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Friday, October 30, 2009

"Imposing Our Beliefs" on Others

Here is a Guest Opinion from Rev. Tadeusz Pacholczyk. He holds a doctorate from Yale University and serves as Director of Education at the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia.

A lot of hot-button topics are being debated in our state legislatures these days, topics of great ethical and bioethical importance, ranging from emergency contraception to gay marriage. These debates address important issues for the future of our society. Lawmakers face the daunting task of making decisions about what should or should not be permitted by law within a reasonable society. Recently I was asked to speak in Virginia at legislative hearings about embryonic stem cell research. After I gave my testimony, one of the senators asked a pointed question.

"Father Tad, by arguing against embryonic stem cell research, don't you see how you are trying to impose your beliefs on others, and shouldn't we as elected lawmakers avoid imposing a narrow religious view on the rest of society?"

The senator's question was an example of the fuzzy thinking that has become commonplace in recent years within many state legislatures and among many lawmakers.

Two major errors were incorporated into the senator's question. First, the senator failed to recognize the fact that law is fundamentally about imposing somebody's views on somebody else. Imposition is the name of the game. It is the very nature of law to impose particular views on people who don't want to have those views imposed on them. Car thieves don't want laws imposed on them which prohibit stealing. Drug dealers don't want laws imposed on them which make it illegal to sell drugs. Yet our lawmakers are elected precisely to craft and impose such laws all the time. So the question is not whether we will impose something on somebody. The question is instead whether whatever is going to be imposed by the force of law is reasonable, just, and good for society and its members.

The second logical mistake the senator made was to suppose that because religion happens to hold a particular viewpoint that implies that such a viewpoint should never be considered by lawmakers or enacted into law. Religion teaches very clearly that stealing is immoral. Would it follow that if I support laws against stealing, I am imposing my narrow religious viewpoint on society? Clearly not. Rather, the subject of stealing is so important to the order of society that religion also feels compelled to speak about it. Religion teaches many things that can be understood as true by people who aren't religious at all. Atheists can understand just as well as Catholics how stealing is wrong, and most atheists are just as angry as their Catholic neighbors when their house is broken into and robbed. What is important is not whether a proposed law happens to be taught by religion, but whether that proposal is just, right, and good for society and its members.

To be more coherent, of course, the senator really should have chosen to address the substance of my testimony, rather than talking about the imposition of religious views. The argument I had offered, interestingly, did not depend on religious dogma at all. It depended rather on an important scientific dogma, namely, that all humans come from embryonic humans. The statement that I was once an embryo is a statement about embryology, not theology. Given the fact that we were all once embryonic humans it becomes very clear why destructive embryonic research is an immoral kind of activity. Exploiting the weak and not-yet-born in the interests of the powerful and the well-heeled should not be permitted in a civilized society. This argument, moreover, can be clearly seen by atheists, not just Catholics.

During my testimony, I pointed out how in the United States we have stringent federal laws that protect not only the national bird, the bald eagle, but also that eagle's eggs. If you were to chance upon some of them in a nest out in the wilderness, it would be illegal for you to destroy those eggs. By the force of law, we recognize how the egg of the bald eagle, that is to say, the embryonic eagle inside that egg, is the same creature as the glorious bird that we witness flying high overhead. Therefore we pass laws to safeguard not only the adult but also the very youngest member of that species. Even atheists can see how a bald eagle's eggs should be protected; it's really not a religious question at all. What's so troublesome is how we are able to understand the importance of protecting the earliest stages of animal life but when it comes to our own human life, a kind of mental disconnect takes place. Our moral judgment quickly becomes murky and obtuse when we desire to do certain things that are not good, like having abortions, or destroying embryonic humans for their stem cells.

