Ayatollah Santorum & The Republic(ans) of Gilead

 Posted by on March 3, 2012 at 12:00 PM
Mar 032012
 


Rick Santorum: The GOPer Ayatollah

In her classic 1985 novel The Handmaid’s Tale, Canadian author Margaret Atwood sculpts an alternate reality that would have Ayatollah Santorum and his Christian Taliban licking their dominionist chops.

From the WikiP entry:

Set in the near future, in a totalitarian theocracy which has overthrown the United States government, The Handmaid’s Tale explores themes of women in subjugation and the various means by which they gain agency….in the Republic of Gilead, a country formed within the borders of what was formerly the United States of America. It was founded by a racist, male chauvinist, nativist, theocratic-organized military coup as an ideologically driven response to the pervasive ecological, physical and social degradation of the country.

Beginning with a staged terrorist attack (blamed on Islamic extremist terrorists) that kills the President and most of Congress, a movement calling itself the “Sons of Jacob” launched a revolution and suspended the United States Constitution under the pretext of restoring order.

The contemporary leader of the Sons of Jacob, Ayatollah Santorum was on ABC’s This Week Sunday last weekend telling host George Stepnanopolus that John F Kennedy‘s historic 1960 speech to a group of Baptist ministers, in which he attempted to allay their fears that his first loyalty was not to the Pope but to the US Constitution, made him want “to throw up.”  He added:

I don’t believe in an America where the separation between church and state is absolute. The idea that the church can have no influence or no involvement in the operation of the state is absolutely antithetical to the objectives and visions of our country.

President Bill Clinton had as his re-election campaign theme: Building a Bridge to the Twenty First Century.  It helped win him the election,  and was incorporated into his Second Inaugural Address (Jan 20, 1997):

My fellow citizens,

At this last presidential inauguration of the 20th century, let us lift our eyes toward the challenges that await us in the next century…the challenge of our past remains the challenge of our future—will we be one nation, one people, with one common destiny, or not? Will we all come together, or come apart?

“Yes, let us build our bridge. A bridge wide enough and strong enough for every American to cross over to a blessed land of new promise…From the height of this place and the summit of this century, let us go forth. May God strengthen our hands for the good work ahead—and always, always bless our America.”

If  Bill Clinton was busy building a bridge to the next century, Ayatollah Santorum seems intent on building a bridge to centuries past.  As The Urantia Book puts it:.

But religious leaders are making a great mistake when they try to call modern man to spiritual battle with the trumpet blasts of the Middle Ages.

Beginning with George Washington, references to God and faith have been a  part of the American political vernacular. Such references have generally occurred within the carefully constructed framework of the First Amendment’s two religion clauses: the establishment clause, which bans the government from enforcing a particular religion or religious point of view; and the free expression clause, which allows the individual to practice his or her religion without interference from the state. [1]

Where practicable, accommodations or exemptions have been given when religious practice conflicts with secular law.  For instance, a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church was excused from working on the Sabbath;  an Amish family was excused from sending their son to secondary school; practitioners  of the Santeria religion were exempted from health laws regarding animal slaughter. Remarkably,  it was nearly a century before the courts weighed in on either clause; and relatively speaking, few actual cases overall. (See Appendix for a partial list of cases).

Currently, we have another case in the making: the conflict over the Obama Administration’s mandate that employers who provide health insurance for their employees include coverage for women’s reproductive services. When members of religious institutions objected that providing contraception services violated their religious beliefs, the administration granted them broad exemptions.  This was acceptable to 59% of Catholic women, and to large groups like the Catholic Hospital Association. (One in six hospital patients are treated at Catholic hospitals.) The health insurance industry hasn’t objected to either version, since an estimated 14% of  reproductive services are preventative in nature. Detecting early stages of ovarian and endometrial cancers, ovarian cysts, endometriosis saves them money in the long run.  Only a small number of self-insured groups are maintaining their opposition, and of course that bastion of ecclesiastical misogyny, the all male U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Case closed– right?  Not for the Rethugs, who think they can exploit the issue for political gain. This week they took to the Senate floor with an amendment to a transportation bill that would have allowed any employer to withhold any medical service that offended his or her’s moral sensibilities.   The Blunt-Rubio Amendment was  brought up for a vote yesterday,  defeated by a mere three votes.  Expect more like it in the near future, especially since the Ayatollah himself says that Griswold v. Connecticutt, the landmark Supreme Court case that guaranteed access to contraception, should be overturned. This would be a two-fer for conservative Christians since Griswold served as a foundation stone for Roe v. Wade. If you think that this fight over contraception is part of a larger legal strategy to turn back the clock back a half century on women’s rights, you’re not alone.

