Representative Theocracy

By Sarah Braasch

Representative Bart Stupak from Michigan was paraphrased in a recent New York Times interview as saying that his resolve to defeat the healthcare reform bill, unless the bill includes his anti-abortion amendment language, is a straightforward matter of Roman Catholic faith. The article states that Representative Stupak said that he actually urged the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to toughen its stance on the legislation. Representative Stupak is also quoted as saying: “It’s not the end of the world if it goes down.”

What?!?! Let me say that again. WTF?!?!

I don’t understand how something like this goes unnoticed and unmentioned.

How does he get a free pass on saying something like that in his capacity as a US Representative? How does he not get called out on that?

He just proclaimed to the press that he holds religious law in higher esteem than the US Constitution. He just stated, unequivocally, that he intends to impose religious law upon the American citizenry. He just asserted that he intends to defeat healthcare reform unless religious law is deemed the supreme law of the land, usurping the position of the US Constitution.

I am trying to imagine the reaction if Representative Keith Ellison from Minnesota were to say something similar. Keith Ellison is the first Muslim member of the US Congress. I am trying to imagine the resulting tumult and uproar if he were to defy his Democratic Party and vote in opposition to its platform, all the while maintaining that he was doing so as a straightforward matter of his Islamic faith, because he holds the tenets of Islam in higher esteem than the US Constitution, because the Quran and the Hadith demand that he impose Sharia (Islamic Law) upon American citizens, as a matter of principle and conscience. Does anyone honestly believe that a comment like that would go unnoticed in a New York Times interview?

Representative Stupak took an oath to support and defend the US Constitution. He is openly admitting to violating the Establishment Clause of the Constitution by attempting to establish religious law as US Federal Law. He may not seek recourse under the Free Exercise or Free Speech Clauses, because federal congressional legislation is textbook government speech. He is not acting as a private individual citizen when he acts in his capacity as a US Representative in Congress.

Is there something about the Establishment Clause of the US Constitution, which Representative Stupak fails to understand? I find it fairly straightforward myself. In case you had forgotten, I am including our glorious First Amendment to the United States Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

There is no religious test for public office, but there should be a competency test for public office, to determine if one is capable of maintaining the separation between church and state, if one is capable of NOT violating the Establishment Clause of the US Constitution, if one is capable of comprehending the difference between government speech and the private speech of an individual citizen.

If immigrants desiring citizenship must take a test that demonstrates their knowledge of the United States Constitution, then maybe we should require the same of our Representatives and Senators, since they are also being asked to take an oath or affirmation to support and defend the Constitution and all.

For the record, I am not Catholic. I reject Roman Catholicism. And, I am deeply and personally offended that Mr. Stupak would abuse his position as a US Congressman by attempting to force me to kneel to Roman Catholic doctrine as a matter of US Federal Law in direct violation of our Constitution.

And, even if I were Catholic, what entitles Representative Stupak to interpret the tenets of Roman Catholicism on my behalf? I didn’t realize we had a Theologian Laureate in the United States of America. Thank God for Representative Stupak from Michigan. Thank God we have Representative Stupak to interpret Catholic doctrine and then legislate accordingly on our behalf.

I can sleep easy now. Congress is looking after my spiritual wellbeing. Congress is looking after my soul.

Of course Representative Stupak doesn’t care if healthcare reform passes or no. Of course he doesn’t care how many American citizens continue to die unnecessarily. He isn’t interested in saving our lives. He’s interested in saving our souls. For Jesus. Nothing unconstitutional about that.

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • QuodEratFaciendum

    Yeah. I’m not an American citizen, but I have to say that it will be absolutely scandalous if Stupid’s – sorry, Stupak’s – resignation is not called for over this matter. Clear cut case, as you effectively prove, Sarah.

  • Valhar2000

    I’m not an American citizen, but I have to say that it will be absolutely scandalous if Stupid’s – sorry, Stupak’s – resignation is not called for over this matter.

    Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

  • Kevin Morgan

    See, the problem is as follows:

    Christian = Good and Moral
    Everything else = Evil

    therefore, Christians can neither do, nor say, anything that isn’t good and moral.

    It really is very simple, just like the Christians…

  • Dan

    I live in Stupak’s district. I suspect he’s going to see a push for “anyone but Stupak” in the upcoming elections because of his opposition to health care reform. His district consists largely of the economically devastated upper peninsula of Michigan, as well as some severely stressed areas of the northern lower peninsula where his constituents could really use better access to health care. So he’s opposing his constituents’ interests by interposing his religious beliefs. He’s been in office WAY too long, and has previously shown his religious craziness by living with The Family in the infamous C Street house in DC.

  • QuodEratFaciendum

    Thing is, the merits (or lack thereof – I haven’t studied it) of the healthcare programme are irrelevant here. Even if all his constituents wanted him to oppose it, he should be doing so for well-argued reasons, not religious conviction.

