Sunday, May 01, 2005

This demands a fisking
A Miss Mary Anne Gruen writes a letter in the New York Times, in response to an editorial of April 26, titled The Disappearing Wall, which asserts, among other things, that: "the assault on judges is part of a wide-ranging and successful Republican campaign to breach the wall between church and state to advance a particular brand of religion." Miss Gruen's response is titled "Religious Freedom, in Danger," and, not surprisingly, supports the position of the NYT editorial board. Are we to believe that, among the thousands of letters that the NYT receives every day, there was not one, coherent, well-argued letter that disputed teh idea that the Republica Party is pushing one brand of Christianity at the expense of all others? I don't buy it—and that's part of the reason I also don't buy the NYT except on rare occasions.

Either way, Miss Gruen's letter is ridiculous, and I couldn't pass the opportunity for a fisking, which I haven't done in a while. The text of the letter will be in italics to distinguish it from my response. Here we go:

She begins: What the Republicans are doing threatens to destroy one of our most precious freedoms - freedom of religion.
Well, we'll see about that.

I am a Christian and my husband is Jewish. We are not affiliated with any organized church. Yet I read the Bible daily and pray many times throughout the day. I do not count myself any less a Christian than others who refer to themselves as such.
I cannot speak to Miss Gruen's Christianity, except to say that reading the Bible and praying do not, in and of themselves, make one a Christian. I have several friends, one of whom is in the process of converting to Judaism, many of whom are either atheistic, or irreligious, who fit this description, but are in no way Christian.

That said, I do not want any religious dictator (Christian or otherwise) telling me how to worship, what to believe or what prayers to say.
Who does? Well, ok, papists do, I suppose. But, of course, for a few centuries Catholicism has been a choice, and even within the Catholic Church many choose to follow a different spiritual path than the one prescribed by the Pope. Just look at how upset liberal Catholics are about Benedict XVI.

But in all seriousness, can anyone point to a single Republican official who is advocating one Church over another, or one set of prayers over another? Even if they ask for prayers on a specific matter ("pray for our troops," etc.), they are not advocating a legal mandate that people pray. (We should keep in mind that Congress prays before each session, of course, and that they always have. Must be part of that Republican assault, right?)

The only place she may have a legitimate objection is on the "what to believe" clause. Christian Republicans believe that Christians should be allowed to serve on the court, and they believe that some laws can reflect the determinations of society be they based in religion or not. But is this telling people what to believe? No, it's saying "hey, we believe this, and we should be able to legislate on issues that matter to us." People are still welcome to disagree, but that doesn't mean they get to write the law. I disagree on some environmental laws that have been passed. Is the fact that they were passed an indication that the government is telling me what to believe? How about wellfare? I don't think cash handouts are the most effective way to help people out of poverty—does government endorsement of precisely that mean they're telling me what to believe? No, of course not.

My relationship with God is private, just as my relationships with the members of my family are.
Apparently, her relationship isn't all that private since she feels quite confident in holding it up as an example to the world in a letter to the editor of the NYT. So, relationships with God don't have to be private as long as they're being used to condemn the relationships that others have with God? I'm confused...

If we had children, I would not want the Republicans or any of their agents telling my children what church to belong to or what beliefs to hold. The last time I looked, we were not in Iran.
It appears, then, that she looked quite recently because we are, in fact, not in Iran. Of course, (again) I have yet to hear a single Republican tell the public what church they should join. And, as far as "what to believe," (again) I've heard plenty of Democrats telling me that I should support gun control, fight ANWR drilling, raise taxes on the wealthy. How are these forms of telling me what to believe any less invasive to my personal freedom of thought than anything the Republicans are saying? Oh, right, you don't like their version of the world. My mistake.

Men and women who want to center their lives on religion should seek jobs as ministers in the churches of their choice.
Now who's telling who what to believe? I believe that every human should have the right to center his or her life around his or her faith of choice. I may become a priest some day, but does the fact that I'm more likely to go to law school mean I can't try to hold myself to my faith?

They should not be serving as judges, where they will be called upon to judge those who do not hold their religious beliefs, unless they can swear to give a totally fair and impartial judgment, outside the confines of faith.
At least she's honest. What this is about is that she doesn't want (devout) Christians serving on the bench. Period.

And that's just wrong. Period. Separation of Church and State means that we cannot distinguish between people because of their faith. We cannot keep someone out of federal office simply because he worships a different God than we do, or even because he worships the same God more stringently than we do.

She eases off of this, of course, by demanding only that judges can render a verdict outside of their faith. I'm sorry to say, again, that I think this is wrong. Or, at least a big inaccurate. I think judges should be able to render a verdict outside of the confines of opinion period. We no longer execute children in this country because public opinion has decided it's wrong—instead of because it's legally wrong. That's a judgment based on personal opinion (whether it was religious or not, I don't know) and that makes it wrong. Roe v. Wade claims a constitutional protection for abortion, but no one can tell me where the Constitution discusses abortion. Again, this was a judgment made on belief instead of literal analysis of the text. It doesn't matter whether it's religious or not. To borrow—paraphrase—a line from the West Wing: "I don't dispute that there are natural laws, I only dispute that it is the provenance of judges to arbitrate them." Religion isn't the issue.

I would think that those Republicans who aren't bullies would be happy that only 10 of President Bush's appellate court nominees have been blocked by filibusters. It certainly doesn't smack of any kind of prejudice. Are we to lose our precious religious freedom just because of these 10?
It does smack of some kind of prejudice, though it was sneaky to try and slide that sentence in there. These judges were determined unfit for the bench by the Democratic leadership long before hearings were held—isn't that the definition of prejudice?

As to the "they should be happy it's only 10," is one of the most ridiculous things I've ever heard. Should we have been happy that the Founders only sought to restrict the rights of blacks in the Constitution? Should we have been happy that Germany only wanted France in the first World War? Should we have been happy that the Nazis only wanted to wipe out Jews, Gypsies, and homosexuals? Sure, these are all extreme examples, but they make the same point: the number isn't the issue, the principle is.

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