The following are some of the highlights from the daily email briefing about news and events, which I send out to some of my friends and contacts (if you’re interested in subscribing to the daily mailing, leave your email address in the comments box):
Archive for the ‘Intolerance’ Category
I’ve mentioned on several occasions that there is a movement in our nation to stigmatize anyone who opposes same-sex “marriage” as a bigot. Yesterday, yet another of our Black-Robed Platonic Guardian Rulers in the Courts — I’m sorry, I mean a federal judge — has advanced that movement even further.
A federal district judge in Massachusetts yesterday struck down certain provisions of the Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”), claiming that it is unconstitutional. You may recall that DOMA was passed by Congress in 1996 by huge majorities (85-14 in the Senate, 342-67 in the House), and signed into law by President Clinton. It guarantees two significant things — that for the purposes of federal law and benefits the word “marriage” means only a bond between a man and a woman, and that states cannot be required to grant legal recognition to same-sex “marriages” entered into in other states. In fact, DOMA was considered to be so strong a law that it was used as the excuse by many legislators for declining to support the Federal Marriage Amendment, which would have defined marriage in our Constitution as being between one man and one woman.
This is a simple, common-sense law, and it is supported by wide margins in every public opinion poll ever taken. But of course, in our judge-ocracy, that is not good enough. Enter the district court in Massachusetts, which found that parts of DOMA violated the principles of federalism, as well as the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
The court’s legal reasoning, such as it is, doesn’t require too much comment, beyond the observation of legal scholar Ed Whalen that “This ruling strikes me as just plain nuts.” I couldn’t agree more. How can it violate the Constitution for the federal government to define what a word means, for the purposes of enforcing federal laws? And how can it violate “equal protection” to treat relationships that are fundamentally different in a disparate way?
Two things about this ruling are most significant to me. First is the statement by the court that:
… where, as here, there is no reason to believe that the disadvantaged class [i.e., those in same-sex "marriages"] is different, in relevant respects from a similarly situated class [i.e., those in man-woman marriages], this court may conclude that it is only irrational prejudice that motivates the challenged classification.
Yes, a United States court couldn’t figure out any difference between a man-woman marriage and a same sex relationship, and then proceeded to call every person who is a believing member of virtually every major religious group — Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim, whatever — an irrational bigot. Talk about irrational.
The second significant thing was the approach taken by the Administration in this litigation. Ordinarily, it’s the duty of the Justice Department to defend the constitutionality of federal statutes. Unfortunately, the agenda of this Administration, which strongly favors “gay rights” in general and same-sex “marriage” in particular, trumped the duty of the Justice Department. Instead of defending the reasons underlying DOMA, the Justice Department instead told the court that it “does not believe that DOMA is rationally related to any legitimate government interests in procreation and child-rearing.” In other words, the Administration gave the judge a nod and a wink, implicitly telling him that they would like him to void the law.
There are many issues involved in these kinds of case: the replacement of democracy by a judicial oligarchy, the inversion of values in our culture, the willingness of elites to impose their agendas on the people. To me, the worst thing is the growing momentum behind the marginalization of religious persons, branding us as bigots. That has frightening implications for the future.
When we all studied American History and Civics 101 in school, we were taught that the First Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees religious liberty to all. It ensures that the government cannot interfere with religious belief or practice, nor canthe state reward or punish religious people or groups for their beliefs. All religions are to be treated equally, with no favoritism or legal restrictions. It’s to enjoy this specific freedom that the early settlers, and many of our ancestors, came to this country. It’s part of what makes America great.
Too bad that the Supreme Court has been on a path to erase the First Amendment to the Constitution.
This has nothing to do with the issue of prayer in public schools or copies of the Ten Commandments in public buildings. It has everything to do with marginalizing and penalizing religious practices that are not popular with the current powers that be.
The first major instance of this came in 1990, in the case of Employment Division v. Smith. The case involved the denial of unemployment benefits to several Native Americans, pursuant to a rule that denied benefits to anyone who couldn’t pass a drug test. But the reason they couldn’t pass the test is because they used the drug peyote in their religious practices — much as we use wine at Mass. They challenged the law, claiming that it would force them to violate their religious beliefs.
