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War on Christmas?

Catholic League president Bill Donohue is once again hot under the collar about the War on Christmas. In short, he’s annoyed at the consequences of living in a country governed by a secular Constitution.

Last year he lamented:

A school counselor at an Arkansas elementary school has been told that she must remove her posting of a nativity scene on her billboard; her decoration was permitted for more than 20 years. Tulsa, Oklahoma has long had a Christmas parade, but this year it was renamed the Holiday parade.

So your religious claims are so flabby that you need the government to help support them? Aren’t parents and churches and the plain truth of your message enough? And why mention the 20 years—do wrong things stop being wrong once they’re traditions?

Let’s switch things around a bit to make sure we’re being consistent. What if a school employee had been told to remove displays of a Wiccan celebration for Samhain or a Satanic celebration for the winter solstice? Or if city money had been prevented from funding celebrations of the Hindu festivals of Holi or Diwali?

Public schools and publicly funded celebrations must be religion-neutral, which sounds like a good arrangement for Christians, atheists, and everyone else.

In another article, Donohue says:

There are two ways government can practice neutrality: the tolerant way, which is to allow all world religions a limited period of time to display their wares in the public square; and the intolerant way, favored by liberals, which is to censor everyone. We vote for the former.

I can accept that, but then you have cases like Santa Monica, in which spots for displays in a public park were distributed by lottery in 2011. Atheist organizations won 18 out of 21 spots, and some Christians were up in arms. Sometimes when you play the “allow all religions time to display their wares” game, it backfires.

Here’s a simple solution: avoid using public land or buildings for religious displays. They already have plenty of tax-supported publicity. Easy, right?

Donohue fulminates anew against more insults to Christianity in this year’s broadside:

Students at an elementary school in Little Rock, Arkansas were recently invited to see the play, “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” at a local church. … A ruckus ensued when one atheist complained. …

For several decades, the Illinois village of Alsip has erected a cross on its water tower, but this year it will not be displayed

Bill, why is this hard? Keep telling me about breaches of the First Amendment in your annual dispatches from the front lines of the War on Christmas, and I’ll keep rooting for the Constitution. No, the atheist groups supporting the separation of church and state aren’t Grinches; they’re trying to protect your rights.

After last year’s fuss, Santa Monica decided to not have any holiday displays. Peace on earth? No, Mr. Donohue was as cranky as Ebenezer Scrooge:

Today’s atheists have no identity save for what they are against. What else but malice would drive atheists to display their hate-filled message alongside religious symbols in Santa Monica last year?

When the atheists got their displays trashed, I’m not sure the malice was coming from the atheists. And why the rage—are churches off limits for religious displays? Are they illegal on private property? I’m missing the problem.

It’s time for Pat Robertson’s insightful seasonal message as well. His analysis:

Atheists don’t like our happiness. They don’t want you to be happy; they want you to be miserable. They’re miserable so they want you to be miserable.

(Okay—who leaked the Atheist Master Plan?!)

Bill O’Reilly won’t be outdone, and he called David Silverman’s American Atheists a “merry band of fascists” and pretended that Christianity isn’t a religion but a philosophy. It was a bumbling attempt at bypassing the First Amendment’s prohibition against an “establishment of religion” that I doubt many Christians would agree that worshipping the Creator of the Universe is a philosophy.

These self-appointed nursemaids of the public good seem to imagine that religions don’t have the opportunity to spread the word or that their existence is a mystery to people. Or perhaps they fear that Christians’ faith is so fragile that it must be propped up with frequent reminders.

Either these blowhards are out of touch with reality or they don’t trust that Christianity’s message is convincing. Neither casts them in a good light.

’Twas the night before Christmas; the Christians all hunkered
In basements of buildings they’d armored and bunkered.
They huddled in silence; they huddled in fear,
With thoughts that the atheists soon would draw near.
(read the rest at Digital Cuttlefish)

 

Photo credit: Wikimedia

About Bob Seidensticker
  • Richard S. Russell

    “Either these blowhards are out of touch with reality or they don’t trust that Christianity’s message is convincing.”
     
    3rd possibility: The best way to keep raking in the big bux is to keep agitating the easily gulled.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      The Chicken Little gambit? Yep, that works, too.

    • http://www.flatheadmama.blogspot.com Rebecca

      I can’t figure out how to start a new general comment to the post, so please forgive me piggybacking on yours.

      I just wanted to generally address the atheist community here and as a Christian apologize for the angry, battle mentality that we Christians sometimes resort to. I can understand why it would make you skeptical and frustrated. Unfortunately, in recent years many of us as Christians have spent a lot more time talking about what we are against than what we are for. I’m sorry for this and hope and pray that we can do better.

      Peace!

      • Bob Seidensticker

        Rebecca:

        I can’t figure out how to start a new general comment to the post, so please forgive me piggybacking on yours.

        You can scroll down to the bottom for the “Leave a Comment” section. Or do it this way–either works.

        apologize for the angry, battle mentality that we Christians sometimes resort to

        Obviously, their nuttiness doesn’t reflect on you personally, but that was a thoughtful gesture!

        My own view is that there are Christian excesses in American custom–”In God We Trust” as the motto on the money, politicians trying to outdo each other’s religiosity during election season, state-supported Christianity (National Day of Prayer, prayers in Congress, “God bless America” in speeches, Jesus stuff on public property at Christmastime, and so on)–and when we try to push the pendulum back to where it should be, Christians see this as an attack rather than a correction.

      • Kodie

        I appreciate it Rebecca. I do not hold all Christians accountable for the hostility, but I would like to see more Christians stand up to the Christians who do think this “war on Christmas” is a serious matter. They don’t hear it coming from atheists and believe what they want to believe about us no matter what we say.

      • Naked anthropologist

        Hey, I know I’m late to the discussion, but I just wanted to say thank you for what you said. Like others have mentioned, I don’t blame all Christians for what a few have said. I just wanted to thank you for speaking out – a lot of people never do. And merry Christmas!

        • Bob Seidensticker

          :)

  • http://equalsuf.wordpress.com Jayn

    “They don’t want you to be happy; they want you to be miserable. They’re miserable so they want you to be miserable.”

    Someone’s projecting here…

  • smrnda

    I can’t see how anybody thinks ‘we’ve been going this for X number of years’ to be a persuasive case for anything. For X number of years there were separate facilities for white and Black people in the south. For a long time it was ‘tradition’ that women couldn’t vote. Argument from tradition isn’t valid.

