Tag Archives: health care reform

Religious Freedom and Religious Hypocrisy the New Improved 2012 Model

In the last few days there has been a uproar regarding the Department of Health and Human Services decision to require employers, including church related service institutions including schools, universities and hospitals to provide FDA approved contraception in their health insurance benefits.  Such benefits are already law in over half of the States of the United States. While many provide some exemptions for churches in eight States churches and related religious institutions receive no exemption in the State laws from contraception mandates.

The Roman Catholic Church as well as some Evangelicals such as Richard Land the President of the Southern Baptist Church have called this an assault on religious liberty.  They have been joined by numerous politicians who with the exception of Rick Santorum seem more intent on using it as a rallying cry against President Obama because for years under Republican administrations they did not complain a bit about about this. It just seems disingenuous and I just have to wonder why now and not then?

However my purpose today is not to argue the particular merits of this case. I really don’t see it as a case of religious liberty but rather employment rights under the law which apply to all employers which religious institutions receive numerous exemptions that no secular employers receive in kind. Religious institutions receive tremendous amounts of tax exemptions, exemptions regarding employment rights and other benefits  that secular institutions or employers do not. That is a product of our continued religious liberty and the place of privilege of religious institutions, particularly Christian ones in this country.

We Christians can cry out that we are being persecuted but we do so from a position of privilege that Christians in other countries where persecution is real and often involves prison and death. I find it hard to take seriously the cries of persecution on this issue by Bishops who preside over diocese which have universities and hospitals that already provide the contraceptive coverage to employees that is being mandated now. Likewise I have a hard time reconciling a claim of persecution by many who have been complicit in the cover up of massive numbers of sexual abuse crimes by clergy and religious and who have used the courts to try to deny the redress if these issues by the victims of these crimes.

The point I want to make is that it seems to me that Christians in the United States generally only rally to the cause of religious freedom when it benefits them economically, socially and legally. I seldom see conservative Christians be they Catholic or Protestant come to the defense of religious rights of minority religions.  In fact more often than not it seems that they are all in favor of restricting the practices of those that don’t agree with them.

I respect the right of the Roman Catholic Church to its beliefs and practice. However it is hypocritical for it or other churches accept and lobby for special exemptions and privileges that no one else receives from the government and then cry that it is being persecuted when required to provide benefits that all other employers are required to provide. It is simply a matter of fairness.

Thomas Jefferson wrote to Horatio Spafford in March 1814 that “In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own.” It seems to me that this is the case now.

I do think that the choice of Catholic bishops as well as the denominational leaders of churches which have no opposition to contraception to make this a major fight is a mistake. I believe that will harm the witness of the church and further increase the perception that American Christians care more about themselves and their rights than they do about those of others. Truthfully this kind of action is the opposite of the early church which in spite of real persecution never stopped loving or caring about those that persecuted them. But then those Christians didn’t have to worry about running the church like a business, political party or government.  I guess that must make a difference.

I do expect some hate mail on this post but oh well, such it life.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under faith, healthcare, Political Commentary, Religion

Flip-Flops in Florida: Who was Before it Before they were Against it Before they said that They Weren’t? I Sure the Hell Don’t Know

We are done with debates for a month and not a moment too soon especially for Newt Gingrich who got his ass handed to him tonight. Unlike in South Carolina where Gingrich was the clear winner Newt seemed to be flat footed in his answers to questions posed by Wolf Blitzer and audience members and in his responses to Romney. Romney seemed much more comfortable attacking Newt tonight. However I think that he was hurt by Rick Santorum who I think won the debate.

Despite beating Gingrich Romney certainly did not help himself for the general election should he be the nominee. Newt’s campaign as well as all of his huge Mitt-stakes over the past month have taken their toll. Even Rupert Murdoch thinks that Romney’s tax issue alone could keep him from winning in November.  Romney is certainly a shrewd businessman and as he calls himself a “winner.”  However he comes across as both arrogant and unprincipled, a flip-flopper of the worst kind as does Gingrich.

These debates and the campaign since Iowa have been a bloodbath in which Romney and Gingrich have done everything that they can do the ensure that neither of them becomes President. These guys are doing the best that they can to destroy each other every hour of the day and then claim ignorance. I am amazed with the alacrity with which they misrepresented each other and themselves.

I know that people wear flip-flops on Florida’s beaches but these guys put the flip in flop.    Both were for it before they were against it before someone pointed out that they were for it and they had to defend being for what they are now against or really are for but can’t admit it and get the nomination.

