inserted itself into every little corner of our lives.  All but a square inch of your life is political.  (The EPA bureaucrat that calculated how many gallons of gasoline Americans spill while fueling their lawn mowers each year is presently searching for that square inch.)

This is all just a symptom.  The underlying ailment is that our government is loaded with people working for the ‘public good’ as they understand ‘goodness.’  There is no logical, rational, end to this way of thinking, which is why you will find government officials inserting their viewpoints in ever narrower and specific contexts.   If you ask any individual official where they draw the line, they will invariably raise certain areas that they themselves would never dream of thinking the government should be involved, but there are hundreds of thousands of these officials, and none of them agree on which things;  taken as a collective, you will therefore find someone, somewhere, micromanaging- or trying to micromanage- every aspect of our lives .

It is not my point in this particular part to take issue with this trend, even if you can easily gather what I think about it.  My point is to show that the secularization of everything has made everything subject to ‘public policy’, the ‘common good’, and the ‘general welfare.’  Everything has become political.  In this context, to insist that religion be kept out of our politics is to demand that religious people stay out of public life altogether.  As already shown, liberals already believe that if a policy advocated in public coincides with something a person might desire on account of their religious values, they perceive this as a violation of the first amendment.  (I showed this in parts 4 and 5, citing liberal Supreme Court justices!)

It used to be said that to keep the peace at family get togethers, you should avoid discussing religion and politics.  However, since everything has become politicized, that essentially means you can’t talk about anything.  Well, there is one thing left… you can talk about the weather.

Wait a minute.  You can’t even do that!

But a discussion of global warming and climate change requires yet one more post, and will bring us full circle to the Jaffa Memo.

But if you want to draw a conclusion from where we have come so far, it is this:  one’s values are derived from beliefs about the world, and everyone has beliefs about the world, including secularists.  Religion is, at bottom, ‘beliefs about the world.’  If the values we promote in public and private are not derived from our beliefs about the world, where do they come from?  It is ridiculous to imagine that there are people out there who are advocating for policies that have nothing to do with their own beliefs about the world.  Shall we imagine that they are advocating for policies because they are ‘value-neutral’?  Absurd.  They would not be advocating for them at all if they didn’t think they were pursuing something worthwhile.

The only sane solution is to admit that everyone has values and everyone has a right to have those values inform how they act in public and private.  And by everyone, I include people who are not atheists and liberals.

Next up: The Poop On Climate Change and being Guided by Science!

*** (The possibility that the minimum wage could be justified on other grounds ‘by good men’ is something I addressed in Part 1, but I would hasten to add that if we discover that whatever our motivations and good intentions  and reasons for the policy, the net effect is that poor black people are harmed by it, we must view ourselves as complicit in the 1920s era Progressive’s agenda)  



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    • Alex on December 28, 2011 at 8:46 pm

    In your post #2, you treat as comparable someone who asserts (as a religious person and in their capacity as a government representative) that gay marriage is unacceptable, and someone who asserts (as a non-religious person and in their capacity as a government representative) that it is acceptable.

    Your argument is one of fairness: if one of these viewpoints is religious in nature, then why is the other non-religious? The issue here is that, to conform to long-established constitutional jurisprudence, the authority for any given law must rest on some rational basis, and not an appeal to unverifiable opinion, including that of a Supreme Being. So, “The Bible says so”, is not a valid argument in law to defend one against a charge of having violated the First Amendment; “Prominent atheist Richard Dawkins says so” is also not a valid argument in law; but “This recent peer-reviewed study demonstrates that legalizing gay marriage would measurably harm people” is a valid argument in law.

    The problem for your side here is that strenuous efforts have failed to furnish any particular measurable harm to actual people from legalizing gay marriage. The best that opponents of gay marriage have been able to come up with is studies showing that children do better with two parents rather than one; their problem is that it doesn’t seem to affect outcomes for children if the two parents happen to be of the same sex.

