Our rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness
can only be secured by a state strictly separated from religion

31 July 2008

"Intelligent Design" in Louisiana Schools Not So Smart

By Gina Liggett

Louisiana recently passed the impressive-sounding Science Education Act. This law will allow teachers to use "supplemental materials" to promote the "open and objective discussion of scientific theories being studied including, but not limited to, evolution, the origins of life, global warming, and human cloning."

That might sound pretty good, given the deplorable state of science education in the public schools, but it's not. The purpose of this bill is to allow schools to teach Creationism in the science classrooms.

There are several reasons this is a bad idea.

(1) Creationism, the biblical explanation for the origins of the earth and life, is a religious story. The basic "text book" is the Bible. The story must be accepted on faith, and there is no way to use human methods of reason to test it. This is what religion is: accepting by faith alone the teachings of the church or religious leader.

(2) Darwin's explanation of evolution is the theory that the Creationists are fighting against. It is the brilliantly-discovered scientific explanation about how biological life on earth came about and evolved into the billions of different species we have now.

It is the unifying theory in biology and has been proved over and over again by the scientific method of observation, data collection, analysis, and explanation.

(3) Creationism and Evolution are not competing theories. Merely claiming, "that's what the bible says," does not constitute a valid explanation of the facts of our earth and the life on it.

(4) The bill's stated goal of teaching "critical thinking" will accomplish just the opposite. You cannot "critically think" about Creationism, because by definition it must be accepted on faith and merely learned and memorized.

When studying Evolution, on the other hand, students can learn the history of the painstaking "critical thinking" process Darwin undertook to collect data, analyse it and integrate it into a ground-breaking theory that has withstood the test of time. His was a process of reason: knowledge because of evidence--not a process of faith, which is belief in the absence of evidence.

And amazingly, we observe evolution happening now! For example, the development of antibiotic- and pesticide-resistant organisms has become a huge problem because these microbe species are evolving the characteristics to resist our medicines!

There is no amount of learning about Creationism that will teach students the skills necessary to go into careers to combat these modern threats to human health. A solid foundation in the facts of Evolution will be an absolute requirement to meet these challenges.

(5) This law is a blatant violation of the separation of church and state. The first amendment's freedom of religion does not grant advocacy groups the right to promulgate their religious beliefs in the public schools. I cannot imagine that many evangelical Christians would appreciate school boards requiring the teaching of Islamic Sharia laws in the classroom; it is likewise unacceptable to teach Christian stories in science class.

In summary: we are beings who must discover the truths of reality by a process of reason in order to survive. The faithful have no more choice about this fact of our existence than the non-faithful.

Teaching the myth of Creationism, which requires faith, alongside the science of evolution, which requires reason, will cause confusion in students' minds about what science is and why it's important. It will impair -- not enhance -- the development of their ability to think.

And finally, we must vigorously uphold the separation of church and state. That is the only way to protect the rights of the faithful and the freedom of the life-sustaining mind.

Read more...

30 July 2008

LTE: Embryos Are Not Persons

By Diana Hsieh

The Denver Post printed my letter to the editor on Colorado's proposed "Definition of a Person" Amendment (a.k.a. Amendment 48) on June 8th.

As printed, it reads:

I'm disheartened that the "personhood" amendment has gathered the signatures required to appear on the ballot. A woman's fundamental right to control her own body, including her right to terminate or sustain a pregnancy, should not depend on majority vote. This would violate that right in spades, based on the fantasy that an embryo is equal to an infant. It would force a woman to provide life support to any fertilized egg -- even at the risk of her life and health and even if ruinous to her goals and dreams. It would make actual persons -- any woman capable of bearing children, plus her husband or boyfriend -- slaves to merely potential persons. That kind of moral evil has no place in a modern society; it deserves to be soundly defeated at the polls in November.

Diana Hsieh, Sedalia

Read more...

29 July 2008

Christian Stonings?

By Diana Hsieh

In my last post, I reported on the impending stoning of people for sexual offenses in Iran.

So would Christian theocracy be any more civilized? Surely not. The Hebrew Bible harshly condemns supposedly deviant sexual behavior as abominable to God. For example:

If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbour, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall be put to death.

The man who lies with his father's wife has uncovered his father's nakedness; both of them shall be put to death; their blood is upon them.

If a man lies with his daughter-in-law, both of them shall be put to death; they have committed perversion; their blood is upon them.

