Hip-Gnosis: June 2006: Archives
While Episcopalians’ and Protestants appear to be moving closer to embracing gays, the Catholic Church in Colorado has decided it will circulate and gather petition signatures at Sunday mass in support of a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. The churches will also solicit signatures on a measure to ban "late term" abortions. Read the letter from Archbishop Charles Chaput of the Archdiocese of Denver here.
Over the next few weeks the Colorado Catholic Conference will begin a major effort on two key ballot measures for Colorado voters this fall: the protection of marriage and the prohibition of late-term abortions.
bq. This year’s state marriage amendment — Initiative 83 — will go a long way to protecting marriage as the cornerstone of our culture. A state amendment, because it becomes part of Colorado’s constitution, has much more gravity and durability than a state law, which depends on the current views of every future state legislative session. The passage of a state marriage amendment will help ensure the future by defending the integrity of marriage and the family.
I ask you and all our fellow Catholics to sign petitions as they become available over the next few weeks at our parishes. The Colorado Catholic Conference will be assisting each parish in Colorado to conduct signature drives on both the state marriage amendment and the state late-term abortion ban. We need to collect, as a state-wide community, at least 68,000 valid signatures for each petition in order to put these two important issues on the ballot this fall, and thus give Coloradans the chance to protect marriage and new, unborn life with their votes.
One of the lessons Colorado Catholics have learned over the past several years is that only when we actively engage public issues with an energy and conscience informed by our faith and our moral convictions, do we truly live as “faithful citizens." We serve the common good best by being true to what we claim to believe — both in the public square and in our private lives.
Note the Archbishop's final statement which attempts to coyly state that voting for any politician that might oppose the Church's position on these two issues would be a breach of ones obligation to live as a "faithful citizen". It seems to me that the Church is walking a fine line with its tax exempt status. How these efforts cannot be construed as political contributions is beyond me. Those who are promoting these amendments would otherwise have to hire companies or individuals to collect petition signatures...this certainly looks like an in-kind contribution to me.
Daniel DiRito | June 23, 2006 | 11:22 AM |
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While the Pope and the Catholic Church continue to issue negative statements about homosexuality and gay marriage, the Presbyterians and Episcopals in the United States have both voted on measures that offer increasing acceptance and support to gays. The Advocate has the full article here.
Both the Episcopal Church and the Presbyterian Church voted on Tuesday in favor of a role for gays and lesbians in their faith communities. At its triennial general convention in Columbus, Ohio, the Episcopal House of Deputies decided not to follow the wish of worldwide Anglican leaders and enact a moratorium on electing openly gay bishops, while the Presbyterian national assembly voted in Birmingham, Alabama, to allow individual congregations and regional presbyteries to make their own decisions regarding gay bishops and others, the Associated Press reports.
With the Episcopal vote, the turmoil will only continue, said conservatives. "Unhappily, this decision seems to show that the Episcopal Church has chosen to walk apart from the rest of the Anglican Communion," Canon Martyn Minns said to the AP, alluding to concerns over a possible permanent split in the church over the inclusion of gays and lesbians. Many dioceses around the world have threatened to secede if the issue were not resolved in favor of those who would exclude gay people.
Meanwhile, the Presbyterian Church, another major American Protestant denomination, moved further to the side of gays and lesbians when its national assembly, by a 298-221 vote, approved legislation that will let churches and regional presbyteries appoint gay clergy, lay elders, and deacons, the AP reports. Although the legislation also affirmed Presbyterian law stipulating that individuals in such positions must restrict sexual relations to opposite-sex marriage, the measure will at least allow LGBT members of the church to serve in such capacities.
Daniel DiRito | June 21, 2006 | 4:32 PM |
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Former Food and Drug Administration Chief, Lester Crawford, testified that the delay in approving the Plan B contraceptive was primarily to allow more time to determine the guidelines for its distribution. He indicated the administration was trying to determine how to limit the over the counter sales of the product to women over the age of 17. Read the full article here.
