23 February 2015
Update from the Heartland
16.2.15 – 22.2.15
The follow-up news items:
-- The intolerance of Governor Sam Brownback of Kansas  . . . another opinion:
“In Kansas, the governor is rolling back tolerance”
by Editorial Board
Published: February 15 at 6:30 PM
I think the Washington Post Editorial Board has gone exceptionally easy on Sam. His regression politics are contemptible and disgusting. To me, this is what happens when so few residents vote; we get a governor elected and motivated by a willful minority. This should be a lesson for everyone. Your vote counts . . . but only if you cast your ballot.
I would like to illuminate a particular international commentator – Doctor Qanta A. A. Ahmed. She is a British-born physician of Pakistani heritage, who is also a proud and articulate Muslim. I have listened to her perhaps a half dozen times on CNN and FoxNews. She has become the voice of reason within the Islamic faith. We can only hope more Muslims listen and heed her wisdom, and join her in condemnation of the radical fundamentalists who are trying to hijack the Islamic religion for their megalomaniacal purposes. Look for her commentary; you will be suitably impressed. With all this dribble-drabble about the President’s refusal to associate the current war effort with radical, fundamentalist, Islamic violence flies in the face of Qanta Ahmed’s message. Ahmed is more direct. Yet, I appreciate the President’s attempt to reach the majority of Muslims to break that recruiting linkage used by Islamo-fascist groups like al-Qa’ida and ISIL. The President is correct; we are NOT at war with Islam. I would go farther to say most of us respect Islam. If there is tension between Western culture and Islam, the conflict occurs in the fundamental principle of separation of church/mosque/temple and State.
News from the economic front:
-- Austrian Finance Minister Hans Jörg Schelling announced the eurozone approval of a requested, four-month extension on Greece's bailout, provided Athens submits by Monday details on the reform and budgetary measures it plans to take. The 23rd-hour agreement would extend Greece’s €172B rescue plan by four-months, avoiding bankruptcy for Athens and pushing the next potential stand-off to June, when a €3.5B debt payment comes due.
Comments and contributions from Update no.687:
“Thanks Cap, just read you right through. Between tasks here so a little time to spare. ‘Professional shopper’ love it, we all have one dear boy!
“Your comments re Costa Concordia.
“I have used that incident several times in my training sessions for legion managers over here in the U/K.
“Captain Shettino was indeed responsible for gross negligence in every single aspect of his duties. And then to abandon ship while passengers were still on board amounted to what is in my personal view one of utmost cowardice in the face of the enemy. He richly deserves the considerable sentence awarded. However, and Cap I apologise if I’ve raised this before. Those in management above him, those that appointed him, those that periodically reassess his knowledge and capabilities must accept some responsibility something they seem to have rather cleverly avoided. This one point alone is valid throughout the entire management structure in whatever occupation. This then is the point I use to hammer home the responsibilities of those in management. Be certain that the person in post is not only capable but has the right mental and physiological aptitudes to undertake such serious responsibilities.
“Sorry to go on my friend.”
Very good point regarding management’s responsibility. We tend to see more management accountability in the military than in business.
You are welcome and invited to go on anytime, about anything, you wish, my friend.
“In regard to the topic of marriage, I would like to throw another perspective into the debate, as you may expect from the tradition of my faith, but I don’t believe I have come to this from blindly following church teaching, but from years of trying to come to terms with a rapidly changing public attitude regarding the rights of those persons who are not exclusively heterosexual and the issues surrounding this evolving public opinion.
“We as a nation and modern society in general have come far (and fairly rapidly in historical terms) in our treatment and protection of racial and other groups who have been (and unfortunately continue to be in many cases) discriminated against.
“I believe we are however on much more shaky ground as we navigate the controversial territory of legislating issues surrounding sexual orientation. I will be the first to agree that we have no place legislating what people do in their bedrooms -- as you said rightly between of-age and fully consenting adults. There is though, in my opinion, a huge difference between (1) being laissez-faire with regard to sexual activity between consenting adults and (2) legislating that all sexual orientation is equivalent.
“I am very worried about the unintended consequences of legislation regulating the rights of people to certain sexual behaviors and changing the definition of marriage. (We have had previous exchanges with regard to the ACA mandate to provide contraceptive services where we have, in the final analysis I suppose, agreed to disagree, but where I actually don’t think you chose to see the very real and dangerous threat to religious liberty that occurs as a consequence of a government that can make a determination that long held religious values could be considered discriminatory.)
“Let me list some unintended consequences that I am concerned about:
“(1) Very real potential for charges of discrimination. If we say that marriage between same gender couples is a right, then at some point in the future, will the church be classified as a discriminatory organization (and subject to civil lawsuits) because it does not allow same gender couples to be married in the church?
