Tuesday, October 21, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Constitutional Conundrums

Civil rights are subjective.

Constitutional Conundrums

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Happiness is....hugging the guy who gets you free birth control!

I’m always fascinated by how people can convince themselves that if it’s their ox getting gored it’s a civil rights catastrophe, but when it’s the other guy’s tuchus getting kicked he’s overreacting.
Case in point:  the birth control mandate.  A few weeks ago I wrote about how forcing a religious organization to subsidize activities and products that undermined its core beliefs violated the Free Exercise Clause (even though some federal judges hadn’t yet figured that out....more on this next week)


Given that fact that the most vocal opponents of the mandate have been Catholic, many of my readers responded with attacks on the church.  My favorite comments were the ones about how a church that ‘regularly abuses little boys’ is also determined to keep women in servitude.  Relevance and hyperbole aside, there is a lot of disinformation out there about what the First Amendment provides, and just because you think the Pope has no business poking his mitre under the connubial tent, that doesn’t mean the government gets to eviscerate two hundred and twenty-five years of religious protection.


But the secularists among us don’t think very highly of religion and, in fact, have been trying to diminish its impact on society for a very long time.  They usually do it by claiming that the Free Exercise clause’s twin sister-the Establishment clause-erects an impenetrable wall between church and state.  By this reasoning, anything that can vaguely be seen (or manipulated into being) religious oppression by a majority against a minority is seized upon, vilified and ultimately used to force-feed secularism down our collective throats.


Second case in point:  same-sex marriage.  It has become fashionable among the educated set to label anyone who opposes gay unions as a religious fanatic.  This is actually an effective ploy, because once you invoke the image of a judgmental and (usually Christian) God, it’s easier to engage the sympathies of those who either don’t believe in anything much other than that pot and abortion should be legal, or who are ashamed of their own spirituality and subscribe to the school of thought espoused by Mario “I don’t want to impose my beliefs on others” Cuomo.


If you oppose same-sex marriage on legal grounds, or even moral grounds unmoored from any particular religious tradition, you are automatically treated like road kill on the enlightenment highway.   And since it is much more effective to attack you as a religious fanatic than actually address your arguments rationally, those who choose to speak out against legalizing gay unions are treated like latter-day John Browns storming Harper’s Ferry.


And I do not invoke the name of John Brown idly.  While Brown was indeed a fanatic, his passion was aimed at what posterity has come to consider a worthy goal:  the end of slavery.  While his methods were suspect, his purpose was noble.  Many of us in the pro-life movement feel that abortion is akin to slavery, and many of those who oppose same-sex marriage do so not because they hate gay people but because they believe marriage is a social institution that should not be subject to the evolving whims of an ever-more-fickle society.
It is the easy thing to look at two people who love each other and say “oh c’mon, let them be happy, why dontcha?”  It is much more difficult to withstand the jeers of “bigot” and “idiot” and point out why justice does not demand an upending of centuries of tradition.  The mere fact that someone wants something does not mean that society in general or the government in particular should give it to him.  Just because a Georgetown law student wants Catholic strangers to pay for her Saturday night protection does not mean that it’s a done deal, especially when there’s a whole darn Amendment that says otherwise.


Similarly, just because two men love each other does not mean that the government needs to officially recognize that union.  There are legitimate reasons to protect their right to privacy, and the Supreme Court did that a decade ago in Lawrence v. Texas when it abolished laws that criminalized sodomy.  There are, however, no legitimate reasons under the Constitution to recognize that same-sex unions have any greater importance than the relationships between parent and child, brother and sister, or unmarried heterosexuals.  In none of those cases can consenting adults seek economic benefits, next-of-kin priority or survivorship rights just because they ‘love’ each other.  And this has nothing to do with religion per se.  It has to do with the law.  Which, by the way, the Supremes just decided to examine this upcoming term. 

You may disagree with me.  You have that right.  You may also think that reproductive ‘rights’ trump freedom of conscience.  Believe it, if you want.
Just don’t try and tell me, or anyone that stands with me, that our struggle to defend our religious liberty is any less valid than your quest to seek constitutional dignity.

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See Christine Flowers on Channel 6's "Inside Story" Sunday at 11:30 a.m.

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