Category Archives: Politics

Huckabee: “Amend the Constitution so it’s in God’s standards”

The Almighty, who inspired a book so perfectly drafted it contradicts itself on who Jesus’s granddad was, apparently has some issues with the wording of our Constitution. That according to presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, who had this to say in Michigan:

“I have opponents in this race who do not want to change the Constitution,” Huckabee told a Michigan audience on Monday. “But I believe it’s a lot easier to change the Constitution than it would be to change the word of the living god. And that’s what we need to do — to amend the Constitution so it’s in God’s standards rather than try to change God’s standards so it lines up with some contemporary view.”

Note that in Huckabee’s America, the Constitution, the bedrock and foundation of our nation, is “some contemporary view.” Just a fad. Some new-fangled nonsense cooked up by a bunch of wig-and-panty-hose-wearing hippies in the 1780s. These kids and their “separation of powers” and “due process.”

This kind of talk should set all freedom-loving Americans on alert level “Holy Shit!”  Huckleberry is proposing, in no uncertain terms, a theocracy, specifically, a Christian theocracy.  It is unfathomable to me that someone running for President of the freaking United States could so blatantly disregard (nay, actively oppose) the First Amendment, upon which so much of our progress and identity as a people depends.

There is one interpretation of these remarks that lowers the threat level to “Gigantic Douchebag,” but just barely.  The allusion to amending the Constitution to meet “God’s standards” and the references to opponents who are unwilling to do so could very well be a “dog whistle”to Christians on one specific issue — gay marriage.  Huckabee may essentially have been saying, “I’ll amend the Constitution to keep the queers from getting hitched, and my opponents won’t.”  I’m just speculating here, but that’s the first thing that came to my mind. 



Cheeseheads for Jesus!

They’re having quite a row in Green Bay, WI over the City Council’s decision this week to permit a creche to remain displayed above the entrance to city hall, but to prohibit all other religious displays until the council can “create guidelines.” The Green Bay Press-Gazette rightly took the Council and mayor to task for this blatent First Amendment violation.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has filed a federal lawsuit challenging the city’s actions. The complaint can be read here. Stay tuned, as I’ll follow this story.

Christian Candidates Withhold the Juicy Details

In the past couple of weeks, both Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney have telegraphed an interesting tell — one that (I hope) bodes well for secular sanity in America.  When questioned about the specifics of their absurd religious beliefs — Huckabee is a creationistand Romney a Mormon — both refused to discuss details, instead preferring vague professions of faith and solidarity with other believers.  The political calculation behind this suggests that both Huckabee and Romney have realized that, to the average American that does not share their particular beliefs, they will sound batshit crazy if Huckleberry starts talking about Earth being 6,000 years old and Romney spinning out the details of Joseph Smith and his amazing golden plates.

This merely interesting conjecture becomes positively galling when one sees Mike’s and Mitt’s defensiveness about being questioned on their beliefs.   At one of the CNN debates, Huckabee characterized as an “unfair question”an inquiry as to whether he believed the creation story in Genesis (with the questioner noting that, at a previous debate, Huckabee indicated he does not accept the theory of evolution).  That didn’t stop the Huckster from repeating (6 times by my count), that he does believe God created the universe.  When Wolf Blitzer followed up to ask whether Huckabee believes in a literal 6 day creation story that happened 6,000 years ago, Rev. Mike fell back on “I don’t know” as a response.

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Retail Religion

An Economist special report this past week included a great discussion of religion and public life. One of the articles discussed why Americans, and people across the world, seem to be so darn religious these days. The answer? The invisible hand of market freedom, baby! In particular, the authors noted that the U.S. Constitution, by divorcing religion from state control or compulsion, enabled a great explosion of religious variety.

As a refuge for dissenters, America was always closer to [Adam] Smith’s vision, though it was not quite the religious city on a hill its boosters claim. The early Puritans were soon swamped by more venal colonists: in Salem, the zealous town in Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible”, 83% of taxpayers in 1683 had no religious allegiance. Most of the Founding Fathers thought religion was useful in a squirearchial sort of way, but they were not particularly godly: George Washington never mentions Jesus Christ in his personal papers.

