Separation of Church and State May God Bless the rest of us?

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  • #76
russ_watters
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kyleb said:
Because you said:

Which doesn't show any respect for the concept of "majority rule, minority rights"; but rather those inherent to dictatorship.
I'm not going to entertain this rediculousness, kyleb. If you want to have a reasonable discussion, please be reasonable.
 
  • #77
kyleb
I'm sorry Russ, but I don't see anything unreadable in suggesting that a supposably democratic leader should put the will of the populous before that of his own.
 
  • #78
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russ_watters said:
That, to me implies 'checking his religion at the door' - if I've misunderstood, I invite a correction.
Whether that was implied or not, speaking for myself, that's EXACTLY what I expect of elected officials - unless they were elected on the basis of their religion. The reason for that is as follows. A modern democracy is expected to guarantee certain basic rights to its citizens, among which freedom of or from religion. This means, however, that the democracy will have to look to something other than religion to decide what those basic rights should be, in order that it guarantee equality under the law to all religious beliefs - and even constrain certain beliefs that may conflict with those rights. (otherwise one would have to allow human sacrifices to give modern Aztecs freedom of religion) Now when one decides what those rights should be from a secular perspective, it turns out that in practice secularism is more liberal and permissive of certain actions that are prohibited by most major religions. Nonetheless, it is this more liberal view that the government and legislature are asked to deliver upon, even if their own personal views would disagree.

So: Bush decides that gay marriage is wrong based on his religious beliefs and then passes a law banning gay marriage: is that a violation of separation of church and state?
If he is not representing the will of the American people, then we have a clear problem. In this case, however, he does (by a slight majority if my figures are correct), so the matter is less clear. It would not violate the letter of the law, since the ban need not carry any religious language, and can be justified simply on the basis of that majority view. I would say, however, that it violates the spirit of the principle of separation. (This, accidentally, is a more European view, so I don't expect agreement; it is also fairly difficult to defend - maybe it's largely a matter of taste and how each interprets said principle)

Rather than criticize what is not my business, I will state that I have great respect for our prime minister who has chosen to pursue the gay marriage bill in spite of his own religious background. To me, that is what serving the public is about. My own views on how gay marriage should be addressed are somewhat different, but they are much closer to what Canada will soon implement than any form of ban or separate-but-equal unions.
 
  • #79
fifiki
russ_watters said:
I've provided so much already. Just saying that its self-evident isn't support. The founding fathers where very specific in their intent - they discussed it at length. Its been discussed at length. Can't you give me anything other than that its self evident to you? You're mixing two separate issues: obviously, if a law is specific to religion, that's a problem (I'm the one who posted the Lemon test :rolleyes: )but that's not what we're talking about here: we're talking about the motivation for a law that has an otherwise secular purpose.

russ_watters said:
What you guys aren't getting is that separation of church and state does not mean he can't allow his religion to affect his policy/decisions - it just means he can't favor a specific religion with legislation.

The issue that I have with that is that it's not only that the law must not be specific to religion, the Court goes further and says that in order to determine whether the law has a secular purpose, as the quote above says if the law was "motivated wholly by religious considerations," then the secular purpose could very well be lacking. So the way I look at it is that whether the legislators are allowing his religion to affect his policy/decision can be very important. So in effect, I'm starting from a different perspective than you are.

That's probably the cruz of the differece between us. I haven't already assumed that the law has a secular purpose. Perhaps I totally missed that presumption from the beginning of the thread. I believed the discussion at least between us was whether purely religious motivations could be used as a basis for a law. I supposed I missed the part where someone said the law itself was secular. The Court doesn't only use the Lemon test, I was reading a Supreme Court case that said that one of the factors they might look into is political discrepancies.

russ_watters said:
So: Bush decides that gay marriage is wrong based on his religious beliefs and then passes a law banning gay marriage: is that a violation of separation of church and state? I already asked this question in post 54 regarding abortion, but got no responses. So............[cont'd]

Well that is not enough to provide any sort of real answer. Bush may personally decide that gay marriage is wrong, but why was it really passed, what was the legislative history? What is the text of the law? How was it passed? What was the intent of law? What are the objectives of the law? Is the law narrowly tailored for its purpose? Etc.

kyleb said:
It is his [the President's] job to administer the will of the majorty while protecting the rights of the minority.

But you disagreed with this. I'm just having a little difficulty determining what the inaccurate claim is in that sentence.
 