If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death; their blood is upon them.

If a man takes a wife and her mother also, it is depravity; they shall be burned to death, both he and they, that there may be no depravity among you.

If a man has sexual relations with an animal, he shall be put to death; and you shall kill the animal.

If a woman approaches any animal and has sexual relations with it, you shall kill the woman and the animal; they shall be put to death, their blood is upon them. (Leviticus 20:10-16)
The evangelical Christians seeking to transform the United States into a Christian nation have not renounced those passages. (How could they, if the Bible is the unerring word of God?) Instead, they frantically oppose any and all attempts to portray and treat homosexuals as normal people. For example, see this response to a Heinz ad featuring a gay couple. Any recognition of the fact that gays can and do form loving families is horrifying to them; it must be squelched -- now.

The Christian theocrats are not concerned to uphold and protect individual rights. They care only for God's will. As Colorado's Amendment 48 shows, they seek to impose God's law on everyone by force, including dissenters and disbelievers. That, combined with their obsessive dehumanization of gays, leads me to believe that Christian theocracy would be no more tolerant of homosexuals than the Islamic theocracy of Iran.

It's a frightful prospect.

Read more...

28 July 2008

Stonings in Iran

By Diana Hsieh

If you wish to know the ugly face of theocracy, you need look no further than Iran:

At least eight women and one man have been sentenced to be stoned to death in Iran and may be executed at any time, the lawyers defending several of those sentenced said today. The eight women, ranging in age from 27 to 43, had convictions including prostitution, incest and adultery. ...

Judiciary officials were not immediately available for comment. But the Iranian authorities routinely dismiss charges of rights abuses, saying they are acting on Islamic sharia law. ...

According to Iran's Islamic penal code, men convicted of adultery should be buried up to their waists and women up to their chests for stoning. Stones used should not be large enough to kill the person immediately.
In a theocratic state, unsanctioned sex always tops the list of offenses. The purely private, selfish, earthly pleasure of sex is intolerable to those seeking to impose God's will on a nation. People in the throes of sexual ecstasy -- particularly if protected by biology or birth control from the fear of pregnancy -- aren't fearing God and his earthly representatives, nor castigating themselves as unworthy, sinful creatures. They are celebrating the joy possible to humans in this early life.

The theocrats -- whatever their religion -- are never pleased by that. Hence, stonings.

Update: Don't miss the next post on the prospect of Christian stonings.

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25 July 2008

Bad News from South Dakota

By Diana Hsieh

A few days ago, the Washington Post reported some very bad news from South Dakota for abortion rights, freedom of speech, and the integrity of the doctor-patient relationship:

In a victory for antiabortion forces, doctors in South Dakota are now required to tell a woman seeking an abortion that the procedure "will terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique living human being."

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit last week lifted a preliminary injunction that prevented the language from taking effect. A spokesman for Planned Parenthood, which runs the state's only abortion clinic, said doctors will begin reciting the script to patients as early as this week. ...

The doctors' script that officially took effect Friday has been tied up in court since 2005, when Planned Parenthood challenged a law that instructed physicians what to tell abortion patients. Under the law, doctors must say that the woman has "an existing relationship" with the fetus that is protected by the U.S. Constitution and that "her existing constitutional rights with regards to that relationship will be terminated." Also, the doctor is required to say that "abortion increases the risk of suicide ideation and suicide."

The message must be delivered no earlier than two hours before the procedure. The woman must say in writing that she understands.
It's false that an embryo or fetus is a "a whole, separate, unique living human being." The fetus exists inside the woman, wholly dependent on her for biological life-support. If the fetus were indeed "separate" from the woman, she could simply transfer its care to someone else, just as a new mother can adopt out an unwanted infant. Yet that's not possible -- precisely because the fetus is encased in the woman, unable to sustain its basic life functions without her.

To grant an embryo or fetus a right to life transforms women into slaves to the merest clump of human cells. A woman would be obliged to provide life-support for those cells, whatever the financial, emotional, or medical cost to herself. That's not just morally wrong; it's morally monstrous.

The state has no business forcing women to sacrifice themselves for the sake of a biological accident. It has no business forcing doctors to utter gross falsehoods to their patients to scare them away from a perfectly legal and moral means of terminating a pregnancy.

Instead, the state should uphold and protect a woman's absolute right to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. That's the only position consistent with the biological facts of pregnancy and the principle of individual rights.

