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July 22, 2006

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» Stone on the Stem Cell Veto from PrawfsBlawg
One often sees examples of laypeople expansively assuming that any religiously motivated action by a legislator or other public official is, in some way, an undermining of the separation of church and state. But such views are, it seems to me, increasi... [Read More]

» President Bush's Stem Cell Veto and Separation of Chruch and State: from The Volokh Conspiracy
Chicago lawprof Geof Stone criticizes the veto on church-state grounds, saying that it shows "a reckless disregard for the fundamental America... [Read More]

» Pigs, Horses, Religion, and Morality: from The Volokh Conspiracy
Geof Stone, who argues that it's improper for a government official to make a decision based on "his own, sectarian religious belief" (see [Read More]

» Religious Reasons and State Power from Brian Leiter's Law School Reports
Against my better judgment--but since folks have been e-mailing me their comments in this debate--I'm going to say something about the rather unsatisfying discussion going on at several law-related blogs prompted by Geoffrey Stone's comments about Pres... [Read More]

» Stem cell veto, continued from Believe and Profess
My last post and the following discussion touched upon whether or not acting to restrict or ban the destruction of embrionic human beings is somehow an abandonment of science and reason for religion. University of Chicago law school professor Geoffre... [Read More]

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The Law Fairy

Well, Kimball, I hope your little speech makes you feel big and important. Do you honestly think you're going to change anyone's mind here?

LAK

LF, For such a smart woman you do a piss poor job of explaining how you justify turnng on the lights, but call genetics science's "theory of the day" to explain the origins of human life. I could not live with such inconsistency, but alas, you have Jesus to fill in the gaping holes in your worldview.

The frightening thing was how many supposedly elite thinkers there were at U of C law who cling to there illusions, including a number of freaky people who truly believe Jesus came to Colonial America. Then again, these are most of the same people who don't question their existences enough to reconsider whoring themselves to corporate america for the rest of their lives in exchange for an upper middle class salary.

WWND? [What Would Neil Do?]

Was he thinking about my country
Or the color of my skin?
Was he thinking 'bout my religion
and the way I worshipped him?

Did he create just me in his image
Or every living thing?
When God made me
When God made me
Was he planning only for believers
Or for those who just have faith?
Did he envision all the wars
That were fought in his name?

Did he say there was only one way
To be close to him?
When God made me
When God made me

Did he give me the gift of love
To say who I could choose?
When God made me
When God made me

When God made me
When God made me

Did he give me the gift of voice
So some could silence me?
Did he give me the gift of vision
Not knowing what I might see?

Did he give me the gift of compassion
To help my fellow man?
When God made me
When God made me
When God made me
When God made me

José Pacheco

Well, the Kimballs and detractors have really written a lot. I tried to catch up, but I think they already missed the point, and started attacking each other.

The point here wasn't just that the President should follow his beliefs and values, but respecting the constitutional framework? He was, afterall, elected for a government office, so that position limits his private agenda (at least it should).

I can't believe there's still people debating about the separation of Church and State. I thought that was common wisdom, and that the many thinkers that have developed that basic idea had already made their point.

Well, it seems I was wrong. All those references I made back at Law school about the strenghts of the so American separation of Church and State (of course, at least in theory) should be taken back. Shame.

Kimball Corson

Law Fairy,

It is not an ego trip, I don’t feel big and important and the situation makes me nothing but sad and angry. However, Nietzsche and his progeny have changed the minds of most and have carried the day in Western thought, except for the current red states backlash in America tied to abortion, gays, family values and a whole series of other stupid catch phrases. The rest of the civilized world laughs at us. It is the religionists in the world who continue fight and squabble, roiling and involving the rest of us against our wills in one mess after another and at great cost, both in human life and funds. And yes, messages do slowly sink in over time and, yes, people do and have changed their minds on this issue, many.

GWB

Right, except I listened to Jesus, who told me invading Iraq was the right thing to do. I am right and the other religions are wrong. Thankyou Jesus.

BAC

Jose: Can we try to move beyond treating "the separation of church and state" as a political platitude? The challenge is to cite any Establishment Clause case that would require Congress to fund stem cell research when it had denied such funding because they found the research morally repugnant. If you can't cite a case, your complaint is for the ballot box, not the courtroom.

