Various Direct Links

11 February 2012

Repudiation: NJ Family Policy Council - on Preserving Marriage

As the politics to enact marriage equality in New Jersey heat up, the New Jersey Family Policy Council (NJFPC) has prepared an eight page document, Preserving Marriage and Protecting Children in New Jersey.  The document includes a set of "talking points" that I will disprove.
Question: Homosexuals are born that way. Don’t they deserve our tolerance and understanding?
Answer: First, there is no proof that homosexuals are born that way (see p. 3, “It’s not a civil rights issue”). Second, homosexual activists are not seeking our tolerance, they are seeking to radically change the definition of marriage and impose their views on the rest of society by changing the laws of the land (see p. 3, “Why Should the Rights of Marriage Be Reserved?”).
Regarding the born that way question, it is the wrong question.  Please pardon me for repeating some of what I put in a post two months ago. While there is no definitive "gay gene", the medical community has strong opinions on the origin and nature of sexuality.  Here is an extended quote from that article:

What Causes Sexual Orientation?
The causes of sexual orientation and homosexuality are unknown.  Studies have suggested both genetic and non-genetic factors.  Sexual attraction (whether gay or straight), in fact, might have several origins including genetic factors for some people, environmental factors for others, or some combinations of these factors for yet others.  Most mental health professionals believe that sexual orientation is determined for most people early in life, or even before birth, and therefore is not chosen.  No particular pattern or style of parenting has been shown to cause homosexuality.

Can Homosexuality Be Changed?
The desire to change sexual orientation often is drive more by social stigma or religious concerns than by medical or mental health concerns.  Some homosexual people are able to change their sexual behavior (albeit with great difficulty).  A change in behavior, however, is only one aspect of homosexuality and does not imply that sexual orientation has changed, particularly if desire remains.
Most psychiatrists have come to the conclusion that sexual orientation is not likely to change through any form of mental health treatment.  Efforts to try to force an individual to change his or her orientation are very likely to be unsuccessful and in the end can seriously damage the self-esteem of people who fail.  Most psychiatrists therefore encourage their homosexual patients to come to terms with homosexuality and to accept themselves as they are.
To the second point, no one is seeking to redefine marriage.  We are seeking to expand the definition of marriage.  The reference to page 3 of the full document includes a quote from someone claiming that there is an intent to "radically alter an archaic institution".  But that simply isn't the case.  If my partner and I wed, there is no change to any heterosexual marriage.  They also go to slippery slope arguments, same sex marriage will lead to polygamy.  Nope, that is a completely separate issue.  Polygamy as a consequence of marriage equality was struck down by Canadian courts last year.
Question: Aren’t homosexuals entitled to equal rights? They are citizens too. Shouldn’t we recognize that they are entitled to certain benefits?
Answer: Homosexuals do not meet the constitutional criteria in current law to receive the benefits of marriage (see p. 3, “Why Should the Rights of Marriage Be Reserved?” and subheadings).
Their argument from page 3 is that:
The New Jersey Constitution (Article 1, paragraph 1), protects against the unequal treatment of those who should be treated alike. Homosexuals are not only prevented from marrying because they do not meet the criteria of one man and one woman, but because their demands require a redefinition of marriage based on self-interest. Such a redefinition would create a precedent for any group to make demands and redefine well-established policy for self-serving reasons.
As citizens of the United States, residents of New Jersey should be treated alike without regard to their sexuality.  This does not require a redefinition of marriage, but the removal of an exclusion to marriage.  The reasons to include gays and lesbians in the definition of marriage are exactly the same as those for including straights.  From the first page of this document:
Marriage as we have known it for thousands of years “contributes to the physical, emotional and economic health of men, women and children, and thus to the nation as a whole.”
Spouses reap many benefits from marriage, compared to those who are single, divorced or cohabiting. They are happier, physically and mentally healthier, live longer, enjoy greater sexual satisfaction, show greater labor force productivity and are better off financially.
Marriage is also central to raising children. The children of married parents tend to develop in a more healthy way, both personally and in their interaction with society than children of divorced or single parents.
Why should gays and lesbians be excluded from these benefits for themselves and by extension for all of society?
Question: I don’t think homosexuals can do any worse with marriage. Heterosexuals have already made a mess of it.
Answer: The two-parent family isn’t perfect, and while many have broken apart over the last 30 years, that is no reason to encourage further erosion by experimenting with yet another type of family (see p. 2, “Preeminence is necessary to the continued viability of marriage”).
Families with gay and lesbian parents are already real.  What the NJFPC calls experimenting has been happening for quite some time.  For some of the reality, both in terms of data on gay parents and on the outcomes for their children, see my post on the All Children Matter Report.  The short version is that the children do as well with gay parents as with straight parents.  What matters is the parents themselves and the legal protections for their families.
Question: Just because your religious beliefs dictate that homosexual acts are sinful, what gives you the right to impose those beliefs on the rest of society?
Answer: First, all societal laws are based on the beliefs and decisions of elected government leaders. As voting citizens, each of us (including clergy, and all those in any house of worship) has a right to be represented by our government and to have our views reflected in law.
Second, if people of faith do not stand against legislation to legalize homosexual unions, our right to free speech on this issue could be taken away. In Canada and Sweden it is now a “hate” crime to criticize homosexuality, punishable by fines and jail time. In Sweden a pastor was arrested at his church and jailed for 30 days for preaching from Romans 1.1 Unless such a law was written to exempt religious institutions, pastors could be forced by the courts to recognize and even perform same-sex unions.
First, we are talking about human rights and civil rights.  The Founding Fathers of the United States recognized that a minority should not be subject to the will of the majority.  This was made clear in Federalist Paper #10.

