The Religion Of Intolerance II

“I’m gonna kill you, Marty!  And strangle you!  Then I’m gonna bury you, then dig you up and clone you, and kill all your clones!”

            —Ben Stiller as the voice of Alex the Lion in Madagascar

Meet Rimsha Masih.  Rimsha is a Christian living in Pakistan in a village near Islamabad.  She is currently in prison facing execution for violation of Pakistan’s Islamic blasphemy laws.  Her crime?  She supposedly burned some pages from a schoolbook that contained verses from the Koran.

Rimsha is 11 years old.  And she has Down syndrome.

According to news reports, Rimsha was attacked by her fellow villagers after a Muslim neighbor accused her of the burning.  Police took her into protective custody, but a mob laid siege to the police station, forcing them to turn her over for imprisonment and ultimately for execution.  Mosque loudspeakers broadcast reports of the girl’s “crimes,” leading hundreds to flee, fearing wider-spread retribution against Christians.  Although Pakistan’s President Asif Al Zardani apparently has called for some kind of investigation, the girl’s fate remains in limbo.  But unless he and the myriad international groups protesting the incident are able to intervene—and nothing to this point suggests they will be able to do so—these people are going to kill a mentally handicapped little girl in the name of Allah because she (allegedly) burned a piece of paper.

Is the almighty Allah really so impotent that He cannot take care of Himself vis-à-vis an obviously impaired child armed with a match?

If this doesn’t convince you that there is simply no coexisting with these people, I’m not sure I can help you.  Call me a racist.  Call me a bigot.  I really don’t care.  But make no mistake: it’s their way or the grave, and Brother, there ain’t no in between.

Recall the incident several months ago when there was widespread rioting in Afghanistan over the inadvertent burning of some Korans by American troops.  Rioting.  Over the burning of a book.  The State Department ultimately apologized for that, but that still didn’t prevent weeks of violent outrage, including the murders of several U.S. servicemen.  Little Rimsha did even less than the American troops; she is not accused of mishandling even one copy of the holy book.  We’re talking about a few pages from a schoolbook that reprinted some verses.

Stop telling me Islam is a religion of peace.  Peaceful people don’t fly into a murderous rampage over a book, however holy it might be.  Peaceful people don’t execute little girls over a scrap of paper.

Rusty, you paint with too broad a brush—this is a tragedy, but it’s just one incident.

Really?

Just last month a couple in Mali was stoned to death by an Islamist mob for having children out of wedlock.  In May a young woman was stoned and beaten by a Muslim crowd in Morocco because she dressed immodestly, in their humble estimation.  In 2008, on the orders of an Islamic court in Somalia, a 13 year old victim of a gang rape was stoned to death for her “adultery” in a stadium full of 1,000 men.  Five minutes on the Internet and you will find more than your fill of horrifying video of stoning after stoning for any number of offenses against Islam.  Even here in the U.S., in June a group of Christian missionaries was stoned and beaten by Muslims at a gathering in Dearborn, Michigan, because they didn’t like the Christians’ signs.

Still think murderous violence in the name of Islam and its tenets is confined to isolated incidents?

Are you familiar with the concept of “honor killings”?  This is the almost exclusively Muslim phenomenon of men—usually fathers or brothers—killing their wives/sisters/daughters who have dishonored the family, typically for some form of indiscreet behavior or refusing an arranged marriage.  In 2008 Yasir Said killed his 18 and 17 year old daughters in Texas because they were dating non-Muslim boys.  In 2009 19 year old Noor Ameleki’s father ran her over with a car after she refused to leave Arizona for an arranged marriage in Iraq.  In 2009 Mohammed Shafia, his wife, and his son, killed his three daughters and other wife in Canada over  the daughters’ immodest clothing, Christian boyfriends, and use of condoms.   The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan estimated that in 2011 there were over 900 honor killings in Pakistan alone–exactly three (less than 1/3 of 1%) involved non-Muslims.

The fact is violent rampages and murder over infractions of their religious sensibilities—particularly against women and Christians—are not unusual behavior for the Islamists.  These are the same people whose leaders issued fatwas in 1989 making it every Muslim’s solemn religious duty to kill Salman Rushdie over his novel The Satanic Verses, because it was an affront to Allah.  The same people whose leaders similarly called for Muslims to kill Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks in 2007 for his cartoons depicting Mohammed.  The same people whose leaders have publicly called for the stoning to death of all homosexuals.

These are serious, dangerous, violent people.  Everything is death, death, death, all in the name of their holy Allah.  Death to America.  Death to Israel.  Death to you, you adulterous Infidel, you dishonored woman, you gay man.  Death to you, novelist and cartoonist, for offending Allah, Mohammed, and Islam.

Death to you, little girl.

Peaceful and tolerant my ass.

Rusty, these are just the acts of some extremists; they don’t represent mainstream Islam.

Really?

We keep being told this.  But here’s my question:  if these madmen are only a small extremist minority, why hasn’t the peaceful majority put a stop to them?  I’ve said this before:  the so-called peaceful majority knows who and where these people are.  If the majority is as peaceful as they claim, don’t you think at some point they’d be tired of being linked to these rabid animals?  Don’t you think at some point they would feel compelled to be at the forefront of shutting these people down and shutting them up?  Actions speak a hell of a lot louder than words, and tepid protests that Islam is a religion of peace and that the extremists are not representative of the whole ring very, very hollow in the absence of any meaningful move by the Muslim majority actually to root out and stop the religious-based violence that at least has the appearance of being the real face of Islam.

I’d like to be proven wrong on this.  I’d like for the Muslim world to stand up and show me how peaceful and tolerant they really are by standing up to and stopping what they keep telling me is the radical fringe.

I only hope they do it in time for little Rimsha.

UPDATE 9/3/2012:  It now appears that a Muslim cleric framed this little girl in an effort to rid the land of Christians.  Now both are in prison on blasphemy charges, which I think still makes my point.