“(2) Rights of the children to be raised by a mother and father. (Note: We are as a society too painfully aware of the many problems of children growing up in dysfunctional/abusive families -- this discussion could branch into innumerable tangents if we open it to the root causes of why such abusive/dysfunctional families exist, and while it could be a useful discussion, I don’t want to obscure this particular issue with a discussion of that very large and complex issue.) What I am concerned about here is legislating the right of same gender couples to raise children (who are not already the biological child of one of the partners). A child should ideally be raised by a mother and father role model -- either their biological parents or adoptive parents. To enshrine in law the right of same gender couples to adopt children denies, a priori, children this right. I have recently read several articles by children raised by same gender couples, who know that both ‘parents’ loved them but as adults, being able to look at their childhood more dispassionately, recognize that they have serious psychological problems with forming healthy male-female relationships. (Also please note that I am not discussing single parenting (loss of a spouse, for a very wide variety of reasons, from being killed in the line of duty from military or law enforcement, to divorce, to dying of disease, etc., has its own difficult challenges -- I am only considering the situation of a child being raised by two same-sex ‘parents’). There have already been religious placement agencies that have had to shut down because they refused to place children with same-sex parents and were therefore accused of discrimination.
“(3) Redefinition of marriage. If marriage is NOT between one man and one woman (who then have the possibility of carrying out the societal good of raising children to be well grounded, good and responsible citizens), what then would be the logical, legal reason that in the future three (or even more) people who profess their love and affection for one another, for example, couldn’t be allowed to be ‘married’?
“(4) Long term societal effects of defining various sexual orientations as equivalent. I, of course, recognize the un-PC nature of this statement, but I believe there should be a distinction made between ‘marriage’ (between one man and one woman) which includes the rights and responsibilities of raising a family and ‘civil/economic unions’ which would confer the equivalent legal, inheritance and medical consultative/visitation rights, etc. between any two consenting adults.
“This has become much longer than I initially intended and I know too and accept that several of my stated opinions are anathema to some folks. However, I believe very strongly that the great danger to some of our religious institutions (through charges of discrimination and civil lawsuits) and the long-term damage to our society by institutionalizing the legal equivalence of non-heterosexual marriage relationships has yet to be comprehended by our great nation.”
“As you said, I call it like I see it!!”
Rather than respond point-by-point, I would like to take a more circumspect approach to this discussion. Please allow me some latitude.
By my understanding of history, recorded human history can be established back to circa 4,000 BC . . . or roughly 6,000 years. History prior to that milestone relies on science and conjecture. The oldest known religious temple dates back to 8,600 BC, and signs of crop cultivation and the beginnings of civilization date back to 9,600 BC. Based on the available facts, archaeologists and anthropologists have hypothesized the sequence of civilization was most likely: Settlement ==> Religion ==> Temples ==> Farming ==> Cities. So much of this hypothesis hangs upon our definitions of what constitutes those stages of civilizing mankind. Settlements most likely began for mutual protection of tribes, or collections of human beings of similar attributes. Religion sought to understand and explain natural events, e.g., weather, celestial phenomena, war, disease, death, et cetera. As religion evolved, I believe there is little debate that religion provided rules for life, for relationships, for conduct and behavior. In short, religion was the civilizing force that enabled mankind to mature. At the end of the day, there is no doubt in my little pea brain that religion has been and remains a vital influence on human evolution.
Please note, I have purposefully avoided any specific reference to a contemporary or extinct religion. I do not want this discussion to devolve into a debate regarding one religious ideology or another. For the current discussion, general summary should be sufficient to further this debate.
At this juncture, I must note that religion has been an unquestionable civilizing influence and yet it has also been one of the most destructive forces in human evolution. We could ascribe many reasons for this claim, but let it suffice to say the negative aspects are largely attributable to flawed human beings who served as clerics and used religious principles to rationalize or justify parochial or megalomaniacal objectives. That said, let us set aside the negative aspects since they are not contributive to the examination of this question.
Now, in the main, religion has espoused heterosexual, monogamous marriage as the foundation of the family unit. We could examine the reasons, but I am not sure than would be productive. We can also say, there are interpretations in religion that advocated (I might even say demanded) paternal-centric polygamy for one purpose – procreation, i.e., produce more followers of that particular religious sect; paternal in that males can recycle in a matter of minutes, while females can only recycle every nine months. There are other religious-based dicta excluding polygamy that ultimately held the same purpose -- procreation. The transformation of religious dicta into secular law and enforcement began with the Renaissance. With this transformation, political thought began elevating individual freedom over the divine right of kings and eventually over religious dicta. To me, the critical threshold came with the preamble of the Declaration of Independence and the Revolutionary War, which separated human governance from the Crown (kings) and from Religion.
My point in this meandering along history’s memory lane arises from this background. The question before us regarding marriage and non-heterosexual rights boils down to its most fundamental element – individual versus institutional (whether political or religious) rights (authority). We are arguing about where that threshold, boundary or demarcation exists. As I understand and interpret your words, I draw that line closer to individual rights than you apparently do. You have very real, bona fide reasons for favoring institutional rights.
At the bottom line, I can and do respect your choices, your rights, your perspective, and I hope you respect mine. If our respective choices remained within our respective domains, there would be no debate beyond the social intercourse of contrasting choices. Unfortunately, we are not talking about mutual respect for our private domains; we are debating the construct of the law and the enforcement of those laws . . . as those laws have the potential to intrude and impose upon our private domains.
As I argue for respect for our private choices, I would be negligent if I did not argue in parallel for institutional choices. I do not want the government in my private life and choices. Conversely, you do not want the government in the institutional choices of your religion. The challenge to both of us is finding balance. Concomitantly, in seeking that balance, we must resist using our ideology as justification for the imposition of our beliefs on others. We have discussed this threshold question before . My objections come when institutional rights exceed that threshold.
