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Dominion over the faith of others September 2, 2012

Posted by Ezra Resnick in Equality, Freedom, Politics, Religion.

The Republican Party’s 2012 platform talks an awful lot about freedom and equality, but it seems to apply them rather inconsistently. For instance, it says this:

We are the party of the Constitution, the solemn compact which confirms our God-given individual rights and assures that all Americans stand equal before the law… We will strongly enforce anti-discrimination statutes and ask all to join us in rejecting the forces of hatred and bigotry and in denouncing all who practice or promote racism, anti-Semitism, ethnic prejudice, or religious intolerance.

But just a few paragraphs later, there’s this:

… Congressional Republicans took the lead in enacting the Defense of Marriage Act, affirming the right of States and the federal government not to recognize same-sex relationships licensed in other jurisdictions… We reaffirm our support for a Constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman. We applaud the citizens of the majority of States which have enshrined in their constitutions the traditional concept of marriage, and we support the campaigns underway in several other States to do so.

In other words, discrimination and bigotry towards homosexuals is to be applauded and supported.

On the subject of religious freedom, the platform invokes Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia Statute,

which declared that no one should “suffer on account of his religious opinion or belief, but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion…” That assurance has never been more needed than it is today, as liberal elites try to drive religious beliefs — and religious believers — out of the public square… The most offensive instance of this war on religion has been the current Administration’s attempt to compel faith-related institutions, as well as believing individuals, to contravene their deeply held religious, moral, or ethical beliefs regarding health services, traditional marriage, or abortion.

But the current Administration has not been attempting to compel anyone to use a health service, marry, or get an abortion in contravention of his or her religious beliefs; the Administration has merely been attempting to ensure that these options are available to those who want them. Whereas Republicans are saying that if something goes against their religious beliefs, no one should be allowed to do it.

It’s a shame they didn’t read the rest of Jefferson’s Statute:

That the impious presumption of legislators and rulers, civil as well as ecclesiastical, who, being themselves but fallible and uninspired men have assumed dominion over the faith of others, setting up their own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible, and as such endeavouring to impose them on others, hath established and maintained false religions over the greatest part of the world and through all time…


1. necessaryandpropergovt - September 2, 2012

Hi Ezra,

I am not a social issues conservative — I am a fiscal conservative. I will probably quickly get in over my head here, but I’ll try to give a meaningful comment.

To religious people, which I am not, marriage is an important and reserved institution. Many of them probably support civil unions which would bestow all the same legal / contractual benefits to the partners as marriage does. Yet I understand that, in the eyes of gay folks, that’s not the same as full & equal recognition of marriage. I wish this issue could stay out of politics, but social conservatives feel it’s vital to their societal beliefs.

On the Defense of Marriage Act, from a strictly legal standpoint, all that act tries to do is leave the gay marriage issue up to each state, without requiring states to recognize other states’ decisions. This is an attempt to let the issue and its solutions be localized to each state. But, again, the issue is so contentious that this just gives socially liberal people more to be angry over.

I am not for a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between 1 man and 1 woman. It shouldn’t be a political/governmental matter.

On the matter of abortion and contraception, there are two tiers of argument here, and you are mixing them together. I’d like to talk about them separately and see what you think.

Yes, I agree that social conservatives don’t want to allow people to do these things at all. But Roe vs. Wade is settled law that doesn’t look like it will ever be overturned. So it’s stupid to keep fighting over it.

However, the other tier of the argument is, I think, not being portrayed fairly in the left-leaning media, and by left-leaning politicians. I think it is very fair, and respectful of religious freedom, to insist that taxpayer money not be used to pay for abortions or contraception. That’s different than banning abortion and contraception outright. If I were a religious conservative (which I’m not), it would make my blood boil that my tax dollars are being spent on something that my religious beliefs hold is immoral. Why can’t non-religious people AT LEAST respect that??

You are focusing tightly on the religiously intolerant members of the Republican tent. I obviously can’t stop you, but just like I wish the religious conservatives would take their issues out of the political arena, I also wish that their critics would be more tolerant of religious people’s views.

Your response, understandably, is probably something like this: “I will be more tolerant of their views the day they take their views out of the Republican Party platform.”