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Eat Mor Chikin

Saleswoman:  Are you looking for something in particular?
Vivian:            No.  Well, yeah.  Something . . . conservative.
Saleswoman:  Yes.
Vivian:            You got nice stuff.
Saleswoman:  Thank you.
Vivian:            How much is this?
Saleswoman:  I don’t think this would fit you.
Vivian:            Well, I didn’t ask if it would fit, I asked how much it was.
Saleswoman:  How much is this, Marie?
Marie:             It’s *very* expensive.
Saleswoman:  It’s *very* expensive.
Vivian:            Look, I got money to spend in here.
Saleswoman:  I don’t think we have anything for you.
Marie:             You’re obviously in the wrong place.
Saleswoman:  Please leave.
            —Dey Young as Saleswoman, Julia Roberts as Vivian, and Shane Ross as Marie in Pretty Woman 
Isn’t it funny, for all their talk about diversity and tolerance and inclusion and open debate, how quickly the Left moves to silence through the force of government anyone who disagrees with them?
Most of you have at least a passing familiarity with the fast food chain Chick-Fil-A.  Many of you may also be aware that the company remains privately held by its founder Truett Cathy and the Cathy family, and that in keeping with their Southern Baptist beliefs the restaurants are closed on Sundays and holidays.  A few of you may know that the Cathys have incorporated their beliefs into their business by embedding them in the company’s statement of purpose.  You may not share their convictions, but these are people who at least have all the appearance of being serious about trying to live out their faith as they understand it.
Well, it seems that earlier this month the company’s COO Dan Cathy gave a couple of interviews in which he acknowledged his family’s support for what they see as the biblical definition of the family unit.  While as far as I can tell he never outright said his family is opposed to same-sex marriage, he did say that they invite God’s judgment when we try to redefine what marriage means.  Again, you may disagree with him on this issue, and that’s fine.  I’m not here to debate the merits of same-sex marriage (at least not this time).  What is undeniable is that opposition to same-sex marriage on biblical grounds as they understand them is in fact the teaching and position of the Southern Baptist Convention:
“We affirm God’s plan for marriage and sexual intimacy—one man, and one woman, for life.  Homosexuality is not a ‘valid alternative lifestyle.’  The Bible condemns it as sin.  It is not, however, unforgiveable sin.  The same redemption available to all sinners is available to homosexuals.  They, too, may become new creations in Christ.”
If you’re going to claim to be a Southern Baptist, as the Cathys do, this is part of what you’ve signed up for.
As you might imagine, with Cathy’s public invocation of God in opposition to anything gay, all Hell broke loose.  Boston Mayor Thomas Menino announced that, by the infinite power vested in him, he would not permit Chick-Fil-A to open any more restaurants in Boston.  Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Alderman Joe Moreno have likewise said they will use local government to ban Chick-Fil-A restaurants from opening in Chicago.  According to Emanuel, “if you’re going to be part of the Chicago community, you should reflect Chicago values.”  A similar ban is in place in the San Francisco suburb of Mountain View, California.
I see.  If anyone disagrees with the community’s “values”—as Emanuel defines them—they should be run out of town.  In other words, agree with me, or leave.
Let’s be clear about something.  Neither Chick-Fil-A nor the Cathy family, so far as I can find, has said they won’t serve gays, or that they’ll require gays to eat in a segregated part of their restaurants.  No one has charged them with discriminatory hiring practices.  I’m not even aware that they ask anyone entering their restaurants whether they’re gay.  All Mr. Cathy said was that because of his religious beliefs he opposes gay marriage.  And while you may disagree with him until your blood boils dry, let me let you in on a little secret:
He’s absolutely entitled to that belief, whether you like it or not.
The dangerous problem with the gay lobby in this country is they’re no longer about acceptance or tolerance.  They are about force-feeding you their lifestyle, ideology, and worldview and compelling you affirmatively to agree with it.  It’s not enough for you to leave them alone to be however they will be; you must change your beliefs to adopt theirs, and if you don’t they’ll use the force of government to bludgeon you back in line.  Dissent is not tolerated.
So in these cities controlled by the Left, anyone who disagrees with the Left’s views on gay marriage is now going to be put out of business.  By the government.  This is exactly the sort of tyranny against which the Constitution was intended to protect.
Let’s start with Article VI’s Supremacy Clause:  “This Constitution . . . shall be the supreme Law of the Land.”  There is no authority, federal, state, or local, that overrides the Constitution.  Not even Rahm Emanuel. 
Then we have the First Amendment:  “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof[.]”  The government can’t take action that prevents a person from acting in accordance with their religious beliefs.  Even if it disagrees with those beliefs.  [As an aside, yes, the First Amendment applies via the Fourteenth Amendment to state and local governments, too.  SeeGitlow v. New York, 268 U.S. 652 (1925), and its progeny.]  And the First Amendment continues: “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech[.]”  Not only can the government not prevent you from worshipping as you choose, it also can’t prevent you from talking about your faith.  As Justice David Souter wrote in Board of Education v. Grumet, 512 U.S. 687 (1994), “government should not prefer one religion to another, or religion to irreligion.”  In other words, government is forbidden from drawing distinctions between citizens based on their religious beliefs.  The Fourteenth Amendment bolsters this by guaranteeing equal treatment under the law for all citizens:  “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State . . . deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”  Nothing limits this protection to citizens who agree with the majority, or to persons whose values reflect the values of the locality. 
This is an exceedingly dangerous construct that’s developing.  Despite the First Amendment’s guarantees of free speech and religion, and the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection, we have government denying the right to do business to someone solely because their expression of their religious beliefs conflicts with the views of others.  And notice the arrogance; we have a total of three government officials purporting to state what the beliefs and values are of metropolitan areas with literally millions of residents.  Emanuel talks about “Chicago values,” as though the nearly 3 million inhabitants of that city share a single monolithic belief system.  Presumably if Chick-Fil-A’s and the Cathy family’s values are that antithetical to those of Chicagoans, Chicagoans won’t patronize the restaurants and they’ll be gone in fairly short order. 
But rather than allow Chicago’s residents to decide for themselves what their beliefs are and to act accordingly, Emanuel is taking it upon himself to declare unilaterally what those values are, and then is going to apply the force of government to discriminate between citizens based on that declaration.  Those who agree with what Emanuel says are Chicago’s values can stay and do business.  Those who do not, have to close up shop and leave.  A single man choosing who stays and who goes, who may do business and who may not, based solely on whether he agrees with their religious convictions.
Whether you agree or disagree with Don Cathy’s views on gay marriage, this kind of government reaction to an individual’s statement of his beliefs should scare the bejeezus out of you. 

Too Little Too Late

 
First they came for the Communists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—
And there was no one left to speak out for me.
            —Rev. Martin Niemöller (at various times, and in various versions)
You’ve probably seen that a series of lawsuits has been filed by various Catholic organizations challenging the abortion-funding and contraception mandates emanating from Obamacare.  Timothy Cardinal Dolan, leading the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, has been most vocal in opposition to these obvious intrusions into Catholics’ free exercise of their religious convictions.  And rightly so.
But my question to Cardinal Dolan and others is:  Where have you been?
To begin with, while I applaud the recent outspokenness, I have to say that the sudden righteous indignation over government mandates involving abortion and contraception rings a bit hollow.  Granted, I’m a recent arrival to the Church via the RCIA process.  But in the five years I’ve been attending Mass I can count on two fingers the times I’ve heard any discussion of the Church’s teaching about human life and the abortion/contraception issue (and we didn’t cover it in RCIA at all).  This is not a cafeteria plan elective issue—it’s fundamental to the faith.  Yet my experience has been that by and large we deal with it by not dealing with it, particularly when it’s come to challenging the District.  I’m not aware of Sean Cardinal O’Malley in Boston, or Donald Cardinal Wuerl in Washington, D.C., or Archbishop George Niederauer in San Francisco, or Archbishop Joseph Naumann in Kansas City, or Bishop Francis Malooly in Wilmington so much as denying communion to, much less excommunicating “Catholic” politicians like Vice President Joe Biden (D-DE), Senator John Kerry (D-MA), Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), or HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius (D-KS), all of whom have actively pushed pro-abortion and pro-contraception policies directly in conflict with the Church’s teaching.  The Church whines the whine now, but it has to a certain extent failed to walk the walk on the abortion/contraception issue. 
  
That said, there’s a larger point at work here.
I’ve been discussing this issue off and on with a buddy of mine for awhile.  The USCCB and others complain now that the federal government’s overstepping has landed squarely on their First Amendment toes.  But this has been something that was coming for a long time, and they’ve not only been silent as government creep has swallowed liberty in other areas, they’ve actually been actively cheering it on.  In other words, for all their current complaining about government overreach, the Obamacare problem is something Catholic leadership in the U.S. has to a large degree brought on itself by consistently supporting an ever-expanding federal government to accomplish objectives that are more properly the province of the private efforts of the Church. 
Consider (and h/t to Brutus for feeding me most of these links):  

  • The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has been favoring a government overhaul of healthcare since 1919.  In short, the USCCB has for a century advocated that the government nationalize this private industry, and that health care for one person be paid for with tax dollars taken from another.  
  • Continuing an at least tacit opposition to free markets and private property, the Church—apparently including at least some U.S. Bishops—supported the “basic sentiment” of the “Occupy” movement, including the government-forced redistribution of wealth,and global “regulation” of economies.  
  • As far back as at least 2001, the USCCB was advocating for government “stimulus,” again forcibly redistributing wealth by taking it from one person in the form of taxes, and giving it to another in the form of “benefits.”  
  • The USCCB opposed Representative Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) budget in part because it took measures to deal with the fraud endemic in the Child Care Tax credit.    Recall, as I reported here that billions were being lost through this program as illegal aliens were claiming credits—resulting in their receiving actual checks from the U.S. Treasury—for children that did not exist, or were not in this country.  But no matter to the Church, even though through this fraud illegals are literally stealing money from taxpayers.  
  • And the USCCB has advocated the creation of a National Housing Trust Fund, to create housing funded through taxpayer money siphoned from FHA and Ginnie Mae.