LAK: The challenge is to you too. Rather than taking pot shots at Mormons, put your rigourously trained, U of C educated, Neil Young enlightened mind to work and point me to the law that says Bush's veto was unconstitutional.

Dan Quayle

Kimball Corson: "[W]hen we set this sludge aside and directly consider what is at issue and then directly discuss the pros and cons involved in a neutral, deliberate and focused way, bringing good judgment to bear where called for."


The problem is, Kimball, you admitted that you believe that crippled retards should be euthanized if other humans think their lives are hopeless and thus of lesser value. It is not a matter of sludge-hurling to note that your circumlocutions read as if written by a pedantic Nazi. You have bad judgment.

Kimball Corson

LAK writes,

"The frightening thing was how many supposedly elite thinkers there were at U of C law who cling to there illusions, including a number of freaky people who truly believe Jesus came to Colonial America.

I respond:

LAK,I believe this is a function of the University's recruitment policies which look for bright kids in may red state public universities and colleges, unlike the ivy league schools or much more intensively than those schools do. Those kids bring their parents ideas and teachings with them and only slowly abandon them and learn to find their own way.

Kimball Corson

Jose,
I too feel behind and not caught up. And you are absolutely right that the President should respect the Constitutional framework and that the separation doctrine is clear and not really debatable, that is until religionists with political muscle try to squeeze their agendas past it. We should not have to be debating such foolishness, and as you say, it is shameful.

LAK

BAC,

Bush's veto wasn't unconstitutional. He can veto anything he wants for any reason, from what I know of conlaw. That is not at issue, as professor Stone's post makes abundantly clear.

What he does have is a "reckless disregard for the fundamental American aspiration to keep church and state separate," that is, if he bases policy decisions on only his sectarian religious faith, and cannot justify them otherwise on ethical considerations of the public good.

"But in what sense is it “ethical” for Mr. Bush – acting as President of the United States -- to place his own sectarian, religious belief above the convictions of a majority of the American people and a substantial majority of both the House of Representatives and the Senate? In my judgment, this is no different from the President vetoing a law providing a subsidy to pork producers because eating pork offends his religious faith. Such a veto is an unethical and illegitimate usurpation of state authority designed to impose on all of society a particular religious faith."

That is not to say it was unconstitutional. It is not. However, when elected officials are basing their decisions on their religion and unable to justify those decisions otherwise on civic ethics, they are violating the spirit of the constitution and establishing their relgious beliefs, beliefs that aren't supported by logical argument, but rather on faith, on the rest of us as the law of the land. That is not what elected officials should be doing, even in the very limited role of exercising veto power.


Kimball Corson

GWB has it right, but I would add an Ayatollah leader or three in the Middle East saying they got the word from Allah and Mohamed to terrorize us and fight an insurgency war and they thank Mohamed.

Kimball Corson

Bush's veto was the result of his religious beliefs and the portion of his political base who have the same beliefs. Intellectually, this is a violation of the Separation Doctrine, but with a new twist, and who is in a position to challenge it or wants to?

Kimball Corson

Dan Quayle, whom you are not, I never said any such thing.

LAK

Dan Qualye,

If they have consiousness, if they can feel, or think, or sense, or have memory or a sense of identity, or any linear combination of theses traits at any time, they are human and have rights and their lives should be preserved.

Your attempt at equivocating studying embryonic stems cells and euthanizing the mentally handicapped is not a good one, nor is your attempt at putting words in Kimball's mouth.

BAC

Thanks for clearing that up LAK.

So, when Prof. Stone calls the veto "illegitimate," he simply means that he really do not like it and that he really wishes someone else was President who would not make decisions like that? A rather strange use of the word "illegitimate," I would think. Perhaps he got a little carried away with the rhetoric?

Since there is no violation of the Constitution or any other law, Bush's veto is, in fact, legitimate and must be respected as a valid exercise of presidential power, even if it makes you, Prof. Stone, and others really unhappy.

Frederick Hamilton

Professor Stone,

You state the Establishment Clause is a complex and confusing area of the law. Really? Here is the confusing clause: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. Just what is so confusing. I maintain that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof" is not confusing at all. With all respect you are due, and also all of the above posters, a fairly bright high school senior would be able to explain the meaning of the clause. Make no law respecting the establishment of religion. Quite clear. Make no law. Pass no law. Respecting the establishment of religion. A law that relates to establishing or beginning or defining religion or what a religion is or that there should be a national religion. Or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. No law can interfere with exercising or expressing or practicing one's religion. So why is this simmple clause so confusing and complex? I don't get it. But then, I never grunted through law school. Don't think (thank God) like a lawyer and can't capably parse what the meaning of is is.

