Wednesday, February 29, 2012

More Church-State Issues. Where Does It End?

Should an organization morally opposed to certain behavior accept funding from organizations that support such behavior?  Is it ethically proper for such an organization to employ individuals who support such behavior, thereby paying them a salary which could be used in its support?

Should a religious organization operating in the public sphere be permitted to operate without adhering to the regulations affecting that public sphere?  Should this organization employ taxpayers whose taxes will support the regulations to which the organization is opposed?

If contraception, or some other issue, is contrary to your moral and ethical code, then not only should you not provide services supporting these unacceptable actions to your employees, but you should be certain that any salary paid to your employees not be spent on such activities, either directly, or indirectly via donation to organizations supporting them.  Perhaps all employees should be asked to sign a statement indicating that they will refrain from expending salary on activities deemed immoral or unethical by the employer.

If you, as my employer, will not provide insurance to cover certain approved medical procedures due to  moral issues with the procedures, then how can it be morally correct for you to hire me and furnish me with a salary knowing that it will be used to participate in these "immoral actions?"  What you are really doing is "laundering" the financing of the procedures by paying me to buy it indirectly, rather than my obtaining it directly through an employer-supported insurance plan.

Now what?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Constitution of the United States - Is It Time for a Change

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was recently quoted as saying "I would not look to the U.S. Constitution if I were drafting a constitution in year 2012.  I might look at the constitution of South Africa.  That was a deliberate attempt to have a fundamental instrument of government that embraced basic human rights, have an independent judiciary.  It really is, I think, a great piece of work that was done."

The complaints that have been raised about our venerable document is that it has become outdated and almost impossible to change.  As a result the concept of a "living Constitution" has been formulated, that is a Constitution that must undergo some type of Darwinian evolution - which evolution is the interpretation present-day courts assign to it.

Justice Antonin Scalia has commented that there can be no evolution without some agreement as to what the "guiding principle of the evolution" is to be.  In his opinion "as soon as the discussion goes beyond the issue of whether the Constitution is static, the evolutionists divide into as many camps as there are individual views of the good, the true, and the beautiful.......which means that evolutionism is simply not a practicable constitutional philosophy."

Is a document completed in 1789, with the first 10 amendments (The Bill of Rights) added in 1791, to be the basis of our way of governing and our way of living in the 21st century?. Since that time (221 years) there have been only 17 additional amendments.  Isn't it true that what is constitutional and what is not constitutional remains so very vague today?  Does the 14th amendment which includes the phrase "nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws" truly have any real relationship (other than evolutionary) to a right to have an abortion?

Yes, the Founders created a system of laws, but not long after the Founders completed their work, successive lawmakers had no qualms about altering the document.  Amendments concerning abolishment of slavery, rights of citizenship and rights to vote were passed 1865-1870.  No further amendments were added for the next 43 years!  There were two amendments  appended since 1913 that could be considered to be concerned with citizen rights - the abolition of the poll tax, and women's suffrage.  The remainder deal with procedural issues, such as presidential terms,  presidential succession, prohibition, income tax, voting age reduced to 18, popular election of senators, et. al.

Could there not be room for a new, more up to date, Bill of Rights that would take into account the many factors that have influenced the world today, whether technical, scientific, evolutionary, and/or sociologic.  Thomas Jefferson believed that a country’s constitution should be rewritten every 19 years (the approximate span of a generation.) Instead, the U.S. Constitution, which Jefferson did not help to write (he was in Paris serving as U.S. minister to France when the Constitutional Convention was held in Philadelphia), has prevailed since 1789.  He felt "the dead should not rule the living."

Was he right?

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Ponytail Makes the News!

Couldn't stay away from passing on the latest information from the New York Times (Feb 11) - 2 columns, below the fold, on page A10,  from a piece entitled "Like How Your Hair Hangs?  Praise the Laws of Physics"

I'll just get to the meat of the matter - the physics of the ponytail.  Ponytails have been assigned a "Rapunzel Number" based on how the ponytail hangs.  A low PTRN (Ponytail Rapunzel Number) indicates more springiness, causing the ponytail to "fan outward."  A high PTRN indicates a longer ponytail which hangs down rather than fans outward, according to three researchers from England.

But more recently, a Stanford mathematician discovered why joggers' ponytails sway side-to-side instead of forward and backward, or up and down.  Can you guess why?  It's because the jogger's head prevents a forward-backward motion and up-down motion is "unstable"(independent of Rapunzel numbers, I guess.)

The Stanford mathematician and the British researchers are now collaborating on some more advanced studies for a "better understanding of ponytails."

I look forward to the fruits of their future collaborative efforts with great anticipation!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Government, Religion, and the Law

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...."

In case one may have forgotten, the above is the first phrase of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.  The "establishment clause" has become the foundation of what we have now come to term the "separation of church and state."  There is nothing in the Constitution that compels the federal government to grant monies to any organization for any reason.  Religious institutions have tax-free status because of this clause.  A government cannot tax an organization on which it has no right to infringe.

But, using similar reasoning, such an organization should not be the recipient of government funds, nor should it even solicit government funds.  If the government has no constitutional right to some input as to how religious organizations are to allocate these funds, is it right for the government to sanction such grants? The logical answer is clearly "no."

It is wrong for the pundits and politicians to criticize the Obama administration for exercising what is clearly the constitutional imperative by "stare decisis" - the separation of church and state.  The government is not infringing on the right of a church or synagogue, etc. to practice and preach its beliefs, It is merely denying the allocation of  funds to an organization, any organization, any group, any association, etc. that refuses to adhere to federal law.  Why should a religious organization be exempt?  Why should a religious organization even accept an offer of government help?  No organization, religious or otherwise, has a right, certainly not a constitutional right, to government grants; and those that solicit them must agree to accept them with the legal restrictions that apply.

It is so interesting that religious organizations are constantly lobbying the government to refrain from granting assistance to any organization or foreign government that permits legal abortions.  And these same religious organizations demand money from the government even though they refuse to so much as provide information regarding the opportunity to legally seek such assistance; even when so stipulated by law.

Religious freedom is not a freedom to spend government money freely.  If a government grant includes certain legal stipulations, and the organization, religious or otherwise, cannot, in good conscience, adhere to these prerequisites, then the donee should not accept the grant.

There is no denying the government the perquisite of "religious exceptions."  But what kind of a "slippery slope" is that?