Nel's New Day

January 20, 2013

Good News for Separation of Church & State

During the last decade, the fundamentalist Christian religion has tried to control the entire legal process of the United States. Here is some hope that this process may have started failing.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Emilie H. Elias has ruled that names of church leaders who mishandled child sex abuse allegations will be made public in 30,000 pages of internal Archdiocese of Los Angeles records. The private mediator asked that the names be blacked out to save further embarrassment to the church and “guilt by association.” The judge disagreed, saying that parishioners who learn from the files of a priest accused of abuse in their local church “may want to talk to their adult children” about their own experiences. Lawyers for the church were upset because they had already blacked out the names and didn’t want to pay for redoing the work, a job that could take months.

Supporters of stem-cell research were pleased over a week ago when the Supreme Court failed to review a challenge to federal funding of human embryonic stem-cell research. Abortion-rights opponents, who equate research involving embryonic stem cells with murder, criticized the court’s decision. Appellate judges had acknowledged ambiguity in laws governing stem-cell research but ultimately deferred to the National Institutes of Health, which supports the studies. Scientists believe that stem-cell research, who believe it will yield treatments and cures for diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

Christian fundamentalists in Florida, pleased with a new law to allow prayer in school, may not be pleased with the outcome. The Inspirational Messages law allows students to write and read these messages. Overlord Lucien Graves, a spokesperson for the Satanic Temple, has said that they promote many of the same ideas as major religions and should be included in the “inspirational messages.”  The bill dictates that school officials are not permitted to mediate, approve, or participate in these “inspirational messages,” which expand upon the two minutes of silence for quiet prayer or mediation previously observed in Florida public schools.

This coming Tuesday is the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court ruling that made abortion legal across the United States. Despite the huge spate of anti-abortion laws passed by states in the last two years on religious grounds, some religious people support the right of women to control their bodies.

Before the Supreme Court legalized abortion, clergy were among the staunchest supporters of women seeking an abortion. The Clergy Consultation Service on Abortion, an underground network that counseled women and led them to compassionate, competent doctors who provided abortion care, grew to about 1,400 clergy operating on the East Coast during the 1960s to serve women from across the nation. Rev. Howard Moody—who was born in Texas, lived in New York, and died in 2012 at age 91—created the network and considered it one of his most important ministries.

Five years after the Roe decision, a number of religious organizations voiced support for the decision in a 1978 ecumenical study document. American Baptist Churches wrote, “Abortion should be a matter of personal decision.” The American Lutheran Church agreed, recognizing the “freedom and responsibility of individuals to make their own choices in light of the best information available to them and their understanding of God’s will for their lives.” The Church of the Brethren voiced support in the document for women who, “after prayer and counseling, believe abortion is the least destructive alternative available to them.”

The 1978 ecumenical study document articulated the inherent value of the fetus and the importance of reducing the need for abortion. It also held up values of humility, freedom, justice, balance, compassion, and responsibility. Since that time, a different translation of the Bible by pro-life advocates now determines that God is opposed to any abortion, wanting people to protect fertilized eggs from the time of conception. In fact, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) is sponsoring a bill to that effect, the third of his career. (He has evidently abandoned the need to improve the economy and job market.)

Candidates who want to keep raising money from the issue of abortion need to move the “pro-life” movement to the fertilized egg. With advanced technology, over 60 percent of abortions are now completed before the ninth week and 90 percent before the 12th. Increased use of contraception has drastically decreased abortion rates because prevention of pregnancy is more accessible. The rate in 2008 was 19.6 per 1,000 women, two-thirds of the rate in 1981. In the past, women who would afford the cost of contraceptives rarely needed abortions; with its free contraceptives, Obamacare will shrink the rate of abortions for the poor.

Religious acceptance of reproductive rights for women is important. As the Southern Baptist Convention reasoned when it supported Roe v. Wade, if the government could tell a woman what to do with her body, it could also tell Baptists what they could—or couldn’t—do with their religion. That’s an important reason for separation of church and state.

An update on yesterday and GAD: There were actually five people injured at gun shows yesterday. In Indiana a 54-year-old man accidentally shot himself in the hand outside the Indy 1500 Gun and Knife Shot while loading his .45 caliber semi-automatic handgun in the parking lot. In Medina (OH) a vendor at the Medina County gun show had to be transported to the hospital by EMS after accidentally shooting himself. In Raleigh (NC), site of the other three injuries, the Dixie Gun and Knife Show  closed down yesterday after the injuries and no longer allow people to bring personal guns to the show.

Today in Albuquerque (NM) 15-year-old Nehemiah Griego killed both his parents and three of his nine siblings with an assault rifle. All victims suffered multiple gunshot wounds. The father, Greg Griego, spent 13 years as volunteer pastor at the Metropolitan Detention Center. The killer did not have a criminal record.

If anyone tries to convince you that we don’t need gun laws because law-abiding gun owners are responsible, ask them to watch this video.

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