Showing posts with label Supreme Court. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Supreme Court. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

It's Time For Marriage Equality

photo courtesy of Becky Kirkland Kremkau

The Supreme Court of the United States is hearing arguments today and tomorrow which could have a decisive impact upon federal law regarding marriage equality. I'm traveling this week, so I'll drop off a roundup of good articles on the topic. This post will be updated later today.

History in Real Times, Charles M. Blow, New York Times, March 27, 2013.

Will we move into the future guided by ancient religious texts or current scientific ones? Will we follow the dictates of supposed deities or the prescript of universal dignity?
This is not to begrudge anyone their faith — whatever gets you through the night, brothers and sisters. Rather, it is to say that you should be free to have your faith govern your life but not to extend it to the governance of others’ lives.
I strongly believe in the sovereignty of self — the idea that you are the sole dictate of your own body and your own life as long as no one else is unwittingly or willingly negatively influenced by your choices.

The last, worst argument against gay marriage, Alex Pareene, Salon, March 26, 2013.
In other words, gay marriage is banned because the purpose of marriage, and the reason the state has an interest in involving itself with marriage, is to help ensure that as many children as possible are raised by their biological parents...But if the argument is that we have to go back to the day when marriage was effectively something society forced couples to do in order to make sure their children had stable homes, that argument should be made more plainly. Don’t just protect Traditional Marriage, Supreme Court: Ban divorce!

Gay Marriage Arguments: Cell Phones, The Internet and Fertility After 55, Liz Halloran, NPR It's All Politics, March 26, 2013.
The U.S. Supreme Court heard lively arguments Tuesday in a challenge to California's Proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriages.
And, as many learned painfully after last year's court decision to uphold Obamacare, it is risky business to predict how justices will rule later based on questions raised in arguments.
So we won't.
Instead, here are five areas of discussion we found interesting, even if they may not prove predictive of the outcome.

Human Rights Campaign Red Marriage Equality Sign Goes Viral, Nolan Kraszkiewicz, policymic, March 26, 2013.

You might have woken up this morning to find your Facebook or Twitter news feed covered in a pink and red equal sign and been curious as to the image's origin. Well, here are the details...

A Decision That Could Change America, Bill Mears and Michael Pearson, CNN, March 26, 2013.
As partisans argued pointedly over same-sex marriage outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday, justices inside hinted at their disparate views on the hot-button issue -- with some of them questioning whether they should consider the case at all.
What's at stake, potentially, is whether the court extends a sweeping constitutional right for gays and lesbians to wed in all 50 states...

At Supreme Court, Marriage Equality Foes' Best Argument Is That They're Losing, Adam Serwer, Mother Jones, March 26, 2013.
Perhaps mindful of history, the conservative justices mostly argued that marriage was really old and shouldn't be messed with. Same-sex marriage is younger than "cell phones or the Internet," Justice Samuel Alito noted. Chief Justice John Roberts worried about change to an "institution that's been around since time immemorial." Later, Roberts suggested that since children of same-sex couples are doing okay there's no need to recognize their parents' relationships as marriages—an obvious catch-22, since if research showed children in families headed by same-sex partners doing poorly opponents of same-sex marriage would use that research to argue against allowing same-sex couples to marry.

Marriage Equality vs. Supreme Court: Our View, The Editorial Board, USA Today, March 26, 2013.
When the court issues its rulings, likely in June, the best outcome would be a guarantee of equal rights that leaves room for states to decide the means.
If that's not possible, public opinion and civil rights history both suggest the court's choice could be less whether to endorse gay marriage than when and how.

The Weight of History: Marriage Equality at the Supreme Court, John Becker, Huffington Post, March 26, 2013.
No one knows for certain how the arguments today or tomorrow will go, nor do we know how the Supreme Court will rule in June. But we do know that the day will soon come when LGBT individuals, couples, and families are equally protected under the law. We know it won't be long until we are fully and wholly included in the lofty American ideals of liberty and justice for all. And we know that we will win this fight.
The full weight of our history has come to bear today, and I know it will ultimately tip the scales toward justice, toward love.

Abbreviated Pundit Roundup: Marriage Equality and the Supreme Court, Georgia Logothetis, DailyKos, March 26, 2013.


Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Affordable Healthcare Act Stands!

The news is good:  The Supreme Court has upheld the Affordable Healthcare Act in its entirety.  Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the decision for the majority, affirming the provisions for the act, including the individual health insurance mandate.

Roberts did manage to throw one big, meaty bone to the Republicans:

"The Federal Government does not have the power to order people to buy health insurance. Section 5000A would therefore be unconstitutional if read as a command. The Federal Government does have the power to impose a tax on those without health insurance. Section 5000A is therefore constitutional, because it can reasonably be read as a tax," Roberts said in his opinion. (emphasis mine).