    If you are arguing that you disagree, even vehemently, with the secular approach that American constitutional law has taken, inspired by the First Amendment, then you are welcome to do so, and to propose amending the Constitution accordingly. The fact remains that the nature of American law is secular rather than theological. It does represent the same kind of bias towards verifiable evidence that made you so uncomfortable in our discussion of the efficacy of prayer. And unsurprisingly, I think that on the whole, that’s a good thing.

    You suggest in your post #3 that people have told you there is something legally impermissible about you advocating vigorously against gay marriage. This seems to flow from their poor understanding of the First Amendment. You are welcome, and are encouraged by the First Amendment, as someone not representing the government, to advocate as vigorously and as best as you can against it, employing whatever arguments you wish. If you were acting in a capacity as a government representative, however, you would not be able to use the authority granted by that position to advocate for or against any religious perspective in a context where you implicitly or explicitly are requiring other people present to assent to your perspective.

    I agree with you that members of the public and political representatives are welcome vigorously to debate gay marriage, because they are associating as free and equal citizens in a situation where everyone is equally able to voice their opinions. I may find it personally disgusting, but I believe it should be legal for parents to teach their children that gays marrying is the worst thing imaginable. Schoolchildren are welcome to vigorously debate gay marriage among themselves. However, teachers representing a public school district should not place students in situations where their compliance to a particular religious perspective is expected. What is and is not religious is defined by what it bases itself on. If religion (viz. homosexuals and witches are an abomination and should be put to death) and evidence (viz. homosexual practices seem to be widely prevalent in nature and to lead to no particular harm when separated from the effects of societal condemnation; there is no evidence that curses cast by witches have any effect outside people’s belief that they do) conflict, then in the public schools, evidence wins; and so it should.

    It is a sad thing, but school districts’ inability to understand or navigate this delicate path has meant that many school districts are fearful of teaching about religion at all, which must make it very hard indeed for students to understand a lot of history and world affairs. But their fear and ignorance suggests that they need better training, not that we should be encouraging them to abuse their authority by requiring assent to their views.

    You also suggest in post #3 that “secularists” somehow outnumber “religionists” in the public square. The contrary is in fact the case. It is very hard to find any federal officeholder (Stark, D-CA?), or indeed any statewide officeholder, who is not religious, because most of the electorate is religious and they tend to prefer religious candidates. What you really seem to mean is that many, perhaps a majority, of religious people in office do not share your views on commingling church and state affairs – which is certainly true, and good on them.

    Your fourth post is in the nature of a thought experiment as to what might have happened had a 1980 Supreme Court decision gone the other way, and had the Hyde Amendment been ruled unconstitutional; but it didn’t, so you’re reduced to saying that the secularist perspective you denounce is still a threat even if it is “uncodified” in law. Given how conservative the Supreme Court of 2011 is compared to the Supreme Court of thirty years ago, I feel that the prospect of the perspective you denounce being codified by the current Court, when it still missed out, if barely, before the Court of 1980, is extremely unlikely, your quote in your fifth post from Justice Ginsburg notwithstanding. Perhaps a quote from the Screwtape Letters is appropriate here, especially because I know you will know it:

    We direct the fashionable outcry of each generation against those vices of which it is least in danger and fix its approval on the virtue nearest to that vice which we are trying to make endemic… Cruel ages are put on their guard against Sentimentality, feckless and idle ones against Respectability, lecherous ones against Puritanism; and whenever all men are really hastening to be slaves or tyrants, we make Liberalism the prime bogey.

    You argue in your sixth and final post that the minimum wage is a device for the elimination of black people – as, apparently, is doing any damn thing to help relieve poverty, including making medical care accessible and funding education. Poor and uneducated people, after all, have more babies, and anything that makes them less poor will also have the effect of reducing their number of descendants. It is still worthwhile to relieve the poverty of this generation, of any race. Likewise, we could probably have full employment among black people if it were legal to hire people for a penny a day, but that doesn’t make it morally acceptable to do it. The conditions of minimum-wage workers are already not so different from the conditions of slaves; don’t make them more so. A moral person I believe, cares about creating jobs, and also about the human dignity of the person being employed.