Second, each religion should be allowed to determine its own rites and not have them dictated by the state.  If a religion wants to limit marriage within its congregants, that is reasonable.  What is not reasonable is that religion forcing other religions to accept the same limitations.

For the record, I disagree with the Swedes.  I believe that clergy should be allowed to preach whatever they want, no matter how hateful, within their sanctuaries.  The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution is appropriate and needs to work in both directions, protecting religions from the state and protecting the state from religions.  Your religion is not allowed to trump my religion.
Question: I don’t think the Bible teaches that homosexual behavior is wrong.
Answer: Read Romans 1:18-32, Leviticus 20:13, and I Corinthians 6:9-11. In fact, the five major world religions — Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism — all recognize and uphold the natural, heterosexual understanding of marriage, and teach that homosexual behavior is not natural.
No.  This is a misrepresentation of several of these religions.  Buddhism is not a single belief system and there are numerous opinions about sexuality within Buddhism.  While Orthodox Judaism rejects homosexuality outright, the majority of Jewish institutions are either tolerant or embracing homosexuals and even marriage equality.

Last October I gathers a list of links to religious organizations that welcome homosexuals.
Question: Doesn’t God tell us to love everyone?
Answer: It would not be a loving act to withhold the truth from someone, especially from someone who is living a life that is detrimental to their physical and emotional health.
In fact, living as what you are is healthy.  It is the bigotry of the NJFPC and others opposed to equality that is unhealthy for members of the LGBTQ Community.  As documented by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the social environment matters.
Question: We are a religious organization. I don’t think we should be involved in political affairs. Our main mission is to preach the gospel.
Answer: While your main mission is to preach the gospel, God tells us to be not only the light, but also the “salt” in society. Marriage is a sacred union, a divine reflection of Christ and the church. Speaking out in support of preserving the sacred institution of marriage is congruent with the foundational purpose of spreading the gospel.
If the government endorsed same-sex relationships, the full force of the government, bound to enforce the law, would necessarily be brought against the church. People of faith would no longer be able to speak out publicly against homosexuality without being charged with a hate crime. They would be subject to hiring requirements. Taxpayers’ children would be indoctrinated to reject the religious teaching of their parents.
NJFPC is conflating civil marriage and a religious sacrament.  We allow those heterosexuals who are atheists to enjoy civil marriage ... no reference to God at all.

Why is there a need to "speak out publicly against homosexuality"?  If you want to do this in your church, that should be your right.  You have no right to impose your religion on the rest of society.