    Religions can already display their wares out in public – churches occupy land that they get special tax breaks on and they can and do put up nativity scenes, crosses and big gigantic signs there. With land of their own, why do they need to occupy government land?

    The other thing, would Christians really be okay with other religions displaying their own symbols and icons? They present this as some hypothetical solution they’d be okay with, but how many Christians parents would be complaining about their kids getting exposed to non-Christian religions in school?

    • Bob Seidensticker

      And then when a tradition has been ongoing for decades, Christians don’t see a correction as righting a wrong or putting things back in balance, they see it as an attack, an affront.

      A few years ago there were two Supreme Court cases about Christian displays on public land. If I remember correctly, one in Kentucky and one in Austin? I think the Austin one was allowed to stay, because it had become a tradition. That is, it was grandfathered in somehow.

      The lesson is clear: when you see someone stepping over the line, that needs to be publicized ASAP. But no matter when the error is corrected early or late, Christians will fuss about it.

  • Greg G.

    If Christianity is a philosophy, why do they have holidays?

    • http://www.flatheadmama.blogspot.com Rebecca

      Hi. I’m a Christian and you are right. It’s not a philosophy. It’s a religion. Jon Stewart was brilliant on this last night.

      • Bob Seidensticker

        Here’s that video. As Jon Stewart said, here’s Bill O’Reilly giving yet another gift to atheists. Must be Christmas!

  • Greg G.

    Thanksgiving is the day with give thanks for everything we have. Black Friday is the day we punch people in the face for everything we don’t have. Now we have Black Thursday. That’s Christmas declaring war on Thanksgiving. My second and third favorite radio stations went to Christmas carols 24/7 the day after Election Day. We need to fight Christmas in November and December so we don’t have to fight it all year long.

  • Kodie

    The Grinch, famously, couldn’t stop Christmas from coming at all. In the book and cartoon, he was disturbed by their togetherness, their joy, and when he realized they still had togetherness and joy, he returned the decorations, food, and presents, and not for that, but because the Whos have generosity, was invited to join them for dinner.

    What I really hate is the idea that we can spoil someone else’s birthday party at all. Christmas is so much more than that, for everyone else. They are spoiling their own holiday by insisting it is about Jesus and nothing else, and relying on some mythical atheist who hates joy. Ok, ok, some people do hate joy, but that’s not what this is about at all. Without Jesus, there is no family gathering? If not for Jesus, no one would ever think to give someone a present? Think of their postal carrier, their co-workers as a second family, or just say howdy to a stranger? What kind of messed up religion is this that they think they own the right to all good things and say atheists are trying to take it away! It is they who are attacking us, spreading rumors on the EFFING NEWS channels about our motivations, and hoarding the goodness of the holiday season. If Jesus is the only excuse they have to be nice, they deserve to have their Christmas ruined by all their own complaining. It’s like they just don’t understand what their personal holiday is about – it is rough out there when you can’t see a nativity set up on the town hall lawn. Why are they trying to steal our joy – all our freedom? Material, even sentimental, objects – things – are not Christmas, even if you do believe in Jesus.

    Dear Christians:
    For some reason, I thought Christianity was a personal relationship with Jesus, and not a personal relationship with Jesus via the government, spending tax dollars on decorative affirmations of your faith. We don’t have the power, nor the intention, of taking away anyone’s personal relationship with Jesus, nor the ability to celebrate his birthday according to anyone’s personal traditions, using any decorations you like wherever it is legal – which is almost everywhere.

    The public square is my house just as much as it is your house, as in, you would no less put a nativity scene in the yard of my own house. You would not presume to do that, correct? Even if the people who lived there before me put one up for 45 years; they moved out and it’s my house now. I think you know the difference between their tradition (which you may have enjoyed) and my rights not to carry it on just because I live there now. We both pay taxes, so it is an affront to me, and to your own religious freedom, that you’d presume to expect your religion to be preferred on land that we both own. The government doesn’t tell you what to think about Jesus, and that’s how it should be. You freely have that relationship between the two of you with no legal barriers or entanglements. And I support that. I don’t have to agree with you or have a personal relationship with Jesus myself in order to support that. If you need the government to affirm you in your relationship, then I’d have to say, it’s a weak relationship. If it makes you feel stronger together to oppress me, I’d have to say, it’s a very weak relationship. If you want to buy what FOX NEWS is selling about the story of how atheists have nothing to live for, and have no reason to celebrate our families and our friends and the changing of the seasons, then I’d say you have an extremely weak relationship, if someone like me can threaten it, if you’re willing to believe I’m such a terrible person for taking down your decoration on my land? I haven’t stolen your dinner, I haven’t stolen your presents, I haven’t stolen your family, and I haven’t stolen your freedom – you are telling atheists, they get no dinner, they give and get no presents, they hate their families, and they don’t deserve as much freedom as you.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Brava!

  • arkenaten

    Pssst! If I put up a tree in my lounge, have crackers at the dinner table and say merry christmas to my missus can I still be an atheist or am I a turncoat? ;)

    • Bob Seidensticker

      I’m pretty much in the same boat.

      • arkenaten

        LOL! Hung for a sheep as for a lamb, I guess.

        My take: Treet the perishing holiday the same you do Thanksgiving.
        “Jesus? Nah, we’re worshipping trees.” ;)

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Be careful of that tree worship.

          This is what the LORD says: “Do not learn the ways of the nations or be terrified by signs in the sky, though the nations are terrified by them. For the customs of the peoples are worthless; they cut a tree out of the forest, and a craftsman shapes it with his chisel. They adorn it with silver and gold; they fasten it with hammer and nails so it will not totter. Like a scarecrow in a melon patch, their idols cannot speak; they must be carried because they cannot walk. Do not fear them; they can do no harm nor can they do any good.”

          (Jeremiah 10:2–5)

  • alfaretta

    My favorite part of all this is that there WAS a real war on Christmas in the U.S. — with laws and everything — only it was waged from the 17th thru the 19th centuries by Protestants because Christmas was a pagan, and also popish, celebration.

  • http://theophor.us Ignatius Theophorus

    Having been a part of the “They’re out to take our [insert something here]” crowd, there is a lot of feeling, “Wait, we were doing our own things over here and some people who don’t even live here now say we can’t???” It is as much an extension of the “small town, small government, the community does what it wants” as it is an extension of their form of Christianity.

    Anyway, if there is a war on Christmas, it is perpetrated by retailers. If we want to win the war, we need to somehow remove the rabid commercialism that late October through December now represents. (A recent quote which I found witty: “The war on Christmas is a defensive action. It’s already taken over Thanksgiving and Halloween’s next!”)