    I accept, of course, that the peer review process has its own problems that it needs to address. Far more positive results are published than negative ones; false findings linger and influence public policy long after they have been debunked by more rigorous researchers. I am sure that your next post will cover some of those problems in the climate science field. Science is a poorer-quality basis for public policy than it could be right now, but, by being inherently open to disproof, it is inherently a more reliable basis, in terms of leading to less measurable harm, than religion.

    On gay marriage, then (and I live in a state where it is legal and where it appears to have led to no adverse effects whatsoever), it does seem to me that many religious people are expending a great deal of effort to oppose something that does not measurably harm people. Tell me, then: is your real problem with it that you believe it to be harmful in some measurable way, or that you fear that its being made legal and being shown to be harmless will further undermine people’s trust in what the Bible has to say about morality? If the former, why not define the harm; and if the latter, it’s hardly the fault of gay people if your beliefs aren’t soundly based, and it’s not particularly just to make them suffer in order to shore up beliefs about the Bible that they don’t share.

    As I’ve said above, you have every right to preach as you see fit; I just also have every right to condemn you, on utilitarian grounds or any other, if you appear to be needlessly making people miserable through your preaching.

    • Anthony on December 29, 2011 at 8:55 am

    Hi Alex,

    First of all, thanks for taking the time to actually read each segment.

    However, you have misconstrued the example of the minimum wage, just as you did initially. This is not accurate: “You argue in your sixth and final post that the minimum wage is a device for the elimination of black people ”

    This not what I am arguing. In fact, I explicitly raise the possibility that a policy could conceivably be supported on other grounds. My point in giving this example is to draw people’s attention to the fact that their ‘other grounds’ may actually be them being duped; given this possibility, they should more thoughtfully consider their views and values- and the views and values of others. You missed this point in the first part, too, and I honestly don’t know why. I was pretty clear.

    I’m going to avoid delving into an actual discussion on the actual effect of the minimum wage on black populations, as my purpose is to raise awareness and caution.

    I’m also going to avoid delving into actual conversations about gay marriage as a stand alone issue, as my point here is to illustrate the trend, which it seems you gathered: anything a conservative or religious person advocates is ‘religious’ and not permitted but a liberal atheist can advocate anything he pleases. My next parts will be delving even further into this trend.

    For now I’d like to call attention to just a couple of your comments because they highlight how you have been sucked into that trend.

    Example: “The Bible says so”, is not a valid argument in law to defend one against a charge of having violated the First Amendment;

    This again is an attempt to delve into the motivations of the people proposing law, etc. First of all, you fail to make a distinction between the REASON offered for the proposal and the EFFECT of the proposal. Contrary to your statements and those of Doug Indeap, it is only a recent development that liberals have gotten away with getting policies tossed because the proponents had religious motivations. Originally, and generally, it was the EFFECT that was most important. The 1st Amd language sets the tone: “makes no law respecting an establishment of religion,” but many people forget that it goes on… “OR PROHIBITING THE FREE EXERCISE THEREOF.” A person can be motivated by religious principles but cannot establish a religion.

    The ideas are different, and as illustrated in the Hyde Amd. Supreme Court case, the majority position called forth past precedent indicating that just because a policy coincided with a religious position, that did not in effect make it an establishment of religion. But that didn’t stop the liberals from trying to make that argument at the time, right? It is clear from the many conversations I’ve had that liberals still believe this argument is valid and their goal is to put someone on the court who agrees. And, unfortunately, we live in a society where we’ve accepted the premise of Marbury vs. Madison.

    EXAMPLE: ““The Bible says so”,” Of course, no one actually says this, do they? But let’s pretend for a moment that they do and see how it compares to your example: You say, “Prominent atheist Richard Dawkins says so” as if this would also be wrong.

    But why would it? Who carried out the ‘peer-reviewed study’? Let’s say it was Dr. Bill. So, if Dr. Bill ‘says so’ and says he did a study, that’s an acceptable authority? You kicked out Dawkins and inserted Dr. Bill. That’s an improvement how? What you are really trying to say is that if the FACTS and EVIDENCE support a position/policy, then that is the authority we should rely on… and in the main, you believe that science is the best determiner of what is an actual fact, and that scientists reliable arbiters of the significance of those facts.