Postscript

Christian news services are gleefully reporting that South Dakota is now an abortion-free state because Planned Parenthood's doctors refuse to lie to their patients about the nature and consequences of abortion. This looks like it might be a new legal strategy for the anti-abortionists:
"The closing of this clinic is historic in that South Dakota is, for the time being, the first abortion-free state," said Operation Rescue President Troy Newman. "It didn't take the overturning of Roe v. Wade, and it didn't take a new President or a new Supreme Court. It took the courageous determination of pro-life heroes like Mr. Cassidy and the Unruhs who saw an opportunity to save lives and pressed on until their dream became victory."

"We applaud their efforts and encourage other states to emulate their campaign," said Newman.
I'm sure the anti-abortionists will learn from this victory -- and that's a scary thought.

UPDATE:

The theocrats are wrong on the facts, yet again. Folks on the ground in South Dakota tell me the following:
The Planned Parenthood here in Sioux Falls remains open, and continues providing services to women and families. This fact has not gotten in the way of a story fabricated by Dr. Alan Unruh to the contrary, as well as echoes of Dr. Unruh's mis-truth in the socially conservative blogophere.
That's good news.

Read more...

24 July 2008

Feds Broaden Definition of Abortion

By Paul Hsieh

This story in the UK Reuters newsfeed discusses US federal attempts to broaden the definition of abortion:

Family planning groups object to abortion plan

Family planning groups and at least one member of Congress objected on Tuesday to a Bush administration memo that defines several widely used contraception methods as abortion...

The proposal circulated to media defines abortion broadly to include many types of contraception, including birth control pills and intrauterine devices...

A copy of a memo that appears to be an HHS draft provided to Reuters, carries a broad definition of abortion.

"The Department proposes to define abortion as 'any of the various procedures -- including the prescription and administration of any drug or the performance of any procedure or any other action -- that results in the termination of the life of a human being in utero between conception and natural birth, whether before or after implantation,"' it said.

Conception occurs when egg and sperm unite in the fallopian tubes. It takes three to four days before the fertilized egg implants in the uterus. Several birth control methods interfere with this, including the birth control pill and IUDs.
As a separate point, I don't believe medical providers should be required by law to perform abortions or provide medical services that violate their personal religious convictions. But this is a reason to support a free market in health care.

In fact, a free market in health care services would be one of the best ways to protect against government imposition of religion values in medical services, just as a free market in education (where individuals can establish up private schools that are either secular or religious) is the best way to protect against imposition of religious dogma in a state-run education system. But that's a separate issue.

Read more...

23 July 2008

Religious Freedom in the Military

By Diana Hsieh

The Ayn Rand Institute recently released an excellent press release on church-state separation. It reads:

An active-duty soldier has sued the Department of Defense, alleging discrimination by the U.S. Army on the basis of his atheism. Specialist Jeremy Hall claims that, for example, he was ostracized by Christian soldiers when he refused to hold hands around the table and join in a Christian prayer at Thanksgiving. His federal lawsuit asserts he was also kicked off the promotion track for lacking religious faith.

"This lawsuit highlights one aspect of the insidious process by which the religious right's 'faith-based' agenda is corrupting American institutions," said Thomas Bowden, an analyst at the Ayn Rand Institute. "In the faith-friendly atmosphere of the Bush administration, religionists are taking big swings at the wall of separation between church and state. The allegations in this suit are consistent with recent controversies over evangelical proselytizing at the Air Force Academy and mealtime prayers at the Naval Academy.

"The military is duty-bound to actively shield its soldiers from ostracism and persecution such as that alleged in Specialist Hall's suit. Servicemen, like all Americans, are legally and morally entitled to exercise freedom of thought, which includes the freedom to accept or reject religion according to their own best judgment.

"In their interactions, soldiers should be required to cooperate based on their common values--a patriotic commitment to America's self-defense and to carrying out the specific tasks that goal requires. Religious dogma only undermines such rational cooperation, as centuries of faith-based warfare and persecution demonstrate.

"The religious right must be put in its place before it irreparably damages the wall between church and state. Americans are entitled to expect that the military, the courts, and the President will unite in protecting the First Amendment rights of all citizens. That means opposing, not promoting, attempts to inject religion into American institutions such as the armed forces."
For a stunning example of rule by scripture in the military, consider the following example. In October 1997, then-outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff clarified his view of gays in the military to the Senate by asserting that any homosexual with a sex life should be banned from the military because homosexual activity is contrary to God's law. You'll find the details (and quotes) in this NoodleFood post.