Sigh…I can’t argue that. But I can wish it would all stop. Other common ground would become more reachable if this evangelical stuff could be taken off the political table and kept within the religious congregations.

Am I making any sense?
– Jeff

Ezra Resnick - September 3, 2012

Thanks for the thoughtful comment, Jeff!

Regarding the Defense of Marriage Act: It’s not true that “all that act tries to do is leave the gay marriage issue up to each state.” As Wikipedia says: “Section 3 of DOMA codifies the non-recognition of same-sex marriages for all federal purposes, including insurance benefits for government employees, Social Security survivors’ benefits, and the filing of joint tax returns.”

Regarding abortion and contraception: Religion is not a magic pass that allows you to prevent your taxes from paying for anything that goes against your personal beliefs. That’s not how taxes work. Pacifists don’t get to demand that tax dollars not be spent on wars, and creationists don’t get to demand that tax dollars not be spent on the study and teaching of evolution. Abortion and contraception fall under the category of health services that women should have access to, and they ought to receive taxpayer funding comparable to other such health services. It’s true that I’m assuming contraception and abortion aren’t in general immoral, but that’s because there is no evidence-based argument to the contrary. Anyone who nevertheless believes abortion or contraception are immoral is of course free not to use them; just like Christian Scientists are free to refuse medical treatment (but not to demand that tax dollars not be used to treat others).

I don’t know how you can say I’m “focusing tightly on the religiously intolerant members of the Republican tent,” when I’ve been quoting from the official Republican Party platform. I also reject the charge of religious intolerance: I’m not trying to impede people’s freedom to practice and preach their religion, so long as they don’t use public resources to do so and do no harm to others. But religious tolerance does not require that I refrain from criticizing religious views that I think are false and harmful; it does not require that people be allowed to do anything their religion says in cases where that conflicts with the common good; and it certainly does not require that I stand by while religious zealots try to legislate their dogmas into law and force them on the rest of us.

necessaryandpropergovt - September 3, 2012

As I said, and you proved, everyone’s walls are built so high, there’s no room for common ground. No one will budge an inch. We must agree to disagree, and walk away.
– Jeff

necessaryandpropergovt - September 3, 2012


Morality and evidence don’t belong in the same sentence. They have nothing to do with each other, by definition.

A counter-article to yours could be called “Dominion over the taxed earnings of others.”

Unalienable rights are those that, in order for you to enjoy them, do not need to be paid for by others, or do not need to infringe upon the rights of others. Publically funded health services are not unalienable rights. You’re in favor of these things, as long as they’re funded by somebody else.

All religion aside…I believe in self-responsibility. I believe in the concept of owning one’s actions and choices…meaning being financially responsible for carrying out the actions one chooses.

Government shouldn’t be the provider for everything the populace needs. I believe America does need a compassionate safety net, but access to publically funded abortion and contraception services, and all the other non-basic welfare, are closer to a hammock than a safety net. Everything doesn’t need to be solved and masterminded by a centralized nanny state. We can’t afford all that any more. Unconstrained voters and politicians don’t realize that our addictive welfare way-of-life mentality flies in the face of fiscal reality. That conflict of visions is what we’re fighting over.

I know you won’t agree with a single word I’ve just written, but I decided to not just walk away closed-mouth.

– Jeff

Ezra Resnick - September 3, 2012

I reject your separation between morality and evidence. Morality deals with the well-being of conscious creatures, which is dependent upon facts about our world. How else are we to tackle moral questions, and converge upon answers, if not based on reason and evidence? Is the morality of the Taliban just as legitimate as any other morality? (I’ve written more about this subject in previous posts, e.g. here and here.)

The question of whether health care should be publicly funded is really tangential to this post. Let me just say this: The reality is that many people cannot on their own afford decent health care. These people are not all just lazy; many of them, certainly, are simply unlucky. In any case, it seems to me that we have both a moral obligation and a pragmatic incentive to make sure that everyone in our society has access to decent health care. Other countries have managed to do this, without going bankrupt.

necessaryandpropergovt - September 3, 2012

So you’re saying you agree with me?

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