Background Probability

The Agnostic Popular Front has moved to its new home at Skeptic Ink, and will henceforth be known as Background Probability. Despite the relocation and rebranding, we will continue to spew the same low-fidelity high-quality bullshit that you've come to expect.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Religious Endorsement versus Religious Liberty

Respecting recent government attempts to endorse Mosaic Law and Christian theology, there are three interrelated questions here and it is easy enough to get them confused. The first is a question of ethics, the second a question of state constitutional law, the third a question of federal constitutional law.

As to the question of ethics, I’ve always thought it hypocritical and indicative of shallow ethical thinking for anyone to claim that official government endorsement of their own religious views is perfectly ethical and should not be seen as a violation of anyone’s right to equal treatment under the law, even though they would think it obviously immoral for the government to erect a massive monument to any other religion. Imagine the hue and cry from the Christians if the government erected a massive homage stone mandating worship of Krishna, Buddha, or Allah (or even Jehovah, if monument indicated any Messiah other than their own). I’ve no doubt, also, that the consistent failure among Christians to see this as an obvious violation of the Golden Rule is little more than self-deception, the fruits of an unexamined life. Those that say they would be content living in a theocracy not of their own making are suffering from a failure of imagination, at best.

As to the question of state law, it is essentially where to draw the line between free expression of private faith and the government creating policies which have the effect of endorsing an official religion. In Oklahoma, that line could not be any clearer, as a matter of state constitutional law. Since both Commandments monuments would clearly and unequivocally make indirect use of “public money or property . . . for the use, benefit, or support of [a] system of religion” there is really very little to argue about here.

As to the federal question, one must look to the interpretations which the federal courts have put upon the Bill of Rights and the 14th Amendment. I’ve no time to go into detail right now, but suffice to say that the 10th Circuit issued a fine opinion in this case, and I’ll be surprised if SCOTUS grants cert (unless of course a sister circuit has by then created a split between the circuits).

In summary, Oklahoma’s monuments to ancient Hebrew religious dicta fail all three tests: the Golden Rule, the Oklahoma Constitution, and the Federal Constitution. It is time for the government (at every level) to move on to solving problems instead of creating them by introducing religious divisions into the discourse.

1 comment:

Rhology said...

Would it surprise you to hear that I don't get very excited about 10-Cmdmts monuments?

OTOH, the way that ACLU-iacs and atheists get all hyped up about it is amusing too.

[[Munches popcorn]]