    However, your belief to this effect is not itself a scientific fact. It is your deeply held private belief, one that you find reasonable and true, and wish others held it as well. It is in short every bit as religious as any other persons belief are. So there is the rub: you believe that you should be able to act on YOUR religious beliefs, but others shouldn’t be permitted the same right. Is not your idea that ‘science’ is a proper authority akin to an establishment of religion in violation of the 1st amd, that is, the establishment of scientism?

    But this still does not highlight the fallacy of this way of thinking. But I need to take a little break. If you could give me a couple of hours to post it before replying, I’d appreciate it.

    • Alex on December 29, 2011 at 10:40 am

    We live in a society where we’ve accepted the premise of Marbury vs. Madison.

    Yes, we do. It’s a society called “The United States of America”. Marbury vs. Madison was decided in 1803. I would respectfully suggest that it might be time to regard it as being settled law.

    You believe that you should be able to act on YOUR religious beliefs, but others shouldn’t be permitted the same right.

    I believe that it is appropriate for the law to privilege rationality. Indeed, it must, in order to be able to function as a recognizable legal system.

    I feel that you err by looking too much at the people and not enough at the process. It is possible to neutrally evaluate the validity of two people’s claims against each other, and if we decide that it is not, then we might as well not have a legal system and decide things via trial by combat instead, as European kings once did.

    What distinguishes a doctor from a quack, a terrific fund manager from a crook, a valid marriage from one entered into by fraud or force? The law is required somehow to distinguish the two, and it does so through a process that has evolved so as to exclude evidence that tries to cite God’s will, and only God’s will, as proof of anything other than the belief of the testifier that something is God’s will.

    So, Dr. Bill, in your example, may be coming at his work from the perspective of an evangelical Christian; he may be coming at things from the perspective of a Jew, a Buddhist, a Muslim, an atheist, or any thing. But what he must have done, in order for his evidence to become acceptable to a court as an expert witness, is to have put his work before the public and had it subjected to pre-publication and post-publication review, challenge, and criticism by other experts. That is the usual practice for law firms when selecting expert witnesses. So the “faith” you’re talking about is faith in a process, not in a particular person’s opinions: it is faith that being open and systematic about what you have done, and putting it up for comment and challenge, produces more accurate work than being closed, secret and unsystematic. You are of course welcome to argue that the evidence presented in court should be allowed to be all of those things, but you will find few takers for that point of view.

    As Ben Goldacre wrote recently:

    The value of a scientific publication goes beyond the simple benefit of all relevant information appearing, unambiguously, in one place. It’s also a way to communicate your ideas to your scientific peers, and invite them to express an informed view.
    In this regard, I don’t mean peer review, the “least-worst” system settled on for deciding whether a paper is worth publishing, where other academics decide if it’s accurate, novel, and so on. This is often represented as some kind of policing system for truth, but in reality, some dreadful nonsense gets published, and mercifully so: shaky material of some small value can be published into the buyer-beware professional literature of academic science; then the academic readers of this literature, who are trained to critically appraise a scientific case, can make their own judgement.
    And it is this second stage of review by your peers – after publication – that is so important in science. If there are flaws in your case, responses can be written, as letters, or even whole new papers. If there is merit in your work, then new ideas and research will be triggered. That is the real process of science.”

    A simple example is that it is appropriate for courts at this point to dismiss as frivolous lawsuits arguing that Obama is ineligible to be president on the ground of having not been born in the United States, on the ground that the available evidence indicates that he was in fact born in the United States. The law is not required to treat the remote contingency that the evidence is all faked as having equal validity to the actual evidence presented before it, nor should it be required to do so.

    If a judge were to rule that evidence were sufficient for there to be a case to answer – say, there were physical evidence showing Stanley Ann Dunham’s or Barack Obama Junior’s presence outside of the United States at the time of his birth – then the case for eligibility could proceed. Either the judge themselves or a jury would then evaluate all the evidence before them and come to a conclusion as to Obama’s eligibility for the presidency.

