Sunday, June 24, 2007

Ron Paul: Linking Church and State

Vjack at Atheist Revolution has written an introspective article about the current crop of candidates for president.

I agree with much that vjack says, but don't necessarily hold with all of his sentiments. He's nowhere near hard enough on the front-running Democrats, who are doing everything but literally kissing holy asses to court the supernatural vote.

He also paints all Republicans with too broad a brush. He fails to mention, for instance, that Rudy Giuliani has been consistently anti-forced maternity, pro stem-cell research, and in favor of gun control, hardly positions that qualify him as "a Christian extremist." In fact, in response to an AP questionnaire of all candidates about their religious affiliation and the particular churches they attend, Giuliani was the only one of either party to say, essentially, "Screw you. That's none of your business." These factors raise Giuliani a few points in my anti-theocratic estimation.

But only a few; like vjack, I still wouldn't vote for Giuliani, not even if someone held a controlled gun to my head. Among my many reasons: He supported and continues to support Bush's war in Iraq; he has always been a law-and-order thug; he has failed to champion free speech; and he disregarded health and environmental advice about the post-9/11 cleanup. So hooray for him for standing up to the religious right, but ... who else is running?

What I mainly want to address here, though, is not vjack's essay. I'm more interested in the comments he received, the first three of which touted Congressman Ron Paul.

Here's important information for those folks, and anyone else hailing Paul as a liberty-loving messiah.

Ron Paul is the worst kind of godpusher. He doesn't believe in separation of church and state. He seems to think that religious piety is more important than good government. Don't take my word for it; click on the links to read Paul's very own horrifying words.

I consider myself a libertarian on many issues. Ron Paul is not. He's just another a theocrat.

24 comments:

Tsoldrin said...

Wow! I'm not sure you fully have a handle on Ron Paul there. As I see it, he is for Freedom of Religion as much as Freedom FROM Religion. His stance seems very constitutional to me.

I myself am a hard line athiest, but I also think everyone should have the freedom to practice their silly beliefs however they choose as long as it's not hurting anyone else. Partially because that protects my right to not believe, but also partially because even though I might wish it, the believers aren't just all going to disappear, thus we have to learn to all get along and respect one another.

I find no conflict with my non-beliefs and the positions of Congressman Paul, in fact I find him the least likely to use or abuse religion politically of all the candidates currently running.

On a side note, I think you'll find that most folks that are rabidly anti-religion as opposed to simply apathetic towards it are not those who have realized that logically God is unlikely in the extreme, but instead have turned against religion because of some bad experiences they've had. Are you perhaps one of those?

G said...

Tsoldrin got it right, read Paul's stance here:
http://www.lewrockwell.com/paul/paul85.html

The government has no authority to rule on religion, either supporting it or prohibiting it. Seperation of church and state is not practiced atheism by the state's rulers, it is just a prohibition on the state itself becoming involved in religion. Remember, the supreme court ruled atheism is a "religion" for this purpose.

The Exterminator said...

Tsoldrin and G:

Ron Paul says: The notion of a rigid separation between church and state has no basis in either the text of the Constitution or the writings of our Founding Fathers. On the contrary, our Founders’ political views were strongly informed by their religious beliefs. Certainly the drafters of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, both replete with references to God, would be aghast at the federal government’s hostility to religion.

The Declaration of Independence has one reference to "the Creator," one to "The Supreme Judge of the World," and one to "Divine Providence." (Notice the twists and turns to avoid mentioning "God" or "Jesus." This is not "robustly Christian," as Ron Paul would have his readers believe.) The Constitution has no mention of god whatsoever. This lack was purposeful, as historical records show. To say that these documents are "replete with references to God" is a lie. The founders' political views were not strongly informed by their religious beliefs; their political views were often in blatant opposition to the reigning Christian orthodoxies of their time.

I agree that the founders envisioned a religiously tolerant society, and so do I. But I also believe that they wanted to keep religion completely removed from the governmental sphere. Clearly, Ron Paul doesn't. To say, as Paul does, that the secularists wage an ongoing war against religion, chipping away bit by bit at our nation’s Christian heritage is dishonest and despicable.

G said...

There is no evidence that the people who ratified the constitution and its amendments (and therefore the people who gave the government any legitimate power to begin with) wished any religious expression in government officials to be banned. Indeed, the opposite is true, with many law having been passed which had their roots in religious values.

