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Category Archives: Civil Liberties

There is certainly a lot of talk about the American Constitution these days. Obama, of course, has throw it out the window, according to the Tea Party. The illegal aliens are abusing it according to conservative Republicans. And California’s Proposition 8 tramples it, according to the district  judge who just overruled this democratically established law. Of course, these same constitutional villians have the temerity to appeal to this very Constitution for their side’s views, as well. The rightwing has the tendency to argue that because of our “representative” form of  government that governance should match the weekly Gallup pole rather than the results of the last election. If the majority of the country, according to polling  data, oppose Obamacare, then no Obamacare. It is so obvious! The Religious Right agree (depending on the issue) but add that this is a “Christian nation” and therefore biblical standards are implied in our founding documents. There’s a lot of wishful thinking in this argument, to be sure. So, they argue, if homosexuality is an sin according to the Good Book, then no marriage for gays. Black and white. Right? Of course, I don’t hear a lot of support for stoning heterosexuals who commit adultery, a much more clear biblical mandate. The Religious Left have their “constitutional” arguments as well. While they are very happy to marry two men in a Christian ceremony, this is not the issue, they insist. The issue is civil marriage, they point out. Separation of church and state and all that. Why, it’s the very governing principle that our Protestant founders hard-wired into the Constitution. Shouldn’t gays and lesbians have the same right to the pursuit of happiness as the straight community? And isn’t it the role of government to protect the liberties of the minorities against the prejudices of the majority? It’s stage two of the civils rights movement! It is all so self-evident––to quote one of these devout founding fathers. So this constitution of ours must be a pretty broad document for it to be interpreted in so differently, huh? And that’s  the thing about our beloved constitution that some of us love. And the rest of us, cannot stand.

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Freedom of religion is complicated business. More complicated these days because of something called “tolerance.” Look as you may, you won’t find the “T” word in any of our founding documents. Because tolerance––in the way that it is popularly conceived–doesn’t seem to tolerate many of the built-in disagreements various religions historically have had with each other. To say nothing of religions’ varigated positions on you lovely heathen. Which brings us to the congregants of Topeka’s Westboro Baptist Church––a faithful band of true believers who truly believe that GOD HATES FAGS. Not something you will run across in the anathemas of Trent, but then again, not something entirely inconsistent with the sacred writings’ conspicuous intolerance for all things kinky. (You may recall, that nasty Sodom and Gomorrah business.) Be that as it may, it seems that a federal judge has recently put a $5 million lien on Rev Phelps’ tax-exempt temple. According to the story, his church is being sued for their colorful devout behavior: Showing up with their banners and signs at the funerals of gay men. Which sounds as much like a freedom of speech issue, as a freedom of religion one. And it appears the government is clearly trying to limit both. So perhaps the moral of the story is that even free speech has it’s limitations. You can’t yell “fire” in a crowded theater. And you better not yell at gays period. Especially the dead ones.

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That’s right. Waterboarding may look barbaric, but it is actually the CIA’s most effective weapon against terrorism. And George W. Bush is making darn sure that it stays legal. It’s just amazing the crazy stuff we can get these detainees to admit to mid-drowning! Golly, it’s effective! Yessir, the Spanish Inquistion has nothing on us. By, the way I’ve heard burning people alive can also work its magic. You know, something we can fall back on when there’s water rationing or something. Just a thought.

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Blasphemy has always been a tricky business. Jesus instructed his rag-tag band of understudies to avoid swearing oaths. The ancient rabbis were so gun shy about taking the Lord’s name in vain that they exorcised Yahweh of all His vowels. But Malaysian attempts to put a lid on blasphemous behavior has left Christians in a bit of a fix. Apparently, Malaysia’s Islamic-dominated government has outlawed the willy nilly use of “allah”–Arabic’s generic term for “god.” Maybe if clueless school teachers didn’t allow their students to name the classroom’s stuff teddy “Mohamed” these sort of things wouldn’t happen. Nevertheless, it puts the Church in a bit of a pickle. You see, the word for Jehovah in the Arabic Bible has always been Allah. Like, ever since there were Arabic Bibles. So while Western evangelicals are all in your face about how Muslims and Christians worship different gods, the saints in Malaysia are up in arms arguing that Allah is the name of their God, too. In fact, the Evangelical Church of Borneo has taken legal action against the government. Which I guess is only human nature. We evangelical Christians don’t want Allah forced upon our theological pedestal. But try and take Him away from us, and you’ll have a fight on your hands.

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TIME magazine has just named Vladimir Putin, TIME’s Person of the Year. Attaboy, Vladdy! According to TIME editor, Richard Stengel, “[Putin] doesn’t care about civil liberties, he doesn’t care about free speech. He has no charm. He is just pure force and pure force of will.” (I can only imagine what he says about the runners-up.) But I suppose a Russian leader without “charm” is indeed quite an anomaly––like an unicorn or a pro-life Democrat. They have all been so Noel Cowardish. Dashing men like Stalin, Kruschev, and Yeltsin. Yup, Putin is one in a million. If only we Americans had a leader with a proclivity for limiting civil liberties; a guy who lacked charm and sophisication! Then maybe our guy could be TIME’s Person of the Year. Dubya, brother, you were so robbed.