    It’s not enough that he not get re-elected: he should be removed from office in disgrace for this flagrant abuse of his political position to support his personal religious beliefs. That should be the case even if he were SUPPORTING the bill because the moment someone in office allows their religious beliefs to dictate their political choices, the door to misuse is open. Let’s even give him that not supporting the healthcare bill is the right thing to do for everyone. Problem is, religious justification of the right decision could equally next time be used to justify the wrong one.

    He should be forced to resign and barred from holding political office ever again.

  • http://www.dvorkin.com David Dvorkin

    But we’re a representative democracy, not a direct democracy. Our elected representatives have never simply voted the way majorities in their districts or states feel. Rather, they vote their own feelings, and that’s how the system was designed to work. The feelings of their constituents are advisory.

    Okay, in reality, they often vote how their paymasters want them to, and the system wasn’t supposed to work that way. Still, it wasn’t designed to be a direct democracy.

  • QuodEratFaciendum

    OK, taking my oar out as don’t want to derail to an education on the Constitution – just thought it was the top trump here and the separation of church and State would mean he would have to disregard personal feelings on this one or else forfeit his right to be representative…

  • JulietEcho

    @Dan – I don’t know, my parents live in Stupak’s district as well (and I grew up there), and the population is very anti-abortion, Bible-believing, etc. The fact that the poorer areas could really benefit from health care legislation might not outweigh the popular values there. The population is especially sparse in the UP (fewer than 300,000 people spread out over the whole thing), and churches are often the centers of the small towns.

  • AnonaMiss

    Ehhhhh. For a person who truly believes that abortion is murder, it doesn’t matter whether he believes it as a tenet of his religion or if he arrived at that conclusion from his own reasoning. It is surely an abuse for the USCCB to become involved in the legislative process, but I don’t think that a religious person listening to his conscience on what he believes to be murder is a violation of the separation of church and state. If it were a less important issue then yeah, maybe, but would you not do everything in your power to prevent a bill that (you believed) would legalize murder from passing? You could make a slippery slope argument either way.

    As for the citing-the-Koran thing, I think that’s less an indication of how favored Christianity is in this country (obviously it is, I’m not denying that) as it is an indication of how poorly we look upon other religions, especially Islam.

  • Tony P

    He just asserted that he intends to defeat healthcare reform unless religious law is deemed the supreme law of the land, usurping the position of the US Constitution.

    He did no such thing. What he said was disturbing, yes, but he did not say that. As pointed out in #9, he is completely within his rights to demand changes based on whatever he feels like. That’s what the constitution guarantees in this case.

  • Valhar2000

    His district consists largely of the economically devastated upper peninsula of Michigan, as well as some severely stressed areas of the northern lower peninsula where his constituents could really use better access to health care.

    I think this just makes them more likely to support him, rather than less. Most people consistently prefer the comfort given by religion than the comfort given by getting out, doing some work and solving the problem whenever things get tough.

  • Sarah Braasch

    Representative Stupak didn’t arrive at his conclusion that abortion is murder, because he went and sat in a cave for a year and pondered this point.

    He arrived at this conclusion as a straightforward matter of Roman Catholic faith.

    He said so in this interview. And, he is bound and determined that all Americans must recognize his conclusion as a straightforward matter of Roman Catholic faith. And, the fact that he is not called out for this is what flabbergasts me.

    And, regarding the matter of conscience thing — he took an oath to support and defend the Constitution.

    If he thought about it really long and hard and decided, as a matter of conscience, that he is opposed to any other point of constitutional law, such as, I don’t know, separation of powers, federalism, executive powers, etc., he doesn’t get to just introduce a bill to change it, as a matter of conscience.

    We would have to change our Constitution. There’s a process for that.

    There’s a reason why the Constitution is the Supreme Law of the Land. Not Rep Stupak’s conscience.

    The distinction between direct / representative democracy is irrelevant. See explanation above.

    Just because it’s a matter of conscience, doesn’t mean that Rep Stupak could introduce a bill (or an amendment to a bill) to dissolve the Presidency or the Senate (a lot of people take issue with the Senate).

    A lot of people are really upset right now (and litigating), because they feel that Senator Nelson’s scheming to get special privileges for Nebraska is unconstitutional. Does it matter if this was a matter of conscience for him?

    A lot of people feel that the Anti-ACORN Act was an unconstitutional bill of attainder. Does it matter if it was a matter of personal conscience?

    The President can issue Executive Orders, but, he too, must support and defend the Constitution.

    So, if it’s a matter of personal conscience, should the President be able to issue an Executive Order to, say, I don’t know, deport all naturalized citizens? Or, establish Islam as the national religion?

    I really really like our Constitution. I prefer it over anyone’s personal conscience.