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..."
I would argue laws which prevent a judge from displaying the 10 commandments in his courtroom is in direct violation of the 1st amendment, just as a law requiring those commandments be displayed would be as well.

To me, the clause seems quite clear. It doesn't mention anything like "prohibiting the free excercise thereof, except for public servants and institutions". There is a large difference between a law respecting a religion and people acting freely to express their religion. The former forces religion (or atheism) on people, the later does not.

The dissent of Rehnquist, Scalia and Thomas in Santa Fe Independent School Dist. v. Doe explains it better than I can:
http://supct.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/99-62.ZD.html

People can argue that government officials should be prohibited from expressing religious worship. I won't agree with that, though I find religion to be a pretty silly institution myself. But any interpretation of the law in such a manner is not one which was empowered by the consent of the people in a democratic process. It was something clearly created by judicial fiat.

Not only that, but the decision on the above case was at odds with everything the constitution stands for. The philosophy at the time was one of creator-given rights, and the people recognized that government did not grant these rights to people, they had them inherently. The force of government could only take them away, or protect them from coercion by outside forces. The first amendment, like the entire bill of rights and most of the constitution, was designed to prevent government from taking away the rights of the people. Therefore, it is completely impossible for the 1st amendment, or any part of the bill of rights, to be used to remove someone's rights.

The framers thought this was so self-evident, they did not even need to include the 9th amendment (which more or less says what I just wrote). But Madison did anyways, mostly so that it was spelled out more clearly for generations to come.

The Exterminator said...

G:

I don't care to get into a long debate with you over constitutional interpretation. There's lots of evidence that the founders were extremely leery of Christianity. Read, for instance, the letters and writings of Jefferson, of Adams, of Madison.

To you the Establishment Clause may seem quite clear, but it does to me, too. And we don't agree, even though we both, apparently, understand English. Hmmmm. "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion..." Note that the Amendment does not say "a" religion, but just "religion" period. So I'll quote Justice Black yet again on this blog: "No law means no law."

That means you're free to put up the ten commandments anywhere you want on private property. But public property is not suitable for that purpose because the state may not establish religion.

Please don't refer me to the minority opinion of Rehnquist (joined by Scalia and Thomas) in Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe. Stevens's majority opinion is what counts. He and five other justices agreed that school-sponsored prayer violates the Establishment Clause. No law means no law.

As for the prohibitions against school prayer, public displays of religious symbols, and forced religious observations at the general public's expense? These prohibitions don't take away anyone's right to practice his or her religion. Rather, they protect my right -- which may not be popular with the majority -- not to have to pay for and support beliefs that I find ridiculous, and even dangerous.

I think this protection of an unpopular right is EXACTLY what the framers had in mind.

vjack said...

Thanks for the link. I love it when cross-blog discussions work like they are supposed to, and this is a great example. I may never understand the fascination with Ron Paul, but I think it is important that the information you are sharing here gets out to the atheists who would support him.

Butch said...

Thanks for the enlightening post. I’m an atheist who has been pretty positive on Ron Paul. Those two speeches you linked to do give me pause however. In any case, it’s not like we get a choice in the matter anyway. We’ll be able to choose between whoever kissed enough party line ass in New Hampshire and the other handful of early primary states. Damnit I wish my vote could actually count for something. I’m sick having to vote for theocrat Republican, a pseudo-socialist Democrat or “waste” it on some non-viable third-party.

Angrie.Woman said...

Voting for the candidate isn't wasting a vote.

I don't agree with every thing Ron Paul believes, but I still think he is our last, best hope for the changes this country desperately needs.

He believes in marriage, but he also believes the government shouldn't decide who should not get married.

You can't convince me that the man who would love to see the Federal government stripped to bare bones levels would also be intent promoting Christianity extremes.

He's the only "Christian" up there that doesn't want to nuke Iran. Give him a chance.

Cole said...

I think there are alot of good arguments on both sides of this.
This is how I see it:
As an atheist I wish Ron Paul were less religious. But face facts, it's going to be a very, very long time before even an agnostic gets elected president.
What's important is that Dr. Paul's not making a single religious issue a part of his campaign. He really has only two goals;
1. Get us the hell out of Iraq
2. Get the government the hell out of our lives.

With what'll be left of the government after Paul gets done with it, they can put huge freaking graven image of God himself on top of the White House for all I care. I'll never have to see the thing.

Anonymous said...

