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

30 March 2009

A Free Market of Ideas

By Diana Hsieh

Rob Abiera of The Morality War published an excellent letter in the Oklahoma Gazette last week in defense of separation of church and state in a capitalist economy:

In his article, "Conspiracy 'synthesis'", in the March 11th Oklahoma Gazette, Ben Fenwick quotes state Rep. Mike Ritze, R-Broken Arrow, referring to a plot to destroy "our economic basis of free enterprise".

Rep. Ritze's bill to put a monument to the Ten Commandments on the grounds of the state Capitol proves to me that he hasn't got the slightest idea what freedom really is, much less free enterprise.

What do people such as Ritze, state Rep. Sally Kern and state Sen. Randy Brogdon think would happen to religion under a system of completely free enterprise? Religions would have to compete on a free and open market just like everything else. That means laws granting favoritism to one religion over another would be forbidden, just as they currently are under the U.S. Constitution's separation of church and state.

That people such as Ritze don't see this and persist in attempting to tie their favorite religion to support for "free enterprise" is evidence enough for me that these people are no real friends of freedom - economic, religious or otherwise.

Rob Abiera
Oklahoma City

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16 March 2009

Justice in Saudi Arabia?

By Diana Hsieh

Here is theocracy in action: Saudis order 40 lashes for elderly woman for mingling.

A Saudi Arabian court has sentenced a 75-year-old Syrian woman to 40 lashes, four months imprisonment and deportation from the kingdom for having two unrelated men in her house, according to local media reports.

According to the Saudi daily newspaper Al-Watan, troubles for the woman, Khamisa Mohammed Sawadi, began last year when a member of the religious police entered her house in the city of Al-Chamli and found her with two unrelated men, "Fahd" and "Hadian."

Fahd told the policeman he had the right to be there, because Sawadi had breast-fed him as a baby and was therefore considered to be a son to her in Islam, according to Al-Watan. Fahd, 24, added that his friend Hadian was escorting him as he delivered bread for the elderly woman. The policeman then arrested both men.

Saudi Arabia follows a strict interpretation of Islam called Wahhabism and punishes unrelated men and women who are caught mingling. The Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, feared by many Saudis, is made up of several thousand religious policemen charged with duties such as enforcing dress codes, prayer times and segregation of the sexes. Under Saudi law, women face many restrictions, including a strict dress code and a ban on driving. Women also need to have a man's permission to travel.

Al Watan obtained the court's verdict and reported it was partly based on the testimony of the religious police. In his ruling, the judge said it was proved that Fahd is not Sawadi's son through breastfeeding. The court also doled out punishment to the two men. Fahd was sentenced to four months in prison and 40 lashes; Hadian was sentenced to six months in prison and 60 lashes. In a phone call with Al Watan, the judge declined to comment and suggested the newspaper review the case with the Ministry of Justice. Sawadi told the newspaper that she will appeal, adding that Fahd is indeed her son through breastfeeding.

A top Saudi human rights lawyer, Abdulrahman Al-Lahem, volunteered to defend the woman and the two men and has been given power of attorney by them. He told CNN he plans to file an appeal in the case next week.

Efforts to reach Saudi officials at the Justice Ministry, religious police and other agencies were unsuccessful. A spokesman for the Saudi embassy in Washington said he had no details on the case.

The case sparked anger in Saudi Arabia. "It's made everybody angry because this is like a grandmother," Saudi women's rights activist Wajeha Al-Huwaider told CNN. "Forty lashes -- how can she handle that pain? You cannot justify it."
This horrid story -- like so many others -- reminds of me of Ayn Rand's notable comment on the essence of civilization: "Civilization is the progress toward a society of privacy. The savage's whole existence is public, ruled by the laws of his tribe. Civilization is the process of setting man free from men."

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09 March 2009

Christian Love?

