New Sherwood

Donald Trump, vaccines, and the “lesser of evils”

Clinton-Trump

It often happens that my children will challenge me to clarify my thinking. Although I sometimes respond with undue frustration, if they are patient they can get through to me. Such was the case this evening in our somewhat contentious family discussion of voting and the principle of double effect (PDE).

There is tremendous controversy among Republicans today about the party’s front runner and presumptive nominee, Donald Trump, and whether it is permissible or even obligatory to vote for a man who is so fundamentally lacking in experience, temperament, personal integrity and plain moral decency. Never before have we seen such a radically unqualified candidate for president get so far. Never before have we witnessed a candidate so shamelessly dishonest that he can barely speak for 60 seconds without telling the most outlandish lies. Never before have we a seen a candidate so casual in disseminating the most outrageous personal calumnies. Never have we seen a candidate so appallingly ignorant of the issues and indifferent to the rule of law. Your blog host holds that a vote for Trump would, if advertised or recommended to others, be utterly scandalous and harmful to the body politic – even if it could be demonstrated that Trump is the “lesser of evils” by virtue of not being Hillary Clinton, which is doubtful.

The first point I wanted to make to my children is that choosing “the lesser of evils” is an unfortunate way of putting things. A Catholic cannot choose evil for its own sake, strictly speaking – he must always choose the good. It seems important to think in these terms, because it compels one to identify and evaluate the positive good in the choices one has available. Now, in choosing the greater good there may be an unintended evil effect. Depending on the proportionate magnitude of the good in question with respect to the harm caused by the evil effect, the decision to choose this particular good may be legitimate, despite the evil consequences. That is how I understand the principle of double effect (PDE) in Catholic moral theology. I realize that a more rigorous position is in circulation, but this seems to be the most widely accepted.

A good example of this is the Catholic instruction with respect to vaccines that are derived from aborted fetal tissue. Is it morally permissible to use these vaccines? The principles employed in answering this question can be applied to voting and any other moral calculus. In 2005 the Vatican issued a lengthy statement on the subject with the following conclusion:

Therefore, doctors and fathers of families have a duty to take recourse to alternative vaccines13 (if they exist), putting pressure on the political authorities and health systems so that other vaccines without moral problems become available. They should take recourse, if necessary, to the use of conscientious objection14 with regard to the use of vaccines produced by means of cell lines of aborted human foetal origin. Equally, they should oppose by all means (in writing, through the various associations, mass media, etc.) the vaccines which do not yet have morally acceptable alternatives, creating pressure so that alternative vaccines are prepared, which are not connected with the abortion of a human foetus, and requesting rigorous legal control of the pharmaceutical industry producers.

As regards the diseases against which there are no alternative vaccines which are available and ethically acceptable, it is right to abstain from using these vaccines if it can be done without causing children, and indirectly the population as a whole, to undergo significant risks to their health. However, if the latter are exposed to considerable dangers to their health, vaccines with moral problems pertaining to them may also be used on a temporary basis. The moral reason is that the duty to avoid passive material cooperation is not obligatory if there is grave inconvenience. Moreover, we find, in such a case, a proportional reason, in order to accept the use of these vaccines in the presence of the danger of favouring the spread of the pathological agent, due to the lack of vaccination of children. This is particularly true in the case of vaccination against German measles15.

In any case, there remains a moral duty to continue to fight and to employ every lawful means in order to make life difficult for the pharmaceutical industries which act unscrupulously and unethically. However, the burden of this important battle cannot and must not fall on innocent children and on the health situation of the population – especially with regard to pregnant women.

To summarize, it must be confirmed that:

  • there is a grave responsibility to use alternative vaccines and to make a conscientious objection with regard to those which have moral problems;

  • as regards the vaccines without an alternative, the need to contest so that others may be prepared must be reaffirmed, as should be the lawfulness of using the former in the meantime insomuch as is necessary in order to avoid a serious risk not only for one’s own children but also, and perhaps more specifically, for the health conditions of the population as a whole – especially for pregnant women;

  • the lawfulness of the use of these vaccines should not be misinterpreted as a declaration of the lawfulness of their production, marketing and use, but is to be understood as being a passive material cooperation and, in its mildest and remotest sense, also active, morally justified as an extrema ratio due to the necessity to provide for the good of one’s children and of the people who come in contact with the children (pregnant women);

  • such cooperation occurs in a context of moral coercion of the conscience of parents, who are forced to choose to act against their conscience or otherwise, to put the health of their children and of the population as a whole at risk. This is an unjust alternative choice, which must be eliminated as soon as possible.