Just to be clear:

The "g" you know in meatspace is a different person from the "g" whose comments appear above.

and sign it,

g -- the other white meat

The Exterminator said...

Angrie Woman, you said: You can't convince me that the man who would love to see the Federal government stripped to bare bones levels would also be intent promoting Christianity extremes.

You sound like the Christian fundamentalists do when they deny evidence. I didn't make up Ron Paul's words; he wrote them himself. If you choose to ignore that evidence, go ahead. But please don't present yourself as a person who respects reason.

Cole, I'm not advocating that atheists vote only for atheists; That's ridiculous. But what I am saying is that an avowed potential theocrat is antithetical to everything we stand for. Ron Paul, in challenging the separation of church and state, certainly qualifies as an avowed potential theocrat.

You also wrote: What's important is that Dr. Paul's not making a single religious issue a part of his campaign. He really has only two goals.

I ask you: How do you know what Ron Paul's goals are? I read those position papers, and they're pretty damn clear. Maybe he's hiding his religious views -- for now -- so gullible atheist libertarians like you will vote for him.

Chris said...

Linking church and state won't matter when the state is so small, and so limited in it's role that it doesn't have a hand in matters where religious legislators are concerned with forcing their beliefs on other people. But that is beside the point.

I think you're treating Ron Paul as if he's just another republican facing off with the progressive left by telling you his thoughts and suggesting that government do his bidding. And I thinks that's a misconstruing how Ron Paul views the role of government in the issue.

To call him a "godpusher" is to (falsely) suggest that he wants to turn our government into a theocracy and use it to force his personal beliefs on other people. For anyone who reads more than a couple of articles on lewrockwell.com, it's easy to see that's not the case. Furthermore, to say he doesn't believe in separation of church and state is an outright lie. Just because he doesn't think government should do everything it can to rid politics of religious influence, doesn't mean that he thinks church and state should be walking hand-in-hand. The last paragraph in the article you cited (Theology, Not Politics) plainly suggests that he doesn't want them closely linked at all. But you ignore that for some reason.

You also suggest Ron Paul is saying, in that same article, religious piety is more important than good government, but considering the fact that he listed the characteristics of government as sanctioning abortion, war, euthanasia, and the death penalty, I'd say his attack was more on government itself and politicians who seek to use government, not just good government. That is, unless all those characteristics are good government to you.

You also asked Cole how he knows what Ron Paul's goals are, then use the apparent ignorance of his "real, hidden agenda" to suggest that MAYBE he's lying through his teeth. Then again, MAYBE he's not.

Considering the way he articulates his position on the role of government with regard to just about every possible issue, I find it difficult to think your "maybe" suggestion is a viable one. Generally, liars aren't able to be so consistent with regard to the principle they are lying about, much less be so persistent.

If your question to Cole wasn't rhetorical, and you truly are curious about what Ron Paul's goals are, then I apologize, and I suggest you glean the answer from the copious amount of writing he's done on all the issues, easily available at the Ron Paul Library.

To address your problem with the lewrockwell.com articles specifically: I think you're confusing the separation between personal beliefs and the role of government. I think he's wrong, but Ron Paul could be right that the Founding Father's viewed the nation as robustly Christian. But that doesn't mean it's the job of government to make it that way. The simple fact, is that it doesn't matter what he thinks of the Founding Father's personal views, because (as far as Ron Paul is concerned) federal government doesn't or shouldn't play a role in that, so long as nobody is infringing on the rights and liberties of others.

He may have his religious beliefs, but, like Kerry in the 2004 elections, he recognizes that it's not his place to legislate those beliefs. Regardless of his personal beliefs, Ron Paul's position can probably be summed up like this: "just because it should be done doesn't mean it's the federal government's job to do it." So while his personal beliefs may differ from yours, he, more importantly, believes in your freedom to influence those policies on a more local level. His concern is with reducing the reach of the federal government on all the issues. So I fail to see why an atheist should not vote for him.

The Exterminator said...

Chris:

Get real. Take off the blinders.

Ron Paul says: .. those who don’t celebrate [Christmas] overwhelmingly accept and respect our nation’s Christmas traditions ... Did he take a poll? I don't respect any Christmas traditions, and I'll bet that a lot of Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Zoroastrians, and atheists feel the same way. Is Ron Paul such a statist that he would force us to accept those traditions? You'll probably say, "no, of course he wouldn't." However ...