Happily, an organization devoted to promoting religious freedom in the military does exist: Military Religious Freedom Foundation. (You can read their mission statement here.)

Read more...

22 July 2008

Why The Republicans Have Lost My Vote

By Paul Hsieh

Over the past few days, I've sent letters to multiple county and state officials of the Colorado Republican Party, asking for them to support a strict separation of church and state. I wanted to let them know that their alliance with the Religious Right was costing them votes from former supporters such as myself.

Given that I believe that the Republicans will lose in 2008 here in the "purple" swing state of Colorado, I believe that it's important that they hear that particular message now (before the election) and later (after the election) -- specifically, that they lost because they were too religious.

In particular, I don't want the only message they receive coming from the evangelical Christians telling them that they lost because they were not religious enough.

Some analysts such as Ryan Sager (author of The Elephant in the Room: Evangelicals, Libertarians, and the Battle to Control the Republican Party) have said that Colorado will be "Ground Zero" in the battle over the future of the Republican Party. Sager also believes that the Republicans will lose in Colorado if they continue to embrace the religionists. As they should.

The relevant excerpt from my most recent letter is below. Although I don't think I will necessarily change the minds any of the current local party leaders, it's still important for them to know that there are people who oppose them mixing religion with politics. I also wanted to articulate a positive vision of America that I do support, one which should resonate with the better Republicans:

...My parents came to America over 40 years ago as legal immigrants from Taiwan. They had very little money, but they came to America because they wanted to make a better life for themselves. Over the years, they worked hard, lived frugally, saved enough money to send two sons to college and medical school, and are now happily and comfortably retired in Los Angeles. From them, I learned a deep appreciation for America as the "land of opportunity". America is a beacon of hope to millions of people around the world precisely because it has a system of government which allows honest, hard-working people such as my parents to thrive and prosper. Our system of government is a testament to the genius of the Founding Fathers, who recognized that the proper function of government is protect individual rights, such as the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Consequently, I don't believe that one should ground principles of government in faith. Instead, they can and should be grounded in observable objective facts about human nature -- specifically our need to use our minds to think and live. Man's essential nature requires that he uses his reasoning mind to create the values necessary for sustaining his life. Hence, the basic purpose of a government is to protect a man's right to produce and to voluntarily trade with others for the products of their thought and labor. Protecting individual rights means protecting men from those who would use force to predate on others -- i.e., protecting Americans from external enemies who would wage war on us as well as from internal criminals who would use force to steal, murder, commit rape, etc. But apart from that, the government should leave honest people alone - which is why our government properly protects our right to free speech, the right to keep and bear arms, the rights of property and contract, and the right to worship freely.

In particular, a person's religious faith should not enter into issues of government. Instead, the government's role is to protect each person's right to practice his or her religion as a private matter and to forbid them from forcibly imposing their particular views on others. And this is precisely why I find the influence of the Religious Right on the Republican Party to be so dangerous. If someone chooses not to get an abortion for reasons of personal faith, then I completely respect her right to live by her beliefs. But she should not impose her particular religious stance on others. Other women must have the right to decide that deeply personal issue for themselves. The Religious Right's goal to outlaw abortions would violate that important right, and sacrifice the lives of actual women for clumps of cells that are only potential (but not yet actual) human beings, based on a religious dogma. As a physician, I find that position abhorrent and deeply anti-life.

The Religious Right's positions on other issues, such as banning stem cell research and same sex marriage are similarly troubling because it advocates using the power of the government to interfere with individual rights. I already see enough of that kind of harmful nonsense from the Democrats.

Hence, I think the Republican Party stands at an important crossroads. The Republican Party could choose to follow the principles of the American Founding Fathers and promote a limited government that protects individual rights but otherwise leaves people alone to live their lives. In that case, I would happily suppport it. Separation of church and state is a natural (and essential) consequence of that approach. Or the Republican Party could choose instead to embrace the Religious Right and enshrine into law the religious values of one particular constituency over others (thus violating everyone else's rights). In that case, it will alienate many voters and do tremendous harm to our great country.

Even though I can no longer regard myself as a Republican, I definitely regard myself as a loyal American. Hence, I believe the Republican Party should choose the first path -- the path of limited government, strict separation of church and state, and protection of individual rights. This is the America that brought my parents from a ocean away in hopes of a better life for themselves and their children. This is the America I want to live in. And this is the America I want the Republican Party to support.