Look for a quick turnaround in Republican campaign strategy now as they raise the spectre of new taxation.  This will no doubt inflame the teavangelicals and the rabid fringe (Bachman, et al). Supporters of healthcare reform need to get to work immediately to counter the inevitable lies and fear tactics leading up to the November election.

But for today, let us all celebrate the fact that for the second time in recent memory, the Supreme Court has done (mostly) the right thing:  The Affordable Healthcare Act has been ruled constitutional.

Here is a brief look at what that means to Americans as individuals and for businesses.

NPR coverage.

New York Times.

I'm still on the road, but will pull together as much information as I can, and will post links to sources and analysis.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Teach Your Children Well

A little girl at "Jesus Camp" expresses her "joy" in the Christian gospel while other children look on uncertainly.

Two recent FreeThoughtBlogs posts reminded me that I haven't posted often enough recently about the improper use of public schools by religious groups to indoctrinate children into their terrifying "faiths". One would think that the public discussions of Jesus Camp, and the disturbing videos which came out about it, would have alerted concerned parents to the danger of letting religion have a free pass to indoctrinate their youngsters, but apparently not.  Religion is given a pass once more.  Actually, religion is not just given a pass but is still presumed to be, on the whole, a positive and good thing for children, even by parents who would be horrified if they knew the true intentions of religious proselytizers who have targeted their children for training as warriors for Jesus.

Both Ophelia Benson and PZ Myers posted this morning about the Good News Club, an explicitly Christian evangelical initiative of a group which calls itself the Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF), whose number and influence in schools and communities has been growing at an alarming rate.  A recent article in the Guardian by Katherine Stewart (author of The Good News Club: The Christian Right's Stealth Assault on America's Children) has broken the story that the clubs, emboldened by the protection of a bad 2001 Supreme Court decision, are no longer bothering to even pretend that their real agenda is not proselytizing and grooming Christian warriors:

The CEF has been teaching the story of the Amalekites at least since 1973. In its earlier curriculum materials, CEF was euphemistic about the bloodshed, saying simply that "the Amalekites were completely defeated." In the most recent version of the curriculum, however, the group is quite eager to drive the message home to its elementary school students. The first thing the curriculum makes clear is that if God gives instructions to kill a group of people, you must kill every last one:

"You are to go and completely destroy the Amalekites (AM-uh-leck-ites) – people, animals, every living thing. Nothing shall be left."

"That was pretty clear, wasn't it?" the manual tells the teachers to say to the kids.

The Slaughter of the Amalekites
Asking if Saul would "pass the test" of obedience, the text points to Saul's failure to annihilate every last Amalekite, posing the rhetorical question:

"If you are asked to do something, how much of it do you need to do before you can say, 'I did it!'?"

"If only Saul had been willing to seek God for strength to obey!" the lesson concludes.

Even more important, the Good News Club wants the children to know, the Amalakites were targeted for destruction on account of their religion, or lack of it. The instruction manual reads:

"The Amalekites had heard about Israel's true and living God many years before, but they refused to believe in him. The Amalekites refused to believe in God and God had promised punishment." Katherine Stewart, The Guardian.

These fundamentalist Christian proselytizing vehicles won the right to insert themselves into public schools under the deceptive and insidious ruling (one of the few majority opinions authored by the conservative Clarence Thomas) in 2001. In that decision (Good News Club vs Milford Central School), the Supreme Court Justice disingenuously agreed with the CEF defense that the clubs were not religious in nature at all, but were merely clubs performing the laudable function of “teaching of morals and character development from a particular viewpoint”. Nothing to worry about there, right? But, wait. Here is the CEF viewpoint, straight from their "About Us" webpage:

Jesus Camps and Good News Clubs:
nothing but good, harmless fun!
"Child Evangelism Fellowship® (CEF®) is a Bible-centered, worldwide organization that is dedicated to seeing every child reached with the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, discipled and established in a local church."

Many parents uncritically accept these clubs as being harmlessly what their deliberately kid-friendly name implies: a club for fun and belonging, in the spirit of the Good News Bears. They either do not realise or do not want to realise that the raison d'ĂȘtre of Good News Clubs is to convert children and turn them into Christian evangelicals.  These clubs are designed to pull in children under false pretenses (in many cases offering after-school care which is almost irresistible to parents who are struggling with poorly paid jobs and a lack of affordable child-care which is becoming a national crisis) and then convert them to fundamentalist Christianity. The benign-sounding name, the lure of a fun-sounding "club" and the fact that the children are often strongly encouraged to join by respected authorities (the schools) are all part of an insidious strategy to gain access to children without the truly informed consent of their parents and, obviously, of the children themselves. School acceptance of these clubs, mandated by the Supreme Court, means that both children and their parents are deceived into thinking that the secular, public schools endorse these religious clubs - and that there is no deeper agenda - which is one of the main reasons why the CEF fought so hard and so dishonestly to get them into public schools in the first place.

