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Sorry, but this article will be a bit of”ring-round the rosie,” because it asks a complicated question with many answers .
Some arguments never will end, simply because we can find no conclusive right or wrong. At best (or worst), some arguments devolve into a social consensus, where they linger a while, after which they rises anew.
Consider abortion. On one side are those whose focus is on the fetus’s rights, it’s life, and its happiness. On the other side are those whose focus is on the mother’s rights, her life, and her happiness.
Some consider abortion to be fetus murder, and they have some logic on their side. Others consider forcibly preventing abortion to be a form of emotional, financial and even physical murder of the mother. They have a certain logic on their side.
For the past few years, we’ve seen news about the largest beleaguered “minority” in America: Evangelical Christians (reportedly about 25% of the adult U.S. population).
To Evangelicals, Veto a Raw Deal.
Florida Sun Sentinel, 4/1/16; by Jenny Jarvie
Ga. religious conservatives see governor’s axing of “religious liberty” bill as betrayal.
To much of corporate America, the bill amounted to legalized discrimination against gay people, by allowing them to be denied certain services and protections.
Bank of America, AT&T and hundreds of other companies had taken out full page ads to protest the bill.
The governor said he could see no compelling reason for the bill. It would have assured that a pastor could not be forced to perform a same-sex wedding and that non-profit, faith-based organizations could legally refuse to rent property for events they found objectionable.
It also would have given such groups the right to fire or not hire people whose practices they opposed on religious grounds.
There’s growing sense that we’re a majority whose rights and freedoms are being trampled upon,” said Mike Stone, senior pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Blackshear, GA.
I empathize with the evangelicals. I do see the logic on their side. I am Jewish, and if someone wanted me to rent an auditorium to Nazis, I’d object. Strenuously.
Because I tend to be pro-choice, I also would object to renting that auditorium to Donald Trump.
In Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., the Supreme Court extended the protections of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) to Hobby Lobby, Mardel, and Conestoga Wood Specialties, three closely held corporations, and held that the contraception mandate of the Affordable Care Act substantially burdened their religious exercise.
The sincerity of their religious beliefs was never disputed. As such, they had no difficulty meeting RFRA’s requirement that their asserted beliefs be both sincere and religious in nature.
In the wake of the decision, however, critics have expressed concern that future courts will be powerless to block insincere RFRA claims brought by wholly secular corporations seeking to evade generally applicable laws.
In her powerful dissent, Justice Ginsburg proclaimed an “overriding interest” in “keeping the courts ‘out of the business of evaluating’ . . . the sincerity with which an asserted religious belief is held.”
Fortunately, courts historically have demonstrated that they are able to ferret out insincere religious claims. There is a long tradition of courts competently scrutinizing asserted religious beliefs for sincerity without delving into their validity or verity.
And I suggest this is all beside the point.
It’s all about two kinds of beliefs: Sincerely held beliefs and religious beliefs. To conform to the Supreme Court’s ruling, a belief must be both sincerely held and religious.
And the Court ruled that it magically is competent to distinguish both sincerity and religiosity. (Mind reading?)
Let’s say I see you sneaking out of my neighbor’s house, and because of your manner (stealthy, bent and furtive), and your clothing (you’re wearing a face-hiding hood in summer) or other factors (you’re carrying a big, dripping knife and a large bag), I sincerely believe you have murdered my neighbor and stolen his valuables.
So I shoot you.
It turns out you were enlisted by my neighbor to cut down a bee hive from a tree. But, since I sincerely believed you were a murderer, was I legally entitled to shoot you?
No? Why not?
Well, let’s assume the Court, using its crystal ball or ouija board, somehow can determine that my belief was sincere, and I wasn’t just engaging in a bit of live target practice, still it wasn’t a religious belief.
Let’s try another example. You are a taxpayer, and the local school lunch program, for which you pay in taxes, includes, but is not limited to, pork, shrimp and rabbit, all of which are forbidden in Leviticus. Should you be able to force the school to serve only Kosher meals?
Or, let’s get closer to the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. case.
You are a Jehovah’s Witness. You feel blood transfusions are a sin, so your closely held company refuses to fund insurance that covers your 22 thousand employees for transfusions. Have you converted your employees into defacto Jehovah’s Witnesses?
In truth there are all sorts of caveats in the Burwell decision, including the definition of “closely held,” and whether there are other less-restrictive ways to accomplish the government’s aims.
Virtually all bad legal decisions devolve into a morass of Rube Goldbergian rules, exceptions, qualifications and interpretations. “Burwell” is no exception.
Example: The decision requires that closely held corporations be considered “persons” who have religious rights (though presumably not voting rights).
Again, I suggest this is beside the point.
The United States is not a theocracy. It intentionally was created to be a secular nation, because theocracies invariably become dictatorships. The leader speaks for God, and no one may disagree with God. That is one of the great differences between the U.S. and, for instance, Saudi Arabia.
And while American law makes some accommodation for each individual’s religious practices, secular law trumps religious law.
So, supposedly, the Supreme Court focuses on secular law, and avoids if at all possible, delving into religious law.
In the Burwell case, the Court’s right-wing made a religious decision, and then desperately searched for rationales to justify its decision.
The idea that, as Ruth Bader Ginsberg dissented: “commercial enterprises, including corporations, along with partnerships and sole proprietorships, can opt out of any law (saving only tax laws) they judge incompatible with their sincerely held religious beliefs” — this idea is so preposterous, it would be humorous but for the real-life implications.