Regarding "indoctrination" of children, that is what you are doing with your religion.  Go ahead and do so, but do not inflict this on the rest of society.
Question: Will our tax status be in jeopardy if we mobilize our congregation to engage in the battle to preserve marriage?
Answer: While government restrictions do impose certain limitations, churches and pastors can still speak out on the moral issues of our day. They can influence legislation, initiatives, ballot questions and the like. According to the Internal Revenue Code, pastors and churches may engage in activities designed to influence legislation as long as the total sum of these activities does not reflect a “substantial part” of their church’s overall activity in a given year. The IRS has not defined “substantial” but court rulings have held that expenditures of less than 5 percent of a 501(c)(3) organization’s time and finances devoted toward activities intended to influence legislation were not substantial and therefore permissible.
Personally, I would like to see a greater wall between church and state.
Question: Why wouldn’t you want to provide equal treatment to homosexual couples by providing them with the benefits that come from marriage?
Answer: Homosexuality is not marriage, and therefore there is no reason to believe that by supporting their unions, I, as an employer would benefit as I do from promoting traditional marriage in my policies (see pages 1-2, “Why the Preeminence of Traditional Marriage Must Be Preserved). In fact, the cost of insurance for my business would go up, and perhaps be disproportionately higher based on the health risks associated with homosexual behavior (see p. 6, “Implications for Businesses”).
Major corporations have found that it is good for their bottom line to welcome gays and lesbians.  The recent flak over JCPenney hiring Ellen Degeneres as their spokesperson is a good example.  Groups like One Million Moms complained.  Here is the e-mail that JCPenney is using for their response (the blue font was their choice):
As we focus on being in sync with the rhythm of our customers' lives and operating in a 'Fair and Square' manner that is rooted in integrity, simplicity and respect, we couldn't think of a better partner than Ellen DeGeneres. We are extremely proud to have her on our team.
Denying homosexuals insurance increases the costs for the rest of society and harms the health of those individuals who are denied.  NJFPC complains of health risks which they would exacerbate by denial of insurance coverage.

Interestingly, the "Implications for Businesses" on page 6 of their document includes an argument that I would use for marriage equality:
Employees in lasting marriages are generally happier and healthier than employees who are divorced, cohabiting or unpartnered. Corporations have a financial interest in promoting traditional marriage as opposed to other types of relationships.
I have struck out one word and now it makes complete sense.
Question: Many argue that homosexuals are a civil minority class in need of “equal” protection. Why wouldn’t you want to see them receive equal benefits?
Answer: There is no proof that homosexuals are born that way, therefore they should remain subject to the same lawful restrictions as everyone else regarding marriage. In addition, the New Jersey Constitution does not expressly recognize a “right to marry.” Although the decision to marry raises a privacy interest that is protected under the Constitution, it is subject to reasonable state regulation. No demand supersedes “the general welfare,” therefore legislators are entitled to lawfully define marriage for the protection and benefit of society and children (see p. 3, “It’s not a civil rights issue”).
I discussed the "born that way" question near the top of this post.  Gays are asking for the same restrictions of consensual age and other conditions extant, only dropping the restriction to marriage of the couple being of opposite gender.