So, all of this comes down to the boundary between private and public (or institutional).
Lastly, some comments on a few of your points:
1.) Discrimination. If an institution wants to draw from the public treasury, then that organization must abide public law. Also, I can accept discriminatory practices by an organization as long as members retain their freedom of choice (come & go), no one is injured or harmed, and the org makes no demands on the public domain or anyone else’s private domain.
2.) Rights of children. If protecting children was as simple as imposing religious dicta, I would enthusiastically support such imposition. To me, the protection of children exceeds the privacy rights of parents. However, we have resoundingly failed. We refuse to hold parents accountable for the conduct of their children. There are bad parents of all sexual orientations. You cite an example of what may well be bad homosexual parents. I respectfully submit, there are also many examples of good, positive homosexual parents. Frankly, I see far more examples of bad heterosexual parents than I do bad homosexual parents. Again, respectfully, let us focus on parenting rather than the private choices of adult citizens, and to me, that comes from accountability, not dicta.
3.) Polygamy. I understand where our legal prohibition has come from. What I do not understand is why? Why is polygamy so objectionable? Please explain, if you are able.
4.) Sexual orientation equivalency. I do not think sexual orientation has any bearing whatsoever on public conduct. Let us focus on public conduct, not private choices. If we are serious about the welfare of children, then let us establish standards and accountability enforcement. I could accept your suggestion of “civil/economic unions,” as long as that definition and associated laws applied to everyone, but that would render “marriage” as a religious entity and thus not applicable to the public domain.
I hope all these words further our discussion and the public debate. Regression is not acceptable. I agree that our nation is struggling with what equal rights under the law truly means to individual citizens and to our institutions (both political and religious). We are also struggling with the threshold between public and private, and to the primacy in those domains.
Does a fundamental right to privacy exist? If not, then let us stop wasting time debating matters like surveillance; the State (or Church) is omnipotent. If so, then where do the boundaries of that privacy exist and what is acceptable permeability?
. . . Round two:
“Your response is far more detailed than I was expecting, but as a writer by trade (among a variety of other things!!) I shouldn’t have been surprised -- and now looking at mine, it too is longer than I intended, these issues just don't lend themselves to soundbites, which too many of our politicians have reduced them to!! Recognizing your avoidance of any particular religion in summarizing the history of religion down to the Declaration of Independence, I would of course want to add that it wasn’t just human beings who dreamed up the tenets of their faith, but who were prompted by interaction with the divine (trying to stay as you wished to do outside of a debate about a particular religious ideology). With regard to the Declaration of Independence, I would add that it also recognized that humans have these rights because they were originally given to us by our Creator -- but that really doesn’t affect the discussion!
“You noted also the great damage to civilization in the name of religion -- I couldn’t agree more, but must ask you to concede the point that it was virtually always those who were manipulating religion and not by those who were trying to follow it with their hearts -- you noted flawed human beings who were clerics, but also kings and princes fit this description. In fact, we are all flawed -- we are all sinners (but that also is for another discussion!!).
“Finally you hit the essence of the issue on the nail -- individual rights versus the rights of the state. Actually that isn’t so much at issue as is where in that duality of choice does the religious institution lie. Are we talking about (1) individual rights versus religious institution’s rights, or are we talking about (2) the right of the state versus the right of religious institutions? That really is the essence of our difference of opinion, because as I see it, you would say the debate is (1), where I would say the debate is (2).
“The religious institution has no governmental power to legislate. It is composed of a group of individuals who have joined together because of common belief. They are free to join or dissociate themselves as they choose. Governmental legislation affects religious institutions as a collection of individuals.
“We will yet again, probably agree to disagree!!
“To the specific issues you commented on:
"(1) If you are referring to the tax-exempt status of religious organizations being classified as ‘drawing from the public treasury,’ I think that is a case where my concern about ‘unintended consequences’ would be a red-flag waving briskly in the wind. As a nation, I hope you don’t want to argue that for example since the Catholic Church only ordains men (and therefore discriminates against women) we should lose our tax exempt status, or that our priests who have performed the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession) can be held in contempt of court because they refuse to divulge to a judge what has been confessed to them -- the list really does go on and on. We truly, I hope, don’t want to go there!!
“(2) Just because there are many cases of failure doesn’t invalidate the principle.
“(3) If we are to argue from solely the legal principle, it is as you point out difficult to make a case for not having multiple spouses. However, there are many examples where laws have been passed for ‘the good of society.’ Basically, polygamy is a violation of the rights and dignity of all the parties involved. An article which makes a fair case against polygamy is at
Again, do governments have a ‘right’ to make laws, which may seem good for society, in general, but which may violate someone’s perceived ‘right’ to be in a polygamist relationship, for example. I would argue that the principle, whichever side you come down on, also would pertain to the principle at issue in para (2) above. I would argue that governments do have this right to make laws that restrict some rights but are for the ‘good of society.’
“(4) We could very likely find common ground with terms such as ‘civil marriage’ versus ‘sacramental or covenantal marriage.’
