First amendment? Schmendment!

According to Bill O’Reilly, working Christianity into law—making Christmas a federal holiday, for instance—doesn’t violate the First Amendment because Christianity isn’t a religion. No, it’s a philosophy; therefore, the First Amendment doesn’t apply.
This is the kind of argument I’ve seen the religious right pulling for years—that the First Amendment was clearly written only to apply to X and nothing else. For example, that it was only meant to prevent one Christian sect from gaining dominance over the others, not to give rights to other religions. Or that it was specifically meant to prevent establishing a state church like the Church of England, not to prevent churches pushing their religious beliefs into the law because that would be totally different from establishing a religion.
That doesn’t make O’Reilly any more logical. Sure, many Christian churches interpret it in different ways—but that just means it’s a religion with a lot of sects, not that it’s some vague philosophy that only becomes a religion when it’s specifically Episcopalian/Methodist/Catholic/Lutheran/etc. He’s also pulling a fast one—the First Amendment refers to freedom of religion, not to “freedom of churches.”
Mat Staver of Liberty University Law School took a different approach: It’s Islam that’s the non-religion! Only instead of claiming so to argue it’s exempt from First Amendment restrictions, he argued that it should be denied First Amendment protection: “by and large, at its core, both in the United States and around the world, it is a political ideology … Consequently, to use the same kind of laws for an advancement of a political ideology that you would for religious liberty could eventually cause some concerning issues that we want to address.”
Yes, it’s not like Staver’s branch of Christianity has any political agenda, so that’s clearly separate. And, of course, if Islam isn’t a religion, then there’s presumably no First Amendment reason not to allow sharia law. O’Reilly’s approach, while bullshit, is cagier: Christianity may not be a religion, but presumably all the individual sects can still claim First Amendment protection (sort of the way “non-sectarian” prayers at government events are OK).
As far as the validity of the overall argument, I will simply point out that the people who drafted the Constitution and the Bill of Rights could certainly have spelled out their Christian-only intent (“Government shall make no law infringing on freedom of the Christian faith”) if they had one. But they didn’t.
Here’s an equally murky argument from Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia: If governments can outlaw murder, why can’t they outlaw homosexuality (which he disapproves of). Simple: Murder violates the rights of another human being. The only people whose rights are violated by gay sex are …. wait, I’m sure I can think of something …
In other news:
•Dan Froomkin discusses the failure of the press to point out that Republicans lied this year much more than Dems.
•Hostess took money it had promised for workers’ pensions (in return for negotiating a lower salary) and spent it on operational expenses. It’s not the workers who weren’t competitive enough, it’s the company.
George Will once referred to pension benefits for union workers as “welfare” which is bullshit. As pointed out at the first link, the benefits are something they negotiated for, as payment for services rendered. If they’re “welfare,” then so are the golden parachutes so many executives get. And of course, so are Will’s own benefits. But I’m sure that like WaPo’s Steve Pearlstein, Will figures he’s too good to be treated like that.
•The argument for raising Medicare’s qualifying age is that everyone’s living longer. Digby shows that while upper-income earners have gained a lot of years, the poor and manual laborers have only gained one year of lifespan since Medicare was instituted. Proposals to postpone eligibility by two years are actually taking away more than they’ve gained.

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Filed under economics, Politics

One response to “First amendment? Schmendment!

  1. Pingback: Sunday morning linkage | Fraser Sherman's Blog

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