Fisking Stiehm’s Bigotry at US News

Fisking Stiehm’s Bigotry at US News January 8, 2014

I stopped being a Democrat when it became clear that I was expected to vacate any of my own thoughts and opinions in order to fall in line with the party, or be called moronic or hateful or bigoted or even evil. There was no way the party could be wrong on anything, therefore dissent indicated a problem originating with me. “I” had the problem; not the party.

Don’t snigger, conservatives, you have your narrow-minded purists, too. Perhaps you’ve never marched in lockstep with quite the same precision as the Democrats, but you’ve run your own purges, and handily. Because whom the godlings of ideologies would destroy, they first make mad.

Currently Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor is being sized up for a suit of tar and feathers or, more precisely, she is being warned that one awaits her, if she does not quickly fall back in line and do what she was supposed to do, was expected to do when President Obama nominated her to the bench: rubber-stamp his dubious policies once they landed before her, as expected.

The warning — the little taste of what is in store for her, if she does not reform her thinking — comes via an op-ed in US News and World Report entitled “The Catholic Supreme Court’s War on Women”. It is a piece of bigotry so highly burnished it would scald the retinas, were its arguments not so relentlessly stupid as to invite protective eye-rolling. The writer, Jamie Stiehm, means to shame Sotomayor into behaving by accusing her of judicial malfeasance, rooted in religious self-interest. Since one cannot prove a negative, Sotomayor is now supposed to take the bait and defensively demonstrate — by means of all of her future opinions — that Stiehm is wrong, and she, Sotomayor, is a still a good soldier and a good sister. Let’s take a look at this thing, shall we?

Et tu, Justice Sonia Sotomayor? Really, we can’t trust you on women’s health and human rights? The lady from the Bronx just dropped the ball on American women and girls as surely as she did the sparkling ball at midnight on New Year’s Eve in Times Square. Or maybe she’s just a good Catholic girl.

Ewww. What ARE you, some Catholic girl?

Stiehm opens with a reveal: she apparently believes that Supreme Court Justices are not supposed to open-mindedly weigh any question before them on its own merits, or check with the constitution. Rather, they should be dependably ideological. Since Sotomayor seems shaky on that point, Stiehm serves her a schoolyard sneer: “what are ya, a good Catholic girl?” Can’t you just hear it?

The Supreme Court is now best understood as the Extreme Court. One big reason why is that six out of nine Justices are Catholic. Let’s be forthright about that. (The other three are Jewish.) Sotomayor, appointed by President Obama, is a Catholic who put her religion ahead of her jurisprudence. What a surprise, but that is no small thing.

Alternate paragraph: “The Supreme Court is full of Catholics and Jews! Not enough enlightened people! The Jews might be alright — they know how to lay low, by now — but these Catholics can’t be trusted! They’re in league with Rome!” Should we tell her that Obamacare’s Individual Mandate survives thanks to the Catholic Chief Justice, John Roberts? Oh, let’s not trouble her with facts and spoil her fun!

That first graph does demand a question, though: is Sotomayor some Rome-bediant, floor-kissin’, passionately papist plant? The answer is important because Stiehm is basing her whole thesis on the idea that she is. It seems Sotomayor is rather typically Catholic, no daily church-goer like that bad guy, Antonin Scalia.

“Judge Sotomayor was raised as a Catholic and attends church for family celebrations and other important events.”

From the same article:

In 1994, Sotomayor allowed two state prison inmates to wear multicolored bead necklaces under their clothing. The inmates said wearing the beads was essential to their religious faith, Santeria. Prison officials argued that the beads were gang symbols that provoked fights.

Sotomayor, who attended Catholic schools as a child, saw the issue in terms of religious freedom. After chastening officials for favoring “traditional” religions like Catholicism over “nontraditional” religions like Santeria, she ruled that such distinctions were “intolerable.”

That’s bad news, for Stiehm. Sotomayor appears to be that most dangerous thing: an open-minded justice who refers to the constitution! Oh, noes! And she’s Catholic!

But let’s move on.

Unenlightened Catholic Girls. Ewww.

In a stay order applying to an appeal by a Colorado nunnery, the Little Sisters of the Poor, Justice Sotomayor undermined the new Affordable Care Act’s sensible policy on contraception. She blocked the most simple of rules – lenient rules – that required the Little Sisters to affirm their religious beliefs against making contraception available to its members. They objected to filling out a one-page form. What could be easier than nuns claiming they don’t believe in contraception?

Ach! Where to begin? I want to dwell on Stiehm’s repulsive (and anti-women) condescension in referring to a long-established, independent, autonomous, international order of indigent-serving religious women as “a Colorado nunnery.” If Stiehm possessed one-tenth of the generosity and good-will residing within the heart of one Little Sister, she would have been able to resist the impulse to downplay their remarkable work for the sake of ideology. But she doesn’t, and there is nothing more to be said about that, so let us simply marvel at the smarmy spin she puts on Obamacare’s “sensible policy” and “the most simple of rules — lenient rules — just a one-page form, what could be easier?” Pravda, by way of Ursula, the Sea-Witch, who likes to steal women’s voices once they sign things.