The Church has excelled at supporting social issues through its charitable works for millennia.  In the U.S., for over 100 years Catholic Charities USA has been working to reduce poverty and hunger—in 2010 alone CCUSA fed over 7 million people, and provided various social services to over 10 million.  There are over 400 Catholic hospitals in the U.S.  Nearly 7,000 Catholic primary and secondary schools boast a total enrollment of over 2 million children.  There are 244 Catholic colleges and universities.

Where the Church and the Bishops run astray is when they seek to accomplish their social mission through government.  The Church can collect and distribute alms, and when it’s voluntary  that’s fine.  But she goes too far when she attempts to use the force of government to extract those alms at the point of a federal bayonet.  Yet time and again the Church, and more specifically the USCCB, has advocated just that, apparently with no regard for the intrusion on free markets and private property rights such efforts pose.
I’ve written on this subject before.  God instructed us to be our brother’s keeper, but what God expects from us is always voluntary.  As the USCCB should well know, in our Catholic liturgy, during the Eucharistic Prayer at every Mass the priest recites that even Jesus’ Passion—the ultimate social justice program—was something into which He “entered willingly.”  God gave us free will, and when we look at social works in a biblical context, it is the willingness to give that is the touchstone, not accomplishing charitable aims by any means necessary, including force of government.

For too long the Church in the U.S. has misunderstood the proper role of government in our constitutional republic, and failed to appreciate the ramifications of the ratchet effect inevitably associated with government creep.  The Bishops cheered the expansion of government when it furthered the Church’s social aims, but they did so with too little foresight as to what  ramifications expanding government intrusions in one area might have on others.  They howl now that they’re getting bitten by the law of unintended consequences, and they’re shocked to find that the Beast to which they’ve fed others’ liberty for decades has now turned to devour theirs. 
Having unwittingly sowed the wind, the Church is now reaping the whirlwind (see Hosea 8:7). 
God help us.

Setting Things Straight On The Contraception Mandate

 
“Well, that’s the real question, isn’t it: Why?  The ‘How’ and the ‘Who’ is just scenery for the public . . . Keeps ‘em guessing like some kind of parlor game.  Prevents ‘em from asking the most important question, ‘Why’?”
—Donald Sutherland as “X” in JFK
I really thought we’d be past this by now, but I see there remains some confusion about the contraception mandate.  The Left has flogged this issue as being about women’s right to “preventative healthcare,” and if you oppose that—however legitimate your religious or Constitutional objection may be—you’re a woman-hater.   There’s just one problem:
The contraception mandate has nothing to do with healthcare. 
It doesn’t.  And that’s so no matter how many times the Leftist media, or Kathleen Sebelius, or Debbie Wasserman-Schultz shriek that it does.
Of course it does, Rusty.  Don’t you know that The Pill is used for lots of other medical applications besides preventing pregnancy?
True enough, so far as it goes.  The Pill has indeed been shown to have some benefits in reducing the incidence of certain forms of cancer.  It is also prescribed for PMS, uterine cysts, and severe cases of acne (among other things).  Never discussed is the fact that The Pill is also associated with negative side effects such as severe clinical depression and increased incidence of certain potentially fatal embolisms, but I’ll leave those things aside and accept for purposes of this discussion the notion that The Pill has legitimate medical uses other than the prevention of pregnancy.
That misses the point almost entirely.
First, according to a Time e-magazine piece (referencing a study by the Guttmacher Institute, whose testimony is frequently cited by HHS in support of the mandate), only 14% of women use The Pill exclusively for non-contraceptive purposes (the percentage given for teens is higher—33%—but still a distinct minority).  What this tells us is that, despite the presence of these other healthcare applications, the vast majority of women who use The Pill are not doing so to realize those ancillary health benefits, but to avoid getting pregnant.  So for all the hysteria on the Left about objections to the contraceptive mandate being part of a “war on women,” you can’t hang it on the idea that women need The Pill as part of a health regimen apart from avoiding pregnancy, because it appears that by and large that simply isn’t how they’re using it.
Second, and maybe more to the point, this isn’t really the argument being advanced by Obamacare advocates to justify the contraception insurance mandate.  To the contrary, the focus is, and always has been, that the avoidance of pregnancy in and of itself is “preventative health care” (as though pregnancy, and the resulting children, are a disease to be prevented, just like malaria).  Secretary Sebelius—the one who actually issued the contraceptive mandate—testified last week before Congress that “the reduction in a number of pregnancies compensates for the cost of contraception.”  In other words, the plan pays for itself not by reducing the cost of treating these other conditions impacted by The Pill, but by reducing the number of pregnancies.  And the regs themselves echo this idea:
“In addition, there are significant cost savings to employers from the coverage of contraceptives.  A 2000 study estimated that it would cost employers 15 to 17 percent more not to provide contraceptive coverage in employee health plans than to provide such coverage, after accounting for both the direct medical costs of pregnancy and the indirect costs such as employee absence and productivity . . . Contraceptive coverage, by reducing the number of unintended and potentially unhealthy pregnancies, furthers the goal of eliminating [the economic disparity between men and women resulting from the fact that women get pregnant and men don’t] by allowing women to achieve equal status as healthy and productive members of the job force.
Final rules at 10-11 (emphasis added).
I’ve posted on this before:  if this is about women’s healthcare in the form of preventing pregnancy, as HHS suggests, you shouldn’t be pushing an insurance mandate covering contraception.  What you should be pushing is abstinence, which is infinitely cheaper, safer, and more effective than anything a doctor can prescribe or an insurance company can pay for.  Yet there’s not a peep about it.
Even if this were about women’s legitimate health issues beyond pregnancy, that would only extend the argument to condoms (which are far cheaper than other methods of contraception) and The Pill (which, as I’ve noted, by and large isn’t in fact used for these non-contraceptive purposes).  The argument would not extend to IUDs, diaphragms, sponges, spermicidal foams, and the early abortion drugs “Ella” and “Plan B,” none of which have any legitimate claim to ancillary medical benefits outside the prevention of pregnancy (and some aren’t even very good at that), yet all of which are included among the methods insurers will be required to cover. 
Why?
Why, if this is about the healthcare benefits of preventing pregnancy, would we not be focused on the safest, most effective, and least costly methods available?  Why, if this is about women’s preventative health care apart from the prevention of pregnancy, does the Obamacare mandate extend to contraceptive mechanisms that have no—no—medical utility whatsoever beyond their capacity to prevent pregnancy? 
The answer is simple:  because this debate is not, and it never has been, about “women’s preventative healthcare.”  That phrase is a deliberately charged label the Left has devised to posture the debate as one of the Right vs. women—after all, only a misogynist could be against women’s preventative healthcare—and they’re manipulating you with it.  They want you to equate (read: “confuse”) the phrase “my combined oral contraceptive pill is a drug” with the phrase “all contraception is a matter of women’s health,” which simply isn’t true.   It’s an iteration of the “Big Lie”; they repeat it over and over, and like Orwell’s sheep, many have picked up the cadence, unaware of what they’re saying or why they’re saying it.  Once we recognize that the mandate extends to every FDA-approved contraceptive mechanism regardless of its relative effectiveness or expense, and regardless of whether the mechanism has any conceivable health benefit outside of the prevention of pregnancy, it becomes clear that this is in fact not about women’s healthcare.  It is about providing access to whatever contraceptive mechanism people want, and making someone else pay for it.  Otherwise, there is no explanation for the mandate covering, for example, spermicidal sponges, which are about 15 times more expensive than a condom, have an effective rate according to the FDA as poor as 68%, and carry none of The Pill’s ancillary medical benefits. 
That’s not healthcare, that’s a matter of sexual convenience.
Once again, no one—not me, not Rush, not the Republican Party, not the Catholic Church, nobody—is stopping you from getting a prescription for The Pill, or buying a condom, or using a diaphragm, or otherwise using whatever contraceptive you choose, for whatever reason, whether it’s preventing pregnancy, reducing your acne, or whatever.  Moreover, as HHS itself notes in its final rules, 89% of insured plans already cover contraceptives, so the chances are very high that you’re already covered.  And I defy anyone to find an actual example of a live human being who wanted contraception but literally could not get it. 
So why insist on not only pushing forward with the contraception mandate, but also with hiding behind this charade that this a debate about women’s health when it’s demonstrably not?  Could it have something to do with deflecting attention from the real question of where the constitutional authority is for the federal government to force people who don’t want it to obtain from their employers insurance coverage covering something the employers don’t want to cover, paid for by insurance companies who (absent a premium adjustment) don’t want to pay for it?  As Representative Kathy Hochul (D-NY) responded to that very question in a town hall meeting February 24, “Well, basically, we’re not looking to the Constitution on that aspect . . . basically, the decision has been made by this Congress that American citizens are entitled to healthcare[.]”
 