The Supreme Court held that they were properly denied the benefits, because the government is not required under the Constitution to grant exceptions to neutral laws that apply to all people, even if that law imposes a burden on a person’s religious liberty. In essence, the Court held that the government can require a person to forego their religious practices — to give up their sacraments — in order to qualify for benefits.
In one decision, the Court essentially gutted the “free exercise” clause of the First Amendment. The irony is that the majority opinion was by a man whose religion is frequently a subject for attention and comment — the Catholic Justice Scalia.
The most recent shredding of religious liberty came last week, in Christian Legal Society v. Martinez. This case arose at a public university law school — an arm of a state government. The Christian Legal Society, an interfaith group of law students, adoped rules that required all its officers and members to subscribe to a basic tenet of Christian moral teaching — that sexual relations are properly reserved only to a man and woman joined in a marriage. The school denied the organization recognition because of this provision “discriminated” against personw who are engaged in homosexual acts and relationships. The effect of this was to deny the Christian students access to funding and activites that were open to all other kinds of groups (including, ironically, a “gay and lesbian” association).
The Supreme Court upheld the denial of recognition to the group, holding that the school could require that all student organizations accept anyone who applies, both as members and as leaders. In essence, the Court decided that the state government has the power to regulate the identity and message of religious organizations, and can force them to accept people who deny or undermine the integrity of their beliefs. And, by implication, the Court’s decision means that a religious group cannot be a full participant in the “marketplace of ideas” unless its beliefs conform to current standards of political correctness. In other words, the government can play favorites among religious groups — granting “equal” access to those it approves, and denying it to those it disapproves.
So much for the “free exercise” and “free association” rights that are supposedly guaranteed under the First Amendment.
This decision was written by Justice Ginsburg, but was joined by two Catholic Justices, Kennedy and Sotomayor. Since this was Justice Sotomayor’s first foray into religious liberty jurisprudence, it does not bode well for how she will rule in future cases.
There is a movement afoot in America to stigmatize religious people who uphold traditional moral teaching (particularly about homosexuality and other sexual subjects) as bigots who do not have to be tolerated in the public square. Whether they knew so or not, the Justices of the Supreme Court have advanced that agenda and, in doing so, have reduced the liberties of all.
The forces of “tolerance” are on the move again, and have found their most recent victim. The Archdiocese of Washington, faced with an unjust law that would have required them to recognize the validity of same-sex “marriages”, has been forced to withdraw from foster care and adoption services.
The basic facts are very simple. The District of Columbia government was dead set on recognizing same-sex “marriages”, and had little regard for anything that stood in their way or any of the consequences. Remember, the City government refused to allow the proposed bill to be voted on as a referrendum, refused to grant a reasonable religious exemption despite repeated requests by the Archdiocese, and imposed such a rigorous schedule for compliance with the law that Catholic Charities had little choice but to close down their program. This was accompanied by a propaganda campaign that accused the Church of turning her back on the poor, even though, all along, it was the City government that was shoving the Church out the door.
This is not unprecedented. Catholic Charities in Boston was forced to surrender its adoption services in the face of the Massachusetts same-sex “marriage” law, after the state legislature refused to grant an exemption. And a few years ago, here in New York, we were lucky that the Court of Appeals struck down a New York City law that would have required all city contractors to recognize same-sex “marriages” — but they rejected the law on technical grounds, not because of the infringement of religious liberty.
Nor will it be the last time that it happens. Other cities and states are likely to try similar tactics. The legal community is unlikely to help. After all, the Administration has nominated a person to serve on an important federal civil rights panel who believes that when “gay rights” and religious liberties collide, the rights of churches should lose.
In his famous letter in 1790 to the Hebrew Congregation in Newport, Rhode Island, President George Washington pledged that the government of the United States would respect the religious liberty of all, demanding only that they be good citizens. The letter is worth quoting here:
The citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy — a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it were the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights, for, happily, the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.
