The Gross National Debt

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Looking for the line

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"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;..."
Yes. Let's go there.

That, unlike some other Amendments which won't be discussed today, is pretty clear. Or is it?

Let's borrow H.G. Wells for a moment and jump in his time machine to hurl back several hundred years. We stop in Central-South America and pick up a load of Aztec priests and bring them back to today. Now, we set 'em loose in the city of your choice. I have some suggestions, but am keeping them to myself today.

As we understand the ancient Aztec religion, human sacrifice was part of the religious ceremonies.

Does the First Amendment still apply?

There's a book about everthing...
Ooh. Ah.

OK, let's take another one. If your religion allows you to use marijuana, is this legal? (Outside of the states which have legalized it of course.) Weeeeeeellllll, no. "The Supreme Court has long ago held that laws of general application (i.e., laws that apply to everyone) that happen to place a burden on some religious practices are generally valid, though they do still warrant some scrutiny under the Constitution."

What about peyote, which is a hallucinogen and a drug? Ummmmm, yes. "Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the use, possession, or transportation of peyote by an Indian for bona fide traditional ceremonial purposes in connection with the practice of a traditional Indian religion is lawful, and shall not be prohibited by the United States or any State. No Indian shall be penalized or discriminated against on the basis of such use, possession or transportation, including, but not limited to, denial of otherwise applicable benefits under public assistance programs.
—42 U.S.C. 1996A(b)(1)."
 
To illustrate what is a definite case of doubleplus bizarrespeak, I bring you this comment from the law blog: "These generally-applicable laws are typically subject to 'rational basis' review, meaning the government only needs to show that the law is related to a valid government interest. And whether you agree with them or not, most courts have held that preventing illegal drug use is definitely a valid governmental interest." 
Makes as much sense as the drug & religion laws.
 
Marijuana is illegal (exceptions noted) and peyote is not illegal, except when it is. We are approaching an Orwellian state in which "everything not forbidden is compulsory."
 
Further if you look up the word "oxymoron" in the dictionary, the words "rational basis" and "government" jump off the page and beat you down.
 
I apologize if I have given you a headache or confused you. We are discussing the federal government which specializes in obfuscation and contradiction after all.
 
Anyway, how far does the First Amendment reach? What about contraceptives? Under the ominous health care law (I spelled it correctly), employers are now required to supply contraceptives to employees under health care insurance.
 
Should this apply to Catholic-based employers? Before you answer that, I tell you the Supreme Court has already carved out religion-based employment exceptions. SCOTUS ruled that some federal and state right to work laws do not apply when the employer is clearly religious. Yep Yep Yep. 
 
Other exceptions for religion have also been bloodily hacked out of the law.

That in mind, a Michigan judge has temporarily halted the contraceptive provision of the abominable health care law (again spelled correctly) for a company there.

So I ask you how far the First Amendment's provision on religion reaches? Before you answer that I feel obligated to warn you that your answer will be used against you. (Some people will refuse to understand that).

Another question: What is a religion? Who says it is? How many adherents must it have to move beyond a personal philosophy? How many believers until it passes the cult stage?

What about the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, aka Pastafarianism? Say what you will about this group, it has a global reach. While I could not find how many people claim to be members of this group, I suspect it has far more people signed up than some other "religions" as recognized by the United States government.

The problem with drawing a line on something like this is eventually that line turns into a stick that beats you down. Growing up and being a resident of South Georgia most of my life, I am possessed of many Southern Baptist relatives. They LOVE lines. When I take their cherished lines and turn them into that beat down stick, well, you can imagine what some of them think of me.

Religion, unlike a lot of other things, is clearly set forth in the Constitution. Whether you and I like it or not is irrelevant.
Bonus opinion


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