    • Kodie

      A. If you want to be part of America, you have to abide the Constitution.

      B. The big organizations often fight for the rights of people who actually live there and not just to pick on you. If there is some reason you don’t think other people count because you don’t know that they live in your town because they don’t want to come out and take the brunt of this argument, then you have to take that into consideration. Or do you think you are on your own to pick your own fights when you see injustice? And let the mob come after you, when you’re the only one who speaks up? No single individual does or should have to have the wherewithal to take legal matters upon themselves – if it’s just something they don’t like, sure. If it’s against the law, no way, José. That’s why the law is there – to see that everyone does that is right, not just what they have always been doing or a majority think is harmless. “The few” who are the minority, when they see a majority religion taking itself for granted, they are oppressed. They literally can’t fight the mob rule. They have every right to live in America as you do, in your town.

      The perception small-town Christians seem to have is one of a little perfect snowglobe, and I can see where they wouldn’t want anything to change, and they wouldn’t want some big hammer coming from the federal picking on their itty bitty town that ain’t doin’ nothin’ wrong. I can see how you would say, we’re the big hammer in this town! If you don’t like it, get out. You don’t care about individuals and you have no respect for the law of the land that lets you practice your religion freely on your own terms, but also at your own house.

      C. Pithy. The biggest “problem” with Christmas is that the economy relies on it to be commercial. It may be a nice thought to pretend it’s the one time of year when we remember our jobs are not what’s most important and our work does not define who we are, but in reality, jobs are important. I don’t actually like the sprint of it. I would rather get my shopping done by the middle of September and cool down and relax from November through the end of the year, and some people can look at a “back-to-school” display and think “Christmas is awfully close and I hate crowds and pressure and waiting until the last minute.” If you want enough time to get it all done and still wait for the season, the season has to start earlier just to get you in a frame of mind. It is difficult to imagine waiting for the last two weeks before the stores sell wrapping paper with reindeer on it, and don’t put their gift items on sale.

      When I was a kid, they still had the Wish Book from the Sears Catalog, and we would read it and make our lists. I distinctly remember this book coming before Halloween, because there were costumes in it, and I always wanted one. My mother reasoned it out for me, that Christmas would be too late for Halloween, so it wouldn’t make sense to ask for something I might outgrow by the next fall, or could not offer immediate gratification as a toy would. No, it never seemed to occur to either of us that I could dress up for fun, but that’s a different story.
      So this Christmas creeping up on the rest of the holidays in recent years is nonsense. Black Friday as a term has been in use since before 1961 (according to Wikipedia) to describe a phenomenon already occurring – that people were out and shopping the day after Thanksgiving to get a jump on Christmas. Stores that open early accommodate this impulse. It is only in the past year that, in order to compete for business, some stores (in states where it’s legal, which is not my state, by the way) have special sales on Thanksgiving day itself, so it has really only crept one day in the last 50 (or longer) years. For certain businesses, it is important to start even earlier with the hints – people who show at craft fairs need the materials to make their wares so they can sell them by October and November and December, so craft stores may appear to be shoving Christmas down your throat way too early. Nobody back in the day said it was way too early for Sears to send out its Wish Book in mid-September.

      So the real “real” War on Christmas is that people think it used to be different and keep fighting against something according to a rigid calendar date and rigid meanings of the season. I can’t give you a gift if I don’t go shopping for it. We can’t eat a nice feast if I don’t get that stuff to make it at the store.

      • http://theophor.us Ignatius Theophorus

        I think that the bigger issue is that these people view it as an extension of their values and that the government is intruding on it. Courts are used instead of legislatures and instead of even being given the opportunity to have an open dialogue, the majority feel that they are being told stfu. Often this type of action is akin to shooting oneself in the foot: I’ve seen Holiday concerts drop some objective good music because it was Christian only to replaced it with “Rudolf the red-nosed reindeer”.

        So this Christmas creeping up on the rest of the holidays in recent years is nonsense.

        I don’t know where you live, but in my neck of the woods, Christmas decorations were for sale in October. The radio stations started playing “Holly Jolly Christmas” in mid-November. When I was a kid, neither of these would happen until black Friday. This may be an emerging trend that started in the 1960′s, but over the past 20 years it has become decidedly more prominent.

        • smrnda

          The reason that courts are used in these cases instead of the legislature is because of how the different parts of the government are supposed to function. Courts rule on things based on whether or not they are already legal or illegal. The reason we have judges and courts are that whether or not something is permitted by law should be based on the law, not judged by a popularity contest.

          I mean, in a sense, when courts make rulings they are telling people to STFU, but they’re telling people “STFU because we already have a law that says this is illegal.” There’s no case to be made for the other side so there’s no reason to give people a say.

        • http://theophor.us Ignatius Theophorus

          There’s no case to be made for the other side so there’s no reason to give people a say.

          This may be true, but it still feels, at least to them, that this is legislation from the bench and does not reflect either their interpretation of the law or the practices of their locality. And, to be honest, there are a number of times in related issues that there is a good deal of legislation-through-the-courts which is not the purpose of the judicial branch at all.

        • Kodie

          Here are some things to consider:

          Stores put out displays at a time you don’t think is the right time to celebrate Christmas?
          And then you put up displays in the public square like you want to and someone complains they are in the wrong place?

          Here is what is too bad for you: Stores are allowed to sell things. Christians are not allowed to ignore other people’s rights.

        • http://theophor.us Ignatius Theophorus

          You know, I think it might be worth pointing out that I often find your posts to be particularly combative. It makes me wonder if you are really angry about theism or if there is something else.

          Stores put out displays at a time you don’t think is the right time to celebrate Christmas?

          Yes. And they do this because they believe it encourages consumerism (there is evidence to suggest that they are right so this is understandable). To me, however, it has the effect of an annoying four-year-old saying, “Are you rabidly consuming yet? Are you? How about now? No? What if I added a candy cane?” Gross.

          And then you put up displays in the public square like you want to and someone complains they are in the wrong place?

          I think the most I’ve committed to is that people should perform good music and this generally means Christian simply because much of the good music over the past few centuries has been commissioned by the Church. That is a standard which I believe that even the owner of this blog has endorsed.

          Here is what is too bad for you: Stores are allowed to sell things. Christians are not allowed to ignore other people’s rights.