President Washington’s promise is not being honored, in the city that bears his name. Will it be honored elsewhere?
The other day, we received an email in the office that is such a perfect example of the state of our culture that I had to share it, and offer a few comments.
Here it is:
Dear Sister –
Aren’t you tired of being a “second class” citizen in your Church?
The American public is getting so tired of the Catholic Church’s
bigotry. You should pay your taxes, mind your business and
keep you noses our of the rest of the Country’s. You have
become one of the main road blocks to health care. Shame
We are beginning to think of you all as a bunch of PARASITES.
Now, you should bear in mind that this email was not sent to me. I’m the public policy coordinator in the Family Life/Respect Life Office, and I’ve been in this business long enough to be pretty thick-skinned. I’m used to this kind of stuff. It’s actually fairly mild, in comparison to some other things that have been sent my way. After all, I once had condoms thrown at me at a public meeting of the Board of Education.
But no, this love letter was sent to a religious sister, a professed member of the Sisters of Life. Their special charism is to protect and defend the sacredness of human life. The fact that this screed was sent to her demonstrates the level of hostility that many people bear, not just to faithful professed religious women, but also to the very concept of defending the unborn.
It is also a testament to the abiding intolerance towards the Catholic Church that runs deep in American society.
I’m not sure which part of the Constitution denies the right of Catholics and the Church Herself to free speech on political affairs, or requires us to refrain from any effort to influence legislation. It must be written in invisible ink in the same penumbras and emanations in which the Supreme Court found the right to kill unborn children. Or maybe it’s like one of those adventure movies where you can use your Tom Mix decoder ring to find the real meaning of the First Amendment.
Seriously, though, this letter reflects a strong drive aimed at the secularization of the public square — the complete exclusion of religious persons and religious-based arguments. Driven by an ideological commitment to such things as abortion and “gay rights”, it seeks to tell persons of faith that they should, as our correspondent says, “mind your business and keep you [sic] noses out of the rest of the Country’s”.
Twenty-five years ago, John Cardinal O’Connor confronted this same attitude when he stepped boldly into the public square to defend the unborn. Here is what he said in response:
Bishops have every right and duty to be involved in public policy, which is a different thing altogether from politics, both because they are bishops and because they are American citizens.
All citizens should express themselves on the moral dimensions of public policy issues. Those citizens who are generally perceived as “moral leaders,” such as the bishops, have a special obligation to do so. People expect bishops to denounce unjust war and aggression, to plead for the homeless, to denounce drug traffic, racism and so on. Bishops are criticized if they remain silent about such issues.
…Actually, many bishops find that local political leaders want to involve them, the bishops, in various public policy matters, rather than vice versa. Political leaders want bishops involved in community action. It is, again, only when abortion is involved that some political leaders complain about bishops.
In short, no, we will not mind our business — even if people consider us to be “parasites”, even if they put lots of exclamation marks in their emails. We will continue to work in the secular and political arena, so that, in the words of Lumen Gentium 36, “the world may be permeated by the spirit of Christ and it may more effectively fulfill its purpose in justice, charity and peace.”
So, my State Senator thinks that I’m a bigot. Some “tolerance”.
Today, in the New York State Senate, the same-sex “marriage” bill finally came to the floor for a debate and vote. The essential argument by the supporters of the bill was that it is a matter of equality, and that the advance of history demands that the bill be passed. But mixed in with that rhetoric is a deep level of intolerance towards those who disagree.
The worst example of it came in the addresses of several Senators, including my own. He rose to the floor and directly compared opposition to same-sex “marriage” to the bigots who enacted the ugly Jim Crow laws requiring racial apartheid in the South. He even said that his parents, who survived the Holocaust, would not understand our position, implying that we are in the same category as Nazis.
This is precisely what we have been warning about all along. With the passage of laws radically redefining marriage, will inevitably come the branding of those who disagree as bigots and haters. We will be harassed and oppressed with the use of anti-discrimination laws, and the open expression of religious beliefs will be designated as hatred and even, perhaps, prosecuted under “hate crimes” laws. Catholic institutions and individuals will be pressured and will be harried out of business unless they conform to this new regime.
