Letters to the Editor for March 14
Religious freedom alive and well, despite protest by church, GOP
The response to the Obama provision mandating coverage for contraception under employer-based health insurance has enraged a majority of women and made it an important political issue in the 2012 elections.
Republican presidential candidates, by joining the Roman Catholic hierarchy in framing the issue as one of religious freedom rather than one of women’s health, are most likely to see their position become a political loser. In particular, I find Sen. Rick Santorum’s view zany.
The hierarchy, as well as the Republican presidential candidates, were surely aware that the hierarchy’s legal challenge to New York’s contraception requirement was rejected by the state Court of Appeals, and that the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review that decision. In a Feb. 29 letter [“Politics have clouded issue over contraceptives”], John Baim noted that there are 28 states with similar mandates.
Religious freedom is alive and well in America, contrary to what the hierarchy and GOP politicians, eager to find any issue to bash Obama, allege. For over two centuries the genius of the Founding Fathers has allowed religious freedom to thrive in America.
Let me explain why: 1) God is never mentioned in the Constitution; 2) The only reference to religion in the Constitution of 1787 is in Article VI, paragraph 3, where it is stated that “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”
The only other place religion is mentioned is in the First Amendment (framed in 1789), which succinctly states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” That’s it! The sense of the First Amendment is that there should be no national church and that religious liberty is constitutionally guaranteed. No one can be prosecuted for heresy, witchcraft, atheism, the worship of totem poles, etc.
3) It is not a denial of religious freedom for Muslims to be tried under American, rather than Sharia, law or for a religious sect which approves of polygamy to be denied the right to practice it. Innumerable such examples exist. Furthermore, no one’s morals or beliefs are ipso facto American law.
4) Although God is not mentioned in the Constitution, a “Creator God” appears earlier, in the Declaration of Independence (1776) as a guarantor of fundamental human rights and equality among men. There is no conflict between these two documents because Americans are free to express their religious and moral views in the public square. Clerics, politicians, rabble rousers and others do so regularly.
Herein lies the genius of the Founding Fathers — no national church, freedom of belief and free expression of ideas in the public square. America has thereby public religion and religious freedom.
The separation of church and state has never restricted the free expression of religious-based ideas or morals in the public square.
Climate change goes on, as does the foot dragging
Members of Schenectady Torch Club got another sober reminder Thursday night (March 8) about the precarious nature of the Earth’s climate from Dr. Ryan Torn of the University at Albany.
Dr. Torn, an atmospheric scientist, carefully explained the various forces that determine the Earth’s climate. He clarified the causes of dominant air and ocean currents, their variability from season to season and around the globe, and the fact that small changes in these forces can make a large difference in weather patterns.
Dr. Torn emphasized the scientific fundamentals of what we know about these forces and how they affect the overall budget of energy the Earth receives from the sun.
It became very clear that the greenhouse gases (such as carbon dioxide and hydrocarbons such as methane) being released into the atmosphere, starting with the Industrial Age, are helping trap some of the heat that would have escaped to space. However, the increase in the Earth’s average surface temperature accounts only for a fraction of this heat. The rest of the heat is being trapped in the oceans and are released only very slowly. Thus, if human beings stopped today to release any more greenhouses gases, the Earth’s average surface temperature would continue to increase for decades into the future.
Despite these established (agreed by over 95 percent of responsible scientists) facts, political forces in our culture keep us from making any reasonable progress to address this challenge. For one of the most advanced countries in the world that has benefited so much from science and technology, and has led so much of the technological progress, the lack of national will to address global climate change is beyond my comprehension.
Strock told us what casino advocates won’t
Kudos to Carl Strock for his March 6 column [“We can just ‘game’ our way to bliss”] regarding the evils of gaming and the big push by the gambling industry to make it pervasive in our culture.
Carl pointed out, rightly, the pitfalls that are never mentioned in the gaming issues. The high social costs continue to have more detrimental effect than any positive effect these casinos may bring to an area.
I thought it ironic that Carl, a big critic of the Catholic Church and Bishop Hubbard, should be so in sync with the bishop on his views on this issue. Hubbard presented a very similar and more detailed article in the March 1 Evangelist, the weekly Catholic newspaper.
Thank you for your insights, Carl. You’re right on on this topic.
Gerard F. Havasy
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