Even now, the Burwell decision has limited the secular rights of more than 22 thousand people, and we are at only the beginning.
The United States Supreme Court ruled in Employment Division v. Smith that a person may not defy neutral laws of general applicability even as an expression of religious belief.
“To permit this,” wrote Justice Scalia, “would make the professed doctrines of religious belief superior to the law of the land, and in effect to permit every citizen to become a law unto himself.”
He wrote that generally applicable laws do not have to meet the standard of strict scrutiny, because such a requirement would create “a private right to ignore generally applicable laws.”
Yet, Scalia was one of the most energetic supporters of Burwell. Such is the incongruity caused by faulty decisions based on personal ideology rather than on law.
(One can only wonder what the decision of this Court, which is composed solely of Catholics and Jews, would have been had the plaintiffs been Muslim or Buddhist.)
In every similar case, the Court now must determine individual definitions of what constitutes a “religion,” what constitutes “sincerity,” what constitutes “undue burden,” and whether an individual’s personal interpretation of his religious doctrine, supercedes secular law (except in tax cases).
Many thought Roe v. Wade decided abortion rights. Many now think Burwell decided contraceptive rights for “closely held corporations. Thomas Jefferson may have believed the 1st Amendment clarified the position of religion in American law.
All were wrong. The battle between religious and secular rights never ends.
This particularly will be true with a Supreme Court that ignores its mission of legal independence and neutrality, and relies instead on personal ideology. These arguments never end because the Court’s decisions are based on the volatility of Supreme Court membership.
That the Court infamously has a solid right-wing and a solid left-wing is a disgrace. Such a division is understandable for Congress, but for the court to be so political leads to the question: Of what value is the Supreme Court, if it is no different from a Congressional, politically-driven, ideology-driven committee?
If this Court is so weak-minded it cannot even maintain a secular legal balance, but repeatedly drifts into religious interpretations, it is nothing more than a term-for-life carbuncle on citizens’ necks.
The question then becomes, is there a way to find and appoint and guide Justice who will be more neutral arbitrators of secular law, or will we forever fight the democracy vs theocracy battle between immobile sides?
Rodger Malcolm Mitchell
Ten Steps to Prosperity:
1. Eliminate FICA (Click here)
2. Federally funded Medicare — parts A, B & D plus long term nursing care — for everyone (Click here)
3. Provide an Economic Bonus to every man, woman and child in America, and/or every state a per capita Economic Bonus. (Click here) Or institute a reverse income tax.
4. Free education (including post-grad) for everyone. Click here
5. Salary for attending school (Click here)
6. Eliminate corporate taxes (Click here)
7. Increase the standard income tax deduction annually Click here
8. Tax the very rich (.1%) more, with higher, progressive tax rates on all forms of income. (Click here)
9. Federal ownership of all banks (Click here and here)
10. Increase federal spending on the myriad initiatives that benefit America’s 99% (Click here)
The Ten Steps will grow the economy, and narrow the income/wealth/power Gap between the rich and you.
10 Steps to Economic Misery: (Click here:)
1. Maintain or increase the FICA tax..
2. Spread the myth Social Security, Medicare and the U.S. government are insolvent.
3. Cut federal employment in the military, post office, other federal agencies.
4. Broaden the income tax base so more lower income people will pay.
5. Cut financial assistance to the states.
6. Spread the myth federal taxes pay for federal spending.
7. Allow banks to trade for their own accounts; save them when their investments go sour.
8. Never prosecute any banker for criminal activity.
9. Nominate arch conservatives to the Supreme Court.
10. Reduce the federal deficit and debt
THE RECESSION CLOCK
Recessions begin an average of 2 years after the blue line first dips below zero. A common phenomenon is for the line briefly to dip below zero, then rise above zero, before falling dramatically below zero. There was a brief dip below zero in 2015, followed by another dip – the familiar pre-recession pattern.
Recessions are cured by a rising red line.
Vertical gray bars mark recessions.
As the federal deficit growth lines drop, we approach recession, which will be cured only when the growth lines rise. Increasing federal deficit growth (aka “stimulus”) is necessary for long-term economic growth.
•Those, who do not understand the differences between Monetary Sovereignty and monetary non-sovereignty, do not understand economics.
•Any monetarily NON-sovereign government — be it city, county, state or nation — that runs an ongoing trade deficit, eventually will run out of money.
•The more federal budgets are cut and taxes increased, the weaker an economy becomes..
•No nation can tax itself into prosperity, nor grow without money growth.
•Cutting federal deficits to grow the economy is like applying leeches to cure anemia.
•A growing economy requires a growing supply of money (GDP = Federal Spending + Non-federal Spending + Net Exports)
•Deficit spending grows the supply of money
•The limit to federal deficit spending is an inflation that cannot be cured with interest rate control.
•The limit to non-federal deficit spending is the ability to borrow.
•Liberals think the purpose of government is to protect the poor and powerless from the rich and powerful. Conservatives think the purpose of government is to protect the rich and powerful from the poor and powerless.
•The single most important problem in economics is the Gap between rich and the rest..
•Austerity is the government’s method for widening the Gap between rich and poor.
•Until the 99% understand the need for federal deficits, the upper 1% will rule.
•Everything in economics devolves to motive, and the motive is the Gap between the rich and the rest..