In other states where these laws have been debated, like Maine and California, there have been well-documented cases of retaliation against same-sex “marriage” opponents, including economic boycotts, destruction of property, and physical violence. In other states, religious institutions have been forced to close rather than recognize “marriages” that are deeply offensive to their religious beliefs.
These legislators are the same ones we would have to turn to for legal protection of our religious liberties. How sympathetic do you think they will be, having publicly compared us to haters and bigots? How sympathetic will their judicial colleagues be when we seek recourse in the courts?
Fortunately, the Senate defeated the bill today, by a wide margin. That margin reflects the general opposition of the public to the radical re-definition of marriage. This is evidenced by the fact that the issue has come before the voters of 31 other states, and authentic marriage has been upheld each time.
But this struggle will go on, and the effort by same-sex “marriage” advocates to brand us as bigots will continue.
Expect more of the same “tolerance” as the battle moves forward.
As a defender of the authentic definition of marriage — one man, one woman — I’m used to being called a “bigot” by advocates of same-sex “marriage”. After all, calling someone a “bigot” is easy. It reduces the debate to the schoolyard level of name-calling, and frees one of the need to actually engage in rational debate about real issues. Given the ease with which the term “bigot” is thrown around these days, it also has virtually no meaning whatsoever. It basically now means “someone whom I disagree with and dislike so much that I won’t even dignify their arguments with a response, so there”.
I’m also used to same-sex “marriage” advocates calling the defenders of authentic marriage “irrational”. Because, don’t you know, no reasonable, rational human being could possibly believe that marriage has the meaning that every human society has ever undertood it to have, and that nobody ever doubted until about twenty years ago. And forget about the fact that several high courts — including the New York State Court of Appeals — has held that there was a rational basis for holding to the real definition of marriage. In the lexicon of the same-sex “marriage” advocates, “irrational” now means “an argument that I disagree with so much that I won’t dignify it with a response, so there”.
Well, now a new phase of the “debate” has been reached, in which defenders of authentic marriage are suspected of being insane. People have suspected that of me for years, but now it is being confirmed.
It started with a profile in the Style section of the Washington Post of a man named Brian Brown, who is the executive director of the National Organization for Marriage, the leading advocacy group that defends authentic marriage. Mr. Brown was given a reasonably fair treatment by the WaPo, including this back-handed compliment: “The reason Brian Brown is so effective is that he is pleasantly, ruthlessly sane.” The headline of the piece follows the same theme: “Opposing Gay Unions with Sanity & a Smile”.
Well, then all hell broke loose from the forces of “tolerance”. The WaPo was deluged with outraged letters from same-sex “marriage” advocates, who were enraged that the paper could possibly portray such a “bigot” in a positive light. Finally, the “ombudsman” of the paper (the man with the thankless job of reviewing the fairness and professionalism of the journal’s stories) published a response. The details are not worth talking about, but here’s the most important line:
Finally, the headline: “Opposing Gay Unions With Sanity & a Smile.” To many readers, The Post was saying Brown’s views are sane. The headline, written by editors, not Hesse, should have been neutral.
So, one of the leading newspapers of the mainstream media thinks that it should be neutral about whether or not defenders of authentic marriage are insane. Read that again — they’re not sure that we’re sane to insist that “marriage” means a man and a woman, joined in a union that is dedicated not just to their well-being but to the procreation and education of children. They think it’s entirely possible that all of us — Pope Benedict and every Catholic bishop, President Obama, the great majority of public officials in our country, the vast majority of other religious communities, solid majorities of citizens, and every human being until twenty years ago — are bonkers, loony-tunes, loopy, crazy, wacko. An entire nation and world of insane people.
What a state of affairs that we can no longer have a rational discussion of this issue, but must instead deal with slurs on our sanity and integrity. This bodes ill for what will happen if same-sex “marriage” advocates get what they want. We will be attacked by discrimination cases, our licenses to practice our professions and operate institutions like schools and charity agencies will be endangered, and we will all be stigmatized as “bigots”.