          There are a number of things wrong with this statement. First it is a clear manifestation of the aggression I mentioned earlier. Second, the question is not whether they *could* sell, my statement has been that they *shouldn’t*. Third, “not having a creche on public land” or worse “not having a Christmas tree” (what do trees really have to do with Christmas?) really is not a “right”. If it were, then lottery systems would similarly be against people’s rights. Forth, where on earth did you get the idea that people are not allowed to ignore other’s rights? They are not allowed to infringe on the legal rights of other without risk of suit, but that does not mean they are required to pay attention to them. Fifth if you want meaningful dialogue (which, honestly, I do not think is your real goal), then you need to understand that these Christians do not believe that your rights are being violated and further believe that they have rights which are being abridged. Whether that is true or not is completely irrelevant, it is what people believe and you need to convince them that the belief is an error unless you actively want them to keep fighting about this. But, again, based on the aggressive tone of your posts, that very well may be alright with you.

        • Kodie

          Christians do not believe that your rights are being violated and further believe that they have rights which are being abridged.

          In the same post – you complain that I’m too aggressive. Christians do not own their town. They may not believe they are violating others’ rights, but they are. I don’t care how long they live there, the town is shared by all the people. The big government isn’t coming in to mess with your rights, they are taking care that the citizens feel protected. What I am trying to get at is that the “majority” of the town is victimizing the minority individual who does not feel safe. The town is taking up Christianity and they are oppressed. The federal government should not have to explain this to the majority in court, but they do, whenever necessary. The TOWN, you’re telling me, is the victim. The TOWN that lords, lords itself, literally, over the individual who also pays taxes and has as much a right to live there and live there with no establishment of some other religion which they do not follow. Your freedom is expressed on private land, your house, your church, stores if they want.

          Capitalism is another thing entirely. You are saying that stores ought not victimize you by selling wares any time they can get them to sell. They have not established an earlier Christmas without the help of customers, and they make more money, which is ultimately good for their employees, you, and the country.

          And furthermore, if it weren’t for Christian majority and Christian privilege, Christmas would not be the honking big obnoxious holiday it has become. When I was in 4th grade, we sang religious Christmas carols in school. Every classroom had a song and decorated the doors and the classes took turns caroling the other classrooms singing “O Come All Ye Faithful” and “Silent Night” and “Little Drummer Boy.” In public school. If Christians did not have privilege and assume everyone’s a Christian when they take for granted nobody will mind because they celebrate Jesus too, that would never have happened in the first place, so we wouldn’t have to take it down to legality. And for the same reason, commercialism is obnoxious. Blame yourselves for that if you don’t like it. They’re not doing it to you. They’re doing it because of Christians, who obnoxiously make the whole month of December about them and if you’re not a Christian, they don’t care. They expect all this fuss is because of an overwhelming adoration of their lord Jesus Christ. Stores have to practice what works, and if they didn’t make more money that way, they’d probably do it your way. Nobody is forcing you to buy a single fruitcake before the last week of November. Or ever. The constitution does not dictate when your religious holiday may be celebrated by the retail industry, I just wanted to make sure we know the difference here.

          I can’t believe you’re telling me I’ve been combative. Christians are discourteous to anyone who isn’t Christian, and unlike god, I can actually point to a federal legal document to prove it’s a violation of the 1st amendment. Am I mad? I’m a little disturbed that you can read these words and still think it’s about you and your songs and your party and your little town that always broke laws so why stop now.

        • Kodie

          Shorter, less combative version: I simply do not understand what is so hard to get about the legal limits of free religious expression and why Christians can complain that they don’t feel free unless they can ignore the rights of other people and ignore the Constitution meant to protect those rights.

        • http://theophor.us Ignatius Antioch

          Shorter, less combative version:

          Replying to this one because it is the less combative version.

          I simply do not understand what is so hard to get about the legal limits of free religious expression

          It isn’t cut and dry, even in the Supreme Court. Three members of the court thought that “under God” was completely acceptable (in the Elk Grove dissents) even though that both violates the Lemon test and is functionally equivalent to having the ten commandments on public grounds, Scalia is on public record saying that the Establishment Clause is taken out of context (he points out that the original intent was to make sure that religions are not able to punish each others’ adherents), and I can only imagine what Roberts believes. Heck, Sandra Day O’Connor has both supported and opposed religious expression of governmental bodies and there is a ruling on the books which allows the government to basically express a belief in divinity without it being considered a violation of the establishment clause. That’s five possibly six who offer at least some level of support without even counting Thomas or Alito.

          and why Christians can complain that they don’t feel free unless they can ignore the rights of other people and ignore the Constitution meant to protect those rights.

          They don’t want to abridge the rights of others. That isn’t their purpose. It is a, “We want to celebrate our faith” not, “We want to cram it down everyone’s throats.”

        • Bob Seidensticker

          IA:

          They don’t want to abridge the rights of others. That isn’t their purpose. It is a, “We want to celebrate our faith” not, “We want to cram it down everyone’s throats.”

          Then one of us is confused, because it sure seems that some Christians want to do the latter.

          Think of the organized Catholic protest against the new health care demands that they provide the same medical insurance for their employees (Catholic and other) that other employers provide. No, they can’t impose their beliefs on others–that’s what they called out on. No one can discriminate in employment based on race, not even churches, and now no one can discriminate in health insurance, not even churches.

        • http://theophor.us Ignatius Theophorus

          IA

          You know, I didn’t realize that I had changed to Antioch (using a different browser)

          Then one of us is confused, because it sure seems that some Christians want to do the latter.

          Think of the organized Catholic protest against the new health care demands that they provide the same medical insurance for their employees (Catholic and other) that other employers provide.

          I would tend to agree. This is largely a discussion over the right to have or not have religious imagery on public land. “Get rid of the commandments in front of city hall” is extremely different from “you must engage in this form of behavior,” “government is required to act in some way” is fundamentally different from “businesses must act in some way,” and the action’s of an individual’s conscience is separate from the requirements of the government.

          No one can discriminate in employment based on race, not even churches, and now no one can discriminate in health insurance, not even churches.

          Based on US law (and this is exclusively a problem in North America: the rest of the developed world has largely resolved this issue), I think this is a bad example. Racial discrimination is different from actions relating to religious preference. Case in point: it is legal for religious institutions to hire only members of that religion and it is legal for them to purchase insurance which does not include contraception. It is not legal for them to make the same decisions about race.

          The question over contraception is also confused by issues such as “undue burden” and the fact that contraception is a requirement while other medications are not required to be free. I would say a diabetic has more of a right to insulin than a woman has a right to contraception. I would definitely say that society is better off if those of us with mental disorders are provided our medication for free than requiring that women are required to have free contraception. I know of people who are completely unable to cope if they are not provided these medications. I have seen friends go through withdrawal because they could not afford their drugs. The only ones I have even heard of who are unable to cope without sex are addicts.

