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May 9, 2004 - On your knees, America!

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On your knees, America!
No double entendre implied at all…



Kenneth Wilson in The Columbia Guide to Standard American English (1993) gives this advice: In speaking or writing you may use double entendre to amuse, but be sure that your audiences will both understand and enjoy it, or it would be better not to attempt it at all.  Inadvertent double meanings can embarrass writers or speakers. 

So the on-your-knees business only has one meaning, not three…. 

Fred Clark reminds us, that this week we had our official National Day of Prayer.  To be precise, in 1952, Congress passed a law establishing the National Day of Prayer as an annual religious observance. 

And as Clark says - Quick: give me another sentence that uses the words "Congress," "law," "establish" and "religion."

Oh well, not a big deal. 

Yes, there is an "honorary chairman" selected by the nonprofit committee that promotes this business.  It’s a ceremonial position.  This year that would be Oliver North.  Yep. 

A little history from July 5, 1989…


Former White House aide Oliver North has escaped jail for his part in the Iran-Contra affair. 

The decorated Vietnam veteran was convicted of three - out of 12 - charges relating to illegal United States' support for the Contra rebels in Nicaragua in the mid-1980s. 

He received a three-year suspended prison sentence, two years on probation, 1,200 hours' community service with inner city drugs projects and a $150,000 fine. 

The retired lieutenant-colonel has also had his annual service pension - of $23,100 - suspended after 20 years in the US Marines and he has been barred from holding any federal office. 

In his summing up at the US District Court in Washington Judge Gerhard Gesell described North, 45, as a "low-ranking subordinate who was carrying out the instructions of a few cynical superiors."

Many commentators have expressed surprise at the leniency of the sentence for offences, which attract a maximum 10 years in prison and $750,000 fine. 

… North was found guilty in May of falsifying and destroying documents, obstructing Congress and illegally receiving the gift of a security fence around his home in Virginia.


Yeah, well, he’s since been born-again I guess. 

Here’s the opening of the president’s proclamation -

In his first Inaugural Address, President George Washington prayed that the Almighty would preserve the freedom of all Americans.  On the National Day of Prayer, we celebrate that freedom and America's great tradition of prayer.  The National Day of Prayer encourages Americans of every faith to give thanks for God's many blessings and to pray for each other and our Nation. 

Harmless fluff. 

Clark reviews all the press coverage and adds this:


I find the idea of an official National Day of Prayer, like the "under God" clause in the Pledge of Allegiance, a bit hard to swallow.  Either it's a serious affirmation of religion -- in which case it seems to violate the Establishment Clause, or else it's a hollow exercise in civil religion -- in which case it seems to violate serious religious faith. 

Prayer is a Good Thing.  It's far too important to allow it to be highjacked in the service of hollow pieties and political campaigns, so I'm not a fan of the National Day of Prayer.


Clark takes this all to seriously.  No harm.  No foul. 




Yes, but on the other hand folks with religious convictions do have a bit to say about public policy, particularly as regards sex and sex education and that most thorny of all issues, abortion.


Note this from the Washington Post Thursday, May 06, 2004 -


The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday rejected over-the-counter sale of the emergency contraceptive Plan B, saying that the distributor had not proven that young teens can take the drug safely without a doctor's guidance. 

The decision was an unusual repudiation of the lopsided recommendation of the agency's own expert advisory panel, which voted 23-4 late last year in favor of the switch and 27-0 that the drug could be safely sold as an over-the-counter medication. 

The denial was a major goal of social conservatives, including members of Congress who lobbied President Bush on the issue.  Reproductive rights advocates lobbied equally hard for its approval, and Thursday they criticized the decision as misguided and a historic blot on the reputation of the FDA as a science-based agency. 


And the first comment I came across? 


So let me get this right: teen girls are incapable of taking a goddamn pill that has instructions and everything on the goddamn box, but are capable of giving birth to and mothering another human being. 

I'm speechless.  They compound outrage upon outrage, but each seems to enrage in a new way.  For some reason, I find this one particularly galling.  I think it's that people who are against abortion have a special duty to promote alternatives.  Instead, these assholes are making it even harder for women to avoid abortion.


I guess this all fits in with National Prayer Day. 

Oh well.  We live in an evangelical theocracy. 

If you follow the links in what I concerning on National Prayer Day you find the website for this "National Day" and discover the Mormons are NOT welcome - as the Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints people are listed as a cult.  Buddhists and Muslims are, of course, excluded.  Jews, Muslims and Buddhists won't be participating.  Spokesman Mark Fried said that it's against the organization's rules to involve non-Christian cults like Mormonism. 

Oh well.  At least there will be more babies – good Christian ones at that.  Unless we go back to coat hangers. 


A friend of mine who practices family medicine commented –


I was disappointed when I read this….  But then, we have all these kids following "abstinence only" anyway - so what do we need Plan B for?


Just yesterday, a patient called to request that her medical records be sent to her new physician, because the other doctor in my office wouldn't give her any information about birth control.  Goes against her religious teaching - but she told the patient that it "just wasn't her thing."  The patient walked.


Is this unusual? 


One might consider what is happening in Michigan.  From the Detroit News:


Gays and lesbians are wondering if doctors and nurses who object to homosexuality could deny them treatment or prescription drugs under bills passed this week by the Michigan House.


The bills would allow health care workers, facilities and insurers to refuse to perform a procedure, fill a prescription or cover treatment they object to for moral, ethical or religious reasons, except in medical emergencies.


‘As written, this law would allow a health care provider to not provide health care services to someone based on their actual or perceived sexual orientation,' said state Rep. Chris Kolb, the Michigan Legislature's only openly gay lawmaker.  'It's very worrisome and disturbing.’