We’re not looking to the Constitution, because the decision has been made by Congress.
Oh, really?

The Religion Of Intolerance

 
 
 
President Whitmore: What do you want us to do?
Captured Alien:                    Die.  Die.
—Bill Pullman as President Thomas Whitmore and Gary Hecker as the voice of the Captured Alien in Independence Day
Some of you are going to accuse me of being a racist or an Islamophobe.  At this point, I don’t care.
Many of you are aware that my daughters and I study martial arts.  As is typical of many of the Asian styles, our school has a custom of bowing as one enters/leaves the training area, and we begin and end class with a series of bows to the national and state flags, and to our instructors.  As is repeatedly emphasized, this is not a religious exercise, and it is not a form of worship, nor is it a gesture of submission.  It is done as a show of respect—note that when we bow to our instructors, they are bowing back to us—for the instructors and for the process.  We bow to our training partners before and after we spar and do other drills and exercises.  We bow to our weapons and other tools before and after we use them.  It is more akin to a military salute, and is considered a matter of basic etiquette.  We are taught this from our very first individual evaluation prior to joining the class; everyone knows it’s part of the deal before they sign up.
The other day I was waiting for my adult class to begin, and the children in the class before mine were taking a water break.  One young man finished his water and headed back onto the mat without bowing.  It is very common for the beginner kids to need a reminder now and then, and as an adult in uniform and of a significantly higher belt rank, I provided that reminder.  The child looked at me incredulously and said, “I don’t bow in.”  I was a bit taken aback at the audacity of the response, and told him that no, we need to bow in.  At that point one of the assistant instructors came over to me shaking me off, and it was then that I noticed the young man’s father—with the never-been-trimmed beard typical of Muslim men (interestingly, however, otherwise in Western business garb, so he’s apparently perfectly comfortable enjoying the economic benefits of being in the U.S.) glaring at me, and it became clear:
He’s been told he doesn’t have to bow in due to some sort of religious objection.
Not coincidentally, I expect, when it came time for the kids to close their class with a game of dodgeball, that same young man failed to honor the boundaries of the game, and failed to leave the floor after the limit of being hit twice (and thus being “out”).  It was apparent that he’s been taught he’s special, and that the rules that govern the rest of us simply don’t apply to him.  At least in part, the justification for that exceptionalism is the fact that he’s Muslim.
I am aware of the dangers of over-generalizing and stereotyping.  But huge numbers of these people simply make no effort to get along with the rest of the world.  I’m not asking them to change their faith, or adopt Western vices.  But I do think a dose of tolerance for others and maybe a giant chill-pill is in order.
Witness the last two weeks’ worth of violent riots in Afghanistan, including the cold-blooded execution-style murder of two U.S. officers, and two more U.S. soldiers killed Wednesday—all because some Korans were mistakenly burned.  I’m not excusing the burning of the Korans; that’s inappropriate and shouldn’t have happened any more than our military forces should be burning Bibles, Torahs, Smritis, or any other religious texts or artifacts.  That’s just a matter of basic decency.  But does failing in this regard really merit two weeks of riots and killings?
And you thought your two-year-old was bad.
Yet—predictably—there’s Obama falling all over himself to apologize for the burning, and even in the wake of yet more Americans being killed in the rioting over this perceived slight, he persists in claiming that his policy of appeasement has helped calm things down.  But what this administration can’t seem to grasp is there’s no appeasing these folks.  The rioting in Afghanistan is not an isolated incident, and it can’t be explained as simply re-directed frustration over continuing U.S. military presence.  Michelle Malkin has long documented the history of what she calls “the religion of perpetual outrage.”  It’s not just burning Korans.  It’s cartoon depictions of Mohammed.  It’s teachers naming teddy bears.  It’s giving impoverished children international-themed soccer balls emblazoned with national flags—including the flag of Saudi Arabia, which bears the name of Allah.  It’s sneaker and ice cream logos that, if you spend enough time with your hookah, you can convince yourself they resemble the Arabic script for “Allah.”  The fact of the matter is there’s no living with these people, because they launch into a murderous rampage every time anyone sneezes.
Silence!  I kill you!
Everything is an earth-stopping insult to the Islamists; but don’t you dare try to apply the same concept the other direction.  Recall the story I brought to you several months ago about the Muslim students who voluntarily enrolled in a Catholic college, only then to sue over the displays of crucifixes.  Or the virulent cries of racism when states attempt to ban the application of foreign law in their courts, which can only be understood as an insistence that U.S. courts apply Sharia instead of local state and U.S. federal law.  It’s always about the world altering to fit them.  They make no effort to assimilate, and they allow no accommodation for others.  Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani—a convert to Christianity—is sentenced to death in Iran for apostasy (abandoning Islam), and apart from a tepid Congressional resolution, the whole world basically yawns; but raise zoning and basic decency objections over the building of a mosque at Ground Zero, and all Hell breaks loose over your intolerance and bigotry.
Hate-monger.
Blame it on a small fringe segment of radicals if you want.  Tell me I’m over-generalizing.  Fine.   But at some point the Islamic community as a whole has to be held accountable.  They want to claim Islam is a religion of tolerance and peace, that the violent radicals are only a tiny minority and not representative of the whole.  Well, why, then, hasn’t this small group of non-representative radicals long ago been shouted down and bottled up?  Where are all of the voices of peace and tolerance (or at least rational adults) when mobs of thousands go on a weeks-long homicidal rampage because a few books were mistakenly burned (you’d like to think that Allah is a big enough boy to take care of Himself)?  They know who these people are and where they are—at some point the silence and inaction of the so-called peaceful majority can only be understood as complicity in the violent radicals’ conduct, if not outright endorsement of it.
The fact is these people can’t be appeased, because at the end of the day they want nothing more than all infidels—that’s you—gone.  And an apology to them is nothing but a sure sign of weakness.  They understand nothing but force and strength, and paraphrasing a former Middle East resident appearing on Sean Hannity’s radio show earlier this week, anyone who approaches the negotiating table first is only negotiating the terms of their own surrender. 
That’s not a discussion I’m interested in having.
 