        • Richard S. Russell

          The question of who should get what kind of health care isn’t something that your employer should be able to decide for you. The fact that some employers are having fits over what they’re required to provide is a byproduct of the US’s broken method of supplying health care to its citizens. The KIND of health care you get should be based on sound medical decisions arrived at between doctor and patient and paid for by the government, the same way we get education and fire protection. It should not be hostage to your employment, marital, mental, emotional, genital, or financial status.

        • Kodie

          They don’t want to abridge the rights of others. That isn’t their purpose. It is a, “We want to celebrate our faith” not, “We want to cram it down everyone’s throats.”

          If they don’t want to abridge the rights of others, then when we tell them that they are just the same, they think their rights are being abridged. They aren’t. They are keeping the favor of the local government and someone else feels oppressed by them doing so.

          Federal government > poor little Christian victim town > minority of individuals whose rights are infringed.

          I get the sense that you don’t understand. You still want things your way, and you think there’s nothing here, nobody’s talking, you know, you don’t have to consider someone less popular than you saying they don’t have as much freedom to practice their religion as you do. That’s not what you feel like you’re doing so go ahead and pretend we’re not here.

          That’s the problem. You can pretend we’re not here, you can pretend there’s no law, and pretend there’s no problem, because you’re the majority, the government agrees with you, and I should just roll over and shut up because I don’t count. I pay taxes but that shouldn’t matter what happens on public land that I own partially, I get to live in a special version of America that doesn’t include me at all. I can pay but they prefer you. I am ghetto. I am nothing. Christians just implying strongly that they are better because they are bigger, whether or not that was their “intention” do not back down when the issue is raised, they do not say, “thank you for bringing that to my attention, I wasn’t aware other people besides Christians exist, and I hadn’t read the Constitution that closely before; pardon me while I bring this over here to land that I own. So sorry to trouble you.”

        • Bob Seidensticker

          IT:

          We can quibble over which meds are free and which are not, but the issue here is whether churches can say, “OK, yeah, but we don’t want to do this because it offends our religious sensibilities.”

          Demanding that churches be allowed to require religious belief from their minister sounds reasonable; other exceptions for churches don’t.

  • stevieo

    What neocon, born again American Christians don’t seem to get is that religion is ALL about tolerance. Same with radical Muslims, Hindus, everybody else who thinks their God is the only God. If you cannot open your mind and your heart to people who think differently from you, you are doomed to eternal salvation and more importantly, peace on earth in your lifetime. If I want to say Happy Holidays because I consider that non-offending to anyone and ALL inclusive, then that’s what I’ll say. Get a grip on reality. Update your thinking to the 21st century, not the 12th. LEarn to celebrate the richness of life that diversity brings. And teach that to your kids. If you can’t, please don’t have kids.

  • http://theophor.us Ignatius Theophorus

    I get the sense that you don’t understand. You still want things your way, and you think there’s nothing here, nobody’s talking, you know, you don’t have to consider someone less popular than you saying they don’t have as much freedom to practice their religion as you do. That’s not what you feel like you’re doing so go ahead and pretend we’re not here.

    I get the impression that you are not actually reading what I am writing, either that or you believe that simply because I am articulating an opinion I must hold that opinion. Strictly speaking, I’m a libertarian and I think that government involvement in anything beyond a bare minimum should be suspect. I would oppose government spending money to erect a copy of the ten commandments just like I oppose government spending on many civic “beautification” projects.

    That said, there have been times where I have seen government infringe on rights far more than your complaints: my sister’s elementary school made a rule that the colors red and green should be forbidden in December. If that is not governmental insanity, I’m not sure what is.

    You can pretend we’re not here, you can pretend there’s no law, and pretend there’s no problem, because you’re the majority, the government agrees with you, and I should just roll over and shut up because I don’t count.

    And you cannot pretend that this is an unambiguous issue: again, the Supreme Court (a group who is far better versed in the Constitution than either of us), does not view this as open and shut and the opinions I have described are well in line with what Scalia has said in the past.

    Christians just implying strongly that they are better because they are bigger

    This is a combative and arguably prejudiced statement. I would not be surprised if people took this as insulting. It certainly angers me.

    Statements like these are why I have called you combative in the past. Do not confuse a comparably small subset of Christians with Christians as a whole.

    I pay taxes but that shouldn’t matter what happens on public land that I own partially

    There are quite a few things the government does which are far more offensive. I doubt that you are as vehement in fighting those as you are in fighting Christians. Tell me, when is the last time you called your Senator and said, “Close Guantanamo” or “Stop drone attacks”? It would be faster and easier than replying to this.

    whether or not that was their “intention” do not back down when the issue is raised, they do not say

    If a person believes he is acting within his rights and is not intending to harm others it would be insane for that individual to act as you have suggested. The only way that they would behave that way is if they had a change in understanding. As your general timbre is one of condemnation, my guess is that you are more interested in feeling right than in actually changing minds. Unfortunately, your opinion is not infallible and has even been denied (at least in part) by the very people you claim should be an authority on the issue.

    I also wonder if this really is all about religious liberty. Tell me: if the Supreme Court were to change its mind and allow there to be religious displays, would that change your mind on these matters? In which case, is this really a “right” or is it merely a convenient judicial opinion? If, on the other hand, you would not change your mind, then you really do not have justification in appealing to the Constitution for your arguments.

    • Richard S. Russell

      “I also wonder if this really is all about religious liberty. Tell me: if the Supreme Court were to change its mind and allow there to be religious displays, would that change your mind on these matters?”
       
      As you yourself have already pointed out, the Supreme Court does allow some religious displays, for what I consider frippery reasons. And, while their opinions are indeed the law of the land, I view them as contrary to religious liberty and the 1st Amendment and would oppose them whether there were a Constitutional basis for it or not. In fact, even if the Constitution specifically said “it’s OK to spend public money on religious displays”, I’d oppose each and every attempt to do so — tho I wouldn’t be able to cite the Constitution as my justification. It’s just a bad idea.

      • http://theophor.us Ignatius Theophorus

        As you yourself have already pointed out, the Supreme Court does allow some religious displays, for what I consider frippery reasons.

        I have to admit, they seem to be pretty inconsistent here.

        And, while their opinions are indeed the law of the land, I view them as contrary to religious liberty and the 1st Amendment and would oppose them whether there were a Constitutional basis for it or not.

