January 17, 2010

The Federal Church of the United States of America

Justin Katz

By now, you're likely to have heard Martha Coakley's interpretation of the First Amendment's application to the matter of abortion. In conversation with radio talk host Ken Pittman, the Democrats' candidate for U.S. Senate spoke as follows:

Ken Pittman: Right, if you are a Catholic, and believe what the Pope teaches that any form of birth control is a sin. ah you don't want to do that.

Martha Coakley: No we have a separation of church and state Ken, lets be clear.

Ken Pittman: In the emergency room you still have your religious freedom.

Martha Coakley: (...uh, eh...um..) The law says that people are allowed to have that. You can have religious freedom but you probably shouldn't work in the emergency room.

Kathryn Jean Lopez suggests that Coakley's view of more profound relevance:

Coakley betrays a prevalent tendency of the liberal mind: If we go by what she said to Pittman, Coakley believes that religious liberty is not something endowed by our Creator, but something the law allows, something the state can change depending on who is in power, or what's polling well. If she were his student, Richard W. Garnett of Notre Dame's law school has a few questions he would want to ask Coakley: Is religious freedom a concession by the State? Or is religious freedom really about the fact that government is limited in its scope and competence, and that some realms of life stand outside the circumscribed authority that a free people is willing to grant its government?

The problem may even go more deeply than the hypothetical options suggest. If the Party of Death has its way, the freedom to be true to your religion will translate into a right to select from a list of careers in which the government has determined your beliefs will not interfere with worldviews of which it approves. This, simply put, is a religious establishment by the federal government.

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Party of Death...I guess we've tumbled off the fringe. But it's OK - Jim Langevin has a good sense of humor.

Posted by: rhody at January 17, 2010 2:35 PM

Betsy Dennigan, not so much.

Posted by: Justin Katz at January 17, 2010 2:45 PM

At the same time, I believe that consciencious objectors have an obligation ahead of time to not place themselves in a position where they would need to administer or refuse to administer these drugs; i.e., make it clear to their employer so that the employer and employee can plan shifts accordingly.

I said this when discussing Coakley's remark on Friday with a friend. He glared at me uncharacteristically and said, "Do you want the government to make that decision?"

Okay, no. No, I don't want gov't making that decision.

The question is, does Coakley believe that government should mandate these arrangements?

Posted by: Monique at January 17, 2010 8:12 PM


I'm not sure under what circumstances conscientious objectors would need to administer such drugs. Under only very rare circumstances is pregnancy a fatal condition, and almost never, as I understand, predictably so. But of course, the objection shouldn't be a hidden position; in our current society, it arguably should be an overtly expressed in all cases, whether it's the objecting worker to the hospital or the objecting hospital to the public.

I'd also note that there's really no way to understand Coakley's statement except as a declaration that pro-lifers, be they Catholic or otherwise, should be forbidden by the government from becoming emergency room doctors and nurses if they insist on adhering to their beliefs rather than government mandates.

Posted by: Justin Katz at January 17, 2010 8:50 PM

"Religious liberty is not something endowed by our Creator, but something the law allows", this is a credo expressed by people who believe in a creator god. Such a group does not include atheists, agnostics, many Buddhists and others, and as such only has currency with theists who believe in a creator god - portion of the populace, but by no means all of it. We would do well to remember that theists who believe in a creator god are just another group falling within the boundary of state governance.

Many U.S. citizens don't rest easily ceding temporal power to unelected spiritual overlords and the two-bit theologian bloggers who support them.

Need I remind you of Torquemada and the Inquisition? Remember Hester Prine?

Are you in league with the people who claim killing infidels is a passport to heaven? After all, they ignore the temporal government coming from Baghdad and Kabul in pursuit of their religious beliefs.

Theocracies have been tried and found wanting.


Posted by: OldTimeLefty at January 17, 2010 10:14 PM

Do you mean Hester Prynne, the fictional protagonist of The Scarlet Letter?

I do recall her, as it happens, having done some in-depth study of that novel in college. Curious that you don't perceive Coakley's intention to brand a red "C" on the breasts of would-be Catholic emergency doctors and nurses.

Shall I warm your branding iron for you, Old Time Lackey?

Posted by: Justin Katz at January 17, 2010 10:22 PM

"Religious liberty is not something endowed by our Creator, but something the law allows"

It is probably proof that I don't think enough, but I have never thought of this.

Without doubt, our forefathers thought it was "endowed by our creator", I think this easily translates into a more modern, non-diest, "human right".

Poor Martha seems confounded by attempting to reconcile conscience and the law. It is unfortunate that the "right" to an abortion was imposed by a court and not thought out in a legislative process. As it is, the "abortion issue" drips with unanswered questions. For instance why does the father, who will be required to support the child, have no say in the matter? How about the father who truly desires the child? These questions do not even approach the basic question of a "right to life".