When the entire world goes insane, sanity will be re-defined as insanity. I guess the final step will be for them to go to court and have us all involuntarily committed.
I’m not much for watching beauty pageants. My wife is beautiful, talented and congenial enough for me.
But I can’t help but be interested in what happened at the Miss USA pageant the other day. You may have seen the report in the media. Miss California was apparently a finalist in the competition, and the time came for her to answer a question from the judges. Usually, I think this consists of soft-ball questions and bland answers about world peace and helping others. This time, though, Miss California was asked a pointed question about her opinion on same-sex “marriage”.
The young lady gave what appeared to be a perfectly ordinary answer. After affirming how grateful she was for the liberty we enjoy in the United States to have a diversity of opinion, she went on to say that in her view, based on the way she was raised, marriage was between a man and a woman. She even offered a “no offense” apology in advance for anyone who disagreed with her. You would think that would be the end of the matter, and we’d move on to the baton-twirling competition, or some such thing.
Well, not in the New World. Apparently this is now a controversial opinion, and poor Miss California has been publicly derided and pilloried for giving voice to a view that everyone would have accepted implicitly as recently as ten years ago. In fact, according to some commentators, it led to her losing the pageant.
You might think this was a trivial moment, and not worth much attention. But it is actually very important, because it reveals the face of the future, and it’s not as pretty as Miss California.
One of the tactics of the same-sex “marriage” movement is to stigmatize everyone who disagrees with them, to brand them as bigots, and to silence their voices by intimidation. This is not an exaggeration. After the passage of Prop 8 in California, the names and home addresses of donors to that campaign to preserve the definition of marriage were posted on the Internet, boycotts were arranged of businesses owned by donors or that employed donors, and some donors reported receiving threats and intimidating communications. Think about that for a second — you give some money to a cause you believe in, and next thing you know your personal information is posted online and you’re a target. Tolerance? Diversity? Hah.
The goal of that movement is not to tolerate or to “celebrate diversity”, but to make same-sex “marriage” opponents sit down and shut up.
All for committing what has now become a “thought crime”, namely to favor the authentic definition of marriage as between one man and one woman.
Make no mistake about it. A “soft persecution” is coming. Institutions and individuals that support real marriage will be denied access to government programs, licenses and contracts, and professional’s ability to practice their avocations will be limited or denied, based on their opinions on same-sex “marriage”. We will be social outcasts, pariahs because of our religious beliefs.
Think I’m exaggerating? Then listen to what Frank Rich wrote the other day in an op-ed in the Times, the arbiter of acceptable opinion among our ruling elite: “It is justice, not a storm, that is gathering. Only those who have spread the poisons of bigotry and fear have any reason to be afraid.”
He’s talking about us. And that’s not the voice of reasoned discourse or civil disagreement. That’s the voice of thuggery.
Miss California has already seen the face of the future. More of us will, and soon.
It appears that our cultural mandarins have decided that the debate over same-sex “marriage” is now over. There’s no point to discussing this important social policy issue any more. There’s no role for reason any more. We must all now conform, and be re-educated.
Or at least so we’ve been told by a twice-married movie actor who has a domestic violence conviction to his name, but who thinks we should be ashamed for opposing the radical re-definition of marriage to include persons of the same sex.
Never mind the findings of respected social scientists like David Blankenhorn and others who have studied the place of marriage in society. These scholars have found that every society in history understood marriage as being between a man and a woman (at least until the Massachusetts Supreme Court held otherwise in 2003); that the natural physical sexual complementarity of man and woman is clearly designed for marriage, as is the universal human desire for unity, intimacy and parenthood; that marriage has been the most successful social structure for uniting mothers and fathers and children in a stable, multi-generational unit; that the great majority of adults (at least 85%) will marry at some point in their lives; and that it fulfills a child’s innate need for the love and guidance of both mother and father.