“Finally to point out again where our different perspectives lie is in your sentence: ‘I agree that our nation is struggling...to individual citizens and to our institutions (both political and religious).’ You either consciously or unconsciously put religious institutions over against individuals where I would put religious institutions more with individuals, being a collection of individuals who freely join together (and are also free to leave the institution) and who share common values over against the state.
“That, my friend, I believe is the essence of our debate.”
. . . my response to round two:
Re: Declaration. To me, “. . . endowed by their Creator . . .” states the matter precisely. Fundamental rights are between me [individual(s)] and our Creator. They are not matters for the State. Likewise, no one else has the right to infringe upon those fundamental rights, except in situations that cause injury, harm or threat to the public good. It is this last prepositional phrase that presents the ideological and political battleground. A couple of examples might be useful in this element:
A.) A group of citizens decided in 1919 that alcohol should be prohibited for every citizen in the country because it was injurious to the public good. There were many reasons people used to justify the prohibition from moral, religious, personal, financial and even aesthetics. Ultimately, the prohibition failed because it went far beyond the public domain to dictate private conduct that had no bearing on public behavior.
B.) As you noted, we are all sinners . . . indeed! Sin is between me and God. The State cannot be the moral enforcer, except where individual sin injures other citizens or property. A citizen’s bedroom is NOT the public domain, period.
Re: damage by religion. That was precisely my point. I exclude no one from my statement . . . prince or potentate. We are all equal. Clerics have abused religion. So have kings. Just as we bear witness today . . . the malignant mutation of Islam by a violent mere fraction of a minority.
Re: religious institutions. Please allow me an attempt to clarify. Governance is secular and between the citizen and the State. Religion and the institutions of religion are spiritual entities that offer guidance and comfort between the individual and God. Thus, to me, religious institutions are in a separate, unique category. The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment keeps the State out of religious institutions. However, the inverse is not but should be implied. Religion was a major contributor to A.) above. More than a few churches actively campaigned for Prohibition. The temperance movement began in a church (1826). To me, those churches exceeded the relationship. Religion can and should define moral values, e.g., alcohol is Satan’s elixir and must not be consumed, i.e., individual choice, not dictum for the State to enforce. I am OK with religion banishing an individual for his sins or violation of the religion’s dicta. Conversely, an individual does not have a right to religious membership, e.g., the State must enforce that right. Religion is counselor to the individual, spiritual advisor to the individual. In your ‘essence’ query, I would say neither (1) or (2). The question is: individual (private) versus state (public). Religion, as the spiritual counselor, is an adjunct to the individual. In so much of this discussion, religion appears like the State. What ‘authority’ does religion have over the individual? I suppose part of the answer rests in what the individual accepts of religious dicta. Since religion works in the private domain of an individual’s choices, the State must not inject itself into the private domain, but it is the individual who accepts the guidance of religion rather than religion dictating the individual’s choices. I’m not sure that makes sense, but I tried.
I certainly agree with your definition of a religious institution.
Re: tax exempt status. No, I was not suggesting tax-exemption was drawing from the treasury, although in a form, it is. I was referring to Bush 43’s EO 13199, faith-based governmental spending. I do not see religion as different from the individual in this aspect. You draw funds from the treasury, you abide the rules, i.e., public funds come with conditions.
Re: good of society. The translation or interpretation of that phase is the root of this debate. The temperance movement of the late 19th Century truly believed they were acting for the good of society. Just like a zealous prosecutor, we can use our interpretation of the ‘good of society’ to justify anything and everything like what you will eat, how you will wash, when you will flush the toilet. So, then, where do we draw the line? When has ‘good of society’ gone too far? I do agree and continue to argue that the State has an obligation to legislate and enforce laws for the common good. The challenge remains, how do we define the limits of that authority?
Re: polygamy. The legal history of Western condemnation of polygamy is well known. I continue to ask, why? The linked article you provided was quite useful. For the benefit of others, the full citation:
“Why not polygamy? – Is the legalization of polygamy inevitable in America? From 1965 to 2005, American courts struck down the traditional sex crimes … Continued”
by John Witte Jr.
Published: November 9, 2012
I offer several contrarian perspectives.
A.) Witte stated, “. . . polygamy is unjust to women and children – a violation of their fundamental rights and dignity . . .” To me, the statement is quite indicative of the intellectual and analytical challenge. I absolutely agree with the validity of the observation in more than a few cases. However, Witte stopped at the superficial façade rather than the root cause. Respectfully, what was unjust to women and children was the legal and paternalistic Doctrine of Coverture, first formally articulated by Sir William Blackstone (1765), i.e., women and children were literally the ‘property’ of the husband (father, male). There are also examples of polygamous relationships where women and children are treated with respect. With such observations as Witte’s, we need to dig deeper rather than condemn the symptoms. The vestiges of Coverture were not legally eradicated until 1981 – 1981!! – Kirchberg v. Feenstra [450 U.S. 455 (1981] . The tentacles of that thinking can be seen in monogamous, heterosexual, marital relationships to this very day, so it is hardly an artifact of polygamy.