So anytime we come across a lawmaker who tries to suggest that an argument in defense of sound morals is nothing but imposing a religious viewpoint, we need to look deeper at what may really be taking place. That lawmaker may not be so concerned about avoiding the imposition of a particular view on others — more likely, they are jockeying to simply be able to impose their view, a view which is ultimately much less tenable and defensible in terms of sound moral thinking. Hence they seek to short-circuit the discussion by stressing religious zealotry and imposition without ever confronting the substantive ethical or bioethical argument itself. Once the religious imposition card is played, and Christian lawmakers suddenly become weak-kneed about defending human life and sound morals, the other side then feels free to do the imposing themselves, without having expended too much effort on confronting the essence of the moral debate itself.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Sen. Reid Lays New Trap

Yesterday, Sen. Reid, the Senate point guy trying to paste together a temporary 60-vote majority for ObamaCare, revealed an alluring new gimmick – the “opt out”. While no details have been revealed, apparently Sen. Reid is shopping the notion that the Senate health care bill could include a provision allowing the states to “opt out” of the government insurance program.

The “could” part is contingent upon whether such an idea is necessary to gain the critical last few votes on a health care overhaul. And the details will be worked out with said group of senators.

While the notion lacks any integrity, it is a potentially brilliant political ploy.

There is, first, the simple fact that it provides some political cover for those members of Congress squeamish about facing a hostile electorate after the bills and details come due.

But let’s suppose that Reid’s language will require a state legislature and governor to enact some kind of notice or actual legislation to get out of the federal insurance program. That would put even Republican state governments, like Idaho, in a terrible position. Regardless of principle – how could a state legislator go home and tell his/her constituents that they voted to prevent any Idahoan from getting access to (cheaper?) government health insurance – BUT, they will still have the privilege of paying higher federal income taxes so that folks in New Jersey, California, New York and Massachusetts can enjoy greater federal goodies? (Including, we emphasize again, the sorry obligation to pay for abortions in those states).

Like the gravitational pull we just witnessed on the Stimulus Boondoggle, legislators in every state will be forced to grapple with the structural logic of accepting some benefits versus none for the federal taxes we pay.

At this point, it seems the only defense to this scam is for conservatives in Congress to demand that states which choose to stay out will be exempted from the certain federal tax increases necessary to support ObamaCare. A member of Congress voting for an “opt out” without taxpayer protections is just dancing with their constituents.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Liberalism's Fascist Impulse

The Obama Administration’s decision to muscle FOX News, and recruit other news organizations into an active conspiracy to isolate the conservative network, is obviously disturbing. It should be understood as a gross abuse of presidential power. After all, the president took an oath to use the public’s power to defend the First Amendment – not undermine it.

But to truly appreciate the dynamic, the threat to our inherited liberty, one must put the FOX News campaign into the context of Obama’s broader assault on the free exchange of ideas contrary to his own. It is but the latest in a very ominous list of policies and actions designed to greatly reduce organized opposition to the American Left’s agenda.

Let’s review just the easy-to-remember pieces of a fascist pattern being assembled by the current national regime:

Remember the order by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to a private insurance company, demanding that it stop informing its customers of concerns with ObamaCare? On what authority did the federal government dare to interfere with private communication between citizens and a private company? No constitutional inhibition seemed to occur to the present team running Washington, D.C.

Or what of Speaker Pelosi’s order that her staff would review all large constituent mailings by Members of Congress to ensure that they were not “misinforming” voters about the implications of ObamaCare? And her iron rule that mailings which failed to pass her censorship would not be approved for franking?

Leader Reid has made his contribution to the building oppression as well. It was his inspiration to add “hate crimes” legislation to the defense authorization bill in order to ensure that homosexuals are graduated to a “protected” class – because he knew full well that such legislation could not pass on its own merits in the light of day. But we add this item to the laundry list, not because of process abuse, but because of the substance of the new law. It will greatly undermine the free speech and free exercise protections of the First Amendment in the hopes of normalizing homosexuality by intimidating those guided by religious or traditional values.

But what is a little constitutional abuse in a nation so rich in tolerance?

As we review the growing list – after just nine months in power – we must not forget the Obama Administration’s campaign to regulate the Internet through legislation blandly referred to as “Net Neutrality”. Nor can we overlook the Left’s zealous efforts to impose a newly-packaged “Fairness Doctrine” on commercial radio stations in the hope of somehow ending the penetrating critique of personalities like Rush Limbaugh.

