Well, I’ve already posted 4 times this morning — pun intended — while reading the newspaper. So, instead of a bunch more entries, here are some excerpts from Washington Post opinion pieces this morning that I particularly liked.
Sometimes you fight to keep rights you have. And sometimes you fight for an ideal.
A Fight for Hope
After President Bush announced his support for a constitutional amendment to prevent same-sex marriage, a heterosexual friend stumped me with this question: “Why are you fighting to prevent people from taking away rights you don’t have?”
It’s one thing to be born into discrimination, to grow up with it. It’s one thing to have discriminatory laws on the books for so long that you just sort of take them for granted. But it’s another thing to watch legalized discrimination coming.
The Constitution is the seat of America’s soul. It is the symbol of our freedom, a living, breathing testament to the consciousness of fairness and justice. To see some Americans shaking the spray can to paint anti-gay graffiti on the Constitution is almost too much to bear.
Or maybe it’s because we’ve all held out a subconscious hope that the Constitution would do for us what it did for women, African Americans and other minorities — end legalized discrimination.
Now the document that became the life-support system for some groups is about to have its air supply cut off for another.
“Sound science” in the Bush administration simply means “Sounds like science.”
Beware ‘Sound Science.’ It’s Doublespeak for Trouble
When George W. Bush and members of his administration talk about environmental policy, the phrase “sound science” rarely goes unuttered. On issues ranging from climate change to the storage of nuclear waste in Nevada’s Yucca Mountain, our president has assured us that he’s backing up his decisions with careful attention to the best available research.
Dig into the origins of the phrase “sound science” as a slogan in policy disputes, and its double meaning becomes clearer. That use of the term goes back to a campaign waged by the tobacco industry to undermine the indisputable connection between smoking and disease. Industry documents released as a result of tobacco litigation show that in 1993 Philip Morris and its public relations firm, APCO Associates, created a nonprofit front group called The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition (TASSC) to fight against the regulation of cigarettes. To mask its true purpose, TASSC assembled a range of anti-regulatory interests under one umbrella. The group also challenged the now widely accepted notion that secondhand smoke poses health risks.
Since then, other industry groups have invoked “sound science” to ease government restrictions. …In April 2001, Vice President Cheney’s energy task force urged the Interior Department to open up more of Alaska for oil and gas drilling based on “sound science and the best available technology.” Last October, Allen James, president of Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment, a group of manufacturers and suppliers of pest management products, urged the use of pesticides to kill disease-carrying mosquitoes in a letter to the Post. “As a citizen, I expect my elected officials to consider sound science in making decisions that affect my health and the health of my neighbors. Sound science says pesticide sprays are safe and effective,” he wrote.
Recently, the Department of Health and Human Services, citing the need for “sound science,” challenged a World Health Organization report linking obesity to soft drinks, junk food and fast food. “Only by employing open and transparent processes that are science-based and peer-reviewed can the WHO . . . produce a credible product,” HHS said.
Is religion simply a self-help course, or should the faithful work not for themselves, but for the world?
I Want My Congregation to Look Outside Itself
Everywhere I turn these days, I hear about “The Purpose-Driven Life,” the mega-best-selling book by a California minister named Rick Warren. Members of my church are asking me about it, nearby congregations are running the 40-day spiritual program based on its precepts, and because of all the interest, I’ve decided to use it for my own daily reflections in this Lenten season.
But as I think about the book’s message and its huge impact — more than 11 million copies sold last year — I admit I’m a little confounded. The book challenges people to focus on personal change. It promises people that discovering their purpose in life will reduce their stress, simplify their decisions, increase their satisfaction and prepare them for eternity.
Personal change is an admirable objective. Yet I look around and see a world in flux — war in Iraq, the disruptions of globalization, the societal changes brought by immigration — and I wonder if a focus on the personal is what we ministers should be emphasizing. Is it enough to preach sermons that center on individual struggles and offer guidance along the path to a more meaningful and fulfilling personal life? I can’t help thinking this is a time when we should be challenging our people to move beyond the personal to the public — indeed, the political — and commit themselves to transforming the world.
Today, religious leaders generally tend to concentrate on private, not public, life. Even Christian activists such as Pat Robertson or James Dobson focus chiefly on the family or on issues, such as abortion or gay marriage, that touch people in the realm of their private lives, rather than talking about using theology to shape a better world. Most of us are pastors, quietly tending to our flocks and their internal needs, rather than prophets, challenging our people to look outward and commit themselves to creating a more just society.
The “compassionate conservative” says one thing, but their amendment says another.
The Amendment Speaks for Itself
Proponents of the Federal Marriage Amendment — the leading candidate for a constitutional ban on gay marriage — claim that it would permit states to recognize civil unions. Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R-Colo.), the amendment’s original sponsor, maintains that it “allows for civil unions if they are enacted by state legislatures, but they cannot be imposed by the courts.” After President Bush announced his support for a constitutional amendment, White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan said that the president agrees with Musgrave’s claim, while stopping short of endorsing the specific wording of her version. And a variety of media outlets have repeated the same assertion as though it were fact. It is not.
On the contrary, the language in the Musgrave amendment would render civil unions — as well as domestic partnerships — meaningless.
Here’s the text: “Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution or the constitution of any State, nor state or federal law, shall be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups.”
The amendment says that state law can’t be interpreted as granting to unmarried couples the “legal incidents” of marriage — that is, the legal rights that traditionally accompany marriage — which is precisely what a civil union does.
… Instead of clarifying the text, Musgrave (along with former judge Robert H. Bork, one of the drafters) has fallen back on arguing that the courts can figure out what Congress and the voters intended. Apart from the deep ironies in this argument (why rely on the courts if the amendment is meant to rein in “activist judges,” and why are conservatives, who have long asserted that statutory interpretation begins and ends with the text, advocating murky inquiries into legislative intent?), it’s odd to opt for vagueness over clarity in drafting a constitutional amendment.