        Now that would be an interesting debate: what actions can government, in the abstract sense, take which would most preserve liberty regarding religious display on public land? For example: can the mayor be seen praying in the office? If not, why not? If so, does that contradict the fact that creche’s are excluded?

        In fact, even if the Constitution specifically said “it’s OK to spend public money on religious displays”, I’d oppose each and every attempt to do so — tho I wouldn’t be able to cite the Constitution as my justification. It’s just a bad idea.

        I think that depends on how the government is spending the money and on which religious displays (is it an overtly religious government (such as the Vatican?), then it might be OK for there to be state endorsement of the Church), but overall I agree. Government money should not be spent on that.

    • Kodie

      This is a combative and arguably prejudiced statement. I would not be surprised if people took this as insulting. It certainly angers me.

      Statements like these are why I have called you combative in the past. Do not confuse a comparably small subset of Christians with Christians as a whole.

      I am so sorry I hurt your feelings. Of course I justify it by saying Christians as a bunch do not consider my feelings valid, and that is against the law. You are rationalizing all their intentions (all their good, persecuted intentions of doing whatever they like without considering other citizens have equal rights) for us here, so I am taking it out on you.

      If it is indeed a small set of Christians blaming atheists for ruining their fun, I don’t see a whole lot of other Christians helping to keep them on the right side of the law. They are either apathetic, or agree that atheists are making much too much out of a little harmless thing like overstepping the limits of religious freedom. Have you read one thing I wrote? It seems like you just want to hammer the point that I’m being rude. I’m blunt, there’s a difference. I’m ineloquent, I’m indelicate. That’s who I am. That is how I be, and I’m toning it down as far as to be civil, but it’s also difficult to be civil to someone who insists my rights are unimportant, and we should just keep things how they are and let the Christians have their thing. It’s not their thing, since I paid for some of it. I would not be so defensive if someone weren’t aggressing me, not merely inconsiderate to my personal feelings, but trashing the law of the land and pretending they’re the victim.

      And justices do not do best all the time. They are appointed and educated on the law and the constitution, but I do not trust my government when they overlook some of the important things, such as my rights to live here, and my rights to be free of government approval of one certain religion. That is not set in stone. You say “government step out” and let Christians bind themselves to government. You are saying that’s nobody’s business if they aren’t hurting anyone – it’s their town and they live there. But they are hurting someone. They are pretty much saying: if you don’t approve, if you don’t fit in, if you don’t believe, guess whose side the local government is going to take. I would take that as a serious offense to me, serious enough to have me reacting to it as I do. That is the illustration of someone taking someone else’s rights away from them and taking privilege of the establishment of their own religious beliefs – something it says in the constitution is not ok, and for the reasons I’ve said more than 4 times.

      And you’re “but… but…. but” It’s just their little town! The big bad government needs to keep to its own business! The songs are prettier! You’re offensive to me now.

      So, again, sorry you are taking this personally and decide I have nothing intelligent to say since I can’t be demure about it.

      • http://theophor.us Ignatius Theophorus

        I am so sorry I hurt your feelings.

        I never said I was hurt. I said I was angered.

        Of course I justify it by saying Christians as a bunch

        Again, not true and needlessly prejudiced. You are making sweeping generalizations.

        You are rationalizing all their intentions (all their good, persecuted intentions of doing whatever they like without considering other citizens have equal rights) for us here, so I am taking it out on you.

        You are not concerned that you are not distinguishing between an argument and the presenter of the argument? That sort of cross-identification is exactly what makes this issue so hard.

        do not consider my feelings valid, and that is against the law.

        You are confusing what your opinions are and what the law is. If this is a matter of law, then it is illegal even in an area of the country where everyone has exactly the same faith.

        If it is indeed a small set of Christians blaming atheists for ruining their fun, I don’t see a whole lot of other Christians helping to keep them on the right side of the law.

        Are you protesting the drone attacks? Did you protest the torture in Guantanamo? Why is your inaction acceptable while others’ isn’t?

        It seems like you just want to hammer the point that I’m being rude.

        The fact that you are combative seems to be the issue you keep coming back to, yet you have neither denied it nor have you excused it. I will point out that the word, “rude” is your word and I might also question whether that is a Freudian tell.

        I’m blunt, there’s a difference. I’m ineloquent, I’m indelicate. That’s who I am.

        And yet you attack these people because they express the desire to have a public display of Christianity and say that is just who they are or the equivalent.

        but it’s also difficult to be civil to someone who insists my rights are unimportant, and we should just keep things how they are and let the Christians have their thing.

        Please cite the time when I have said any of this. A simple quote would be sufficient. We can then discuss what you think I meant by it. Personally, I think that task will be difficult considering the fact that I have repeatedly stated that my opinions are not fundamentally different on this issue from the blog’s owner.

        I would not be so defensive if someone weren’t aggressing me, not merely inconsiderate to my personal feelings, but trashing the law of the land and pretending they’re the victim.

        So you’re projecting? Is that really OK?

        And justices do not do best all the time. They are appointed and educated on the law and the constitution, but I do not trust my government when they overlook some of the important things, such as my rights to live here, and my rights to be free of government approval of one certain religion.

        If you are arguing over the Constitution, then the opinions of the justices is very much a factor and cannot be ignored when speaking of “rights.” Then you are not arguing over the Constitution, you are arguing over ontological rights. I think that in this matter you might find difficulties. Bob, for example, has stated that he expressly does not believe in a universal objective morality (which is necessary for an objective right).

        You say “government step out” and let Christians bind themselves to government. You are saying that’s nobody’s business if they aren’t hurting anyone – it’s their town and they live there.

        No. I am saying that this is what they say.

        And you’re “but… but…. but” It’s just their little town! The big bad government needs to keep to its own business!

        That is not my opinion, that is their opinion. That is an important difference.

        The songs are prettier!

        They are. I’ll take Mozart over Lauridsen any day of the week. I’ll take Beethoven over Cage. But even among the moderns: Monatti, Pärt, Berg, Thompson, Berstein, Barber, and Poulenc were all masters of secular works, but their religious works are rather significant. If there is one thing I know outside of my profession it’s choral music (I went to a choir school for college), and it is still hard to find enough music for a choral concert which does not at least reference religion in some form.

        Again, this is an opinion that I believe Bob has endorsed. His statement is that there are certain educational benefits to the study of religiously-themed music and to a large extent I agree. Only I would instead say that the primary benefit is an aesthetic one. (My focus on Christianity has more to do with cultural reasons than it has to do with Christianity specifically. I’d rather have Holst’s Hymn to the Rig Veda than trying to get a western choir to sing African music (it is really, really sad to see that. I once saw some of the world’s top choral musicians completely fail at trying to sing a South African tune. They managed to sing it in 4/4 time: pathetic.).)