Sotomayor’s blow brings us to confront an uncomfortable reality. More than WASPS, Methodists, Jews, Quakers or Baptists…

Holy Crap, now she’s channeling Archie Bunker!

…Catholics often try to impose their beliefs on you, me, public discourse and institutions. Especially if “you” are female. This is not true of all Catholics – just look at House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi.

Yeah, Archie Bunker thought that “Little Elmo” down at the docks was “one of the ‘good’ ones”, too.

But right now, the climate is so cold when it comes to defending our settled legal ground that Sotomayor’s stay is tantamount to selling out the sisterhood. And sisterhood is not as powerful as it used to be, ladies.

Well, clearly it is not, since Ms. Stiehm has no problem ripping apart women who do not conform to specs. As to “settled legal ground” what is it, precisely, that Stiehm believes is settled? The notion that there is a “right” to artificial contraceptives, voluntary sterilization and abortifacients delivered “free of charge” to all woman (and men, actually). We have a Supreme Court specifically in order to determine how the unsettled parts of “settled legal ground” should land.

You know, like, in the Hosanna Tabor case, when the Supreme Court ruled unanimously — that means, in full agreement and as-one — against the administration’s argument that Churches have no right to determine who they are and define themselves. That certainly got settled. With a splat.

Catholics in high places of power have the most trouble, I’ve noticed, practicing the separation of church and state.

Citation? She’s noticed this, where?

The pugnacious Catholic Justice, Antonin Scalia, is the most aggressive offender on the Court. . .

Citation of offenses please? One egregious example? Scalia is certainly a bad person. Poor Jennifer Senior talked to him for New York Magazine and barely escaped a bruising. Because he’s all pugnacious, and stuff, but no less a progressive than Cass Sunstein has defended his integrity. You could look it up, Ms. Stiehm.

“. . . but not the only one.”

Again, a little spiteful drip of malice left to fall where it may, with nothing at all to back it up but a bigotry intent on fomenting paranoia among the headline-reading less-informed.

Of course, we can’t know for sure what Sotomayor was thinking. . .

Are you sure you can’t tell for sure? Because you sounded pretty sure up in those opening graphs. Oh, is this line here so you can later claim you were balanced? Oh, I’m sorry for interrupting, then. Continue…

. . . but it seems she has joined the ranks of the five Republican Catholic men on the John Roberts Court in showing a clear religious bias when it comes to women’s rights and liberties.

What the??? Have Roe v Wade and the 19th Amendment been repealed while we weren’t looking? Is Alito wearing that hairshirt outside his robes, again?

We can no longer be silent about this.

There has been silence? Where? When? Who?

Thomas Jefferson, the principal champion of the separation between state and church, was thinking particularly of pernicious Rome in his writings. He deeply distrusted the narrowness of Vatican hegemony.

I note on twitter Stiehm has said: I am a progressive daughter of the Enlightenment! Thomas Jefferson and I see eye to eye on Church of Rome. She’s appealing to the prejudices of a slave-owning, slave-impregnating man to make her case? Except, as Joanne McPortland ably responds that’s all wrong. But close enough to serve a bigot’s need, I guess.

The seemingly innocent Little Sisters likely were likely not acting alone in their trouble-making.

My emphasis, and yeah, they really are innocent! They naively thought appealing to the government to be permitted the freedom of their own consciences — particularly when that same government has granted exemptions from its ridiculously over-reaching policy to unions and big corporations — would be taken in good faith. How foolish of them. Clearly, good faith can no longer be assumed in an era of ideological enthrallment.

Their big brothers, the meddlesome American Roman Catholic Archbishops are bound to be involved.

Here, once again, Stiehm denigrates women who do not fall in line, this time suggesting that the Little Sisters couldn’t possibly be operating under their own lights, and are mere pawns of the meddlesome Catholic Bishops (they’re not all Arch, honey, but I know your piece isn’t actually about facts or precision) — those American Bishops who have been arguing in favor of universal health care since 1919, who are reliably against war and torture, and gas chambers, and who support immigration and who, until very recently (thanks to the current administration) were particularly effective aid-givers to victims of human trafficking. Meddlesome, indeed.

They seek and wield tremendous power and influence in the political sphere.

They! They! Them! Cueing up a soundtrack: “You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear…you’ve got to be carefully taught!” As my Auntie Lillie would say, “here’s a hankie, darlin’ you’re getting spittle all over you.”

Big city mayors know their penchant for control all too well.

This is just sad, now. And I’m hearing “Paranoia may destroy ya…”

Their principal target for years on end has been squelching women and girls – even when they should have focused on their own men and boys.

Alternate paragraph: I know I can’t back up a word of this damn thing, so I’m going to gratuitously pass it through this convenient swamp in hopes that the stench of shame will at least scare a few critics off.