I am really getting confused and I know it’s not just my Mad Cow causing this. I don’t think that either man actually believes a word that they that they say even before they denied that they believed it.  Both Gingrich and Romney came across as absolutely disingenuous and consumed with destroying each other on the way to getting the nomination.

In my opinion it was Rick Santorum that was the most effective debater tonight and was very impressive. He was much more impressive than either Romnich or Gingney and I think Santorum cleaned Romney’s clock. Unfortunately for him it is probably too little too late regarding the getting the nomination but anything is possible now. Ron Paul made some points but did not have the impact tonight as did Santorum. Santorum hurt Romney on “Romneycare” and taxation aligning himself with none other than Ronald Reagan on the upper bracket tax rates.  He was also the only candidate that spoke directly about the industrial base and the workers that were the Reagan Democrats and recognized that President Obama had made that point in the State of the Union.

While anything is possible in this race I think that it is pretty certain that Romney will now win Florida. I thought that Gingrich might steal it but he didn’t help himself at all tonight. He was way off his game and he needed to reprise what he did in South Carolina in order to win Florida.  He now has to work doubly hard to try to win this or run a close second.

However this race has show that nothing is what it was even four years ago. I think that it will drag on and that anti-Romney forces will ensure that it does. I think that all things being equal that Romney probably wins the nomination but like I have been saying since Iowa that he will be so damaged that he will not be able to win in November.  He may have the support of the GOP elites but he certainly is not winning the hearts of people that he will need to support him in November.

A recent poll said that 33% of Republicans wished that there was another candidate in the race. Likewise President Obama’s positive numbers which were dismal are going up even as Romney’s favorable ratings collapse. I say this only to show just how volatile the electorate is this year and how dissatisfied most Americans seem to be with the status quo and the people running for the nation’s highest office.

This is not like anything that I have ever seen. So many things can happen between now and next week when Florida votes and the the General Election on November 6th that could influence the election it boggles the mind. I know that my mind is boggled. I feel like I am watching the two Republican front-runners do their best to ensure that their party cannot win in November. What do you think?

Peace

Padre Steve+

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The Shooting of Congresswoman Giffords and the Reality of “Weimar” America

The Assailant: Jared Lee Loughner from his My Space Page

I think that the United States of America has become Weimar Germany before my eyes. We have a very divided and polarized electorate which in each of the last several years bouncing the majority party in Congress out almost every two years. Both major parties have proclaimed their opponents dead and claimed that they had a long term lock on congress only to see that disappear in the next election cycle. Presidents go from massive approval ratings to massive disapproval ratings almost overnight and the constant cry seems to be “throw the bums out.” While this is going on both major parties have cultivated a poisonous political culture which has resulted in the furthest extremes controlling each party while claiming to represent the mainstream. Radio and television commentators, pundits and talk show hosts play to the extremist mentality castigating anyone that deviates from their ideological norm and calling for radical if not violent action to achieve those ends.  Sarah Palin used gun sight crosshairs to “target” Congressmen who voted for Health Care Reform for defeat on her PAC website and others have used the language of violent revolution and bloodshed to further inflame already disgruntled and angry electorate.   During the recent election campaign thugs from both sides used violence and intimidation against their opponent’s rallies and campaign headquarters.

The Target: Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords with Speaker of the House John Boehner on Monday

Over the past year I have been writing about the poisonous political environment in the United States and the threat to liberty that it poses. I have specifically written about those that threaten violence and use violent imagery to convey their ideology or political goals.  Today we have seen were such talk leads. We still know little about the assassin Jared Lee Loughner a 22 year old loner with some rather odd beliefs. However from what we have seen on his You Tube and My Space pages it is clear that he was certainly troubled. We don’t know enough yet to do more than speculate about what he actually believes and what led him to shoot Congresswoman Giffords, kill 6 others including Federal Judge John Roll, one of Giffords’ staffers and a 9 year old girl and would 11 others.

Assassinated while stopping to say hello after Mass: Judge John Roll

We also now are learning that there is a second suspect who is a according to the Pima County Sherriff a white man in his 50s who allegedly accompanied Loughner to the grocery store where he launched his attack. Reports this evening indicate that Loughner is not talking so there will certainly be more to this story.  It will be interesting and enlightening and potentially frightening to see where the trail leads and what influenced Loughner to attempt to kill Congresswoman Giffords and kill or wound so many more.