Thank you for your consideration,
Paul Hsieh, MD
That letter was a response to an earlier e-mail I received from the secretary of my local county Republican Party, which I am posting below with his permission. In particular, he states that faith should be the basis of morality, and he explains his stance on abortion which essentially reflects the standard conservative Christian view. Here is an excerpt of his earlier letter:
...You seem to suggest that the opposition to stem-cell research and abortion places the GOP "in bed" with the religious right. Why this may appear to be the truth, there is an underlying connection that you are failing to acknowledge. The Republican Party upholds the founding principles of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, as the founding fathers specifically cited as rights Endowed by the Creator (Nature’s God, to be exact). These are rights not given, but endowed -- bestowed upon every human to protect. The idea of the endowment of Life is not new and not owned exclusively by the religious right. In the spirit of following the intent of the founders, and embracing their understanding of basic human rights, the Republican Party must uphold the Right of Life.

Inasmuch, the question is begged: When does life begin? Therein lies the debate.

In accordance with the 14th amendment, the rights of the founding documents are applicable to those "born" in the United States. That word would seem to indicate that a fetus of any gestational age is therefore without rights. This is the basis of the Roe decision in the Supreme Court. However, as a doctor, you should well understand that a fetus is very much alive and responsive to their environment from a fairly early gestational age, regardless of their ability to survive independent of their mother at the time. With the complexity of life in gestation, it serves humanity to better define Life -- not limiting life to begin merely at birth. Therefore we are in support of the Right of Life, as we consider life to exist during gestation.

Barack Obama has shown in his political career that he shows almost no compassion for life in the womb, supporting late term abortion and referring to children as a punishment. Having lost our first pregnancy, my wife and I are happy to have recently delivered our first child -- rest assured we do not feel punished. My brother and his wife also recently gave birth to their first child, who has been diagnosed with Propionic Acidemia -- and rest assured, they do not value his life any less, nor feel punished. I would assume that Mr. Obama would consider such a child a burden on society and the parents -- most likely he would suggest such a fetus be discarded. But is it not the challenge of life that should cause us to persevere... perhaps this young child holds the key to medical research that could aid in curing this and other genetic defects. Where Obama sees punishment and burden, I choose to see opportunity. This is a fundamental difference between me and the Senator -- and I would imagine that this is a similar difference between the Senator and a majority of Republicans who continue to fight, not because it is easy, rather because it is right.

The Republican Party does not openly nor privately advocate for any one religion, but we are advocates against the absence of faith from the lives of Americans. We are not a Christian organization, merely an organization that supports and endorses the existence of faith as a basis of morality -- not in government, but in the lives and hearts of the individual, at their own request and choosing. I personally could never be part of an organization that openly endorsed a state religion (such as the Constitution Party which openly supports naming Christianity as the official religion of the US). Furthermore, you will notice that the ranks of the GOP are filled with many people of faith, from many different religions. We support them all...

Sincerely,
Steven M Nielson
Secretary, Douglas County Republican Party

Read more...

21 July 2008

GOP Platform Website

By Paul Hsieh

The Republican Party is apparently requesting voter input on the GOP Platform 2008 website.

Over the past few months, I have told several local non-religious Republicans that I can't support the party, including one of the delegates to the state convention. He runs a small coffee cart in the building where I work and is a prototypical hard-working small businessman. He is also frustrated by the dominance of the religious conservatives in the party, so I told him where I stood in hopes that it would give him some moral support to more forcefully advocate his own views at the Party convention.

Local writer Ari Armstrong has noted that the Colorado Republicans know that they are being hurt badly by their support of religious causes. It may not make a perceivable difference in 2008, but I think it's important for them to know that there is a group of voters whom they are alienating precisely because the party is mixing religion and politics. If the Republicans think that courting the religionists has only an upside without a downside, then they'll keep doing it. But if they start recognizing that there is a downside, then it might spark more badly-needed internal discussion.

Hence, I decided to log on to the GOP Platform site and leave comments under the sections for "Abortion", "Religious Liberty", "Same Sex Marriage", and "Other" including a couple of links to Ayn Rand's essays on government and rights from the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights website.