Other states are working on such legislation.  Curious.  I believe in Arizona or New Mexico - I don’t remember which - a pharmacist can now refuse to fill a valid prescription for birth control pills or any item having to do with contraception if doing so is something they find violates their religious or moral beliefs.  The idea is, I think, since we are a nation that allows for freedom of religion, the state has no business forcing people to do things that violate the tenets of their particular faith.


That’s an interesting argument.  One must find a secular physician and then a secular pharmacist if one seeks treatment that is offensive to the beliefs of the many.  Or of the few?  I’m not sure which.  Oh well.


Then there is the role of religion in the presidential race this year – and that is heating up as more and more pressure is put on the Catholic Church, from elements with the Catholic Church, to deny John Kerry communion, as he does not oppose abortion being legal, as it is now.  That is not the position of the Church.  Toss the bum out.


Now the Church has no problem with other politicians who are “pro-choice” as it were.  Arnold Shwarzenegger, Tom Ridge, Rudi Giuliani, and George Pataki – they can receive the Eucharist.  Because they are Republicans, and although that political party current has no firm anti-abortion plank, the Church knows their hearts are in the right place, even if they support the same policy as Kerry?  Huh?


This from the church that has for decades shrugged at its own child molesters?




Andrew Sullivan – who is the oddest of folks – an openly gay, quite conservative pro-war screw-the-irresponsible-poor Catholic Republican voice – seems upset how this just played out in New Jersey -


The governor of New Jersey, James McGreevey, under intense pressure from his bishops, has said he will no longer receive communion.  McGreevey opposes abortion but does not believe the government should make it illegal in all cases.  This topic is complicated in many ways.  It's no violation of the separation of church and state, in my view.  It's about how a church deals with its members in public life.  But that doesn't make this new shift any less momentous.  What's particularly stunning about the McGreevey case is that his withdrawal from Communion was not, apparently, simply about abortion.  It was also about his support for domestic partnerships for gay couples and stem-cell research.  To bar someone from Communion for that array of beliefs strikes me as new territory. 


Bottom line?  From now on, I think, it will be harder and harder for any sincere public Catholic who is a Democrat to continue to be a part of the sacramental life of the church.  The Democratic Party, after all, is institutionally supportive of stem-cell research, the right to abortion and at least some recognition of gay couples.  Very few leading Democrats are pro-life.  If those issues are the criteria for allowing someone in public life to receive Communion as a Catholic, then the Church, in effect, is endorsing one political party over another. 


The Archbishop of Newark goes further in this letter, released Wednesday.  He writes: "As voters, Catholics are under an obligation to avoid implicating themselves in abortion, which is one of the gravest of injustices."  I can only infer from this that even voting for any pro-choice politician and receiving Communion is also, as he puts it, "objectively dishonest."


Do the bishops understand what they're toying with here?  Although the sacrament will remain formally open to anyone who sincerely wants to live a life in Christ, in effect only Republicans will be allowed. 


The bishops can say that this is not their fault.  They are just upholding doctrine.  It's the Democrats who have made abortion rights a litmus test for membership.  And there may be some truth to this in theory. 


But in practice, Catholicism's precious detachment from partisanship could be threatened. 


This is the dream of the religious right: to destroy the Catholic base of the Democratic party, create a hard-right rump of true believers, and integrate the latter into the GOP.  I can barely believe that the Catholic hierarchy is doing Karl Rove's work for him.  But then, as we have discovered, the current hierarchy is capable of almost anything.


So to please his the evangelical born-again base of his party, or maybe because he deeply believes it, George Bush says the jury is still out on evolution.  Scopes was convicted, after all, wasn’t he?  The Catholic Church is edging toward purging itself of anyone who even votes for a Democrat – as contraception and abortion (Democrats support such) are murder, stem-cell research (Democrats support that) is murder, and gays have no place in their moral universe, or at least they have no right to anything resembling Catholic marriage.  Interesting.


Coming soon for the secular folks?  This is not your country and you will be asked to leave.


No, not really.  Secular folks will just have to get used to being a powerless minority in a theocracy that tolerates their presence, grudgingly.  And secular folks will just have to get their prescriptions filled in Canada, unless they can find they find a heathen and morally evil pharmacist, after they find a heathen and morally evil doctor to write these prescriptions.  Fine, we secularist folks will work something out.


The odd thing is who is lining up against this business. 


This weekend Nancy Reagan announced her full support of stem-cell research.  This is causing a lot of turmoil in the world of the conservative right who worship her dying husband as the father of modern conservative thought – but one supposes watching her husband slowly dying of Alzheimer’s unhinged her to the point where she’s has lost her way.  But she really said stem-cell research was a good idea.  How odd.


And a few months ago when the Republicans in congress pressed to have FDR’s profile removed from the dime and replaced by a profile of her dying husband, she told them to stop that nonsense – FDR had polio and started that “March of Dimes” thing.  She wanted no part of dumping FDR from the coin. 


And then three weeks ago, when a group planning to start a new “conservative Christian” University in Colorado asked her to allow them to name the school Ronald Reagan University, she told those folks to find another name. 


She’s hurting the conservative movement, it seems, time after time.  Expect a column from Ann Coulter denouncing her as a traitor or a fool, or both.


There is much more detail you can find on all this.  The religious right is angry, and the secular left defensive.  The election is many months away and as it nears, if you are one of the few Americans who actually votes, you will be asked to choose sides.


This just gets more interesting all the time.


Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
The inclusion of any text from others is quotation
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