He then goes on to say: The Christmas spirit, marked by a wonderful feeling of goodwill among men, is in danger of being lost in the ongoing war against religion. What would he do about this danger? If nothing, why mention it? If something, he's shoving his beliefs down my throat. That's not libertarian philosophy the way I've always understood it. And what's this "ongoing war against religion" he's talking about? Sounds like unsubstantiated rabble-rousing to me. Is he suggesting that taxpayer money be used to join the war on the other side? It sure sounds like he's implicitly advocating that. This is libertarian rhetoric to you?

He writes: Through perverse court decisions and years of cultural indoctrination ...
What are these "perverse" decisions. The banning of prayer paid for by taxpayers in public schools? The refusal to allow displays of blatantly religious symbols paid for by taxpayers in citizen-owned venues? The disallowing of churches to influence what, where, and when consumer items can be sold to free citizens? Your brand of libertarianism finds these decisions perverse?

Finally, he intones: The notion of a rigid separation between church and state has no basis in either the text of the Constitution or the writings of our Founding Fathers. What part of that do you not understand? He's suggesting that the church and state, however small he makes it, be linked. That's libertarianism?

One more before I go and pull my hair out at the Paul supporters' obtuseness. He says, critically: In fact, most members of Congress support policies that are totally at odds with Catholic teachings. So is he suggesting that Congress would be better if legislators supported policies that are championed by Catholic teaching? You'd better read the history of the Catholic Church if you think that reflects libertarian philosophy.

Stop being an idiot. The guy is a thinly veiled theocrat.

chris said...

Meh, I've got blinders on because I consider those articles in the context of everything else he says and has written, and how it fits within his philosophy of the role of government.

Clearly, I'm being an idiot. I really should just take these articles at face value, and apply my own political paradigm as lens through which to see them. For this I am deeply sorry. I'll stop.

Orat said...

Those articles are being taken completely out of context and misinterpreted if you're going to use them to claim he is for a removal of the separations of Church and State. Read them again carefully this time and I think you'll find they actually argue FOR separation of Church and State. Go ahead, read them.

Just because the guy talks kindly of religion doesn't give you a license to ignore the meaning of his article. Being kind to religion is not at all the same thing as promoting a unity of Church and State.

As for his mention of Congress supporting policies that are at odds with Catholic teachings, he was refering to their conscience guiding them in their decisions, not necessarily on things like homosexual marriage, etc, but on the initiation of force and the entry into wars. Read it again, I dare you!

A thinly veiled theocrat? Preposterous! Have you not heard him many times say that he does NOT want the government legislating morality? That he does NOT want the government invading our bedrooms? That he does NOT want the government getting involved in marriage? You sir, are extremely ill-informed.

The Exterminator said...

Orat:

The articles I linked to are both freestanding. There's no context to take them out of.

Perhaps you're supplying some kind of fantasy context.

The writing is English. I don't get how or why it needs interpreting. Did Ron Paul say what he meant? Did he mean what he said? If not, why not?

Maybe you can educate me in my faulty reading skills and show me where in either of the linked articles Ron Paul actually argues "FOR separation of Church and State"? I must have missed that.

What is it with you Ron Paul fanatics? Why don't you read exactly what the guy says and take it at face value? You're so desperate for a libertarian candidate that you'll completely ignore some pretty scary stuff. Is blind faith part of the libertarian philosophy? Not in the libertarianism I know.

And by the way, one of the Catholic teachings Ron Paul finds so delightful is the church's viewpoint on abortion: not allowing a woman to control her own body. That's libertarian to you?!

Saint Gasoline said...

I think that these two articles you listed are not evidence that Ron Paul is necessarily a theocrat, although they certainly appear that way.

From my point of view, I think these articles are just typical empty rhetoric, like the type that Obama often gives when he starts talking of faith, that seems to imply that we should remove the separation of church and state while also subtly reaffirming it in the end.

Basically, Ron Paul goes off the edge by using exaggerrated claims, using fundie-friendly scare-phrases about the secularists attempt to destroy religion and so on, but in the end he sees religion as separate from government. Basically, he seems to be contradicting his earlier exagerrations, which were only meant to sway well-meaning fundies who wouldn't bother to really listen that carefully, and who would immediately chime in agreement as soon as secular wars on christmas were invoked in the speech.

With that said, I think Paul or Guiliani are the best choices. At least those two would be pretty lax on social freedom issues, and wouldn't legislate morality.