Which brings us to Ayatollah Santorum’s jihad against the First Amendment.  His logic seems to be that because the Obama Administration has mandated coverage of women’s reproductive services, and because he believes that a zygote is a person and that contraception (let alone abortion) violates God’s law,  his religious beliefs are being violated. But it is in his incendiary campaign rhetoric that Santorum shows his true colors, redolent of the kind of intolerance that characterizes fundamentalist  ayatollahs everywhere.  Claiming that the president is “a snob” for encouraging post secondary education (which Obama identified as an academic institution, a trade school, or a professional apprenticeship), Santorum immediately pivoted to a religious frame,  accusing the president of  trying to remake college students “in his image.”   This is language straight out of the Bible,  a dog whistle to Biblical  fundamentalists that Obama  is some kind of  blasphemer, a charge punishable by death in the Judeo-Christian (and Muslim)  tradition:

And he that blasphemeth the name of the LORD, he shall surely be put to death, and all the congregation shall certainly stone him: as well the stranger, as he that is born in the land, when he blasphemeth the name of the LORD, shall be put to death. -Leviticus 24: 16.

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The Ayatollah disses JFK on the separation of church and state,  accuses Obama of snobbery on education, and dog whistles blasphemy 

Another cornerstone of Santorum’s appeal to ultra-conservative Christians is their shared belief that the Founding Fathers were all Christians; that the US was established  as a Christian nation; and that its economic and moral redemption lies in remaking the nation in the image and likeness of Gilead.  One problem with that argument is that many of the key Founders were Deists, notwithstanding their Christian upbringing. That would include Thomas JeffersonBenjamin FranklinCornelius Harnett,Gouverneur Morris, and Hugh Williamson; and arguably James Madison,  Alexander HamiltonEthan Allen, and Thomas Paine.

Additionally, The Treaty of Tripoli (1797), signed by President John Adams and ratified unanimously by the US Senate, included this clause:.

As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion,—as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen,—and as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

In close, we quote from The Urantia Book the Master’s dyarchic [3] distinction between the laws of God and Caesar:

“Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s and unto God the things which are God’s. The sincere service of God and the loyal service of Caesar do not conflict unless Caesar should presume to arrogate to himself that homage which alone can be claimed by Deity. Loyalty to God, if you should come to know him, would render you all the more loyal and faithful in your devotion to a worthy emperor.”

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ENDNOTES

1.  In constructing the establishment clause, Madison is said to have adapted the “invisible hand” concept from Adam Smith‘s The Wealth of Nations“(1776), in which a level playing field of competing religious factions would check each other, preventing any one of them from becoming dominant.

2. Definition of duopolistic derived from  Professor Terry Smith, A Black Party? Timmons, Black Backlash and the Endangered Two-Party Paradigm,   DLJ Vol. 48  No. 1 (1998)

3.  On dyarchy: “More accurately, this idea is not anarchic but dyarchic. The individual is not free from law, but he is subject to two potentially conflicting sources of law. spiritual and temporal. This is an important distinction, because the established tenants of a religious tradition have their own dynamic safeguards of order and good sense, superior to individual will.”  Michael W. McConnel, Free Exercise Revisionism and the Smith Decision, 57 U. Chi. L. Rev. 1109, fn. 182.

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APPENDIX

Some cases involving the First Amendment’s religion clauses

Reynolds v. United States (1878)  In a matter decided by the US Supreme Court, the conviction of a Mormon accused of violating a Utah law against bigamy was upheld, his claim that it was his religious duty rejected. From the WikiP entry:  “The Court quoted a letter from Thomas Jefferson in which he stated that there was a distinction between religious belief and action that flowed from religious belief. The former “lies solely between man and his God,” therefore “the legislative powers of the government reach actions only, and not opinions.”