  • #80
russ_watters
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fifiki said:
The issue that I have with that is that it's not only that the law must not be specific to religion, the Court goes further and says that in order to determine whether the law has a secular purpose, as the quote above says if the law was "motivated wholly by religious considerations," then the secular purpose could very well be lacking. So the way I look at it is that whether the legislators are allowing his religion to affect his policy/decision can be very important. So in effect, I'm starting from a different perspective than you are.
But thats still talking about the law, not the guy who wrote it. What matters is what the law says.
That's probably the cruz of the differece between us. I haven't already assumed that the law has a secular purpose. Perhaps I totally missed that presumption from the beginning of the thread.
Assumed??? I read it straight out of the law. If you disagree, please explain why.
I believed the discussion at least between us was whether purely religious motivations could be used as a basis for a law. I supposed I missed the part where someone said the law itself was secular. The Court doesn't only use the Lemon test, I was reading a Supreme Court case that said that one of the factors they might look into is political discrepancies.
If you disagree, make an argument.
Well that is not enough to provide any sort of real answer. Bush may personally decide that gay marriage is wrong, but why was it really passed, what was the legislative history? What is the text of the law? How was it passed? What was the intent of law? What are the objectives of the law? Is the law narrowly tailored for its purpose? Etc.
Assume for the sake of argument that the law does not mention religion or God in any way - just like every abortion law and the Schiavo law. That's a reasonable assumption.
But you disagreed with this. I'm just having a little difficulty determining what the inaccurate claim is in that sentence.
That's to me? I didn't disagree with the statement, I disagreed with kyleb's misrepresentation of my argument. That statement is empty: it does not contradict anything I've said and has nothing to do with the issue we're discussing. kyleb is trying to change the subject. Don't fall for it.
 
  • #81
SOS2008
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The following excerpts are taken from Wikipedia -

Many participants in this thread favor Separation of Church and State as follows:

There are a number of proposed reasons to support a separation of church and state:
· The rights of the minority have historically been violated by the rights of the majority. Members of a non-majority religion often find themselves persecuted, socially shunned, and harassed.
· The church might harm the state. For example, religious conviction might cause the state to become involved in a disastrous war, or to remain pacific when force is necessary for the preservation of the state.
· It may also influence public policies in a manner detrimental to those who do not follow all the church's teachings; for instance, a ban on homosexual activity (see sodomy law) decided for religious reasons, harms those who feel they have the right to such practices.
· In addition, religious conviction may make political debate difficult, it being impossible to contradict arguments which, essentially, arise from personal faith. Granting them official status allows politicians to use religion as an argument from authority.
· The state might harm the church. For example, the state might dictate a religious ceremony that the church's dogma declares is wrong; or, the state may force the participation of religious people in some aspect of civic life in a manner that offends their religious convictions and offends their conscience; or, the state may discriminate in favor of one church and against members of other churches.

There are different interpretations of the notion of separation of Church and State:
· one sees this separation from a legal and financial point of view: the State should not establish nor fund religious activities, and may even be prohibited from funding non-religious activities affiliated to religious organizations;
· another sees this separation in keeping religious beliefs out of the motivations of public policies, preventing interference from religious authorities into state affairs, and disapproving of political leaders expressing religious preferences in the course of their duties.

Today, most Americans hold the separation of Church and State to be one of their nation's key political values. The First Amendment to the United States Constitution explicitly bans Congress from making a law to establish an official state religion for the United States, and according to various constitutional scholars (and repeated decisons by the Supreme Court of the United States) also indicates that the US Government cannot perform any action or make any policy which blatantly favors one faith or church over another, or even favors belief over non-belief or the other way around.
Other participants in this thread advance religious arguments against separation as follows:
...These groups argue that religious groups ought to be involved in politics, to assure that laws are passed which reflect the Truth of religion. Some, such as the Christian Coalition, have become highly and vocally involved in promoting what they believe to be Christian values in government.

Other believers hold that the State ought to maintain an established church, a position described as antidisestablishmentarianism.

Islam holds that political life can only function properly within the context of Islamic law. To such believers, since God's law is Truth and beneficial to all people, any state law or action opposed to God's law would be harmful to the citizens, and displeasing to God. Many Muslims find the Western concept of separation of Church and State to be mere rebellion against God's law.
It can be argued endlessly which position one favors. :zzz:
 
  • #82
russ_watters
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SOS2008 said:
Other participants in this thread advance religious arguments against separation as follows:
I can only assume you are talking about me there. I have said nothing of the sort. Nor has anyone else I have noticed. Care to elaborate?
 
  • #83
fifiki
russ_watters said:
But thats still talking about the law, not the guy who wrote it. What matters is what the law says. Assumed??? I read it straight out of the law. If you disagree, please explain why. .

Damn I was typing my answer and I was almost done and well....it was deleted. I hate when that happens. Now I have to start over. This might not be as expansive as my other reply.

In short, I think it's safe to say that we both agree on the test to use. However, what I don't understand is why you assume right off the bat that the law is secular. You have to explain this to me.

Why I say this is because using the quote from the USSC again: "The Court has invalidated legislation or governmental action on the ground that a secular purpose was lacking, but only when it has concluded there was no question that the statute or activity was motivated wholly by religious considerations." So the situation is that the legislator's only concern in creating that law/policy is purely for religious considerations--he has no other reason for the law. Therefore, in writing the law, there is a concern that the law itself was motivated wholly by religious consideration. When the Court delve into legislative history and intent in questioning whether there is a secular purpose, they may well find that the law in turn was motivated wholly by religious considerations. Therefore, if they find that, then the law might not have a secular purpose.

russ_watters said:
Assume for the sake of argument that the law does not mention religion or God in any way - just like every abortion law and the Schiavo law. That's a reasonable assumption.