  • Nathan

    Although I think Stupak is an idiot, and his stance harms not only his constituents but all Americans – I fail to see how he’s out of line in this matter, or how he’s abrogating any kind of Constitutional responsibility. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. He is using his faith to set policy – not setting policy to advance his faith. However regrettable that might be, it doesn’t strike me as unconstitutional.

  • Sarah Braasch

    I guess that’s what they call a distinction w/o a difference.

    You say toe may toe; I say toe mah toe.

    “using his faith to set policy” OR “attempting to impose religious law upon American citizens as a matter of US Federal Law”

    Hmmm. Either way — it’s still unconstitutional.

  • konrad_arflane

    IANAL, but I also don’t see how he’s putting his faith over the constitution. The constitution doesn’t guarantee access to abortion in very clear terms at all – the argument that it does rests on some fairly abstract reasoning (that I happen to agree with, FWIW), and reasonable people may disagree whether Roe v. Wade was decided correctly as a matter of law.

    As for the Establishment Clause issue, “no law respecting an establishment of religion” doesn’t mean “no law effecting a legislator’s religious tenets”. It can’t mean that for much the same reason that Ireland’s new blasphemy law doesn’t make sense – there are simply too many religions, and they disagree on too many issues. If this really were what the Establishment Clause meant, a sufficiently canny anti-abortion politician could game the system by insisting that his religion required that all women should have access to abortion.

    Even without going into such fancies, prohibiting politicians from voting what their conscience tells them to, even if they get their conscience from the Vatican (or Saddleback Church or wherever) would effectively disenfranchise a huge number of religious voters for whom these issues are important. Not only would this be unwise, possibly even dangerous, from a practical standpoint; it flies in the face of the spirit of democracy. If we are so convinced that we are in the right, we should be convincing our opponents that they’re wrong, not telling them that their opinions aren’t allowed.

    (That said, do I agree that Mr. Stupak is a reprehensible excuse for a human being for holding the health care reform hostage for the sake of his sectarian beliefs? Absolutely.)

  • Sarah Braasch

    This wasn’t meant to be a con law lesson, and I don’t want it to evolve into one. Or, a defense of abortion rights. (Even though I am pro abortion and proud.)

    I will point out that the founding fathers made it pretty clear that just because a right isn’t specifically enumerated doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. In fact, some didn’t want a bill of rights at all for just this reason — because people would say — oh, see, look, the word abortion is not in the Constitution, therefore, you have no right to this procedure, and I may restrict your access to it as I please.

    I think you need to be careful going down that road, especially if you are a supporter of healthcare reform.

    Regarding the Establishment Clause — I’m not saying that we can never have a federal law that happens to coincide with some representative’s interpretation of a religious tenet.

    But, I am pointing out that Representative Stupak openly admitted in the press that he introduced an amendment to a bill in the US House of Representatives as a straight forward matter of Roman Catholic faith.

    He told us this was his non secular purpose for introducing this amendment. He has every intention of restricting American women’s access to abortion as a matter of Roman Catholic faith.

    He said it. He told us. In the national press.

    He is so confident in the crumbling edifice of the wall of separation between church and state that he feels no qualms about saying this in a New York Times interview.

    To me — this is shocking. He took an oath to support and defend the Constitution.

    And, he is flagrantly and egregiously flouting that oath as if it were meaningless, as if the Establishment Clause of the Constitution were meaningless, as if Supreme Court jurisprudence on the subject were meaningless.

    He is basically saying — here national news reporter, allow me to point out to you which article of our Constitution, which I swore to uphold, I intend to break and how. ???!!! He even describes in the interview how he understands that he doesn’t have a chance on God’s green earth of getting the amendment to the Constitution, which would actually make his actions constitutional, so, knowing this, he then informs the reporter of how he intends to get his desired non-secular results in lieu of the amendment to the Constitution, which he knows he needs.

    This is like a robber calling up the local police and letting them know ahead of time which house he intends to rob and when.

    I am shocked that this doesn’t shock people. Shocked. Appalled.

    That is my point. And, it gets nary a mention.

    So, I felt compelled to mention it.

  • Shad B.

    I believe that her point was this: decisions made by public representatives should not be made in lieu of religious doctrine any one of them may or may not follow. To do so is a violation of the Constitution because these same representatives swore to an oath that they would make decisions separated from their personal beliefs.

    Granted, this is extremely difficult to do, but I do expect said representatives to look into /evidence/ rather than their faith to produce any decisions they wish to make. I can argue against a persons reasoning, proving where one might have went wrong in interpreting data, but I can’t the other.

    Of course, this sort of decision-making will most likely never occur in our government. (At least, not in my lifetime).

    I’m not as shocked and appalled by this as the author is. This has been a regularly occurring line of thinking for many years now. It’s hardly a shock. And I think that appalled isn’t applicable (in my case). Ashamed. Disappointed. Deeply saddened. All of these are a yes. But that’s semantics on my part.