"The protection and benefit of society and children" is a good argument for marriage equality.  The argument from page 3 that hasn't been discussed is:
Rather, government defines marriage between one man and one woman because it has a paramount interest in preserving the integrity of that relationship. Society gives benefits to marriage because marriage benefits society.
There is no rationale provided for treasuring heterosexual marriage to the exclusion of homosexual marriage.  The benefits for the couples are the same.  The benefit to society, having stable families with greater home ownership and health, is the same.
Question: Why shouldn’t government endorse homosexual relationships and validate them in law?
Answer: First, for health reasons — it would give a signal to society and young people that homosexual acts were acceptable, thereby endorsing their practice. Second, it would diminish marriage and marriage rates would decrease. This is not good for adults, children or the state (see p. 5,“Redefining Marriage: What Will It Cost Us?”).
The implication of this answer is that sexuality is a choice.  Let's look at a question and answer from a Facts Sheet prepared by the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Medical Association, the National School Psychologists, the American Psychological Association, and the American Pediatric Association.
What causes Homosexuality/Heterosexuality/Bisexuality?
No one knows what causes heterosexuality, homosexuality, or bisexuality. Homosexuality was once thought to be the result of troubled family dynamics or faulty psychological development. Those assumptions are now understood to have been based on misinformation and prejudice. Currently there is a renewed interest in searching for biological etiologies for homosexuality. However, to date there are no replicated scientific studies supporting any specific biological etiology for homosexuality. Similarly, no specific psychosocial or family dynamic cause for homosexuality has been identified, including histories of childhood sexual abuse. Sexual abuse does not appear to be more prevalent in children who grow up to identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual, than in children who identify as heterosexual.
Is It Possible To Change One’s Sexual Orientation (“Reparative Therapy”)?
There is no published scientific evidence supporting the efficacy of “reparative therapy” as a treatment to change one’s sexual orientation, nor is it included in the APA’s Task Force Report, Treatments of Psychiatric Disorders. More importantly, altering sexual orientation is not an appropriate goal of psychiatric treatment. Some may seek conversion to heterosexuality because of the difficulties that they encounter as a member of a stigmatized group. Clinical experience indicates that those who have integrated their sexual orientation into a positive sense of self - function at a healthier psychological level than those who have not.
“Gay affirmative psychotherapy” may be helpful in the coming out process, fostering a positive psychological development and overcoming the effects of stigmatization. A position statement adopted by the Board in December 1998 said:
The American Psychiatric Association opposes any psychiatric treatment, such as “reparative” or “conversion” therapy, which is based upon the assumption that homosexuality per se is a mental disorder, or based upon a prior assumption that the patient should change his/ her homosexual orientation.”
Is Sexual Orientation A Choice?
No. Sexual orientation emerges for most people in early adolescence without any prior sexual experience. And some people report trying very hard over many years to change their sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual with no success. For these reasons, psychologists do not consider sexual orientation for most people to be a conscious choice that can be voluntarily changed.
Next, it is not true that marriage suffers under marriage equality.  Divorce rates are lower in those states that have enacted marriage equality.  If the NJFPC is really concerned about the health and welfare of adults and children, then they should embrace marriage equality.

10 February 2012

FollowUp 7: NJ Democrats Call for Marriage Equality

Recently there has been very good news for proponents of equality coming from Washington State.  Governor Gregoire promised to sign legislation that has recently been passed, and is expected to do so the day before Valentine's Day.  I have written a few articles on Governor Chris Gregoire, on State Senator Ed Murray, and on State Representative Maureen Walsh.

Today Think Progress put the following video on YouTube where Washington Governor Gregoire says that she will call New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and share with him her journey from being opposed to equality to now promising to sign the bill that will bring marriage equality to Washington State.

Ah to be a fly on the wall when that conversation happens.  Governor Christie will not be changing his public position as that would jeopardize with the national GOP.  Still it would be fun to listen in.

9 January 2012, Original Pedantic Political Ponderings post.

25 January 2012, FollowUp 1.

26 January 2012, FollowUp 2.

28 January 2012, FollowUp 3.

30 January 2012, FollowUp 4.

31 January 2012, FollowUp 5.

3 February 2012, FollowUp 6.

13 February 2012, FollowUp 8.

18 February 2012, FollowUp 9.

21 February 2012, FollowUp 10.

09 February 2012

Repudiation: Newt Gingrich on the Food Stamp President

The day of the State of the Union Address, 24 January 2012, jump to about the 3 minute mark for the comparison of President Obama as "the most effective Food Stamp President in American history."

Almost the same wording the next day.  Again, jump to the 3 minute mark.

President Obama responds. The whole clip is only 27 seconds.

And yesterday on the floor of the House of Representatives, Congressman Luis Gutierrez of Illinois responded to Newt Gingrich, who has begun calling President Obama the "Food Stamp President." Armed with facts, the Congressman has a little fun setting the record straight and despite the name calling, concluded that "hunger knows no race or religion or age or political party. Hunger is colorblind."