The Exterminator said...

saint gasoline:

I see your godless work regularly, either by visiting your blog directly, by reading it on Planet Atheism, or by catching it when someone else lifts it. I think you're hilarious. I also respect your opinions. So I'm going to answer you politely -- but firmly.

Like so many other commenters in this thread, you've chosen to put your own delusory spin on words that Ron Paul wrote -- words that are in absolutely crystal clear English. I find no evidence whatsoever that "in the end he sees religion as separate from government." You suggest that the two position papers I linked to were written to sway the fundies. But how do you know that these writings don't represent precisely what Paul believes? Maybe he has exaggeratedly written other papers to sway YOUR vote?

I think we should judge a candidate by two things: (1) his actions and (2) what he says he believes. I have no firsthand knowledge of Ron Paul's voting record on separation matters. I don't remember seeing his name mentioned among those who consistently cry out against establishment. Perhaps you've looked at his votes in Congress and can show me what I've missed.

I know, though, what he says he believes about separation. Those position papers would get a 110% rating from any theocrat.

Look, I'd love to see a real old-fashioned anti-government, anti-church libertarian candidate. But I'll say this for the umpteenth time: Ron Paul ain't it.

Chill Bill said...

If you are against prayer in school, you must be against the Pledge of Allegiance as well, which is nothing but a prayer to the state! (and was written by an America national-socialist)

Anonymous said...

I am an agnostic supporter of Ron Paul, and I was a bit taken aback at his comments regarding the separation of church and state (which is why I am trying to gather more information). Again, I am not a Christian, but I was raised Christian and I agree with a lot of their values. I think there may be something to the argument that Christianity is being subverted, and I know for a fact that it is widely being used for political ends. I don't agree that the ten commandments should be displayed at courthouses, or that prayers to God should be allowed before football games (although it is really not that bad, if you don't agree with the religious beliefs of that particular stadium owner and can't tolerate a 30 second prayer, you have the freedom to do something else), but these are not major issues (to me), and should not stop anyone from supporting Ron Paul. He has the best chance to win of all the non-CFR candidates, and, I sincerely believe, the last hope of restoring Constitution and preventing (or at least delaying) the rise of the NWO.

Shelly said...

Given Ron Paul's extremist religious views, I'm really just glad he has no hope of winning. He is useful on the anti-war front and in the civil rights argument. I hope he keeps talking about those things. But any candidate who is ultra-religious and feels that women shouldn't be in the military or get abortions is backwards. Like, in the 1800's.
Check out his religious interview for the American View where he says women cause a "heterosexual" problem in the military.

http://tinyurl.com/yq24fe

Anonymous said...

You'll find this interesting, another selection from Ron Paul's writings...

Consider the Lawrence case decided by the Supreme Court in June. The Court determined that Texas had no right to establish its own standards for private sexual conduct, because gay sodomy is somehow protected under the 14th amendment “right to privacy.” Ridiculous as sodomy laws may be, there clearly is no right to privacy nor sodomy found anywhere in the Constitution. There are, however, states’ rights – rights plainly affirmed in the Ninth and Tenth amendments. Under those amendments, the State of Texas has the right to decide for itself how to regulate social matters like sex, using its own local standards. But rather than applying the real Constitution and declining jurisdiction over a properly state matter, the Court decided to apply the imaginary Constitution and impose its vision on the people of Texas.

The Exterminator said...

Anon:

Yeah, Ron Paul isn't a libertarian when it comes to supporting the liberties of minority groups. I feel confident in saying that he's actually no kind of libertarian at all. He's really just a religious-right Republican with some free-market and isolationist ideas.

Anonymous said...

I agree. What's even more scary is when I found this from one of his articles...

However, contrary to the claims of the supporters of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the sponsors of H.Res. 676, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 did not improve race relations or enhance freedom. Instead, the forced integration dictated by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 increased racial tensions while diminishing individual liberty.

You have to be kidding me. Similarly when you look at the H RES 676 Recognizing and honoring the 40th anniversary of congressional passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, out of all the people that voted he was the only one to vote NAY!

WTF? I guess he would spew some crap like it's the states responsibility to legislate this and the EEOC has no right to set standards for employment, etc.

What's even more hilarious is more asinine rambling in the article such as...

The federal government has no legitimate authority to infringe on the rights of private property owners to use their property as they please and to form (or not form) contracts with terms mutually agreeable to all parties.

Is this guy for real?