  • konrad_arflane

    First, I should say that the main reason I’m not shocked is that I have a fairly low estimation of US political discourse (not that my own country’s is very much better these days, but still…). The only thing I’m mildly surprised by is that it’s a Catholic making this statement, since you’d think that at least some Evangelicals or other Protestants might start to wonder which other parts of Catholic doctrine he would like to implement in legislation.

    Second, I realize that unenumerated rights exist, and I agree that abortion should be one of them. I just happen to believe that the legal niceties do very little to actually convince anybody, and that this is actually a good thing. The fact of something’s legality or illegality should have no bearing on a discussion of whether that thing ought to be legal or illegal – though in practice it often does, regrettably, mostly for things that are presently illegal. In the case of abortion rights, there are numerous much better arguments in favour than “my reading of the constitution indicates that abortion rights are guaranteed by it”.

    Third, I disagree that Stupak (or rather, the movement he’s part of) needs a constitutional amendment to curtail abortion rights. All they need is new jurisprudence. Roe v. Wade isn’t quite new anymore, and at some point in the future, another abortion-related case may end up before the Supreme Court. Which is why abortion rights activist should spend more time (in my estimation) convincing and less time crying ‘wolf’ (justified as it may be) over issues of constitutional law. The SC Justices are, like all other humans, products of their environment, and shaping the intellectual climate so that more people know *why* access to abortion is a good thing for both individual women and society at large will increase the chances of having a sympathetic SC when the time comes. With any luck, it will also make it easier to get politicians elected who are not only pro-abortion rights, but more progressive in general, since abortion currently is one of those ‘moral’ issues that work to keep people voting against their economic self-interest.

  • Kaltro

    Sarah Braasch:”He just stated, unequivocally, that he intends to impose religious law upon the American citizenry. He just asserted that he intends to defeat healthcare reform unless religious law is deemed the supreme law of the land, usurping the position of the US Constitution.”

    Umm, no. Just no. Stupak has stated that he is opposed to federal funding for abortion. Other ways of funding abortion would stay as they are. You could still get an abortion. You just couldn’t pay for it with federal funds. How you can equate that with imposing ‘religious law’ upon the citizenry is beyond me.

  • Sarah Braasch

    Reread the interview. Very slowly. Repeat as necessary.

  • http://www.undergroundgames.dk Slater

    Kaltro: It doesn’t matter so much WHAT he’s trying to do – that’s not the point. What matters is he straight-out says his motive is his Catholic faith. He is trying to force a law that he openly admits is religiously motivated.

  • http://she-who-chatters.blogspot.com D

    I share in the WTF-ness. Argh. This is what happens when civilization runs on agreement and precedent: when enough people (or the right ones) agree on something stupid/wrong/bad, they can actually make it be the case.

  • Kaltro

    What interview, Sarah? You didn’t provide a link. Is it this one?:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/07/us/politics/07stupak.html

    I’m not really sure what you expect me to see. He gave an interview as a private citizen. Is it a crime now for him to express his opinions on public matters? He’s not a robot. He can’t stop his private life from having an influence on how he acts as a public representative. Nobody can. The real problem would be if he tried to impose his private life on others. He’s done no such thing. He has not called for a ban on all abortions, nor has he called for imposing Canon law in place of the current U.S. legal system.

    Slater, how is he forcing a law? He is trying to stop a new law from being passed. He’s also trying to uphold a previous law, the Hyde amendment, that’s been in the books since 1977. Since when is mere ‘motive’ a crime by itself? A man who has a ‘motive’ to murder but never acts on it is not considered a criminal, because he hasn’t actually *done* anything.

  • Sarah Braasch

    That’s funny, because the last time I checked, I wasn’t able to introduce amendments to bills (i.e. forcing a law) in the US House of Representatives as a private citizen. I’m pretty sure only elected public officials who have sworn an oath to support and defend the Constitution can do that.

    And, in fact, per the SCOTUS’s Lemon Test for determining constitutionality according to the Establishment Clause of the US Constitution — the Stupak Amendment FAILS — according to what, you might ask?

    ACCORDING TO STUPAK HIMSELF. The first prong of the Lemon Test is a SECULAR LEGISLATIVE PURPOSE.

    Stupak already confirmed that his purpose in introducing this amendment to a bill in the US House of Representatives as a sworn US Congressman is wholly NON SECULAR.

    In fact, that’s right, what did he say? He said that it is a STRAIGHTFORWARD MATTER OF ROMAN CATHOLIC FAITH. I’d call that imposing Canon law in place of the current US legal system.

    Keep reading, Kaltro.

  • Kaltro

    Sarah, you seem awful emotional about this. Where’s that cool, rational view of things some atheists love to talk about?