Former FDA commissioner Lester Crawford, in a sworn statement, said he had reserved the right to decide whether to loosen the sales restrictions on the prescription-only emergency contraceptive pills. His account of that unusual and perhaps unprecedented move, given in a deposition over a lawsuit against the FDA, confirmed earlier testimony given by two senior agency officials who said he'd shut them out of the decision-making process.
Crawford said he had expected the FDA would take six to nine months — "tops" — to work out the enforcement issue following his August announcement. Crawford abruptly resigned from the agency the next month; nearly nine months later, the FDA still has not announced a Plan B decision.
Crawford's August announcement that the decision was being delayed stirred accusations that the FDA was allowing politics to trump science. But Crawford testified that the science had concluded that it was "possible" for women older than 16 to use Plan B without a prescription.
"I made a decision that that was correct. What I could not decide on is whether or not I could stand before the American people and say this will be successfully enforced. That I could not decide," Crawford said in his deposition.
The question of whether the decision was being influenced by politics becomes an increasingly significant consideration as the country approaches the November midterm elections. Senator Clinton of New York and Senator Murray of Washington have vowed to block the nomination of Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach, Crawford's replacement, until the Plan B decision is rendered.
Strategically, a decision in the next few months could influence voter sentiment. If the FDA were to deny the approval of Plan B or place numerous restrictions on its sale, it might satisfy social conservatives while also motivating the turnout of the liberal Democratic base. On the other hand, if Plan B is approved and there aren't restrictions on over the counter sales to minors, social conservatives could expand their threats to sit out the midterm election. An alternative possibility is that no decision will be forthcoming until after November if the administration feels that the potential impact on voters is too uncertain.
Crawford's actions may have left the FDA forever vulnerable to suspicion that politics is being allowed to influence decisions related to scientific and health matters. This controversy seems to be another example of the expanded executive influence sought by the Bush administration...whether that is perception or reality is yet to be determined.
Daniel DiRito | June 13, 2006 | 1:49 PM |
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Daniel DiRito | June 10, 2006 | 7:37 AM |
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United Press International has an interesting piece on the debate about social justice within religion. The article reviews many of the same issues previously discussed here at Thought Theater as well as at Pharyngula, a science blog. In those particular postings, the topic was whether science needs religion to have a conscience. I've argued it does not.
CHICAGO, June 9 (UPI) — One of the biggest rifts in Christianity today is between those who lean liberal and those who lean conservative. And in few areas is this rift as deep as in the area of "social justice."
To some ears, social justice is a code word for a secular ideal that focuses on structural oppression rather than God, Jesus or spirituality. To other ears, it has nothing at all to do with God, religion or spirituality.
The next paragraph is where the disagreement is actually focused. Note that the author asserts that the concept of justice wouldn't be possible without the reality of God. I find the notion absurd.
Without the reality of God in the world there would be little concept of justice and little possibility of attaining it. God is the foundation of being and thus is the ultimate foundation of justice.
In my opinion, one of the prevailing problems with religion is that it attempts to position God as the only vehicle through which one human can treat another human with respect, dignity, and fairness. That presumption simply cannot be substantiated. I can point to numerous atheists who have treated those they encountered as well as all of humanity with a sanctity equal to or greater than that exhibited by those who did so based upon religious beliefs.
Note in the next paragraph how the author seeks to make social justice subject to and reliant upon religion.
For this reason, it is problematic to remove social justice from its divine origin and mandate. Like many things, the pursuit of social justice can become a god around which we orient ourselves. And when life is oriented in terms of social justice rather than in terms of the reality of God, social justice can become whatever we want. That's why evil is sometimes done in the name of justice. Without its divine origin and nature, social justice becomes human justice which can become little more than politics, ego and prejudice.