As to religion in the emergency room. As with many rights, it is a "right: which protects an individual, but does not necessarily impose a duty on others. Recent court decisions seem to make it clear that gun ownership is a "right", that doesn't mean I have to sell you one.

I think we have been confused by "minority rights", where restaurants have to serve you and certain clubs admit you. What you have is not a "right to be sereved" but a "right" not to be denied service because of your skin color. As far as I know restaurants are still free not to serve you if you aren't wearing a tie.

The entire philosophical world shudders before my penetrating intellect.

Posted by: Warrington Faust at January 17, 2010 11:20 PM

Well, Lefty, since the United States was never a theocracy (save perhaps for a decade in Massachusetts), I take it your comment does not apply to our country.

Can you name a Leftist utopian society that has been tried and not "found wanting"?

Posted by: BobN at January 18, 2010 8:06 AM

"Theocracies have been tried and found wanting."


In this case, however, it is the other way around: a secularist sounds as though she may wish to impose her governmental will on religious people. I'm not sure this is an improvement over a theocracy.

Posted by: Monique at January 18, 2010 8:29 AM

Prine, Prynne, Justin evades the point and in his usual smarmy manner. He'd do his argument much prouder if he addressed the essence rather than the accidents, but then again that's what two-bit would be theologians do.

Having some acquaintance with the novel, Justin might like to comment on its exposure of religious hypocrisy and the damaging effect religious zealots have on society. But no, he performs a "logical" lateral arabesque and evades the point.

Moan-ique, You can vote a secularist in or out. This is a definite improvement over a theocracy.

Posted by: OldTimeLefty at January 18, 2010 9:19 AM

Old Time Lefty, the modern Don Quixote, battling windmills of his own imagination. Where is this theocracy of which you complain? Are you discussing events of today or of 500 years ago?

So you made a followup post without answering my question about successful Socialist utopias. Shall I conclude that you are unable to provide an example? Checkmate, Lefty.

You even enhance your non-response by slandering Justin. And then you give us a bonus with an puerile snidery of Monique's name. Lefty, you'd do your argument much prouder if you'd address the essence. On the other hand, I can't find an argument in your posts. Can you please state it plainly?

Your posts are so juvenile they almost make me yearn for Tom Schmeling.

The present experience of Russia and Venezuela indicates that you cannot always vote a secularist in or out. The many examples of tyranny corrupting democratic processes - oh, I forgot to include Germany in the 1920s - disprove your claim conclusively.

No one in history has created more death and misery than secular Leftists. Do you feel proud to associate with them, Lefty?

Posted by: BobN at January 18, 2010 9:59 AM

We live South of Perfection. This applies to all human endeavors. We don't have a perfect society here and there are no perfect ones there.

If you admit this simple fact we can proceed with argument. As to "No one in history has created more death... etc." You are making an assertion. What you freely assert, I just as freely deny. Anybody can assert anything. Assertion is not proof. You need to be aware of the difference otherwise your eyes and ears are closed and rational argument is precluded.


Posted by: OldTimeLefty at January 18, 2010 11:46 AM

Lefty, once again you fail to respond to a direct question with a direct answer. You can deny all you want, but until you can offer a convincing refutation of my assertion, anything you freely assert on the topic is worth bupkus.

I'm waiting for you to engage in rational argument. So far all you have done is assert and then evade and distract. You sound like a teenager, demonstrating that there is more than a little truth to the proposition that Liberals suffer from Peter Pan syndrome.

So far, to paraphrase Barney Frank,debating with you is like arguing with a dining room table. Will you engage on the topic by responding to my earlier questions, or shall I write you off as a waste of time?

Posted by: BobN at January 18, 2010 11:54 AM

OTL is typical of the left-canned talking points regardless of the question.they never give a straight answer unless it serves a specific purpose.The left is and always has been-everywhere in the world,a cancer that seeks to destroy society and remake it in a collectivist image with a ruling cadre.The left seeks to replace families with the dictums of bureaucrats.We are dealing with that now in the public schools with the selling of same sex marriage to young pupils who shouldn't be concerned with such issues as marriage at all.It's just one example.Now maybe some people have no problem with that,but I think sex education belongs at the puberty/teen level,not primary school.
Kids don't learn basics these days.Why were the public schools so effective decades ago?Nowadays they are failure factories.It's the left every time out-seeking to create a class of mindless worker ants so the "eloi" can live in comfort.Case in point:Sheldon Whitehouse.The rich leftists are always the most disgusting.
Anyone who thinks the Brown/Coakley election is about health care is missing the point.It's about roadblocking the most radical left winger ever to set foot in the White House.I hate to ever say Rhody is correct,but he is-I am one of those people who want Obama to be unable to carry out his programs.They will,if instituted,change the USA for the worse.

Posted by: joe bernstein at January 18, 2010 10:18 PM


1. I challenged Justin’s statement that religious liberty is endowed by our creator by explaining that such a statement can only be made by a group of people who believe in a creator god, then cited some examples of those groups which do not, atheists, agnostics, etc.