United States v Ballard (1944)  The US Supreme Court held that specific matters of belief were not a proper issue for a jury to decide, even where such beliefs were used to allegedly defraud believers. Respondents, members of the I Am Movement,  claimed that their religious doctrines were derived from contacts with celestials, and that their authenticity beyond the purview of the courts.

Sherbert v. Verner (1963)  The US Supreme Court held that a member of Seventh-day Adventist Church could not be compelled to work on the Sabbath in violation of her religious beliefs.

Yoder v.Wisconsin (1972)  The US Supreme Court decided that a practitioner of the Amish faith could not be compelled to enroll his son in a public, secondary school.

Frank v. Alaska (1979)  The Alaska Supreme Court reversed the conviction of an Alaskan native who claimed that his killing and transport of a moose, out of season and without a permit, was consistent with the funerary rituals of his religion.

Goldman v. Weinberger (1986) The US Supreme Court found that “the Free Exercise Clause and even the First Amendment in general did not apply to the military in the same way that it did to civilian society. The justification for this was a need to “foster instinctive obedience, unity, commitment, and esprit de corps.”

Lyng v. Northwest Cemetery Prot. Ass’n (1988) The US Supreme Court found no compelling interest in preventing a logging road from being built through an area held sacred from time immemorial by a number of a California Indian tribes.

Employment Div. of Oregon v, Smith (1990) The US Supreme Court held that the Free Exercise Clause does not compel governments to grant accommodations, in this case, for the religious use of psychedelics.  Defendants, members of The Native American Church, were denied unemployment insurance after being fired for ingesting peyote as part of their religious rituals. Despite agreeing with the Court’s conclusion, “The decision, as written, is neither persuasive or well crafted. It exhibits only a shallow understanding of free exercise jurisprudence and its use of precedent borders on fiction.”  William F. Marshall, In Defense of Smith and Free Exercise Revisionism, 58 U. Chi. L. Rev. 308), reply to Michael W. McConnell, id. For further discussion of whether the free exercise clause requires the granting of religious exemptions, see McConnell’s 1990 article, The Origins and Historical Understanding of Free Exercise of Religion, 103 Harv. L. Rev. 1409.

Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye v. Hialeah (1993)  The US Supreme Court found that an ordinance targeted at a specific religious group’s practice  was unconstitutional. (The case involved Santeria’s practice of animal sacrifice.)  Said the Court: “Our review confirms that the laws in question were enacted by officials who did not understand, failed to perceive, or chose to ignore the fact that their official actions violated the Nation’s essential commitment to religious freedom. The challenged laws had an impermissible object; and in all events the principle of general applicability was violated because the secular ends asserted in defense of the laws were pursued only with respect to conduct motivated by religious beliefs.”

City of Boerne v. Flores (1997) Concerned that the Smith decision cited above would restrict religious practice in general, Congress passed the  Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, the basis for the Catholic Church’s appeal of an adverse zoning ruling. The US Supreme Court denied the Church’s appeal and in the process, ruled the entire RFRA unconstitutional.  (The Court found that Congress’ attempt to be the sole arbiter of  substantive rights guaranteed by the 14th Amndment was an usurpation of the Court’s exclusive power.)

Locke v Davey (2004) The US Supreme Court upheld a Washington state law that denied a scholarship to a divinity student, per a specific clause,  Article I, §11 , of  the state constitution that states:  “No public money or property shall be appropriated for or applied to any religious worship, exercise or instruction.” The ruling implicate both of the First Amendment’s religion clauses.

 

Copyright Cases Involving Religion and Alleged Contact With Spiritual Beings

Oliver v. Saint Germain Foundation (1941) A federal district court ruled that “revelations” from spiritual beings should be treated as uncopyrightable “facts”, and that only their creative arrangement by humans could be granted copyright protection.

URANTIA FOUNDATION v. KRISTEN MAAHERRA (1997)  The Urantia Foundation’s original copyright was upheld by the 9th Circuit Appellate Court.

MICHAEL FOUNDATION, INC. v. URANTIA FOUNDATION v. HARRY MCMULLAN, III (2001) The Tenth Circuit found the Urantia Foundation’s renewal copyright invalid, that the book had entered the public domain in 1983; and that  “The Urantia Book is neither a composite nor a commissioned work.”

 


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