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This Is Intolerance?

LifeSite.net quotes Catholic League president Bill Donohue:

"In the January 30 edition of the Connecticut Jewish Ledger, Abigail Pogrebin was asked which Jewish persons have left a 'profound impression' on her. She answered, 'I will never forget Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg saying, 'Don't put a [Christmas] wreath on this door.' Indeed, Ginsburg admits to putting a gold mezuzah on her office door's frame as a way of saying, 'This is my space, and please don't put a wreath on this door.' To observant Jews, the mezuzah reminds them of their connection to God. To Ginsburg, who is not observant, it is a symbol of protest.

"Ginsburg used to attend the annual Red Mass, a Catholic Mass that honors lawyers, but then she had a bad experience: 'I went one year and I will never go again, because this sermon was outrageously anti-abortion.' So much for respect for diversity. Just imagine how it would go down in the Jewish community if a Catholic Supreme Court Justice were to say that he would never again attend a particular Jewish event because he had to endure a talk that was 'outrageously pro-abortion.'

"In 1995, the Supreme Court ruled, 7-2, that it was constitutional to put a cross outside Ohio's state capitol building. The ruling said that the park was a public forum open to all expression, and could not therefore exclude a Christian symbol. Ginsburg dissented, explaining to Pogrebin, that 'a Jewish child who is passing by the Capitol' would surmise that 'this is a Christian country,' thus provoking the conclusion that 'There's something wrong with me.' Ginsburg had nothing to say about the fact that a menorah had been allowed on the same grounds prior to the ruling.

"What Ginsburg has said should give all Christians pause, especially Catholics. Her intolerance for our teachings and traditions is striking."

Now I should say that I disagree with Justice Ginsburg's opinion in Pinnette, though not quite on the grounds Mr. Donohue urges.

But what exactly is Donohue's beef with Ginsburg's position on the Mass? Ginsburg used to go to the Mass, presumably because she thought it was a nice gesture, and perhaps because she found it interesting. Then she heard a sermon she strongly disagreed with -- and, horror of horrors, decided to stop going to another religion's religious services! "Respect for diversity" doesn't mean that you have to listen to sermons that you think are wrongheaded. It's not "intoleran[t]." It's not disrespectful of diversity. It's a sign of diversity of opinions, a sign that Ginsburg is not a Catholic, and disagrees strongly with some Catholic views. What precisely is wrong with that?

As to "imagin[ing] how it would go down in the Jewish community if a Catholic Supreme Court Justice were to say that he would never again attend a particular Jewish event because he had to endure a talk that was 'outrageously pro-abortion'" -- shouldn't be too hard. First, let's imagine a Catholic Supreme Court Justice going to a service at a synagogue; I can imagine that, though I'd think that would be pretty rare (perfectly understandable, since I'd expect Catholic Justices to prefer Catholic services to Jewish ones). Then, let's imagine that he heard the rabbi preach a sermon that he thought was "outrageously" pro-abortion-rights (presumably something more than just a mild expression of support); and that he then decided to quit going to a synagogue.

How would Jews feel? How should Jews feel? I suppose they probably should, and would, think: Well, it's nice that he tried to be ecumenical, but I suppose he realized that there really are big gulfs between his religious/political views and our religious/political views, and that there's a reason why people usually go to religious services of their own faith (and their own twist on their own faith) rather than of other faiths. Thanks for coming, sorry you won't be back, guess we disagree on some things.

Likewise as to Christmas wreaths. Ginsburg wasn't trying to ban Christmas wreaths. She wasn't berating someone for wishing her a Merry Christmas. She was trying to subtly convey the message that this is her office, and she wants it to reflect her own cultural identity (my understanding is that she is indeed nonobservant, and that Jewish is to her a cultural identity rather than a religious one) rather than someone else's cultural identity. This isn't even exactly "protest"; but in any event it's hardly "intolerance" to try to control which symbols are put on your own office door.

There is sometimes genuine government discrimination against and intolerance towards religiosity, and sometimes against Christianity. I've criticized it in the past, on many occasions. Justice Stevens's and Ginsburg's dissents in Pinnette, I think, do represent such discrimination against religious speech, though not necessarily against Christian speech.

But the other two examples are not remotely grounds for legitimate complaint. Donahue's complaints work only by turning personal disagreement with others' views, and assertion of one's own cultural identity, into "[dis]respect for diversity" or "intolerance" -- which is to say by sapping the concept of "intolerance" of any real meaning.

Brian Day (mail):
Bill Donohue has become the Catholic version of Pat Robertson. At times he becomes an embaressment to Catholics.

Now if you could get your colleague Steve Bainbridge to responc, now that would be an intelligent response.
2.10.2006 5:08pm
WB:
Great post. Donahue's argument looks like a variation on the mistaken idea that judicial impartiality means that judges aren't allowed to have opinions about anything.
2.10.2006 5:14pm
Rob Johnson (mail):
Ginsburg apparently said, "I went one year and I will never go again, because this sermon was outrageously anti-abortion."

My question is: why the outrage? Was Ginsburg expecting to hear pro-abortion sentiments at the Mass? Everyone knows that the Catholic church opposes abortion, so why is Ginsburg outraged when the sermon is anti-abortion. As Eugene points out, it's fine if Ginsburg doesn't attend Catholic masses, and its fine if Scalia doesn't attend Jewish synagogues, but it does seem somewhat hubristic if not intolerant for either of them, after choosing to attend, to be outraged by the presence of catholic or jewish doctrine in the sermon.
2.10.2006 5:15pm
CJColucci (mail):
Let me add only that I am sick and tired of the "hypothetical hypocrite" argument tha Donohue recycles all the time. You know the form: "How would the [fill in the blank] react if somebody [fill in the blank]?" For example, How would the people defending Andrew Serrano's Piss Christ react if someone made a Piss Star of David and called it art? The implication beiong that the [fill in the blanks] are hypocrites.
Much of the time, however, it's perfectly clear how they'd react, given who the "they" usually are, and "they" often have a track record to prove it. The rest of the time, the question is impossible to answer because it hasn't come up, but that doesn't justify assuming that the [fill in the blanks] will act as the proponent of the "hypothetical hypocrite" argument assumes they will, probably because he knows his own soul too well and projects it all around.
2.10.2006 5:18pm
Rob Johnson (mail):
Eugene,

I'll ask my question more concisely. Why is it appropriate for Ginsburg to be outraged by the presence of Catholic doctrine in a Catholic Mass?
2.10.2006 5:23pm
te (mail):

My question is: why the outrage?

I think the context here is that she had traditionally attended the "Red Mass" which (from what I hear) is an annual event geared toward recognizing and reaching out to Catholic attorneys, etc.

I other words it's not like she just popped into a mass somewhere. I guess she assumed (wrongly) that this would be sort of a ceremonial, feel-good ceremony.
2.10.2006 5:26pm
JunkYardLawDog (mail):
The biggest thing that bothers me is that Justice Ginsburg has admitted making rulings that are based upon her religious/cultural experience instead of the law. In making up her mind something was unconstitutional because she imagined herself being a little jewish girl who felt left out versus any kind of constitutional analysis is exactly the kind of thing that the liberal PC crowd insisted that Roberts and Alito promise NOT to do if put on the court. They wanted assurances that they would NOT follow Ginsburg's example and use their personal religious/cultural beliefs to influence their rulings. They got those promises. I must have missed their outrage at the revelation that Justice Ginsburg admits to/brags about doing EXACTLY THAT which the liberal senators claimed would be wholly improper for a justice to do.

Says the "Dog"
2.10.2006 5:26pm
Jesse (mail) (www):
I wonder what Donohue would say about a protestant Justice who decided not to attend Red Mass after hearing such a sermon, either becuase he is pro-choice, or just because he felt that the priest should avoid topics that are often at issue before the Court.

As for the Jewish community's reaction: A number of people I know have switched from one congregation to another precisely because they didn't like the Rabbi's views at the first temple. Or have decided against joining a particular congregation for the same reason. I think we'd all be more shocked if the Catholic Justice didn't get offended and quit.
2.10.2006 5:27pm
Rob Johnson (mail):
te,

Are you saying that Ginsburg's outrage was justified?
2.10.2006 5:30pm
JLR (mail):
The question isn't posed to me but if it's okay, let me venture a brief response:

Technically the piece doesn't say she was "outraged"; rather, it says that Justice Ginsburg found it "outrageously anti-abortion." While that could mean that that component of the sermon "outraged" her, it could have been meant as "exceeding the limits of what is usual" (Merriam-Webster's definition 1a). So it is unclear if Justice Ginsburg was "outraged," or rather, if she believed the anti-abortion component "exceeded the limits of what is usual." Whether Justice Ginsburg would be in a position to judge that is unclear and to a certain extent irrelevant; if it was a message too strident for her ears she has a right to choose not to listen.
2.10.2006 5:31pm
Marcus1 (mail) (www):
A couple of years ago, I saw Bill Donohue on MSNBC repeatedly taunt an Asian-American student about whether he thought "Gook jokes" are funny, in order to make the point that you shouldn't joke about Catholics. (Additional links here.)

Suffice it to say that Donohue is generally pretty thin-skinned.
2.10.2006 5:33pm
Fern:
As a Jew, I could care less whether a Catholic Supreme Court Justice went to a synagogue or not. But *I* would be pretty ticked off if my rabbi gave a sermon that was "outrageously" pro-abortion rights. Well, considering the synagogue I go to, I would die of shock first, but that's neither here nor there. ;-)
2.10.2006 5:37pm
Rob Johnson (mail):
JLR,

I appreciate the response, but I don't think it is plausible to think that Ginsburg was simply saying that the Mass "exceeded the limits of what is usual." To accept that meaning of "outrageous", one would have to beleive that Justice Ginsburg views herself as an authority on what is, and what is not, "usual" in a Catholic sermon. I'm sorry, I just don't think it make sense.
2.10.2006 5:43pm
JLR (mail):
Mr. Johnson, thanks for your reply. It would seem then that the question becomes exactly how many times she has either (a) attended Red Mass; or (b) known the content of the Red Mass sermons. Comparing the particular Red Mass sermon to other Red Mass sermons would potentially give her a sense of what is "usual" in a Red Mass sermon. It would seem that the total n that is relevant in this particular circumstance consists of Red Mass sermons, not Catholic sermons generally. This harkens back to commenter te's above response about the nature of Red Mass versus Catholic masses generally. However, this may or may not be the case.
2.10.2006 5:49pm
Marcus1 (mail) (www):
Umm, you guys didn't see the sermon, and you're twisting her words. She said it was "outrageously anti-abortion." Is it impossible that it was?

Saying that anybody who has an abortion is a murderer, for instance? Can one not consider that outrageous?

You know, it's not like the Catholic church doesn't take any controversial positions. I'd like to hear what Bill Donohue has to say about me as an atheist, for instance. But then if I claim he's being outrageous, he's still going to go home and cry to mom...
2.10.2006 5:49pm
JLR (mail):
Continuation:

It appears Justice Ginsburg attended exactly one Red Mass (based on context). However, I found a larger source for Justice Ginsburg's comments:

http://www.starsofdavidbook.com/images/excerpts.pdf

Here is a longer excerpt regarding Justice Ginsburg's quotation:

"Before every session, there’s a Red Mass [in a Catholic Church],” she says. “And the justices get
invitations from the cardinal to attend that. And not all—but a good number—of the justices show up every year. I went one year and I will never go again, because this sermon was outrageously anti-abortion. Even the Scalias—although they’re very much of that persuasion—were embarrassed for me.” (She and Justice Antonin Scalia are close friends who have celebrated many New Year’s Eves together, despite their profound ideological differences.)


Perhaps this puts this in a bit more perspective. The entire interview with Justice Ginsburg is from pages 18 to 24 of the pdf file.
2.10.2006 5:58pm
JJV (mail):
Bill Donohue has bought into the victimology theory and it doesn't fit well with Catholics. Justice Ginsburg uses the same outlook in her jurisprudence. They were made for each other. In point of fact, this is a Christian country. It is not a Christian Goverment however. In a Republic the people ought to be allowed to reflect the underlying religious views that back-up the Government. As long as she need not genuflect as she passes the cross in the public square, it does neither her, nor the Jewish child any Constitutionally cognizable harm. I've met a lot of people. They don't seem "created equal" to me from a intellectual, secular view. But if we adopt Nietsche's view (hostile) of that phrase we lose the Republic. We must, with our forefather's believe and be taught they are so created by Nature and Nature's God and the country guided by Providence, or the underlying legitimacy of our form of Government dissappears just as China's has with the intellectual end of the Vanguard and the triumph of History. By eliminating the Cross from the public square the premises upon which the Goverment relies, from oaths in the judiciary, to one man one vote, become imperiled.
2.10.2006 6:01pm
Mattias Caro (mail) (www):
Is Mr. Donohue implying that Ginsburg has contempt for more than just Catholics? I've often heard that she and Scalia are good friends and a number of years back I remember seeing Niño bring her to Mass at the Catholic Church who worships at in Virginia. It's nice to see her be frank. But Donohue does a disservice to intellegent catholics with his rant.
2.10.2006 6:01pm
Rob Johnson (mail):
Marcus,

Are you saying that Gisburg's statement that the sermon was "outrageously anti-abortion" does not mean that Ginsburg was outraged because the sermon was anti-abortion?

I take the word "outrageously" to mean that speaker was outraged. You think that I am unfair in this? That I am twisting words?

My question is why would a person voluntarily go to a Catholic Mass, knowing that the Catholic Church opposes abortion, and be outraged when the sermon turns out to be, wonder of all wonders, anti-abortion.
2.10.2006 6:02pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Donohue isn't simply thin-skinned. He and his organization are part of the conservative noise machine that generates phony outrage to rile up the base. His particular job is to generate outrage over alleged anti-Christian bias. By definition, this is going to be pretty transparently phony outrage, given that Christians are far from a persecuted minority in this society. The amazing thing is that the media continues to pay attention to him-- nowhere is it written that just because a petulant 3 year old is screaming and yelling in the public discourse, the media have to hand him a megaphone.