By Diana Hsieh

By what stretch of the imagination is the anti-abortion movement supposed to be "pro-life"? Forcing a nine-year-old girl to carry twins to term after she was raped for years by her stepfather is morally repugnant and rationally indefensible. Yet that is what the Catholic Church demands with its excommunication of the doctor who performed the abortion:

The Archbishop of the Brazilian city of Recife has announced the excommunication of a doctor who performed an abortion on a nine year old girl, as well as the family members who made the decision to carry out the procedure. The girl, whose name has not been revealed by the Brazilian media, was found to be pregnant with twins recently. Her stepfather has confessed that he began molesting her at the age of three and that he is the father of the child. He is under arrest pending an investigation of his relationship with his stepdaughter, as well as her 14 year old sister.

Although doctors at the hospital where the girl was initially admitted, Imip, reportedly said that her life was not in danger, her mother reportedly transferred her to another hospital, Cisam, that was willing to do the abortion, which is not penalized under Brazilian law because the girl was raped.

José Cardoso Sobrinho, Archbishop of Olinda and Recife, confirmed that while the child would not be held accountable for the act, the doctor who carried out the abortion and anyone who assisted or gave their approval were excommunicated by the Church. "To be subject to this penalty is it is necessary to be of age. The Church is very benevolent, especially with minors," the Archbishop told the media. "Now the adults, those who approved, who carried out this abortion, are excommunicated."

Sobrinho brushed aside the notion that the legality of the abortion under Brazilian law was a sufficient excuse for those involved. "The law of God is above all human law," he said. "Therefore, when a human law, meaning a law promulgated by human legislators, is contrary to the law of God, this human law has no value." Abortion, he said, is "homicide against innocent life. We are talking about a silent holocaust, that kills a one million innocents in Brazil and fifty million in the world every year, a holocaust worse than the six million Jews, which we lament every year."
Abortion is very much morally defensible based on the facts of pregnancy, as Ari Armstrong and I argued in our policy paper Amendment 48 Is Anti-Life.

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02 March 2009

Renfroe Should Resign Over Bigoted Remarks

By Ari

(Reposted:) In a just world, State Senator Scott Renfroe's constituents would rise up and throw the bum out of office. If he had a lick of sense, he would resign. Of course, if he had a lick of sense, he wouldn't have called homosexuality an abomination and a sin comparable to murder on the Senate floor in a blatant attack on church-state boundaries.

I have seen no sign of Renfroe's repentance, however, and so I call on the Republican Party of Colorado to publicly condemn Renfroe's remarks. It's the right thing to do, and it's also the prudent political move, if the GOP wishes to be taken seriously as a political force in Colorado.

At issue is a "bill to allow gay and lesbian state employees to share health benefits with their partners," reports the Denver Post. Here I do not wish to discuss the arguments for and against the bill, but only to condemn Renfroe's tirade against it.

Mike Littwin has written about the sorry affair for the Rocky Mountain News. And my good friends over at Progress Now Colorado, having actually discovered a wolf this time, have posted the entire speech on YouTube. Following is the complete transcript:

Transcript of State Senator Scott Renfroe's Speech to the Senate on February 23, 2009

Thank you madame chair. Members, I also come down here to oppose this bill. Look at some of the declarations in the bill, some of those arguments used here to do this, I guess.

Number One, is that there are employers that offer this are at a competitive advantage over those employers that do not offer such benefits. And, number one, employers, that's the private sector, and I believe in that choice, and the private sector should be allowed to do that. And businesses should have that opportunity to choose how they run their business and what they want to do.

The state, on the other hand, we are here to represent the people of Colorado, and do the state's business. And like Senator Brophy said, the state did actually speak almost directly to this issue two years ago, and the last three years we've had bills that contradict what the people of the state of Colorado voted on directly in 2006. So with that, I think that part of the declaration should be considered, in that what the will of the people was.

And, for me personally, I guess I oppose this bill because of what the vote of the people was. And then I also oppose this bill because of what my personal beliefs are. And I think that what our country was founded upon was those beliefs also.

