In several recent articles, I’ve talked about the unconstitutional challenges being launched against the Judiciary by congressional representatives acting as lackeys of an increasingly out-of-control theocratic movement.
Lately, I have been thinking a lot about another aspect of the “debate” over what to do about an out of control judiciary: the “debate” begs the question of whether or not the Judiciary is, in fact, engaged in a War Against People of Faith.
A CNN story I ran across tonight was the final impetus necessary for me to “confront the judicial war on faith” head-on.
We’re hearing more these days about the “fact” that judges hate Jesus’ followers.
Don Feder, a former columnist and media consultant, said judges were participating in a “well-orchestrated attack on our Judeo-Christian heritage.” — Conservatives step up attack on judiciary (April 8, 2005) Reuters via MSNBC.com.
The same story quotes House of Representatives Majority Leader Tom DeLay, speaking to a conference via a videotaped message — he couldn’t be there personally because he was attending the funeral of a popular religious leader — and railing against a “judiciary run amok”:
“Our next step, whatever it is, must be more than rhetoric,” the Texas Republican told the conference, entitled “Confronting the Judicial War on Faith.” — Conservatives step up attack on judiciary (April 8, 2005) Reuters via MSNBC.com (emphasis added).
While Tom DeLay has elsewhere suggested that “judges will answer for their behavior” — a comment that drew a rebuke from Vice-President Dick Cheney — other congressional leaders have suggested that they understand why someone might want to kill a judge. (Gebe Martinez, Republican Senator says judges bring violence on themselves (April 5, 2005) The Houston Chronicle via SmirkingChimp.com.)
Yet an honest look at the Supreme Court of the United States reveals the Court not infrequently upholding the Constitution of the United States in ways that are not unfriendly to religions. I was reminded of this fact recently — and it started me thinking, as I said, about the question-begging nature of the “charges” against the Judiciary — when studying for my upcoming Constitutional Law final examination. Volume I: Multistate Subjects of the Barpassers guide I decided to use for review, at page 4-98, reveals:
EXAMPLE: (Viewpoint discrimination)
In Lamb’s Chapel v Center Moriches Union Free School District (1993), The U.S. Supreme Court held that a school district which permitted after-hours use of school facilities to a wide variety of community groups could not bar a Christian group from showing a film about family life from a Christian perspective. The high court regarded the ban as viewpoint discrimination, since a similar film without a religious viewpoint would have been permitted by school authorities. Similarly, in Rosenberger v Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia (1995), the high court invalidated (5-4) a University’s refusal to fund a student publication with religious editorial viewpoints where the University funded other publications dealing with religious subjects.
“But that was ten years ago!,” you say. “The courts are no longer as friendly towards religion!”
A federal judge on Thursday blocked a county school system from instituting a health curriculum that includes discussions of homosexuality. — Judge blocks Maryland sex-ed program (May 6, 2005) CNN.
The decision to enjoin the school district from implementing the health curriculum is part of a lawsuit by Citizens for a Responsible Curriclum and a Virginia-based group known as Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays. The former group was started specifically to oppose the implementation of the health curriculum; the latter is an established group that believes homosexuals can learn to “overcome,” or at least “subdue” their homosexual tendencies and “choose” to be “straight” — just like heterosexuals do. Both groups are comprised by religious fundamentalists.
The CNN story unfortunately doesn’t provide much information. You get the sense that the biggest flaw in the program is that it tells the truth: Some religions support full rights for gays and some — the article cites the Baptists — are “intolerant and Biblically misguided.”
Now these things are, in fact, true. But that isn’t the point. The United States District Court for the District of Maryland, Southern Division, in the opinion by Judge Alexander Williams, Jr., quoted from materials for the Revised Curriculum which the Board of Education of Montgomery County (Maryland) planned to implement:
Myth: Homosexuality is a sin.
