“In no instance have… the churches been guardians of the liberties of the people. “
– James Madison
Because he thinks the Supreme Court will never outlaw abortion, James Dobson, dominionist and head of the Christian hate group known as Focus on the Family, figures he can do an end around by getting individual states to ban it.
I would be willing to settle for each state making a decision, and we’ll fight that out in the state legislatures in 50 states. I just don’t see the Supreme Court saying this is flat-out illegal. I wish they would, but I don’t think that will happen.
Dobson says that “You can’t deny it’s a baby. You see it sucking its thumb, moving and turning cartwheels in its mother’s womb.”
That’s not a pretty picture, certainly, but it’s also not the whole argument. I don’t think many people argue that abortion should be employed as a method of birth control, but that is how abortion opponents frame their argument. Of course, they’re so anti-abortion that they’re willing to force incest and rape victims to bear their attackers’ babies and they’re willing to let mothers die.
There no explanation and no justification for the privileging of the life of a fetus over that of a mother.
This end-round the Supreme Court’s ruling, Roe vs. Wade (1973) has been tried before and the Supreme Court has struck down many state laws limiting or regulation abortion from the mid-70s on. The problem for James Dobson and his group is that the Supreme Court ruled that abortion is a fundamental right under the Constitution.
The pros and cons of abortion (or that ruling) aside, Dobson seems to miss one of the original purposes of the Constitution, which was to protect the American people from “excesses of democracy” of local legislatures, which tended to run roughshod over the rights of the minority.
In other words, certain restraints were placed on the powers of local legislatures in order to force them to respect the rights of all their citizens, not just the majority (Article I, Section 10). That is why the United States Constitution trumps state constitutions. All citizens have rights equally, not just those who form part of a majority.
As James Madison said, “In Republics, the great danger is, that the majority may not sufficiently respect the rights of the minority.” In fact, Dobson places himself in direct opposition to Madison. While Dobson somehow imagines that his own particular religion is the truest guardian of a liberty he would extend to only a few, Madison argued that “The advancement and diffusion of knowledge is the only guardian of true liberty.” And that true liberty extends to all.
This is the problem with state referendums which, for example, attempt to deprive certain groups of their civil rights – Proposition 8 in California being a case in point. The hypocrisy of the Republican position on rights is apparent when those rights are reserved for only a few. It is not the position of the Constitution that some are more equal than others, or that equal rights are dependent upon holding a majority. States can’t vote to ignore the Constitution. This is not something that is permitted. It is not something that can be permitted. Nor can states vote to ignore the rulings of the Supreme Court. It – not Dobson’s interpretation of the views of his supreme deity – is the final arbiter in the land.
Of course, while the Constitution says (Article VI, Section 3) that no religious test is required to hold office, Focus on the Family ignores the Constitution by arguing the opposite:
Does the candidate have a Christian world-view? Is he pro-life? A clue is whether he knows the embryonic stem-cell debate and opposes the process. Does she firmly support God’s definition of marriage, and does she oppose civil unions that give marriage benefits to same-sex couples? Does he believe that parents, rather than the state, have ultimate say over what a child learns in school? Is she hostile toward or silent on matters of faith? A candidate’s positions on all these issues are important indicators.
The major problem with the Republicans is that they have become not just the morality party but the party of one particular morality – Christian morality, and a specific type of Christianity at that. While most cultures share ideas of taboo behavior, it would be a mistake to assume that one idea of morality can function as a guide to every person on earth. The same protections employed in the Constitution to protect the minority apply to religious minorities. The eighteenth century’s Evangelicals understood this; Dobson does not.
But then Focus on the Family is anti-minority, and by that I do not mean necessarily racist, but opposed to groups that represent a minority point of view. For example, Focus on the Family thinks bullies are the true victims, not the kids they abuse and beat up or force into suicide. The majority should be able to do whatever they want and (for now) Christians are still a majority religion in the United States. Might, in Dobson’s view, appears to make right, and that was not the view of the framers of the Constitution.
But this is no surprise from a group that has argued that “tolerance and diversity” are “buzzwords” used to promote a (nonexistent) homosexual agenda, or that it is not gays that are being persecuted by Christians but Christians by gays. It is clear that fact plays very little role in Focus on the Family’s rhetoric.
Where at the founding of our nation Protestant leaders, unhappily familiar with the example of the Church of England and the Papacy, mostly showed opposition to the idea of state sponsored religion, today’s Protestant leaders seem to think the intention all along was to create an officially Christian United States, and James Dobson feeds into this misguided mania. Despite any evidence in favor and piles of evidence against, he insists that his fevered imaginings are reality.
When the only mention of Christianity in the Constitution is “the Year of the Lord” in Article VII; when there is no mention of liberty in the scripture he champions, Dobson’s claim that Christianity is essential to the American republic or to liberty are absurd. Every state ratified this secular Constitution without objection to the absence of God. That the American Revolution was a largely secular revolution might explain this; the Second Great Awakening, as it was called, was a product not of the 18th, but of the 19th century. James Dobson is not only attempting to bypass the Constitution, he is attempting to subvert it. He is not trying to save America but to destroy it. And in light of the evidence, Dobson’s claim that “the charge that we are hateful is simply not rooted in fact” rings hollow.
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.