Ok let's just assume that the text and even the context of the law has a secular meaning. Therefore, we are to assume that the law itself is facially neutral. However, facial neutrality is not enough. The Supreme Court have consistently said that the establishment clause extends beyond facial discrimination. It protects against the governement trying to mask the violation--what they call subtle departures from neutrality. For example religious gerrymanders. So the Court go even further and examine the purpose behind the law. The first prong of the Lemon test. However, it has been criticized and in the criticism perhaps you can see my position. Scalia for example have said that he doesn't like the first prong of the test because "discerning the subjective motivation of those enacting the statute is, to be honest, almost always an impossible task." (Edwards v. Aguillard) So in understanding that, the Court, despite how difficult it can be, still does look into subjective motivations of the legislators. Even in the second prong of the lemon test, the law must not even symbolically endorse religion or a particular religion.

I still cannot answer the question based on the bare facts you have given me. You have to provide the legislature purpose, the objective of the law, etc.

russ_watters said:
I didn't disagree with the statement, I disagreed with kyleb's misrepresentation of my argument. That statement is empty: it does not contradict anything I've said and has nothing to do with the issue we're discussing. kyleb is trying to change the subject. Don't fall for it.

Ok I see.
 
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  • #84
russ_watters
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fifiki said:
In short, I think it's safe to say that we both agree on the test to use. However, what I don't understand is why you assume right off the bat that the law is secular. You have to explain this to me.
Again, I'm not assuming it - I'm reading it straight out of the law (in the case of the Schiavo law). The law does not mention religion and in its implimentation will not affect any religion specifically. That's what it means to have a secular purpose.
Why I say this is because using the quote from the USSC again: "The Court has invalidated legislation or governmental action on the ground that a secular purpose was lacking, but only when it has concluded there was no question that the statute or activity was motivated wholly by religious considerations." So the situation is that the legislator's only concern in creating that law/policy is purely for religious considerations--he has no other reason for the law. Therefore, in writing the law, there is a concern that the law itself was motivated wholly by religious consideration.
Ok, so when you see "secular purpose" you go back to the mind of the writer and his motivation. That is not what is meant by secular purpose - its still about the law itself: You can have a law that doesn't mention God but still has religious implications, ie a law about alcohol consumption/distribution could affect certain Christian sects that use it in communion even if the law doesn't mention God. That would be a law that looks secular at face value but in fact has a specific religious implication - but the Schiavo law does not do that. You are misunderstanding that quote.
When the Court delve into legislative history and intent in questioning whether there is a secular purpose, they may well find that the law in turn was motivated wholly by religious considerations. Therefore, if they find that, then the law might not have a secular purpose.
That's true of the alcohol/communion example I gave, but it is not true of any of the 3 cases given by SOS.
Ok let's just assume that the text and even the context of the law has a secular meaning. Therefore, we are to assume that the law itself is facially neutral. However, facial neutrality is not enough. The Supreme Court have consistently said that the establishment clause extends beyond facial discrimination. It protects against the governement trying to mask the violation--what they call subtle departures from neutrality. For example religious gerrymanders. So the Court go even further and examine the purpose behind the law.
I agree with all of that, as indicated above (and your example is a good one) - but again, that is not the case with the 3 issues brought up by SOS.

The first prong of the Lemon test. However, it has been criticized and in the criticism perhaps you can see my position. Scalia for example have said that he doesn't like the first prong of the test because "discerning the subjective motivation of those enacting the statute is, to be honest, almost always an impossible task." (Edwards v. Aguillard) So in understanding that, the Court, despite how difficult it can be, still does look into subjective motivations of the legislators. Even in the second prong of the lemon test, the law must not even symbolically endorse religion or a particular religion.
Sometimes, laws are tough to interpret and to understand the intent of the law, you have to go back to what the writer said about it or how it is being implimented. That is true. But that is not imply questioning the beliefs of the writer of the law. Its still all about the law itself. Ie, if the purpose of the gay marriage ban is to preserve the sanctity of marriage and the writer gets his ideas of marriage from his Christian beliefs, the first part applies and the second part does not. In fact, considering the source of the beliefs is a violation of the writer's religious freedom.
I still cannot answer the question based on the bare facts you have given me. You have to provide the legislature purpose, the objective of the law, etc.
The legislative purpose is that gay marriage is immoral and should be outlawed and the objective of the law is to preserve the sanctity of marriage. I don't see why this is so hard to understand - especially with regard to the Schiavo case, where I have provided the text of the law and quotes from the people who passed it, regarding their intent.

fifiki, I think we're more in agreement than you realize (certainly more than I realized before), but you're arguing things that don't apply to those 3 examples given. I don't disagree with you on those other arguments, I'm trying to steer you away from them because they are tangential - they do not apply here: The implication of all of this is that the 3 examples given by SOS are not violations of the establishment clause and do not support the assertion that Bush is part of a movement to eliminate the separation of church and state.
 