In one stroke with ominous implications, there’s no such thing as Catholic justice or mercy for women on the Supreme Court, not even from a woman.

Holy Moley, what a drama queen! What stroke? Why “ominous”? Sotomayor used a point of procedure so that arguments could be made for the sake of fair consideration. That’s what courts are designed for. That is how justice is determined. Are not the women who serve the indigent poor as entitled to justice as anyone else? Do Justice and Mercy only trend in one direction, in Stiehm’s world? Are they only rewarded to the socially obedient? Oh, my! Steihm sounds exactly like what she imagines the church to be: an entity demanding only one’s strict and unthinking obedience. Funny how easily we can become precisely the thing we hate, isn’t it?

The rock of Rome refuses to budge on women’s reproductive rights…

And why should it? We live in a “be yourself” culture; why shouldn’t the church be permitted to be who she is when a very good argument can be made that she was, in fact, “born this way”: valuing life and truth over trends. How awful of the church that she chooses to teach her unchanging truths above trending ages, rather than teach trending ages above her unchanging truths. This whole screed is ultimately about abortion, isn’t it?

…and the Supreme Court is getting good and ready to strike down Roe v. Wade, which became the law of the land 40 years ago.

Thar she blows! I knew it! No reasonable, thinking person believes the court is anywhere near (much less “good and ready”) to strike down Roe; this is hysterical rhetoric more suited a NARAL fundraising screed than US News. And the “law of the land” line — aside from sounding high-schoolish — would have been better left blue-lined, because it merely reinforces the uncomfortable truth that up until a few decades ago abortion was considered an most grave abhorrence, by the world in general. Hippocrates didn’t like it, because (here is some of that unchanging, inconvenient truth) abortion, quite simply, requires the intentional killing of a human being. The Catholic Church will never fall in line with that, because she simply cannot. For which the rest of society should actually be grateful, even if they disagree.

President Clinton had it exactly right in his formulation: abortion should be safe, legal and rare.

Well, why rare, if it is such an absolute good? Ms. Stiehm seems to be stuck in the 1990’s but the cause has moved on. The new soundbite is “So what if abortion ends a life?”

Meanwhile, the forces arrayed against women’s right to self-determination have been busy taking their campaign to the statehouses. In roughly half of them, women’s human rights have been eroded.

Well, which is it, now, do you want abortions to be “safe” or not? These laws are meant to insure that abortion clinics are clean and safe, and that the doctor working it has admitting privileges to local hospitals in case he or she perforates a womb, as happens all-too-often. Boy, some people just can’t be pleased.

On the airwaves, the anti-woman conspiracy goes on, with Rush Limbaugh leading the pack of thousands of men. He uses the Obamacare contraception mandate to say, just about every workaday, that young women are just using the government to get sex, or some such thing.

Or some such thing? That’s hilarious! Why doesn’t she just laugh at him. You know. . .like I’m laughing at this piece.

He wins the prize for virulently infecting the public dis-coarse.

Oh, I’d say Ms. Stiehm can give him a run for his money!

With friends like Sonia, we don’t need opponents like Rush.

Oh, Archie…I’m not sure you realize who your friends are, at all. But if you’re trying to get pally with Justice Sotomayor — or, I’m guessing, to intimidate her into falling in line — you’re going about it all wrong.

US News links to a collection of cartoons under the header Catholic Contraception Controversy, which is a very inaccurate headline. As noted here, the HHS Mandate is not merely about covering free birth control pills (which users polled already found to be affordable and easily available); it also covers “free” sterilizations and abortifacients. Moreover, this is not merely a “Catholic” controversy. The owners of Hobby Lobby are not Catholic, nor are the 61 other religious groups who have asked the administration to reconsider the mandate, which takes an injudicious and disrespectful hammer to a very complex and nuanced issue of theology and conscience.

Fiskings are time-consuming, which is why I don’t do many (Ed Morrissey basically fisks Stiehm, here) and half of this one had to be re-written due to computer issues. Took me so much time that I hadn’t realized that several bloggers here at Patheos had already written. Frank Weathers, and the always quick Deacon Greg led the chase, followed shortly thereafter by Rebecca Hamilton. I’m sure once I get to take a look around the internet, I’ll find more reactions, so check back, as I’ll link to them.

Starting with Joanne McPortland’s brilliant correction re Jefferson.

Instapundit links, too. Thanks, Glenn!

Heh. Nationally Syndicated Columnist: “Those @#$% Catholics Even Worse Than The @#$% Jews!”

Leticia Adams notes that Sotomayor doesn’t roll predictable:

I don’t know if Justice Sotomayor is or isn’t a “good Catholic girl”, but I do know that she is not waging a war on women. In fact she wrote the opinion that denied Hobby Lobby their injunction against the HHS Mandate; the same Justice, the same claim, and the same mandate.

Sneer image courtesy of

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