Congressman Stupak and The Oglethorpe High School Cheerleaders

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.

Friedrike Merck
Bearsville, New York
Portrait Artist, Political Activist, Mother

5 thoughts on “Congressman Stupak and The Oglethorpe High School Cheerleaders

  1. From Facebook:
    I LOVE the article you posted by your friend who wrote about Stupak and the infestatiion of Christian Nationalism in America. I write a blog at and would love permission to re-post that as well.

    We are trying mightily to break the silence about this serious and frightening movement. I am joined by writers such as Bruce Wilson, Alex Bird (dogemporer) and activists such as Mikey Weinstein. Your friend is spot on regarding what is known as political dominionism.

    Leah L Burton.

  2. More Facebook comments:
    Suzanne Mathis McQueen
    Yes, of course. It has not only lulled the masses into complacency, it has bullied others into silence. Cheerleaders holding a banner is exactly that – a banner. Now if they had incorporated the verses into their cheers I think we would have had the same result.
    Yesterday at 2:54pm

    Michael Druckman
    Why should the taxpayer pay for abortions? If it’s a women’s reproductive choice and not a medically necessary they should pay for the procedure themselves. If I want to get an elective cosmetic procedure it should be on my nickel.
    2 hours ago

    Suzanne Mathis McQueen
    1. Abortion can in no way be compared to a elective cosmetic procedure.
    2. Sometimes it is medically necessary
    3. The rest of the time it is mentally and emotionally necessary if this is what the woman has decided to do.
    4. Why do you not want to hear what women say they need?
    5. Birth control pills are not “necessary” either, but well worth paying for to prevent unwanted pregnancies, the reason for abortion and the most cost effective…. See More
    6. Schools not “necessary” but certainly worth our efforts as a society, for the world YOU live in.
    7. Your tax dollars are either paying a nominal amt for legal abortion or an enormous amt for a botched back-alley abortion and in neither case have you saved a fetus.
    8. You’d rather have your tax dollars going for 18 yrs of public assistance for each of these women when they’ve expressed they cannot afford another child?
    9. Preventing unwanted pregnancies is the only proven method of preventing abortion, Illegalizing it or not funding it only makes the whole challenge worse. If it truly is about money, you need to consider the bigger picture cost here.
    10. You asked.
    2 hours ago ·

    Michael Druckman
    The definition of a liberal is that he or she makes their charitable donations with other peoples money. Add to that a liberal woman wants other people to pay for their birth control.
    4 minutes ago

    Gloria Feldt
    Birth control is the most basic of women’s health care. Public health officials rank birth control among the top half dozen most effective public health advances of the 20th century. That means they are critically important to preventing maternal and infant mortality and illness, just as immunizations and clean drinking water are critical public health advances paid for by tax dollars.

  3. Mr. Druckman:
    I don’t want to pay for your heart attack when you’ve not eaten or exercised properly, but this is what health insurance is all about. We’ll ALL either paying for EACH person’s health challenges or not, and everyone has a different story. Female bodies are reproductive vessels and cost us a fair bit to maintain. By disregarding our needs you are flat-out discriminating against us and disregarding our value to society and as humans with human needs.
    How do I know you are not a high health maintenance nightmare? I’d love to see your list of things you are willing to pay for and those you are not, as well as how you defend those as things we should all pay for.

    We’re either functioning as a society with health insurance or not. Continuing to educate all on how to be healthy in mind, body, and spirit for ourselves and our society is the most cost effective form of health care. It is not yours to judge who or what is deemed worthy and what is not.

  4. Let’s see, a woman (female of any age) chooses to have sex, chooses to not use protection of any sort, chooses not to carry the child to term because it’s medically necessary to avoid the stretch marks, and then gets to choose to send me the bill. How many choices do I get?

  5. For me it’s not All about the money, it’s about protecting a human life. Who is speaking out on behalf of the unborn children? Are you telling me that you don’t think a baby is a person until it is born? Is a baby a person only after a nine month gestation period? What about a premature birth – is he/she a person or not? Unborn babies have every human trait and feature very early in pregnancy. Are you going to decide exactly when a person starts being protected by the same rights you say a woman has to choose life or death for her child. If the unborn child is a girl, doesn’t she deserve the same rights you’re claiming all women have?

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