Monday, March 19, 2012
New Polls Suggest Assault on Religious Freedom a Political Loser
Two new polls suggest surprising popular opposition to Obama’s proposed mandate, including among women.
New opinion polls and government deficit projections create unexpected new difficulties for ObamaCare and its assault against religious liberty, as well as Obama’s reelection effort generally.
In fact, the issue has turned so quickly against Obama that he pivoted from contriving it as a political bludgeon to despairing that others might use it as a political bludgeon against him.
The issue, of course, is the attempted new ObamaCare contraceptive mandate for religious employers. Desperate for an election year wedge issue to counteract failed economic policies, rising gasoline prices, trillion-dollar deficits and flagging popularity, the Obama Administration drafted a new federal regulation earlier this year that would suddenly require religious institutions to provide “free” abortives and contraceptives even if doing so violates their fundamental theological principles. Such a requirement contravenes the First Amendment’s explicit free exercise clause, which states that, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
As we emphasized last month, this is not a debate about contraceptives themselves, and it’s dishonest to claim otherwise.
After all, contraceptives were placed beyond prohibition nearly half a century ago by the United States Supreme Court in Griswold v. Connecticut (1965). So this is not about some new effort to restrict abortives or contraceptives currently available. Rather, it’s an issue of the federal government suddenly trying to force religious institutions to violate their theological principles by either (a) providing abortives and contraceptives against their conscience, or (b) abandoning the charitable causes in which their theology requires that they engage.
Attempting to force that choice violates the explicit terms of the First Amendment.
Now, two new polls suggest surprising popular opposition to Obama’s proposed mandate, including among women.
According to the Wall Street Journal/NBC News survey, “when asked whether the government should mandate that Roman Catholic and other religiously affiliated hospitals and colleges offer birth control paid for by the institutions’ insurance companies – as required by the rule – Americans were opposed by 45% to 38%.” When asked more specifically whether the government should require religious institutions to provide contraceptives such as the “morning-after pill,” opposition increased to 49% to 34% overall. In what must have jolted White House officials, women were opposed by a substantial 46% to 35% margin.
Similarly, a New York Times/CBS News poll this week produced the same result. By a 53% to 38% margin, women respondents said that “religiously affiliated employers should be able to opt out of the birth-control rule that requires employers, including religious institutions, to offer contraceptive drugs free of charge.” Opposition among respondents overall was even higher.
Startled that this issue appears to be backfiring on him, Obama changed course and complained about “using religion as a bludgeon in politics.” As reported by The Hill:
“Obama said it’s a problem when religion is used ‘to divide, instead of bring the country together’ in an interview that aired Monday on Iowa TV. ‘When we start using religion as a bludgeon in politics, we start questioning other people’s faith, we start using religion to divide, instead of bring the country together, then I think we’ve got a problem,’ Obama told Des Moines’s local NBC affiliate, WHO TV.”
So there you have it. After commencing a divisive assault against religious liberty, Obama now protests the consequences of his decision.
Rush and the New Blacklist
The original "Hollywood blacklist" dates back to 1947, when 10 members of the Communist Party, present or former, invoked the Fifth Amendment before the House Committee on Un-American Activities.
The party was then a wholly owned subsidiary of the Comintern of Joseph Stalin, whose victims had surpassed in number those of Adolf Hitler.
In a 346-17 vote, the Hollywood Ten were charged with contempt of Congress and suspended or fired.
The blacklist had begun. Directors, producers and writers who had been or were members of the party and refused to recant lost their jobs.
Politically, the blacklist was a victory of the American right. In those first years of the Cold War, anti-communism and Christianity were mighty social, political and cultural forces. Hollywood acknowledged their power in what it produced.
Rhett Butler's departing words to Scarlett O'Hara -- "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn!" -- were the most shocking heard on screen.
Catholicism was idealistically portrayed in "Going My Way" and "The Song of Bernadette." Priest roles were played by Bing Crosby, Spencer Tracy, Gregory Peck.
But over a half century, the left captured and now controls the culture.
The Legion of Decency is dead. The Filthy Speech Movement from Berkeley 1964 has triumphed. The "seven filthy words" of comedians like Lenny Bruce and George Carlin are regular fare in films and steadily creeping into prime-time.