Facts: The Bible contains six passages which condemn homosexual behavior. The Bible also contains numerous passages condemning heterosexual behavior. Theologians and Biblical scholars continue to differ on many Biblical interpretations. They agree on one thing, however. Jesus said absolutely nothing at all about homosexuality. Among the many things deemed an abomination are adultery, incest, wearing clothing made from more than one kind of fiber, and ea[t]ing shellfish, like shrimp and lobster.
Religion has often been misused to justify hatred and oppression. Less than half a century ago, Baptist churches (among others) in this country defended racial segregation on the basis that it was condoned by the Bible. Early Christians were not hostile to homosexuals. Intolerance became the dominant attitude only after the Twelfth Century. Today, many people no longer tolerate generalizations about homosexuality as pathology or sin. Few would condemn heterosexuality as immoral — despite the high incidence of rape, incest, child abuse, adultery, family violence, promiscuity, and venereal disease among heterosexuals. Fortunately, many within organized religions are beginning to address the homophobia of the church. The Nation [sic] Council of Churches of Christ, the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, the Unitarian Universalist Association, the Society of Friends (Quakers), and the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches support full civil rights for gay men and lesbians, as they do for everyone else. — Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum v. Montgomery County Public Schools (S.D.Md.May 5, 2005, Civ. A. No. AW-05-1194) 2005 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 8130 at pp. 11-13.
It doesn’t matter here whether the information contained in the program is correct, or not. The fact of the matter is that a public school is no place for a Bible Study — at least not when it’s taught as part of the public school’s own curriculum, by its own teachers. As Judge Williams put it, “[T]he strength [of] Defendants’ substantive theological arguments [is] irrelevant — it is their exclusive nature” that causes the problem. (CRC v. MCPS, supra, at p. 31.)
The Court is extremely troubled by the willingness of Defendants to venture — or perhaps more correctly bound — into the crossroads of controversy where religion, morality, and homosexuality converge. The Court does not understand why it is necessary, in attempting to achieve the goals of advocating tolerance and providing health-related information, Defendants must offer up their opinion on such controversial topics as whether homosexuality is a sin, whether AIDS is God’s judgment on homosexuals, and whether churches that condemn homosexuality are on theologically solid ground. — CRC v. MCPS, supra, at p. 32.
The fundamentalists filing the suit are, without a doubt, bigots. There is no question that their religious views endorse a backward mindset that, frankly, the world could well do without.
But that’s not the point here. The point is that opinions like this — and this opinion is 100% correct on constitutional grounds — are evidence that the courts are not engaged in a War on Faith. A judge engaged in a War on Faith might have said something along the lines of, “The statements contained in the Revised Curriculum, albeit containing references to religious groups and their beliefs, are no more an Establishment of Religion than would be references to religious groups and their beliefs in an historical course on the reign of King Henry VIII of England. Factual comments regarding the contents of the Christian Bible do not constitute an Establishment of Religion anymore than those that might be found in a course on ‘The Bible as Literature.'”
The fact is that Judges and Justices of the courts of the United States, when they properly perform their duties under the Constitution, will sometimes hand down rulings that go against religious fundamentalists and at other times will hand down rulings that favor them. When the rulings go against religious fundamentalists, it’s not because of some Judicial War on Faith; it’s because, sometimes, what religious fundamentalists want is contrary to the Constitution of the United States of America. It’s because the United States of America isn’t a Christian Theocracy, but a pluralistic Republic.
It’s because, as Judge Williams noted,
The Establishment Clause serves to protect the integrity of both the Church and the State by keeping these hallowed institutions at arms length from one another. — CRC v. MCPS, supra, at p. 22 (quoting McCollum v. Bd. of Edc. (1948) 333 U.S. 203, 212).
And the only way the government can be friendly to all religions is for Americans to ensure that it does not become overly-entangled with any of them.
So why not contact your representative today and remind them of that? Let’s put an end to the false rhetoric and hyperbole of the poor “abused and oppressed” fundamentalists — and put a stop to the Fundamentalist War on the Judiciary.