More generally, though, I've noticed that the right wing is really sore about Ruth Ginsburg. They pretend she's this left-wing ACLU type (she did, of course, work for the ACLU in the 1970's), when in fact she's much more moderate than former Justices like Douglas, Warren, Marshall, and Brennan. Further, she really isn't any more liberal than Breyer is, but somehow the right wing doesn't seem to care very much about Breyer.

I've had conversations with conservatives about this where I point out that she isn't that far to the left, the Court issues many "conservative" decisions with Ginsburg in the majority, etc., and they just don't buy it. I guess to continue feeling "oppressed", they have to have an "enemy" on the Court.
2.10.2006 6:02pm
JLR (mail):
Mr. Caro, see my above post [link here] -- it points out how Justices Ginsburg and Scalia are close friends, and how, in Justice Ginsburg's words, "Even the Scalias...were embarrassed for me" regarding that particular Red Mass sermon.
2.10.2006 6:03pm
Sydney Carton (www):
While it is possible that Ginsberg's comment ("outrageously anti-abortion") means that a sermon may have been over the top for her tastes, it is more likely than not that she was making a slap at Catholics as a whole. The Church itself IS opposed to abortion in all forms. Her use of the word "outrageous" suggests that it is beyond normal to have such a position. But Catholics are a gigantic set of the populace, in America and around the world. Moreover, Catholics who believe in the Church's teachings on abortion aren't abnormal, and should not be disparaged as "outrageous."

Whether Bill Donohue has a thin skin is another matter, but this comment by Ginsberg suggests contempt for Catholics. It also may suggest that her hope to legislate from the bench will be continuously frustrated by the one of the oldest institutions in the Western world. Perhaps she perceived at that Mass that victory might not be within her grasp.
2.10.2006 6:04pm
Sydney Carton (www):
JLR,

If Scalia was embarassed for her, then perhaps the sermon got personal? Maybe the Priest said something like: "Judges who uphold abortion are evil!" or something. I dunno. As a Catholic, I know that there can be strange priests (even at important ceremonies like Easter, or a Red Mass). So maybe her comment doesn't mean much.

Not that I'm against keeping Ginsberg on the defensive, mind you.
2.10.2006 6:09pm
JLR (mail):
To Dilan Esper, it appears that Mr. Donohue seems to have not fully quoted Justice Ginsburg, given that Justice Ginsburg noted that, in her words, "Even the Scalias...were embarrassed for me" regarding that particular Red Mass sermon. (See my above posts at [this link] and at [this link].)
2.10.2006 6:11pm
Marcus1 (mail) (www):
>Are you saying that Gisburg's statement that the sermon was "outrageously anti-abortion" does not mean that Ginsburg was outraged because the sermon was anti-abortion?<

Yes, that's what I'm saying. There's a vast spectrum of anti-abortion views, and spectrum of ways in which they can be expressed. Some are outrageous and some aren't. If the Cardinal had said that we need to respect unborn life and that abortion is evil, I would be floored if Ginsburg found that "outrageously anti-abortion." This sounds like the dwelled on it and went completely overboard.

Hearing now that they specifically invite the justices to attend this, it should be even more understandable why she would be offended. Not that it was pro-life, but that it was outrageously anti-abortion. You don't invite non-catholics and then go on a screed about how we're a country of murderers, for instance.

Not that I know what he said either. But none of us know, and that's the point.
2.10.2006 6:12pm
A Catholic not in League with Donohue (mail):
First, let me echo the comment that Donohue is the Catholic Pat Robertson, making "his people" cringe. To my non-Catholic pals out there, trust me -- he does not speak for us. Just another example of someone self-annointing him/herself to speak for all of Group X, whether all women, all Hispanics, all golfers, whatever. Rarely is such a spokesman truly representative.

Second, as for the "outrageously" anti-abortion speech: I can assure the good Justice that she had some reason to be surprised, for, contrary to what one might think, many Catholic priests go out of their way to NEVER dare bring up abortion, for fear of offending some in the pews. Some do speak out, but in my decades of (mostly) weekly attendance, I've heard pro-life mentions a mere handful of times. Conversely, if you hit some parishes (e.g., the Newman Center on any campus), you're a lot more likely to hear a sermon that contradicts official Catholic teaching, e.g., anything gay-related or feminist.
2.10.2006 6:14pm
Jesse (mail) (www):
I think the issue here is what the purpose of Red Mass is. If it's simply an event to honor the legal profession, then a sermon either for or against abortion (or the death penalty, or any other contentious political issue) does seem outrageous, especially given the number of non-Catholics who attend.

If Red Mass is a regular Catholic mass and is aimed only at Catholic lawyers, then an anti-abortion sermon is not outrageous at all, but it's hard to understand what everyone else is doing there.
2.10.2006 6:14pm
Marcus1 (mail) (www):
Sydney Carton,

>Her use of the word "outrageous" suggests that it is beyond normal to have such a position.<

It doesn't at all. In fact, her statement about the Scalias completely clarifies that this was not her meaning. You would have to think Ginsburg completely nuts to think she wasn't aware that the Church is pro-life. Obviously she knows this. The only remotely plausible explanation is that she was offended by the manner in which the topic was broached, after having specifically invited the Justices to come.

When Ginsburg and Scalia are famous for being good friends (they're known for going to the opera together as well), I think it's pretty ridiculous to try to twist her words around into making her hostile toward Catholicism. Naturally, she does not agree with many Catholic positions, but as I said, the Catholic church isn't exactly shy.

What does the Catholic church say happens to Jews when they die, for instance? But Jews can't criticize the positions of the Catholic Church? Please.
2.10.2006 6:20pm
JLR (mail):
Just to reiterate briefly:

The entire interview with Justice Ginsburg in Abigail Pogrebin's book Stars of David can be found by clicking on the below link:

http://www.starsofdavidbook.com/images/excerpts.pdf

Justice Ginsburg's interview is on pages 18 to 24 of the pdf.
2.10.2006 6:21pm
Kovarsky (mail):
Orwell Test:

the opposite of pro-life is pro-abortion. who is "pro-abortion?" i mean, seriously, if there's one term that should be enforced as a discursive norm, it should be the use of "pro choice" rather than "pro abortion."

It's hard getting worked up at these remarks though. It's much easier to get worked up by people that find their logic persuasive.
2.10.2006 6:24pm
Rob Johnson (mail):
Marcus1,

Don't you think that it is probable that what the priest said in the sermon was in accordance with Catholic doctrine? If so, don't you think we can set aside your "abortion equals murder" theory. (Catholics don't believe that, do they?) It seems likely, now, that Ginsburg was outraged by the preaching of Catholic doctrine in a Catholic Mass. What reasonable expectation did she have that Catholic doctrine would not be preached in the Mass?

FWIW, JLR, I don't think that the fact that the Scalias were embarrassed for her means that Ginsburg was justifiably outraged by the sermon.
2.10.2006 6:33pm
Kovarsky (mail):
Scalia and Ginsburg are good friends, I doubt one would publicly express embarassment for the other.

Not that there's any basis for embarassment.
2.10.2006 6:39pm
Marcus1 (mail) (www):
Catholics don't believe abortion is murder? Certainly many do. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but it might be inappropriate to preach under certain circumstances (I do think they're wrong).

There's a difference between saying something was outrageous and saying that she was outraged. Elton John is often outrageous, but I'm rarely outraged. Bill Donohue is certainly outrageous, but I'm not exactly outraged. You can make the assumption that she was outraged, but she did not say that, so it makes for a rather unfair attack.

To say she expected not to hear Catholic doctrine is absurd, unless you think she is a complete nut job. Did she have a right for them not to give a fire and brimstone sermon after inviting her? No, she has no such right. But she certainly has the right thereafter to say, "Ok, then, but you won't be seeing me again."

You can defend the church if you want, but to call her unreasonable without even knowing what was said goes overboard.
2.10.2006 6:44pm
Rob Johnson (mail):
Marcus1,

When a person says that they won't go back to a place because something "outrageously [blank]" was said, I think its fair to assume that the person was outraged by what was said. No? If Ginsburg was not outraged by the sermon, she miscommunicated. I don't see how you can accuse me of "twisting" her words.
2.10.2006 7:03pm
Sydney Carton (www):
Here's an excerpt from the Catechism of the Catholic Church regarding abortion:


Abortion

2270 Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person - among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life.


Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you.73
My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately wrought in the depths of the earth.74


2271 Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law:


You shall not kill the embryo by abortion and shall not cause the newborn to perish.75
God, the Lord of life, has entrusted to men the noble mission of safeguarding life, and men must carry it out in a manner worthy of themselves. Life must be protected with the utmost care from the moment of conception: abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes.76


2272 Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense. The Church attaches the canonical penalty of excommunication to this crime against human life. "A person who procures a completed abortion incurs excommunication latae sententiae,"77 "by the very commission of the offense,"78 and subject to the conditions provided by Canon Law.79 The Church does not thereby intend to restrict the scope of mercy. Rather, she makes clear the gravity of the crime committed, the irreparable harm done to the innocent who is put to death, as well as to the parents and the whole of society.

2273 The inalienable right to life of every innocent human individual is a constitutive element of a civil society and its legislation:


"The inalienable rights of the person must be recognized and respected by civil society and the political authority. These human rights depend neither on single individuals nor on parents; nor do they represent a concession made by society and the state; they belong to human nature and are inherent in the person by virtue of the creative act from which the person took his origin. Among such fundamental rights one should mention in this regard every human being's right to life and physical integrity from the moment of conception until death."80



"The moment a positive law deprives a category of human beings of the protection which civil legislation ought to accord them, the state is denying the equality of all before the law. When the state does not place its power at the service of the rights of each citizen, and in particular of the more vulnerable, the very foundations of a state based on law are undermined. . . . As a consequence of the respect and protection which must be ensured for the unborn child from the moment of conception, the law must provide appropriate penal sanctions for every deliberate violation of the child's rights."81


2274 Since it must be treated from conception as a person, the embryo must be defended in its integrity, cared for, and healed, as far as possible, like any other human being.

Prenatal diagnosis is morally licit, "if it respects the life and integrity of the embryo and the human fetus and is directed toward its safe guarding or healing as an individual. . . . It is gravely opposed to the moral law when this is done with the thought of possibly inducing an abortion, depending upon the results: a diagnosis must not be the equivalent of a death sentence."82

2275 "One must hold as licit procedures carried out on the human embryo which respect the life and integrity of the embryo and do not involve disproportionate risks for it, but are directed toward its healing the improvement of its condition of health, or its individual survival."83


"It is immoral to produce human embryos intended for exploitation as disposable biological material."84

"Certain attempts to influence chromosomic or genetic inheritance are not therapeutic but are aimed at producing human beings selected according to sex or other predetermined qualities. Such manipulations are contrary to the personal dignity of the human being and his integrity and identity"85 which are unique and unrepeatable.


2.10.2006 7:04pm
Kipli:
You can defend the church if you want, but to call her unreasonable without even knowing what was said goes overboard.

I might even call it outrageous.
2.10.2006 7:05pm
Edward A. Hoffman (mail):
I think several commenters have misunderstood Justice Ginsburg's remarks. She didn't say that it's outrageous to be anti-abortion or to adhere to the Vatican's teachings. Instead, she said that this particular sermon was outrageous -- to her. Maybe the sermon called those who favor abortion rights evil. Maybe its anti-abortion component lasted for an hour. Maybe it didn't treat the pro-abortion arguments fairly. Whatever the reason for Ginsburg's reaction, she was not criticizing Catholics in general or their beliefs.

I've heard a number of people call some of Justice Ginsburg's opinions outrageous because their own beliefs were so at odds with her ruling. How is what she said here any different? Is she forbidden to be outraged when her views are attacked?

Keep in mind that she was personally invited to attend the ceremony. How would you feel if you accepted an invitation only to have to sit silently through a direct attack on your deeply-held beliefs? Doesn't the word "outraged" leap to mind?

One last comment: even as he explains why Justice Ginsburg's reaction was no big deal, Eugene actually overstates what she said. She didn't "decide[] to stop going to another religion's religious services"; she decided to stop going to one particular annual service at one particular church. Nothing she said suggests that she's unwilling to attend other Catholic services in the future.
2.10.2006 7:12pm
BobVDV (mail):
A little info on the Red Mass would be helpful, if any VCers have attended one.

I tend to read Justice Ginsburg's comments about embarassment more along the lines of "I went to this ceremony and was surprised at the political nature of the event"; with "outrageously pro-abortion" meaning not that the pro-abortion sentiment was outrageous, but that in the context of the Red Mass it was a jarring political note.
2.10.2006 7:18pm
fred (mail):
It was outrageous for Ginsburg to be outraged.
At the same time, it was outrageous for Donahue to be outraged at Ginsburg's outrage.
And it is outrageous for Eugene Volokh to be outraged at Donahue's outrage.

Personally, I am outraged by all the outrage.
2.10.2006 7:25pm
Been There, Done That:
The Red Mass is a Washington, DC law nerd/federalista event. Sure it is a Catholic event, but this is an outlet for the church and the legal profession to demonstrate mutual respect.

Thus, a harsh political or sectarian sermon at this event is obviously meant, not so much to re-enforce the beliefs of catholics who happen to attend, but to "zing" the important non-catholics who otherwise don't go to mass. This is why Ginsburg would be offended under such circumstances, and rightfully so.

FWIW, I'm a right wing Jew who has been deeply offended at the inappropriate and wrong political content of certain Jewish services.
2.10.2006 7:34pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
I assume that Justice Ginsburg, being a smart woman, was aware that the Catholic Church is anti-abortion. I'm also pretty sure that she'd heard lots of anti-abortion statements in the past. My guess is that she concluded that somehow this particular sermon was too anti-abortion -- who knows, maybe calling judges who support abortion rights murderers or some such.

Now she may well have been quite wrong; perhaps the anti-abortion view is right, and even many harshly anti-abortion statements shouldn't be seen as outrageous; perhaps she's unduly thin-skinned because of her own position on abortion rights. It's really hard to tell without knowing just what the sermon was about, and what she found supposedly outrageous in it.

But being outraged by a sermon, to the point that one no longer wants to go the church, is hardly evidence of disrespect for diversity or intolerance towards Catholicism -- just as, to use Mr. Donahue's own example, being outraged by a strongly pro-abortion-rights sermon is hardly evidence of disrespect for diversity or intolerance towards religious groups that support abortion rights.
2.10.2006 7:37pm
Joe Greenblatt (mail) (www):
Speaking as a Jew - I think Donahue has a point. In fact, a better illustration would be the hateful comments of Abe Foxman.

