The hedge of separation

John Garvey, the president of Catholic University, has written an op-ed piece in which he explains why his institution is joining scores of other Catholic groups in filing a lawsuit against the contraceptive & abortifacient mandate in Obamacare.  In the course of his essay (in which he mentions also the Hossana-Tabor case involving the LCMS school), Garvey discusses the “wall of separation of church and state,” finding the metaphor’s origins not in Thomas Jefferson (who wanted to protect the state from the church) but, earlier, in Roger Williams (who wanted to protect the church from the state):

When the Supreme Court first considered the issue of aid to parochial schools in the 1947 case Everson v. Board of Education , it invoked separation as a limiting principle. The court quoted Thomas Jefferson’s 1802 letter to the Baptists of Danbury, Conn.: “I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between church and state.”

Jefferson was a child of the Enlightenment, suspicious of organized religion. He believed that efforts to establish an official religion led to persecution and civil war.

The metaphor was not original to Jefferson, though. Roger Williams, who founded the colony of Rhode Island on principles of religious tolerance, used it in 1644. History has shown, he observed, that when churches “have opened a gap in the hedge or wall of separation between the garden of the church and the wilderness of the world, God hath ever broke down the wall . . . and made his garden a wilderness.”

Williams had different reasons than Jefferson for preaching separation. Jefferson thought that religion was bad for government. Williams thought that mixing church and state was bad for the church.

These two perspectives often give us the same results. They both warn against tax support for churches and against prayers composed by public school boards. But Williams’s theological metaphor may have been more influential than Jefferson’s political one in the adoption of the First Amendment.

via For the government, what counts as Catholic? – The Washington Post.

Not just a “wall” of separation but a “hedge” of separation.  The church is a garden.  The world is a wilderness.  Making a hole in the hedge is punished by God who turns the garden into a wilderness.  Powerful metaphors.  Apply them to current issues.

And yet, is Rogers’ formulation adequate?  He was a Baptist, so we see here elements of the doctrine of separation from the world.  Is the secular arena more than just a wilderness?

What would Romney do?

In raising the question why both campaigns are ignoring Romney’s record as governor of Massachusetts, Ezra Klein (a liberal) goes on to show how that record might not matter too much.  In doing so, he gives a succinct account of what both Romney and Congressional Republicans are planning to do should the election go their way:

In Massachusetts, Romney governed a blue electorate, and negotiated with a Democratic legislature. If he wins the presidency this fall, he will almost certainly be negotiating with a Republican House and Senate, which would be swept into office along with him.

We don’t have to pore over every decision Romney made in Massachusetts to discern what he would do in Washington if elected. Romney and the Republicans in Congress have explained exactly what they intend to accomplish — and their plans are remarkably in sync.

The budget prepared by Paul Ryan, the House Budget Committee chairman, and the Romney campaign’s general-election platform look quite similar. Both would cut taxes while flattening the tax code. Their Medicare-reform plans look similar; Ryan even modified his original draft to make it look more like Romney’s, which allows seniors to choose between traditional fee-for-service Medicare and private options. Their plans to increase defense spending are alike, as are their plans to cut domestic spending and to turn Medicaid, food stamps and other safety-net programs over to the states.

Because it’s difficult to imagine a scenario in which Romney is elected and Republicans don’t hold the House and win control of the Senate, Republicans wouldn’t be stymied by Democratic opposition. They would have the votes to pass their agenda. True, they won’t get a filibuster-proof majority of 60 in the upper chamber, but Ryan’s budget is, well, a budget, which means it could be passed through the budget reconciliation process — and couldn’t be filibustered. To enact a radical change of direction, Republicans need only a simple majority of votes.

via Why neither Obama nor Romney wants to talk about Romney’s record – The Washington Post.

What both parties don’t want to talk about

As the Mitt Romney campaign hails his business experience and as the Obama campaign demonizes it neither side wants to talk about what is surely Romney’s most pertinent qualification for the presidency; namely, being governor of Massachusetts.  Ezra Klein explains why both parties are avoiding that topic:

Why have we spent approximately no time talking about Romney’s governorship?

The answer, again, is that neither campaign really wants to. The Romney campaign wants to avoid it because Romney governed from the center in ways that could now alienate the right. In a Republican Party looking for a true conservative, Romney sees little but danger in his record. His signature legislative accomplishment was the forerunner to “Obamacare.” Meanwhile, his state ranked 47th in job creation during his term. (So much for the secret knowledge gleaned from Bain about how to create jobs.)

The Obama campaign doesn’t want to discuss it because Romney’s centrist record as governor might comfort independents, who otherwise may fear that Romney is a creature of the right. “I think people recognize that I’m not a partisan Republican, that I’m someone who is moderate, and that my views are progressive,” Romney said in 2002.

His health-care reform extended coverage to the uninsured, undercutting the image of a rapacious private-equity pirate. Although his state didn’t create many jobs, unemployment nevertheless fell from 5.6 percent to 4.7 percent while he was governor. In a country that’s looking for an alternative to Obama but is scared of the extremism of the modern right, the Obama camp doesn’t see much upside in emphasizing Romney’s moderate gubernatorial record.

via Why neither Obama nor Romney wants to talk about Romney’s record – The Washington Post.

So Romney is running to the right.  Which is exactly where Obama wants him!