    The key feature of this system, which is similar to the scientific process, is that all non-prejudicial evidence is brought forward, examined and challenged, and then a ruling is made, which may or may not conform to actual truth, but does establish the truth insofar as it can be known at that time based on the available evidence. The fact that you object to making decisions on that basis without further reference to God does not make the judicial system biased against God; it makes it not biased toward or against any particular person’s interpretation of what God wants. There is no particular reason for the law to accord special status to the writings of Christian believers in God specifically, and to do so would, unquestionably, violate the Constitution.

    • Anthony on December 29, 2011 at 11:28 am

    EXAMPLE CONTINUED: ““The Bible says so”,”/ “Prominent atheist Richard Dawkins says so” / Peer reviewed

    By trying to push the matter back to whose authority is being invoked, you open up an interesting can of worms. First of all, if in fact I am right that you are trying to make ‘facts/evidence’ the only proper authority AND that only Science can provide those in society, attempting to parse out Science from particular scientists (eg, Dawkins’ opinions), we find ourselves right back at square one. Obviously, Science is carried out by actual, specific scientists. To maintain this line of thought, you basically have to take individuals out of the equation altogether. That is, I cannot invoke the ‘Bible’ (as if I ever do! lol) as my ‘authority’ and you say Dawkins can’t invoke himself as an ‘authority,’ but then of course the scientist carrying out the ‘peer-reviewed’ study cannot invoke himself, either, and we could not invoke him- or Dawkins, or ourselves, or the Bible.

    Hence, on this view, no authority can be invoked by anyone. Your escape hatch from this absurd conclusion seems to be that you want to invoke ‘Science/facts/evidence’… but as I said, facts and evidence must be ascertained by SOMEONE, but you’ve excluded SOMEONEs. The only way this line of thought can be redeemed as tenable would be if you kicked every issue back to the ‘scientific consensus.’ Should we then stop allowing individuals to vote at all? Should we disband the legislature, the judges, and the President, and instead appoint panels of scientists? Naturally, they will all be experts in their particular fields, and no scientist from some other field will be allowed to interpret the facts from another field (as ascertained by the ‘consensus’). This seems to be where your logic must go, though I doubt you yourself will do it. No matter, I can find a hundred examples in 30 minutes of liberals advocating for exactly that sort of thing without even knowing that they are advocating it, even if you won’t. Indeed, in my next part, I will be giving an example from Obama himself. Although, your example of reliance on a ‘study’ as proper really does the trick, too.

    But if you deny it, that can only mean that you believe that we as individuals have the right to interpret and weigh the ‘facts and evidence’ that is given to us by scientists, and act on them privately and publicly according to our own values. The only alternative to this is to create panels of experts and defer to them on all issues.

    To allow at any level for the individual to act according to his own conscience is to require that we allow individuals to have the same right. That is, they must be free to have any WHY that they want, ALWAYS. Otherwise, I don’t see how it is not a prohibition of the ‘free exercise of religion’ or how the alternative is not panels of ‘experts.’ The WHAT, on the other hand, is limited by the Constitution; in my belief, wisely.

    This brings us back around to one of my central contentions, that liberals allow themselves any WHY that they want but they wish to curtail the WHYs that others may have.

    But unfortunately, this is not tenable, either. If the hard core secular atheists are right, then they undermine their own argument. Again, assuming you aren’t assuming we erect panels of experts to direct our affairs, then in fact we must say that Dr. Bill can vote for whatever reasons he pleases- by any authority he desires, and likewise, so can Richard Dawkins. In sum, every person is their own final authority on why they will promote the things they promote.

    On this basis, a person is perfectly justified in voting for a minimum wage just because it makes him feel better, or because he likes ice cream, or because dogs are cute, or because he thinks this is good for society. Or because you don’t like black people, and think this is a good way to diminish their numbers. Whatever.