Here's a fun example:

In 1997, Abe Foxman of the ADL publicly opposed the APA’s awarding of the Gold Medal Award for Life Time Achievement in Psychological Science to a man [Raymond Cattell] who had dabbled in what could legitmately be considered scientific racism. Foxman wrote, “it would give the group’s `seal of approval to a man who has, whatever his other achievements, exhibited a lifelong commitment to racial supremacy theories.”

Flash forward to 2005, Foxman had this to say in a recent New York Magazine article regarding the Cochran/Harpending study on the IQ scores of Ashkenazic Jews, “If it’s a genetic condition, it’s not for us to embrace or reject. It is what it is, and that’s the way the genetic cookie crumbles.” Jennifer Senor, who interviewed Foxman, noted "there is a strong element of pride in his voice".

Cattell's theories: bad for the jews.
High jewish IQ studies: good for the jews

If that's not ethnocentric behavior, I don't know what is.

Now imagine David Duke making those latter comments. Would he have gotten away with it? HELL NO!

There's a double standard and Donahue is right to point it out.
2.10.2006 7:38pm
Mac (mail):
Marcus,

What does the Catholic church say happens to Jews when they die, for instance? But Jews can't criticize the positions of the Catholic Church? Please.

Marcus,

While we can agree that the Catholic Church, as an institution filled with humans, is not perfect (is there an institution on this planet that is?) and people are certainly free to disagree with the tenents and doctrines of the Church, the aforementioned statement by you is a dog that won't hunt.

Almost alone among churches, Christian and otherwise, such as Muslim, the Church does not teach that anything "bad" happens to Jews when they die, nor Muslins, or Hindus or even atheists just because they are not Christian or Catholic. As one with 16 years of Catholic education, I can assure you that the Church believes that a Jew and anyone else has an equally good shot at Heaven. It is one of the most admirable qualities of the Catholic Church in my mind. There is plenty to criticize about the Church. This is not one of them.
2.10.2006 7:46pm
taalinukko:
Rob Johnson When a person says that they won't go back to a place because something "outrageously [blank]" was said, I think its fair to assume that the person was outraged by what was said. No?

You know I went to that new hardware store but their dovetail jigs were outrageously overpriced - I won't be going back there anytime soon.

Notice, no outrage, maybe a bit of disappointment. There are lots of reactions to outrageous behavior and outrage is not the one that jumps to the front my mind in any way. My personal pick would be that uncomfortable feeling you get when someone is embarrassing themselves and are too incompetent to recognize the fact.

If Ginsburg was not outraged by the sermon, she miscommunicated. I don't see how you can accuse me of "twisting" her words.

Nope I think you misread, the alternatives are much less flattering to you in your "twisting" of her words. It seems very clear that just based on basic tenants of hospitality you would not invite a guest to a function to attack or embarrass them. Which is what it sounds like happened here, and I would guess that most common emotion o the parties involved was that sort of that icky-embarrassed-for-the-participants feeling every one got as they watched.
2.10.2006 7:52pm
Anomolous (www):
Eugene Volokh wrote:

How would Jews feel? How should Jews feel?


Ah ha! Here's where we get off track. Donahue isn't concerned about what Jews would think. He's only interested with idea that the Politically Correct chattering class would disaprove of a Catholic judge who spoke ill of a Jewish sermon. And he wants to use this hypothetical disapproval by hypothetical liberals to score points with his own constituency and garner attention for himself and his cause. Just like a classic internet troll.
2.10.2006 7:53pm
Noah Klein (mail):
Joe,

Your point would be more clear if you said what Cattel's conclusion was. Though, it does appear as if that statement by Mr. Foxman is somewhat hypocritical, but that does not alter the fact that Donohue blew something completely out of proportion.


Noah
2.10.2006 8:05pm
R. Gould-Saltman (mail):
Someone also might draw to Mr. Donahue's attention to the historical facts which might make a Jew somewhat "touchier" when faced with an unexpected imposition of Catholic doctrine, in its more strident forms, than might be expected mutuatis mutandis. My experience with the "Red Mass" is that it is frequently promoted by local bar associations, etc., as an outreach by the Catholic bar, law schools (the various Loyolas...)etc.
Without belaboring it, as far as I know, in the last couple of millenia, no significant number of Catholics have been offered "conversion at torch-point" by Jews.

My recollection of my childhood in public elementary schools was that we got told to sing Christmas carols, (and I mean "Come, All Ye Faithful", not just "Jingle Bells") and that public schools and public buildings regularly got Christmas decorations, and that it was only after the insistence of Jews, Muslums, Buddhists, and trouble makers like the ACLU that the sectarian flavor of this stuff got moderated, and some menorahs went up, and in some cases, replaced a few mangers. I know of few instances in which it worked the other way in this man's USA.

Justice Ginsberg isn't obliged to like anything that the Catholic Church has to say about anything. Disagreement isn't intolerance.
As far as I can tell, though, she's expressed no interest in keeping them from saying whatever they want; only in keeping the state from attaching an imprimitur to their doing so. That is NOT a claim which Mr. Donahue can make for the Church.


rfgs
2.10.2006 8:16pm
MikeWDC (mail):
Why is it reasonable to expect someone who is not Catholic to go to a Catholic service and listen to a condemnation of her own beliefs?
2.10.2006 8:17pm
Marcus1 (mail) (www):
Mac,

>As one with 16 years of Catholic education, I can assure you that the Church believes that a Jew and anyone else has an equally good shot at Heaven.<

Catholics think atheists go to heaven just as easily as Christians? That's news to me.

How about gays then? Whether or not they're going to heaven, the Church takes a rather strong stance against their right to marry. It also opposes things like birth control, which many believe causes a lot of needless death and disease, especially in the third world.

In the last election, many Catholic Churches refused to give John Kerry communion based on the fact that he's personally pro-life but politically pro-choice. How about that? Is that a position I'm allowed to oppose? Or am I not supposed to criticize the Church?

I'm not saying Catholics are bad people. I do think religion has far too great a political impact, though, for people to cry foul when people criticize it, or especially criticize something specific like the anti-abortion stance. Not that Ginsburg did.
2.10.2006 8:24pm
Joe Greenblatt (mail) (www):
Donahue, like Foxman, took a simple incident and made it into something more. I completely agree. But he is correct about there being a double standard. Nothing surprising about this. It makes sense that minority religions and ethnic groups would be able to get away with things the majority culture couldn't. Political correctness is just the natural evolution that societies go through in order to reconcile past wrongs. There's no "conspiracy" as bigots and even socialists, in some cases, like to think.

As for Cattell, he dealt with intelligence testing and he theorized that the Asian-white-black IQ difference was at least partially genetic. There was no mention of Jews in his studies. I don't know whether this is true or not, nor do I care since it only deals with "group averages" and "distribution of traits" and hardly reflects on the value or worth of an individual ( or of a group, for that matter). However, I was a little surprised that Foxman was so quick to jump on the bandwagon regarding the Cochran-Harppending study. It might be true for all I know, but Foxman's actions cleary demonstrate - to me - that he is an ethnic activist who would have been called a "racist" had he not been a Jew who had almost perished in the Holocaust.

Furthermore, in the event that Cochran's thesis is "proven", Foxman's latter comments are still pretty discusting on their own merit.

Just becuase groups differ (on average), doesn't mean one should bask in glory becuase he happens to belong to the group that comes out on top (on average) regarding a particular trait.
2.10.2006 8:26pm
bluecollarguy:
I can understand being outraged when a third trimester baby is partially delivered, a needle is stuck into the base of it's skull and the contents are removed collapsing the skull and killing the baby but I have a hard time understanding being outraged at somebody opposing that little gem of a medical procedure.

As for Mr Donahue, I don't think much of his little diatribe either. As a Catholic who has met many Jewish folk as pro life as I am he misses the target completely.

But Donahue has no state power, Ginsburg does. While it is all the rage to be outraged these days let's just say I'm 'troubled' by Ginsburg and the constitutional doctrine of hurt feelings.
2.10.2006 8:34pm
Dustin R. Ridgeway (mail):
I think calling him the Pat Robertson of catholicism gives him too much credit. Bill Donohue, and the Catholic League in general, is the Jesse Jackson of American Conservative Catholicism.
2.10.2006 8:34pm
Marcus1 (mail) (www):
Someone correct me if I'm reading this wrong, but it strikes me that if anyone is a bigot here, it is Donohue.

What exactly is his point in regard to the Christmas wreath? That Catholics should take offense that Ginsburg wants to celebrate her own religious heritage on her door, as opposed to Christian religious heritage? Catholics are supposed to be "troubled" that she wants her religious minority status recognized and not just glossed over?

I mean, who does Donohue think he is? There's your answer to the double standard -- Donohue doesn't appear to have any respect for Ginsburg's religious stance, and he doesn't have any problem using it to raise Christian resentment against her either.
2.10.2006 8:49pm
bluecollarguy:
Marcus,

"In the last election, many Catholic Churches refused to give John Kerry communion based on the fact that he's personally pro-life but politically pro-choice. How about that? Is that a position I'm allowed to oppose?"

One would hope you'd oppose any politician who thinks that killing unborn babies is wrong personally but supports it based on political expedience.


"Or am I not supposed to criticize the Church?"


You have the right to criticize until the cows come home. It's the American way.

2.10.2006 8:55pm
Jerry Mimsy (www):
I take the word "outrageously" to mean that speaker was outraged. You think that I am unfair in this? That I am twisting words?

Yes. That is simply not what the word outrageous means in modern English, as far as I can tell. When something is outrageous, it is not because it causes outrage, but because it is strange, crazy (perhaps outré if the accent works), and even ridiculous. But I would *never* think that someone was outraged by something simply because they said it was outrageous. This doesn't mean that they couldn't be. Often, things that cause outrage will in fact be ridiculous. But not always and not even, I think, generally. People are often outraged by things that (I think) even they would not consider outrageous.

In common English usage, at least from my perspective, the words aren't connected by meaning any more.

In fact, thinking back on my and my friends' usage of outrageous, it may well imply a lack of outrage. It seems to be used as much for things that are so crazy they aren't worth caring about as for things that are so bad they are worth being outraged about.

But it could be generational; I've got a 30-year-old Random House dictionary that claims for the first meaning of outrageous as "causing gross injury or wrong". I would never have thought of that.

Jerry
2.10.2006 9:00pm
Dustin R. Ridgeway (mail):
Well there is the famous Bill Donohue quote (paraphrasing a bit)

"Hollywood is run by secular Jews who hate Christianity &Catholics in particular....I'm not afraid to say it."

I'm not so mad at Bill Donahue. A Jesse Jackson is a Jesse Jackson. What's really infuriating is looking at the people involved in the Catholic League; Kate O'Beirne, Michael Novak, Dinesh D'Souza etc. Conservative journalists and intellectuals who have chastised Jesse Jackson tactics on many occasions, openly and avowedly supporting an organization founded on aggressive cult of victimhood and identity politics.
2.10.2006 9:01pm
Marcus1 (mail) (www):
Eugene,

I don't see how you think it is discriminatory toward religion to say that the government should not express a religious viewpoint.

Ginsburg isn't looking to put a sign out on the lawn that says "There is no god, and you're less of an American if you think there is."

It seems to me that your view of what is discriminatory toward religion is based on a compromise between overt religious promotion and a neutral view, as opposed to what it should be: a compromise between a religious view and a non or anti-religious view. Thus, you end up at medium-right as opposed to the actual middle, which I think is what the 1st amendment suggests, and what Ginsburg and Stevens support.

To call them discriminatory toward religion, I think, can only be done by simply ignoring and discounting the position of millions of Americans, that Christianity and other religions are actually wrong.
2.10.2006 9:02pm
Pete Freans (mail):
Why don't we take Mr. Donahue's comments one step further: What would liberal jurists say if a Catholic Supreme Court Justice refused to attend a Jewish event described above? What would the NY Times say? What would most law professors say? I suspect that they would submit an "I-told-you-so" argument. I think the larger point that Mr. Donahue is expounding is that liberal resistance is seen as civil libertarianism while conservative resistance is archaic, regressive intolerance.
2.10.2006 9:03pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
1. She has a perfect right to attend a mass, to be be upset at what she hears, and to hang whatever she pleases on her office door.

2. Since she is strongly pro-abortion, or pro-choice, or whatever you want to call it, I can envision a sermon that is strong enough to where she considers it "outrageous." Just as the person speaking might consider her position "outrageous." When the same act can be seen as (a) an exercise of the most core freedoms regarding the body or (b) massacring helpless babies, there is gonna be a LOT of outrage on both sides!!!
2.10.2006 9:06pm
JunkYardLawDog (mail):
R. Gould-Saltman said:

Without belaboring it, as far as I know, in the last couple of millenia, no significant number of Catholics have been offered "conversion at torch-point" by Jews.

During the first 50 to 100 years of the death and resurrection of the Messiah, Jews didn't give the opportunity to convert to christians. They just hunted them down and slaughtered them. The apostle Paul was one such killer protecting the jewish faith by traveling from town to town with groups of other like minded jewish fundamentalists and murdering every christian they could find. He was in between towns when struck down by God and made to see the light, literally and figuratively.

So yes there was an inquisition and that was a very bad thing. That doesn't make Jews innocent of their religious wrong doings however. All of christendom wasn't behind the inquisition, and none of christendom was responsible for the holocaust.

If you continue to let the paranoia from these past horrible events rule your life and culture you actually further the cause of alienation of your people from the society of which you are an otherwise very welcome part.

Tolerance is a two way street. Their is always plenty of talk about the duty of the majority to be tolerant of minorities. However, there is no talk (and there definitely needs to be) of minorities DUTY to be tolerant of the majority's culture and beliefs.

Those whose survival is dependent upon the tolerance of the majority should also be a little bit tolerant themselves don't you think? Out of just plain good manners if nothing else.


To the others trying to understand catholic doctrine about who can be saved, it kind of boils down like this. Catholics believe that each person is judged in accordance with the level of truth/knowledge that has been revealed to them in their hearts. That means someone who isn't a catholic and doesn't believe in Christ or even in God (i.e. lots of manhattan jews) can still have the opportunity to be saved. Their life and actions and sins will be judged in accordance with what truth was revealed in their hearts and how they conformed their behavior to that revealed truth.


