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Proud to be the party that protects human life July 24, 2016

Posted by Ezra Resnick in Belief, Freedom, Politics, Religion.
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The Republicans have published their 2016 Party Platform, in which they claim to stand for noble ideals:

We denounce bigotry, racism, anti-Semitism, ethnic prejudice, and religious intolerance. Therefore, we oppose discrimination based on race, sex, religion, creed, disability, or national origin and support statutes to end such discrimination… Our ranks include Americans from every faith and tradition, and we respect the right of each American to follow his or her deeply held beliefs.

Not bad, but they’re missing a crucial bit at the end there: it should read, “we respect the right of each American to follow his or her deeply held beliefs — so long as they do not infringe upon the rights of others.” We don’t condone polygamy, for instance, or human sacrifice, no matter how deeply someone might believe in them. But the omission was not accidental: before you know it, the authors’ own “deeply held beliefs” are trumping their supposed opposition to bigotry and discrimination.

We … condemn the Supreme Court’s lawless ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges… [in which] five unelected lawyers robbed 320 million Americans of their legitimate constitutional authority to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman…

We endorse the First Amendment Defense Act… which will bar government discrimination against individuals and businesses for acting on the belief that marriage is the union of one man and one woman.

This obstinate resistance to same-sex marriage (in spite of the fact that a majority of Americans support it) might seem puzzling, since the Republican platform is all about promoting “married family life as the basis of a stable and prosperous society”, and it praises adoption as well (“Families formed or enlarged by adoption strengthen our communities and ennoble our nation”). Why, then, are they hellbent on preventing same-sex couples from marrying and adopting? The only justification they offer is a depressingly familiar one: “traditional religious beliefs that have been held across the world for thousands of years”. Do those who use that argument really not realize that it applies equally well to innumerable atrocities we have worked hard to leave behind us, from witch hunting to slavery?

Same-sex marriage is not the only bogeyman the Republicans squander their energy on: abortion is mentioned in the platform thirty-four times. (Climate change is mentioned just nine times — the scientific consensus is rejected, in case you were wondering.) And this is where we really go through the looking glass. The platform says things like “We affirm our moral obligation to assist, rather than penalize, women who face an unplanned pregnancy,” and “We are proud to be the party that protects human life and offers real solutions for women,” but those words must not mean what I think they mean.

we assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental right to life which cannot be infringed. We support a human life amendment to the Constitution and legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to children before birth…

We will not fund or subsidize healthcare that includes abortion coverage…

We condemn the Supreme Court’s activist decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt striking down commonsense Texas laws providing for basic health and safety standards in abortion clinics.

Needless to say, those laws were designed solely to reduce the availability of abortions: Texas could not provide the Court with a single example of a woman whose health would have benefited from the laws’ provisions. And in addition to making it as difficult as possible for women to get abortions, the Republicans also want to make it more likely that they’ll need them:

We renew our call for replacing “family planning” programs for teens with sexual risk avoidance education that sets abstinence until marriage as the responsible and respected standard of behavior. That approach — the only one always effective against premarital pregnancy and sexually-transmitted disease — empowers teens to achieve optimal health outcomes. We oppose school-based clinics that provide referral or counseling for abortion and contraception…

This despite the fact that abstinence-only sex education has been shown to be ineffective at preventing unwanted pregnancy or the spread of STDs — in the U.S., abstinence education was actually found to be positively correlated with teen pregnancy. And just for good measure, the platform also opposes embryonic stem cell research, which has the potential to produce therapies for many horrible injuries and diseases. But don’t forget, they’re “proud to be the party that protects human life”.

Why does the Republican Party care more about clumps of cells than the health and happiness of actual human beings? Why do they obsess over controlling people’s sex lives (despite claiming to be “the party of independent individuals”)? It all starts with their definition of “the fundamental precepts of American government”:

That God bestows certain inalienable rights on every individual… that man-made law must be consistent with God-given, natural rights; and that if God-given, natural, inalienable rights come in conflict with government, court, or human-granted rights, God-given, natural, inalienable rights always prevail…

And they have a specific God in mind, of course:

We support the public display of the Ten Commandments as a reflection of our history and our country’s Judeo-Christian heritage…

Yes, the same Ten Commandments that teach us to kill people for worshiping the wrong god. So much for respecting Americans from every faith and tradition. The Constitution, of course, never mentions God at all. Because, if you care about reality and about the wellbeing of those living in it, you need to base your policies on reason and critical thinking — instead of blindly maintaining ancient beliefs and traditions just because they’re ancient, in the face of all evidence against them.

Assisted suicide is yet another humane policy opposed by the Republican platform. But some things should really be allowed to die.

dead-elephant

There is no manual September 8, 2012

Posted by Ezra Resnick in Law, Politics, Reason.
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Besides God, there’s something else the Republican Party’s 2012 platform worships:

We possess an owner’s manual: the Constitution of the United States, the greatest political document ever written. That sacred document shows us the path forward…

We salute Republican Members of the House of Representatives for enshrining in the Rules of the House the requirement that every bill must cite the provision of the Constitution which permits its introduction…

We affirm that all legislation, rules, and regulations must conform and public servants must adhere to the U.S. Constitution, as originally intended by the Framers…

…some judges in the federal courts remain far afield from their constitutional limitations. The U.S. Constitution is the law of the land. Judicial activism which includes reliance on foreign law or unratified treaties undermines American law. The sole solution, apart from impeachment, is the appointment of constitutionalist jurists, who will interpret the law as it was originally intended rather than make it.

The Framers of the Constitution were definitely smart people, but they were not infallible; and in any case, they lived in a different world, with no ability to foresee all the issues that confront us in the age of genetic engineering and atomic weapons and the internet. We have the right and the obligation to change our laws as necessary, correcting past mistakes and adapting to new circumstances, regardless of the intentions of our predecessors. There is no reason, for instance, why the Framers’ concerns about militias should forever dictate our policy on personal gun ownership — just as our schools no longer teach science using 18th-century textbooks.

It seems to me that this yearning for an “owner’s manual” — an authoritative rulebook containing the answers to all society’s problems — betrays a desire to avoid having to acknowledge uncomfortable realities and think for oneself. Why work hard to propose and evaluate new policies in the face of risk and uncertainty, when you can suppress doubt and achieve instant righteousness as an uncompromising defender of venerable traditions? If we care about reality, however, we cannot afford such blind faith. No document should ever be treated as sacred, and all laws must be perpetually open for reevaluation. There is no infallible, eternal manual for building a perfect society — it’s always a work in progress.

Dominion over the faith of others September 2, 2012

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

He divides us against each other September 1, 2012

Posted by Ezra Resnick in Politics, Religion.
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At the Republican National Convention this week, Florida senator Marco Rubio gave a speech introducing Mitt Romney — and reminding Americans what makes them special:

Under Barack Obama, the only “Change” is that “Hope” has been hard to find. Now millions of Americans are insecure about their future. But instead of inspiring us by reminding us of what makes us special, he divides us against each other…

We are special because we’ve been united not by a common race or ethnicity. We’re bound together by common values. That family is the most important institution in society. That almighty God is the source of all we have…

Our national motto is “In God we Trust,” reminding us that faith in our Creator is the most important American value of all.

Well, that motto was adopted only in 1956, whereas the U.S. Constitution makes no mention of a “Creator” and mandates separation between religion and the secular government. And obviously, faith in an almighty God — the “most important American value of all,” according to Rubio — is not, in fact, common to all Americans. What, then, would a Republican administration’s attitude be towards nonbelievers, and towards the separation of church and state? Who is actually dividing us against each other?

(via Pharyngula)