Movies show sexually explicit scenes that make Howard Hughes' 1944 condemned film, "The Outlaw," starring Jane Russell, look like "Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm."
Where Ingrid Bergman of "Casablanca" fame had to flee the country in 1950 after an adulterous affair with director Roberto Rossellini, the media today happily provide all the salacious details of every "relationship" that Hollywood stars enter into and exit.
All of this testifies to the cultural ascendancy of the left.
Yet every establishment has its own orthodoxy, its own taboos, and its own blacklist. And, despite its pretensions to be open to all ideas, our cultural establishment is no different.
While the Hollywood Ten have been rehabilitated and heroized, it is Christians and conservatives who are in cultural cross hairs now.
Traditional Catholic morality is mocked, as are Southern evangelical Christians. And the new cultural establishment has erected a new regime called Political Correctness. It writes the hate-crimes laws that citizens must obey and the campus speech codes students must follow.
The new mortal sins are not filthy talk or immoral conduct, but racism, sexism, homophobia and nativism. The establishment alone defines these sins and enforces the proscriptions against them, from which there is no appeal, only the obligatory apology, the act of contrition and the solemn commitment never to sin again.
If you still believe homosexuality is unnatural and immoral and gay marriage absurd, you are a homophobe who is to keep his mouth shut.
If you think some ethnic and racial groups have greater natural athletic, academic or artistic talents, don't go there, if you do not wish an early end to your journalistic career.
If you think illegal aliens should be sent home and legal immigration should mirror the ethnic makeup of the nation, you are a xenophobe and a racist.
All of these terms -- racist, sexist, homophobe -- are synonyms for heretic. Any of them can get you hauled before an inquisition.
To control the politics of a nation, control of the culture is a precondition. For who controls the culture defines what is moral and immoral, and what is heroic and villainous. And if you can set limits on what journalists write and broadcasters say, you can shape what people think and believe.
Through history, frightened establishments have dealt severely even with peaceful challenges to their power, which is why Socrates was forced to drink poison, Christ was crucified, Sir Thomas More was beheaded and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was sent to the Gulag.
When Rush Limbaugh called Sandra Fluke a "slut" for demanding that Georgetown Law School subsidize the $3,000 women students annually require for birth control to exercise their sexual freedom, the media that piled on Rush objected less to the term than to the target he picked: one of their own.
Bill Maher routinely uses far more odious terms on Sarah Palin. Yet his $1 million gift to an Obama Super PAC was welcomed by agents of the same president who phoned Fluke to console her over Rush's remarks.
Rush apologized. But the left still campaigns to have his voice stifled and censored, by threatening advertisers of his radio show with boycotts if they refuse to drop him.
Thus does the left honor the First Amendment.
As shown in HBO's "Game Change," John McCain in 2008 ruled out attacks on Barack Obama's 20-year ties to the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the Chicago preacher of "God damn America!" fame.
Why? Wright and Obama were black, and such attacks might agitate the latent racism of white America. The Republican Party censors itself so as not to antagonize a cultural establishment that wants to see it dead.
"Beautiful losers," my late friend Sam Francis called them.
Curfews, tags and no TVs: British PM orders prison boss to end 'soft justice' and put emhpasis on punishment
David Cameron has ordered Ken Clarke to dramatically toughen community punishments, with offenders facing curfews, confiscation of TVs and tags that monitor alcohol and drug levels in their blood.
The Prime Minister admitted many non-custodial sentences were a ‘soft option’, with no element of punishment involved.
He has ordered officials to draw up legislation, expected to be unveiled in the Queen’s Speech in May, requiring all community sentences to include punitive conditions.
The move is another blow to Justice Secretary Mr Clarke, who has been accused of undermining the Tories’ traditional stance on law and order.
But it is also an attempt to shore up public confidence in community sentences, which are likely to be used more frequently as budget cuts squeeze prison places.
Mr Cameron, speaking on a flight home from his successful three-day visit to the U.S., said: ‘For too long, community sentences have been seen and indeed have been a soft option.
