Pick Wayne's Brain

February 13, 2016

We Need Less of Moore’s Ilk – UPDATED

Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore is at it again. It seems no matter how hard he tries, which appears to be not very, Moore can’t seem to wrap his head around the fact that the Supreme Court is the highest court in the land, and its rulings take precedence over any state or local law. Despite having lost his job once before in 2003 for refusing to follow the orders of the SCOTUS when they ruled he must remove a monument to the Ten Commandments from state property, Moore may be about to lose his job again, and for the same reason – failing to obey a SCOTUS ruling because it contradicted his personal religious beliefs. Moore claims the SCOTUS ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges is confusing because it says that not only must Alabama let gay people marry, but it has to recognize lawful same-sex marriages in other states. This violates the Chief Justice’s personal religious beliefs and he believes that is reason enough to order all Alabama probate judges in Alabama to stop issuing marriage licences to same-sex couples. He is wrong, of course, and in violation of his oath of office. Again. Like every public official in this country, elected or appointed, Moore took an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. That oath does not allow for exceptions where you feel your religious beliefs are being ignored, or because you feel that state law takes precedence over federal law. In fact, on the latter point the Constitution is quite clear. “This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.” Chief Justice Roy Moore does not believe this means SCOTUS rulings take precedence over Alabama State Law. How he ever got through law school and was allowed to practice law and even become a judge with this belief is beyond comprehension. What in that clause would make anyone think a state’s constitution or laws would be superior to the federal Constitution? How can any sane, intelligent person make that argument? The answer is they can’t, which means any person making such an argumetn is not sane and intelligent. Especially when they say their religious beliefs are superior to any court rulings. Part of the problem here is that Alabama elects their state’s highest judges rather than appoint them and make them go through a confirmation process conducted by people who at least have more of an understanding of the law than the average voter. (In my home state of New York, our state’s highest court judges are appointed by the governor and confirmed by our State Senate.) Your average voter is completely ignorant about how the law and the constitution work, so putting the choice of who should be deciding how their laws are interpreted in the hands of people who are completely unqualified to make that determination is ridiculous. Too many people wrongly believe this nation is officially Christian and should abide by Christian law, which seems to be based entirely on Jewish Law given how often they quote the Old Testament. This is the kind of person Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore is: a conservative evangelical with the warped belief that Christianity is the law of this land, the First Amendment to the contrary notwithstanding. He needs to be impeached, convicted, removed from office and barred from ever holding public office again. So does Associate Justice of the United States Antonin Scalia.

Justice Antonin Scalia is also at it again. What he’s at is demonstrating his complete and utter disqualification to be interpreting our nation’s constitution. In a recent speech to a Catholic high school class, Scalia made the claim that “there is nothing in the U.S. Constitution that prohibits the government from legislating, establishing, or favoring religion over non-religion.” He thinks it’s possible, but he seems unsure, that the Constitution may prohibit the government from favoring one religion over another, but it can certainly favor religion over non-religion. I don’t make any claim to be an expert in the law or the Constitution, but that claim strikes me as being, in legal parlance, “bullshit.” Even before the third amendment sent to the states became the first one ratified (there were twelve amendments sent to the states; the first never passed and the second eventually became the 27th Amendment, and the other ten became the Bill of Rights), there existed a clause barring religion from playing a part in our government. Article VI clearly states “…but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” How then, can one argue, should our laws should be based on the Bible if it’s unconstitutional to require anyone to prove they believe the Bible to be something that should be the basis of our laws? I certainly don’t think it should be. Have you actually read it? It’s horrifying! It’s a form of child abuse to teach children it’s the truth. The same for any deity-based religious text. Prove to me that gods exist before you start telling me I have to do what you claim they say. But you can’t presuppose the existence of gods and claim that as your proof. Nor can you claim that only something like a god can produce everything we see around us, because that would be the same thing. First prove gods exist, then prove they made everything around us. Not the other way around. Don’t say only a god could produce everything around us, so that proves they must exist. Scientists have been debunking that for centuries. Nor can you make the extraordinary claim that gods exist but that it’s up to me to prove you wrong, so in the meantime I have to follow your god’s laws. There are so many flaws in the belief that gods exist, let alone that one or more of them created everything, that it simply defies logic to believe it’s true. And please, don’t tell me my disbelief is because I lack faith. Faith is the rejection of facts, evidence, and experience in favor of believing what one wishes to be true. To say something is true simply because you have faith that it is true is to literally reject logic and reason and say it’s true because you say so. Well, that’s not good enough for me. If you’re going to tell me I have to follow the laws laid down in your deity-based religious text, then I require proof that the deity on which your religious text is based actually exists and will do me harm if I don’t follow those laws. Is that really too much to ask? It’s not enough for you to tell me what your religious texts say will happen, because you still haven’t proven to me that your religious texts are based on anything real. In recent years, the Church of Scientology has been exposed as a giant scam. Nobody seriously believes our bodies were invaded by extraterrestrial beings from a planet billions of miles away. I mean, the entire story line is ridiculous, and I think most people would agree. So why are deity-based creation stories any more credible? Because you say they are? Can you imagine what would happen if someone tried to make Scientology the official religion is the United States and forced everyone to practice it? Well that is exactly what the founders of the United States, under the US Constitution, feared. Did you know that before the United States came along, every nation had an official religion? The USA was the first one to say, “We’re not going to do that. We’re not going to say one religion is better than any other. And we’re not going to say you have to practice one particular religion, or that you can’t practice certain other religions. We’re not going get into any of that at all. You are free to practice whichever religion you wish, or even no religion at all.” And that’s the part Conservative Christians like Associate Justice Scalia and Chief Justice Moore get wrong.

Nobody can be required by law to do anything just because a religion requires it of its adherents. There may be perfectly valid non-religious reasons to lass a law banning something, and those have to be the ones cited as justification. The one thing you’ll find in common with such valid laws is that they follow a principle common to many religions but also to non-religious philosophies alike. And it’s a principle most atheists you’ll ever meet follow: Treat other people the way you would want them to treat you. You don’t want someone to be able to murder you? Then make it a crime to murder someone. You don’t want someone to be able to steal your stuff, then make it a crime to take other people’s possessions. This has nothing to do with religion, or what reward or punishment (if any) one might have to endure after one dies, it’s simply the right thing to do. I am amazed at how many people distrust atheists. In fact, there are seven states where atheists are barred by law from holding public office. Those laws are unconstitutional, of course, and must eventually be struck down even if they’re never enforced. For reasons surpassing logic, people seem to believe that it’s impossible to have a moral code without a belief in God. This is nonsense. If the only thing that makes you do the morally right thing is the belief that you’ll be rewarded or punished after you’re dead, then you really don’t want to do the morally right thing, do you? I don’t believe in an afterlife, or a reward for good people or a punishment for bad ones. I try to treat other people the way I would like them to treat me because it’s the right thing to do. I’m 100% positive that it won’t make any difference to me one way or the other what happens to me after I’m dead because I won’t be around to experience it. And if you want to wave your religious books in my face and tell me I’ll suffer eternal damnation for not believing what you do, understand that the only thing preventing me from taking your religious book out of your hand and smashing you in the face with it is my morals, the ones you say I can’t possibly have because I lack a belief in God.

UPDATE: Associate justice Antonin Scalia was found dead at his ranch in Texas. http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/us-world/article/Senior-Associate-Justice-Antonin-Scalia-found-6828930.php?

I will not celebrate the death of any man, but I will not weep for this one.

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