Friday, September 12, 2008

Mixing religion and politics... or not

During this silly political season many people are quick to assert that Candidate X is trying to impose his or her religious views on an unsuspecting public.

These accusations usually... but not always... come from the Angry Left about candidates from the Red Meat Right. These accusations usually come flying in with a companion accusation that Candidate X is trying to subvert the Constitution.

Let's talk about that, for a moment, calmly, if we can, and without naming candidates or calling names.

Most laws spring from a moral code of some sort. The connection is particularly obvious with criminal laws.

For example, so far as I know all major religions frown upon theft. (I won't state that categorically, lest some smart aleck cite some sect that holds differently.)

This does not mean, however, that laws against theft are unconstitutional impositions of someone's religion on the body politic.

I would argue, in fact, that a religious group has every right to seek to impose its values on the public through the legislative process. For example: If a Muslim group wanted to impose its version of Sharia on, say, the State of Illinois, it should be free to openly lobby toward this end. Let's stay with our theft example: In some Sharia codes, a convicted thief may have his hand cut off. While that might offend another constitutional clause (cruel and unusual punishment, perhaps?), persuading the Illinois legislature to pass such a law would not, in my opinion, constitute an 'establishment' of Islam. I would not support such a law and I wouldn't expect Illinois legislators to jeopardize the hands they take the money with by passing such a law... but seeking such a law, per se, would not be an attempt to 'shred the Constitution.'

Please note that I do not pretend for a moment that some aspects of some Sharia codes... such as allowing anyone to kill an apostate -- i.e., someone who has converted from Islam... would be anything other than hopelessly unconstitutional. In such a case the civil authority would be clearly invoked in support of a particular religion. On the other hand (*ahem*), in our theft example, although the new law would specify a penalty advocated by a particular religion, it would not require everyone to become a Muslim and would apply equally to Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

Now, let's move to a more controversial topic: Legalized abortion. Don't retreat to your prepared trenches just yet: Stay with me for just a minute more.

Some candidates seek restrictions or even outright bans on abortion except in the most limited of cases. This is consistent with the teachings of some, but not all, Christian churches. This does not mean that candidates who espouse such views are trying to subvert the Constitution or establish (for example) Roman Catholicism as the national religion.

You may disagree -- and disagree strongly, even passionately -- with persons who would seek, through legislative and judicial avenues, modification of the laws which currently permit abortion. But such persons are not (necessarily) trying to subvert the Constitution (again... no categorical statements) by working to change a Supreme Court precedent.

Working to change a precedent of the Supreme Court is not trying to 'shred the Constitution.' Supreme Court precedents are neither immutable nor immortal. See, for example, Dred Scot v. Sanford, 60 U.S. 393 (1857), or Plessy v. Ferguson,163 U.S. 537 (1896).

Now, then. If we can agree on this much, we are way ahead of the "debate" online and in the media. We may even be able to have an intelligent discussion about this issue.

But this is enough for one day.


Empress Bee (of the High Sea) said...

well this is particularly well written curmy, not that all your posts are not, but i especially like this one. plus there is no sports stuff in it! ha ha ha (just kidding, since i have had two of them myself!)...

seriously, great point.

smiles, bee

Jean-Luc Picard said...

The trouble is, everyone has fixed viewpoints, and will never change.

landgirl said...

whew, well done. Over here they have recently adopted some Sharia court rulings that are no longer voluntary or just voluntary--the court of sessions and whatever the other one is called (I'm still learning)will regard them as enforceable. I think this is just fine. I saw a program on what Sharia law has been doing so far--domestic issues about how men are supposed to treat their wives and vice versa. Very thoughtful. Yup, the constitution is a living document and needs to reflect the breadth of our culture. Oops that was a slip back to US but pertains as well over here where constitution is not written per se but is an accumulation of precedents.

As a person of faith, I try to practice the "hate the sin, love the sinner" precept so that even if other people and

Dave said...

Well said. In the end though, the limiting factor is the consent of the governed.