Firstly, what is the reality of God? Is it the words within the Bible, the Koran, the Talmud, the Book of Mormon, or any number of authoritative documents honored by various religious groups? Unfortunately, each religion feels they possess the true words of God and they each seek to impose those words upon humanity. This simply leads various religious groups to attempt to dictate their version of social justice upon humanity. The fact that each of these groups asserts that their beliefs are from God is the same as the notion of "human justice" that the author is discussing. Besides, it is impossible for the origin of each religion to be divine or to determine which is entitled to that designation. That means social justice guided by religion can be every bit as wrong as “human justice". Therefore, in my opinion, social justice should be guided by and based upon an understanding and appreciation of the entire human condition.
The problem with religion is that the social justice it seeks to apply is delivered as absolute ideology meant to make judgments about what elements of the human condition are acceptable. The notion that religion cannot be influenced by politics, ego, and prejudice is ludicrous. History is littered with substantial evidence to the contrary. The author argues that if social justice is not guided by the reality of God, it can commit evil in the name of social justice. Excuse me, but more evil has been committed in the name of religious justice than social justice. Social justice that isn’t based upon the human condition is not justice…it’s the imposition of religious beliefs veiled as social justice.
For example, when one tries to remedy the structural evils of society using only human means one is very prone to burnout, sickness or even corruption. Not that this can't happen if one has a relationship with God, but through pursuing social justice as part of a relationship with God one participates with a greater power and reality for good than what humans themselves can muster.
Despite making the above assertion, I haven't a clue what evidence this is based upon. There is simply no empirical evidence to support such a claim. If it were true, religious groups would have eclipsed secular organizations in providing for social justice such that all funding would be directed through religious groups as a simple function of practicality and efficiency. This hasn't happened because there is no compelling evidence of any such thing. Subordinating motivation to religion is to deny and discount the capacity of humanity to honor and value humanity as a worthwhile choice in and of itself.
My point is merely this: social justice is not identical with God. Instead, social justice is the logical and necessary extension of a true relationship with God as revealed through Jesus Christ. Through discipleship with Jesus, we receive the divine mandate to oppose structural sin and oppression and are given the sustenance of the Holy Spirit to do so.
And this placement of God at the foundation of social justice matters. That's because this ordering has profound implications in terms of who's in charge and under what power we are acting and being sustained. It's similar to the two commandments in which Jesus summed up the Law and the Prophets: We first must love the Lord our God with our entire being. Then, we are equipped to humbly and tenaciously pursue loving our neighbor as ourselves through the pursuit of social justice.
As I've long argued, the author clearly points out that power is the core principle of religion when he states, "This ordering has profound implications in terms of who's in charge and under what power we are acting and being sustained." Religion is about power...the power to dictate behavior and the power to administer "justice" if one fails to succumb to that power. Despite the frequent attempts, the notion of God is not a byproduct of religion. All too often religion is an effort to co-opt the notion of God in order to assert authority over humanity. The truth is that humanity's understanding of God is subject to the fallacies, foibles, and frailties of the human condition. In acknowledging as much, religion, in its attempt to define God, has to be necessarily flawed.
For me, I take it a step further and assert that God is simply another construct of humanity...it is an element of the human condition...but it does not provide the template for the human condition. It simply attempts to explain it. God is an offshoot of humanity. Social justice, if it is to be truly about humanity in the broadest sense of the human condition, must not allow religion to limit the purview nor dictate the priorities or the punishment. What is unequivocally real is humanity. Therefore, we must lead with our humanity. All other constructs are secondary creations that simply seek to explain our humanity.
I previously wrote the following two block quote paragraphs in order to address the issue of Jesus and the example he set. However, in no way do I come to the same conclusion as the author that emulating Jesus must be a religious decision. One can have a construct of social justice similar to Jesus and still be an atheist if one's primary allegiance is to the sanctity of the human condition. It seems to me that honoring humanity simply because it makes sense to honor that which we all are is far better than honoring humanity because someone has provided a set of religious beliefs that use fear and the promise of eternity to convince us to do so. The former is an affirmation of humanity and the latter is a subjugation of one’s humanity. One empowers each individual and the other empowers a select few.