In other words, such vaccines may be used – it is not obligatory – provided that: 1) no alternatives are available; 2) there is a proportional reason to use them, such as saving lives; 3) scandal is avoided so that using these vaccines is not misunderstood as approval of their production; 4) a conscientious objection must be made known; 5) every lawful means is employed in order to make life difficult for the pharmaceutical industries which act unscrupulously and unethically.

How, then, might we apply this analogy to the presidential election? Is it permissible to vote for Donald Trump? Such a vote may be permissible provided that: 1) there is no other candidate for whom one’s vote might result in a better outcome; 2) there is a proportional reason to vote for Trump, some unambiguous good that will result; 3) scandal is avoided in that one’s vote for Trump is not misunderstood as approval of the evil he will bring about, thereby leading others to choose Trump for immoral reasons; 4) one makes known his conscientious objection to the unjust alternatives presented to him; 5) every lawful means is employed to prevent a candidate like Donald Trump from gaining the party’s nomination in the future.

Now, let’s break this down.

1) Is there no other candidate for whom one’s vote might result in a better outcome? Any third party candidate might result in a better outcome, first because that candidate may win the election, but even if he doesn’t, a strong third party candidate may prevent an Electoral College majority, thereby throwing the election to the U.S. Congress, which is unlikely to choose either Trump or Clinton.

2) Is there a proportional reason to vote for Trump, some unambiguous good that outweighs the bad? No. With Donald Trump there is only a remote possibility of good, due to his instability and unpredictability, but there is guarantee of serious harm for all of the reasons stated earlier.

3) Does a vote for Trump avoid scandal? Possibly, but only if no one knows who you’re voting for, and if you don’t try to convince others.

4) Can one vote for Trump while making known his conscientious objections? If there were no third party option, that would be more credible. But there is the option of voting for a third party candidate, and just about any candidate has the potential to deny Trump a majority in the Electoral College. If there were not the option of voting third party, then voting for Trump while loudly objecting to the “necessity” seems self-defeating.

5) Similarly, voting for Donald Trump while working to ensure that candidates like him are prevented from gaining the nomination in the future is possible, but that will entail saying the kinds of things that will inevitably dissuade others from voting for him today.

The way I see it, voting for Donald Trump fails even the least rigorous interpretation of Catholic moral theology employing the principle of double effect.

 

 

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May 8, 2016 Posted by | Politics, Uncategorized | , , , , , , | 7 Comments

On the pre-eminence of France

FrenchFlags

In the wake of yesterday’s Islamist attack on Paris, some people are saying “Yes, that’s bad, but why all this media attention for France? There are recent Islamist strikes in Lebanon, Nigeria, Indonesia, etc. Isn’t the focus on France at best Eurocentric, or at worst racist?”

I’m not a big fan of the American mainstream media, but I will say that the MSM isn’t wrong to give this story prominence and maximum coverage. In the first place, it’s impossible to report everything equally. Choices have to be made, priorities assigned. The Parisian attacks are objectively more important for the world – and for the United States – than similar events in other countries. Why?

France is the “Eldest Daughter of the Church”, an important progenitor of western civilization. There is no escaping the ubiquity of French influence on the civilization we have inherited.

What’s happening in France, a nation with an historically Christian identity, is uniquely instructive for every nation in the West.

France is central to Catholic prophecy, some of which can be reasonably understood to incorporate events like this.

Catholic France was an important ally in the founding of the American Republic.

France once ruled what is now American territory.

The French were some of the earliest American settlers and have had enormous influence on regional cultures in the United States.

Over 9 million Americans claim French ancestry, which is even more than the Scotch-Irish.

