Friday potpourri

  1. Constitutional Abstractions: A Reminder
  2. Tennessee official State Short Story
  3. Prominent vs. Faithful
  4. A dubious premise


I wrote more than this, but then WordPress lost it (grrrrrr!):

Such an abstraction from the clear guarantee of equal protection of laws to the absent prohibition against any laws having (as all laws inevitably do) consequences favorable to some class of persons and unfavorable to another class of persons is logically untenable. It constitutes an analytical non sequitur that rests on the transformation of clear legal language (“equal protection of the laws,” meaning that the laws must be applied equally) into abstract ideological claims rooted in the particular policy goals of the interpreters (the requirement that all laws further the cause of equality).

(Bruce Frohnen, critiquing the constitutional abstractions of a CATO Institute brief favoring same-sex marriage.)

A “requirement that all laws further the cause of equality” in cases touching homosexuality seems to me like a pretty good summary of what’s going on in Federal Courts, with the result that we’re only allowed to be self-governing in matters where our democratic preferences don’t piss off the truly powerful. If we cross that line, they’ll find something in the Constitution, raise it to the Nth level of abstraction (you can justify just about anything “progressive” if you raise a “principle” to a high enough level of abstraction), and then drop it back to earth to crush the laws we’ve made for ourselves.

Laws based on silly ideas, articulated or just felt in the bones, like “it takes a man and a woman to make a baby, and that’s what marriage was, and might once again be, about.”


On Monday, Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery issued Opinion No. 15-34 concluding that pending Tennessee legislation that would designate The Holy Bible as the official state book violates the federal Establishment Clause as well as Tennessee  Constitution Art. I, Sec. 3 barring preference to any religious establishment or mode of worship. The Opinion says in part:

Irrespective of the legislation’s actual purpose, common sense compels the conclusion that designation of the Bible as the official state book in practice and effect conveys a message of endorsement.

The Legislature went ahead and did it anyway.

On Tuesday, the House adopted an amendment (full text) to the bill setting out in a preamble over a dozen secular justifications for naming the Bible as the state book. Here are two of them:

WHEREAS, printing the Bible is a multimillion dollar industry for the state with many top Bible publishers headquartered in Nashville, including Thomas Nelson, Gideons International, and United Methodist Publishing House;…

WHEREAS, the tulip poplar was chosen as the state tree because, according to the Blue Book, “it grows from one end of the state to the other” and was “extensively used by the pioneers of the state” for practical purposes such as the construction of “houses, barns, and other necessary farm buildings”, similar to how the Holy Bible is found in homes across the state and has been “used” for practical purposes such as recording family histories;

On Wednesday, the Tennessee House of Representatives passed the bill as amended by a vote of 55-38, and sent it to the Senate for its consideration.

I think designating a “State Book” (or a “State anything“) is a pretty silly enterprise for a legislature. But if they’re going to do it, designating “anything but the Bible,” as the AG seemingly would have it, despite that book’s historic importance (and economic importance, in Tennessee where so many religious books are printed) seems dubious. Maybe, God forbid, Dyanetics will some day surpass it, or something from the Oprah Book Club, but that day’s not here yet.

Meanwhile, I propose that the Tennessee legislature, in explicit honor of Herbert Slatery, go all in and name Harrison Bergeron as the State Short Story.

UPDATE: I misspoke that “the legislature went ahead.” Tennessee Senate Kills Bill To Make Bible the Official State Book.


Robert P. George writes Pope Francis:

This morning, a group of people published an open letter to you in a San Francisco newspaper urging you to remove Archbishop Cordileone from his office. They identify themselves as Catholics and plead with you to send them a new archbishop that will be true to what they describe as “our values.” But their values, unlike the values proclaimed and upheld by Archbishop Cordileone, are not the values of the Catholic faith. Their complaint against the Archbishop finally comes down to his refusal to bow down before the values of contemporary secularist sexual morality and gender ideology.

I’m torn between “that’s not my church” and “Hooray for Archbishop Cordileone!” My Church or not, I hope the Pope holds firm. I take no pleasure in the misfortune of the ecclesial body identified in my nation as “the church that thinks it’s The Church,” and the sacking of Archbishop Cordileone to placate prominent Catholics would be a calamitous sell-out of faithful Catholics:

These men and women are grateful to have an archbishop who believes and teaches what the Church believes and teaches. They send their children to the diocesan schools because they desire for them an education imbued with a Christian spirit and shaped by the teachings of the Catholic faith. Their spirits have been lifted by Archbishop Cordileone’s tireless work to ensure that such an education is available to all who desire it.

The Pope should respond to these “prominent Catholics” as did Peter to Simon Magus, but since Popes are more circumspect than bloggers, he probably won’t.


I quote to challenge:

In February, the journal Social Currents published a survey that purports to show the motivations that drive the overwhelming majority of those opposed to same-sex “marriage.” According to the research, “Nearly all respondents (90 percent) who strongly oppose same-sex marriage also believe that ‘sexual relations between two adults of the same sex’ is ‘always wrong.’” On the other side they found that “approximately five-sixths (83 percent) of responses who support same-sex marriage view same-sex relations as ‘not wrong at all.’”

Given that opposition to same-sex “marriage” has always held that gay sex is wrong ….

(John-Henry Westen, emphasis both deleted and added)

The bolded quote I challenge. First, from the very data Westen cites in the prior paragraph, 10% of polled opponents of same-sex marriage don’t believe that same-sex sexual relations are “always wrong.” Second, what’s true in a WEIRD or American-WEIRD sample might not apply more widely. Third, correlation doesn’t show causation or even that the phenomena are related.

But probably most important, from my perspective, is that it’s perfectly possible to hold that (1) gay sex is just hunky-dory, and if that’s the sort of thing you go for, you should go for it with gusto; but (2) homosexual pairings aren’t marriages because by definition the pair cannot engage in “the marital act” (or some systematic treatise elaborating that commonplace observation) or ever make children as the fruit of their love.

For instance:

[O]n March 20, 2014, the [New Yorker] carried an intriguing story by Alexander Stille, entitled “An Anti-Gay-Marriage Tea Party, French Style?”. Earlier this year there were huge demonstrations in Paris and other cities against the same-sex marriage law recently enacted by the Hollande government. Apparently this sudden eruption of public outrage came as a complete surprise, as did its demographic and ideological character. This sort of street demonstration (commonly called “une manif”/ “manifestation”) has a long tradition in France, with a record of stopping or even toppling governments. But it is a tradition of the Left. This one is not. Nor is it, in its ideological content, clearly on the Right. It is not affiliated with any of the parties of the Right. It is not against abortion (“it is not our issue”, said one leader of the movement), nor even against the civil unions (quite similar to marriage in its practical consequences) that have been available to same sex couples (another leader opined, “it is perfectly correct that gay couples should have legal protection”). Although apparently many members are Catholics, religion is not mentioned. Nor are there anti-immigrant or anti-Muslim expressions. The movement is very narrowly focussed on same-sex marriage—and conversely on the heterosexual family. Ludovine de la Rochere, the president of Manif Pour Tous (the official name of the movement), said: “We are in a crisis, of meaning, a moral crisis… And yet, within our reach, there is a reservoir, a bearer of meaning, of energy, of solidarity, of relationships: the family, the source of all the human and economic riches of the nation”.

(Peter Berger, 3/26/14)

* * * * *

“In learning as in traveling and, of course, in lovemaking, all the charm lies in not coming too quickly to the point, but in meandering around for a while.” (Eva Brann)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.