Austerity vs. the Obama approach

Europeans are torn about the best approach to fix their messed-up economies:  austerity (cutting government budgets and deficits) or stimulus (the government spending even more money and running up even bigger deficits in an effort to jump-start economic growth).  Austerity, as recommended by Germany, had been the plan, but recent elections in France and Greece have favored the pro-stimulus side.  Who is the role model for this position?  President Barack Obama and his stewardship of the American economy.  See  Germany, U.S. head to G-8 summit with starkly different economic policies – The Washington Post.

 

Interstate taxing

Say you get a good job in the environs of our nation’s capital. (The region has some of the country’s lowest unemployment rates, with jobs in government, high-tech, and the military-industrial complex.)  Your choices of where to live are the District of Columbia, Maryland, or Virginia.

Maryland has just chosen to raise its income tax rates to match those of D.C., so they will be tied for fourth highest in the nation.  Virginia’s taxes, on the other hand, are not too far from reasonable.  Where would you choose to live?  What do you think will happen in the long run to the economy of these three regions?

From the Washington Post:

More than 300,000 Maryland residents will pay higher income taxes under a package given final approval by the legislature Wednesday.

The tax increase affects single-filers reporting income in excess of $100,000 and joint-filers reporting more than $150,000 in Maryland, the state with the nation’s highest per-capita income.

Democratic lawmakers closed ranks behind Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), who argued that his administration needed more money to continue record spending on education.

O’Malley’s tax increases — combined with a move the legislature supported to shift teacher pension costs to counties — will close half of a $1 billion gap that had been forecast for the rest of the decade.

The legislation — passed by the Senate on Tuesday and the House on Wednesday — will also widen the income tax divide between Maryland and Virginia. Maryland’s new top state-local tax bracket will tie the District’s for fourth-highest in the nation, at 8.95 percent. Across the Potomac, the top rate in Virginia is 5.75 percent.

via Md. passes income tax hike on six-figure earners – The Washington Post.

Married to the state

Behind the rhetoric of “the war on women” and the “Julia” website is a strategy of Democrats to turn single women–sorry, unmarried women, I mean, “women on their own”–into the militant voting bloc that evangelicals are for Republicans.  While it is true that single mothers and divorced women are the most consistent  Democratic demographic, a funny thing happens when these very women get married:  They turn into Republicans.  So says Jessica Gavora in the Washington Post:

“The Life of Julia,” the Obama campaign’s new interactive Web ad, follows a cartoon everywoman, Julia, through the milestones of a middle-class American life: education, work, motherhood, retirement. One milestone is pointedly missing: marriage.

But, then again, why should Julia get married? She doesn’t need to. Like a growing number of single women with children, Julia is married to the state.

As a character drawn and focus-grouped by political consultants, Julia is designed to remind voters of the government programs President Obama champions and likely GOP nominee Mitt Romney is ostensibly intent on taking away. Julia goes to school (with help from Headstart and federal student loans), she works (thank you, Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and Small Business Administration), she has a son (free health screenings brought to her by Obamacare) and she retires (Social Security and Medicare pay the bills while she volunteers in a community garden).

But Julia is a more artful and nuanced creation than a simple tour guide to the utopia that awaits under a second Obama term. She is designed to appeal to a narrow but deep demographic: single women, especially single women with kids.

In 2007, the United States passed a significant demographic milestone, when the census reported that the majority of American households were headed by unmarried people. It was the crest of a wave that had been building for some time. Since 1960, the percentage of the population that is over age 15 and unmarried increased from 32 percent to 45 percent. If this trend continues, singles (including unmarried people who are cohabiting) will make up the majority of Americans in less than 15 years.

And in this nation of swinging singles, women are dominant. . . .

Until the 2000 presidential election, Democrats generally wrote off the single female vote as not worth the effort. But in that razor-thin contest, strategists noticed for the first time that 22 million members of their most reliable cohort of voters did not go to the polls. If single women had cast ballots in the same proportions as married women, Al Gore probably would have received the punched chads of an additional 6 million voters, more than enough to have won him the White House.

The Democratic Party’s answer to this missed opportunity has been to attempt to make singlehood cool and fresh and new in an attempt to court this demographic. When focus groups told them that unmarried women regard the word “single” as a depressing term, strategists renamed them simply “unmarried” or, even better, “women on their own.”. . .

Whereas government benefits were once the state’s compassionate response to women who had lost their husbands, in Julia’s world they are the unquestionable entitlement of women who never married. The decline of marriage and Democratic political opportunism have combined to transform what used to be a situation to be avoided — single motherhood — into a new and proud American demographic, citizens of Obama’s Hubby State.. . .

Strategists talk breathlessly of unmarried women becoming for the Democratic Party what evangelical Christians are for the Republicans: a large, awakened, reliable force for liberal social change.. . .

The Democratic project to coax single women to the polls is given urgency by an interesting political fact: Although single women vote overwhelmingly Democratic, their condition is not permanent. According to the work of University of Chicago demographer Tom Smith, once divorced people remarry, they start to vote like married people again. In 2004, George W. Bush had a 12-point advantage over John Kerry among married people. Kerry won divorced voters by three points and separated and never-married voters by 35 percent and 25 percent, respectively. But among remarried voters, Bush was back on top by 15 percent. It seems something about the institution of marriage makes people vote Republican.

via Obama’s ‘Julia’ ad and the new Hubby State – The Washington Post.


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