    Stupak made the comments about his Catholic faith in an interview as a private citizen. He pointed out that being anti-abortion is in line with Catholic doctrine. However, the amendment doesn’t really ‘impose’ Catholic doctrine since it allows abortion to be funded privately, or through State and local government funds. If he were really trying to impose Catholic doctrine he would call for a ban on all abortions and abortion funding, and make any abortions that are carried out carry the same legal penalties as murder. Has he done anything like that? No.

    The Stupak amendment continues the previous standard set by the Hyde amendment that federal funds not be used for abortions. Interestingly enough, President Obama agreed in an interview that this amendment is merely continuing with previous policy:

    “”I laid out a very simple principle, which is this is a health care bill, not an abortion bill,” Obama said. “And we’re not looking to change what is the principle that has been in place for a very long time, which is federal dollars are not used to subsidize abortions.”"

    The link: http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/abc-news-exclusive-obama-jobs-health-care-ft/story?id=9033559

    Feel free to now rage against President Obama as well.

  • Sarah Braasch

    Kaltro: It doesn’t matter so much WHAT he’s trying to do – that’s not the point. What matters is he straight-out says his motive is his Catholic faith. He is trying to force a law that he openly admits is religiously motivated.

    Thanks, Slater.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    I think a good analogy here would be if a Muslim congressman proposed a law banning the importation and consumption of pork. And when the media asked him why he wanted to do this, his answer was: “I believe that Allah the gracious and merciful has told us through his word, the Holy Qur’an, that swineflesh is haram. Therefore, no one should be eating it, in this country or anywhere else.”

    Could you come up with secular reasons for a law like that? Maybe. But when the person who proposed it in the first place isn’t even trying, I don’t see why the courts should do that work for him. Unfortunately, when the religion in question happens to be the one shared by the majority of judges in this country, the judicial calculus tends to shift…

  • Sarah Braasch

    Ebon, perfect example. You are a genius.

    I thought of another as well, but I think I’m going to write a post about it.

  • Kaltro

    Ebon, that’s a bad analogy because Stupak’s amendment does not ban abortion. As mentioned before, the amendment would continue the previous policy of not using federal funds for abortion. This does not affect private, state, or local government funding of abortion, so calling it a ‘ban’ is misleading.

    Sarah, could you at least take my criticism into account instead of ignoring it?

  • Sarah Braasch

    Your criticism is beside the point. You have missed the point entirely.

    Like Ebon said, could the judiciary find a secular legislative purpose that overcomes Stupak’s brazen admission that there is none? That’s a stretch, in my opinion. But, that’s not my call.

    I do not claim the gift of prophecy. But, I can almost guarantee you, that if hell should freeze over and Stupak gets his anti-abortion language into the healthcare reform bill, it will be challenged in the courts, and it will probably make its way up to the Supreme Court.

    We are not debating the content of the Stupak Amendment.

    We are discussing Stupak’s flouting of his oath to support and defend the Constitution.

    No one even bats an eye, because this type of constitutional violation has become so commonplace everyone assumes that it must be constitutional.

    I am trying to raise public awareness. I don’t want to see our Republic devolve into a representative theocracy.

    Do you want to take into account the point of my post instead of ignoring it?

  • Sarah Braasch

    Here you go Kaltro:

    I think a good analogy here would be if a Muslim congressman proposed a law banning the purchase of pork with federal monies or by federally subsidized food/nutrition programs. And when the media asked him why he wanted to do this, his answer was: “I believe that Allah the gracious and merciful has told us through his word, the Holy Qur’an, that swineflesh is haram. Therefore, no one should be eating it, in this country or anywhere else. But, because I can’t get an all out ban on the importation and consumption of pork, I am going to go as far as I can in restricting American citizens’ access to pork without being impeached. And, I’m sure as hell not going to pay for pork with my federal tax dollars, and I don’t think any other Muslims should have to do this either. If you want to buy pork, buy it with your own money. No where in the Constitution does it say that anyone has a right to eat pork. Show me. Show me in the Constitution where it says you have the right to eat pork.”

    Could you come up with secular reasons for a law like that? Maybe. But when the person who proposed it in the first place isn’t even trying, I don’t see why the courts should do that work for him. Unfortunately, when the religion in question happens to be the one shared by the majority of judges in this country, the judicial calculus tends to shift…

  • Kaltro

    Sarah, I am trying to take your point into account. I just disagree with you, and I don’t see it as violating the constitution. You say Stupak’s amendment violates the establishment clause. But how does it do so? Does it establish a federal church? No. Does it provide federal funding to religious organizations? No. What does it establish? Nothing! It merely continues the policy of the Hyde amendment of not providing federal funding of abortion. Do note that private funding, state funding, and local government funding are not restricted by the Stupak amendment.

    Also, your new analogy isn’t any better than Ebon’s original. The only thing being restricted is the use of other people’s federal tax money to pay for abortions.

  • Sarah Braasch

    Yawn. Bored.