B.) Witte goes on to observe, “The Western legal tradition has thus long called polygamy a “malum in se” offense (“bad it inself”). That category of offenses now also includes slavery, indentured servitude, obscenity, bestiality, incest, sex with children, self-mutilation, organ-selling, and more.” Again, an accurate observation; however, he conveniently ignores history and leaves his statement at the surface level. We could take any one of his list and spend some time boring into the root causes and details. I simply note here, I cannot accept superficial statements prima facie.
C.) Witte concludes, “We prize liberty and equality in America too highly to court such a risk” – a nice, patriotic statement that is a double-edged sword. He implicitly says, “liberty and equality” are defined by the majority, or the moral projectionists, or by those who choose to vote. I will say, “liberty and equality” are “unalienable” and “endowed by their Creator,” and are above the law. As such, to infringe upon those most fundamental rights, we must demonstrate a compelling public interest for the common or public good . . . not just our moral objection.
D.) Lastly, I go back to his opening. Witte said, “From 1965 to 2005, American courts struck down the traditional sex crimes of contraception, adultery, fornication, abortion, and sodomy as violations of modern constitutional norms of liberty, autonomy, and privacy.” Wow! Where do I begin? We can, and probably should, bore into each of these “traditional sex crimes,” but that process would take a lot – A LOT – more effort and words. So, I will only illuminate my objection to such inflammatory statements, and I will note, virtually all of these “traditional sex crimes” are moral judgments that should be private moral choices between the individual and God. I will also say, those “traditional sex crimes” became crimes in the environment of Coverture, and further I will suggest, they became law to enforce religious dicta of the day.
Re: “civil union.” Yes, I think we can find mutually acceptable balance. I reiterate my point, civil union should be the extent of State recognition with appropriate qualifications (constraints), e.g., age of consent, free will, acceptance of terms, et cetera. In this context, only “civil union” can and should be recognized by the State . . . for everyone regardless and independent of any religious choices. The “sacramental or covenantal marriage” must be distinct, separate, and unique to religious practice and as such must be a free, uncoerced choice of those involved.
At a fundamental level, I do agree with your observation and perspective in your last paragraph. I would add, yes, I believe religion is a matter of individual souls and individual choices for a host of reasons, and thus religion (faith) is a private matter between the individual and God, and not within the sphere of the public domain or State authority, as codified in the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
Whew! That was a lot, but this is a very important topic for public debate.
. . . Round three:
“We are honing in on the issue from your first paragraph, ‘...threat or harm to the public good.’ (or ‘common good’ or ‘good of society’ -- essentially equivalent for purposes of this discussion). You also stated that ‘The state cannot be the moral enforcer, except where individual sin injures other citizens or property.’ It is, of course, in the definition of where injury occurs that causes disagreements.
“Re: Tax-exempt status -- In the DHHS guidance for the implementation of EO 13199 it states: (bold/italics [are the original author’s])
“QUOTE To the extent permitted by law, faith-based organizations that receive federal financial assistance may — just as secular non-governmental organizations — use their facilities to provide federally funded services without removing or altering art, icons, literature, or other distinctive symbols from these facilities. In addition, faith-based organizations that apply for or participate in programs supported with federal financial assistance may retain their organizational identity including, but not limited to name, internal governance, and mission statements.
“No grantee may discriminate in its delivery of a federally-funded program against a client or potential client on the basis of religion or religious belief, a refusal to hold a religious belief, or a refusal to actively participate in a religious practice. Any specifically religious activity or service made available to clients by the grantee must be voluntary as well as separate in time and location from government funded activities and services. UNQUOTE
“The conditions of the grant are restricted to the purposes of the grant, and I believe we are not in disagreement!
“Re: Good of Society -- Precisely the point. We can certainly agree it doesn't extend to flushing the toilet, but more seriously, does a child have a right to have a ‘mother-figure’ and a ‘father-figure’ when the state is involved in child placement (adoption/foster care)? I would say yes, and therefore restrict adoption placement to married heterosexual couples. I'm sure others would not agree, but that's my opinion. I note your critique of the John Witte article, and despite its flaws, I think there are some valid points, as you agree, but even with your observations noted, I would argue that polygamy, nonetheless, should fall within the limits of ‘for the good of society, let's not allow this.’ And without opening the discussion to another completely different topic, let me just note that drug policy also falls under this category of ‘Where do we draw the 'For the Good of Society' line.’ Unrestricted personal freedom ultimately does affect society and injures other citizens and that's where legislators have a huge responsibility in appropriately drawing the line (this comment isn't intended to apply to the preceding sentence, but to the entire discussion we have been having).
“Where to draw or not to draw the line, that is the question!!”
. . . my response to round three:
Re: “good for society.” Then, we agree. To me, that is precisely the arena of disagreement. The moral choices of another citizen that are offensive to others is NOT the class of injury of which I speak. Perhaps a related but disassociated example might be useful.
The Temperance movement began in 1826, when Reverend Lyman Beecher of the 1st Congregational Church, of Litchfield, Connecticut, observed one of his female parishioners, suffering and nearly destitute as a consequence of her husband and father of her children being consumed by alcohol; the man spent his time and money at the local pub rather than tending to his wife and children . . . so began the Temperance movement that ultimately led to the 18th Amendment. So, the moral projectionists of the day went after the symptom – alcohol – rather than the injurious behavior, i.e., husbandly neglect. Many of our moral laws grew from the failure of some men to fulfill their obligations under coverture, e.g., adultery, masturbation, et cetera. The basis of so many of the moral laws should have been rescinded along with the rejection of coverture.