‘This Government wants to change this and make them a proper and robust punishment. Criminals given a community punishment shouldn’t just be able to enjoy life as it was before. They should pay for their crime and I intend to see that happen.’
Most controversially, the Government intends to use the latest tagging technology to monitor movements and activities.
Mr Cameron wants to use tags that check levels of alcohol and drugs by testing perspiration every 60 seconds to ensure offenders are complying with bans on particular substances.
The Government will also extend the use of GPS tags, which have been tested in Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire.
A government source said: ‘At the moment, people just have a machine at home that says whether they’re there or not.
‘GPS tags can ensure we can stop people from going to the football, keep them away from certain pubs, clubs or entire town centres.
‘You can be much more sophisticated about curfews and restrictions that ensure someone’s life doesn’t just carry on as normal.’
Courts will be given new powers to confiscate offenders’ property as part of a community punishment, including credit cards, driving licences and passports as well as property such as TVs or vehicles.
With prisons at near-capacity for several years, the legislation will be seen as an attempt to shift public opinion on the worth of non-custodial sentences.
According to the latest figures from the National Offender Management Service, one in four offenders given community sentences or released early from prison on licence failed to comply with the terms set by the authorities.
The period for which curfews can be imposed under the terms of a community sentence has already been extended from six to 12 months. Daily curfew hours have also been extended from 12 to 16 hours.
‘This isn’t about softening people up because we want fewer people to go to prison,’ the source added. ‘The truth is that the majority of non-custodial sentences have no punitive measures whatsoever. ‘The law will be changed so that there must be punishment so that community sentences are seen as credible and robust by magistrates, victims and the wider public.
‘We want to restrict liberty through much greater use of curfews, tagging, confiscation and fines.’
The real bigots in Britain's gay marriage row are the liberals
By Simon Heffer
On Thursday, the Government launched a consultation on its plans to allow people of the same sex to be ‘married’ in civil ‘weddings’. I use quotation marks not to denigrate the idea but because, like millions of others, I believe that the only people who should be able to marry and have a wedding are those of different genders.
My opposition to homosexual ‘marriage’ is straightforward. The phrase is simply illogical — and no change in the law can make it otherwise.
I uphold the traditional idea of marriage and what it has meant since the earliest Christian times. Namely that it is the ultimate recognition of the relationship between a man and a woman, often for the purposes of having children.
I am aware that many same-sex couples are deeply committed to each other and often wish to solemnise that commitment with a ‘marriage’ ceremony. However, what the change in law would do is to alter dramatically the nature of the institution for everybody, radically changing its very meaning and significance.
Moreover, none of the main political parties proposed same-sex marriage in their 2010 election manifestoes. And for the avoidance of doubt, I do not have any prejudice against homosexuals or lesbians, or wish them to be discriminated against. Nor do I hold my views because of any religious objection: I am not religious. It is simply, for me, a matter of common sense.
We used to be a society where differing views were respected. I respect the views of those who support same-sex marriage, even though I profoundly disagree with them. I would not dream of insulting them or their beliefs.
Indeed, anyone wishing to make the case against same-sex marriage must do so rationally. Calling its advocates rude names, or deriding their arguments, would simply weaken the case.
This view is plainly not shared by Lynne Featherstone, the Lib Dem MP who is Equalities Minister. She said the opposition expressed by prominent Christians to same-sex marriage was ‘homophobic’ and belonged in ‘the Dark Ages’. She singled out as ‘medieval’ the use of the term ‘heretic’ by a cleric to describe those advocating a change in the law.
Miss Featherstone said her own views were, by contrast, ‘progressive’ and the Government’s policy was ‘loving’.
Such blinkered intransigence — indeed, I would go so far as to call it bigotry — does not bode well for the free, pluralistic society that liberals claim to believe in. And it makes a mockery of their much-vaunted virtue of ‘tolerance’.
The truth is that a predominantly Conservative government is pursuing a social policy that is being driven by the minority Lib Dems.
I realise David Cameron trumpets his desire to legalise same-sex unions. He justified this belief at his last party conference, perversely, on the grounds that he is a conservative. Yet he is unrepresentative of his party, to whose MPs he has had to promise a free vote on the issue; and his justification is frankly frivolous and absurd.