President Bush's veto of the stem cell bill is consistent with a belief in the sanctity of life. You may not like it, but he is very constitutional in his ability to veto it and very constitutional in his reason for it. His ethical beliefs.

Congress, the people's house, may want to outline to federal courts what they are allowed to rule on. My reading of the constitution gives congress the right to apply: "with such Exceptions, and under such Regulations as the Congress shall make."

As to whether Congress can purchase land that has a Christian Cross on it? Do any of you really think that is unconstitional? America owns many parcels of land with crosses on them. D-Day cemeteries in France. Arlington. et al.

What all of you have, including the quite bright Professor Stone is a political quarrel with President Bush and Congress. Well go for it. Election day is less than four months away. Make your arguments. Cast your ballotts. Count them all. And get the hell out of the way because the people will have spoken. Will they speak your language? Don't know. Might. Doubt they will be as antagonistic toward religion ss the posters at this site are.

The vast, vast, vast majority of Americans consider themselves religous, understand the Establishment Clause better than you give them credit for and are strongly opposed to striking "under God" from the Pledge, taking "In God We Trust" off our currency or possibly striking and believe that our Declaration of Independence is an integral part of our Constitutional fabric and believe the following: WE hold these truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

Please don't denigrate President Bush if he values Life a little differently than you. Go elect yourself a President you feel more comfortable with. It's America you know.

BAC

Kimball said: "Intellectually, this is a violation of the Separation Doctrine"

I am not familiar with the "Intellectual Establishment Clause" line of cases. I would take this as an admission that legally (or perhaps literally, or technically), Bush's veto is NOT a violation of the Separation Doctrine.

Would you propose a Constitutional amendment to prevent this type of decision making? If so, what would it say?

LAK

BAC,

I disagree. The president could pardon a mass murderer, but I wouldn't call it a legitimate use of his power, even if legal. I don't think professor stone's rhetoric was too strong. Illegitimate does not translate to illegal.

If the president is vetoing thing based only on his religious beliefs, and without other justification, he is exercising his power as President illlegitimately when viewed in the context and spirit of the establishnment clause, even if the estblishment clause only legally applies affirmatively to laws that are passed, and not laws that are vetoed.

So it is about a little more than just what I and professor Stone like and dislike. It is about the responsibility of upholding basic constitutional principles. "Aspirations" of our nation that its government will not involve or establish religion in its governance of the people.

ctw

"Science w/o religion is certainly lame and leaves the physicist hanging in the wind. Faith plays a huge part in my life."

since I agree with almost everything else you have written above, this is surprising. could you elaborate? I view religious faith and - in a broad sense that includes scientific - belief as having a common structure and wonder if perhaps you have something similar in mind. tnx.

also, finding substance appealing rather than off-putting, I cast another vote for KC, LAK, and anyone else with substantive comment rattling on as much as they like.

- charles

Kimball Corson

But don't misunderstand me, I believe in a Supreme Creator, just not one who wishes to involve Himself in our day to day fooliness and follies or whispers in my ear, telling me what is right from what is wrong or holds my hand as we walk through this garden of death and craziness.

After all we DID eat from the tree of knowledge and we WERE thrown out of the Garden of Eden, so let's accept our fate of banishment (instead of denying it) and learn to think and get along on our own.

The Law Fairy

Kimball, your statement that you are "sad and angered" belies your contention that you are not on an ego trip. It's like the man who brags to his friends about how very humble he is.

You sit there on your Nietzschean high horse and attribute everything good in the world to your personal belief system. How on earth can you claim this is somehow non-religious, or that you are not one of the "religionists" you so clearly despise? You present Nietzscheism as the bright blade of civilization, marching forward against the hordes of backwards "red states," all of the inhabitants of which are solely responsible for continuing to "fight and squabble, roiling and involving the rest of us against our wills in one mess after another and at great cost, both in human life and funds." Gee, Kimball, sounds an awful lot like fundamentalist talk. Or, hey, let's play your game and use the worst example of people who hold your beliefs and attribute them to all of you and your fellow believers -- that makes you a fascist and a Nazi. Not so fun to be told how evil and harmful your beliefs are, is it?