*********
Editor’s Note:  We are deeply saddened at the sudden and untimely passing of Andrew Breitbart.  Our condolences and prayers go out to his family and friends.  The conservative movement has lost a great one.
 

The Last Prejudice

 
Woltz:             Let me lay it on the line for you and your boss, whoever he is! Johnny Fontane will never get that movie! I don’t care how many dago guinea wop greaseball goombahs come out of the woodwork! 
Hagen:            I’m German-Irish.
Woltz:             Well, let me tell you something, my kraut-mick friend, I’m gonna make so much trouble for you, you won t know what hit you! 
—John Marley as Jack Woltz and Robert Duvall as Tom Hagen in The Godfather
 
There’s a reason I don’t read The Huffington Post, and I almost missed this one as a result. 
It seems that last week THP ran a piece by Larry Doyle entitled “The Jesus-Eating Cult of Rick Santorum.”  As if the title itself weren’t disgusting enough, in the piece Doyle accuses Catholics of cannibalism, terrorism, and institutionalized pedophilia, and accuses Pope Benedict XVI of being a “‘former’ Nazi” (internal quotation marks Doyle’s).  Doyle further extrapolates from Santorum’s open connection to the Church a secret plan to “supplant Christianity as our official national religion”—indeed, twice in the piece Doyle purports to draw a distinction between “Christians” and Catholics.  I suppose he has license to do this because he’s a former Catholic himself.
Taken to task for his remarks, Doyle issued what was expressly a non-apology, and attempted to cloak himself under the banner of “satire” that is somehow directed to Rick Santorum’s candidacy.  Apparently, we’re already supposed to know that Doyle is a former writer for The Simpsons (I didn’t—shame on me), and that we should therefore automatically understand that anything he pens is both inherently funny and intended to be construed as satire.  He then challenged us to look up what “satire” is.
Well, I did:
sat·ire (săʹtīŕ) n.  1.a.  A literary work in which human vice or folly is attacked through irony, derision, or wit.
Hm.
The first element of “satire” is that it is an attack on human vice or folly.  What human vice or folly, exactly, is Doyle attacking with Catholics?  Is reception of the Holy Eucharist a vice or folly that should be held up to ridicule?  And if so, what, exactly, does that have to do with Rick Santorum’s campaign for President?
Rusty, what about the Crusades and the Inquisition?
Presumably, Doyle’s vague attacks on “bloody jihads” and “reigns of terror” are intended to refer to the Crusades and the Inquisitions, to which I respond:  what about them?  The Crusades ended about 800 years ago, and in any event were expeditions of liberation after Muslim armies overran the Holy Land.  The Inquisitions were programs intended to root out heresy—not unlike the witch trials carried out by Protestants in the Colonies in the 17th Century; shall we go after the Anglicans and Presbyterians, too?—and while in some instances the inquisitors occasionally regrettably resorted to torture, that practice was common in all tribunals of the time.  In point of fact, contrary to popular belief very few were actually tortured and killed during the Inquisitions; that is not to excuse the practice, but to explain that the actual scale of the abuses is invariably blown far out of proportion from reality.  And again, for all intents and purposes, the Inquisitions ended hundreds of years ago.  Neither the Crusades nor the Inquisitions have anything to do with Rick Santorum’s Presidential campaign, nor are they even currently relevant.  If the purpose of “satire” is typically to prompt a change in the behavior being ridiculed, what possible purpose is served by Doyle dragging back up practices that have already long ago ended?
What about the priest sex-abuse scandal?
Again, what about it?  Some in the Church, particularly in the U.S., have had some obvious failings, and the Church as an organization has in some cases not taken appropriate measures to deal with these issues.  The fact that some people in the Church have fallen down—however seriously or regrettably—is no basis to condemn the institution or its teachings.  But again, more to the point, Doyle’s raising of the issue has nothing to do with Rick Santorum or the body of Catholics as a whole; would he have all 70-some million U.S. Catholics fired from their jobs because a handful of priests committed the sin of pedophilia?  If the sex-abuse scandal somehow disqualifies Catholics from public office, I suppose Nancy Pelosi and John Kerry should resign right now—come to think of it, that IS a good idea.
The second element of “satire” is that it employs irony, derision (laughing in scorn), or wit (cleverly amusing).  In short, it is a means of drawing attention to a shortcoming by poking fun at it.  But what’s funny (or witty, ironic, or derisive) about accusing present-day Catholics of participating in “centuries” of “bloody jihads”?  What’s amusing about claiming that the Catholic Mass is a “barbaric ritual” in which a “black-robed cleric” (false, by the way; I have NEVER seen a priest celebrate Mass in black robes, and I can only assume that as a former altar boy Doyle knows better, meaning he’s deliberately mischaracterized the Mass to create a false impression that it is some sort of Satanic ritual) “casts a spell.”  Where is the wit in falsely accusing the Pope of being a Nazi—not as in “you’re an overly strict disciplinarian,” but literally “you were an active member of Adolph Hitler’s National Socialist Party back in Germany”?  Doyle’s commentary is littered with deliberate falsehoods, and is in no sense humorous or clever to anyone other than those who think Bill Maher is funny and that covering the Virgin Mary in feces is “art”—it’s just mean and spiteful.
Doyle has deliberately taken out of context statements Santorum has made on the campaign trail, and used them as a springboard to spew virulently anti-Catholic nonsense.  Doyle pretends to be chastising Santorum for his commentary on President Obama pursuing a “false theology,” as though Senator Santorum was unfairly demeaning Obama’s religious faith.  But when you hear what Santorum actually said in context—as he has repeatedly explained—it is painfully clear that he was not talking about religion, but worldview.  That is what he meant when he said “not a theology based on the Bible”; he wasn’t saying Obama’s religion was non-Biblical (it isn’t, but that’s another discussion).  Santorum was qualifying his own use of the term “theology” to say that as he was using it in that context, he didn’t mean “religion” in a deity worship sense, but in a blind ideology sense.
Of course, facts don’t matter when it comes to Catholic-bashing, and somehow Doyle gets away with it.  Can you imagine the reaction from the Anti-Defamation League if you published a similar work trashing Judaism?  How many riots and murders would CAIR and other Muslim organizations sponsor—better yet, how many Imams would issue fatwas against your life—if you published a piece like Doyle’s trashing Islam?  So where are the Presidential apologies and calls to cool down the rhetoric?  Where’s the indignation from the Leftist media?  Where are the civil rights lawsuits from the ACLU?  You publish a piece ridiculing the beliefs and practices of other religious groups, and you’re a bigot and a racist.  But you do it to the Catholics, and well, we just don’t have a sense of humor.
I am not one of those who thinks a candidate’s faith is off-limits; anything that informs how one thinks and views the world is fair game in a Presidential race, particularly when you’ve put your faith out front as Santorum has.  In that sense, if issues like abortion and same-sex relations are important to you, Santorum’s Catholicism is relevant, because it gives insight into how he is likely to think about those issues.  Likewise, if national security is your issue, then Barack Obama’s long-time attendance with a pastor prone to spewing “God d#mn America” and blaming the U.S. for 9/11 is germane to understanding how he might react to foreign conflict issues as President. 
You want to criticize Rick Santorum and say his views as a Catholic on abortion are wrong and therefore you can’t support him for President, fine.  But if Doyle’s piece is to be understood as legitimate political satire, where’s his political point?  He doesn’t have one. Doyle’s caustic ridiculing of the faith of 70 million Americans—the largest religious denomination in the U.S., comprising roughly a quarter of the population—makes no substantive political point, and it serves no constructive purpose. 
It is nothing more than a vile perpetuation of the last acceptable prejudice. 