You know, in the beginning, God created our Earth, and the structure for creation, when you have God, you have the Son, and then you have the Holy Spirit, you have that trinity. You also have that same trinity, which is in my opinion a mimic over to what we have within the family. You have the father, the husband, you have the wife, and then you have the children. And I think when you look at that scenario, that is what we were created for. And I think that's what the Bible says.

Through the whole beginning of Creation, it talks about how things were created, and that it was good, it was good, it was good. It says over and over, that it was good. Then we get to verse 18 in Genesis 2, "The Lord God said it is not good for man to be alone. And so he made him a helper, suitable for him. And that was woman."

And then if you go on, and talk about that, God blessed them and said, "Then be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea, over the birds, over the sky, over every living thing that moves on the earth."

And then in Genesis 9 he said to Noah again, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth." And I think that that goes back to this whole picture of family, which God created us for. And we need to honor that.

Homosexuality is seen as a violation of this natural, created order. And it is in a sense to God, the creator, who created men and women, male and female, for procreation.

Leviticus 18:22 says, "You shall not lie with a man as one lies with a female. It is an abomination."

Leviticus 20:13 says, "If there is a man who lies with a male as though to lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act, and they shall surely be put to death. Their bloodguiltness is upon them."

Then Romans 1:18: "For the wrath of God is revealed from Heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteous men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness."

And that's what we're doing here. We're suppressing the truth. The truth is what the family was created for in the beginning. That is the a husband, a wife, and children. And that is why we are here, and this goes against that. And this is just a continuation of the traction of the family.

And I say all that to back up my beliefs in where we're going with this. I believe government is here, we are here, to create the laws of our land, and when we create laws that goes against what Biblically we are supposed to stand for, I think we are agreeing or allowing to go forward a sin which should not be treated by government as something that is legal.

And that is what we are going to do with this, and what we've done in the past. We are taking sins and making them to be legally okay, and that is wrong. That is an abomination, according to scripture.

And I'm not saying that this is the only sin that's out there. Obviously we have sin, we have murder, we have all sorts of sin. We have adultery, and we don't making those legal, and we would never think to make murder legal.

But what I'm saying that for, is all sin is equal. That sin there is as equal to any other sin that's in the Bible, to having wandering eyes, to coveting your neighbor's things. Whatever you do, that sin is equal, and it can be forgiven because of that.

So with that, I think I need to go back and say that I stand in my belief, that this is wrong, and we should not condone it as a government. And I think the verses that I quoted you in Leviticus back that up in a strong way, and I'd ask you to vote no on this bill.
Renfroe here explicitly calls for the laws of Colorado to be based on Old Testament scripture. This, obviously, violates the separation of church and state. The proper purpose of government is to protect individual rights, not enforce religious dogma, whether or not the majority agrees with it. Murder and theft are properly illegal because they violate individual rights. Homosexuality between consenting adults does not. Moreover, many Coloradans reject Renfroe's religious views or his particular interpretation of Christianity.

For Renfroe to quote a religious text calling for the murder of homosexuals is outrageous, and it is wrong. It is no more appropriate than if a member of some other religion took the floor and read different texts calling for murder.

By Renfroe's account, the divine purpose of marriage is procreation. Never mind the fact that many heterosexual couples choose not to have children or cannot have them. Are their marriages similarly tainted in Renfroe's account?

Renfroe's claim that the 2006 election had anything to do with the bill at hand is nonsense. That year, voters banned gay marriage and voted against domestic partnerships. I think the majority was wrong on both counts, but that has no direct connection to extending benefits to the partners of state employees.

Renfroe's tirade illustrates why the Republicans are the minority party in Colorado. In attempting to impose their religious doctrines by force of law, such Republicans undermine individual rights and alienate mainstream voters.

Again I call on the Republican Party of Colorado to publicly condemn Renfroe's remarks. Whether the party does so will say a great deal about whether the party wishes to win competitive elections here again. And, more importantly, whether it deserves to win.

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