False Dichotomy – A Rant

Ken AshfordCourts/Law, GodstuffLeave a Comment

Ad05d01_largeTake a look at this poster:

Now what is it saying?

It is saying that in order to serve as a judge, you must abandon your Christian faith, because you cannot do both, yes?

Apparently, the right wing is in favor of the idea that judges should be able to follow their faith over what judges are supposed to be doing, i.e., following the law.

Excuse me, but isn’t ignoring the law and making decisions based on some outside influence (e.g., the Bible) a prime example of "judicial activism", the very thing that Republicans have been squalking about these past few weeks?

The truth is that judges can and do and always have been able to set aside their faith in the courtroom, while still worshipping (outside the courtroom) in according to their conscience as individual men and women.  Just as mail carriers can deliver the mail without lapsing into scripture, judges of religious faith can easily uphold the laws of the country, state, county and/or municipality that they have sworn (often on the Bible, ironicly) to uphold.

Check out this study, as reported in the Baptist Standard, from 2001.  Do "religious" judges then to make more "pro-religious" rulings than their "non-religious" colleagues?  Well, yes and no.  Although Baptist and Catholic judges tended to ruling more often in a "pro-religion" vein, it was not statistically significant.  In fact . . .

Being not religious did not make a significant difference in the outcome, since the non-religious still, in general, adopted a pro-religion position.

Furthermore, Lutheran judges "were more likely to take an anti-religion position".  Mmmmmm.

So what is the meta-conclusion?  Well, it’s hard to say.  And that’s the point.  Some judges with religious faith might take a pro-religion stance (although not consistently), but others might lean anti-religious (although not constistently).  The same holds true for non-religious judges — no consistent statistically-significant pattern.  Apparently, the only real conclusion is that there is no strong conclusion, only shades of tendancies.

So why does the ad make it seem like it is a pure "either-or" choice? 

The answer is that the ad is a lie, creating a false choice where, in reality, none exists.  And don’t think the people behind that ad aren’t aware of the deception.  After all, the manipulative ad was their own creation.

But more importantly, apart from the ad’s duplicity, the ad reveals what the religious right is truly seeking — not judges who will fulfill their oath to the Constitution or the laws passed by the peoples’ elected representatives, but instead — judges who will act according to a higher law.

Which begs the question: Whose higher law?  (Not those of Jewish Americans, Muslim Americans, Native Americans, Deists, Atheists, etc., etc., I assure you.  The religious right hates pluralism when it comes to religion.) 

A final observation about the ad: the small print says "The filibuster was once used to protect racial bias, and now it is being used against people of faith."  No, morons.  It is not being used against people of faith — it is being used against religious bias.  Because BIAS in judges — any kind of bias (racial, sexual, religious, etc.) — is BAD!  Got that?  B-A-D!  Not too mention anti-American.

So we see what the religious right is really whining about.  They WANT judges to be biased.  They don’t want the scales to be balanced; they want them weighted. Weighted in their favor.  And when they can’t have it, they act like they are victims of religious discrimination.

For centuries, our judicial system has been the envy of the world simply BECAUSE we strive for fairness and equality in the courtroom.  Fairness and equality — that’s what the judicial scales actually represent, you know.  Now, the krazy kristian kooks want to tip those scales.  Because to them, God outweighs all.  Well, their God anyway.

But I ask you this: Can anything be more un-American than to create a court system where the faith and religion of the judge (attorneys, litigants, etc.) affects the outcome of a case?  And to help answer the question, pretend you are a patriotic, voting, taxpaying American whose life, liberty, and property depends on the decision of a judge (1) who holds a religious belief starkly different from yours AND (2) who has carte blanche to act on his religious belief rather than the religion-neutral law. 

You want that?  Is that your America?  Because that’s what they want.  They want service to (their idea of) God to be the basis of public service.

Don’t kid yourself.  This is the beginning of the American Taliban.  And I say, kill it where it breeds.