The Contraception Mandate And Eroding Liberty, Part I

 
Slip sliding away,
Slip sliding away,
You know the nearer your destination,
The more you’re slip sliding away.
—Paul Simon, Slip Sliding Away
 
WARNING:  THIS ARTICLE HAS A FRANK DISCUSSION ABOUT SEX AND SEXUAL PRACTICES.  READER DISCRETION IS ADVISED.
 
Frankly, I had hoped we’d be past the whole contraception mandate issue by now, because I thought we had bigger fish to fry.  Now, I’m not so sure.
Let me be clear up front:  NOBODY is trying to keep you from obtaining and using contraceptives if you so choose.  I don’t advocate that the government institute a legal ban on them—let’s leave aside true pure abortifacients like the so-called “Plan B,” which are a different issue—and as far as I know even the Catholic Church has never sought one, either.  If you want to use a condom or The Pill, fine.  I’m not going to cast any moral judgments on you.  Just don’t make me pay for it, which has been the core of the standard—and correct—First Amendment free exercise of religion argument. 
I fear, however, that the issue and the potential danger here go to something much deeper.  Last Friday, talk radio host Andrew Wilkow was taking a slightly different tack and making an Article II argument:  it’s not just that the mandate violates the First Amendment, it’s also outside the scope of the power given to the President.  And Wilkow’s right.  The President simply has no Constitutional authority to issue an executive edict requiring either Catholic hospitals, or their private insurance companies, to pay for contraception for someone else.
But what scares me here is the logical train Wilkow’s discussion sent me thinking my way down, because if we follow this out the implications are chilling. 
Let’s start by asking the question why we need “free” contraceptives.  The Left will immediately begin shrieking about the need to protect women’s right to “preventative health care.”  Just last week, Press Secretary Jay Carney was out there talking about the “right” to contraception “free of charge.”  House members Thursday were complaining that those objecting to the mandate were diminishing the “interests of women”  “who want and need coverage for basic preventative health care services[.]”
On closer examination, this “preventative health care” mantra doesn’t hold water.  As I’ve pointed out before, the only form of contraception with any legitimate preventative health care link in any normal understanding of the term is condoms, and not only are they cheapless than a buck apiecebut they’re also already widely available for free.  You simply don’t need a federal mandate that they be covered by insurance. 
But what about the health consequences of unwanted pregnancy? 
Well, the simple and incontrovertible fact is that the easiest, safest, cheapest, and most effective way of avoiding the potential negative health effects of pregnancy (or STDs, for that matter), is abstinence.  It’s literally free even without insurance.  It’s accessible to everyone, everywhere, 24/7/365.  And it’s 100% safe, and 100% effective.  If what you’re all about is protecting women’s health, then abstinence should be at the top of your list, and there is simply no need for an insurance mandate to force other people to pay for it.
No, this isn’t about women’s health and pregnancy.  It’s about sex.
How so, Rusty?
The only reason to push contraceptives and ignore abstinence is that what the Left really wants, but can’t say out loud, is to make sure women can have recreational sex without consequences.  Taking them at their word that they’re pushing this issue in the interest of women’s health, because we’ve just seen that this health concern isn’t, and can’t be, about the health aspects of pregnancy, it must be that there are health benefits related to sex itself, and contraception is somehow a necessary tool for facilitating access to those benefits. 
Now, I’m not disagreeing with the idea that sex has health benefits so far as it goes, but the issue isn’t what you do or with whom you do it.  It’s whether you can make me pay for it. 
The underlying premise is that there’s not only a health benefit to sex without consequences, but that it’s such a compelling need that we have to override other people’s First Amendment right to free exercise of religion and their Fourth Amendment right to private property and make them pay for the contraceptives that make it possible.  And we’re going to ignore the Article II limitations on the power of the Chief Executive in order to do it. 
Well, where does that idea lead us?
If one citizen can be compelled to provide another citizen with birth control in order to obtain the health benefits of sex, what that really means is that the one citizen must ensure the other citizen has the things necessary to access the health benefits of sex.  Well, what if even with birth control the sex just isn’t satisfactory enough to generate those health benefits?  If we can compel one citizen to pay for another’s birth control in order to ensure the other’s access to the health benefits of sex, can’t the President order one citizen to pay for another citizen’s pornography (and if so, can’t that pornography take whatever prurient form is necessary to get the job done)?  What about sexual aids—can the President order one citizen to pay for another’s adult toys?  Once the issue is enabling access to the health benefits of sex, there’s no difference between forcing one citizen to provide another’s condom and forcing him to provide any other tool or implement necessary to enable that access. 
But wait.  Let’s keep following the logic train.
If one citizen can be ordered to provide the implements necessary for another citizen to get access to the health benefits of sex, it’s only a slight step further to say that one citizen can be compelled to provide another citizen with the sex itself.  Those of you who like to scream about the government keeping its hands off your ovaries should start worrying about the government’s hands going somewhere else.  And before you complain that I’m just out there flapping in the winds of paranoia, bear in mind that a lot of the people pushing this contraception mandate are the same folks who push for gay marriage, and who think Roman Polanski should be canonized.  So there’s no telling where that might lead. 
Now, do I really think it’s going to get as far as all this?  No, probably not.  But I raise the issue to point out the serious erosion of personal liberty that’s going on here.  To return to our Article II complaint, this administration is so far out of bounds they can’t even see the Constitution from where they are now.  And the more we let them get away with, the less the tethers the Constitution was supposed to place on President’s authority to act as a dictator mean. 
And let me tell you, friends, history teaches us that at some point it takes a whole lot of blood to get liberty back once it’s lost.

Biblical Taxation

 
Roxie: God, that was beautiful.
Billy:   Cut out God.  Stay where you’re better acquainted.
—Roxie Hart and Billy Flynn in Chicago
Full disclosure:  I am not a theologian.  Truth be told, I’m not even a very good Catholic.
But I think I got this one.
Last week at the National Prayer Breakfast, President Obama invoked the Bible to support his recent calls for raising taxes on the wealthy in order to continue funding entitlement programs:
“For me as a Christian, it also coincides with Jesus’ teaching that, for unto whom much is given, much shall be required . . . It’s also about the biblical call to care for the least of these, for the poor, for those at the margins of our society . . . To answer the responsibility we’re given in Proverbs to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.”

 

One wonders where the hue and cry is from the ACLU and the atheist zealots who sue kindergarteners for putting a Nativity scene on a school grounds at Christmas.  After all, if what we’re going to do is base our tax policy on what the President believes are his instructions in the Bible, doesn’t that convert the government into a quasi-religious institution, and make taxes essentially a forced tithe?
How DARE the government intrude on the First Amendment’s freedom of religion clause!  Why, next thing we know they’re going to be making Catholic hospitals give out contraceptives!
 
