Religious freedom

Charles Pierce has two good articles about the intersection of religion and politics. The first looks at Rick Santorum’s comments about JFK’s speech on religion.

Here’s part of what Kennedy said:

I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute, where no Catholic prelate would tell the president (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote; where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference; and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the president who might appoint him or the people who might elect him.

“I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish; where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source; where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials; and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all.”

and here’s part of Santorum’s comments:

To say that people of faith have no role in the public square? You bet that makes you throw up. What kind of country do we live that says only people of non-faith can come into the public square and make their case? … That makes me throw up and it should make every American who is seen from the president, someone who is now trying to tell people of faith that you will do what the government says, we are going to impose our values on you, not that you can’t come to the public square and argue against it, but now we’re going to turn around and say we’re going to impose our values from the government on people of faith, which of course is the next logical step when people of faith, at least according to John Kennedy, have no role in the public square.

The problem isn’t that Santorum misrepresents what Kennedy says, but, as Pierce notes, Kennedy made his speech because there was a bias against Catholics in the US and Kennedy was arguing that any person should be able to have a role in the public square. In other words, Santorum turns a speech saying that religious people have a role in the public square and claims it says that they have no role.

Pierce also looks at implications of religious freedom when it comes to vaccinations:

Comes now this report that we nearly had a measles pandemic in Indiana, with the Super Bowl as Ground Zero, because of the traction that the anti-vaccination crowd has gained in the public at large. (The reason we didn’t have a pandemic was that so many of the people at the Super Bowl had been vaccinated.) Old childhood plagues are making a comeback. It’s also not promising, as the WaPo report points out, that pediatricians have started telling their anti-vaccination patients to go climb a tree.

This is a real-world consequence of our tendency to enable nonsense to the point that it actually has an effect on public policy. This is a real-world consequence of our current taste for non-science, or anti-science, to borrow a useful term from the history of Mother Church. This is the public-health face of climate-change denial, to name only the most obvious parallel. Create your own “science,” sell it enthusiastically, get enough people to believe it so that the teenage bookers at cable news notice the dust you’ve kicked up, and you’ve got yourself a movement, regardless of what the people who actually know what they’re talking about think.

more specifically:

In fact, the reason there was an outbreak at all was apparently because of the small but persistent group of people who refuse to vaccinate their children. According to the official quoted by PBS, 13 of those who have been diagnosed with measles in Indiana have said they had previously declined the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine.

It’s part of this trend where some people say their beliefs trump the safety or rights of the rest of us.  Most of us do get vaccinated and probably wouldn’t be affected–except vaccinations aren’t 100% effective and so we might still be vulnerable and some children are too young for vaccinations and so might be affected.

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Atticus Finch
    Feb 27, 2012 @ 14:50:04

    I find it funny Santorum plays the “good catholic” card so much, but supports preempitve war – an act that the catholic church condemns…

    It looks like we all “cherry pick” what we choose to find relevant in religion…


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