Thou Shall Not Govern

November 12th, 2009

By Harvey Grund

church_stateWhen I ran across a recent article at Air America online titled Abortion Restrictions In House Bill Show Power Of Organized Religion In Politics, I broke into a sweat! (Well, not literally.) However, how could it be that I, a self-professed proponent of conservatism, could agree with anything that the “wacko libs” at Air America propose? Perhaps I need to reevaluate my dedication to conservative values as well as my blanket condemnation of “libs.”

The Air America article begins like this:

The Catholic Church successfully helped deliver a crushing blow to the abortion rights movement on Saturday by insisting that abortion restrictions be inserted into the newly passed House health care bill. But this isn’t the first time that a religious organization has used its power, money, and influence to merge dogma with public policy.

 Well, damn it all, they’re almost absolutely right!

Two things: 1) Their naming of the “Catholic Church” as the culprit is a bit questionable — Evangelicals do deserve a big share of the credit; and 2) while they are correct that abortion restrictions are based solely on religious dogma, they are also correct that this isn’t the first time religion has influenced government actions (same-sex marriage restrictions are now, thanks to religious influence on government, imposed by most states and are fully supported by federal fiat.) They are not right, however, when they suggest that the health care bill should have no restrictions on abortion. Taking religion out of the equation, abortion, in the majority of cases anyway, is a completely elective procedure and, as such, neither abortion or any other strictly elective procedure should be paid for by U.S. taxpayers. (Of course if sanity prevails, there will be no Federal Health Care bill and this discussion will be moot.)

What about those conservative values that deserve my reconsideration?

After just a bit of investigation I quickly discovered that I am not a textbook conservative, but I’m not far off. Conservapedia — the conservative version of Wikipedia — lists 19 specific conservative agenda items that a true conservative is supposed is supposed to embrace:

– Classroom prayer *
– Prohibition of abortion *
– Abstinence education
– Traditional marriage, not same-sex marriage *
– Respect for differences between men and women, boys and girls
– Laws against pornography *
– The Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms
– Economic allocative efficiency (as opposed to popular equity)
– The death penalty
– Parental control of education
– Private medical care and retirement plans
– Canceling failed social support programs
– No world government
– Enforcement of current laws regarding immigration
– Respect for our military … past and present
– Rejection of junk science such as evolutionism and global warming
– Low taxes, especially for families
– Federalism (less power for the federal government and more for local and state governments)
– A strong national defense

The four asterisked (*) items above are where I personally take my leave from this particular set of values; allow me to clarify my reasoning. Conservatism is, to me, a strictly political realm, and while this list reflects a great set of personal values, those four asterisked items, in my opinion, have no place in the world of laws or politics. You may have also noted that these items are near the top of their list — a clear indication of how religion has already perverted political thinking.

My bottom line is this: Religious values are important to many (or most) people but they properly belong only where people willingly accept them — in the church, in the home, possibly in some microcosm of the community (where they are accepted by all members of that community) and, in general, in the lives of those who embrace them. They should not, however, have the force of law. Our great nation is not just populated by Christians or Jews or Hindus or Moslems or by any other single religious group, and our laws should be strictly secular — not reflecting the beliefs of any religion.

There are, of course, logical exceptions to a general statement like the preceding and they are, without exception, already codified into all of our laws — restrictions against causing physical harm, taking someone else’s property, etc. These may all be religious values, at least in most religions, but in the context of law, they are the rules of any civilized nation.

One final note on abortion: My view, embraced by those people who are falsely labeled pro-abortion, is that an unborn baby is not subject to the laws of the United States (or any other entity) until it is born. People who believe this are pro-choice, not pro-abortion; they recognize that abortion does indeed terminate a potential life and that act (or “sin” for you religious folks) is the responsibility of and the rightful decision of the woman carrying the unborn child and the man who took part in the conception. That’s called “choice” and an individual’s choice is far more valuable than the religious proclamations of any religious or government body. You can “damn a woman to Hell” for her choice, but arbitrary laws should never be able to prevent her from making that choice. That would be (or should be) completely outside of the realm of government.

We seriously need to keep the gate closed between the worlds of religion and politics — not doing that will, eventually, draw our system of government closer and closer to theocracy.

(This article was also posted at My View from the Center.)


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12 Responses to “Thou Shall Not Govern”



  1. Brianna |

    I would essentially agree with these points. My major qualification would be that, although I do not mind abstinence being included on the curriculum (religion or no, it’s the only 100% guaranteed way of not getting pregnant), abstinence-only education is a bad idea. If you don’t tell people what their options are, they’re probably going to do something stupid and they usually do.

    “That’s called “choice” and an individual’s choice is far more valuable than the religious proclamations of any religious or government body.”

    This is one of the biggest reasons conservatives do not get my vote more often. They feel the need to crusade against this right, whereas being gender female I feel a most definite and urgent need to keep it on the table. In fact, the need to crusade on religious values in general is one of my major sticking points with conservatives; if they were willing to drop this, they’d be about halfway closer to enlisting me in their camp.


  2. Brian |

    Harvey, speaking from a purely scientific POV, a fetus is not potential life, it is a human life. Sure, a fetus doesn’t look like a baby, but babies and toddlers do not much resemble adults, either.

    I know you did not bring it up, but viability frequently comes up. If we use viability as a test, then we can easily justify infanticide. What newborn or infant can survive long without constant attention? That path is littered with logical contradictions.

    If we use viability as a test, then lots of elderly people can be put down as well. That is an awfully poor criterion for deciding to end a human life.