Oh, yeah.  Oops.
I hear it a lot: folks on the Left appealing to common Christian catch-phrases or to their own selective quotation/interpretation of the Bible in order to justify Big Government programs, as though they are somehow beating me down with the ultimate trump card.  After all, if I’m a Christian conservative—not to leave out conservatives of other faiths, it’s just that this particular phenomenon appears to be reserved for Christians—how can I possibly object to an initiative that comes straight out of the Bible?   I believe I am my brother’s keeper.
Yeah?  Well keep him, then.
The problem when folks like Obama wax biblical in a transparent attempt to “demonstrate their faith”note the opportunistic Obama only does this at occasions like the National Prayer Breakfastthey rarely take the text as a whole, and they frequently get it wrong.  Take the President’s invocation of Jesus’ teaching about the burden upon those who have been blessed.  He has lifted the reference to Luke 12:48 out of context, and ignored the distinction between the service we owe to God, and the service we owe to the government (see Catechism of the Catholic Church, § 2242).  This distinction is itself biblical, as illustrated in, for example, Matthew 22:21, in which Jesus tells the Pharisees to “[g]ive to Caesar what is Caesar, and to God what is God’s.  Or Acts 5:29, where St. Peter and the Apostles answer charges from the Sanhedrin, “We must obey God rather than men.  
 
In discussing the expectations placed upon the blessed, Jesus wasn’t talking about a mandatory obligation to be extracted by the government.  If we back up and start reading the lead-in at Luke 12:35, we see He was talking about the unknown time of His return, and the kind of self-sacrifice necessary to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.  This becomes more clear when you read Jesus’ teaching together with His instruction to the rich young man (Matthew 19:16-30; Mark 10:17-24; Luke 18:18-24) to give away everything he has and follow Him.  That is what is expected, and that is why He told the Apostles it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 19:24; Luke 18:25).  But in his zeal to give his tax policy the superficial air of a biblical grounding, Obama missed that.
The Left also confuses their personal conviction with the ability and propriety of forcing someone else to act on that conviction.  They will claim they are their brother’s keeper, but they do so to justify a policy whereby it’s not them keeping their brother, but them forcing someone else to do it.  The problem with trying to ground this sort of thinking in the Bible as though it’s derived from God’s directives is that what God asks of us is voluntary.  God does not want us to love Him and follow His commandments because He makes us do it—He could have made us perfect sin-free followers had He so desired.  He wants us to do it because we choose to do so.  Abraham did not have to slay Isaac (yes, I know he ultimately doesn’t, but God allows him to go all the way to the last second, and he does so voluntarily).  Jesus did not have to die on the cross.
God gave us free will, and when we look at charitable contributions in a biblical context, it is the willingness to give that is the touchstone, not forcibly taking more from those who have more.  In Matthew 10:8, Jesus instructs the Apostles, “Freely you have received, freely give.”  In 2 Corinthians 8:12, St. Paul urged the Church at Corinth to be eager and willing givers:
“Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so.  Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means.  For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has[.]”  
President Obama is correct that Jesus taught that much will be expected of those to whom much has been given, but that expectation was of free and voluntary giving.  He never spoke about forcibly extracting charity at the point of a Roman sword, yet that’s exactly what a tax policy aimed at increasing taxes on the wealthy in order to fund entitlement programs is.
If we’re going to have the Bible drive our tax policy, perhaps we should consider the entire document.  For example, maybe we should be looking to, say, Mark 12:41-44:
“Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury.  Many rich people threw in large amounts.  But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny. 
 
Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others.  They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”
Combine that with Matthew 13:12:
“Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance.  Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.”
St. Mark tells us that although the rich were paying in much more than the poor—exactly our progressive tax system—rather than call for the rich to pay even more, Jesus is more interested in the poor widow contributing everything she had.  St. Matthew recounts Jesus teaching that those who have more will get more, and those who have less will have it all taken away.  Perhaps we should learn from this and adopt a purely regressive system where we tax the poor at 100%.
Obviously, that’s not what Jesus was getting at, but the absurdity of the extrapolation illustrates the danger in selectively lifting pieces of scripture out of context and using them to justify public policy.  We can debate the relative economic merits of progressive taxation and entitlements.  We can even debate whether they are the right thing to do. 
But the President better leave God and the Bible out of it until he has a better handle on what he’s talking about.

Vanderbilt And The Silliness Of Forced Inclusion

“Oh, I’m real.  Real enough to defeat you!  And I did it without your precious gifts, your oh-so-special powers.  I’ll give them heroics.  I’ll give them the most spectacular heroics the world has ever seen!  And when I’m old and I’ve had my fun, I’ll sell my inventions so that everyone can have powers.  Everyone can be super!  And when everyone’s super . . . no one will be.”
—Earl Hickey as the voice of Syndrome in The Incredibles
The politics of homogeneity just keeps getting sillier.
 
Following an incident last Fall in which an openly-gay student was asked to resign from a Christian fraternity, Vanderbilt University has placed a number of student groups—four of them Christian organizations—on “provisional status” for noncompliance with the school’s nondiscrimination policy.  At the center of the controversy is the Christian Legal Society.  Apparently the following language from the CLS constitution offends:
 
“Each officer is expected to lead Bible studies, prayer and worship at chapter meetings.”
 
According to Vanderbilt’s Office of Religious Life, the school’s policies do not permit this kind of expectation of officers in student organizations.  In other words, a student organization can’t expect its leaders to participate in and promote the organization’s ideals and purposes, because that’s discrimination.  Students may have their group so long as they don’t exclude anyone for any reason, including the fact that the one being excluded doesn’t have any interest in, or may even be actively opposed to, the group’s core premise.
 
This is the silliness you get when the Left mindlessly confuses preventing discrimination with forced total inclusion.  “Discrimination” does not mean the failure to include everyone everywhere in all things and under all circumstances.  Discrimination refers to the arbitrary denial of basic rights or societal benefits based characteristics that have nothing to do with the rights or benefits being denied.  Typically we’re talking about “immutable” characteristics—things that are just part of the hand we’re each dealt at birth, such as race, gender, national origin, or handicapped status (some would also argue sexual orientation here).  When we add religion we move away from immutable characteristics to matters of choice—one may voluntarily convert from one religion to another—but the fundamental essence of discrimination remains the disconnect between the right or benefit being denied and the basis for the denial.  Few would argue in 2011 that the fact that a person is black or Catholic presents a legitimate basis for, say, excluding that person from college; skin color or religious view has no bearing on a person’s ability to perform academically. 
 
But where there is a connection between the benefit and the denial, there is no discrimination.  For example, if the reason for rejecting a job applicant is directly and legitimately related to the requirements for the position in question and is consistent with business necessity—such as refusing to hire a blind man to drive a bus—the denial ceases to be discrimination.  The ability to see is legitimately and directly related to the ability to drive the bus.  This is the reason Vanderbilt would be perfectly justified in keeping me off its basketball team; at 5’ 7” and with no talent, no one would contend that doing so was some form of discrimination, because the reason for my denial goes directly to the purpose for which the team is organized.  
 
Query whether the ability to become a leader of a student organization rises to the level of a “right” the denial of which could ever constitute “discrimination.”  But that aside, CLS’ constitutional requirement that its leaders actively promote the group’s beliefs by leading Bible studies and worship—i.e., that they actually be active Christians—would seem to be directly and legitimately related to the group’s aim of fostering and supporting Christianity.  And it’s not an immutable characteristic; anyone who chooses can meet the requirement.  Excluding those who by their own free will elect not to meet the requirement isn’t discrimination, and one has to wonder who, exactly, is being harmed by CLS’ position.  Is there really a student clamoring to run for CLS president who can’t because they’re a committed atheist (and if so, doesn’t that lend even greater legitimacy to CLS’ position)?
 
It is no answer to say that CLS can simply remove the offending provision from its constitution and recognize that as a practical matter no non-Christian would ever actually get elected as an officer of their group.  Facially that fails to address the Manchurian Candidate concern that a poseur could infiltrate the group and only reveal his true colors after being elected.  More substantively, however, discrimination is discrimination, and you cannot do by tacit practical agreement that which you cannot do by official policy.
 