    I only like to beat dead horses for so long, and then I have to change it up with other dead farm animals.

    Just keep reading everything I’ve already written on the subject over and over again and answer back each time quietly to yourself with some inane quasi refutation, and it will be just like we’re continuing this conversation. But, we’re not. Which will work much better for me. If you’re feeling really crazy, you might even try educating yourself by reading up on some Establishment Clause Supreme Court jurisprudence. Start with Lemon v. Kurtzman.

    Oh, and, BTW, I am prodigiously passionate about our Constitution — a fact of which I am proud. I have dedicated my life to protecting it. So keep right on “insulting” me by telling me I’m getting overly emotional about preserving our secular Constitution and our secular Republic. The Establishment Clause is the only thing standing between us and theocracy. We better look after it. Use it or lose it.

    Have a good weekend.

  • Kaltro

    I read up on Lemon v. Kurtzman. The case concerned state laws that provided various forms of government financial aid to religious schools. That was seen as a government subsidy to church related institutions, or a form of ‘establishing’ religion. It was judged correctly as a violation of the establishment clause and struck down.

    Now, what about the Stupak amendment? Does the amendment provide a government subsidy to any institution related to any religion? No. It doesn’t establish a federal church either, as I pointed out before. Does it provide any sort of subsidy to religion? No. Now, how can it possibly violate the establishment clause if it doesn’t actually provide any sort of government subsidy to religion? Where do you see the violation?

    Your continued reference to the New York Times interview is not convincing me. So what if Stupak is Catholic? His opinions alone do not make something constitutional or un-constitutional. It’s his actual amendment, the piece of legislation he has put forward, that should be judged. And, so far as I can tell, his amendment does not violate the constitution. I’m still waiting for you to explain how, exactly, his amendment violates it.

    If you want to bring up the lemon test again, let’s take a look at it. “First, the statute must have a secular legislative purpose; second, its principal or primary effect must be one that neither advances nor inhibits religion; finally, the statute must not foster an excessive government entanglement with religion.”

    First prong? Check. It upholds the previous Hyde amendment, and since the Hyde amendment hasn’t been called into question this is not some big change in policy. It reflects the desire to keep the federal government secular– that is, keeping it from getting entangled with an issue deeply tied to religion. It also avoids any conflict due to pro-life taxpayers not wanting their tax dollars spent on abortions.

    Second prong? Check. The Stupak amendment neither advances nor inhibits religion.

    Third prong? Check. The Stupak amendment does not create excessive government entanglement with religion.

  • Sarah Braasch

    So, your response to the actual point I was trying to make is that you think I’m wrong.

    Great. Got it. Thanks for playing.

    I’ll consider your remarks a request to write a post on the constitutionality of the actual content of the Stupak Amendment.

  • Sarah Braasch

    Oh, and in preparation for that post, I’ll give you another homework assignment. The two relatively recent 10 Commandments cases — Van Orden v. Perry and McCreary v. ACLU of KY — so that you can educate yourself about how the Supreme Court of the United States divorces intent from content or not. Oh, and Lawrence v. TX wouldn’t be bad either. You’ll love Scalia’s dissent, which reads like an ode to mob rule.

  • Kaltro

    Sarah:”So, your response to the actual point I was trying to make is that you think I’m wrong.

    Great. Got it. Thanks for playing.”

    I was hoping for a bit more explanation on your part as to how Stupak’s amendment violates the constitution. Why don’t you demonstrate more clearly how you are right? You have yet to show how it establishes anything religious in violation of the first amendment. I’ve asked you multiple times to provide your evidence on that point, but you refuse. I’m starting to think you don’t actually have any good evidence to back it up.

  • Staceyjw

    Thanks Sarah!

    What I want to know is- what about MY religious freedom? That is, my right to be free of it, and rules inspired solely by it. Why am I, as an atheist, forced to follow catholic dogma?

    Sure, its not an “actual” ban, but it IS a defacto one that will prevent and marginalize womens access. This is what the right wants: if they can’t win the legal way by overturning RvW, they will just make it so difficult for women to get an abortion that the end result is similar.

    He should be banned from office. I know lots of people go by their faith, but to be so blatent just shows his disrespect for US law.

    GOOD WORK SARAH, this is worth being outraged over.

  • Kaltro

    Stacy–”Why am I, as an atheist, forced to follow catholic dogma?”

    How would you be forced to follow Catholic dogma?

    “Sure, its not an “actual” ban, but it IS a defacto one that will prevent and marginalize womens access.”

    What evidence do you have of that? Women could still turn to private, state, and local government funding if the Stupak amendment were in effect.

  • Mrnaglfar

    I can certainly understand the sentiment, Sarah. We don’t want our politicians to be deciding legislative matters on the basis of religious opinion. I would just have to disagree that this violates the separation of church and state.