Says the "Dog"
2.10.2006 9:18pm
Marcus1 (mail) (www):
BlueCollarGuy,

No, I don't believe Kerry's view is due to political expedience, although I can't say it's a sin he hasn't committed.

There's a view, though, you may not be familiar with it, that says that I may believe something to be wrong or immoral, but since you obviously disagree, I'm not going to force my personal view on you.

As far as I'm concerned, this should be a general presumption, except where it is absolutely clear that the Government has to step in to protect the general wellfare.

With abortion, though, it simply is not clear. Many people believe in the right to have an abortion, not simply because they hate babies or they are angry and murderous, but because they generally believe that under some circumstances it has to be up to an individual woman to choose. It's not like shoplifting, where people do it simply because they're trying to take advantage of others.

I and many others believe that in some instances, having an abortion is a moral option. Whether a woman doesn't have the resources to provide for a child, or whether it will completely screw up her life so she can't start a family at a more appropriate time, for instance, with someone she can actually marry. Or, of course, in the much more disturbing instances, like rape, incest, or out of medical necessity.

Of course, if you think a fetus is a full-blown person, which I don't, you're going to disagree. Many people seem to conclude, though, that they're not quite sure that a fetus, at least in the early stages, is a full blown person, so they're not prepared to use the government to force their view on everybody else. I think you should at least be able to see that position, even if you disagree.
2.10.2006 9:20pm
Edward A. Hoffman (mail):
Marcus wrote:
One would hope you'd oppose any politician who thinks that killing unborn babies is wrong personally but supports it based on political expedience.
Kerry's position isn't based on political expedience. It's based on his very principled belief that he is not entitled to turn his personal views into the law of the land. Compare this to your previous remark:
While it is all the rage to be outraged these days let's just say I'm 'troubled' by Ginsburg and the constitutional doctrine of hurt feelings.

You condemn Ginsburg because you think her official acts are based upon her personal views, and you condemn Kerry for not basing his official acts upon his personal views. It seems you just want to condemn people who don't see things the way you do.
2.10.2006 9:25pm
Splunge (mail):
"Respect for diversity" doesn't mean that you have to listen to sermons that you think are wrongheaded. It's not "intoleran[t]." It's not disrespectful of diversity. It's a sign of diversity of opinions, a sign that Ginsburg is not a Catholic, and disagrees strongly with some Catholic views. What precisely is wrong with that?

Perhaps what's wrong with it is that Justice Ginsburg had made a public statement that suggests she finds the Catholic position on abortion outrageous. That, in turn, suggests she is comfortable taking a public position on abortion that some -- those who feel there is no right to abortion in various penumbrae and emanations -- believe is not demanded by the Constitution.

So let's rephrase: what's wrong with a sitting Justice asserting in public a general moral conclusion in a subject area likely to come before the Court, without reference to a particular case, and on which there exist nontrivial questions of what precisely the Constitution commands?

Put this way, the question answers itself. For similar reasons, Sam Alito declined to answer when Democratic Senators asked him questions along the line of: Well, Judge Alito, I understand you can't comment on this or that particular case -- but hypothetically speaking, and in general, would you say that...mmm...the President authorizing domestic wiretaps without a warrant is outrageous?

Justice Ginsburg should keep her personal opinions on abortion (or any topic likely to come before the Court) strictly to herself, and write about them in her memoirs after she retires. (I don't mean she can't talk about them with her friends in private -- but giving an interview for a book is not the least bit like a private conversation.)

By not keeping her mouth shut, Ms. Ginsburg allows the impression to form in the minds of some Americans that she is not prepared to hear their arguments on abortion with a truly open and undecided mind. Indeed, that is exactly the impression that Mr. Donahue is conveying to those Americans who think as he does, that abortion is murder.

The impression may well be quite incorrect -- Justice Ginsburg may be perfectly capable of judging objectively, according to the law, and setting aside her own feelings -- but she nevertheless damages the credibility of the Court by allowing people to form an impression that she has pre-judged whole categories of cases. She should not speak so carelessly in public. It's unfortunate, and a burden, but when you become a public servant, or gain any position of public trust, you must give up some of your ordinary citizen's right to speak of your opinions freely in public.

As a professional scientist, I must not speak as carelessly as the generic citizen of whether or not I think pesticides are poisoning our children, because my opinion a priori carries greater weight, and could be used inappropriately and damagingly, not the way I intended. A mayor of a city must not mention casually when being interviewed by NBC News At 11 that he has vague (and so far groundless) suspicions that some of his police officers may be corrupt and brutal, because the weight of his opinion will undermine public trust far more than if Joe Blow on the corner says it. A physician must not tell his patient about his vague forebodings that a certain lab result foretells evil news, not before the proof is in, because great harm can come from the patient not fully understanding the caveats and provisos that hedge the doctor's thoughts in his own mind. And Justice Ginsburg should not speak casually of a Catholic sermon on abortion being "outrageous," because the fact that she is one of the nine final arbiters on the question of whether it is to be considered legal or not can easily generate far more public unease as to the status of equal justice under the law than if Sally Sixpack at the church picnic opines in the same way. It's responsibility, and it comes with power.

Notice that while I agree with Mr. Donohue that Justice Ginsburg's public comments were inappropriate, I do not necessarily agree with him about why they were ill-advised.
2.10.2006 9:26pm
Marcus1 (mail) (www):
Edward Hoffman,

>Marcus wrote:<

Not me!

A guy has to protect his cyber identity...
2.10.2006 9:33pm
Kovarsky (mail):
Splunge,

Justice Ginsburg has been outspoken about her opposition to abortion her entire career. She talked about it at her confirmation hearing. When John Roberts was asked about why Justice Ginsburg frankly answered questions about abortion but he didn't have to, he made clear that the same institutional interests were not at stake in her hearing because Ginsburg had already written about abortion extensively before her nomination to the bench.

In light of Ginsburg's well-documented and lifelong committment to abortion rights, this whole line of "appearance of institutional neutrality" reasoning strikes me as analogous to the notion that it would have been similarly compromising if Thurgood Marshall had expressed a preference to give a speech at a particular university because it had been a model of affirmative action.

And incidentally, people who say "pro abortion," would you refer to people who take a position adverse to those who oppose the death penalty as "pro death?"
2.10.2006 9:50pm
ficus:
Marcus,


Catholics think atheists go to heaven just as easily as Christians? That's news to me.


That is not precisely the doctrine. The doctrine is that athesists are not excluded from heaven merely because they are atheists. How they can be saved, given the bedrock Christian doctrine that one is saved only through Jesus Christ, is the subject of much theological speculation. But I recall reading, too many years ago to try now to find the source, a page by Joseph Ratzinger in which he said that, with or without our learned justifications, we trust that God's merciful love finds a way to save very many who are outside the fold.

This topic was rather unsettled until 1949, when a Jesuit in Boston, a certain Father Feeney, brought it to a head by teaching the pure doctrine of exclusion: no one who was not a Catholic went to heaven, period. For this he was tried for heresy in a church court and excommunicated, with the approbation of Pope Pius XII. The documents, in case you are interested, are
here.
2.10.2006 9:55pm
bluecollarguy:
Edward,


"You condemn Ginsburg because you think her official acts are based upon her personal views, and you condemn Kerry for not basing his official acts upon his personal views. It seems you just want to condemn people who don't see things the way you do."

I "condemned" nobody. What I said about Ginsburg was that a SCOTUS Justice basing her opinions on extra constitutional authority is troubling.

What I said about Kerry was that a man who holds one view in his personal life and runs for office in opposition to that view is a hypocrite that one should not vote for.

The two are statements are not analagous at all. One has to do with constitutional law and the other with hypocrisy.

2.10.2006 9:57pm
Mac (mail):
Marcus,
{Catholics think atheists go to heaven just as easily as Christians? That's news to me. }

It is a free country and you are free to criticize anything and anyone you want to criticize. Is it too much to ask that you criticism have some relatonship to realtiy? I am assuring you that the Catholic Church does not say that people of other faiths, including non-Christians nor even atheists are, by virtue of their faith or lack thereof, automatically going to hell. To explain further would require a lot of theology andI don't think this is the forum for that.

Re the Church being opposed to the "right" of gays to marry, being opposed to gay marriage does not necessarily mean the Church or anyone else is opposed to gays as human beings or condones discrimination .

The Chuch will be years recovering from Her lack of discrimination against gays in the priesthood. What you are not getting and I despair of your ever getting, is the differance between being, belief and behavior. This may come as a surprise to you, but the Church did not discriminate against gays becoming priests. If your thesis that because the Church opposes gay marriage it is virulently anti-homosexual, then why did it allow gays to become priests? It allowed gays to become priests because all priests take a vow of celibacy. Ergo, it does not matter what your sexual orientation is because you are prohibited from engaging in any sexual relationship.

Unfortunately for the Church, and I don't know why it happened, the vast majority of pedophelia was commited against young boys by gay priests. There were also a lot of gay priests who contracted AIDS due to engaging in homosexual adult relationships, esp. in the 80's. I am not slandering gays, Marcus, I am simply stating facts. I don't know why it was this way and it grieves me as I very much admire that the Church did not discriminate. Millions and millions of dollars later, they are having to take another look at this. I rather imagine you will be tempted to denigrate the priesthood, however, sensational as it is, the total percentage of abusers is much lower thatn the general popualtion and far lower than even among the married clergy of other faiths.

To provide further "news to you" Marcus, I think perhaps one Catholic Church said they would not administer communion to John Kerry. Not "many",
And finally, re this statement and your statement that

"I'm not saying Catholics are bad people. I do think religion has far too great a political impact, though, for people to cry foul when people criticize it, or especially criticize something specific like the anti-abortion stance. Not that Ginsburg did."

And, your statement, "In the last election, many Catholic Churches refused to give John Kerry communion based on the fact that he's personally pro-life but politically pro-choice. How about that? Is that a position I'm allowed to oppose? Or am I not supposed to criticize the Church? "

It seems like you and some other posters are saying that it is fine to be a Catholic or a religious person as long as you do not act like one. Kerry and Kennedy are fine examples of this view. I, personally, can't understand why they stay Catholic other than it suits their political ends. After all, why would you belong to an organization with whom you have so very many disagreements? Abortion, in the Catholic Church, is simply not negotiable. The Church is not obligated to change to suit any politician, no matter how powerful he or she is.

And, are you allowed to criticize the Church's policy? Of course. Your criticism would have more validity if you knew more about Catholic beliefs. I mean, would you approve of a politicain who was "personally opposed" but "politically for" racial discrimination because he didn't want to impose his views on whites ? Or, "personally opposed" but "politically for" anti-Semetism as he didnt' want to impose his views on Muslims? If you understood Catholicism, you would understand that there is no difference in the absurdity expressed in these statements and in the former re abortion.
2.10.2006 10:00pm
bluecollarguy:
Marcus,

A baby born at 6 months prematurely is not only endowed with the same rights as you but, in general, a large amount of public resources are expended helping that baby make it to 9 months and on.

Today in America, an unborn baby three months older than the 6 month old but not yet fully out of the birth canal may be killed for any reason or no reason.

Can you offer a rational explanation for that state of affairs other than the geographical notion of rights?
2.10.2006 10:03pm
Marcus1 (mail) (www):
Mac,

The details about who goes to hell might be complicated, but they're kind of important. Now, I wasn't raised Catholic, and I don't know all the theological details. My basic point, though, is that the Church takes many political positions which impact not just Catholics, but everybody else as well. For Catholics, maybe hell isn't the best example. My feeling of Christians in general, though, is that they have a rather strong bias against atheists, whether or not they think atheists can jump onto the Jesus bus in the last second and go to heaven.

All in all, though, Christianity has a huge impact on just about every social and political issue in America, if for no other reason than that George Bush would never have been elected if everybody weren't so religious.

So this raises the question, am I saying that Catholics shouldn't be allowed to be Catholic? Well, not really. My main point here is that when religion becomes political, and indeed it virtually always is, then it is my right, not just legal, but moral as well, to criticize it to the full extent I disagree.

At the same time, though, the fact is that the problem is deeper than that. In fact, I do have a problem at a basic level with you voting based on your religion. Why? Because I think "faith" is a crappy reason to tell somebody what to do.

If you want to have faith that there is a man in the sky, that's great. If that faith causes you to deny me the right to marry, though, then I have a problem. This is a basic problem with faith that not many people are willing to point out. John Kerry, though, I think, understands it. And for that I respect him. If all Catholics were like John Kerry, then you wouldn't hear me criticizing Catholicism.

You may say I'm asking too much there -- that people not act out their faith. I say, whatever, if you're going to tell me what to do, or tell the governmnet what to do, I think you should come up with a better reason than faith. That's not intolerance; it's common sense. It's just that when it comes to matters of religion, few people use it.
2.10.2006 10:50pm
Edward A. Hoffman (mail):
Bluecollarguy:

Why is it hypocritical for Kerry to keep his own views out of his official duties? His constituents elected him to speak on their behalf, not his own. And just how far are you willing to carry your logic? If a senator thinks marijuana should be legal but most of his constituents don't, should he try to get it legalized anyway? If he thinks drinking is morally wrong should he try to bring back prohibition? Should a Jewish senator try to outlaw pork? At what point do you think a legislator can vote for something his constituents want but he personally opposes?
2.10.2006 11:12pm
Edward A. Hoffman (mail):
Marcus:

Thanks for pointing out my error. I was responding to bluecollarguy and not to you. Mea culpa.
2.10.2006 11:15pm
Marcus1 (mail) (www):
>Should a Jewish senator try to outlaw pork?<

Heh, exactly.

>Thanks for pointing out my error.<

No prob.
2.10.2006 11:23pm
Justin (mail):
By not keeping her mouth shut, Ms. Ginsburg allows the impression to form in the minds of some Americans that she is not prepared to hear their arguments on abortion with a truly open and undecided mind. Indeed, that is exactly the impression that Mr. Donahue is conveying to those Americans who think as he does, that abortion is murder.