Not surprisingly, this policy of inclusion doesn’t apply to all at Vanderbilt, and there’s the real rub.  One imagines the school would have a hard time telling its Black Student Alliance—they of theBlack Power fist logo—that they had to admit the Klan’s Grand Dragon as a member.  And witness the Association of Hispanic Students (which although the university isn’t saying, you can bet the house isn’t among the groups put on double-secret probation), whose constitution requires voting members to be “interested in promoting the aims and objectives of the association,” which include “promot[ing] Hispanic cultural activities within and beyond the campus,” and “foster[ing] the recruitment, registration, and the establishment of scholarship for Hispanic students.”  So it’s OK for the Hispanic student group to require its members to support and participate in the purposes and beliefs to which the group is dedicated, but it is not OK for the Christian student group to require that its leaders support and participate in the beliefs and purposes to which that group is dedicated.
 
Huh?
 
Now, if Vanderbilt were truly interested in a totally inclusive environment, it would ban student groups altogether:
 
There are no gay students, Hispanic students, Christian students, or engineers; you are all Vanderbilt Commodores, and you will all be included in everything and treated absolutely equally down the last molecule of your body.
 
The reason it doesn’t is that at what level of common sense is left its administration surely realizes—and I agree—that student organizations like these are good things.  It is a positive on a college campus to have organizations where students of like interests or backgrounds can socialize and work to promote their various philosophies and cultures.  But such groups become pointless if they can’t keep themselves directed to the purposes for which they were organized.  So it must be not that there’s some issue with inclusion, but with the purposes themselves.
 
For Vanderbilt the issue isn’t really inclusion, it’s Christianity, which is odd given that the school as originally founded was operated under the auspices of the Methodist Episcopal Church.  It would be one thing if Vanderbilt were telling an atheist student he can’t have an atheist student association because of his (in this case non-) religious beliefs.  But what Vanderbilt is saying with CLS is that not only does the atheist have the right to participate in a student organization, he has the right to become the leader of their specific organization despite affirmatively rejecting everything that organization exists to promote.  In essence, Vanderbilt’s position to CLS is: You can have your Christian organization, you just can’t make it Christian—a message it doesn’t send to other organizations.
So to my friends in Nashville I would pose this question:  “Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but not perceive the wooden beam in your own?”
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Ankylus: Your comment the other day somehow got lost in the system during the moderating process.  My apologies.  Please feel free to re-submit.  RDW

But You Said I Could Keep It: Obamacare’s Erosion of Liberty Continues

But what a fool believes, he sees.

No wise man has the power to reason away.
What seems to be is always better than nothing.
            —Doobie Brothers, What a Fool Believes
Don’t look now, but under cover of the debt ceiling smoke screen, the Orcs charged with implementing Obamacare—hey, if I’m going to be a Hobbit—have been on the march.  This, despite the fact that at present, a federal court has ruled the program unconstitutional; but since when has the Constitution mattered?
Recall the mantra we heard time and again throughout the lecture on health insurance “reform” that “if you like your coverage, you’ll be able to keep it.”  Of course, those of us who actually read the bill knew that was an outright lie, but sadly even when I’ve quoted the actual text explicitly requiring changes, I’ve heard myopic Liberals respond that they “just don’t believe that will happen.”  They’re so blinded by the glow of Obama’s aura that they can’t bring themselves to see—or admit—reality.
Well, the proof is always in the pudding, isn’t it?
As most of Congress patted itself on the back while the markets gave us a swift kick in our collective ass—thank you, sir, may I have another?—the Department of Health and Human Services released new guidelines on the implementation of the Obamacare mandate requiring plans without “grandfather status” to cover certain preventative care benefits on a no cost-sharing basis.  That is, your provider can’t charge you a co-pay or co-insurance when you go in for such a service.  Under the original guidelines, this applied to things such as mammography for women of a certain age, PSA screening for men of a certain age, aspirin for people with potential heart disease, and immunizations for children.  Nothing particularly controversial there, but God love ‘em they just can’t help themselves.
With the new guidelines released this week, HHS will, under Obamacare, require employer-sponsored health plans to cover prescription contraceptives on a zero-cost—i.e., no co-pay—basis.  This mandate will apply to all contraceptives approved by the FDA, including the Pill, IUDs, the so-called “morning after” early abortion pill, and newer forms of long-acting implantable hormone contraceptives.  Certainly, these items are in the same innocuous, non-objectionable class as aspirin and immunizations, right?  I mean, preventative care is preventative care.
Parts is parts.
Let’s be perfectly clear.  This isn’t an optional deal, and this doesn’t apply only to those employer-sponsored plans that already covered contraceptives.  This is MANDATORY FOR EVERYONE.  There is, to be fair, an exception for plans sponsored by “religious employers.”  So churches are exempt.  But otherwise, if you are an employer, and you provide health coverage for your employees, you’re now paying 100% for contraceptives, whether you like it or not.  And—and this is the kicker—if you are an employee and you have insurance through your employer, guess what:  you are, too.
 
Apparently only a church has standing anymore to have a moral objection to contraception.  Never mind your personal stance on the contraception/abortion issue; that’s not the point here.  The point here is that under the HHS ruling yesterday, none of us is even entitled to hold that objection anymore.  It’s been regulated away with the stroke of an agency pen, based on the recommendation of a panel you’ve never heard of, and now employers’ money to sponsor the plans, and employees’ premium payments under those plans must go into coverage pools part of which will be funding contraception.  You may have liked your plan that didn’t cover contraceptives, or at least required someone getting them to make a co-pay and have some stake in the game, but that’s too bad.  It may be the most morally reprehensible thing in the world to you, but whether you’re an employer or an employee, you’re going to pay for it anyway, Jack.  Unless, of course, you or your employer chooses to drop coverage altogether and put you into the federal clearinghouse.
 
So much for keeping your coverage.
Predictably, these measures don’t take effect until 2013, conveniently after the 2012 election cycle.  Once again, Obama claims credit for everything, and takes responsibility for nothing.  Who’s kicking the can down the road, Mr. President?
But it’s OK, you see, because apparently this is an historic victory for women’s health.  According to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, “[t]hese historic guidelines are based on science and existing [medical] literature and will help ensure women get the preventative health services they need.”  We’re told Sebelius acted after a panel from the Institute of Medicine indicated that the prevention of unintended pregnancies is essential for the psychological, emotional, and physical health of women.
All of these provisions are mandated under the guise of preventative health care.  They’re supposed to be preventing disease.  I’m sorry, maybe I missed something.  When, exactly, did pregnancy become a disease to be prevented?  The good news is I guess the President is technically keeping his spit-and-a-handshake promise to Bart Stupak that there would be no federally-funded abortions under Obamacare.  Sort of.
In 1809 Thomas Jefferson wrote that “[n]o provision in our Constitution ought to be dearer to man than that which protects the rights of conscience against the enterprises of civil authority.”  Invoking this statement, Representatives Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) and Dan Boren (D-OK) have co-sponsored the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act (HR 1179), a bipartisan—curiously, the news reports never mention Rep. Boren or the fact that this bill is bipartisan—measure introduced in March aimed at “ensur[ing] that health care stakeholders retain the right to provide, purchase, or enroll in health coverage that is consistent with their religious beliefs and moral convictions, without fear of being penalized or discriminated against under [Obamacare][.]”  You can read the text for yourself here:  http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-112hr1179ih/pdf/BILLS-112hr1179ih.pdf.
Hmmm.  “Conscientious objector” status under Obamacare.  I wonder what William Jefferson Clinton has to say about that?