France is part of the NATO alliance with the United States.

It isn’t racism or Eurocentrism to make a French catastrophe like this one a media priority. Choices have to be made, priorities assigned. I may not have a drop of French blood, but that doesn’t stop me from acknowledging that France is more important to us – as Catholics, as citizens of the West, and as Americans – than are most countries in the world.

November 15, 2015 Posted by | Catholic News, Culture, Politics | Leave a comment

What is “radical Islam”?

Roots1

I’m kind of a stickler for using words properly, much to the chagrin of certain young people in my life.

It’s campaign season. Some candidates are saying that we are at war with “radical Islam”. Others deny this, or they change the subject.

However, I have a sneaking suspicion that even those who admit that civilization is at war with “radical Islam” don’t quite know what they are saying. They are probably trying to say that we are at war with “extremist Islam”, or some variation thereof – but not with Islam itself. Not with “true Islam” anyway, and certainly not with all Muslims. It’s a way of avoiding accusations of religious bigotry. “We’re only against the misguided Islam of the radicals, the fringies, the extremists, not the friendly Islam of most Muslims”.

But the word “radical” has no moral connotations apart from that which it describes. “Radical” is derived from the Latin word “radix”, meaning roots. A radical thing is an authentic thing, true to its roots, pure and unadulterated. “Radical Islam” is precisely true and authentic Islam, the real Islam, the Islam that is faithful to itself. Of course, like any religion, there are followers who stray from its roots – the liberals. Such followers are usually in the “mainstream” of modern societies.

What is a radical Muslim? A Muslim who is like Mohammed. He’s Osama bin Laden or “Jihadi John”. What is a radical Christian? A Christian who is like Jesus. He’s St. Francis of Assisi or St. Damien of Molokai. These are the “radicals”. The former are evil; the latter are holy. We prefer liberal and unfaithful Muslims, not radical Muslims. But we ought to prefer faithful and radical Christians.

November 15, 2015 Posted by | Culture, Politics | 2 Comments

Molly Criner: Another county clerk stands up to Obergefell

It would be helpful to have a list of county clerks who have had the courage to resist same-sex “marriage” since the Supreme Court decided Obergefell vs. Hodges in June. Kim Davis of Rowan County, Kentucky has been much in the news, having served 5 days in jail for her convictions, but she’s not the only clerk in the nation to take a principled stand. Shortly after the fateful court decision hit the press, Molly Criner of Irion County, Texas, announced her refusal to violate her Christian beliefs:

In today’s news, she re-affirmed her decision at a local Tea Party gathering:

“I could resign and that would help me, or I could let someone else on my staff do it and that would protect me,” she said. “But I went back and read my oath and realized that … I didn’t take an oath to protect me, I took an oath to defend, serve and protect the constitution of Texas and the United States.”

May Our Lord  bless and protect Molly Criner, and may her courage be an example for others.

 

October 29, 2015 Posted by | Culture, Politics | 4 Comments

Will the next president stop the coming persecution?

RickPerryPistol

This post by Fr. John Zuhlsdorf inspired a lively discussion with some erudite comments. One reader suggested that the next president, if sufficiently conservative, could head off the persecution that seems to be barreling towards us at breakneck speed. To that idea, a fellow named Dennis Martin responded:

“No president can change the trajectory. The bureaucracy can destroy any president it sets out to destroy. Even if a incredibly gifted president-leader managed to move reform legislation through Congress, the fundamentally lawless mentality of a rising majority of the culture would do a ‘non serviam’.

The Department of Justice is now loaded with radical civil service appointees who cannot be removed because of civil service protection. The federal appeals courts are loaded similarly because the Democrats politicized judicial appointments 30 years ago (Bork), denied George Bush many of his appointments, and then railroaded many of Obama’s during the last Congress. Beyond that the law schools are hopelessly politicized. The chatterati, the intellectuals, the journalists, the financial sector–all the movers and shakers are now post-Christian, deeply-contraceptive, deeply anti-nature and thus deeply lawless. They don’t realize it but they have no god but Power.