This is even without consulting the wisdom of every religious faith in the history of the world, all of which viewed marriage as between man and woman. Listen to what the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council said: “The well-being of the individual person and of both human and Christian society is closely bound up with the healthy state of conjugal and family life” (Gaudium et Spes 47). Until the last few years, you couldn’t have found anyone who would have disagreed with that. Now, apparently, such sentiments should be a source of shame to us.
For those who think that the debate over same-sex “marriage” doesn’t affect them, the tone of this public discourse should be a wake-up call. Not only are we denounced by movie actors, but we are routinely attacked and insulted in the press and by activists for defending marriage. If the laws are changed, and same-sex “marriage” is legalized, how do you think these people will talk about — and treat — those institutions and people who hold out for the traditional definition? Do you expect tolerance from the people who boycotted business that employed contributors to the effort to retain the traditional definition of marriage in California? Or respect from the people who forced Catholic Charities in Boston out of adoptions, because they refused to place children with same-sex couples?
So, what once was acknowledged as axiomatic by every person in society is now supposed to be a mark of shame, and identifies us as bigots. Now that the debate is apparently over, I guess it’s open season for calumny and invective. So much for tolerance. So much for reason.
As we sit here, preparing for Christmas, it is the calm before the next storm. Soon, our religious liberties will be under attack in a way not seen since the early days of the Republic. And I’m not talking about the annual battle over crèches or menorahs.
With the upcoming changes in control of the New York State Senate, and the incoming Administration and new Congress in Washington, several pieces of legislation pose significant and alarming threats to our freedom of conscience. In Albany, we’re talking about the “Reproductive Health and Privacy Protection Act” (“RHAPP”) and the same-sex “marriage” bill. In Washington, we’re looking at the “Freedom of Choice Act” (“FOCA”) and various other regulations that affect religious freedom. Here in New York City we’ve got the new abortion clinic access bill.
FOCA or RHAPP are both extreme bills that would establish abortion as a “fundamental right”, and make it impossible to pass common-sense regulations of abortion, like parental notification laws. But they would also undermine or eliminate the conscience protections in law that protect religious liberties, under the guise of eliminating “discrimination” against the newly-recognized “fundamental right”. Church-owned hospitals, social service agencies, and schools could be required to promote, perform, or refer for abortions. Our schools could be required to help pregnant girls to get an abortion, or risk being sued for “discrimination”. And the licenses of doctors, nurses, and other professionals could be at risk if they don’t promote, perform or refer for abortions.
Also on the federal level, the current Administration has put forward proposed regulations that would grant greater protection to doctors, nurses, and health care institutions that have conscientious objections to abortion and other morally-objectionable procedures. As simple as that sounds, there has been talk that the new Administration may rescind those regulations as soon as it takes office.
Legalizing “same sex marriage” in Albany would also inevitably endanger religious liberty. Proclaiming Church teaching about homosexual behavior will be called “bigotry” or even prosecuted as “hate speech”. Religious organizations will be coerced into recognizing the equivalence of marriage and same-sex relationships, and we will be forced to withdraw from important activities, such as education and social service. We’ve seen this threat in some areas, with broadly drafted “human rights” bills, and it’s already happened in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom.
The new clinic access bill before the City Council has been deliberately drafted to be so vague as to chill the free speech rights of sidewalk counselors outside abortion clinics. It is even possible that people who merely want to pray outside of the clinics will be the subject of harassing arrests and lawsuits, merely because they want to give witness to their faith and their belief in the dignity of human life.
On top of all of this we have the anti-religious ugliness in the reaction to the passage of Prop 8, the California law that preserved the traditional meaning of marriage. We’re still waiting for the wave of condemnation of this bigotry from the media and the political classes.
The common theme here is a hostility to the religious belief, and an apparent desire to expel religious believers from public debate and from certain professions or businesses. In essence, we would be forced to do things against our conscience, and be forced to stop teaching what we believe.
To be authentic disciples of Christ, we must bring our religious beliefs into the public square and robustly debate them with those of differing views. We will not be silent, or be intimidated into silence.
We will not sit down and shut up.