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  • #85
russ_watters
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zefram_c said:
Whether that was implied or not, speaking for myself, that's EXACTLY what I expect of elected officials - unless they were elected on the basis of their religion. [emphasis added]
I touched on this briefly before, but have avoided this issue because it is not directly applicable - what people look for out of their leaders and what the Constitution (of whatever country....) says are sometimes two different things. But I think in exploring this belief, we may gain some insight into why the Constitution says what it does.
The reason for that is as follows. A modern democracy is expected to guarantee certain basic rights to its citizens, among which freedom of or from religion. This means, however, that the democracy will have to look to something other than religion to decide what those basic rights should be, in order that it guarantee equality under the law to all religious beliefs - and even constrain certain beliefs that may conflict with those rights. (otherwise one would have to allow human sacrifices to give modern Aztecs freedom of religion)
Straight to the heart of the matter, right there. But the problem is simple (though twofold):

-How can our elected leaders divorce themselves from their beliefs?
-On what basis does the government decide that some beliefs are allowable and some aren't?

The answer to the first question is simple: they can't. Its the old problem with Communism again - you can't make someone switch off human nature. Practically, it is impossible, but more than that, its a violation of his/her human rights to require it. It is fortunate that the Judeo-Christian ethic is so similar to what our political philosophers theorized about (if that's a coincidence, I'm not sure), because if it weren't, that could create a huge conflict regarding the basis and shape of rights.

This requires some discussion on the basis of rights: We've talked about it before, but in short, our rights have evolved from the Judeo-Christian ethic, English common law tradition, and a number of political philosophers. They are not established by majority rule, but were enacted by the framers of our Constitution based on this history/tradition. The flaw in that, obviously, is that you require good framers, otherwise your Constitution may be unjust/immoral. There is no way around that.

But that doesn't eliminate the second question: you are absolutely right that the government needs to decide what actions are allowable and what aren't, even when those actions have religious implications. Figuring out how to do that is far and away the toughest part of the issue. You gave a simple example for clarity (human sacrafice), but not all issues are that simple, and I'm sure you know that. One early test of this issue in the US was, coincidentally, the structure of marriage. Reynolds v United States on polygamy. Justice Waite does us the service of going into detail, the history of the institution of marriage with regard to polygamy:
Polygamy has always been odious among the northern and western nations of Europe, and, until the establishment of the Mormon Church, was almost exclusively a feature of the life of Asiatic and of African people. At common law, the second marriage was always void (2 Kent, Com. 79), and from the earliest history of England polygamy has been treated as an offence against society.
It goes on (that's about 2/3 of the way down). The point is, our laws, rights, etc have not only philosophical, but historical basis. Tradition. And religion is part of that tradition.
Now when one decides what those rights should be from a secular perspective, it turns out that in practice secularism is more liberal and permissive of certain actions that are prohibited by most major religions. Nonetheless, it is this more liberal view that the government and legislature are asked to deliver upon, even if their own personal views would disagree.
If that's the critereon, yes. But while that may be true of some countries (the Netherlands, for example), it is not true of the US - our country was created according to more traditional views on morality.
If he is not representing the will of the American people, then we have a clear problem. In this case, however, he does (by a slight majority if my figures are correct), so the matter is less clear.
Actually, no - simple majority rule is irrelevant here. Protection of rights comes first. Since they are so important, screwing with our rights requries a 2/3 majority and a Constitutional Amendment. All laws passed must conform to the Constitution, regardless of what the people want. Whether or not he is "representing the will of the people" is simpler: he is. The people elected him. Twice. That's how the people express their will.
It would not violate the letter of the law, since the ban need not carry any religious language, and can be justified simply on the basis of that majority view. I would say, however, that it violates the spirit of the principle of separation. (This, accidentally, is a more European view, so I don't expect agreement; it is also fairly difficult to defend - maybe it's largely a matter of taste and how each interprets said principle)
Taste isn't the right word, but your point is valid: as I said above, the US has a more traditional, conservative view of morality than many European countries.
Rather than criticize what is not my business, I will state that I have great respect for our prime minister who has chosen to pursue the gay marriage bill in spite of his own religious background. To me, that is what serving the public is about.
That is, indeed, one mark of a good politician (plus, that's how you win elections). But another is standing up for what is right, regardless of if its popular. That is much more difficult.

Good arguments, in any case.
 
  • #86
Informal Logic
russ_watters said:
All laws passed must conform to the Constitution, regardless of what the people want. Whether or not he is "representing the will of the people" is simpler: he is. The people elected him. Twice. That's how the people express their will.
So if a leader is elected (even if only by a slight majority) it means what ever that leader chooses to do is representing the people? Aside from the fact that the majority of Americans are pro-choice, and as we can see the majority did not support government intervention in the Schiavo case (or political matters of "guest worker" amnesty, or privatization of social security, or trade agreements, etc.) how is this representing the will of the people?
russ_watters said:
But another is standing up for what is right, regardless of if its popular. That is much more difficult.
What is right is subjective. Let's face it, as long as it's "God's Work" it's okay to bomb an abortion clinic, and if the American public must be deceived to go to war in Iraq because it has been deemed the best interest of the country, so be it.
 