The problem is far beyond what even the most gifted single leader can address. We have a culture that is anti-culture, that hates law itself, hates nature itself. No, not everyone is like that but the elites of the culture and, in a curious but really not surprising way, also the hoi polloi in the ‘just gimme mine and leave me alone’ segments of the culture, are like that now.

Nature is real and powerful and in the end will reassert Herself as the truth from the Creator. Human nature, divine nature, natural law cannot be buried for ever. But they can be buried for the lifetimes of one or more generations–until the prosperity and comfort built up over centuries is finally dissipated and brutal scramble for survival sets in. The truths of Caritas and Creator will eventually be rediscovered, in desperation and calamity at the bottom. But not before much evil and bloodshed has been visited upon this and other lands.”

Absent a miracle from heaven on a grand scale, I have to agree with Mr. Martin. All is masterfully arranged. Everything is now in place, including a relentless and ubiquitous propaganda infrastructure. And while many Americans are still kindasorta sympathetic to Christian morality, insofar as it fits their favorite political narrative, that sympathy is hopelessly soft and easily swayed by the emotional manipulation of the Left. Not that “conservatives” don’t also resort to emotional manipulation, but grown-ups always fail when they try to be cool. When it comes to the same-sex “marriage” issue, the sob stories of the Left are more persuasive for a couple of reasons – first, most Americans accept Liberalism’s flawed assumptions about reality; and second, most Americans place a high premium on their own sexual freedom.

It seems ridiculous and surreal that something as marginal as homosexuality would trigger the demise of a great civilization. In 500 years, if this poor earth is still around, archaeologists and historians will be scratching their heads at this one.

April 1, 2015 Posted by | Culture, Family, Politics | 3 Comments

The 21st martyr

CopticMartyrs

At the link is a beautiful story about the only non-Egyptian of the Christians beheaded by Islamist savages this month.

“He was a Chadian Citizen (Darker skin shown in picture) who accepted Christianity after seeing the immense faith of his fellow Coptic Christians to die for Christ. When Terrorist forced him to reject Jesus Christ as God, looking at his Christian friends he replied, ‘their God is my God’ so the terrorist beheaded him also.”

I don’t hesitate to use the word “martyr” with a small “m”. That doesn’t mean I want these men canonized by the Catholic Church – on the contrary – but it does mean that they died for the love of Jesus Christ. The word “victim” just isn’t enough.

March 1, 2015 Posted by | Catholic News, Politics | 1 Comment

Justice and illegal immigration

BorderChildren

Illegal immigration is one of those topics that tends to divide the best kinds of Catholics. The public statements of the hierarchy seem to be absolutist in nature and to that extent wholly unreasonable. Likewise, political voices on either side of the debate tend towards an off-putting rhetorical excess. The “left” tends to dismiss the legitimate considerations of the state in securing the border, and to ignore the economic and social costs of the problem. The “right” tends to ignore the human consequences of any proposed solution, while failing to make necessary distinctions between different kinds of illegal immigrants. It seems to me that any reasonable policy solution must consider the following realities:

1. All nations have the right – and the duty – to control their borders.

2. The best interests of its own citizens is any government’s primary concern.

3. Nevertheless, a nation may also have moral obligations to non-citizens both inside and outside its own borders. Those obligations vary according to circumstances.

4. The United States has tacitly encouraged and even rewarded illegal immigration for decades. Millions have come here illegally and made their homes with this understanding. It’s much like the speed limit: in many places governments have a statutory limit on the books, but actually enforce something else as a matter of unwritten policy. The difference is that, in the case of illegal immigration, the violators have actually been rewarded by the government. The reality of this situation sharply mitigates – but does not eliminate – the culpability of illegal immigrants.

5. In justice, then, mass deportation of all illegal immigrants is off the table. Such a solution would be a human catastrophe and a punishment that is disproportionate to the offense.

6. At the same time, rewarding illegal immigrants with citizenship and other benefits is also off the table. Such a solution would breed further contempt for the law, and would be an injustice to those who came about their citizenship honestly.