You're eager to impeach Scalia, I take it?
2.10.2006 11:33pm
byomtov (mail):
Isn't the point here that the "Red Mass" is a special service to which, among others, Supreme Court justices, Catholic or not, are specifically invited?

In that context, it is wholly inappropriate for the sermon to emphasize opposition to abortion. You can't claim on the one hand that it's fine because it's just Catholic doctrine and on the other that you are having a special service aimed at a broad community.
2.11.2006 12:08am
Mac (mail):
Marcus,

If you want to have faith that there is a man in the sky, that's great. If that faith causes you to deny me the right to marry, though, then I have a problem. This is a basic problem with faith that not many people are willing to point out. John Kerry, though, I think, understands it. And for that I respect him. If all Catholics were like John Kerry, then you wouldn't hear me criticizing Catholicism.



I, on the other hand, might respect John Kery if he left the Church. Besides, I think he opposed gay marriage after he supported it. Sorry, cheap shot, sort of, except that I think he did, come to think of it. I can't respect anyone who says they are "this" and then does "that" which is diametrically opposed to "this". It is getting late, so I hope you get my drift.

I can't quite get my brain around your last sentence in the above paragraph.
Isn't that kind of like me saying I wouldn't criticize Democrats if they were all like Zel Miller? You chew on that one.

Let's back up, though. What priciples guide your life, your behavior, your code of conduct, if you will? OK, accepting that neither God nor religion play any role in your life, how do you decide what is ethical and right? I assume you do not believe yourself to be infallibe. How do you know if you are wrong?

I would only add, for now, that since well over 90%, I believe, of the country is of some religion, predominantly Christain, would it really be right in a representative democracy to have atheists rule? Is that not tyranny of the minority in the extreme? And, how would anyone know what they were getting? Atheism just means you don't believe in God. It is not an organized belief system. Which is why I ask, what do you believe in and why, understanding that it only applies to you and not to other atheists? In other words, if you are going to criticize religion, what is your substitute for moral conduct?
2.11.2006 12:13am
ficus:
Marcus,

Your comments to Mac about the role of faith in political life are interesting and frank. Kudos to you on that score.

A person who takes seriously the obligations of citizenship ought to vote as he thinks will best promote the good of the country. In trying to do that, he brings to the task whatever he knows, whatever he believes. That includes his opinions about all sorts of things, and his religious opinions too. "All things considered," he will say to himself, "I think X is the best choice."

You, if I understand you, think that he would be wrong to do that. What he ought to do, instead, is to screen his opinions, omitting some that are unsuitable for voting purposes, and form a judgment based on the rest. You indicate that a religious belief hostile to gay marriage should be screened out, as one example.

Apart from the question of whether such screening would be good in theory, I can't believe that anyone does it, or could do it. If this is what it takes for democracy to work, then democracy doesn't work.

The situation of a politician advocating a policy is different from that of a voter casting a vote. The voter respresents no one; the politician represents many, and he should take the views of his constituents into account, even if he decides not to follow them. He is, in a sense, a compromised figure. In practice, all this is often secondary to the advancement of his personal interests.

Since the religious opinions of a voter will influence his vote, it is perfectly appropriate to try to change those opinions. Tell him that his opinion is wrong, his religion is wrong, or whatever you think is the case. That makes complete sense: change his opinions and you could change his vote.

But to tell voters, "Keep your opinions, keep your religion, but be good citizens and ignore them when you vote," that's a waste of everyone's time.
2.11.2006 12:24am
Mac (mail):
ficus,

Thank you. That is an excellent description of reality. I have never heard it put better.
2.11.2006 12:37am
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
Kerry's position isn't based on political expedience. It's based on his very principled belief that he is not entitled to turn his personal views into the law of the land.

I haven't the foggiest regarding John Kerry, but we all support turning our personal views into the law of the land.

Strictures against casual homicide and theft are personal -- the Vikings got along quite well without them.

The view that (let me jump here upon a libertarian soapbox) stripping me of my wealth in order to redistribute it to those who have no earned it reflects turning one's personal views into the law of the land. [Actually, I have very little wealth, and have no trouble at all with coughing up a portion of what I have for those who need it more, but you get the idea. Modern government is based upon countless judgmens relating to personal belief.]

I won't go into the Endangered Species Act, the National Environmental Protection Act, the unnamed statute making it a federal felony to kill a federal police dog, the statue making it illegal to impersonate Smokey the Bear, ....
2.11.2006 12:49am
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
What does the Catholic church say happens to Jews when they die, for instance?

According to the latest dogma, they get into heaven, with all the others, too.

They even get invited to the private events when everyone (except a certain few) sneaks behind the clouds for drinking and dancing and perhaps a bit more That hacks off Cato, Cromwell, and Khomeni, but screw em if they can't take a joke.
2.11.2006 1:03am
Marcus1 (mail) (www):
Mac and Ficus,

It is getting late, definitely, which isn't helping me much either. I'd just add a couple of points:

1. I don't think it's fair to tell Kerry to leave the Church simply because he's not willing to force his views on others. Not that I have a say in what the church does, but I would be unimpressed with a Church that did that.

Kerry simply recognizes the limits of his faith. He recognizes that it is faith. If you acknowledge that, then I think it's harder to justify forcing those views on others.

2. Ficus, you're description isn't far off. That's pretty much how I see it. You're right that it's problematic in some instances, though, and I agree that some views can't be screened out.

To me, though, a person really should ask himself in every instance whether his views are simply based on faith. In fact, it may not be as wild as you think. For instance, with gay marriage, it may well be that a person opposes gay marriage independent of religious views. My dad, for instance, isn't religious, but he doesn't think gay marriage makes sense. (Incidentally, I allowed the inference that I'm gay earlier, but I'm not). The very nature of a neo-con, indeed, seems to be a secular individual who takes conservative views. So a secular government isn't necessarily going to be run by Ted Kennedys and John Kerrys. Almost any conservative policy can be justified on secular grounds.

But it does seem fair to me that a person should ask why he is really voting for something. If he is voting against gay marriage because he thinks it is bad public policy, then I think that's one thing. If he's voting against it because he thinks homosexuality is a sin, though, which God has forbidden in the Bible, then I think that's a bit presumptuous. If it's some combination, then I think that's something for a responsible person to decide. But I will criticize open attempts to increase the influence of religion.

3. I recognize that people will continue to vote based on religious beliefs. My main point, however, is that once this is recognized, it rather undermines the argument that logical, moral, or common sensical flaws in religion should not be a subject for public discource. And thus, I say that even if Ginsburg was criticizing Catholocism, that is her right to do, and in fact, I would have gone even further!

4. As far as the moral foundations for society, that's heavy stuff. I thought it was interesting, though -- Eugene asked that question a couple months ago, and the near universal response from atheists was in the general form of the golden rule. Treat people like you want to be treated. And utilitarianism. In truth, I think that's what 99% of our laws are based on anyway, and I've never seen a good one that wasn't.
2.11.2006 1:22am
Mac (mail):
Marcus wrote

As far as the moral foundations for society, that's heavy stuff. I thought it was interesting, though — Eugene asked that question a couple months ago, and the near universal response from atheists was in the general form of the golden rule. Treat people like you want to be treated. And utilitarianism. In truth, I think that's what 99% of our laws are based on anyway, and I've never seen a good one that wasn't.

Dear Marcus,

The golden rule? There is an irony here in that a Google search revealed it appeared in the Talmud in 1300 BC and in India in The Vedic tradition in 3000 BC. Both religions. It is inextricably entwined with mankind's notion of God and is derived from that notion. An odd thing for an atheist to base his moral code on is it not ?

Please tell me about utilitarianism, what is it, what are it's origins and how does it guide your life and what are examples of laws that are based on it? I will presume you are the expert.

Marcus wrote

The very nature of a neo-con...

Marcus, are you saying a neo-con, whatever that is, is going to hell? It sounds suspiciously like a religious person calling you a sinner because you are an atheist.

John Kerry was anti-abortion before he was pro-abortion, Marcus. I am sorry, he makes it so easy. And, it is true. How could trust a guy who twists whichever way the winds of political expediency blow? Or, is that utiltarianism?
2.11.2006 2:41am
David M. Nieporent (www):
I don't see how you think it is discriminatory toward religion to say that the government should not express a religious viewpoint.
Because that, of course, was not what she said. What she said was that a private person couldn't express a religious viewpoint because some confused person might impute that expression to the government. That's discriminatory towards religion because she wouldn't apply the principle to any secular expression. If someone put up a sign that said, "End the Iraq war now," she wouldn't argue that this could be forbidden because someone might mistakenly think the government might be the entity expressing that view.

Edward:
Kerry's position isn't based on political expedience. It's based on his very principled belief that he is not entitled to turn his personal views into the law of the land.
If Kerry actually believed that, he'd have to resign from the Democratic Party, if not the government. What you mean, at most, is that he thinks he is not entitled to turn his personal views on this one narrow issue into the law of the land.
You condemn Ginsburg because you think her official acts are based upon her personal views, and you condemn Kerry for not basing his official acts upon his personal views. It seems you just want to condemn people who don't see things the way you do.
Wow does that miss the point. Ginsburg is a judge. Kerry is a legislator. These people have entirely different roles in the government.

Should a Jewish senator try to outlaw pork?

Heh, exactly.
Actually, that's a lousy example. Judaism doesn't teach that eating pork is wrong. It teaches that JEWS eating pork is wrong.
2.11.2006 2:49am
Anon7:

The golden rule? There is an irony here in that a Google search revealed it appeared in the Talmud in 1300 BC and in India in The Vedic tradition in 3000 BC. Both religions. It is inextricably entwined with mankind's notion of God and is derived from that notion. An odd thing for an atheist to base his moral code on is it not?


Why would this be odd? To an atheist, both religions were just offering an imaginary origin for an existing rational principle--the Golden Rule--seeking to explain the world around them by appeal to a fictional higher power.
2.11.2006 7:07am
Public_Defender:
Catholic bishops have every right to preach against abortion, but it was rude and ungracious to specifically invite Justice Ginsburg to the mass and then fail to treat her position with respect.

You don't invite a guest to your home just to yell at her.


As to Donahue, he seems to love to make intentionally bigoted remarks against blacks and Jews to make comparisons to perceived slights of Catholics. He spews forth so much bigotry and anti-Semitism that it's hard to believe it's all a show.
2.11.2006 7:47am
bluecollarguy:
Edward,

"Why is it hypocritical for Kerry to keep his own views out of his official duties?"

Actually, that wasn't my argument. My argument was a much simpler one. That being that casting a vote for a candidate willing to discard his deeply held moral beliefs for politcal expediency is not something that makes for good government. But since you brought up the issue, once a candidate is elected he has to consider three views when casting a vote. His oath to the Constitution, the constitutents he represents and his own firmly held beliefs on right and wrong, morality if you will.

"His constituents elected him to speak on their behalf, not his own. And just how far are you willing to carry your logic?"

I'm willing to carry it this far. If a lawmakers consitutents wish the lawmaker to make law that is unconstitutional the lawmaker should totally ignore his constitutents and uphold his oath of office. Pretty radical, eh?

"If a senator thinks marijuana should be legal but most of his constituents don't, should he try to get it legalized anyway?"

Yes, but if and only if the the Senator has the necessary grounding to argue that proscribing the use of marijuana by the federal government is outside the federal governments constitutional powers.

"If he thinks drinking is morally wrong should he try to bring back prohibition?"

Same answer as above accept in this case the senator would not have a constitutional leg to stand on. Of course there is a check on what the Senator will argue for or against and that is the ballot box which is why it behooves all candidates to run on firmly held beliefs and let the chips fall where they may.

"Should a Jewish senator try to outlaw pork?"

:-} This is a new one, I've heard the unborn compared to many things but pork is a new one. But since I've never heard that the right to eat pork is a fundamental one, I'd say the Jewish senator should go for it. What the heck.

At what point do you think a legislator can vote for something his constituents want but he personally opposes?

When his constitutents want to violate the fundamental rights of any individual, including unborn babies.

Edward, all law is has a moral component. In a constitutional republic the lawmakers can not divorce themselves from their morality or their oaths to office. They must balance those with the wants and needs of their constitutents. Legislators who willingly discard their own beliefs and/or oath to the constitution in favor of political expedience are simply not my cup of tea.

I vote for my representative who is pro choice. He and I have had several interesting conversations on the topic. He is honest about where he is coming from and though I vehemently disagree with him on that issue I can respect his honesty regarding same. Because he is also a firm believer in the 2nd Amendment as an individual right, a strong military and somewhat limited government I vote for him with open eyes knowing that this constitutents views on the abortion issue will not be represented. I think that is how good government should work.

2.11.2006 10:51am
Mac (mail):

Why would this be odd? To an atheist, both religions were just offering an imaginary origin for an existing rational principle--the Golden Rule--seeking to explain the world around them by appeal to a fictional higher power.




Anon7


No, no. The principle was derived from man's perceived relationship to God. God made man in His image and likeness, therefore, man is obligated to elevate his behavior. And, that is the point. Now, it seems logical because it has been an accepted premise of behavior for over 3000 or 4000 years, codified by the Jews into a set of laws and rules. Our laws are based on Judeo-Christian ethics and on our ancesters perception of God. What in the world in the history of mankind would make you think that this was an existing rational principle?

Whether you accept the existence of God or not, the principles by which we, at least in the West, live our lives were developed by religious people seeking to understand this world and the expectations God had for us.

My point is that the atheist today can not separate his moral code from that developed by religious people for centuries. He is given that code by mankind seeking to understand God. Therefore, when he goes to the poles, he is influenced by religion whether he is aware of it or not. He is not on some higher moral plane because he does not believe in God. He is the beneficiary of a higher moral plane because of man's belief in God.
2.11.2006 11:18am
Ken Arromdee (mail):
If a senator thinks marijuana should be legal but most of his constituents don't, should he try to get it legalized anyway?

