Islamist Violence Against Women

The UK’s Independent published the following report:

‘Westernised’ women being killed in Basra
By Sinan Salaheddin in Baghdad
Published: 11 December 2007

Religious extremists have killed at least 40 women this year in Basra because of their “un-Islamic” dress, according to Iraqi police.

The police said women were being apprehended by men patrolling on motorbikes or in cars with tinted windows before being murdered and dumped in piles of rubbish with notes saying they were killed for “un-Islamic behaviour”. He said men had been victims of similar attacks.

Since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and the rise of Iraq’s Shia-dominated government, armed men have forced women to cover their heads or face punishment. In parts of the predominantly Shia south, even Christian women have been forced to wear headscarves. In some areas of Basra, graffiti warns women that forgoing the headscarf and wearing make-up “will bring you death”.

Where to begin? Such religiously motivated behavior is disgusting, reprehensible, horrible. And the story serves as a reminder that Bush’s “forward strategy for freedom” hasn’t worked out so well.

Romney’s Religion

Recently Mark Udall, candidate for U.S. Senate, sent me a letter in which he endorsed the separation of church and state. Now Mitt Romney has given a speech on the subject of faith. At a superficial level, Romney also endorses the separation of church and state:

“We separate church and state affairs in this country, and for good reason. No religion should dictate to the state nor should the state interfere with the free practice of religion.”

However, generic endorsements of the separation of church and state are inadequate. Just as anyone can proclaim support for a contentless version of “freedom,” so can everyone but an out-and-out theocrat generically proclaim support for the separation of church and state. That is why, in my letter to candidates, I asked for replies to specific questions regarding abortion, stem cell research, and tax funding of religious groups and doctrine.

In his speech, Romney explicitly calls for tax funding of religious teaching:

The founders proscribed the establishment of a state religion, but they did not countenance the elimination of religion from the public square. We are a nation “Under God” and in God, we do indeed trust.

We should acknowledge the Creator as did the Founders — in ceremony and word. He should remain on our currency, in our pledge, in the teaching of our history, and during the holiday season, nativity scenes and menorahs should be welcome in our public places. Our greatness would not long endure without judges who respect the foundation of faith upon which our constitution rests. I will take care to separate the affairs of government from any religion, but I will not separate us from “the God who gave us liberty” (emphasis added).

In other words, Romney does not wish to spend tax funds to promote the particular doctrines of, say, Mormonism or Catholicism; he merely wishes to spend tax funds to teach children in “the public square” about the God common to the Judeo-Christian-Muslim tradition.

This reminds me of the speech delivered by Leonard Peikoff in 1986 (and published as “Religion Versus America” in Ayn Rand’s The Voice of Reason.) Peikoff said:

“If prayer is said aloud [in tax-funded schools],” [Jack Kemp] explains, “it need be no more than a general acknowledgment of the existence, power, authority, and love of God, the Creator.” That’s all — nothing controversial or indoctrinating about that! (page 78)

Romney said, “Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom. Freedom opens the windows of the soul so that man can discover his most profound beliefs and commune with God. Freedom and religion endure together, or perish alone.” For a refutation of Romney’s claim, see Peikoff’s article.

Romney’s comment reminded me of something that Laura Ingraham said at a recent banquet. She said that without a particularly religious virtue, “you can kiss the free market goodbye.” It is obvious that Romney and Ingraham think that religion must come before freedom. Will it then surprise anyone when they and their fellow travelers decide it’s okay to sacrifice “just a little” freedom for the cause of religion?

Elsewhere Romney states that he wishes to outlaw nearly all abortions, restrict medical research, expand censorship of (ambiguously defined) “obscenity,” and spend tax dollars on “faithbased groups.” Various religious leaders in this country have advocated the complete ban of all abortions, more spending of tax dollars on religious groups and instruction, censorship of “pornography,” and so forth.

Romney’s claim that “religion requires freedom” is obviously false; for example, religion thrived for century after century in the brutally oppressive Egyptian empires and Middle Ages. Freedom does not require religion, though it defends freedom of religion — and freedom from religion. What freedom requires is that religious leaders abstain from forcing their theology onto others. Despite his generic statement to the contrary, Romney has demonstrated that he wishes to sacrifice freedom to religion. And that is why I will never cast a vote for Mitt Romney for any office, under any circumstances.

Mark Udall Replies Regarding Church and State

Last month, I mailed a letter to candidates regarding the separation of church and state. The letter stated:

As an advocate of individual rights and free markets, I am deeply concerned about attacks on economic liberty and property rights. However, I also believe that the greater modern threat to individual rights is the attempt by some religious groups to make politics conform to their faith.