I don't expect any specific or immediate response from them. But as usual, you never know when the right idea might reach the right mind. Here are a couple of represenative comments:

The Republican Party must promote the strict separation of church and state. I used to support the Republican Party because I believe in individual rights, free markets, a strong national defense, and the right to keep and bear arms.

However, the Republican Party alliance with the religious right on "social issues" like stem cell research, abortion and gay marriage has turned off many former supporters such as myself.

Americans have a right to practice their religion as a purely private matter, and I defend everyone's right to do so.

But the government should not force one group's religious views on everyone. Hence, I no longer have a home in any political party. To paraphrase a quote from Ronald Reagan, "I didn't leave the Republican Party, the Republican Party left me."

(This should not be taken as any kind of endorsement of Barack Obama - I find his policies loathsome and anti-American.)

Paul Hsieh, MD
Sedalia, CO
And
The Republican Party must promote the strict separation of church and state. I used to support the Republican Party because I believe in individual rights, free markets, a strong national defense, and the right to keep and bear arms.

However, the Republican Party alliance with the religious right on "social issues" like abortion and gay marriage has turned off many former supporters such as myself.

The proper function of the government is to protect individual rights, as philosopher Ayn Rand notes:

"Man's Rights"
http://www.aynrand.org/site/PageServer?pagename=arc_ayn_rand_man_rights

"The Nature of Government"
http://www.aynrand.org/site/PageServer?pagename=arc_ayn_rand_the_nature_of_government

The government should not force one group's religious views on everyone. Hence, I no longer have a home in any political party. To paraphrase a quote from Ronald Reagan, "I didn't leave the Republican Party, the Republican Party left me."
(Crossposted from NoodleFood.)

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18 July 2008

GOP Platform: Speak Out

By Diana Hsieh

The Republican Platform Committee is soliciting comments on issues pertaining to the 2008 GOP platform. It's an excellent opportunity to clearly and forcefully advocate that the Republicans uphold the separation of church and state based on the secular principles of individual rights.

To submit a comment:

  1. Create an account, then check your e-mail for your login and password. Go back to the web site and login in the upper right-hand corner of the page.

  2. Click on "Submit a Text Entry" in the upper right-hand corner of the page. Write your own comment on church-state separation. (You might wish to compose the message in a text file, so that you can post versions of it in multiple categories.)

  3. In the menu for "Issue Category," select "Protecting American Values." Then a new submenu appears. Select "Religious Liberty." (You can also submit your comment -- or some modified version of it -- to the "Abortion", "Stem Cell Research", "Same Sex Marriage", and "Faith-Based Organizations" categories.)

  4. Hit the submit button!
Here are some examples of stellar submissions from supporters of the separation of church and state:

From Doug Krening:
It is impossible to protect our religious liberty as well as all of our individual rights unless we endorse the strict separation of church and state.

This is the single most important issue of our time. It eclipses the war against islamic fundamentalists, energy issues, health care, social security etc. Because religion in government always leads to disastrous theocracy. Always.

The proper role of government is to protect the individual rights of its citizens. In order to do so, all laws must be derived from the realities of this world. To let any one group's religious beliefs dictate law strikes at the very heart of the liberties which government must protect. Religious government is anathema to religious liberty.

I have been a Republican for my entire voting life, but cannot endorse the GOP currently because of it's explicit endorsement of religion in government.
From Hannah Krening:
As a Republican since 1976, I am disillusioned, largely because of the party's abandonment of individual liberty in favor of religion in politics. Separation of church and state should be part of the Republican agenda, as religion has no part in the law of the land. Religious fundamentalism is a threat to individual liberty and is not true to the original principles of our founders or our party. One can stand for freedom to practice religion (or not) but stand against laws restricting reproductive freedom, teaching faith (creationism) as if it was science in public schools, legislating sexual issues, etc. It is dismaying to see the religious right become a driving force in the Republican Party. I am not alone in this; most Republicans I know feel alienated from the party on this issue. Living in a swing state, I believe that this issue needs to be revisited, as we have a lot to lose if Democrats increase their power.
From Ken Barclay:
My family has always voted Republican. The Party has changed in recent years.

The important issue: the Republican Party must stand for strict separation of church and state.

But the Party has now allied itself with the religious right, with such pet issues as anti-stem-cell research, anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage.

I will not vote Republican under such terms. Protection of individual rights is the most important political issue. Citizens have the right to indulge in their religion, but only privately. There is no right to force one's religious views on others, as the religious right hopes to do through the Republican Party.