Re: EO13199. Yes, we are in agreement up to the specific application of the law. However, my opinion extends beyond the applicable law to all law, including employment law.
Re: adoption. Very good point! I would argue the child deserves good parenting, to learn to be a good, productive citizen, who is respectful of others around them. There are far too many bad examples of heterosexual parents, and yet we do little or nothing to hold those negligent parents accountable. There are also examples of homosexual couples who do, in fact, raise good, respectful, productive citizens. There are also single parents who raise good children. The sexuality of the parents is a façade symptom, not a root cause. As such, I absolutely do NOT agree what sexual orientation is a prerequisite for adoption. Until we get serious about parental accountability and establish concrete behavioral standards, I cannot agree with sexual orientation as a basis for discrimination. I see NO evidence that sexual orientation has any bearing on parental performance, citizenship, productivity, or any other public interest parameter. Thus, I reject the notion.
Re: consumption of psychotropic substances. Actually, I think it is an example for this discussion . . . and perhaps a little less sensitive than religion. I cannot prove the fraction of drug users who themselves are injured by bad drugs, contaminated paraphernalia, the criminal subculture, et cetera. I believe that fraction is far greater than we know. Further, do drug users cause injury to others . . . yes, absolutely, without a doubt. Thus, consumption of psychotropic substances is a matter of public interest. Where we differ is the application of the law for the “good of society.” Drugs are not the issue, just like guns are not the root cause of gun violence. Let us focus on the root cause behaviors than threaten the ‘good of society’ rather than the tools or symptoms.
We must go beyond the symptom to deal with the root cause to address the ‘good of society.’ We cannot stop at our moral offense or outrage.
. . . Round four:
“Just a question...how would you go about dealing with the ‘root causes’ of
(1) bad parenting of children
(2) bad behavior of a husband toward his wife (‘husbandly neglect’) or vice versa!!
(3) gun violence
(4) drug abuse
to name a few that have been mentioned, without the government getting much, much deeper into monitoring our personal lives?
“I certainly agree that within marriage both parties should be absolutely equal.
“If we can get at ‘root causes’ without undue guidance from big brother, I would be interested, but my ‘pea brain’ right now can't imagine how. I think we should stick to the manifestations of bad behavior, or my red flag of unintended consequences starts waving again!
“Re: EO 13199. We have previously agreed to disagree from an earlier exchange regarding employment law. I still maintain that government can't require a religious institution to violate their principles. It goes back to where the religious institution lies on the continuum between government and individual (I maintain that the individual and religious institution are virtually co-located on that line).
“Re: Single gender parenting. I defer full response until after our discussion of ‘root causes’ above, but however well intentioned, single gender couple cannot provide the role model of the non-represented gender, in my mind, an a priori disqualifier. I recognize that my stance on this is contrary to established jurisprudence and -- but it is still my opinion that it should not be allowed.”
. . . my response to round four:
Since you asked . . .
“(1) bad parenting of children” – first, we should hold parents accountable for the conduct of their children. They cannot claim ignorance. Complacency is unacceptable. We must also educate everyone including children on the enforcement change. We must also impress upon everyone beyond puberty that procreation responsibility exists regardless of circumstances or intentions. Children should only be brought into this world to be loved and raised properly to be good citizens. We must break the essentially laissez-faire paradigm in practice to date.
“(2) bad behavior of a husband toward his wife ("husbandly neglect") or vice versa!!” – the same is true in this area as well – accountability. A great deal of that process would depend upon intelligence and history. See below.
“(3) gun violence” – as we have discuss earlier in this forum, gun violence is mental illness linked to no.1 above. Our task is essentially intervention before the disturbance or abnormality reaches violence and injury to others. This area and the above demands better mental health treatment, better pre-natal care, et cetera.
“(4) drug abuse” – this issue is more individual and personal. Our task is to break the link between or dependency upon crime and consumption. I am also most interested in eliminating the collateral damage, i.e., injury to others. If an individual seeks the oblivion of consumption, then our interest should be enabling that consumption in such a manner that eliminates the collateral damage.
You added the very important qualifier ‘without the government getting much, much deeper into monitoring our personal lives.’ This is the crux of it all. The details of all of the above depend upon intelligence, i.e., collecting dots and connecting those dots. Without such intelligence, we will continue to be relegated to reacting to violent or bad events after the fact. I offered the notion of an intermediate extra-prosecutorial agency between social services and law enforcement. I called the notional agency the social police (a very bad title, but I can’t think of a better one). The social police is an intelligence group and thus their processes must be insulated from political influences and the output cannot be used for prosecution. Their task is to identify the bad people. Intervention then becomes illumination, education and treatment. Our intervention radar gain is set far too low, and the result is we suffer random acts of violence by disturbed people. Again, we must break the paradigm.
Any one of your topics needs more than a few sentences, which is beyond the capacity of this forum. I think the point is, we cannot keep doing what we have always done. It has not worked and it will never work without sacrificing our freedom.