    While I may disagree vehemently with the legislation, at one level all it seems to say is that “the federal government will not provide funding for X”. It doesn’t ban it, it just doesn’t subsidize it either.

    The reason he doesn’t want the government to provide funds for X are undoubtedly and explicitly religious sentiments. But that doesn’t mean the bill itself would violate the separation of church and state.

    I’ll fully claim ignorance of the bill outside of scanty exposure (forgive me if I get anything wrong), so I’m talking more generally here. If this (or any other) bill could just have easily of been introduced, irrespective of Stupak’s reference to his personal religious beliefs, then I wouldn’t see it as violating the separation of church and state. If he happened to be an atheist who also happened to feel that abortion was murder, and proposed the same legislation, would that have violated the separation of church and state? Or if he was an atheist who proposed that abortions should be covered, would have he violated it?

    In other words, if this was the same bill with different motives from implementing it, would there still be an issue?

    Or is the bigger issue any politician making reference to any personal religious motivations?

    Just a thought

  • Sarah Braasch

    I just really don’t want to get bogged down in the debate over the Stupak Amendment itself, so I am really really resisting that.

    I swear — for everyone who would love to go after me on this — I’ll write something on it.

    I really want to stick to the point, and I am afraid I am going to be tenacious about this.

    It isn’t just a reference to a personal religious motivation. I have to pull up the case law, but the Supreme Court doesn’t even have a problem with some personal religious motivation AS LONG AS there is:

    a legitimate secular legislative purpose that outweighs the religious motivation ( I don’t think this is the case with the Stupak Amendment, BUT that is for another piece.) (I think that might be a poor wording of the SC jurisprudence on this issue — but it’s close. I’m just not going to take the time to look it up.)

    Here is my point: Stupak admitted in the national media that not only does he not have A legitimate secular legislative purpose — he doesn’t have ANY legitimate secular legislative purpose.

    He openly admits in the national press that his ONLY purpose is a straightforward matter of Roman Catholic faith.

    He took an oath to support and defend the US Constitution, including the Establishment Clause.

    When he is acting in his capacity as a US Representative, he is not acting as a private individual citizen.

    He is acting as a public elected official — he is speaking on behalf of the government.

    When he proposes an amendment to a bill this is government speech. This isn’t Bart talking. This is the government talking.

    AND, even if you don’t buy that — he took an OATH to support and defend the Constitution. (At the very least this should qualify him for impeachment.)

    He proposed an amendment that he admits is in direct contravention of the US Constitution while acting as an elected public official speaking on behalf of the US Federal government. (It doesn’t matter what the amendment is for. He admitted that he had NO secular legislative purpose in introducing the amendment.)

    That is my issue with Representative Stupak.

    But, it is so commonplace (as long as the public elected official is some form of Xtian), that no one even stops and thinks about how unconstitutional that is.

    That is my point.

    If someone responds to this by asserting that he didn’t do anything unconstitutional, because the Stupak Amendment merely perpetuates existing law (it doesn’t, BTW), I think I might scream.

    Ok — I won’t scream, but I’ll just stop commenting.

    I don’t know how to make my point any more clear.

    That’s why I wrote the parody of the interview replacing Stupak with a JW who had introduced an anti-blood transfusion amendment as a straightforward matter of Jehovah’s Witness faith.

    Sometimes it helps people to see the issue better when it’s not a matter of mainstream Xtian doctrine.

  • Mrnaglfar

    I just wanted to be clear as to the objection.

    It doesn’t matter so much WHAT he’s trying to do – that’s not the point. What matters is he straight-out says his motive is his Catholic faith. He is trying to force a law that he openly admits is religiously motivated….Here is my point: Stupak admitted in the national media that not only does he not have A legitimate secular legislative purpose — he doesn’t have ANY legitimate secular legislative purpose.
    He openly admits in the national press that his ONLY purpose is a straightforward matter of Roman Catholic faith.

    I would say that’s probably the thrust of it, given what the previous comments have been.

    Now I’m certainly not trying to encourage or support that kind of motivation, but let’s just consider another example: A complete believer in the free market proposes the same bill. He proposes it because his motivation is that the federal government shouldn’t be paying for any private expense. Does that bill now serve a secular purpose it didn’t before?

    Or let’s say that a politician proposes a bill to increase funding for law enforcement. He wants to increase law enforcement because he believes murder is wrong and we should do whatever we can to prevent it. When asked why he believes murder is wrong, he cites his religious faith. Does that bill no longer serve a secular purpose?

    I can sympathize with your view, believe me. I’m very uncomfortable with prospect of people’s religious motivations influencing their legislation in harmful directions.

    I guess my point is that I just don’t see what to do about it.

    Outside of focus on the bills themselves or bar religious people from holding office, I can’t think of another option. I certainly wouldn’t opt for the latter, which just leaves focusing on the bill itself. Is there another alternative I’m missing?