In coming election cycles, I will vote against any candidate who does not explicitly and unambiguously endorse the separation of church and state, whether on his or her web page or in direct correspondence. I ask that candidates declare whether they:

1. Endorse the separation of church and state.

2. Oppose the spending of tax dollars on programs with religious affiliations, such as “faith-based” welfare.

3. Oppose the spending of tax dollars to teach creationism and/or intelligent design as science.

4. Oppose efforts to restrict the legal right of adult women to obtain an abortion.

5. Oppose bans on embryonic stem-cell research.

To date, Mark Udall is the only candidate to reply. (Mitt Romney’s campaign sent me a letter, but it was entirely nonresponsive to my letter.) Udall, currently in the U.S. House, is running for U.S. Senate next year. His letter, dated November 21, is “paid and authorized by Udall for Colorado, Inc.” The letter lists http://markudall.org/ as the associated web page. Here’s what Udall has to say:

First, I fully support the continued separation of church and state in this country. As our founding fathers recognized when they made religious freedom a fundamental principle of our Constitution, our nation is home to people of a large variety of religious backgrounds and beliefs. Our government has no role to play in selecting those beliefs, in advocating for one religion over another religion, or in supporting the presence of religion in favor of no religion. I will continue to vote against legislation that compromises our country’s ability to keep religion and government separate. That includes programs that discriminate against people based on their religious belief or that use government funds to support one religion over another.

Second, I am a firm believer in protecting an individual’s right to make her own choices with regard to her reproductive health. Such decisions are deeply personal and involve the consideration of many factors within the realm of those held sacred under our constitutional right to privacy. In addition, as we saw when abortion was illegal, denying women their right to choose an option does not eliminate the need for it. That said, we must provide access to reproductive health education, adoption, and contraception to limit, as much as possible, the number of women forced to make the difficult choice of whether or not to have an abortion.

Third, I strongly oppose government bans on embryonic stem-cell research. My father suffered from Parkinson’s disease and I have always wondered whether [his] life could have been saved if the incredible medical advancements now possible through stem-cell research had occurred just a few years earlier. I believe that it is our obligation to prevent future deaths from terminal diseases, like Parkinson’s, if it is possible, and will continue to support stem-cell research.

While I could criticize several details of Udall’s reply, I could hardly ask for a stronger endorsement of the separation of church and state. So far, I have seen no such statement from Udall’s likely opponent, Bob Schaffer. Unless that changes, my vote will go to Udall. If Schaffer offers a similarly strong endorsement of the separation of church and state, then I will vote on other considerations. If I vote for Udall, my vote should not be taken as an endorsement of all of Udall’s policies; I strongly disagree with his environmentalism and welfare statism.

I am impressed by Udall’s answer for another reason: candidates and politicians rarely offer so detailed a reply to letters unaccompanied by checks with large figures. Merely the fact that Udall’s letter responds to my letter in a detailed a thoughtful manner says something good about Udall.

Religious Right, Meet Religious Left

A few days ago, I wrote “that one eventual possibility is for the… religious right and religious left [to] grow closer together.”

The future is now.

In his October 14 blog for the Rocky Mountain News, “Faith in the planet,” M.E. Sprengelmeyer writes:

In American politics, we’re used to hearing Republicans use the language of faith. And we’re used to hearing Democrats talk tough on protecting the environment.

But this year, we’re starting to notice candidates from both sides mixing the two, perhaps hoping that breaking that language barrier can win them cross-over support.

Sprengelmeyer offers quotes from two presidential candidates, Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee.

Obama:

The Bible tells us that when God created the Earth, he entrusted us with the responsibility to take care of that Earth — to exercise stewardship over His creation. … I don’t believe that this separation [of church and state] means that we should leave our religion at the door before entering the public square.

Huckabee:

My faith is my life – it defines me. My faith doesn’t influence my decisions, it drives them. For example, when it comes to the environment, I believe in being a good steward of the earth. I don’t separate my faith from my personal and professional lives.

The difference between the candidates is that Obama is losing out to a secularist, Hillary Clinton, who uses the language of religion strategically, while Huckabee is losing out to a dedicated religionist, Mitt Romney, who believes “we are a religious people.” The left will rally behind Clinton, while the religious right is threatening to leave Giuliani at the altar should he manage to take the lead.

It is indeed interesting that, substantively, the quoted comments of Obama and Huckabee are identical. It is true that the religious left is more interested in expanding the welfare and environmentalist state, while the religious right is more interested in outlawing abortion and promoting religion through government. However, both sides care a lot more about attaining their pet goals than they do about stopping the religionists on the other side of the aisle. The tendency will be for both sides of the religious divide to “compromise” by tolerating the goals of the other side in order to promote their own agendas. Thus, it is not much of a surprise to see the religious right warming up to environmentalism or the religious left downplaying the separation of church and state. The religious right and the religious left are already united in their desire to use the force of government to advance their religious agendas.