We should be lowering instead of increasing the number of people on food stamps as a side effect of improving the economy and getting more people working in well paying jobs.  So, this is not a cheer.  But it is wrong to lie about the facts.  Mr. Gingrich, it appears, has not moved entirely beyond his ethical challenges.

Praise: Maureen Walsh - Mom Extraordinaire

Washington State Republican Maureen Walsh is extraordinary.  Please take four minutes and watch:

FollowUp 11: Wisconsin Republican Dirty Tricks

We been following all kinds of shenanigans from Wisconsin's Governor Scott Walker, from lies while campaigning for governor to threats to unions and undermining voting rights (see my previous ten posts, linked at the bottom, for my take on these and more).  The latest revelation is a redistricting scandal that might be more serious than everything prior.  Lawsuits have already been filed.  Let's start with an overview from UPI.
A internal GOP memo instructed legislators to ignore public opinion on the redrawing of legislative districts, and instead concentrate on what was being said in private sessions. The party documents also include a set of talking points stressing legislators willing to talk about maps of suggested districts could be called as witnesses in court cases. A case in Milwaukee federal court has already been filed, claiming a proposed redistricting violates the Constitution and the Voting Rights Act by mistreating minority communities.
Most of the Republican legislators signed an agreement to keep all of this secret.  Now it is out.  Wisconsin has an Open Meetings Law that was apparently violated.  My reading of this is that the GOP meetings and endeavor to keep those meetings from public knowledge is a clear failure of the Showers test, described in the linked guidelines.  While there is an exemption in the open meetings law for political party caucuses, this kind of explicit evasion of the public in creating laws is not exempt.  Here is more about what happened from Sheboygan's WHBL.
Documents released [Monday] showed that virtually all G-O-P lawmakers signed confidentiality agreements which promised not to discuss the maps while they were being written. And they were told that those who speak out could be called as witnesses in court. The documents also said that 33-of-the-58 Republican Assembly members would pick up additional voters under the new districts. The documents were released after three federal judges in the redistricting suit said G-O-P legislators filed frivolous legal requests, so they could hide their actions in creating the new maps. Those maps will be used for the first time in this fall’s elections unless the courts overturn them.
Several attorneys helped Republicans draft the new districts. And Peter Earle, the attorney for the Hispanic group, called the process a quote, “intentional plan to legislate in secret under the guise of attorney-client privilege.” The lawsuit claims the new districts are unconstitutional.
The redistricting is necessary following the 2010 national census.  The story of secret meetings and documentation of secrecy agreements was first covered by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
GOP lawmakers fought releasing these new documents and testifying about the maps in a pending court case but relented after a panel of three federal judges based in Milwaukee last month found they had filed frivolous motions in trying to shield the information from the public.
Included in the documents released Monday was a set of talking points that stressed that those who discussed the maps could eventually be called as a witness in a court case.
"Public comments on this map may be different than what you hear in this room. Ignore the public comments," the talking points also say.
This will likely go beyond frivolous lawsuit penalties to charges of perjury.  Again from the Journal Sentinel.
The new batch of records also includes memos from Foltz to Republican lawmakers telling them how GOP candidates performed in their districts under the new and old maps. In a deposition in December, Foltz testified the new maps were not meant to increase the GOP majority in the Legislature.
Of the 58 Republicans in the state Assembly at the time, 33 would pick up additional Republican voters. For instance, the district for freshman Rep. Mike Endsley (R-Sheboygan) would go from marginally to solidly Republican.
Those Republican representatives experiencing a drop in the number of Republican voters in their district under the redistricting plan would still have a strong Republican majority of voters. For instance, the district represented by Rep. Joel Kleefisch (R-Oconomowoc) would still be about 60% Republican despite losing a share of its GOP bases under the redistricting plan.
Republicans had the maps drafted in Michael Best's Madison offices and believed the process they used granted them attorney-client privilege that would keep their communications from being disclosed publicly. But the three-judge panel has rejected that argument and said lawmakers were trying to keep too much under wraps. McLeod and two other attorneys in the case were ordered to pay nearly $17,500 last month after the court found they had filed frivolous motions trying to keep information secret.
Senate President Mike Ellis (R-Neenah) said Monday he had never before been asked to sign a confidentiality agreement during his four decades in office.
The wording I have used of dirty tricks was originally a bit of hyperbole.  I am sorry to say that the maneuvering of Wisconsin's Republicans has reached the definition of those words, according to Google.