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  • #87
russ_watters
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Informal Logic said:
So if a leader is elected (even if only by a sight majority) it means what ever that leader chooses to do is representing the people?
As long as what he does does not conflict with the Constitution and is consistent with the way he presented himself before he was elected, yes. What more can you ask from an elected official?
Aside from the fact that the majority of Americans are pro-choice, and as we can see the majority did not support government intervention in the Schiavo case (or political matters of "guest worker" amnesty, or privatization of social security, or trade agreements, etc.) how is this representing the will of the people?
This is a representative democracy. That's what representation means. Even more than for their ideas, we elect leaders for their judgement (or, at least, we should). If this were a direct democracy, then people would vote on every issue and there would be no President. What Clinton did was take an opinion poll before making just about any decision, and that is not normal (it had never been done before to the extent he did it), nor is it the correct way to lead a country. That's dereliction of duty. A failure to be a leader. Heck, don't you guys remember why Washington was selected as our first President? He was selected because he didn't want the job and wouldn't conduct himself like a politician who'se primary motivation was being re-elected.

I voted for Bush. I object to his handling of the Schaivo case. Yet I'd vote for him again (over Kerry) tomorrow. Is that a contradiction? No. I accept the reality that my elected officials will sometimes do things I disagree with.
What is right is subjective. Let's face it, as long as it's "God's Work" it's okay to bomb an abortion clinic, and if the American public must be deceived to go to war in Iraq because it has been deemed the best interest of the country, so be it.
Didn't you just argue against your own point?

edit: I'm going to start a new thread about what it means to represent your constituents. Its not relevant here, but I had no idea the idea that politicians must do exactly everything the majority says was so prevalent. It simply isn't correct.
 
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  • #88
SOS2008
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russ_watters said:
I can only assume you are talking about me there. I have said nothing of the sort. Nor has anyone else I have noticed. Care to elaborate?
Based on debate to date, no, I would not place you on that end of the spectrum. It's further substantiation that there IS a movement to remove separation of church and state.

In the original post I express personal dislike regarding use of tax dollars and coercion. With regard to current cases such as display of the Ten Commandments on state capital grounds, I would say that if states placed a prop on the ballot to raise taxes for display/maintenance of such displays, I doubt the prop would be passed. Unfortunately, people have not been allowed to choose these things via a vote. As for coercion, telling a woman she cannot make decisions about her own body is about as strong an example of coercion (the forcing of a religious belief upon another against their will) that one can think of.

You can deny that laws to ban abortion or laws regarding the Schiavo case, which are based on pro-life beliefs, are not related to religion or Bush's response to satisfy a special interest group (i.e., Christian minority) because you claim there is no direct proof. But it does not mean this isn't the case--because it is, and most people know this, just like we know the sun rises each morning even if we don't see it actually happen. This is what can be debated into infinity. :bugeye:
 
  • #89
russ_watters
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SOS2008 said:
Based on debate to date, no, I would not place you on that end of the spectrum. It's further substantiation that there IS a movement to remove separation of church and state.
I don't see how that follows, though: who in this thread does that apply to and how does that imply there is such a movement?
In the original post I express personal dislike regarding use of tax dollars and coercion. With regard to current cases such as display of the Ten Commandments on state capital grounds, I would say that if states placed a prop on the ballot to raise taxes for display/maintenance of such displays, I doubt the prop would be passed. Unfortunately, people have not been allowed to choose these things via a vote.
That's a hypothetical, but similar cases have gone before the USSC. The result is always the same (a specifically religious display is not allowed). I don't see how that supports your assertion either.
As for coercion, telling a woman she cannot make decisions about her own body is about as strong an example of coercion (the forcing of a religious belief upon another against their will) that one can think of.
Not correct. If abortion is murder, then it would be right that it be outlawed. It would no more be coercion than locking up any other murderer. Why murder is wrong (whether that idea comes from the 10 Commandments or Locke's theory on rights) is not relevant. See above for discussion on what constitutes a secular purpose.
You can deny that laws to ban abortion or laws regarding the Schiavo case, which are based on pro-life beliefs, are not related to religion or Bush's response to satisfy a special interest group (i.e., Christian minority) because you claim there is no direct proof. But it does not mean this isn't the case--because it is, and most people know this, just like we know the sun rises each morning even if we don't see it actually happen.
Quite the contrary: I have said explicitly that religious beliefs are where Bush et al get these ideas. Everyone knows it - the judges know it. Yes, it is as obvious as the sun rising. It just isn't relevant.

If you think it is relevant, tell me why the judges (there were, what - 19 of them?) never mentioned it.
 
