Home > Political Ranting, Religion > Bush’s Court Tears Down Another Section of the Wall of Separation

Bush’s Court Tears Down Another Section of the Wall of Separation

June 26th, 2007

SCOTUS has just ruled not only that it’s OK for the government to favor religious groups over secular ones, not only that it’s OK to give taxpayer money to religious groups to engage in activities which include the promotion of their religion, but that taxpayers can’t sue on the basis that it’s their money being used to fund religious beliefs they disagree with:

In an opinion joined by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. wrote that “the payment of taxes is generally not enough to establish standing to challenge an action taken by the federal government.”

Given the size of the federal budget, “it is a complete fiction to argue that an unconstitutional federal expenditure causes an individual federal taxpayer any measurable economic harm,” Alito said. “And if every federal taxpayer could sue to challenge any government expenditure, the federal courts would cease to function as courts of law and would be cast in the role of general complaint bureaus.”

That statement intentionally, almost belligerently dismisses the true intent of the argument and replaces it with a blatant straw man. The argument is not that taxpayers will be “economically” harmed by such expenditures, it is instead that taxpayers will be harmed because they will be forced to fund a religious belief they do not believe in.

The ruling was similarly dishonest in the end-run it made around the funding source:

He noted that “Congress did not specifically authorize the use of federal funds to pay for the conferences or speeches that the plaintiffs challenged.” Rather, those activities were funded from “general Executive Branch appropriations,” he wrote.

So, apparently, we can’t protest our tax money being spent on a religion we don’t agree with because it was spent by the president and not specified by Congress? What an insult to reason. Taxpayer money is taxpayer money, it doesn’t matter who makes the appropriation.

At the very least Alito and Roberts did not join ultra-extremists Scalia and Thomas in their predictable attempt to completely tear down church-state restrictions; instead, Alito and Roberts allowed it only with the “Executive” loophole. Still, it’s a loophole, and you can expect to see this administration start to tear that hole in the Constitution to be as big as they can make it.

Souter, meanwhile, led the non-wingnut minority in giving the rather obviously correct decision:

In this case, “there is no dispute that taxpayer money in identifiable amounts is funding conferences, and these are alleged to have the purpose of promoting religion,” Souter wrote. “When executive agencies spend identifiable sums of tax money for religious purposes, no less than when Congress authorizes the same thing, taxpayers suffer injury.”

The White House, of course, was tickled pink that their bench-stacking was bringing such sweet dividends of Constitution-revising decisions:

A White House spokeswoman, Emily A. Lawrimore, said the decision “marks a substantial victory for efforts by Americans to more effectively aid our neighbors in need of help.”

Which, of course, was the entire idea behind the whole enterprise, right? Bullshit. The only single objective of the entire program is to merge church and state, to open the door for direct funding of religious activities with taxpayer money in direct violation of the First Amendment of the Constitution. They could give jack about “effectively aiding our neighbors in need of help,” as we saw so clearly demonstrated in New Orleans. This has nothing to do with charity, and everything to do with the advancing incursion of religion on the matters of governance.

Nor surprisingly, the media buried this story under the other ruling coming from SCOTUS about students not being allowed to make drug-related references in their speech, as they did when they unfurled a banner that read “Bong Hits 4 Jesus.” As if that was somehow more critical a story than this ruling.

This latest decision by SCOTUS is of course in line with other recent moves out of this administration. PBS, which was once apolitical, has now become a propaganda tool for the religious right. The right wing always decried PBS as a left-wing bulwark, based apparently on the fact that it aired artsy-fartsy stuff and had good science documentaries that didn’t pay lip service to fundamentalist claims. Well, they fixed that. A recent documentary titled Wall of Separation was nothing less than an hourlong piece of wingnut agitprop, a slick tome claiming that there is no such thing as separation of church and state, and that we’ve been a Christian nation all along.

I watched more than half of it before succumbing to overwhelming nausea, and “slick” was exactly the term for it. It aped the PBS documentary format with near-perfection–the subtle piano music in the background, black backdrops to the interviews, panning shots of artistically depicted scenes from history–but they went too far when they coached their “experts” and “historians” to speak in the soft, lilting affected tones we’ve heard in PBS documentaries before. They sounded like they were talking to children, it was weird.

Nor should it be surprising: PBS has been run for a few years now by Karl Rove ally Kenneth Tomlinson, and the production company that made the “documentary” is made up of people with solid right-wing and Christian credentials.

Is there any doubt that the Constitutional protections against theocracy are now under full-fledged attack?

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  1. Tim Kane
    June 26th, 2007 at 13:30 | #1

    As the merge state with religion, people, in droves are opting out of religion.

    See Hitchens book “God is not great” is a best seller this summer.

    People are sick of it. I am too. 12 years ago I used to go to church every sunday night. It relaxed me and help me wind down my weekend. Then I moved and suddenly it was once a month. Then the church started marching to the right. Then it was once every three months. Then the local Bishop said we can’t vote for a democrat without committing sins. Now I don’t go at all.

    They’ll tolerate priest that sexually abuse children, if the priest honor their authority, but they won’t tollerate a person who votes democratic. Because of abortion. And we know that the best way to eliminate abortion isn’t to make it illegal. The lowest abortion rates are in Netherlands and Belgium where they are largely legal and free. So the whole point isn’t to get rid of abortions, the whole point is to use abortions to undermine liberal democracy.

    This is similar to what has emerged in Europe where Religion has formal ties to state. People, en masse, won’t have anything to do with it anymore.

    In passing they then find that they are in community with each other in this matter. European are positively joyful these days that they don’t have religion and corporations ruling them, that they are free to say and do as they want and they have free health care and six week vacations to boot.

    We are waisting our lives, for the sake of corporations, they are enjoying them.

    The neocon model is that economic elites rule and the masses are controled by fundementalist religion.

    The supreme court is doing its’ part to advance the Neocon dream. I am not convinced that Hillary will put a stop to this if she becomes president. Nor Obama. I am not sure that Edwards has the stones to do that either.

    These are some very dangerous times for democracy.

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