Abortion, though, is different because abortion opponents think of abortion as murder. Murder is a very serious transgression and the more serious a transgression the less we believe a politician should take his constituents' wishes into account. A politician would never say "while I find murder to be morally abhorrent, my constituents want to do it, so I'll be right behind them". Issues like marijuana legalization and gay marriage allow for compromise; murder doesn't.
2.11.2006 11:59am
someone who has been to the red mass:
I'd like to add my comments as someone who has been to the Red Mass for the past few years. I think it is good that Justice Ginsburg attended a Red Mass to begin with -- I think it shows a respect for religious diversity and I think anyone knowledgeable about the Supreme Court can think of more than a few names of people who never would have attended a Catholic event. We should be more concerned about them. On the other hand, I hope that Justice Ginsburg would rethink whether or not she would attend. Abortion has not come up the years I have gone. I think that perhaps she went during the previous Cardinal's tenure. Cardinal McCarrick seems to be less confrontational -- recall his opposition to attacking John Kerry's Catholicism during the election.

On a side note, Justice Breyer was at the most recent Red Mass.
2.11.2006 12:29pm
JunkYardLawDog (mail):
Kovarsky,

"Pro Death Penalty" would be just fine as a label. How would that be different from saying a particular person supports the death penalty.

Another label that would be appropos would be "Pro Justice" because there are some crimes where the only fitting punishment is the Death Penalty.

How someone can support the killing of innocent persons without a trial, without being charged with any offense without being represented by a lawyer, and without any due process of law whatsoever and object to the death penalty for those who committed heinous crimes and have had decades of due process, multiple lawyers, multiple reviews by judges, and a fair trial by a jury of their peers makes absolutely no sense whatsoever to me.

Says the "Dog"
2.11.2006 12:31pm
Mac (mail):

And incidentally, people who say "pro abortion," would you refer to people who take a position adverse to those who oppose the death penalty as "pro death?"



Kovarsky,

You could. A better analogy would be pro-death penalty.

Or if you want to be PC and have a much better analogy to the abortion debate, you would call those people "pro-choice" i.e. pro the right of the government to choose what happens to convicted murderers. It implies there are options other than life or death and thus avoids taking responsibility for the only option other than life.

It does have a nice ring to it, eh? Put in this context, I can well understand why pro-abortion people prefer that term.
2.11.2006 1:12pm
R Gould-Saltman (mail):
Junkyardlawdog, presumably either a law student or lawyer, opines:

Tolerance is a two way street. Their is always plenty of talk about the duty of the majority to be tolerant of minorities. However, there is no talk (and there definitely needs to be) of minorities DUTY to be tolerant of the majority's culture and beliefs.

Those whose survival is dependent upon the tolerance of the majority should also be a little bit tolerant themselves don't you think? Out of just plain good manners if nothing else.


That's why I'm glad there's a Bill of Rights: because there are those who not only think that holders of an unpopular minority view are not just obliged to tolerate the tyranny of a majority, but that they have some obligation to be POLITE about it.




rfgs
2.11.2006 1:23pm
Marcus1 (mail) (www):
David Nieporent,

>What she said was that a private person couldn't express a religious viewpoint because some confused person might impute that expression to the government. <

No, I think my description was closer. It is common for municipalities, when told that they're not allowed to display a sectarian message, to give the property over to a private party that they know will do the same thing. That may not have been what happened in that case, but it seems that's what they did inadvertently.

The KKK can express whatever message they want, but Ginsburg apparently believes that public property should not display a Klan cross in a way that gives no indication of who put it there. If Congress lets the local rotary club put a giant cross on the National Mall, without specifying that it is a private message (or even if they do express that, really), there is a problem, which does not merely result from Ginsburg's or my religious bigotry. It's exactly because any child, and really any sane person, would have to assume that this message had been approved, and was being promoted by the government. And the chances are pretty high that they'd be right.

To say that such a placement of a Cross would be inappropriate is not to discriminate against religion, any more than is made necessary by the language and spirit of the establishment clause.

As far as whether allowing secular messages but not allowing religious messages amounts to discrimination against religion, this simply ignores that we have one establishment clause in the Constitution, which prohibits the establishment of religion. If the government wants to establish war or education or a national water polo team, it is free to do so. It simply can't establish religion.

Of course, this doesn't answer whether a particular display does establish religion, which one would have to determine on a case by case basis. If put in the proper context, every Cross on public property would not violate the establishment clause. In some circumstances, though, it could. An anti-war message, though, no matter how prominent, simply doesn't raise establishment clause concerns.

Now, if you put up a giant display that said "There is no god and you're less of an American for thinking there is," and you displayed on public property it in a way that made it look like an official message, that very well could raise establishment clause concerns. To try to act like a secular government (as opposed to an anti-religious government) amounts to discrimination against religion, though, simply ignores what an anti-religious government would actually be, and basically "neutralizes" the entire effect of the establishment clause.
2.11.2006 2:03pm
ficus:
Mac,

Thanks.

Marcus,

I think we are not far apart -- and thanks for your response. You said:

But it does seem fair to me that a person should ask why he is really voting for something. If he is voting against gay marriage because he thinks it is bad public policy, then I think that's one thing. If he's voting against it because he thinks homosexuality is a sin, though, which God has forbidden in the Bible, then I think that's a bit presumptuous. If it's some combination, then I think that's something for a responsible person to decide. But I will criticize open attempts to increase the influence of religion.

It is the view of many religious persons, notably Jews and most American Christians, that a distinction should be drawn between what morality prescribes and what secular law prescribes. Even if one is convinced that a thing is evil, one is not logically compelled to desire its suppression by the state. Whether it is a proper subject for state action is a separate question.

The hypothetical good citizen who is a believer, in addressing this last question, will bring to bear whatever he deems relevant, and that will likely include the teachings of his religion: both the teachings on the evil thing itself, and the teachings on whether it is a proper subject for state action. In some cases, the religion itself may discourage the criminalization of sinful acts; historically, the approach to secular law in Christian countries, including in the Middle Ages, left a considerable gap between what the Church forbade and what the secular law punished. The Puritans were a notable exception, which we all still talk about; and there were a few others. But they don't vote here (any more).

On that topic, it is also true that there has always been, in the Catholic church, a large gap between what the Church taught was morally wrong, and what it forbade in canon law. Certain serious sins carried canonical penalties, but many that were held to be mortal did not. So even in its own house, it made this distinction.
2.11.2006 3:00pm
Marcus1 (mail) (www):
Mac,

Utlitarianism is the very general theory that what is good is what promotes the greatest happiness for the most people. And conversely, that an action is evil if it actually causes more hurt than it causes good. It's kind of a bottomless pit for debate, though, so I'd hesitate to get into the details or defenses.

As to whether the golden rule is inextricably linked to religion, I disagree. What does God have to do with whether I should punch somebody in the face and then tell them not to hit me? You can find any secular rule in a religious book somewhere; that hardly means that the rule is inoperable when used independently.

Take the Ten Commandments, for instance, getting back to my main point. Here we have 10 rules, some of which can be justified on secular grounds, and some of which can't. Number one: don't worship any god but me. Clearly not a rule that can be justified on secular grounds. And thus, a very poor law. Any attempt to force somebody not to worship anything but the Biblical God would in my mind be extremely offensive. And you know, people seem pretty much to have figured that out in this day and age. At least mostly.

2, 3, 4, are all purely religious as well. Don't worship idols, remember the sabbath day, don't use the lord's name in vain. Good ideas if you're Christian, but very bad laws. Why? Because they have no secular basis. And again, most people seem to have realized this.

Then you get to the more secular ones: Honor your father and mother, don't kill, don't steal, don't commit adultery. Some of these, like don't kill and don't steal, can clearly be justified on secular grounds. You don't have to be Christian to dislike murder and stealing. And thus, those are very strong laws. Honoring your father and mother? Probably somewhat religious, somewhat secular. So it's kind of in our laws, but kind of not. Adultery? same thing: kind of a law, but nobody seems much to care.

What's my point? Clearly we don't simply rely on religion to inform us how to run our society. If we did, the 10 commandments would all be strictly enforced. The Bible does not specify which of the Ten Commandments are for real, and which only apply to Christians or Jews. Thus, there must be some other standards that we're relying on.

My feeling: Let's figure out what those other standards are and acknowledge them directly, rather than pretending the laws are based on religion, and thus giving the majority religion undue influence. It is possible to separate laws from religious groundings. We do it all the time. And I say, the more the better. Because when one group of people enforces their religious views on others, I think it creates nothing but problems. And since Christianity does this all the time, I think Ginsburg would be well justified in criticizing it.
2.11.2006 3:08pm
Anon7:

No, no. The principle was derived from man's perceived relationship to God. God made man in His image and likeness, therefore, man is obligated to elevate his behavior. And, that is the point.


Long before concepts of religion, men learned to treat each other using the golden rule because they understood what the logical consequences could be otherwise, not because they feared lightning bolts from the sky.
2.11.2006 3:11pm
Mac (mail):
Marcus,

C'mon. Define Utilitarianism. If you would have us live under your a- religious government, tell me what the guiding principles of that government would be. The easiest place to start is with your own guiding principles as an atheist.

Ok, so the Golden Rule is, for the purposes of our culture, Judaic. Sounds religious. What about the Utilitarianism you said guided you in addition to the Golden Rule?

Although others, including JunkYardLawDog, have done a much better job than myself, I have explained a fair amount of Catholic doctrine to you. You are the one who said we should not vote based on our religion. It is a fair question to ask what guides your life.

After all, one should be able to evaluate the basis upon which you vote and would have others vote, don't you think? I honestly have no clue what I would base my vote on if I neglect religion. You are advocating that I do just that. So, again, it's a fair question. What principles am I to utilize? You said Utilitarianism. What is that, exactly?
2.11.2006 3:12pm
Marcus1 (mail) (www):
It's nothing more or less than what public policy analysts use every day. "What causes the greater good for the greater number of people." That's the definition. I can get infinitely more specific, but that doesn't really seem appropriate under the circumstances.

Is Catholic doctrine really the only think you consider when you vote? You don't consider things like the effects of taxes or government spending or which candidate has a more sensible policy for the war on terror? It seems to me you're exagerating the role of religion in general day to day decisions.

There are other principles, within utilitarianism, though, that can be argued on their own basis. For instance, I think there should generally be a presumption agaisnt forcing people to do things, unless we can explain exactly why it is necessary and not unfair. Why? Because generally I think that there is more happiness in people being free and doing what they want than there is in allowing some powerful people to exert their unjustified will on those who are less powerful. I could go on at length for why simple religious belief doesn't cut it in that regard, and in fact I have. I'm not sure there's much more I can say at the moment.

As to whether the golden rule is religious, can you explain yourself? Is it simply because it appears in religious books that you say that? What is specifically religious about the idea that I should treat others as I want to be treated? It seems to be to be the quinticensial secular rule. Just because something is in the bible doesn't make it religious. The fact that people came on this idea at least 3000 years before Christianity seems to suggest that we would have figured it out, religion or not.
2.11.2006 4:28pm
Mac (mail):
Marcus,

Sorry, we were posting at the same time. Thanks.
I agree with a lot of what you say, but I still think you would have a very hard time finding a just law that is not based on a precept that is religious. My point is not that these precepts don't work outside of a religious context, but that we have them because at some point in our evolution, we thought about God and said we have to try to be more like HIM. Or, in our case, the concept the Jews had of Him. I am not putting this well. Maybe ficus or JunkYardLawDog or bluecollarguy will save me here.


Utlitarianism is the very general theory that what is good is what promotes the greatest happiness for the most people. And conversely, that an action is evil if it actually causes more hurt than it causes good. It's kind of a bottomless pit for debate, though, so I'd hesitate to get into the details or defenses.



That is a bottomless pit for debate. What would cause the greatest happiness for the most people, for instance, is for Irael to be wiped off the face of the earth. It seems, sadly, that about a billion Muslims would be very happy. A lot of Secularists would be very happy if Israel would just "go away". Some of Irael's strongest suporters are the evangelical Christians and they would not be happy. Hitler thought the Jews were "hurting" Germany and convinced Germans of the same. The Holocaust, therefore caused the greatest happiness for the most people and, if you accept his theory that Jews were "hurting" Germany, then it caused more good than hurt. A very bottomless pit indeed.


2, 3, 4, are all purely religious as well. Don't worship idols, remember the sabbath day, don't use the lord's name in vain. Good ideas if you're Christian, but very bad laws. Why? Because they have no secular basis. And again, most people seem to have realized this.



Not to pick nits, but these were laws given to us by the Jews. Judaism and Christianity are pretty hard to separate. Also, not picking nits, but it's a good idea to rest, for our health. So, there is perhaps a secular logic even for that. Not worshiping idols. I think the worship of idols was causing a hell of a lot of problems in the Jewish society of that time, therefore the prohibition. Not too bad today if you, for instance, interpret it as Christians and Jews do, which is to not worship money to the exclusion of all else in your life. You could find other modern day "idols" easily enough. Note the secular phrases,"Money doesn't buy happiness" and "You can't take it with you". You could easily call the obsessive acquisition of money worshiping an idol. Most psychologists would agree, I think, that it does not contribute to mental health. Even adultery causes one heck of a lot of problems, esp. with AIDS and other diseases, not to mention the stress on the spouse and children.


It is possible to separate laws from religious groundings. We do it all the time.



Well, what I have been trying to point out is that we think we do it all the time. But, I doubt if we do.

B

ecause when one group of people enforces their religious views on others, I think it creates nothing but problems.



True. I couldn't agree with you more with a few exceptions. However, the Constitution protects us from a religious group enforcing their views on other people. What, I wonder is what is going to protect us from the secularists enforcing their views on everyone else?

If you think about it, there seems to be a very strong tendancy in Mankind to impose ones views on others. It doesn't take religion or God to exercise that trait. Look at Communism. Sometimes, the secularists are indistinguishable from the most strident of preachers or imams. There are an awful lot of laws being passed or trying to get passed these days to prohibit certain behaviors for "your own good". And, a lot of Rights are getting trampled on "for your own good". Smoking laws come to mind. No one forces a person to go into a bar where there is smoking, but a lat of private business owners are told that there is to be no smoking in their establishments, whether they like it or not and whether it will put them out of business or not. Drink is evil, gambling is evil said the preachers. Smoking is evil says the do-gooder secularists. Is there a difference? Or, do we just have another group of folks imposing their will on others, not in the name of God, but in the name of a "Good Cause" and "For Your Own Good"? Now, that scares the hell out of me!
2.11.2006 4:33pm
Brian G (mail) (www):
Ginsburg was and still is an ACLU crank. Enough said.
2.11.2006 5:19pm
Kovarsky (mail):
JunkYardLawDog and Mac,

No offense, but I think you both completely misconstrued my remarks. I think the notion that someone would refer to the pole opposite "anti-death penalty" to be "pro death" to be absurd. I was using that absurdity to highlight the absurdity of the term "pro-abortion." And asking that people use a term that is in the universe of accurate descriptions of a group's beliefs is, I think, hardly "PC." Nobody is "pro-abortion" in the sense they like the idea of killing an unborn fetus.