I believe there is a sensible way to make the best of a bad situation. First, deport illegal immigrants who have shown themselves to be otherwise lawless by their involvement with gangs, drugs, violence, etc. That’s a slam-dunk. Second, allow the rest to apply for a special class of permanent legal residency with the help of a citizen sponsor (e.g., an employer or relative). Permanent legal residency is not citizenship. This particular class would exclude the right to vote, and would also exclude the right to certain non-essential public services (e.g., higher education subsidies). Third, announce that within 180 days our immigration laws will be strictly enforced, and then enforce them. Finally, immigration policy should take into account certain emergencies that may arise, such as the unaccompanied children now flooding into the country. They should be well-treated but with the goal of repatriation or, perhaps, adoption by qualified American families.

One can anticipate the objections from both the right and the left. Many on the right will argue that my suggestion is too soft and continues to reward lawbreakers. My reply is that many of these illegal immigrants were acting on the basis of what they understood to be the unwritten policy of the American government. The United States bears significant responsibility for the lives of those affected by decades of “don’t ask, don’t tell” immigration policy. Many on the left will argue that my suggestion creates “second class citizens” without certain rights. I reply that we already have “second class citizenship” written into the law for various kinds of people who are denied the rights of full citizenship – foreign students, children, convicted felons, etc. Those who enter this country illegally, even if their culpability is mitigated, ought to face a penalty of some kind. Inequality is a fact of life and the law needs to accommodate reality.

July 17, 2014 Posted by | Politics | 7 Comments

R.I.P., Boy Scouts of America

Scout taking oath

The final promise of the Scout oath is the most important: “to keep myself … morally straight”. And that promise has now been broken by the leadership of the Boy Scouts of America in a spectacular way.

The new membership policy states that “No youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone.” Some Catholic commentators, including bishops, note that the bare words of this policy do not violate Catholic teaching. And that is quite true in the strictest sense of “orientation” and “preference”. I have all kinds of orientations and preferences that are opposed to the virtues of Scouting, and even opposed to the commandments of God. Living a “morally straight” life means striving to overcome sinful or disordered “orientations”. A literal reading of the new policy is therefore not a problem for Catholics.

In fact, the Scout’s previous policy doesn’t even violate the new policy. The old policy asserted “… we do not grant membership to individuals who are open or avowed homosexuals or who engage in behavior that would become a distraction to the mission of the BSA.”  Sexual orientation or preference wasn’t the issue. Same-sex attraction, by itself, was never enough to be excluded from membership. The problem was the openness and the self-identification with homosexuality. The policy referred to “avowed homosexuals”, avowed meaning “to declare openly, boldly, and unashamedly”. The issue has always been the open and public identification with homosexuality and the implied approval of homosexual acts

What, then, has changed?

The Boy Scouts of America did not simply tack a new explanatory note onto the old policy. If they had, the clarification would have been unremarkable. Rather, the Boy Scouts of America repealed the old policy and replaced it with a new one. Taken at face value, the mild language about “sexual orientation or preference” in the new policy is a red herring. It’s not the real story. The big news is that the former policy excluding “open or avowed homosexuals” has been formally rejected.

Now that we’ve examined the plain words, let us confront the plain message behind the words. The fact that the exclusion of “open or avowed homosexuals” was replaced with a prohibition of exclusion based on “sexual orientation or preference” indicates that, in the minds of BSA leadership, “sexual orientation or preference” is expected to be “open or avowed”. The unmistakable message is that open or avowed homosexuals are no longer excluded from membership.

Teenage boys talk about lots of things. Very often, they talk about girls – even chaste boys who are not sexually active, and who have no intention of being sexually active until marriage, can talk a lot about girls. Presumably scouts who consider themselves homosexuals will be free to talk about other boys in the same way that normal boys talk about girls, and nothing can be done about it (unless, of course, talking about girls is now forbidden.) This will change the entire culture of the organization by introducing a sexual element into the group, permeating every relationship. A certain innocence will be lost, trust will be compromised, needless confusion will be sowed, and social pressure will increase exponentially. Consider the fact that BSA’s magazine for boys, Boy’s Life, runs an advice column that often deals with “girl problems”. Expect this column to begin addressing “boy problems” in the near future. As a recent case here in northern California demonstrates, the unchecked presence of homosexuality within a troop can and does lead to disaster.