The Christian church has long used childhood indoctrination to ensure that obedient and thoroughly cowed legions of believers continue to swell their ranks, providing them with the power of numbers, financial wealth and, of course, warriors willing to die for their god/church/divinely appointed rulers. It has always been in the interest of those who hold power to have a large faith following, and religion has provided both the means and the ends.

"Knock down all doors, all the barriers,
to all 65,000 public elementary schools in America
 and take the Gospel to this open mission field now!
Not later, now!"

(CEF  national convention keynote speech, 2010)
There was empirical evidence behind the oft-quoted assertion of St. Francis Xavier (one of the first Jesuits, a Catholic order of priests famed as educators): "Give me the child until he is seven and I will give you the man (alternatively: "and I care not who has him thereafter"). The well-educated, observant and intelligent Jesuits had noticed that people who are thoroughly indoctrinated in religious dogma in early childhood retain those beliefs throughout life, while people in whom religious belief has not been inculcated early are more difficult to convert - and to control. They realized, though they did not have the language to describe it yet, that the psychological impact of early indoctrination - particularly indoctrination based upon fear and confusion - usually lasts a lifetime.

Young children have no defenses against deliberate indoctrination. When they are taught to fear a god through stories which illustrate the god's relentlessly violent and implacably unforgiving reaction - not to lying, stealing and murdering which the Biblical god often condones and even orders, but to disbelief and disobedience - they learn the lesson through fear and they learn it well.  The Biblical god is a terrifyingly powerful "awesome" god and the one "sin" He will never forgive is lack of belief. The children are primed first with the "fun" and then the stories are told, gradually leading to the point when the children are tearfully, fearfully professing "belief".

Research has shown that one of the most powerful human motivators is fear, and one of the most difficult psychological challenges to overcome is irrational fear, especially fear that has taken root in the mind at an early age. Religious proselytizers know this, and this is why they are so insistent upon childhood indoctrination. Children are vulnerable to lifelong damage from the powerful emotional appeal of fear and guilt-based religious proselytizing.  They cannot "unthink" terrible thoughts which have been planted in their minds early. They cannot "unfeel" the horror and the fear that is elicited in their psyches through early Bible instruction.

Religious eschatology - and the terrifying images it evokes - is nothing less than psychological abuse of children. Yet, not only are parents permitted to subject their own children to these horrors, but religious groups are being permitted to sneak their fundamentalist religious indoctrination into public and private schools where they can prey on other peoples' children as well. In fact, gaining access to the children of parents who would not voluntarily subject their children to this violent, misanthropic and destructive theology is precisely the purpose of the Good News Club.

What we don't want to know
may seriously harm the USA.
The CEF is an explicitly evangelical, explicitly fundamentalist, explicitly and unapologetically Christian group and by continuing to be willfully blind to their purpose, parents are participating in the indoctrination of their children into extremist religion, whether they want to admit it to themselves or not. It is vital that more people speak out about this strategy of the religious right. They have already insinuated themselves into thousands of public schools in the USA and around the world, and they do not intend to stop until they have converted everyone.

Telling ourselves that one powerful religious group really cannot take over like that; kidding ourselves that the first amendment will protect people from religious tyranny is being willfully blind, deaf and dumb. As we have seen with the concurrent (and not coincidental) strategy of powerful groups to get issues affecting minorities' Constitutional rights onto ballots so that they can be put to a majority vote, the longterm objectives of the conservative right wing have been carefully and patiently planned. There is a real danger that the majority can use its power and clout to force their view on the minority until the power is so nearly total that complete annihilation of opposing viewpoints is achieved. That is where the freedom from religion part should have come in – if the court had not also been swayed by the power of the Christian majority. The issue is now urgent.

PZ's post    Ophelia's post, Kill Them All, Children.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Attention Supreme Court: The People Will Decide

Another in the long line of inexplicably "surprising"  revelations that seem to be coming fast and furious these days:  a Pew Research Council poll shows that public disapproval of the U.S. Supreme Court has tripled during the hearings regarding the Affordable Healthcare Act.  The American people have registered their awareness, once again, that conservative lies criticisms about progressive trickery are more often than not breathtakingly brazen projection.  The "activist liberal judges" we have heard so much about for so many years have failed to materialize in any powerful way, while the United States Supreme Court has been stocked with activist Republican conservatives. Finally, the American people seem to be waking up to this reality.