Conclusion: We would do well to remember that theists who believe in a creator god are just another group falling within the boundary of state governance. The point being, to spell it out for you, that you have to make up your mind whether to place religion within the body politic or outside of it. If religion is outside of, and over, the body politic, by definition you have a theocracy. I then pointed out some examples of theocracies which were found politically wanting. So, I ask you do you agree with Justin’s statement or not. You need to answer this or you are playing a game of dodge ball. Where do you put religious dogma, above or under the secular body politic?

2. I asked, “Are you in league with the people who claim killing infidels is a passport to heaven? After all, they ignore the temporal government coming from Baghdad and Kabul in pursuit of their religious beliefs.”Again, to simplify for you, those people who believe that killing infidels is a religious duty are placing religious law over the secular rules coming from Kabul and Baghdad.
Conclusion, if anyone can interpret a “law of god” in anyway they like and no authority can supercede it there is no control over that individual whose call to action is based upon hearing voices or obeying a spiritual master. Questions for you:

Do you give all people freedom to pursue religious actions (bomb abortion clinics, bomb mosques, bomb secular authority) or just those with whom you agree? How do you deal with this problem?

3. Where did you get the idea that I’m looking for Utopia on earth? I never said it. It came from the convolutions of your mind. However, I am interested in improving what we have.

Since you opened with Don Quixote, I’ll recognize that this attempt to explain things to you will result in failure and conclude with Sancho Panza’s words, “Honey is not for the mouth of the ass.”

Posted by: OldTimeLefty at January 19, 2010 9:33 AM

Lefty, I had almost written you off and then finally you replied. After reading your last post, I can now write you off entirely. Here is why:

First: I challenged you to answer my questions, not to reply with questions of your own. Your failure to rise to that challenge proves you to be a coward, a dissembler, or both.

Second: In your first point when you say "theists who believe in a creator god are just another group falling within the boundary of state governance", you reveal your fundamental belief that the State is pre-eminent over the "body politic". You have it exactly upside-down. The purpose of a proper State is to protect the rights of the individuals who make up the body politic. Like most Statists, you posit the State as some meta-organism that is superior to individual humans, as though it were the "brain" of some organism called "society". But the metaphor fails, because the State is ruled by individuals who are no different from those they govern. That's called "equality" for your information. Who are these elites who claim such superior knowledge and morality that they are justified as the State in doing things to other humans that would otherwise be crimes?

I agree with Justin's statement because it is not a proper role of government to squelch out religion from all public life. It is the proper role of government to protect the rights of all people to practice their religions subject only to the requirement that such practice does not infringe on the rights of other people. (And no, there is no "right" to not be offended.)

I have now dealt with your questions but you have avoided mine. Perhaps we should take a vote among the participants in Anchor Rising to determine the winner of this debate.

Lefty, your arrogance is rivaled only by your cowardice. You had your chance. I may correct your false statements in future threads but arguing with you is a waste of my time.

Posted by: BobN at January 19, 2010 10:36 AM

I have decided to pursue you and your overweening ignorant arrogance.

1. To review the order of battle, I made a declaration which you chose to ignore by asking a non-sequitur question, “Where is this theocracy of which you complain? Are you discussing events of today or of 500 years ago?”
To answer directly: I was discussing Justin’s assertion which I see as dangerous, that “religious liberty is endowed by our creator”. The reason why I said that this assertion was dangerous is that it can lead to rule by religious group or groups, something absolutely forbidden constitutionally. I was warning against another theocracy, not complaining about a present one. The distinction is apparently too subtle for you.

When I asked rhetorically, "Need I remind you of Torquemada and the Inquisition? Remember Hester Prine (sic)?", it was to point to Torquemada, the Inquisition and Hawthorne's novel as examples of religious excess and to illustrate what happens when theocrats get the upper hand in governance. No atheist or agnostic would ever put us in danger of becoming a theocracy.

2. You then asked me to “name a Leftist utopian society that has been tried and not ‘found wanting’. I made a direct reference to theocracies, a governance which I said was tried and found wanting. You mentioned Utopia, not I, then you put the words in my mouth and argued against them. If you have any integrity, you must point out where I offered any society as Utopian. If you cannot cite it you cannot write it.

3. Finally, we come to the first real question which I asked in my original post, which was, “Are you in league with the people who claim killing infidels is a passport to heaven?” I am not because I believ that people who harbor such beliefs are convinced that they are endowed by their creator to ignore temporal law and to pursue their zeal, even to the destruction of human life. I’d like to hear your answer to that question, the only one that I posed in my original post on the subject.

Awaiting your reply. Please try to stick to the subject at hand and answer questions actually posed rether than those imagined.


Posted by: OldTimeLefty at January 19, 2010 1:32 PM
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