    But of course, on this basis, I could go to the polls to object to gay marriage simply on the grounds that I don’t like it. You would have to allow me this right; Even on your own grounds, whilst you deny me the right to invoke the Bible, I am free to invoke myself, and my own subjective nclinations. Since an atheist does not believe there is a God, God is no authority at all, anyway, and my own subjective inclinations are all there are. So, in the end, even on the view that you cannot invoke ‘religion’ you can still invoke yourself, and that is ‘ok.’

    The only alternative to allowing people their own WHYs are panels of authorities.

    For the record, I am not objecting to the racist bigot being allowed to promote policies for whatever reasons he wishes. I am not objecting to the homosexual trying to advance his agenda in the public sphere. But neither is permitted to compel me to AGREE. If I am a public official, or a private individual, I am not obligated to implement whatever they want against my conscience. As I have shown, if we are not permitted to resort to our own consciences, it is the road to tyranny and despotism… if we are not already there.

    But I am still not done… I do apologize for the length, but I have one more comment to go.

    • Anthony on December 29, 2011 at 11:57 am

    EXAMPLE: “would measurably harm people”

    This is a case in point of the undisciplined thinking in your view. What constitutes ‘harm’? Who decides? How is it decided? On your example, the scientist decided when he established the parameters of the study. And we’re all supposed to just accept his views? Where did he get them? ‘Harm’ is not a scientific concept. It has to do with ethics and values, which is to say, it is ultimately a ‘religious’ judgment. The very fact that the ‘study’ is carried out at all reflects a values judgement. We will only have a study evaluating whether or not bestiality is causes ‘harm’ when the bestiality lobby- that is, those who value sexual relationships with animals, exist in such numbers that someone decides there are enough to have a study. You don’t randomly have studies about such things; they are indicative of people with particular values expressing those values in behaviors.

    So, once again, by trying to take religion out of it, you’ve actually brought us clean round to it. Only, you don’t call it religion, and so allow it, unfettered.

    “The problem for your side here is that strenuous efforts have failed to furnish any particular measurable harm to actual people from legalizing gay marriage.”

    See above. Who is doing the measuring? Why? etc., etc.

    Finally, to say a word about gay marriage, you’re simply completely out of touch with reality if you think that the argument against gay marriage reduces to my religious views. Speaking of facts: I don’t need a scientist to tell me that if you locked two immortal gay men in a room for a billion years and then opened the room up to count how many people there are in the room, there will still be only TWO. Likewise, two immortal (not already pregnant) gay women. It is about as non-arbitrary and objective as you can get to note that procreation requires something from a particular man together with a particular woman. If you believe in God or believe we came from primates millions of years ago, this is a simple, straight forward FACT. No study needed. No ‘religion’, either.

    Society had an ‘public’ interest in sexuality only insofar as it touched on the continuity of society. Gay relationships cannot, by definition, continue society. Therefore, there is no ‘public interest’ in sanctioning their behaviors. In my opinion, if gay marriage is ‘legalized’ then every and any legitimate basis for society’s interest in sexuality has been chucked, and it would be better if the government got out of the business altogether.

    And if anyone can find anywhere in the above where I invoke “The Bible says so” in that opposition to gay marriage, then that person is a lost cause.

    Re: Marbury vs. Madison and your comments about ‘settled law.’ I don’t know why people as bright as you say such absurd things. Surely you can think of some things in our history that would still be with us today that we’d agree together were BAD if we simply said “oh, it’s settled law.” I suppose we must accept that when the Supreme Court reversed itself on whether or not a black person only counted for 2/3 of a person they did so improperly, after all, it was SETTLED LAW that they were.

    Marbury vs. Madison is BAD law. It should be reversed, and I look forward to someday having Supreme Court justices that return once again to the rule of law or a Congress with the kahoonas to take us there.

    You’ll forgive me, but I’m not willing to allow BAD things to persist, just because they are SETTLED. You, of course, are free to do so. Just don’t ask me to be happy with it. I am free to be unhappy about it, and even try to reverse it if I can. If you think you have the right to stop me, or police my opinions, you reveal yourself to be the tyrant that you insist you aren’t.

