Friedrike Merck, a talented sculptor, passionate philanthropist, and great friend wrote this commentary with a perspective on the health reform battle that I have not seen elsewhere. She has allowed me to share it with you. Let me know what you think.
Recently, some enthusiastic cheerleaders where barred from holding up Bible verse banners for their football team to bust through at the start of a game because the banner practice was considered a breach of the First Amendment, the religious Establishment Clause part. The students cried “censorship”, as did local pastors and politicians, but they could not do an end run around the First Amendment of the Constitution, which states that there shall be no establishment of religion, that in a public school it gives the impression that the school endorses religion, and endorsing religion in a government funded institution is unConstitutional.
Recently, some enthusiastic Congressmen rammed their religion based amendment into the health care reform bill but strangely enough no one cried, “Establishment Clause!” If the rosy cheeked cheerleaders of Oglethorpe High can’t jump with Jesus, then how is it possible that a United States Congressman is allowed to? Have the Fundamentalist faction incrementally lulled us over the last three decades into thinking that their religiously motivated politics is OK in Washington and OK in our democracy? The Stupak Amendment brouhaha is giving us an opportunity to do a reality check.
Mr. Stupak believes that an embryo is a baby and, therefore, that an abortion is baby killing. He may also believe that an acorn is an oak tree, that a piece of yarn is a sweater and that Eve sprang from Adam’s rib while he was napping in the Garden. While the congressman is entitled to believe whatever he wishes, he cannot act on, by promulgating legislation, those beliefs at the expense of another person’s rights. A woman has a right to the medical procedure known as abortion and that procedure cannot be singled out of legislation because of one faction’s religious beliefs.
To flip the coin, would Mr. Stupak allow legislation crafted by those who believe that coitus may occur only if procreation is intended by the union? While that legislation might solve many problems, domestic and national, it would be unConstitutional. There are many beliefs in this country and they are private matters, having no place in the public arena for exactly the same reason that the public school linebackers can’t charge through Deuteronomy Ch.9, v.1. If Mr. Stupak can’t first uphold his oath to the Constitution and genuflect to his personal beliefs second, then he should leave public office and happily run a church.
James Madison not only wrote the First Amendment but he also warned us of factions, stating in the Federalist Papers that, “Among the numerous advantages promised by a well constructed Union, none deserves to be more accurately developed than its tendency to break and control faction.” Faction he described as “… a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or interest, adverse to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.”
Mr. Stupak and his faction have the country in an uproar, fracturing Parties, flummoxing the President’s Press Secretary, devilishly mobilizing both sides of the un-winable reproductive choice war and threatening the health care overhaul but the truth is, abortion is not the culprit behind the crisis. The real culprit is that we have allowed organized religion to run amuk. These men of fundamentalism, shamefully unsatisfied to reside in their blessed home of the Church, have stormed the gates of our secular democracy and, within the Beltway at least, are impacting the work of the State without a peep of protest.
This is not about babies or abortions, it’s about Fundamentalism and the monstrous power grab that defines it. We see it wrecking havoc with the world at large, one suicide bomber at a time, one flogging at a time but when we see an American Christian white man, entitle “Congressman”, bringing his personal spiritual myth into the hallowed halls of Democracy, somehow we all go deaf, dumb and blind. Awaken, arise! It’s time to pick up the pompoms for our Constitution and its Bill of Rights, Madison is waiting to hear our cheer.
Bearsville, New York
Portrait Artist, Political Activist, Mother