Candidates’ Mailing Addresses

So I’m sending a copy of the letter, “Church/State Separation Endorsed by Colorado Voters,” to candidates at the national and state level. Since I’m looking up the addresses, I’d thought I’d pass them along (even though only some of them will be relevant to most voters).

Of course, the 2008 elections are still more than a year away. But I wanted to introduce the letter early in the political season. There’s not much activity in the state legislative races at this point, but next year I’ll mail a copy of the letter to those candidates, too.

President

It turns out that there are a ridiculous number of people who think they’re running for president. The number just for Republicans approaches 100. So I’m going to send the letter only to candidates who are leading. I’m working from Vote Smart.

Rudolph W. Giuliani
1585 Broadway
New York, NY 10036

Mike Huckabee
Carter Wamp
Policy
Post Office Box 2008
Little Rock, AR 72203

John McCain
241 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Mitt Romney
585 Commercial Street
Boston, MA 02109

Fred Thompson
Friends of Fred Thompson
Incorporated Post Office Box 128349
Nashville, TN 37212-8349

Joe Biden
201 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Hillary Clinton
476 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

John Edwards
1201 Old Greensboro Road
Chapel Hill, NC 27516

Barack Obama
713 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Bill Richardson
490 Old Santa Fe Trail Room 400
Santa Fe, NM 87501

U.S. Senate for Colorado

Bob Schaffer (I couldn’t easily find a mailing address.)
team@BobSchaffer.org

Mark Udall
8690 Wolff Court, #200
Westminster, CO 80031

U.S. Congress for Colorado’s Second District

(The following two candidates are Democrats, as Democrats always win this Boulder-centered race.)

Joan Fitz-Gerald
9975 Wadsworth Parkway – Unit K2 #401
Westminster, CO 80021-6814

Jared Polis
PO Box 4572
Boulder, CO 80306

Colorado Republicans and Democrats

Republican Party of Colorado
5950 S. Willow Drive, Suite 220
Greenwood Village, CO 80111

Democratic Party of Colorado
777 Santa Fe Drive
Denver, CO 80204

Church/State Separation Endorsed by Colorado Voters

Church/State Separation Endorsed by Colorado Voters

The signatories offer the following announcement as a non-exclusive letter to the editor.

As advocates of individual rights and free markets, we are deeply concerned about attacks on economic liberty and property rights. However, we also believe that the greater modern threat to individual rights is the attempt by some religious groups to make politics conform to their faith.

In coming election cycles, we will vote against any candidate who does not explicitly and unambiguously endorse the separation of church and state. We ask that candidates declare whether they:

1. Endorse the separation of church and state.

2. Oppose the spending of tax dollars on programs with religious affiliations, such as “faith-based” welfare.

3. Oppose the spending of tax dollars to teach creationism and/or intelligent design as science.

4. Oppose efforts to restrict the legal right of adult women to obtain an abortion.

5. Oppose bans on embryonic stem-cell research.

Signed,
Ari Armstrong, Westminster
Tom Hall, Louisville
Diana Hsieh, Sedalia
Paul Hsieh, Sedalia
Mike Williams, Denver
Leonard Peikoff, Colorado Springs
Richard Watts, Hayden
Cara Thompson, Denver
Hannah Krening, Larkspur
Erika Hanson Brown, Denver
Bill Faulkner, Broomfield
Cameron Craig, Denver
Bryan Armentrout, Erie

Version for Individual Voters

Note: Voters have permission to reproduce and distribute the following declaration. The document may be signed by individual voters and sent to the candidates for whom they will have an opportunity to vote. The names and addresses of candidates generally can be found through regional newspapers and Secretaries of State.

Dear Candidate,

I hereby add my name to the following declaration:

As an advocate of individual rights and free markets, I am deeply concerned about attacks on economic liberty and property rights. However, I also believe that the greater modern threat to individual rights is the attempt by some religious groups to make politics conform to their faith.

In coming election cycles, I will vote against any candidate who does not explicitly and unambiguously endorse the separation of church and state, whether on his or her web page or in direct correspondence. I ask that candidates declare whether they:

1. Endorse the separation of church and state.

2. Oppose the spending of tax dollars on programs with religious affiliations, such as “faith-based” welfare.

3. Oppose the spending of tax dollars to teach creationism and/or intelligent design as science.

4. Oppose efforts to restrict the legal right of adult women to obtain an abortion.

5. Oppose bans on embryonic stem-cell research.

Signed,