Open homosexuality adds still another more insidious, tyrannical element to the problem: that of institutional dishonesty. Everyone must now pretend that homosexual behavior is natural, moral, and healthy. Sexually confused boys, who might otherwise grow up normally, may come to believe it themselves and act accordingly. Worst of all, though, the culture of lies now forced on the Boy Scouts of America will produce a systematic and habitual dishonesty within the organization across the board.

Thus far, to the best of my knowledge, of the Catholic bishops to whom we look for leadership and direction only Bishop Paul Loverde of the Diocese of Arlington, VA, has had the courage to suggest that the new policy “forces us to prayerfully reconsider whether a continued partnership with the BSA will be possible”. Otherwise the response of Catholic bishops has been weak and insipid, to say the least – though not surprising given the dismal state of the Church today. With respect to the new policy the National Catholic Committee on Scouting wants to “study its effects”. Give me a break. I suggest they study the Bible and Catechism.

———————————————————-

There is some good news on the horizon. A coalition of former BSA leaders and parents are meeting in Louisville, Kentucky next month to plan for a new organization that will be true to the traditional virtues of Scouting.

“I am pleased to announce that OnMyHonor.Net along with other likeminded organizations, parents and BSA members, are announcing a coalition meeting that will take place next month in Louisville, Kentucky. There we will discuss the creation of a new character development organization for boys. While the meeting will be private, your voice is very important to us and will be represented there.  We will host and facilitate a national coalition meeting of former BSA parents and other youth leaders who wish to return to truly timeless values that once made the BSA great.  We welcome your comments as we develop our plans. Please share your thoughts with us at Contact@OnMyHonor.Net.”

There is a growing movement of Catholic scouting called the Federation of North American Explorers. This group has a lot of promise and organizational support is already in place. Also – Dr. Taylor Marshall of Fisher-More College is launching the Catholic Scouts of St. George, which seems to have gained considerable traction in a short time.

As for scouting in Chico, I am not optimistic. Our scoutmaster, God bless him, is furious and disgusted at the BSA’s decision and is soul-searching about what to do. Yet he feels “obligated to carry on the tradition”, and I can’t help but sympathize. The troop has been a blessing for these boys, many of whom have formed great friendships and worked hard to achieve their rank. Conservative troops like ours will probably try to carry on as usual, hoping the subject never comes up. Alternative scouting organizations are not likely to find much support around here.

Scouting families need to understand something. The Boy Scouts of America isn’t going to let troops ignore the homosexual agenda. A memo from the Golden Empire Council hints at “new safety trainings, camp dynamics, and other incremental changes” on the way. The BSA today isn’t the same organization it was last week. The uniform today stands for something different.

May 28, 2013 Posted by | Catholicism, Chico, Culture, Politics, Regional-Local-Personal | 7 Comments

Diversity Programs Struggle at Golden Hills University

March 5, 2019

FORT JEFFERSON, CALIFORNIA – Despite the creation of a fully-staffed Office of Diversity, two new degree programs (LGBTQ Studies, and Multicultural Gender Perspectives), four years of expensive off-campus recruitment efforts, and an aggressive affirmative action program, Golden Hills University is risking more state penalties for its failure to meet state diversity requirements enacted by Governor Newsome in 2016.

“I don’t know what else we can do”, said Vanessa Poltran, one of the university’s several Junior Assistant Diversity Officers. “We’ve advertised. We’ve promoted. We’ve spent millions. We’ve hired outstanding faculty members. But we still don’t have a single student choosing to major in LGBTQ Studies, despite the fact we’ve made it one of the easiest degrees to obtain. Most of those classes are required for other majors anyway.”

So why don’t students just take another 12 or 15 units and earn a double major? Latisha Miller, the university’s Director of Multicultural Awareness, complains that “the students are just ignoring us and going about their business. No one seems to want these degrees on their record.  It’s incredibly frustrating.”