Also, and I don't know what on earth prompted you to do this, but one of you went on some rant about how it could be possible that I not believe in the death penalty. I said absolutely nothing about the death penalty other than that calling its proponents "pro-death" would be misleading. If anything, a rational reader would view that as a defense of the death penalty.

I spend most of my life with habeas jurisprudence, I would hardly initiate a discussion on it in this forum. But it was very thoughtful and kind of both of you to jump down my throats without actually reading my posts. I believe it was Mac who actually lectured me with my own point. And I believe it was JunkYardLawDog (Says the Dog) that construed my remarks as voicing opposition to the death penalty, and misconstrued them in quite a breathtaking way.

Says the Kovarsky
(do you really take the time to bold it after every post?)
2.11.2006 5:45pm
Mac (mail):

Long before concepts of religion, men learned to treat each other using the golden rule because they understood what the logical consequences could be otherwise, not because they feared lightning bolts from the sky.



Anon7,

Again, whatever gives you that idea? A significant portion of Mankind still fears ligtening bolts from the sky and thinks God or Allah sends them for retribution, see Pat Robertson, Ray Nagin, and any number of imams and mullahs. We have no written history of the cave man, but we can be pretty darn sure that he did not operate by the Golden Rule, but rather by "Survival of the Fittest". If there was any rule it would have been "do unto others before they do unto you".

While we have no written history, we do have drawings in caves indicating at some point in Mankind's evolution he either got a soul or somehow became aware of himself as himself, if you will. As soon as he did this, he started drawing and he drew what archeologists believe are pictures of deities. Our earliest written histories are about gods and religion. Therefore, there is no way you can substantiate your statement.

Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.

Think about it. Unless you buy the Creation story, in which case you believe God created Adam and then Eve, they ate of the tree of Knowledge and thus, learned about Good and Evil, you have to buy that we evolved by random chance or Intelligent Design, take your pick. We are predators. As such, we have a lot in common with predators in the Animal Kingdom. There is nothing there that would suggest they operate by the Golden Rule. Lions kill cheetahs and hyena at every opportunity, not to eat but to eliminate competition for their food sources, thus increasing the lions chance of survival. Wolves kill any other wolf who enters it's territory and won't leave for the same reason. To buy your theory, at a minimum, you have to find one predator who operates by the Golden Rule, other than man. Even prey animals don't operate by the Golden Rule. Have you ever seen what chickens do to each other?

What distinguishes Man from the animals? At some point in evolution, either God infused a soul into Man or somehow, Man became self-aware. And, based on cave drawings and the earliest known written history of Man as Man, there was god, a higher power or powers, in some fashion or other. Factually, that is all we have to go on.

So, you may "believe" your statement to be true, but it is a matter of faith , not fact. And, there you are into religion. Hard to get away from, isn't it?
2.11.2006 5:46pm
Kovarsky (mail):
Brian G,

Very compelling point.
2.11.2006 5:48pm
Kovarsky (mail):
Mac,

Your theory that "just" laws must necessarily have their roots in some sort of unverifiable religious principle has been debunked by most of the cognitive science and behavioral psychology work done in the last half-century, but nice speculation there about the Holocaust being technically consistent with utilitarianism.

Never mind that in the course of trying to prove the point that utilitarianism can lead to illogical results, you highlight the single least utilitarian event in the annals of world history.
2.11.2006 5:53pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
As far as whether allowing secular messages but not allowing religious messages amounts to discrimination against religion, this simply ignores that we have one establishment clause in the Constitution, which prohibits the establishment of religion. If the government wants to establish war or education or a national water polo team, it is free to do so. It simply can't establish religion.
But that begs the question. This was indisputedly private speech, and the establishment clause, by its own terms, simply doesn't reach private speech. But because the private speech involved religion, Ginsburg and Stevens wanted to claim that the establishment clause could allow -- or, indeed, require -- the government to censor it. That sounds like clear discrimination against religion to me.
2.11.2006 6:01pm
JunkYardLawDog (mail):
Kovarsky,

After re-reading my post to you, mac's post on the same subject and your reply, I have to say that I think you over-reacted just a tad bit. I didn't think either post jumped down your throat, and my little "rant" as you called it on the death penalty versus legal baby killing solely based on the physical location coordinates of the baby at the time of the murder wasn't directed at you, per se, but I could see how you might have taken it that way.

Anyway, no offense was intended by me and none appeared to me to be intended by Mac. We just happen to disagree with you and think pro death penalty and pro-abortion happen to be very proper labels.

Says the "Dog"

And yes I obviously bold it each time, but it doesn't take much time if you simply create a shortkey macro to insert it automatically. I notced that you used "Says the Kovarsky" to sign your message. Gave me a smile, and to avoid prejudice to my unregistered trademark and copyright in Says the "Dog", I hereby grant you a non-exclusive, non-commercial, limited use license to use Says the "Kovarsky" anytime you may like!!!
2.11.2006 6:48pm
Kovarsky (mail):
Im actually glad you took it well, because I meant to convey that I actually love that "says the dog" thing. Seriously.
2.11.2006 6:55pm
JunkYardLawDog (mail):
R Gould-Saltman

That's why I'm glad there's a Bill of Rights: because there are those who not only think that holders of an unpopular minority view are not just obliged to tolerate the tyranny of a majority, but that they have some obligation to be POLITE about it.


The Bill Of Rights is not a social contract to subject the majority culture to the tyrannical dictates of an impolite and extremely intolerant minority or minorities. You proved my point with your response above.

Right now the way I see it, we have a majority that is being subjected more and more to the tyrannical dictates of one or more intolerant minorities, and we in the majority are expected to be polite and uncomplaining about the subjugation of our rights and culture to these intolerant minorities lest we be labeled not politically correct and fascists or racists or whatever other false hate speech label is popular among the censors and bigots of the left at the time.


I’ll repeat, those who require tolerance of others must also BE TOLERANT OF OTHERS, its just plain good manners if nothing else, and the majority counts as part of the OTHERS.

Says the "Dog"
2.11.2006 6:59pm
Marcus1 (mail) (www):
David,

Yes, it begs the question if it is offered as a proof that a particular display establishes religion. I tried to preempt that argument, though, with my next couple of paragraphs:


Of course, this doesn't answer whether a particular display does establish religion, which one would have to determine on a case by case basis. If put in the proper context, every Cross on public property would not violate the establishment clause. In some circumstances, though, it could. An anti-war message, though, no matter how prominent, simply doesn't raise establishment clause concerns.

Now, if you put up a giant display that said "There is no god and you're less of an American for thinking there is," and you displayed on public property it in a way that made it look like an official message, that very well could raise establishment clause concerns.


So you disagree that this particular instance amounted to an establishment of religion. Can you really disagree, though, in the case of a giant cross in the middle of hte national mall? It seems like a pretty fair rule to me that if private religious messages are going to be displayed on public property, at the very least, it should be made clear that this is a private message. To call that view discriminatory or hostile toward religion, I think, is to be a little dramatic.

To Mac,

You said a lot, which I can't all respond to. One point, though: I don't think wiping Israel off the map makes for good secular policy. I don't think it would be the utilitarian move. While a lot of Muslims might be happy, a lot of other people wouldn't, and I think the precedent it would set would be excedingly harmful.

One thing I'm sure of, though: If you're going to try to convince me about the necessity and value of religion, the last thing you should be bringing up is the Middle East!
2.11.2006 6:59pm
Mac (mail):
Kovarsky,


Your theory that "just" laws must necessarily have their roots in some sort of unverifiable religious principle has been debunked by most of the cognitive science and behavioral psychology work done in the last half-century, but nice speculation there about the Holocaust being technically consistent with utilitarianism.



Uh, I have a degree in Sociology and a minor in Psych. Besides being one of the most useless degrees on earth, I can safely say that it is doubtful they could prove or debunk much of anything. Heck, we can't even figure out if we should eat butter or margerine or if it even matters.

I was not ranting earlier. I may have beaten you up with your own point, but if I missed yours, you missed mine as well. Communication is very difficult, isn't it? Regardless, I was disagreeing with you, not beating you up. Period. I was certainly not the one berating you about not supporting the death penalty. I do support it and understand those who do. But, there are moral issues and I can't ignore them. I was saying that, yes, I am pro-death penalty and that does make me pro-death for murderers. I can't be pro death penalty without recognizing that somebody dies. Am I totally comfortable with that position and 100% percent sure that I am right? No. I get your point, but you did not get mine or JYDog's.

Re the Holocaust and Utilitarianism. I know nothing about Utilitarianism other than what Marcus told me. I am sure I studied it at some point many years ago, but there are too many isms in the world to keep them all straight. Based on what he told me, it seemed to fit. Why doesn't it?

Also, does it fit with the Muslims and Israel?

Re just laws, you are missing my point. We, thanks to Judaism, have had these concepts for so long they are in the fiber of our being. It is a historical fact. No one, as far as I know came up with this idea who was not religious and I mean going far back in time, not in modern society. I am saying that a religious people came up with these ideas because they were trying to figure out God and we have now had these ideas for so long, we can't possibly separate them from religion and religious principles. Yes, you can use humanistic philosophy to get to the same end. But, would we ever have gotten there without the great religious traditions, esp. Judaic law? Can you really be sure it would have occured to anyone? Oh heck, I am going to give up. I just can't seem to say what I mean. At this point, you could probably explain what I am trying to say better than I am.
2.11.2006 7:08pm
Mac (mail):
David,

<blockquote>
One thing I'm sure of, though: If you're going to try to convince me about the necessity and value of religion, the last thing you should be bringing up is the Middle East!

</blockquote>

I am well aware of that, David. I was only demonstrating the origins of the concept and, for our cultue, that is Judaism and it is thousands of years old. Islam is a far more modern religion, 700 AD, I think? In a way, a lot of Islam demonstrates my point that the Golden Rule is not by definition a "natural" phenominon.

Of course I agree with you about Israel. I was responding to Marcus' description that Utilitarianism is doing the most good for the most people. People define good differently and Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world. I was just saying that given those demographics the idea of doing "the most good for the most people" just might be a very, very frightening concept. An awful lot of Islam is not big on the Golden Rule, but I can see them being pretty big on Utilitarianism, as it has been described here. Thanks for the comment.

Kovarsky,

I, too, think you were over-reacting, but I certainly didn't want to make you feel beat up on, either. I have the utmost respect for you opinions. They are thoughtful. Please understand, no offense was meant or intended. Sorry, if I made you felt that way. i like the ring of "Says the Kavorsky" by the way.
2.11.2006 7:36pm
Kovarsky (mail):
Mac,

I'm sorry if I overreacted (I swear I lead VCers in apologies) - it was because of the holocaust thing. I understand you were trying to make an honest point and weren't familiar with utilitarianism. Utilitarianism was one of the most famously misappropriated arguments for exterminating the Jews. Utilitarianism says you should maximise good per capita. What holocaust apologists famously left out of the denominator, however, were the Jews. So the project was one of measuring "good per capita," without the "per capita" including the jews.

Not that I would ever ever attribute that to somebody here - it's just that it strikes a nerve when anybody suggests there's any logical connection between utilitarianism and holocaust.
2.11.2006 7:47pm
Mac (mail):
Kovarsky,

I remember this, now that you mention it. I knew I had heard of Utilitarianism somewhere in my past. God, that is where I heard it, in relation to the Nazis. I do have problems with putting my foot in my mouth. Good heavens, I am sorry.

Now, for an honest question. You say it was misappropriated. My first thought was that it could be used for such an end. Granted, this must have been in my memory somewhere and that is probably why my first thoughts were of the Holocaust and second, Israel today. Was it misappropriated or is this the logical outcome of the philosopy? Quite frankly, when Marcus described it to me, it scared the hell out of me. But, you say, "misappropriated". Is there a good side to it? I am not seeing itif there is one.

Thanks.
2.11.2006 8:06pm
Marcus1 (mail) (www):
To Mac:

The comment you thought was from David was actually from me.

As to the Holocaust, are you really going to suggest that the Holocaust caused more happiness than harm?

Two points. 1. If something gives five people a little bit of a thrill, but ends up killing two people or causing one person immense harm, that would not pass for a good idea under most variations of utilitarianism. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to weigh something in that way. It's like, "Hey, me and my sister want to take the car to the movies, but my brother needs it to go the hospital or he's going to die. I wonder who should get the car?" The point here isnt' to reduce morality to a numbers game of how many are made happier and how many are made worse. Rather, it is to acknowledge a basic framework from which we can decide what makes sense and what doesn't. If something raises the overall happiness of the world, then it's probably a good idea. If something tends to make the world a sadder place, then that's a bad idea. Personally, I think it's pretty clear which category the Holocaust falls into.

2. Is it possible for someone to screw this up, and use it to justify something truly stupid? Definitely. The same, though, is true of religion. The benefit of utilitarianism, though, is that it at least asks the right question: How can we make life best for the most amount of people?

Now, maybe, as a spiritual person, there are other things you think are important for yourself in life. When it comes to matters of politics, though, it seems to me that utilitarianism makes a whole lot of sense.

If you really want to prove me wrong, you're going to have to show me a tragedy that actually made the world a happier place. I think you'll have a hard time.
2.11.2006 8:26pm
Kovarsky (mail):
Well, the most common exercise people use to explain "utilitarianism" is the notion that in order to stop a sinking boat, you have to throw someone off.

Or, in preferred star-trek terms, the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one.

Up until some philosophers came along and tinkered with the theory, though, when your operating principle was that all you try to do is maximise the amount of happiness ("utility") per person, well, sometimes you would just have to kill off one member of the group - or at least leave him (and often her!) significantly disadvantaged - in the interest of improving the lot of other community members.