  • Sarah Braasch

    Ok — I just thought of a way to make my point more clear.

    A US Representative of strong religious convictions (we don’t know which religion) walks up to the hopper (the place where proposed bills are placed) with an unmarked envelope. He is introducing a bill, which is inside the envelope. We don’t know the contents of the bill.

    As the US Rep walks up to the hopper (I don’t think it’s a basket you just walk up to — but just for argument’s sake) with the bill, he shouts to the entire House Chamber, “I am introducing this bill without any secular legislative purpose whatsoever. I am introducing this bill as a straightforward matter of my religious faith.”

    Has he done something unconstitutional? Or, has he, at the very least, violated his oath to support and defend the Constitution?

    I say he has.

  • Sarah Braasch

    Dude, Mrnaglfar,

    It seems we were both writing law school constitutional law final essay questions at the same time.

    Should we be embarrassed by this?

  • Mrnaglfar

    I’m confused. I’m not in a law program.

  • Kaltro

    Sarah: “He took an oath to support and defend the US Constitution, including the Establishment Clause.”

    The Establishment Clause does not include the lemon test. The lemon test was a later creation of the SC that’s only been around since 1971. There’s a process for amending the Constitution, and to my knowledge no attempt has yet been made to add the lemon test to the Constitution through the amendment process. Correct me if I’m wrong here.

  • Sarah Braasch

    Mrnaglfar,

    I totally get you. You’re absolutely right. What do we do about this? Difficult question. We’re not mind readers. We can’t know the inner thoughts of legislators as they introduce bills and amendments.

    But, here was my point in writing the essay:

    Stupak openly admits in the press to flouting either the Constitution or his oath to support and defend the Constitution. Take your pick.

    NO ONE bats an eye. NO ONE mentions it. He doesn’t get called out for this at all. It seems normal to everyone — like this is how it’s supposed to be done.

    Why? Because he says he is doing it as a matter of religious faith.

    I think he deserves to get a proper tongue lashing for this.

    So, I tried to give him one.

    Unfortunately, I’m pretty sure he doesn’t read Daylight Atheism. Still — I feel better now.

  • Sarah Braasch

    Also, Stupak has a law degree. I’m pretty sure that he understands the meaning of the Establishment Clause.

    And, in my opinion, he also makes it pretty clear in this interview that he fully understands that what he is doing is unconstitutional. He understands that he is violating the Establishment Clause of the Constitution.

    He doesn’t care. Why? Because he is trying to undermine the Establishment Clause. And, he thinks he can get away with it.

    I say he can’t. Not if we don’t let him.

  • Kaltro

    Sarah, I’d like you to explain your blurring of texts. Why do you take the lemon test to be a part of the Constitution when it plainly isn’t?

    The establishment clause says: “Congress shall make no law”. It doesn’t say anything about the motivations of members of Congress.

    Stupak’s oath was to defend the Constitution, not the creations of the Supreme Court.

  • Sarah Braasch

    Dude, seriously.

    Ok, once we debate the validity of constitutional review, what’s next? Do you want to argue about whether or not the American Revolution was justified?

    I’m done. I just can’t. Go read Marbury v. Madison. Better yet — go ask Stupak. He has a law degree.

    You’re like a little kid who gets an explanation / justification, but just keeps asking why? why? why?

    BTW, not only does the Supreme Court have the ultimate authority to interpret what the Constitution means, they can actually compel Congressmen to fulfill their duties via a writ of mandamus.

    There are persons murmuring about using them more to compel govt officials to comply with their oaths to uphold their constitutions, be they state or fed, so as to compel them not to violate the separation of church and state in egregious ways.

  • Kaltro

    Sarah, you continue to amaze me. Where in Article III of the Constitution does it say the judicial branch has power to define the meaning of the Constitution as it wishes, or to see new ‘implied powers’ whenever it likes? This doctrine of implied powers also directly contradicts the tenth amendment.

    But don’t let an old rag like the Constitution stop you. Despite your claims to love the Constitution, so far you’ve taken every opportunity to ignore it in favor of later convoluted legal reasoning.

  • Sarah Braasch

    If you think that’s amazing — go read a constitutional law textbook — you’ll really have your mind blown.

    I’m done. Continue to say ridiculous things.

    (BTW — I cowrote a report on Ethiopia’s judiciary — a judiciary without the power of constitutional review — the judiciary is completely impotent to defend the constitutional rights of the people — it might as well not exist — as well as the civil rights of the people laid out in the constitution (the Constitution itself is rendered impotent), so if this is what you are espousing — I strongly suggest you take a close look at the human and civil rights violations occurring with impunity in Ethiopia — you are welcome to it — I’m going to continue to defend our Constitution and judiciary)

    I will not respond anymore.

    I’m starting to think you’ll say anything to have the last word.

    Let’s see if I’m right.


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