  • #90
Informal Logic
russ_watters said:
I don't see how that follows, though: who in this thread does that apply to and how does that imply there is such a movement?
With regard to the original quote -
...These groups argue that religious groups ought to be involved in politics, to assure that laws are passed which reflect the Truth of religion. Some, such as the Christian Coalition, have become highly and vocally involved in promoting what they believe to be Christian values in government.

Other believers hold that the State ought to maintain an established church, a position described as antidisestablishmentarianism.
Are you saying you are not arguing in favor of laws reflecting the Truth of religion? Are you saying there is no such thing as antidisestablishmentarianism? Are you saying that this is not a movement, and it has not grown stronger in recent years? I beg to differ on this as well.

As for abortion, one also could argue to infinity when life begins, and if I wanted to do this I would post in the thread on that topic. However there can be no question that a woman is fully-existing life. How can anyone question this? And as such, life in full existence takes precedence over debatable, potential life.
 
  • #91
fifiki
russ_watters said:
Again, I'm not assuming it - I'm reading it straight out of the law (in the case of the Schiavo law). The law does not mention religion and in its implimentation will not affect any religion specifically. That's what it means to have a secular purpose.

That's being very exclusive in your definition of secular purpose. As I've quote from case law above, it can go further into subjective motivations. The courts doesn't like to do it, but they do sometimes.

russ_watters said:
Ok, so when you see "secular purpose" you go back to the mind of the writer and his motivation. That is not what is meant by secular purpose - its still about the law itself: You can have a law that doesn't mention God but still has religious implications, ie a law about alcohol consumption/distribution could affect certain Christian sects that use it in communion even if the law doesn't mention God. That would be a law that looks secular at face value but in fact has a specific religious implication - but the Schiavo law does not do that.

Well according to the Supreme Court they do go back to "subjective motivations" of the enacters. I don't believe I'm misreading it at all. Scalia has never hid the fact that he wants to get rid of the secular purpose part of the test entirely and he bemoans the fact that it's so inaccurate to go into the minds of those who wrote the laws and what their motivations were. The majority on the other hand disagree with him. Why do they have to do this? To figure out the purpose of the law. For what reason? To make sure that it's was secular and they find that it's lacking when it was "motivated wholly by religious considerations."

russ_watters said:
I agree with all of that, as indicated above (and your example is a good one) - but again, that is not the case with the 3 issues brought up by SOS.

I know you've mentioned this many times, but I've never once said anything about whatever the 3 issues you're referring to. I'm also not willing to go back to find out what they are either, so I can't really say anything about other other issues. (I know one being the Terri Schiavo case). My only contention with you is about what I've said in the post itself.

russ_watters said:
Sometimes, laws are tough to interpret and to understand the intent of the law, you have to go back to what the writer said about it or how it is being implimented. That is true. But that is not imply questioning the beliefs of the writer of the law. Its still all about the law itself.

I've always said that when looking to in the legislative purpose/intent it might reveal a law written wholly for religious considerations. How can this happen? When the whole purpose for the law in the first place was for religious reasons. So I really don't see how one can just assume that the law is secular.

russ_watters said:
Ie, if the purpose of the gay marriage ban is to preserve the sanctity of marriage and the writer gets his ideas of marriage from his Christian beliefs, the first part applies and the second part does not. In fact, considering the source of the beliefs is a violation of the writer's religious freedom. The legislative purpose is that gay marriage is immoral and should be outlawed and the objective of the law is to preserve the sanctity of marriage. I don't see why this is so hard to understand - especially with regard to the Schiavo case, where I have provided the text of the law and quotes from the people who passed it, regarding their intent.

The difference with that example is that there was another purpose for the law that was secular. I can give you another example like that: the Sunday closing law. The Court once said that although there was strong religious origin for the law, it was constitutional because there was another purpose: a uniform day of rest for all citizens. But the issue we are discussing is when there is no other purpose for enacting the statute besides religious motivations. Besides which I never said that the Schiavo law was unconstitutional for violating the first Amendment.

russ_watters said:
fifiki, I think we're more in agreement than you realize (certainly more than I realized before), but you're arguing things that don't apply to those 3 examples given. I don't disagree with you on those other arguments, I'm trying to steer you away from them because they are tangential - they do not apply here: The implication of all of this is that the 3 examples given by SOS are not violations of the establishment clause and do not support the assertion that Bush is part of a movement to eliminate the separation of church and state.

Ahhh! Ok so I'm not even arguing about those other examples, so perhaps I'm on another tangent entirely. Well who knows, when Bush puts about 4-5 new Supreme Court Justices on the bench (which it seems likely he might), let's see what direction things will go. Assuming that they will be similar to Scalia or Thomas. But I do see your point though. So I will let y'all (or is it ya'll? This girl I know from the South is very adament that it's ya'll) discuss...on with the show...
 