    Thanks for your comments, but I cannot respond any further. I will be releasing the other parts in due time. I note with ironic pleasure how much they anticipate your comments. 🙂 So, while the next parts are not responses to you, I note that in many respects they will serve the purpose.

    Thanks again for reading.

    • Alex on December 29, 2011 at 4:35 pm

    When I say that Marbury vs. Madison is (very) settled law, what I am trying to say is that since almost the beginning of the American republic, law and judicial power have been handled in a way that gives final say to the justices of the Supreme Court as to what the Constitution means. You may well dislike that, and would prefer another constitutional setup, but when you start talking about reversing such an old and deeply rooted case, you’re essentially arguing that the whole of American jurisprudence since shortly after independence should be torn up and done over, because it has come to conclusions that are too secular for your taste. If you want it so, then there’s a procedure to do it, namely amending the Constitution; your problem is that what you propose would have a hard time gaining even plurality support, let alone the super-majorities required to activate a Constitutional amendment.

    I am not arguing that courts should not invoke any authority. For most cases, the authority of relevant precedents is enough to dispose of a case without examining any novel legal issues. If it appears that the text of the Constitution might be able to support the overruling of a precedent, then an appeals court may take that issue up and rule on it. If novel facts present themselves because of social or technological advances that might render current precedent inapplicable, then expert testimony may assist the court in determining a just solution. It is only this last eventuality that we are considering here.

    Once again, though, you’re seeing authority as deriving from a person, and arguing that Christian people’s expertise is excluded under the current system. That is frankly nonsense. Most expert witnesses are Christians, if only because the great majority of people in this country are Christians. What renders their testimony properly admissible or inadmissible under our secular court system is not whether it is true in some larger sense, but whether the expert witness has gained a reputation in the field by participating in the kind of review process of their work that I discuss above. This review process is designed with the intent of reducing the element of unverified opinion in any scientific paper, relative to the element of verifiable fact. It’s not perfect, but it’s better than using no process whatsoever and declaring all testimony of all kinds to be equally valid, which appears to be what you are arguing for and which would turn every trial into a cacophonous circus.

    Now, you argue that relying only on evidence is tantamount to dictatorship by scientists. It is not. We are talking about a very specific matter, the types of evidence that ought to be admissible in the court system. We clearly do not require ordinary citizens or legislative or executive representatives in the ordinary course of their political activities to submit their claims to the courts, and our current system has properly ruled that their freedom of speech effectively includes the right to make lying or unsubstantiated claims, because it sets the bar extremely high for proving libel and defamation. Individuals do have, and exercise, in our society their ability to evaluate scientific evidence. So, your comments in this respect seem exceedingly fanciful.

    You argue that to forbid individuals representing the government to argue for the truth of a particular religion abuses their freedom to exercise their religion; but this ban exists precisely to preserve people’s freedom to exercise their religion, namely the people over whom the governmental representative has authority. It’s very easy for someone to use the shotgun of governmental authority to enforce their view on others. I grew up in an environment where every school was required by law to hold Christian services every morning, and my best friend at high school was Muslim. In what way was his freedom to exercise his religion as he saw fit being protected, when every weekday he was required by law to attend services praising Jesus as the Son of God?

    You do have the right to object to gay marriage or to any other thing. All I am arguing is two narrow examples, where:

    A) public school history teacher Anthony has no free speech right in class to lead his students in prayer that the will of the Christian God be done and gay marriage be overturned (He is welcome to state what his own opinion is, and to invite discussion of the same, and it is only the ineptness of school district administrations that get people in trouble for doing that); and

    B) Defendant Anthony, who works in the HR Department of a county government and denied benefits to the legally married wife of a lesbian employee, has no valid defense that he disobeyed the law because of his personal religious belief that gay marriage is wrong.

    Neither of these cases compel you to convert your personal beliefs from opposing gay marriage to supporting it. All they do is to require you to recognize that when exercising governmental authority, you are legally required to implement the law even when your personal beliefs conflict with the law. In the same way, it is not a defense to the crime of rape that you personally believe rape not to be wrong. It is simply an implementation of the notion that nobody is above the law.