Re: religion. I would agree, as I have tried to state previously, religion is much closer to the individual than the State. Yet, that does not exempt religion from the law anymore than the individual is exempt. EO13199 took the State toward religion. The concept was good and well-intentioned, but it also blurred the separation between Church and State, which was not a good thing.
Re: single gender parenting. OK, now it’s your turn. How would you propose we enforce “should not be allowed”?
. . . Round five:
“The devil is in the details as they say! You are, of course, very aware that to do this job of ‘social police’ (I agree there must be a better name for what we're talking about) there has to be a collection of the ‘dots’ that they need to ‘connect.’ In this day and age of increasing ability of other organizations to monitor us (I wonder what Google right now knows about me when they analyze just my online presence -- the websites I look at, the things I buy online, my comments on Facebook, who I follow on Twitter, the content of my email, my address book, etc.), I already am beginning to shudder at how much (little!!) privacy I actually have. Giving a governmental organization (even an extra-prosecutorial one) the remit to collect all the ‘dots’ about me and then connect them to determine if I'm raising my child properly or treating my wife respectfully or if any of my family have signs of mental imbalance that needs to be addressed etc. really does raise the red-flag of unintended consequences (in addition to ‘mission creep’ over the years). Anyone with concerns about individual privacy and personal liberty (the vast majority of us, I would hope!!) should be very frightened at even the idea of the establishment of this kind of a governmental organization.
“Re: religion. I recognize we're plowing old ground, but the issue I was (and am) concerned about was enacting laws that force religious organizations to choose between obeying the law or obeying their conscience.
“Re: single gender parenting. As you mentioned, this topic needs far more than a few sentences and is beyond my capacity (and your forum) to fully develop, but suffice to say that there are many categories of households that for very many reasons are not ideal and also for very many reasons are beyond the scope of government to fix (Child Protective Services and Family Courts can only do so much). Where the government does have a role is in the regulation of the placement of children who are wards of the court/state with adoptive families/foster families. My solution is to limit the placement of these children to families where there is both a mother-figure and a father-figure who have been screened (as is now the case with home studies) for suitability before placement.”
. . . my response to round five:
Re: ‘social police.’ I agree; not a good title, but I haven’t come up with a better one, as yet. I also share your concern about allowing further access to our private lives. My proposal at least starts at the very basics, e.g., the collection of public information, i.e., traffic ticket, arrest record, suspension or expulsion from school, et cetera. So much of the public information is not collected or collated, or analyzed for signs. If we live our lives without broaching a concern threshold, then there is no record. We cannot allow the USG into private matters by the 4th Amendment. Public information is not protected by the 4th Amendment. Law Enforcement (LE) generally does not analyze the information they collect until they have reason to believe a crime has been committed. The social police are not looking for crime, but for signs of instability, e.g., mental illness, erratic behavior, aggressiveness, anti-social conduct, et cetera. The police cannot look for things like that; the social police should. The social police are in essence an intelligence unit. They confront anti-social behavior in an attempt to help correct that conduct before it verges on crime, which then becomes a LE matter. The social police would collect public information that is well below the criminal threshold that would trigger LE. Are there risks? Yes. Can we mitigate those risks? Yes, in my opinion. Clearly, relying upon LE has not worked until someone gets hurt. We must change the process to bridge the gap, if we are to have any hope of protecting innocent people from injury by the hands of deranged individuals, who managed to float below the threshold of LE.
Re: religion. Actually, I agree. The Establishment Clause prohibits the State from interference in Church affairs. However, the inverse is allowed by implication. If the Church confined itself to matter of the soul (individuals), then there would be no conflict. However, many religious organizations choose to inject themselves is secular, governance matters in the public domain, which negates their First Amendment protection, i.e., they are just another political organization. Further, religious organizations cannot draw public funds without constraints, i.e., we cannot fund a madrasa that espouses jihad, simply because it is a religious school. I have voiced my opinion regarding employment law and religious employers.
Re: parenting. Then, I suppose we shall respectfully disagree. There are far too many horrible mother-father examples. The gender or sexual orientation of the parent(s) is simply insufficient to define good parenting, and superficial at best. Full stop!
. . . Round six:
“Re: Social police: I can't see how this could work without giving up a huge amount of personal privacy -- that I am extremely disinclined to do.
“Re: Religion: As acknowledged -- old ground, but religious institutions must have the right to hire people without forfeiting their principles. Potential employees must be advised of the caveats of insurance coverage, for instance, before employment, but no one is forced to accept employment by a religious institution. If they do agree to employment, they must accept the conditions.
“Re: Parenting: The bad examples are almost never from state placed adoptions where prospective parents have been screened and vetted. For all those children so placed by the state, the child should have a right to both a mother-figure and a father-figure. Many children in the system for adoption already have relationship issues and should be put in situations where they can best develop both healthy male and female relationships.
“The exchange of ideas has been illuminating! Failure to agree is not to say taking the time to express them has not been worth the effort.”
. . . my response to round six:
Re: social police. Continuing to do what we have always done will not yield the change we seek no matter how long we persist.