Adalyn Reynolds, the campus Student Groups Coordinator, notes that even the creation of new student organizations, such as the “Women of Color Solidarity Union” and the “Alternative Sexualities Society” never really got off the ground, despite flashy new websites and the involvement of prominent faculty members.

University officials remark that several new informal, unapproved organizations seem to be thriving. “They are mostly of a religious nature, together with all of the exclusivity and intolerance that implies”, said Dr. Alexis Corina, who teaches classes on “Patriarchal Constructs” and “Religion, Tradition, and Social Control”. “Worst of all”, she explained, “they are cynically exploiting our ‘free speech zone’ for their own unauthorized agenda”.

Golden Hills University has also come under fire due to reports that its seven chess tables, located in the student quad, seem to be exclusively occupied by male students, which is potentially a violation of Title IX. According to an attorney representing several female students who speculate that they might, someday, like to use the chess tables as props for impromptu dramatic performances, “the tables are always occupied by male chess players who are oblivious to the existence of the other half of the human race”.  University officials have pledged to remove the tables if the gross inequality persists.

Finally, the university’s switch in 2017 to gender-neutral restrooms, dressing rooms, and showering facilities has been undermined by students who, on their own initiative, seem to have designated certain facilities for men and others for women. This unwritten code among students has resulted in continued gender segregation at Golden Hills, much to the consternation of university officials and state authorities.

March 6, 2013 Posted by | Education, Politics | 7 Comments

Why the religious liberty argument will backfire

The bishops and most Catholic political activists have made “religious liberty” the cornerstone of their argument against the HHS mandate. But this is extremely short-sighted in my opinion, and is likely to be used against us. In the first place, the concept of liberty is slippery and ambiguous. Consider two possible definitions of religious liberty:  1) the right to be free from legal coercion in religious matters; and 2) the right to be free from social and economic coercion in religious matters. This distinction is critical but is lost on most people. The bishops have definition #1 in mind, but the courts and the general public already think in terms of #2 … and #2 is a trojan horse with great potential to undermine Catholic institutions.

In 2011 a legal complaint was filed against Catholic University of America arguing that Muslim students have the right to their own prayer rooms – along with the right not to be intimidated by Catholic symbols everywhere, such as crucifixes in the classrooms. Religious liberty in this sense means the right of individual Muslims to unfettered religious expression and accommodation, even on a Catholic university campus. And why not? Liberty is liberty. To the extent that religious expression is in any way prevented or made difficult, religious liberty is compromised. Religious liberty, according to this understanding, depends upon the means and opportunity of expression rather than the absence of legal prohibitions. The CUA complaint went nowhere, but the logic is already employed in other contexts, so it isn’t far fetched to imagine all kinds of anti-Catholic mischief being justified in the name of religious liberty.

Furthermore, we really don’t believe in a generic form of “religious liberty” anyway, even in the sense of freedom from legal coercion. Consider the same-sex “marriage” controversy. Some religious denominations believe in it. Don’t their members have the right to religious liberty? Same goes for Muslims and others whose religions allow polygamy. And what about numerous other religious-based practices that ought to remain illegal – take female circumcision, for instance, or smoking pot? Better yet, let’s consider child sacrifice, which is known to be practiced by the adherents of La Santa Muerte.  Does child sacrifice as a religious liberty issue seem far-fetched to you? It shouldn’t. Devotees of this Mexican death cult are already here, as are Americans who believe in the right to kill children yet unborn.  The idea of religious liberty means that people should not be forced to comply with religious values they don’t believe in. Many Americans – including many religious Americans – don’t believe in Christianity’s absolute prohibition of child killing. Don’t they also have a right to religious liberty?

The fact is that any unspeakable horror can be justified in the name of religious liberty. Religious liberty isn’t the issue. The issue is Christian liberty, because Christianity is true and its values are good for society. That might be a harder sell, but it’s an honest one and it will never be used against us. As it stands, I’m afraid the more battles we fight for “religious liberty”, the more ground we cede to our enemies.

February 12, 2013 Posted by | Catholicism, Culture, Politics | 5 Comments

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