dirty tricksplural of dirt·y trick (Noun)

  1. A dishonest or unkind act.
  2. Underhanded political or commercial activity designed to discredit an opponent.
16 November 2011, Original Pedantic Political Ponderings post.
30 November 2011, FollowUp 1.
4 December 2011, FollowUp 2.
11 December 2011, FollowUp 3.
14 December 2011, FollowUp 4.
15 December 2011, FollowUp 5.
30 December 2011, FollowUp 6.
13 January 2012, FollowUp 7.
17 January 2012, FollowUp 8.
25 January 2012, FollowUp 9.
2 February 2012, FollowUp 10.

12 February 2012, FollowUp 12.
18 February 2012, FollowUp 13.
22 February 2012, FollowUp 14.
6 March 2012, FollowUp 15.
12 March 2012, FollowUp 16.
16 March 2012, FollowUp 17.
30 March 2012, FollowUp 18.
31 March 2012, FollowUp 19.
3 April 2012, FollowUp 20.
4 April 2012, FollowUp 21.
11 April 2012, FollowUp 22.
14 April 2012, FollowUp 23.
17 April 2012, FollowUp 24.
21 April 2012, FollowUp 25.
29 April 2012, FollowUp 26.
2 May 2012, FollowUp 27.
6 May 2012, FollowUp 28.
10 May 2012, FollowUp 29.
13 May 2012, FollowUp 30.
23 May 2012, FollowUp 31.
24 May 2012, FollowUp 32.
30 May 2012, FollowUp 33.
2 June 2012, FollowUp 34.
4 June 2012, FollowUp 35.
5 June 2012, FollowUp 36.

07 February 2012

Praise: Marcella Fruehan - Truth Is

An anti-bullying anthem.  Full lyrics at YouTube.  Very pretty ballad; powerful.  Enjoy.

Praise: 9th Circuit Upholds Judge Walker Overturning Prop 8

The 133 page decision by the 9th Circuit Court has been put online by the American Federation for Equal Rights (AFER).  I've just started reading a little, but it appears to be a very thorough review of prior case law.  The news conference with AFER attorneys and the plaintiffs indicated that marriage equality is on a stay in California until the Prop 8 people have a chance to appear, but that filing for an extension of the stay must be completed before the end of February.  There is still a question as to whether or when the opponents of equality will appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States.  Great news!

Praise: 7 February 2012 - National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

Between denial and bigotry, Black gays have further to go to reach a point of equality than most other gays.  This is the twelfth National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.  It is also covered by No More Down Low:

06 February 2012

Humor: (NSFW) Video against H8

The language is crude, but the message is pro-equality and the messengers have fun delivering it.

Thanks to Joe My God for the heads up.

6 February 2012: Marriage News Watch

Links:  American Foundation for Equal Rights, Marriage News Watch.

23 January 2012: Marriage News Watch.
30 January 2012: Marriage News Watch.

13 February 2012: Marriage News Watch.
20 February 2012: Marriage News Watch.
21 February 2012: Marriage News Watch Special Episode.
27 February 2012: Marriage News Watch.
12 March 2012:  Marriage News Watch.
19 March 2012: Marriage News Watch.
26 March 2012:  Marriage News Watch.
2 April 2012: Marriage News Watch.
5 April 2012: Marriage News Watch, Surprise Advance.
16 April 2012: Marriage News Watch.
23 April 2012: Marriage News Watch.
30 April 2012: Marriage News Watch.
7 May 2012: Marriage News Watch.
10 May 2012: Marriage News Watch, 2012's Biggest Marriage Milestones So Far.
14 May 2012: Marriage News Watch.
21 May 2012: Marriage News Watch.
28 May 2012: Marriage News Watch.
4 June 2012: Marriage News Watch.
5 June 2012: Marriage News Watch, Prop 8 Rehearing Denied.
11 June 2012: Marriage News Watch.
18 June 2012: Marriage News Watch.
25 June 2012: Marriage News Watch.
2 July 2012: Marriage News Watch.
10 July 2012: Marriage News Watch.
16 July 2012: Marriage News Watch.