The religious right and the libertarian wing of the Republican party have long accused "the left" of a litany of evils ranging from the myth of the "liberal media" to the incredible accusation that "godless socialists" were bent on destroying this country. For years, the fiction that these "dangers" from the left not only exist but are a threat to all patriotic Americans has been promulgated and, unbelievably, accepted by a majority of conservatives and even some liberals in the USA. Always prominent among these false claims was the suspicious accusation that the left was somehow packing the judicial benches across the land with "activist" judges.

Even while their own churches and business leadership were busy organizing followers to do their bidding in the voting booth, even while powerful conservative backers were financing the establishment of a network of schools and colleges to produce an entire generation of dedicated workers for their pro-religion, anti-social cause, even while libertarian billionaires and billionaire churches planned and financed a scheme to infiltrate every school, every influential profession and every level of government, right-wing American leaders and their followers continued to accuse the left - that scary, elitist, monolithic left - of trying to do the very thing that they were actually doing.

Patrick Henry College est. 2000
It was the uncertainty and unease felt by the great American middle class following the social and sexual revolution of the 1960's that set the stage for the right wing's greatest opportunity, and its leadership did not waste it. Acting quickly to fill the void that social turmoil often brings to the collective psyche of a population, the religious right shifted its proselytizing and church-planting into high gear. Money was poured into the establishment of Christian schools and "colleges" which popped up all over the country seemingly overnight.  Massive infusions of cash from the coffers of wealthy churches and like-minded wealthy corporations enabled the construction of old-looking, brand new campuses, to give the air of legitimacy to institutions created for the singular purpose of graduating a generation of ideologically-driven businessmen, lawyers, doctors and politicians to fill the leadership positions in the future, theocratic, conservative America of their dreams.

Yet, notwithstanding such a well-financed and determined strategy, the right-wing has found it an uphill battle to beat down and crush the independent American thinker. The traditional wide band of moderate Americans in the center of most policy debates throughout our modern history has been eroded far more slowly than the so-called "moral majority" might have expected given their relentless religious and political proselytizing.  Even at the pinnacle of their power in 2004, the extreme right was only able to grab the top ring of political power with a surprisingly small margin, barely heaved over the finish line by an incumbency that was only made possible by an activist Supreme Court, disturbing voting irregularities and the fear and uncertainty of war.  The fact that - even with a well-funded, carefully-planned, long-term strategy to undermine and further weaken the American social contract using religious indoctrination and inflammatory political propaganda - right-wing conservatives have only managed to thoroughly convert roughly 30% of the population to their extreme ideology says something encouraging about the resilience and independent toughness of the moderate American center.

Polls taken last week indicated public support for the Affordable Healthcare Act is split along partisan lines, but that support is rising as the provisions of the Act are beginning to go into effect. A small majority want the bill struck down by the Supreme Court - many because they think the Act goes too far, but some because they object that the Act does not go far enough. This comes in spite of the fact that, when questioned about specific provisions of the law, a much larger majority of respondents actually support many of them!  While the libertarian arm of the Republican propaganda machine (via conservative-dominated media) has seemed to succeed in muddying the waters in the short term, it seems that the American public is beginning to smell a rat. The Pew Research Council poll may be the proverbial canary in the mine: an early indicator that deep in the heart of America, a sense of the fundamental inappropriateness of an unelected body potentially striking down a law which was passed by democratically elected representatives of the people is beginning to reassert itself.

David Frum had an interesting take on the role of the Supreme Court in the election (!) last week on the Daily Beast.  Frum believes that, this time, even a high court stocked with hand-picked conservative ideologues might not bow to partisan pressure to use its unelected power to influence a hugely important matter of public governance - not even to bolster the flagging fortunes of the current crop of Republican primary contenders.  The nine justices may actually perform their constitutionally-defined duty, and nothing more, to the frustration of the conservatives who expect obedience from them,  and to the relief of progressives everywhere.  It is the American people who hold the right to decide in November whether they are satisfied with the work of the current congress.

Out of an apparent "going for broke" recklessness, virtually all of the Republican leadership has openly joined in this intensely partisan and miserably destructive strategy to polarize the American public in order to eke out political victories by small but sufficient margins to retain power. I suppose there may be a cleverly hidden strategy behind this latest spectacle.  What appears to be the disintegration of the GOP might in fact be the birth pangs of yet another well-orchestrated power play, but from where I sit it looks like a nuclear, if temporary, implosion.  They did their worst,  but the extreme right-wing could not completely win over the great American middle. The Pew poll seems to suggest that any attempt by the Supreme Court to interfere politically on behalf of the Republican agenda will be viewed with disapproval by the American public, particularly by progressives and independents.

And that is very good news to me.

* Update: Maureen Dowd's column Men in Black on this topic is a must read.