You can't go around blaming Christians for wanting to live their lives according to their belief system. Not if you believe in a free society, anyway. A free democracy requires balance. Balance between allowing people to live according to their beliefs, but keeping them from imposing them upon others. It is clear from your comments that you wish to impose your beliefs upon others. As others here have noted, Bush made a perfectly constitutional, POLITICAL decision. Thankfully we are rid of him soon -- but your obsession with tearing down Christianity is both incomprehensible and frightening to anyone who cares about BOTH parts of the Establishment Clause.

You're free to think that you know everything, Kimball. Thankfully you are not the president, or I fear the rest of us here wouldn't be allowed to have this discussion at all.

David

I am amazed and shocked at this thread and at these posts.

So the Civil War was illicit because the abolitionists were motivated by Christian religious impulses? And the Civil Rights Movement was illicit and unconstitutional because most of its proponents were ministers and rabbis? Was Dr. King's speech on the Washington Mall unconstitutional because he quoted the Bible? I could go on and on.

Most of the posts here betray a woeful ignorance of American history and an even sadder--because this is a blog at a major law school-- ignorance of or disregard for what the First Amendment's Establishment and Free Exercise clauses mean.

LAK

Charles,

As much as I learned about the nature of the universe by studying physics, for every ounce of knowledge I received, I also received a pound of understanding how much it is we don't and won't ever know about the universe. Our knowledge and ability to understand the universe is asymtoting, we've gotten to the point where taking measurements fundamentally alters the state of that which you are measuring. We are looking for relationships between fundamnetal forces that cannot be seen except in energy levels that only existed for a moment at the very beginnings the universe. We try to build larger and large particle acclerators to catch a glimpse of matter at these energy levels, but we are reaching our limits there too. Bottom line is we know very little about why we're here and how we got here. Einstein was well aware of this.

As for faith, I recognize the fundamental asymmetry in the universe (without that asymmetry, we probably wouldn't exist) but also, equally, the localized instances of high order, especially the miracle that is life. I find this very mystical and I have faith because I believe in love and compassion and all that other judeo-christian virtues and human potentials, and see it as being of the same nature as other instances of order and beauty in the universe. My faith involves having faith in love and human goodness, in the face of what Nietzche called for, the will to power, egoism and selfishness. It is very difficult to have faith in love and human goodness, especially these days.

Does that help at all?

What I refuse to have faith in is bed time stories written thousands of years ago to achieve social control of the destitute that violate fundamental common sense observatins about the universe. God doesn't have sex with women, there is no God that meddles in human affairs, he isn't a he who looks like us in flowing robes, women were not made from adam's rib, etc.

Some people just don't have the courage to recognize that you can have faith in love and human potential for goodness, life and creation, without resorting to those bed time stories to justify it.

"The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed."

"I cannot conceive of a God who rewards and punishes his creatures, or has a will of the kind that we experience in ourselves. Neither can I nor would I want to conceive of an individual that survives his physical death; let feeble souls, from fear or absurd egoism, cherish such thoughts. I am satisfied with the mystery of the eternity of life and with the awareness and a glimpse of the marvelous structure of the existing world, together with the devoted striving to comprehend a portion, be it ever so tiny, of the Reason that manifests itself in nature."

-Einstein

Richard T Stith

I am puzzled as to why Professor Stone and others attribute the inclusion of embryos and fetuses in the demands of justice to some religious revelation. I'll bet most do not attribute a special religious view to those who, say, strongly favor animal rights, even though they may well disagree with them.

It seems to me clear that the inclusion of the unborn in humanity comes not from religion but from the ontological/psychological/deep cultural (take your pick) conceptual impossibility of dividing a self-developing organism up into distinct entities or species at a new stage of development. (The inclusion of animals among the subjects of rights, on the other hand, is NOT entailed by our ordinary conceptualization of reality and requires a great, though still non-religious, mental adjustment, I think.)

Of course, religion can and does provide a strong motive force for seeking justice once our minds have grasped the subjects of justice.

Posted by rstith on July 22, 2006 at 06:50 PM

ctw

"Does that help at all?"

oh, yes. we just use somewhat different language (I have no detectable poetic streak - altho the quotes did choke me up a bit) but are in total accord in principle. tnx.

-c

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