On the surface, though, it sounds sort of appealing, right? Sure some people have to suck it up, but it is only so that, on average, everyone is better off. Well, that's obviously pretty coercive to the individual that gets screwed - not exactly the sort of operating principle you want in a society that privileges individual liberty. The idea has such intrinsic appeal, though, that philosophers often trying to tinker from within, trying to maximise per capita happiness without undue coercion of the individual.

So now, the holocaust. Remember, rigorously speaking, pure utilitarians want to maximize the value of [happiness]/[people]. So the numerator is happiness, and the denominator is people. Well, it's obvious to you or me not only is the holocaust inconsistent with the more modern theories of utilitarianism that have respect for the individual, but also with "pure" utilitarianism, because if you measure [happiness]/[people] in a regime that kills 6 million people, you can't be maximising that value. Well, that's not what nazi apologists think or thought. They instead just cut jews out of the denomintor. So the death of the jews increased the happiness of other people in the numerator, and decreased the number of people in the denominator, dramatically increasing the ratio of happiness to people.

Well, that's a revolting interpretation of utilitarianism. Utilitarianism has always had its problems (that's what the philosophers trying to work through the individual coercion problem were trying to deal with), but it never ever suggested the sort of math the nazis were doing. But it was the means by which they and their supporters appeal to some objective theory of philosophy to justify the extermination of jews.

Pretty twisted, isn't it?
2.11.2006 8:41pm
Kovarsky (mail):
Marcus1,

I think it's pretty clear that Mac didn't realize what he had inadvertently invoked, and that he didn't mean to insinuate that which you or I instinctively attributed to him.
2.11.2006 8:42pm
Kovarsky (mail):
Mac,

For the record I break pretty dramatically with Marcus1 on the idea that utilitarianism might be a good way to run a society.

Utilitarianism is about accounting, but the million dollar problem for societies is, who is it that gets to do the accounting?
2.11.2006 8:53pm
Noah Klein (mail):
Marcus1, Mac, Kovarsky and others,

Western Philosphy to the rescue!? Aren't you glad you didn't sleep through that class now?

From what I remember of Western philosophy, Utilitarianism was an English philosophy created and developed by Jeremy Bentham and John Mill and others. Utilitarianism in its first aspects reflected solely the idea, as Marchus described, "what maximizes the happiness of hte most people is good." Yet John Stuart Mill realized, partially basing his ideas off of the "categorical maxim" and natural rights that this standard could lead to a harmful outcome, and thus in "On Liberty" and other seminal works he added a very important aspect that remains part of Utilitarianism. John Stuart Mill refined the idea of natural rights to the often quoted idea that "a person's rights and at another person's nose." Therefore, and I may have remembered this all wrong from my class, the idea of "Utilitarianism" developed into a belief that society should do what benefits the most people, but groups and individuals cannot intentionally harm others. This also might just be my spin on it.

The Nazis' and the Communists' ideas came from a different source. Both Bentham and Mills and the Nazis and Marx's ideas came partially from Kant, but this is where they split. To me its a lot like the split between Catholics and protestants, their ideas both came from Jesus, but a different emphasis on different parts of his message. But the Nazis' ideas came from Hegel, who didn't express what the Nazis did but did express the foundation of their ideas. Marx and Hegel expressed the belief that what benefits the state is a ultimate good and what harms it is a ultimate evil. Therefore when Hitler expressed the idea that killing the Jews and other undesirables, he often to the benefit going to the state and not to citizenry ("Will help Germany" not "Will help the Germans).

Both ideas come from an application of the "categorical maxim," which expresses the idea of "what would be result of if everyone took an action" or for example how would society be if every person ran red lights. If it would be harmful for society, then you can't justify yourself as an individual doing so. Or if it would beneficial to society, then you can justify yourself as an individual doing so.

I hope I didn't completely mistate the philosophies; it's been a while since I took the course, but that is how I remember them.

Noah
2.11.2006 9:37pm
Kovarsky (mail):
Noah,

It's pleasant to see you on one of these threads, instead of the toxic NSA threads that I just can't deal with anymore.

Anyways, I was trying to point out that utilitarianism has been used on to rationalize the Nazi's actions; I did not mean to imply that it was the rationale on which it ultimately relied.

And I slept through all of those classes.
2.11.2006 9:42pm
Noah Klein (mail):
Mac,

I forgot about something I wanted to say above. The creation of laws or codes of behavior that treats everyone in society as equals under that law is not unique to Christians or the West. It developed in many other cultures. Some that were unfortunately wiped our and some that still exist. It is just that the Western verision encased in the Greeks and the Italians and the English and French ideologies became dominant, because those societies became empires and also because other cultures accepted their ideas. The fact that the idea of treating everyone in a society equally sprung up in many cultures demonstrates that a person can develop principles established on logical and a secular basis. The idea does not have to come from a person trying solely to emulate G-d. The idea can come also from a person logically formulating a priniciple that both myself and the society I live in will be better if such and such is done.

Noah

Noah
2.11.2006 9:47pm
Noah Klein (mail):
Kovarsky,

Yeah, I know what you're talking about and I slept through a lot of it too, which I was why I was afraid I was misstating the beliefs of each philosophy.

I understand that you were just pointing out that Nazi apologists have used Utilitarianism as means to explain their horrendous actions. I was just trying to show that the two have a very distant relationship to each other.


Noah
2.11.2006 9:53pm
Noah Klein (mail):
Kovarsky,

I meant I know what you are talking about with regards to the NSA posts. I am not yet completely soured on them, but they do quickly get into bitter disagreements and insulting behavior.

Noah
2.11.2006 9:56pm
therut (mail):
Oh pooh if she did not want to be offended then she should not have gone. She could have gone to a liberal protestant Church whose main mission is not to offend. If going to Church is always not going to offend then the Church is probably of little value. I can just see Jesus now trying not to offend(HaHa). He maenat to offend. Jesus and Christianty will always offend many. Some of the great Christian believers and preachers were at one time greatly offended. . Plus if she is Jewish in a cultural sense only(whatever that means) she would be offended at many religious meetings including Jewish ones. Her mind is confused.
2.11.2006 10:04pm
Marcus1 (mail) (www):
Kovarsky,

With respect, I disagree that it's about accounting. I think the main value is simply in acknowledging what matters in terms of public policy: promoting the general wellfare.

Now, what it doesn't tell us is how to go about promoting that welfare, or how to define "good" or "happiness." There's certainly nothing easy about implimenting a utilitarian scheme. Nevertheless, I think that's what we do about 99% of the time, and as I've said, when we don't, I think the result is virtually always bad.

Really, at the most basic level, I would argue that utilitarianism simply states the obvious. It says that we should do what makes us better off, not what makes us worse off. As far as what that is, it really doesn't specify. The value, though, I think is in that it is an explicitly rational system. This is in contrast to religious views, which instead ask stranger questions such as what a particular book tells us to do, or what we believe God has instructed, even as He never tells two people the same thing.

Of course, there is no reason why God and religion can't fit into a utilitarian view. It could very well be that we are better off doing what God wants us to do. Obviously if there's a heaven, the greatest happiness is promoted by doing whatever it takes to get the most people there. Utilitarianism doesn't contravene that. All it really says is that we should ask the question, what are we better off doing? Its simplicity is what makes it beautiful, and why it is so plausible as an actual rule to live by. The point is, though, that it functions whether you have religion there or not.
2.12.2006 12:01am
Public_Defender:
Several people claiming to be Catholic have denounced Donahue as not representative of how Catholics think, but Donahue claims the support of a bunch of cardinals and archbishops.

Has any Catholic leader shown the integrity to denounce Donahue and his extremism? Or do they acquiesce to his use of their name to support his wackiness.
2.12.2006 8:10am
Mac (mail):
Many thanks to everyone who has posted on Utilitarianism.

Noah wrote,



The fact that the idea of treating everyone in a society equally sprung up in many cultures demonstrates that a person can develop principles established on logical and a secular basis. The idea does not have to come from a person trying solely to emulate G-d. The idea can come also from a person logically formulating a priniciple that both myself and the society I live in will be better if such and such is done.



Noah,

I have racked my brain and can't come up with a culture, with or without religion, pre-1776 who operated under the principle that all people should be treated equally. Was there even one culture, let alone "many" that did not have a religion? I can't think of a single one of these, either.
Because I can't think of it, doesn't, of course, mean it didn't exist, but I would be grateful for examples. My brain is getting tired of trying to think of one. We could consider this the "Save Mac's Brain" exercise!
2.12.2006 12:34pm
Marcus1 (mail) (www):
Mac,

I think Abraham Lincoln said in the Gettysburg Address that we're the first one, religious or not.
2.12.2006 2:56pm
Mac (mail):
Marcus,

Thank you. I can't even think of an atheistic culture until Karl Marx and Communism in Russia, China, et al. Even then, they did not stamp out religion.

Gorbachov (sp?) said his biggest mistake was in allowing Pope John Paul to come to Poland where he, incidentally, told the millions of people who defied armies, crossed borders and came to see him or who listened to him to "Be Not Afraid". The Soviet Union fell not long thereafter, abeit with help from Reagan and Maggie. But, to Gorbachov, it was that damn, pesky Pope and his religion that did Communism in.

But, perhaps Noah will have examples.

I do think we were the first where power came from the people to the Government, rather than the other way around, based on "unalienable rights granted to us by our Creator". The people can take it back from the Government, but the Government can't take it from the people without concent because it is an inalienable right. You can't take back that which you did not have the power to give in the first place.
But, I am ready to be corrected. Perhaps, somewhere in the world it happened. We'll see what Noah says.
2.12.2006 3:47pm
Mac (mail):
Public_Defender,

I have read and reread Donahue's comments and if he is guilty of racism and bigotry then I must be also. I can't tell you how many times I have said to my children, "How would you feel if..." in an attempt to get them to see and understand and feel for the other person. For instance, if a classmate had a speech impediment, I would ask how they would feel if it was them and people laughed at them and on and on. My mother did it to me, also. I guess I just never thought of it as being an evil question. It certainly is not a question that would concern Catholic faith or doctrine. At least, you would really have to be specific and point it out to me as I honestly don't see it. I believe it is an attempt to bring up the Golden Rule and ask for some enmpathy and understanding. It seems to me that it usually is used for that purpose.

However, that said, perhaps I am wrong.

If so, would stoning Donahue in the public square be sufficient or should the Church hierarchy and faithful burn him at the stake?
2.12.2006 3:57pm
Noah Klein (mail):
Mac,

The Sikh in India developed a religion based on the idea that all life is equal and should be equally treated. Some of the Native American tribes (The ____ Confederacy, I can't remember the exact name) in the U.S. developed a very similiar idea to the Americans about the ideas of people being equal. Now these tribes, like Americans, might not have applied their ideas completely (ie slavery and treatment of Anglo-Americans and Native Americans), but they had developed those ideals which would eventually become more of a force in their actions. Also the Polish created a parliamentary-type system (like the British, but far more advanced in their application of democracy). What to these cultures developing their beliefs are different, but they did develop similiar ideas.

Noah
2.12.2006 11:32pm
snowball (mail):
Public_Defender:

Donahue is an embarrassment to much of the hierarchy as well, despite the endorsements posted on the Catholic League's website.

Some of the bigwigs listed (Groschel and Chaput, for example) are very, very conservative and often confrontationally so. It wouldn't surprise me if they cheer along with Donahue's harangues.

The others, however, are constantly fending off attacks from their right flank within the Church and are scared of Donahue and his megaphone. A few bland words of "support" for the Catholic League are an easy way to keep the dogs at bay.

The other thing to keep in mind is that the Catholic League was actually a somewhat respectable organization when it was founded 30 years ago. I think Judge John Noonan was involved at one point. Donahue has raised the group's profile but lowered its reputation.
2.13.2006 1:10am
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Dustin:

Your shock that prominent conservatives support Bill Donohue is based on a misunderstanding of his group's purpose.

Bill Donohue is a political player. His group is performing a role that the Republican / conservative coalition needs to have played, i.e., convincing the public (or at least the right wing base) that Christians are persecuted. This plays well with evangelicals who feel this way, and also plays well with conservative Catholics who the GOP is wooing. And it counters the actual reality, which is that atheists and secularists are in the minority in the United States and Christians are well-served by the political system.

So, Catholic members of the Republican coalition support him, because he serves a purpose. It is true that if he said enough dumb things to become radioactive to the public, they would drop their support. But as long as that is not so, the current situation will continue.
2.13.2006 5:06am
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Dustin:

Your shock that prominent conservatives support Bill Donohue is based on a misunderstanding of his group's purpose.

Bill Donohue is a political player. His group is performing a role that the Republican / conservative coalition needs to have played, i.e., convincing the public (or at least the right wing base) that Christians are persecuted. This plays well with evangelicals who feel this way, and also plays well with conservative Catholics who the GOP is wooing. And it counters the actual reality, which is that atheists and secularists are in the minority in the United States and Christians are well-served by the political system.

So, Catholic members of the Republican punditocracy support him, because he serves a purpose. It is true that if he said enough dumb things to become radioactive to the public, they would drop their support. But as long as that is not so, the current situation will continue.
2.13.2006 5:06am
Public_Defender:
Mac writes:
. . . If so, would stoning Donahue in the public square be sufficient or should the Church hierarchy and faithful burn him at the stake?
With hyperbole like this, I can see why you like Donahue.

Maybe people like you and Donahue believe stoning or stake burning should be suggested for wrongheaded ideas, but I'd be satisfied with a simple, "He's wrong" from as many cardinals and archbishops that have praised him.

As long as the American Catholic hierarchy lets Donahue use their name, it's fair to call them to account for his lunacy.
2.13.2006 5:59am
rhodeymark (mail):

Ginsburg dissented, explaining to Pogrebin, that 'a Jewish child who is passing by the Capitol' would surmise that 'this is a Christian country,' thus provoking the conclusion that 'There's something wrong with me.'

Is that projection - or just some passive bias? First Amendment decisions based on that logic are fundamentally flawed. BTW - what is the esteemed Eugene Volokh doing fisking a pro-life Catholic website anyway?
2.13.2006 9:06am
Mr Diablo:
Bill Donohue isn't a serious person, let's pray that his name never popeth up on volokh.com again.

That he takes a slight pause from rants about South Park to offer a South Park-level comprehension of intolerance should come as no surprise.
2.13.2006 1:51pm