And then we learn that the Obama Administration, partnering with the totalitarian regime in Egypt, has introduced a resolution in the United Nations to create international law protecting Islam from public criticism. Just to a add another brace of insult to the scene of an American president proposing to criminalize free speech under international law – Obama & Co. have packaged this disgrace as a measure designed to protect “freedom of opinion and expression” around the world. By any standard, this list represents an intimidating and energetic attack on political and religious liberty. And it is probably incomplete.

So what are we to make of this seeming anti-constitutional orientation of America’s most liberal president?

The concerned citizen may consider arming himself with a keen analysis of the American Left’s fascination with fascist doctrine and tactics. Jonah Goldberg wrote a book entitled, “Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning”.
For those who can’t easily square the notion of liberals being ensnared by fascist tactics and policies, here is a provocative excerpt:

Contrary to what most people think, the Nazis were ardent socialists (hence the term ‘National Socialism’). They believed in free health care and guaranteed jobs. They confiscated inherited wealth and spent vast sums on public education. They purged the church from public policy, promoted new forms of pagan spirituality, and inserted the authority of the state into every nook and cranny of daily life. The Nazis declared war on smoking, supported abortion, euthanasia and gun control. They loathed the free market, provided generous pensions for the elderly…. The Nazis led the world in organic farming and alternative medicine. Hitler was a strict vegetarian and Himmler was an animal rights activist.”

Does this mean that President Obama is some kind of Nazi? No. Those people were in a world of insanity created by, and for, themselves alone.

But Goldberg’s analysis does document Liberalism’s fascist impulse; the impulse now on display in Washington. Obama’s lack of respect for freedom and liberty, his contempt for, and fear of, those who disagree with him suggests a grand arrogance that could lead to a much weakened Constitution.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

A Love Story

In the midst of our struggles against evil now institutionalized in Washington, D.C., which can sometimes seem overwhelming, it is important to remember the power of the individual, the single hero, to change the world.

Such an example is now available on WorldNetDaily, "5 Alive After One Brave Choice".

It is the story of a woman brutally attacked back in 1956, raped by a gang of eight men on her way home from watching a movie in St. Louis, Missouri. After surviving her crushing ordeal, the twenty-two year old woman, Ann, found out that her suffering was not over. She was pregnant.

Her parents made it clear they wanted her to commit abortion on the baby; but Ann was steadfast in her refusal to compound the violence. She would have the baby girl, but her parents demanded that she give the baby up for adoption.

That baby is now a mature woman named Juda Myers.

For some 48 years, the only thing Ann had to hang onto was photo of her newborn. That is, until Juda found her birth mother in a nursing home in December of 2005. The two talked of the painful circumstances, with the daughter weeping over a description of the brutal rape.

“Honey, stop crying. I’ve forgiven those men,” said the mother. “Look what God has done. He’s brought you back to me. God is faithful.”

Ann’s blessing is now extended to two more generations of family that would not be here without her heroic sacrifice, her decision to choose love over vengeance.This powerful story is really a Gospel parable, and exemplifies the Apostle Paul’s description of love:

“Love always protects, always trust, always hopes, always perseveres.”

Bask in the inspiration yourself by reading the whole story.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Catholic Bishops Threaten to Oppose ObamaCare

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) wrote members of Congress yesterday, pleading again for changes in the proposed health care “reform” legislation now ripe for action on both sides of Congress.

The bishops are especially concerned about two key elements of the legislation – the absence of conscience protections for medical professionals, and plans by Pelosi & Co. to grossly expand tax-financing of abortions. Leaders of the American Catholic church expressed “disappointment” that their previous appeals to ban tax-funding of abortions have been rebuffed.

“We sincerely hope that the legislation will not fall short of our criteria,” wrote the bishops. “However, we remain apprehensive when amendments protecting freedom of conscience and ensuring no taxpayer money for abortion are defeated in committee votes.”

Unless changes are made, the USCCB officials promised to vigorously oppose the legislation.Such outright opposition could make a substantial difference to the pending legislative fight – as well as carry great implications for the futures of politicians who enact ObamaCare over the wishes of the American people.

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