My hope is for the Party to get back to issues of individual rights, national defense, and free markets. Leave the "social" issues to Americans' free choice. Until then, the Party will not have my vote.
From Paul Hsieh:
The Republican Party must promote the strict separation of church and state. I used to support the Republican Party because I believe in individual rights, free markets, a strong national defense, and the right to keep and bear arms.

However, the Republican Party alliance with the religious right on "social issues" like stem cell research, abortion and gay marriage has turned off many former supporters such as myself.

Americans have a right to practice their religion as a purely private matter, and I defend everyone's right to do so.

But the government should not force one group's religious views on everyone. Hence, I no longer have a home in any political party. To paraphrase a quote from Ronald Reagan, "I didn't leave the Republican Party, the Republican Party left me."

(This should not be taken as any kind of endorsement of Barack Obama - I find his policies loathsome and anti-American.)
Finally, here's my own submission:
15 years ago, the GOP attracted me for its commitment to free markets and fiscal responsibility, even if only half-hearted. Today, the GOP has lost my vote due to its dangerous entanglement with evangelical Christianity.

The GOP should reject any attempt to inject religion into politics as a violation of individual rights, particularly freedom of religion and conscience. It should uphold a strict separation of church and state.

It is immoral to force a person to comply with Biblical laws -- such as restrictions on abortion and discrimination against gays.

It is immoral to force a person to fund religion with his tax dollars -- as with "faith-based initiatives" and intelligent design in public schools.

The only proper government is a secular government devoted to the protection of individual rights. When the GOP upholds that principle in its platform, I will vote for its candidates again.
Given Barak Obama's goal of expanding faith-based initiatives, the Democrats can and ought to be criticized on this issue too. America doesn't need its two political parties stumbling over each other to see who can tear down the wall of separation between church and state the fastest.

Read more...

16 July 2008

Washington Post on Amendment 48

By Diana Hsieh

The Washington Post has a news article on Colorado's "Definition of a Person" Amendment. The article rightly suggests that some of its advocates are being less-than-up-front about the legal implications of the amendment, even for abortion:

The ballot initiative is funded by Colorado for Equal Rights, a grass-roots antiabortion organization. Its purpose, initiative sponsor Kristi Burton said, is to lay a legal and legislative basis for protecting the unborn. Its passage would also open the door to modifying other laws for the same purpose, she said.

As to what laws could then be modified, Burton would not elaborate. "We try not to focus on some of the issues that will be taken care of later on," she said, repeatedly saying that the amendment is not aimed at outlawing abortion.

But that is the objective, according to one of the measure's biggest supporters, Colorado Right to Life. "The goal is to restore legal protection to preborn babies from the moment they are conceived, which is the only way we're going to stop abortion," said Leslie Hanks, vice president of the group.
A constitutional amendment granting full legal rights to fertilized eggs would have serious legal ramifications -- not just for abortion, but also birth control, in vitro fertilization, and medical research. For its advocates to refuse to discuss those legal effects -- and worse, to pretend as if they won't happen -- is disheartening. By refusing to engage in honest debate about the impact of the amendment on Colorado laws, these cagey supporters ensure that many voters will go to the polls largely ignorant of the implications of their "yes" vote.

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14 July 2008

McCain on Adoption: Gay Couples Need Not Apply

By Diana Hsieh

Presidential candidate John McCain would prefer a child to remain in foster care than be adopted by a gay couple:

Q: President Bush believes that gay couples should not be permitted to adopt children. Do you agree with that?

Mr. McCain: I think that we've proven that both parents are important in the success of a family so, no I don't believe in gay adoption.

Q: Even if the alternative is the kid staying in an orphanage, or not having parents.

Mr. McCain: I encourage adoption and I encourage the opportunities for people to adopt children I encourage the process being less complicated so they can adopt as quickly as possible. And Cindy and I are proud of being adoptive parents.

Q: But your concern would be that the couple should a traditional couple?

Mr. McCain: Yes.
Homosexuality is a neutral trait: a person can be good or evil, worthy or unworthy, competent or incompetent, law-abiding or criminal -- whatever his sexual orientation. A proper government should never discriminate against homosexuals. To do so is a violation of a person's right, as an individual, to be treated equally before the law.