I’m not a religious person and I don’t believe in an afterlife. Ironically, while I also won’t stake a claim to being a Christian in the defined and institutional sense of the word, I am content to support the notion that the examples offered by a man (fictional or factual are irrelevant to me) named Jesus can guide us to change. His is the story of a social critic who dissected the fallacies and hypocrisies that permeate the human experience. He did so at great personal risk because I believe “he" saw it as I choose to see it…if one man can elect to pursue and follow “truth", then he is entitled to believe and expect that all men can do the same.
In doing so, when each individual makes this necessary choice, we will cease pursuing and negotiating for a better, future destiny…and we will finally live heaven on earth. Our destiny is of our own making. I refuse to allow religion, or those who believe it is theirs to define, to remove that destiny from my earthly grasp. In the end, we can choose to be good people that honor humanity without submitting to any religious institutions or doctrines. Attempts to argue that science needs religion to keep it humane are therefore absurd.
Religion is one of the numerous elements of the human condition and it can serve a purpose for many...so long as it doesn't seek to disrupt the natural order of the human condition. However, when religion seeks to make humanity its servant, it no longer serves humanity. If we serve humanity, we at the same time serve its origin…whatever one may believe that to be. Belief doesn’t necessarily portend goodness and doubt need not predict evil. Whether we created God or God created us is irrelevant. Beliefs are simply that…but our humanity and our actions here on earth are tangible and measurable. Empathy for humanity is the origin of goodness and it’s a choice we each make. Whatever we believe, whatever we are, goodness is measured the same. God is not required to understand and honor this principle. Treating humanity with dignity and respect is necessary regardless of belief. When we choose it, we pass it on.
Daniel DiRito | June 9, 2006 | 9:14 AM |
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The Food and Drug Administration has approved Merck's cervical cancer vaccine, Gardasil. The vaccine has garnered significant attention from the religious right as many feel the vaccine might encourage children to engage in sexual activity. See prior Thought Theater postings on the controversial nature of the vaccine here.
June 8, 2006 — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced today that it has approved Gardasil, a vaccine that prevents infection by some strains of the human papillomavirus, which can cause cervical cancer if left untreated.
Gardasil will protect against at least four of the 10 known cancer-causing strains, Merck said. About 270,000 women worldwide die from cervical cancer each year; about 4,000 die in the United States.
HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States, with about 20 million people currently estimated to have it, according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
Now that the vaccine has received approval for use, the next step will be for another committee to make usage recommendations. Much of the controversy surrounding the vaccine relates to the age at which the vaccine should be administered. Some religious groups have sought to prevent the vaccine from being part of any schools health requirements.
"There is a great debate because medically speaking, it is clear it would best be given to very young girls before they become sexually active, even if they intend to be abstinent," Johnson said.
The ACIP will make a recommendation for the age requirement of Gardasil after the FDA licenses the vaccine for certain age groups. The committee also will recommend whether children should be vaccinated as a school requirement, although states are not required to follow ACIP guidelines.
"Then the state decides whether it should be a school entry law, [so] these laws will vary state to state," said Curtis Allen, spokesperson for the CDC. The recommendations of the ACIP are important since doctors practicing in the U.S. should follow them.
The FDA has been the subject of concern by some groups that have accused the organization of allowing political considerations to impact health decisions. The delayed approval of the morning after contraception pill has been the most notable instance. The Bush administration's focus on abstinence may well become an issue as the recommendations for the vaccine are finalized.
Daniel DiRito | June 8, 2006 | 2:54 PM |
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Daniel DiRito | June 7, 2006 | 10:09 AM |
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Following up on prior condemnations, the Vatican issued a statement expressing strong opposition to abortion, same-sex marriage, and in-vitro fertilization...calling them threats to the traditional family. Read the full article here. See prior Thought Theater postings on the subject here.
The document was issued by the Pontifical Council for the Family, whose head, Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, is a strong opponent of the use of condoms under any circumstances.
However, the document did not mention an ongoing debate within the Vatican on whether the Roman Catholic Church could permit condoms to battle AIDS in a particular circumstance -- when one partner in a marriage has the virus.