  3. Tom |

    I agree with what you’ve said, Harvey, but I would have many more asterisks on that list.

    One issue: You say that you believe “an unborn baby is not subject to the laws of the United States (or any other entity) until it is born.” I’m pro-choice, like you, but that standard exceeds anything I can accept, and it also goes well beyond the framework of Roe v. Wade. It puts you in the camp of those who accept late-term abortions, apparently including the killing of a baby that is only partially delivered (or born). One of the fundamental issues regarding abortion is when life begins (the logical point at which the protection of law begins). That’s essentially an issue of belief because science isn’t of much help. Your view indicates the belief that life doesn’t begin until the baby is physically outside the mother’s body. Is that what you mean?

    Just notes of interest: About two-thirds of the states now consider the murder of a pregnant woman to be two murders — the woman and her unborn baby, with some states having varying standards about when the murder of the unborn baby is to be charged. Some who support those laws are also ardently pro-choice. Is that inconsistent? And consider this: one of the leading causes of death of pregnant or recently pregnant women is murder. Food for thought.


  4. larry |

    Aw heck Harvey, as much as I tend to agree with you, I gotto go with the pro-life side of the issue. I don’t think Christians like myself are anymore anti-abortion than say Atheist, or just about anyone else. The real culprit is the fence straddler that is afraid to be called politically incorrect. These folks will tell you that killing the baby is not right BUT the mother has a right to kill her unborn or sometimes partially unborn child. Dammit, it’s murder plain and simple. Used to be an old wives tale that abortion was only right if the mothers life was in danger. Yeah Right.
    No need to give me the old why “abortion is right” song and dance, I’ve heard em all and after all is said and done a murder has been committed. Rowe versus Wade don’t change a thing.


  5. Brianna |

    I do not consider a fetus, which is a potential life, to be on the same scale as the mother, who is actually alive here and now. It is a woman’s choice (and the man’s) whether or not she wants to have a child, which you have no right to dictate to her.


  6. Kevin |

    I gotta echo Tom again on this one.

    That said, I like that Brianna included the prospective father. Along the same basic lines while simultaneously way off the beaten path is a little something I wrote up in my pre-blog days dealing with the rights of prospective/potential fathers viz “choice” – Equal Rights?


  7. Harvey |

    Brianna,

    You make a great point — I looked at abstinence-only education as a subset of sex-ed — not as a replacement for it but, considering the Conservative’s “need to crusade on religious values” your take on it may be right.

    Brian,

    Whether the fetus is a potential life or a human life makes no difference — my point: no government or religious agency has the right to intervene in the decision of the mother. Obviously, using my criterion, viability is also a non-starter and doesn’t apply to the issue of a woman’s choice unless she chooses to apply it.

    Tom,

    “Your view indicates the belief that life doesn’t begin until the baby is physically outside the mother’s body. Is that what you mean?”

    Not exactly! I believe that life probably begins at conception, but that life falls outside the province of everyone but the mother until (and if) it is born. Ours is a country of laws and any law that interferes with any citizen’s biological functions is an obscenity.

    Partial birth abortions are indeed ugly but still no one’s business but the mother, father and doctor.

    Larry,

    Believe it or not, I love kids and wish there were never any abortions but I can’t accept the theory that an abortion is murder or that an unborn child has any rights and especially rights that supersede the right of the pregnant female to have or not have a baby.

    Brianna spoke for both of us when she commented: “I do not consider a fetus, which is a potential life, to be on the same scale as the mother, who is actually alive here and now. It is a woman’s choice (and the man’s) whether or not she wants to have a child, which you have no right to dictate to her.


  8. Harvey |

    Tom,

    Just out of curiosity, what other item’s would be asterisked?


  9. Brianna |

    Harvey – I didn’t expect that statement to be understood or agreed with. Thank you.


  10. Tom |

    Harvey, I would asterisk the following additional items, although a little discussion might be needed:

    – The Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms
    – The death penalty
    – Rejection of junk science such as evolutionism and global warming


  11. Elizabeth |

    I have read that there is a time in the life of an unborn child (perhaps around 12 weeks) when s/he is able to feel pain but does not yet have the hormones, such as adrenalin, to him or her bear it. If true, that means an unborn child can suffer more than those who have, in times past, been nailed to stakes and burned alive. Please consider the methods used to terminate a pregnancy: execution in a saline solution, dismemberment . . . I once talked to a woman who worked in a medical lab. She’d had no particular concerns about abortion until given the task of reassembling the dismembered child in order to make sure that no parts had been left behind in the mother. Religion need not concern us here. If you would not defend a dog owner’s “right” to torture his puppy to death, how can you defend anyone’s “right” to burn or dismember an unborn child/fetus . . . whatever term you wish to use?


  12. Harvey |

    Elizabeth,

    Abortion is, no doubt, everything you say — but that is not the point — at least not MY point.

    Very simply: It is not my place (or yours) to condone or condemn abortion but we are free to make any decision about any subject and speak out for or against it. If that is as far as it goes, I’ll be happy; but when the government gets involved in the abortion decision or in any other personal medical decision, I reserve the right to jump up and down and raise unholy hell.

    You also say: “Religion need not concern us here.” That is being disingenuous. The entire issue of the sanctity of life is based on religious beliefs. Religious beliefs are (or should be) very personal; the decision of a woman to bring a child into the world (or not) is just as personal. If it is a sin, it is on the head of the woman who aborts.


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