Some are already speculating about Loughner’s motivation s and political leanings.  Far right columnists are already trying with very little evidence that Loughner is a left wing extremist.  Aaron Klein of World Net Daily asserts this in a claim based solely on the recollections of a high school classmate who has not seen him for years. Many in the media and on the left posit that he is  a right wing extremist based on his postings about the distrust of the current government, vague references to the Constitution and his support for returning to the Gold Standard.  It is also possible that he is simply a violent man influenced by a wide variety of sources and passions. The fact that he lists Mein Kampf and the Communist Manifesto as two of his favorite books give the latter some credence as well.

However I would garner from the limited amount of information that Loughner is very unstable.  Like many such people it is entirely plausible that he has swung from one pendulum of radicalism to another. While he may have leaned left in High School it is also very possible that he lurched to the right, influenced by the vitriol of some on the far political right based on the subjects mentioned on his You Tube and My Space pages as I have already noted. I think that may well be what happened. Of course I could be very wrong about this and if so I will own it, but if we look at history there are many cases of mentally unstable people that shift from one extreme to another in relatively short periods of time who turn to violence.  If we add to the picture the fact that after Giffords voted for the Health Care Bill her office was vandalized and was the frequent location of loud and angry protests by members of Arizona’s Tea Party and that at one rally a gun was dropped by an anti-Giffords protestor.

I really think that with things as they are with the violent rhetoric and extreme vitriol that have become a part of everyday political discourse with politicians such as Michelle Bachmann saying things like “I want people in Minnesota armed and dangerous….having a revolution every now and then is a good thing.” Representative Steve King ranted “Let’s beat that other side to a pulp! Let’s take them out. Let’s chase them down.” Talk show hosts have often made even more extreme statements and while these may energize ratings as well as further whip the angry base to come out to rallies and vote.  Some on the left have engaged in similar talk.  Admittedly even the most passionate and angry members of the extreme right or left are not violent people by nature. However there are people, usually on the fringe of such groups that are emotionally unstable and prone to violence that will interpret such language in very literal ways.

Unfortunately we do not yet know what went on in the mind of Jared Loughner’s mind before he went on his killing spee, but I fear that it will not be the last political violence that we see in the coming days and years.  With both sides so invested in demonizing the other it will be hard for them to back down. Rhetoric will certainly remain inflamed as will the passions of the electorate in the new electoral season with the approaching 2012 Presidential Campaign on the horizon.  I fully expect things to get worse and for more people to be killed or injured by violent acts of extremists because rational debate is a thing of the past in our country. We are not far from political groups forming their own armed “security” details for “protection” of their party’s elected officials or candidates, much like those of the Nazis and Communists in Weimar Germany.  We have already seen some of this in the past couple of years but the worst is yet to come. There will be no backing down by either side though for a moment or two in the wake of this attack some cooler heads will prevail until in the coming weeks the ideologues raise the heated rhetoric to new heights.

The sad thing is that Congresswoman Giffords was a moderate and as I have said before moderates are an endangered species. I have been threatened with physical harm by some extremists who have left comments on this website and I have no political power. I found a lot of common ground with Congresswoman Giffords and had I lived in her district I certainly would have voted for her. She was a strong supporter of the military and our military families, she was for immigration reform and married to a Naval Officer serving as an Astronaut, but to the hard core right she was a traitor because she voted for the Health Care bill.  That is why Sarah Palin’s PAC had a gun sight crosshair with her name on it.  I’m sure they did not actually mean for someone to shoot her or any of the other 19 targets congressmen and women but their words and symbols has meaning and some will take such gestures seriously. Congresswoman Giffords said during the recent election campaign: “For example, we’re on Sarah Palin’s targeted list, but the thing is, that the way that she has it depicted has the crosshairs of a gun sight over our district. When people do that, they have to realize that there are consequences to that action.” Unfortunately Gabrielle Giffords was right about that.

I pray like so many others that she Congresswoman Giffords will live and that somehow despite the grievous nature of her wound that she will recover.  If she dies, as Judge Roll already has her death will be mourned by many of her colleagues, constituents and Americans who believe that political extremism has gone too far. However, you can mark my words that there will be some in the coming weeks who will seek to discredit her or Judge Roll and justify what was done to them regardless of Loughner’s motivation or connections be they from the right or left and some from the right are already doing this on posts to various news site articles. We have reached the abyss and I pray that we don’t throw ourselves into it. God help us all.

Padre Steve+

 

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