Thus, the First Amendment—“that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”—was a compromise between dissenters (who wanted to keep the state away from religion) and more anti-clerical sorts like Thomas Jefferson (who wanted the church out of politics). Yet it became the great engine of American religiosity, creating a new sort of country where membership of a church was a purely voluntary activity.

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New Rules: No Religious Test

Bill Maher sums it up nicely when discussing the “no religious test” clause of the Constitution.

Time to take the gloves off?

boxer.gif   I’m normally a stickler for principle.  Take the high road and all that stuff.  But the Bush Administration’s contempt for government accountability and the rule of law has got me thinking perhaps its time to the Democrats to get nasty and do what’s necessary to bring King George to heel.  Dahlia Lithwick has a good piece on Slate today describing how former White House aide Sara Taylor “played Congress like a harp” during her non-testimony.  Harriet Miers didn’t even show up for her testimony, leading Dems to consider contempt proceedings.

I propose a simpler solution — take Bush up on his offer to conduct closed-door interviews of Taylor and Miers without transcripts, and at the conclusion of the meeting, politely shake hands, walk into the hallway, and tell the press every damning thing that was said.  What he’s going to do, arrest them?  Sue them?  Refuse to cooperat…well, you get the picture.

C’mon, Dems.  I’m all for integrity, but once in a while, you have to get your hands dirty.

Patriots Defend the Separation of Church and State

This is my post for the Independence Day edition of Blog Against Theocracy.  Please visit the site to read other posts, and give the authors feedback! 

When I joined the Pennsylvania Bar, I swore an oath to “support, obey and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of this Commonwealth and that I will discharge the duties of my office with fidelity, as well to the court as to the client, that I will use no falsehood, nor delay the cause of any person for lucre or malice.”  I take that oath seriously, and have fixed the Constitution as the keystone (couldn’t resist) of my thinking on matters of public importance.

Perhaps no provision of that Constitution is more sacred to me than the First Amendment. 

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

The First Amendment guarantees the most fundamental of human freedoms – the freedom of conscience.  Under the Constitution, I may think, say, believe or not believe whatever I like, within very broad bounds, without interference from the government.  I may meet together with like minded people, or seek to persuade others to adopt my views.  My ideas need be neither orthodox nor popular for me to go about my business in civil society without molestation from the authorities.  That is a profound freedom.

Freedom of conscience is, in my estimation, the lynchpin that makes America work.  What holds us together in this maelstrom of diversity and disagreement is the simple fact that none of us are compelled to think the way any of the rest of us are.  Critically, the Constitution, via the First Amendment, does not pretend to proclaim Truth; rather, the First Amendment sets Americans free to seek Truth on their own, without government interference.  In such an atmosphere, people can live alongside others whose opinions they may disagree with or even find repugnant, for the simple fact that they are indeed free to disagree.

The freedom of conscience and inquiry guaranteed by the First Amendment is anathema to religious authority.  Religion claims to possess absolute Truth, revealed once and for all through prophets or saviors.  Thus, religion declares that free inquiry is fruitless, or worse, an exercise in arrogance and vanity.  After all, what limited human mind can ferret out Truth greater than that revealed by the deity?  And what decent religious person, knowing the Truth, could stand by while his neighbor persists in error and futile questioning?  Shouldn’t he use every means available to convince his “lost” friend of the Truth?

When this religious impulse to impress the truth of revelation on the minds of others becomes married to political power, theocracy is born.  With the power of the state at his disposal, the theocrat need not tolerate his neighbor’s persistence in error – he now has the means to establish his belief as the “official” or orthodox version of reality.  Proselytizing devloves into coercion; freedom of conscience yields to majority rule.

A society of diverse individuals cannot survive where theocracy holds sway.  Dissenters are driven to desperation, factions and sects battle for political control (in the process rendering their religions no more transcendant than tax policy).  Far from being a uniting force, the established othodoxy rends the society fabric, dividing citizens into “us” and “them.”

It is my patriotic duty, and my duty under the oath I swore as an attorney, to fight to prevent theocracy from taking root in the United States.  Freedom of conscience and inquiry has been one of the foundational strengths that permitted America to escape the parochial divisions of its Old World forbears and step forward as an economic, scientific and political superpower.  Those who would impose their religion as the official orthodoxy would see America stripped of this legacy.  Because I care about America, because I believe it can be a force and example for good in the world, I will do what I can to stop them.