While there has been some hopeful mention that the Church would moderate its opposition to the use of condoms in order to combat HIV, the Church remains slow to react to the realities of the AIDS crisis. At the same time, the latest condemnation is one in a long string of statements released that continue to emphasize the rigid position of the Church.
It reaffirmed the famous 1968 encyclical "Humanae Vitae" that stated the Vatican's opposition to contraception. Since then, it said, couples "have been limiting themselves to one, or maximum two children."
"Never before in history has human procreation, and therefore the family, which is its natural place, been so threatened as in today's culture," said the 57-page document.
It also condemned in-vitro fertilization, artificial insemination and the use of embryos.
"The human being has the right to be generated, not produced, to come to life not in virtue of an artificial process but of a human act in the full sense of the term: the union between a man and a woman," the document said.
Lopez Trujillo sparked controversy three years ago when he said condoms don't prevent AIDS and may help spread it because they create a false sense of security. The Vatican insists sexual abstinence is the only sure way to fight AIDS.
The document made a broad attack on what it said were threats to the "the natural institution of marriage."
Daniel DiRito | June 6, 2006 | 8:51 AM |
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I found this video of Pat Robertson demonstrating his leg pressing abilities. In this video he has the spotters load one thousand pounds onto the machine. Note the use of his hands placed on his legs to assist in pressing the weight. Also note that he doesn't actually lower the weights to the point where he actually has to lift the full weight with a full leg extension motion. Finally, keep in mind that his claim is that he can lift 2,000 pounds...double what he seems to be demonstrating here.
Daniel DiRito | June 5, 2006 | 10:25 AM |
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The June 12 edition of Newsweek takes a look at the potential impact of the issue of gay marriage on the upcoming midterm elections. Read the full article here.
Pew polls show a 10-point jump in support for gay marriage since 2004. And Bush pollster Matthew Dowd doubts it was decisive last time around. "It didn't drive turnout in 2004," he says. "That is urban legend." Turnout was the same in states with bans on the ballot and those without, Dowd says. GOP consultant Grover Norquist also questions how gay marriage plays as an electoral issue. Though social conservatives vote for marriage bans, it's not clear whether that will translate into votes for GOP candidates. "We don't have much to go on," he says. For their part, gay-rights leaders would be happy to leave the issue off the ballot. "We have to make sure [the initiatives] never see the light of day," says Human Rights Campaign president Joe Solmonese, who would prefer to press his case in court.
Evangelical leaders insist they know how gay marriage affects their voters—they'll stay home if politicians don't push for the FMA. "It's the one issue I have seen that eclipses even the abortion issue among Southern Baptists," says Richard Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. Last month James Dobson, the influential founder of Focus on the Family, met privately with key Republicans, including Frist, House Speaker Dennis Hastert and Majority Leader John Boehner, to warn them about the political consequences of failing to promote issues like marriage. "If you forget us, we'll forget you," he said, according to a GOP House leadership aide who was briefed on the gatherings, but declined to be identified discussing private meetings.
The following anonymous observation is particularly interesting to me. It is consistent with my speculation that the marriage amendment issue is strictly a political calculation for George Bush and Karl Rove. Note that a friend asserts it isn't part of George Bush's "moral radar" while White House aides insisted he cares about the issue.
Though Bush himself has publicly embraced the amendment, he never seemed to care enough to press the matter. One of his old friends told NEWSWEEK that same-sex marriage barely registers on the president's moral radar. "I think it was purely political. I don't think he gives a s--t about it. He never talks about this stuff," said the friend, who requested anonymity to discuss his private conversations with Bush. White House aides, who also declined to be identified, insist that the president does care about banning gay marriage. They say Monday's events with amendment supporters—Bush will also meet privately with a small group—have been in the works "for weeks" and aren't just a sop to conservatives.
The next observation is also interesting. The remarks that Bush isn't making a "full-court press" and he "has not made calls" to get Senators to vote for the amendment also support my belief that losing the vote on the issue is in fact the intended strategy both for the White House and for those on the far right that are regularly consulted on strategy objectives. The Republicans and religious organizations stand to gain more from a loss on the amendment at this point than from pushing for a win that cannot currently be achieved.