Government discrimination against homosexuals in the case of adoption is particularly egregious, as a gay couple may be a child's only chance to settle into a loving, stable home. Proper government policy on adoption should only concern the fitness of individual parents. Homosexuality is not a legitimate disqualifier: psychological studies show that kids do as well with homosexual parents as with heterosexual parents.

Lamentably, prejudice against homosexuals remains entrenched in American government at all levels, largely due to the persistent (and growing) influence of religion in government. Christian scripture condemns homosexuality. According to Leviticus 18:22, homosexuality is an "abomination" to God. Based on such judgments from on high, government officials -- heedless of the proper wall of separation between their private religious views and government policy -- think themselves justified in discrimination against homosexuals as a group. To that end, they're willing to deprive children of loving, stable homes.

That's wrong -- morally wrong. It should be opposed, not just by homosexuals wishing to adopt. It should be opposed by every advocate of the separation of church and state.

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11 July 2008

Amendment 48

By Diana Hsieh

In the November 2008 election, Colorado voters will be able to vote on a proposed "Definition of a Person" amendment to the Colorado constitution. The amendment is as follows:

Amendment 48

Definition of Person

Ballot Title: An amendment to the Colorado constitution defining the term "person" to include any human being from the moment of fertilization as "person" is used in those provisions of the Colorado constitution relating to inalienable rights, equality of justice, and due process of law.

Text of Proposal:

Be it Enacted by the People of the State of Colorado:

SECTION 1. Article II of the constitution of the state of Colorado is amended BY THE ADDITION OF A NEW SECTION to read:

Section 31. Person defined. AS USED IN SECTIONS 3, 6, AND 25 OF ARTICLE II OF THE STATE CONSTITUTION, THE TERMS "PERSON" OR "PERSONS" SHALL INCLUDE ANY HUMAN BEING FROM THE MOMENT OF FERTILIZATION.
This amendment was approved for the ballot on May 29th, 2008 with 103,377 valid signatures. (76,047 signatures were needed.)

If approved, this amendment would outlaw all abortions whatsoever -- even when the mother's life is at risk. It would outlaw any form of birth control which prevents implantation of a fertilized egg, such as the pill. It would imperil in vitro fertilization, because extra frozen embryos would be considered persons with full legal rights, including inheritance rights (!).

Significantly, the advocates of this amendment such as Colorado Right to Life and Colorado for Equal Rights offer no secular justification for their views. They defend this amendment on the grounds that abortion is contrary to God's law, as is evident from their liberal quoting of scripture.

The Coalition for Secular Government opposes this amendment -- and we will fight it vigorously between now and the election. To force the people of Colorado -- whatever their religious views -- to live by the dictates of Christian scripture violates every person's freedom of religion. To base laws on religious dogma rather than on secular, reality-based principles of individual rights violates the principle of separation of church and state.

A woman has an inalienable right to control her own reproductive functions by whatever means she chooses, including by abortion, birth control, and in vitro fertilization. Embryos and fetuses are not persons; they are not biologically independent creatures but encased within and wholly dependent on the woman. To grant them legal rights would flagrantly violate a woman's liberty rights over her own body.

The preservation of reproductive rights and secular government in Colorado depends on Colorado voters sending a clear message to the theocrats in November: "No, NO, HELL NO on 48."

Postscript

Thanks to the good sense of Colorado voters and the hard work of all who opposed it, Amendment 48 was defeated resoundingly: a whopping 73% against and just 27% in favor. Hooray! Thank you, Colorado!

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09 July 2008

The Mission of the Coalition for Secular Government

By Diana Hsieh

The Coalition for Secular Government advocates government solely based on secular principles of individual rights. The protection of a person's basic rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness -- including freedom of religion and conscience -- requires a strict separation of church and state.

Consequently:

  1. We oppose any laws or policies based on religious scripture or dogma, such as restrictions on abortion and government discrimination against homosexuals.
  2. We oppose any government promotion of religion, such as the teaching of intelligent design in government schools and tax-funded "faith-based initiatives."
  3. We oppose any special exemptions or privileges based on religion by government, such as exemptions for churches from the tax law applicable to other non-profits.
The only proper government is a secular government devoted to the protection of individual rights.

The Coalition for Secular Government seeks to educate the public about the necessary secular foundation of a free society, particularly the principles of individual rights and separation of church and state.

Currently, the Coalition's primary aim is to promote secular government in Colorado by fighting the proposed "Definition of a Person" Amendment (a.k.a. Amendment 48) to the Colorado constitution.

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