Re: religion. I understand the objective in principle. The challenge remains: where do we draw the line? If religious organizations are exempt from employment law, are they also exempt from financial, or even criminal law, if they religious principles are offended? What are the limits? If religious organizations are allowed social discriminators, e.g., skin pigmentation, hair color, gender, et al, what is the threshold beyond which those religious organizations are no longer consistent with our foundational principles of equal protection under the law? There are always conditions of employment, but how far can those conditions go?
Re: parenting. Like so many issues, we should be focused on performance and/or root causes, not superficial factors driven by dictum. I advocate for good parents who raise children to be respectful, productive citizens, and I cannot see that performance is in anyway dependent upon any of the social factors. Unfortunately, I think we are relegated to the respectful disagreement status.
I absolutely agree. These discussions are vital to a free society that must continuously seek balance. Thank you for your contributions. I expect others will benefit as well.
. . . Round seven:
“I said I would leave it rest, but I have to make one last set of comments:
“Re: Social police. The idea just plain scares me.
“Re: Religion. We draw the line where it affects faith principles. Speaking from my experience as the recently retired Business Manager of our church, we followed virtually every aspect of employment law (required breaks, properly paying overtime, pay rates, providing pensions), all building codes, all safety codes, all fire codes, all child welfare rules and regulations for our pre-school, and on and on. If it doesn't violate our religious principles (and in truth very, very few issues ever rise to that threshold), we should be required to adhere faithfully to the law (which we do) -- and be held accountable.
“Re: Parenting: A same gender couple cannot provide the role model of the non-represented gender. The right of the child to both gender role-models trumps, in my opinion, the desire of a same gender couple to adopt a child. Concur, we respectfully disagree.”
. . . my response to round seven:
Re: social police. Agreed, the notion scares me as well. We must do something significant to alter the paradigm. I am certainly open for suggestions that I could enthusiastically endorse. We simply cannot continue to do what we have always done and expect better results.
Re: religion. I accept your representation of the church’s position regarding the law and faith. I will simply re-state my belief that faith should be much stronger than is implied in this segment of our exchange. The impression I am left with is, the church does not have faith in its employees to make the correct decision, such that the church must enforce its policy. Full stop!
Re: parenting. We shall respectfully disagree. There are far too many examples to the contrary on both sides of your statement.
. . . Round eight:
“So very sorry, but I have to make one last comment:
“Re: Religion. There are some classes of employee (those charged with passing on the faith, teachers, directors of religious education, etc.) for which we do have faith in them to make appropriate choices (as we would see them), but there are others (maintenance or administrative personnel, bookkeepers, IT specialists, etc.) for whom the orthodoxy of their faith is not nearly as high on the hiring criteria. All employees however must know the conditions of employment prior to accepting employment. It still comes down to not forcing us to choose between violating the law, or violating our fundamental religious principles.
“OK, I solemnly vow not to kick the can any further down the road.”
. . . my response to round eight:
No worries. What does not make it in this week’s Update we can continue into next week’s edition or any subsequent version. These discussions are just too important.
Re: religion. I will not quibble with your differentiation between faith and other employees. I will only say, to my thinking, having faith in all employees would seem to be a more noble and appropriate political position in this whole employment law application issue that opened this thread.
A different contribution:
“Vaccinating cured the world of diseases that are now rare especially in this country.
“What our Gov't needs to do is pass a law making it mandatory to have children Vaccinated.
“Of course there need to be exceptions. But not by choice or religion.
“Everyone is Everyone.
“All the money spent to find cures and all the research will be in vane. If Measles is on the rampage in this country, what’s next. Polio?
“I'm for Vaccinating
“But this gov't lacks the insight to move on important things.
“Like ISIS, we'll just wait till they take over like the Nazis did. Only this time we're fighting an unseen army
“But that’s another topic.”
I can most definitely argue the public good of universal vaccinations. However, ultimately, as with so many topics, this comes down to the threshold between public and private. Is there sufficient public good for the State to impose upon a citizen’s private domain and even more so a child without the right of consent.
Short of mandatory vaccinations as you propose, we have an obligation to protect the public domain for the common good. An individual’s private choices cannot be allowed to bring harm to the public domain. People who choose not to vaccinate their children against many common, communicable diseases, must bear the responsibility to the public domain.
Even my proposal breaks down in that infected individuals may be in a contagious state prior to symptoms presenting, which in turn adds weight to your proposal.
For now, the argument for a citizen’s fundamental right to privacy is so profound and pervasive that I will hold to the primacy of the private domain and accept the risk of infection prior to symptoms. Further, if we cannot voluntarily maintain quarantine of infected individuals, then mandatory quarantine (forcible if necessary) will be required for the public good and general welfare of our society.
. . . a follow-up comment:
Subject: Re: Update no.687
From: "Stewart Kory"
Date: Wed, February 18, 2015 7:47 am
So my friend,
"It comes right down to mandatory, which is what I'm saying. Vaccinations are for the good of the public. They were in the 30's and 40's as they are now.
"We're seeing what voluntary has brought up . What next."
. . . my follow-up reply:
You make a good point. Back in our youth, I do not recall any consent being involved when we got the polio vaccine. I happen to believe vaccinations are indeed for the public good, but I struggle with a citizen’s fundamental right to privacy, as I said, and frankly infringements and intrusions by the State in our private affairs are a far greater concern . . . to me.
My very best wishes to all. Take care of yourselves and each other.