Whatever Bush's motivation, his actions aren't likely to quiet his critics. Land says he's happy Bush is speaking out, but he'd like to see signs of real commitment to the issue. "We know what a full-court press looks like when we see one," Land says. A White House official, who declined to be identified discussing strategy, says Bush has not made calls on the amendment because "nobody has asked us."
Daniel DiRito | June 4, 2006 | 8:18 AM |
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There has been ample discussion in the media and on the internet that seems to view the pending vote on a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage as another coming failure for the Bush administration. I disagree. Isn't this move really intended to remind the base (and particularly those on the far right that voted in record numbers in 2004) that they must be vigilant...that there is more work to be done...that they mustn't stay at home in the 2006 midterm election?
If I were asked to predict the Bush and Rove strategy, the following would be my calculations and conclusions:
1) The President is generally unpopular...especially when Iraq is part of the equation. The risk is that Iraq, coupled with corruption, Katrina, big debt, uncontrolled spending, and other scandals might feed a mindset to throw out the Party in power. Therefore they have to change the subject or provide the risks and reasons that would make that a bad idea.
2) What can the President bring to bear on the 2006 elections? He can't travel the country stumping for Republicans because his presence will remind people about Iraq and the other negatives.
3) However, he can bring what he brought in 2004...a big turnout by those on the religious right. Those voters either don't vote or they vote their values. The key is getting them to vote by giving them a reason. That is done in consort with religious leaders through the church structure...no need to be out on the campaign trail...the voters will get their marching orders each Sunday.
4) He can do that by reminding those voters (by virtue of a defeat of the marriage amendment) that they must get out and vote Republican. Losing the vote on the amendment is a strategic victory. They wouldn't bring it to a vote if it made voters stay home in November. The grumbling by the leadership on the right is part of the strategy...they also benefit when their flock is mad...they can raise more money...and they can motivate them to take action. The leadership may be mad at Bush on some levels but they are fully in sync when it comes to keeping their eye on the main objective. Simply stated, if Bush delivers the Supreme Court, all other sins are forgivable.
5) So the goal is to be sure to point out that they succeeded in appointing two conservative Supreme Court Justices...and make it clear that one more appointment will likely mean victory for the movement for the next 20 years. They have to make it clear that if they lose the Senate, they may lose the ability to win the Supreme Court. This is the trump card of the strategy...they simply point out how close the movement is to achieving the "final" victory...they acknowledge to the voters that the administration has had some troubles (recall the admission of mistakes at the press conference with Tony Blair...no doubt part of the overall strategy) but they have never lost sight of the big prize...they delivered two conservative votes and they just need one more...the voters have got to stick with them if they want the big prize.
6) Is there any doubt what drives these voters? Does anyone question the fervor with which they seek to assert their influence? Is it possible they would stay at home if they understand what's at stake? Not a chance.
As much as I might dislike Karl Rove and as little as I might respect George Bush, I would never underestimate their strategic prowess. Many strategists seek to minimize chaos and conflict but I tend to think Karl Rove prefers to manage and manipulate chaos and conflict. The distinction is significant and it requires the outside observer to alter the template used for viewing and analyzing the many actions and activities. Has this administration made mistakes governing...absolutely? Have they made mistakes campaigning...none to speak of to this point in time? Time and again I see articles and statements that attempt to conflate the two...which I see as a mistake. I believe the mistake is a misattribution of motivations and priorities.
While one might be inclined to think that a President measures his success in the achievements made under his governance, I'm inclined to believe that this President is more motivated by and places a greater priority upon winning elections because I believe he sees it as the only means to obtain and maintain power. In this type of thinking, all else is secondary to victory. If one continues to maintain office, one can continue to assert power. I'm inclined to believe that the legacy sought by George Bush is in having shifted the country to the right...not just during his tenure, but for decades beyond his years in office.
Daniel DiRito | June 2, 2006 | 10:22 AM |
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