    You write at great length about the notion of who gets to determine what “harm” is, but I invite you to be explicit. What is the harm that you see being caused by legalizing gay marriage? If you believe, as you seem to, that the only marriages that ought to be legal are marriages where the couple can procreate, then isn’t it obvious to you that that would forbid impotent men, barren women and men and women past the age of fertility to be married, as well as gay people? Bluntly, if the healthy continuation of the species is the only possible social interest, then could not the state in your view reasonably invalidate the marriages of people who produced severely disabled children? If your objection is only on the ground of procreation, then what makes that wrong?

    If you think you have the right to stop me, or police my opinions, you reveal yourself to be the tyrant that you insist you aren’t.

    Be careful here, Anthony. You’ve written at great length about how these dumb secularists just don’t understand that articulating a different viewpoint is not religious oppression. Now you’re accusing me of tyrannizing over you by virtue simply of the fact that I disagree with you. If it helps you here, I will say again that I hold dear your right to hold and advocate for whatever foolish and poorly reasoned belief you wish to.

    • End Bringer on December 29, 2011 at 4:39 pm

    “When I say that Marbury vs. Madison is (very) settled law, what I am trying to say is that since almost the beginning of the American republic, law and judicial power have been handled in a way that gives final say to the justices of the Supreme Court as to what the Constitution means.”

    So basicly instead of one over-blown robed figure on a throne dictating to everyone, you advocate that 9 is better? Doesn’t strike me as following the spirit of ‘checks and balances’ the Founding Father’s strived for.

    • Alex on December 29, 2011 at 4:49 pm

    No, it is an intrinsic part of the system of checks and balances. The Founders knew that someone would have to have the final word eventually on what laws conform to the Constitution and what laws do not. It couldn’t be the executive, because that would concentrate too much power in the President’s hands. It couldn’t be the legislature, because then they could pass any law and declare it constitutional. That left the judicial branch. As a practical matter, if the people as a whole disagree very vehemently with a Supreme Court ruling, they can effectively overturn the Supreme Court, by amending the Constitution so that it says something different; it’s just that a super-majority of Congress, the president, and three-fourths of state legislatures have to agree first. It seems a reasonable setup to me. Why doesn’t it to you?

    • End Bringer on December 30, 2011 at 12:27 am

    *snort* No, there’s nothing “intrinsic” about their being a final word in a system of checks and balances. That’s more “intrinsic” to a dictatorship. More telling is the fact that no where is “judicial review” ever mentioned when the Judiciary Branches duties are explictily outlined in A3S2.

    One would think if it was so darn essential it would have been mentioned, no? But this just highlights the underlining problem of people interpreting meaning regardless of what words are written down. The Liberal modeus operandi.

    “It seems a reasonable setup to me. Why doesn’t it to you?”

    Why does it not seem like a reasonable set up that 3/4s of the legislature and the president is needed to be in sync to balance 5 people? Gee, that’s a tough one. Of course that’s just the Supreme Court. Where’s the “balance” for all the lower courts who arbitrarily legislate their own rulings, often to promote a political agenda or in the face of majority decisions.

    I kind of feel like Jefferson said it best when he criticized the ruling as “placing us under the despotism of an oligarchy.” And what do you know? We’ve arrived to just that.

    • Alex on December 31, 2011 at 11:02 am

    It’s not just 5 people, End Bringer. In order for the Supreme Court to even consider a case, there usually must be a conflict in the rulings of lower courts that they have to resolve. So you’re really talking about 5 people, plus the majorities on the lower courts that ruled the same way as the Supreme Court, plus all the array of forces assembled on the side of the question the Supreme Court ruled in favor. Courts cannot initiate rulings by themselves; they can only react to the cases brought before them. And if their reactions always had to conform to the views of the majority, then there would be no need for a court system at all; the whole essence of courts is to protect the rights of those unprotected by the majority-rule systems that produce policy in the other parts of our government.

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