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  • #92
SOS2008
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russ_watters said:
The implication of all of this is that the 3 examples given by SOS are not violations of the establishment clause and do not support the assertion that Bush is part of a movement to eliminate the separation of church and state.
...the US Government cannot perform any action or make any policy which blatantly favors one faith or church over another, or even favors belief over non-belief or the other way around.
As stated repeatedly, one can just violate it by chipping away at it, though I and many others do not want our taxes used to support displays of the Ten Commandments, or the teaching of creationism, or what have you. And in the examples given, I feel there has been favoritism of Christian belief over other/non-belief in regard to these issues and related laws.

As for Bush and his involvement in a movement to eliminate separation of church and state, why do you think he, along with Frist, et al, want to change the senate rule on filibuster opposition? It is so they can nominate fundamentalist judges at will in the pursuit of a Christian agenda. What do you call that?
 
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  • #93
SOS2008
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russ_watters said:
What Clinton did was take an opinion poll before making just about any decision, and that is not normal (it had never been done before to the extent he did it), nor is it the correct way to lead a country. That's dereliction of duty.
Wha-da-heck!?
 
  • #94
russ_watters
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SOS2008 said:
...I and many others do not want our taxes used to support displays of the Ten Commandments, or the teaching of creationism, or what have you.
And as we already discussed, those are clear violations that are always overturned by the courts. They are also isolated cases - unless you can show how Bush or the federal government are involved. For both of those reasons, they are not a threat to separation of church and state.
And in the examples given, I feel there has been favoritism of Christian belief over other/non-belief in regard to these issues and related laws.
There certainly is/has been. And you think there is something wrong with that? I discussed several posts ago why that is the case and why there is nothing wrong with it: the morality of the US Constitution is based on European philosophy, which is based partially on the Judeo-Christian morality.
As for Bush and his involvement in a movement to eliminate separation of church and state, why do you think he, along with Frist, et al, want to change the senate rule on filibuster opposition? It is so they can nominate fundamentalist judges at will in the pursuit of a Christian agenda. What do you call that?
Well, at least now you're only making a prediction - shall I take that as an admission that no such infringement has happened yet? That this supposed "movement" isn't making any progress?

Anyway, be specific: do you think if Bush gets to nominate 4 USSC justices that we'll go back to the pre-1947 (iirc) interpretation (freedom "from" religion), or even go beyond that?

Regardless, I think the new interpretation is too restrictive anyway: it outlaws things like the invocation at a graduation ceremony. Its a case where the two religious clauses of the 1st amendment happen to conflict with each other, but I think the new interpretation is wrong.
 
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  • #95
russ_watters
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fifiki said:
That's being very exclusive in your definition of secular purpose. As I've quote from case law above, it can go further into subjective motivations. The courts doesn't like to do it, but they do sometimes.
I'm not saying that they don't ever do it, just that the reason they do it (and the reason they don't like to) is that they need to in cases where the point of a law is unclear. Lawyers (or worse, Congressmen) never have been good writers....
Well according to the Supreme Court they do go back to "subjective motivations" of the enacters. I don't believe I'm misreading it at all. Scalia has never hid the fact that he wants to get rid of the secular purpose part of the test entirely and he bemoans the fact that it's so inaccurate to go into the minds of those who wrote the laws and what their motivations were. The majority on the other hand disagree with him. Why do they have to do this? To figure out the purpose of the law. For what reason? To make sure that it's was secular and they find that it's lacking when it was "motivated wholly by religious considerations."
We don't disagree on this point. In fact, I doubt even the other judges disagree with Scalia's main point: that it is inaccurate to try to get into someone's head. Its just that they disagree on if being inaccurate or difficult is enough of a reason to not try to do it.

Regardless, both views go back to how the law is to be used.
I know you've mentioned this many times, but I've never once said anything about whatever the 3 issues you're referring to. I'm also not willing to go back to find out what they are either, so I can't really say anything about other other issues. (I know one being the Terri Schiavo case). My only contention with you is about what I've said in the post itself.
Fair enough.
I've always said that when looking to in the legislative purpose/intent it might reveal a law written wholly for religious considerations. How can this happen? When the whole purpose for the law in the first place was for religious reasons. So I really don't see how one can just assume that the law is secular.
I still don't see why you keep using the word "assume". You never assume the intent of a law and I've never said otherwise: you read it in the law itself, or if the intent is unclear, you can go back to the writer and see how it was intended to be used.
Besides which I never said that the Schiavo law was unconstitutional for violating the first Amendment.
SOS did - I was trying to keep the conversation on point. In any case, we're not in disagreement about the rest of that paragraph.
Ahhh! Ok so I'm not even arguing about those other examples, so perhaps I'm on another tangent entirely.
Yup. That's ok though, because even the tangents allow us to explore different aspects of the issue (and frankly, you're pretty good at this, which makes it enjoyable/informative) - I've just been trying to relate as much as I can to the point of the thread.
Well who knows, when Bush puts about 4-5 new Supreme Court Justices on the bench (which it seems likely he might), let's see what direction things will go. Assuming that they will be similar to Scalia or Thomas.
Well, we'll just have to wait and see. Unless you guys want to debate the movie "Minority Report", a crime isn't a crime until it has happened. Orwell had a term for a crime committed only in one's mind...
 