Pattern: Claims of Threat to Religious Liberty

The various denominations of Christianity have a tradition of not getting along well.  From outside appearances, a truce is in place.  At least they have agreed to use common language and approach in their claims that President Obama is attacking their religious liberty. That there is no real attack on the practice of religion is immaterial.  Here are a few examples beginning in November 2011, culminating with reactions to the announcement about two weeks ago that contraception must be covered by all health plans:

Evangelical Protestant: Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association complains that women's shelters in Colorado lost federal funding because they have mandatory bible study as part of the care for homeless and battered women. The claim of religious liberty is conflating a social service and a church service. He then complains that nurses were being forced to participate in abortions in New Jersey when they were required to care for women before and after abortions, not during the surgery. The claim of religious liberty is conflating a health care practice with a church service.

Mormon and Roman Catholic: Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich take the same positions. Both claim that Catholic Charities have been forced to curtail their adoption services because they won't serve gay couples. No, they just don't get federal funds if they are going to be bigots. The claim of religious liberty is conflating a social service and a church service.

Evangelical Protestant: Matt Staver of Liberty Counsel complains that the United States and Israel, all of Western Civilization, are threatened by marriage equality, gender equality, and family equality. Somehow if my partner and I can legally wed then Mr. Staver loses his religious liberty; while I gain my religious liberty. This is confusing equality and liberty with a zero sum game.

Roman Catholic: Bishop William Lori complains that the Church are being driven out of health care and adoption services. He is concerned that freedom of worship will replace freedom of religion. The claim of religious liberty is conflating a health service and a church service, then conflating a social service and a church service. One is free to celebrate one's religion, not to impose it on the rest of society.

Mormon: Hannah Smith complains that contraception is being imposed on religious groups via employer health plans. The claim of religious liberty is conflating a health service and a church service.

Roman Catholic: Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell and Newt Gingrich complain that contraception is being imposed on religious groups via employer health plans. The claim of religious liberty is conflating a health service and a church service.

The pattern is clear.  The cry that religious liberty is being attacked by President Obama is not likely to abate.  That some might see that requiring that contraception be covered by health plans does not mean that individuals are required to use contraception is not going to slow or stop this allegation of President Obama being anti-religion.

What can or should President Obama do?  My gut reaction is that he should use the bully pulpit and explain both the misunderstanding at hand and why partisan interests are turning this into something that is larger than it ought to be.  Sadly, I don't think it would work.

I think the President is going to have to change this policy into something that is worse for the United States.  Employees who want birth control will have to pay for it out of pocket, if they can afford it.  That the cost of preventive measures is far less than the consequences of not taking those measures is not the issue.  That no one would be forced to use birth control in violation of their religious compass is not the issue.  This is entirely about how the President is perceived.

With that in mind, it is fair to consider additional perceptions.  President Obama, despite periodic allegations, is clearly a Christian.  That should have been obvious from his tumultuous exit from Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ.  At some point someone other than the President is going to need to point out that members of the Church of Latter Day Saints do not adhere to the Nicene Creed; they are not considered by most Christians to be Christian.

I don't like playing that kind of politics.  Unless a presidential contender adheres to a religion that is a threat to the United States, the Church of American Dissolution or something dangerous outside of spiritual questions, I don't like using that issue.  Still, those who want to make Mr. Obama a one-term president are already playing religious politics.  To not recognize the politics for what it is could result, if one takes Mr. Gingrich and Mr. Romney at their words, in a shift toward theocracy.

My hope is that President Obama and his advisers both see what is happening and have ideas for getting out of this religious trap that they have sprung on themselves and avoid the low road that I mentioned.

28 February 2012: FollowUp 1.

11 March 2012:  FollowUp 2.