I am more impressed by the sincerity of the argument advanced by Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office Minister, who sadly lost his brother to Aids and who says his party must drop its ‘backward-looking social attitudes’.
I can find no evidence that the majority of people support same-sex marriages. My homosexual friends tell me that many of them are opposed to the planned law change, for much the same reasons as I am. One told me he thought they were ‘silly’, ‘patronising’ and ‘just designed to make a political point’.
Therefore the majority of people — mostly silent — are being asked to accept a policy advocated by a minority, but which would have a serious effect on the nature of marriage.
The fact that the language used by those urging a change is intemperate only adds insult to injury.
The arguments of the mainstream Anglican and Roman Catholic Churches against same-sex marriages are well known. These are not pariah groups.
However, the language Miss Featherstone uses about them might suggest to the ill-informed that they are.
The slur ‘homophobic’ is designed, like ‘racist’, to shut down any argument — in other words, to censor debate. When a liberal such as Miss Featherstone calls someone ‘homophobic’, the implication is that person is prejudiced and holds views that are beyond the pale.
The truth is that ministers are all too aware of the widescale opposition to their policy (not just among clergy, but also among many reasonable people of faith and no faith), and have cynically decided to launch an all-out assault on their opponents.
Their weapons are abuse, vilification, unreason and moral blackmail as they attempt to silence, or at least cow, the opposition.
This is a shocking attack on freedom of speech. Just because somebody — priest or otherwise — finds same-sex marriage irreconcilable either with his conscience or his sense of reason, does not make him a homophobe. Nor does it make him medieval.
The tone taken by supporters of same-sex marriage, and not just by Miss Featherstone, against those who disagree with them has been deliberately intimidating.
It’s not as if opponents are calling for discrimination against homosexuals. Indeed, the majority support the civil contracts for same-sex partnerships that were introduced some years ago.
No, I repeat, the opponents of same-sex marriage are decent people, motivated by the deepest conscience, who are simply seeking to stand up for their sincerely held beliefs.
Having the temerity to disagree with the Coalition’s minority-backed plan is not sufficient excuse for a minister of the Crown to abuse them.
The irony is that this insidious campaign of abuse has been promoted most vigorously by some Tories. It began with a depressing speech at the 2002 Conservative conference at Bournemouth by Theresa May, then the chairman of the party, who termed the Tories ‘the nasty party’.
Her comments were part in reaction to a big lie, that the party had lost two general elections because it was considered prejudiced against ethnic minorities, the poor and homosexuals.
The fact is that it lost in 1997 because John Major was a weak leader who never recovered credibility after Black Wednesday (the notorious day when sterling was forced to pull out of the Exchange Rate Mechanism in September 1992) and again in 2001 because it remained paralysed by this failure.
What Mrs May clearly believed was that using self-hatred, and grandstanding on social issues, would advance her party’s cause among people who were not its natural supporters.
This tactic didn’t work — the Tories have not won an election since — but it encouraged people such as David Cameron and Francis Maude to parade their consciences when touting for votes.
Now this assault on traditional conservative values is in full cry. Some argue that this is simply Mr Cameron and his friends trying to isolate and weaken his party’s Right-wing. Yet I fear there is more to it.
There is a sneering, disapproving tone used by Mr Cameron and his outriders against a wide range of conservative beliefs.
For example, those who protest against the exploitation of the taxpayer-funded welfare state by scroungers are dismissed as heartless. Those who want higher standards and the return of selection in education are regarded as divisive. Those who deplore the easy availability of abortion or divorce are dismissed as antediluvians.
And we have all noted the reticence by many leading ministers to condemn the most destructive and corrosive force in our society, the use of illegal drugs.
(Incidentally, how bitterly ironic it is that they wish so fervently for homosexual ‘marriage’ when they feel unable to do anything to support traditional marriage.)
The fact is that traditional conservative values are not a minority interest. They are instinctively held by millions of people of all ages, faiths, sexual orientations and classes in our society.
Liberals, however, maliciously seek to stigmatise the values as evil. They do this because they cannot trump conscience by reason alone.
Come the next general election, voters must muse on the fact that the greatest enemy of the principles of conservatism has turned out to be the Conservative leader himself.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.