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  • #96
kyleb
Funny you should bring up Orwell, he popped into my mind too when you argued that it is a dereliction of duty for the administrator in a representative democracy to attempt to represent his constituency.
 
  • #97
russ_watters
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kyleb said:
Funny you should bring up Orwell, he popped into my mind too when you argued that it is a dereliction of duty for the administrator in a representative democracy to attempt to represent his constituency.
Wow, its hard to fathom how you could twist my words any further - you said almost exactly the opposite of what I said.
 
  • #98
Informal Logic
russ_watters said:
And as we already discussed, those are clear violations that are always overturned by the courts. They are also isolated cases -
These things are not isolated or rare in any way. For example, there are many government buildings (courts, schools, etc.) in which the Ten Commandments have been and still are displayed. As with the current case in Texas, the argument of historical usage and/or that the Commandments are part of a collection/group of displays has been made, and as such these displays are not overturned and are allowed to remain. For those of us who do not want our tax dollars spent in this way, historical usage, etc., is not sufficient reasoning and we oppose this.
russ_watters said:
There certainly is/has been. And you think there is something wrong with that? I discussed several posts ago why that is the case and why there is nothing wrong with it: the morality of the US Constitution is based on European philosophy, which is based partially on the Judeo-Christian morality.
As posted above, so you are of the group who takes this position. Some people would like to remove separation all together. Many participants in this thread do not want government and religion mixed at all--once again regardless of historical argument. This is all that is being said.
russ_watters said:
Anyway, be specific: do you think if Bush gets to nominate 4 USSC justices that we'll go back to the pre-1947 (iirc) interpretation (freedom "from" religion), or even go beyond that?
Changing a historical senate rule would remove a vital check an balance in our system, which would open a door for who knows what beyond that, even just from a point of setting precedence.
 
  • #99
russ_watters
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Informal Logic said:
These things are not isolated or rare in any way. For example, there are many government buildings (courts, schools, etc.) in which the Ten Commandments have been and still are displayed.
If its a personal display (such as in the judge's chambers, and we didn't pay for it), is old (hence, we didn't pay for it after the interpretation of the 1st amendment changed), or is part of a larger display featuring other examples of judicial history, then its not a violation, like you said below.
As with the current case in Texas, the argument of historical usage and/or that the Commandments are part of a collection/group of displays has been made, and as such these displays are not overturned and are allowed to remain. For those of us who do not want our tax dollars spent in this way, historical usage, etc., is not sufficient reasoning and we oppose this.
That goes into the same category as 4th of July celebration fireworks. Its not a 1st Amendment issue, and its fine if you oppose it. But I happen to like fireworks and don't mind paying a buck or two in taxes to support their purchase.
As posted above, so you are of the group who takes this position. Some people would like to remove separation all together. Many participants in this thread do not want government and religion mixed at all--once again regardless of historical argument.
Actually, that makes me part of the group that wants to preserve the intent of the Constitution and its moral basis. Its not about removing separation, its about keeping the same separation we've always had. In fact, it is you (and others in this thread) who wants to change the meaning of separation of church and state. I oppose that change for two reasons: 1st, I just plain like the Constitution the way it is and second, the change you and others have advocated is not humanly possible. People simply don't work that way.
Changing a historical senate rule would remove a vital check an balance in our system, which would open a door for who knows what beyond that, even just from a point of setting precedence.
A filibuster is not a "check and balance", its a procedural/burocratic game that thwarts the democratic process by preventing voting. I honestly wonder how you'd see the issue if the shoe was on the other foot
 
  • #100
SOS2008
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russ_watters said:
If its a personal display (such as in the judge's chambers, and we didn't pay for it), is old (hence, we didn't pay for it after the interpretation of the 1st amendment changed), or is part of a larger display featuring other examples of judicial history, then its not a violation,
The example of the Ten Commandments is a display on the grounds of the Texas State Capital, as is the case with many of the displays--not someone's personal office. That displays have been allowed based on historical usage is not considered justification for this display by those who want government and religion kept separate (and per the original post, 44 years is hardly historical in the Texas case in any event), but more importantly that taxes are used for purposes of this display.
russ_watters said:
That goes into the same category as 4th of July celebration fireworks.
Who has said this is a separation of church and state issue?
russ_watters said:
Actually, that makes me part of the group that wants to preserve the intent of the Constitution and its moral basis.
That's the whole point of this thread--the differing interpretations of the intent of the Constitution. We just don't agree on this.
russ_watters said:
A filibuster is not a "check and balance", its a procedural/burocratic game that thwarts the democratic process by preventing voting. I honestly wonder how you'd see the issue if the shoe was on the other foot
Once again, your interpretation. However, the filibuster is a system of checks and balances that have served our country for over 200 years. That's right, when the Democrats have had a majority--So what do you mean when the shoe is on the other foot? More like I suppose the Republicans would want to change it back when they no longer are the majority again.
 

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