        So, again, sorry you are taking this personally and decide I have nothing intelligent to say since I can’t be demure about it.

        You yourself have said that you were taking this out on me. You have said that I am offensive to you. You have said that you are this way and there is nothing I nor anyone else can do about it. My guess is that even the word “sorry” wasn’t really an expression of regret or repentance. Given those as a context, do you really imagine that people would not view you as crass and combative?

        As to whether your opinions are intelligent or not that has little to do with whether they are insulting. Dawkins is clearly an intelligent man, but he is needlessly aggressive. He often he makes his points better than D’Souza does but, as Tyson has pointed out, Dawkins’s manor will not win friends or influence people.

        • Kodie

          So you’re projecting? Is that really OK?

          Why do you seem to know I’m not interested or invested in any other thing? If you are not defending your personal opinion, why are you excusing the opinion of others? If there’s an issue, say, the Arkansas case or the Santa Monica case – where are the Christians who aren’t crying persecution? Where are the Christians who say, some other Christians are wrong and they intend to stand up for secularism? All I hear is well, it’s just a play, and kids have a choice to sit out, or the town had this lovely tradition and the government swooped in and persecuted them from their free expression of religion.

          You do not agree with me, but you haven’t said anything relevant. You are picking and choosing what you want to respond to and ignoring all the points I’ve made. And yeah, you are saying I’m rude, you’re not saying the word “rude” but I can read. Call things what they are, say what you mean.

        • http://theophor.us Ignatius Theophorus

          If you are not defending your personal opinion, why are you excusing the opinion of others?

          Did I ever say that they were right?

          If there’s an issue, say, the Arkansas case or the Santa Monica case – where are the Christians who aren’t crying persecution?

          The same place the atheists are when the shoe is on the other foot. Sometimes Christians will help in these cases, sometimes atheists will help when a Christian’s rights are impugned. Sometimes they won’t. If this is such an issue though, where are all of the other atheists when these types of things happen?

          Where are the Christians who say, some other Christians are wrong and they intend to stand up for secularism?

          Standing for secularism is very different from saying, “yes, that is against the Constitution” and “no, that is not against the Constitution.”

          You do not agree with me, but you haven’t said anything relevant. You are picking and choosing what you want to respond to and ignoring all the points I’ve made.

          Which points? I see a lot of you saying how government is engaging in oppression by allowing Christians to put up a creche, but I don’t really see other major talking points. Could you enumerate them?

          Perhaps I have missed the meat of your argument, but I believe it can be summarized: “This is unconstitutional and they should know it is unconstitutional because it is obvious”. I pointed out that such a position is factually incorrect: people knowledgeable in the Constitution are in sharp disagreement over what the establishment clause really means. You restated your position that even if the court were to change its mind, this would still be wrong (and you have said it is still unconstitutional, which makes me wonder about who you feel is a proper arbiter of what the Constitution really says). The position, “it is wrong no matter what,” however, has to do with the ontological value of man more than it has to do with law.

          And yeah, you are saying I’m rude, you’re not saying the word “rude” but I can read. Call things what they are, say what you mean.

          I rarely say what I do not mean in forums such as this one. I said “combative” because I meant combative. The two terms are not synonyms and it generally an exception to find that they are appropriate to use synonymously.

          But, all of that said, I see a good deal needless reductionism and oversimplification. This leads to accusations of the majority for the improprieties of a small subgroup. Those positions do not strike me as fundamentally different from saying that “all Muslims are murderers”, “girls are bad at science”, or “people with dark skin are subhuman.” Perhaps the scale is different, but it is the same action.

        • Kodie

          You say “government step out” and let Christians bind themselves to government. You are saying that’s nobody’s business if they aren’t hurting anyone – it’s their town and they live there. But they are hurting someone. They are pretty much saying: if you don’t approve, if you don’t fit in, if you don’t believe, guess whose side the local government is going to take. I would take that as a serious offense to me, serious enough to have me reacting to it as I do. That is the illustration of someone taking someone else’s rights away from them and taking privilege of the establishment of their own religious beliefs – something it says in the constitution is not ok, and for the reasons I’ve said more than 4 times.

          ———————————

          Standing for secularism is very different from saying, “yes, that is against the Constitution” and “no, that is not against the Constitution.”

          I really don’t think you even know why we’re upset.

        • http://theophor.us Ignatius Theophorus

          I really don’t think you even know why we’re upset.

          Speaking of ignoring the bulk…

          I’ll wager it is the same reason I am upset over the HHS mandate.

          Anyway, you asked a question (where are the Christians who… stand up for secularism) I gave a simple and direct answer.

        • Kodie

          How is secularism a different issue than constitutionalism, is secularism is the constitutional issue we’re discussing?

          Your answers are not simple and direct. They are misdirecting and miscomprehending. Why aren’t we talking about a bunch of other things? It’s called “staying on topic.” Why aren’t I upset about a bunch of more important and upsetting things? It’s still called “staying on topic.” Is the 1st amendment too small to care about?

          I found a pretty succinct part of a paragraph I wrote, just like you asked me to, and you ignored it. You instead play the victim because I picked out a sentence you wrote because I don’t understand what your assertion is, except to assume you think it’s ok to ignore the 1st amendment.

          I’m pretty much thorough-gone done with this topic with you. Seems like you’re the one who is taking this to another place, a place where you can pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about and then say something irrelevant.

        • http://theophor.us Ignatius Theophorus

          How is secularism a different issue than constitutionalism, is secularism is the constitutional issue we’re discussing?

          Secularism and Constitutionalism are two very different opinions. One has to do with the relations between state and government, the other has to do with the ideologies governing government as whole. Further, simply because someone is a Constitutionalist that does not mean that they are necessarily a Secularist (and vice versa).

          Your answers are not simple and direct. They are misdirecting and miscomprehending.

          I’ll admit that I sometimes play word games, but that particular statement was simple and direct.

          Why aren’t we talking about a bunch of other things? It’s called “staying on topic.” Why aren’t I upset about a bunch of more important and upsetting things? It’s still called “staying on topic.”

          You brought up the question as to whether other Christians should be up in arms about this. To clarify my response: if you want to complain about Christians not protesting the placement of religious items on public land, then you must be willing to judge others for their non-involvement. Otherwise you are creating a double-standard (at best) or violating the rules of non-contradiction (at worse).

          Is the 1st amendment too small to care about?

