Religion in Government – The "Back Door" Problem

My copy of FFRF’s Freethought Today recently went upside my head with a statement quoted on Page 3 of their November 2018 issue:

The bottom line is that while church and state are formally separated, religious legislators are still driven by their religious beliefs when voting in the Senate on all issue areas. This mechanism circumvents the formal separation of church and state and brings religion into politics through the back door.
-- Daniel Arnon, Emory University

The above statement relates to a study by Mr. Arnon, entitled: “The Enduring Influence of Religion on Senators’ Legislative Behavior.

On one level, someone might react, “Oh, well, of course their religious beliefs are going to enter into their legislative behavior.” The problem is that each one of these senators took an oath, either swearing or affirming to “support and defend the Constitution.” Being that the Constitution is a secular document which mandates the separation of church and state, any practice of inserting personal religious beliefs into legislation by any member of the Senate would constitute a violation of the above-mentioned oath! And if Senators are doing it, hardly any imagination is required to infer that members of the House of Representatives are equally compromised. In the case of the Supreme Court, I would say that this problem is obvious and therewith endemic to at least two of the three branches of our government.

Thinking ideally, that oath of office places a considerable expectation on any Congressperson or judge: it expects them to leave their personal biases at the door and legislate or judge purely based on the law. This requirement may not be stated in boldface, but it remains the impression left with your author in this case. That said, if there is a fatal flaw to the intent of the founders or the Constitution itself, here it is. There are religious Congressmen and women who either cannot or will not set their beliefs aside when formulating laws for this country and are so convinced of the necessity of their beliefs being universally accepted that they will compromise a promise made to those they represent in order to kowtow to their god.

So what to do about this? The Congressional Freethought Caucus has recently been formed, designed to encourage reason, science, and moral values in the workings of Congress. This sadly amounts to little more than a nicety when the wall which Thomas Jefferson intended to install between State and Church is suffering the death of a thousand cuts from legislators who insist on inserting their own religious bents into bill after bill. My own sense is that there needs to be an impartial, bipartisan review committee, whose only purpose is to examine any religiously questionable legislation for such influence and advise its authors and sponsors of its problematic nature. Any bill voted down by this committee would be ineligible for consideration by the full body, either House or Senate, until its problems were corrected and approved by the committee.

A very tall order, true, but the fact is that our secular government is being actively subverted by those who have no interest in a religiously egalitarian country, but one where their own preferred hallucination holds an immutable advantage. For the sake of every Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Jain … and atheist who lives within the borders of the United States, we cannot afford to allow the tyranny of what is no longer a majority hold sway over the rest of us.

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Comment by Tom Sarbeck on December 26, 2018 at 5:43am

Frankie. The game is tied.

If my perception of the word is irrelevant [to you], your perception of it is irrelevant [to me].

Comment by Frankie Dapper on December 25, 2018 at 9:25pm

You appear to consider the word “in and of itself a slur.”

I don’t. 

Tom's words appear above. Tom i am not sure if you are being needlessly contentious or are ignorant of this issue but i know of what i speak. You may say nigger, kike, wop or any other slur and say it without malice but it is still a slur. Your perception of the word is irrelevant. 

Here is a short article that will give you a heads up.

Quote from article:

“You called yourself a Jew. That’s an awful word to use. It’s like saying n—–.”

“No, it’s not. I’m just saying that I’m Jewish.”

“They’re not the same. ‘Jewish’ is fine. ‘Jew’ is not. Really, I’m surprised you just said it out loud at work.”

Comment by Tom Sarbeck on December 24, 2018 at 1:19pm

Frankie, I wrote “...associate ‘Jew’ ... with an adjective....”

You understood that as “change ‘Jew’ ... to an adjective....”

My saying something like “...precede or follow ‘Jew’ with an adjective....” is not linguistic economy.

You appear to consider the word “in and of itself a slur.”

I don’t.

Comment by Frankie Dapper on December 24, 2018 at 12:57pm

The word Jew is ambiguous. One must rely on context to discern the speakers intended meaning. Loren's list included only one word that might apply to ancestry and religious affiliation.  Therefore a different description such as followers of Judaism makes the list congruous.

My second point about the word itself being a slur is not an acusation. It has nothing to do with how any individual perceives the word.  Its usage has created the unenviable distinction of describing ancestry (religion) and being a slur. Not surprisingly the slur is a result of the low esteem and vilification of history's scapegoats. It is also consistent w the ongoing worldwide antisemitism. Hatred fuels the fires of racial slurs. That fire burns white hot. See stats of Jewish antidefamation league if you are curious. 

Tom,  Jew is a noun. Changing it to an adjective alters the connotations.  Occams razor is misused in this context. I too prefer linguistic economy but not at the expense of perpetuating the slight.

Comment by Tom Sarbeck on December 24, 2018 at 10:02am

Michael, LOL!

Apply the “attorney” brush to me as well. I studied contract law, once in the University of Florida’s College of Business and again thirty years later in San Francisco City College (a two-year college).

Comment by Tom Sarbeck on December 24, 2018 at 9:38am

I see the word “Jew” as Loren does, NOT as a slur.

I could associate “Jew” or any word with an adjective that reveals an intent to make it a slur, but I don’t.

The reason for that is that when I was a child my dad made it very clear that “We don’t dislike people because they are different.”

Further, what effect does “-ish” have? If I were to see “Jew” as Frankie says he does, I would use the word “Jewish” as a pejorative. I don’t.

“...adherents....” etc? This is a time to use Occam’s razor; keep the language simple.

Comment by Loren Miller on December 24, 2018 at 7:34am

I'm a retired engineer, Michael ... and I suppose I have this bad habit of calling a spade a spade.  For myself, I don't see the word, "Jew" as a slur, and I don't use it with that intent.  If someone wants to claim that I am, then they don't know me very well.

Comment by Michael Penn on December 24, 2018 at 7:31am

I see both Loren and Frankie's point but you would think one of them was an attorney or something.  :)

Comment by Frankie Dapper on December 5, 2018 at 1:00pm

Loren, i understood/understand.

My point is not about your message. No argument there. It is just that you have a sentence with a litany of theists. You include Jew in that list. But that word is so very loaded and ambiguous. It is as much a reference to ancestry as it is to religion. And it is the only proper reference to an entire people that is in and of itself a slur. Considering how many atheist/agnostic/secular Jews there are it would be more accurate to say adherents of Judaism or practitioner of Judaism which would also include believers who are not Jewish. 

Comment by Loren Miller on December 5, 2018 at 6:01am

Frankie, you miss the point.  The Christers (mostly the evangelical ones) want our government to reflect their holy book, which means that ANYONE who isn't one of them, including those I listed, gets to suck hind tit, if that.  In what is at least ostensibly a secular government, that should be intolerable.  Even worse, such people think they have the right to do so because they're in the majority, and they're NOT.  Even if they were, there's still the matter of the Establishment Clause, which they conveniently ignore or misinterpret.

The point is that their misapprehension needs to be disabused ... NOW.



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