          Is this about the first amendment? I thought you opined that this is wrong no matter what. Is that not the case?

          I found a pretty succinct part of a paragraph I wrote, just like you asked me to, and you ignored it.

          Which paragraph? Clearly I missed something.

          You instead play the victim

          I think you’d have a hard time proving that. I said that you were combative (which you are) and then you more-or-less admitted to being rude. I see this as no different from saying to someone, “you have dark hair,” and getting the reply, “yes, it is black.” How does this make me a victim?

          because I picked out a sentence you wrote because I don’t understand what your assertion is, except to assume you think it’s ok to ignore the 1st amendment.

          You realize that this reads, “I don’t understand, so I assume you must be saying that it is OK to ignore the first amendment,” right?

          I’m pretty much thorough-gone done with this topic with you. Seems like you’re the one who is taking this to another place, a place where you can pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about and then say something irrelevant.

          OK. Have a good evening. Merry Christmas if you accept those. (I suppose if you do not want a merry Christmas, you can have a wretched one, but I think a wish for merriment is superior, don’t you?)

  • http://theophor.us Ignatius Theophorus

    The question of who should get what kind of health care isn’t something that your employer should be able to decide for you.

    To me, this statement implies that all health insurance should be the same. I don’t like that idea.

    The fact that some employers are having fits over what they’re required to provide is a byproduct of the US’s broken method of supplying health care to its citizens.

    I mostly agree with this: ACA did little to fix the health industry. (Personally, I’m of the opinion that insurance companies are the only organizations more incompetent and corrupt than the federal government).

    The KIND of health care you get should be based on sound medical decisions arrived at between doctor and patient and paid for by the government, the same way we get education and fire protection.

    I think that depends on how you mean “kind” (should we include completely elective surgeries? If so, what is elective?) but even if you meant “all things should be covered”, I still hold that all care should have some premium attached (which would result in women paying more money than the administration would like). But that is an argument over single-payer policies and we don’t have that in the US. Maybe single-payer would be better though (again, I often think that insurance companies are outright evil).

    • Richard S. Russell

      I approach medical care the same way I approach economics in general: socialize the basics, capitalize everything else. So, for example, government funding for appendectomies, but buy your own nose job. Similar to government-provided fire and police protection, but if you’re not content with that minimal level of service, you can buy your own sprinkler system and private security guards.
       
      But yeah, I think that, once the government defines what that minimal level of service is, everyone should be eligible for it. With no premium, any more than your 5-year-old has to pay a premium to attend school. The cost should be covered by taxes.

      • http://theophor.us Ignatius Theophorus

        With no premium, any more than your 5-year-old has to pay a premium to attend school. The cost should be covered by taxes.

        But while there is no danger in our children wanting to go to school *too much* (well, maybe not my daughter. She throws a fit when my son gets to go and she doesn’t (she’s three, she only goes two days a week. He’s in preschool, he goes four)), there is a danger in people going to the doctor for paper cuts. Making people pay at least a little money creates at least a little disincentive for going. $20 a visit, or even $5 a visit, waved if you have significant need, will not bankrupt anyone.

        And while school may be free, the materials do cost quite a bit. Paper, pencils, pens, calculators, lunchboxes, scissors, protractors, binders, books, in some districts even tablets, etc. it adds up. I remember my mom spending over $100 on school supplies (in the 1990′s) and there were only two of us. I think it would be hard to make people buy their own tongue depressors, but a nominal charge would be a good alternative.

        • Richard S. Russell

          Frankly, if somebody is so freaked out by a paper cut that they head to the ER to have it taken care of, they probably should see a medical professional (tho not necessarily for the paper cut).
           
          The thing about “significant need” is that it creates a requirement to document that (1) it’s a need and (2) it’s significant. The documentation ends up costing more than just providing the service would, as our present bureaucracy-heavy insurance industry has amply illustrated. That’s the main reason I also oppose means-testing to receive Social Security benefits. Besides, as soon as you start imposing non-health-related barriers to admission, you immediately start to create disfavored classes for the poor, the illiterate, the unduly proud, etc. I’d rather have it treated like public drinking fountain in a public park: walk up, turn the knob, get a drink, walk away, city provides the fountain and pays for the water. Anyone can do it. A useful public service, the reason we have government at all.

        • http://theophor.us Ignatius Theophorus

          The thing about “significant need” is that it creates a requirement to document that (1) it’s a need and (2) it’s significant. The documentation ends up costing more than just providing the service would, as our present bureaucracy-heavy insurance industry has amply illustrated.

          See, I also view food stamps as a possible model. If someone’s income falls below x% of the poverty line, then they should qualify. They can verify this with their tax returns. It should be simple.

          non-health-related barriers to admission,

          Legit confused: are there barriers which are health related??? (I’m really not trying to be combative, but it seems like you might have a point there that I’ve not seen before and I would like to understand).

          you immediately start to create disfavored classes for the poor, the illiterate, the unduly proud, etc.

          Wouldn’t capitalization of elective surgery risk the same? Lines will need to be drawn and it will be more of a burden on some than others. I’ve heard that some have categorized treatment of ACL tears as “elective” while others have said that “a nose job” should be counted as necessary “for the psychological well being of the patient.”

          I’d rather have it treated like public drinking fountain in a public park: walk up, turn the knob, get a drink, walk away, city provides the fountain and pays for the water.

          I read this and the first thing I thought of was a couple of kids using the fountain to spray people… I suppose that would be a good illustration of our different views though.

        • Richard S. Russell

          Saying “it should be simple” doesn’t make it so. I heard much the same argument from people who couldn’t understand why anyone would possibly oppose having to show a photo ID in order to vote: “It’s easy to get a photo ID, and it doesn’t cost very much money, and everyone should have it on them at all times anyway.” When we looked into the particulars here in the State of Wisconsin (population ~6,000,000), it turned out to disenfranchise over 160,000 people. And for what? To try to prevent voter impersonation, something for which there was no documented evidence of having occurred anywhere in the state for any election in any municipality over the last 20 years. And the ultimate irony is that photo ID probably wouldn’t prevent it even if anyone were actually engaging in it.
           
          So this is a primo example of a non-health-related consideration for whether you should get health care. I’d like to see only health-related considerations, such as “You’re here with a nosebleed, so why exactly do you think we need to X-ray your foot?”
           
          As to what’s considered elective or not, we don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Other countries have already figured this out, and there’s nothing to say that whatever categories we start out with are set in concrete forever.
           
          But now we are truly far astray from the original topic, so we should probably wind down this tangent before it starts sprouting arccosines.

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