Sunday, March 19, 2006

America Heading Toward a Church-State Showdown Over Abortion, Gay Rights

South Dakota's New Anti-Abortion Law is a Blatant State Endorsement of Catholic Church Doctrine -- While Catholic Charities Insists it Won't Comply With Massachusetts Law Barring Anti-Gay Discrimination in Adoptions

By Skeeter Sanders

At first glance, they appear to be two completely separate, unrelated developments: South Dakota passes a bill that bans all abortions except when the mother's life is in danger. Meanwhile, one of the nation's largest child-adoption agencies announces that it will no longer practice its founding mission, rather than comply with a Massachusetts law that bars it from refusing to place children with gay and lesbian adoptive parents.

But the truth is, these two events are inextricably linked to each other. Their common thread: An irreconcilable clash between church and state. Specifically, the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church vs. the laws of the United States with respect to the rights of women and of gay men and lesbians.

South Dakota: A Direct Challenge to Roe v. Wade With New Anti-Abortion Law

On March 6, South Dakota Governor Mike Rounds signed into law the most radically sweeping anti-abortion bill devised since abortions were legalized by the U.S. Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision of 1973.

The new law bans virtually all abortions, except when the mother's life is in danger. Although acknowledging that the law would be challenged in court as a violation of Roe v. Wade, Rounds told reporters that "The true test of a civilization is how well people treat the most vulnerable and helpless in their society."

The governor went on to say that "The sponsors and supporters of this bill believe that abortion is wrong because unborn children are the most vulnerable and the most helpless in our society. I agree with them."

Clearly intended as a direct frontal attack on Roe v. Wade now that there are two more conservatives on the Supreme Court, Rounds acknowledged that the law -- due to take effect July 1 -- will be tied up by litigation for years until it reaches the nation's highest court.

New Law Violates First Amendment Separation of Church and State

Rounds and other supporters obviously are hoping for the high court, with its new conservative majority, to overturn Roe v. Wade. But they made two fatal tactical errors that could result in the 30-plus-year-old pro-life movement's dream of banning abortions blowing up in their faces.


First, the new law declares flatly that "life originates at the moment of conception." That's precisely the doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church.

Second, the new law makes no exceptions for women who became pregnant as a result of rape or incest. Catholic Church doctrine makes no such exceptions, either. Incredibly, the drafters of the law completely ignored the fact that rape and incest are crimes in South Dakota and in all 49 other states.

Because of this, it should be easy to make the case that the new law violates the First Amendment's ban on government endorsement of religion -- a point that many anti-abortion advocates outside South Dakota openly concede. The doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church on abortion is clearly not shared by other faiths, both inside and outside Christendom.

New Law Would Force Rape Victims to Bear Rapist's Child

That the new law makes no exception for rape makes it even more despicable. To force a woman who becomes pregnant as a result of having been raped or otherwise sexually abused against her will to bear that rapist's or abuser's child is absolutely obscene. It is nothing less than a crime against that woman that is every bit as heinous as the attack itself.

It should be obvious that this law was rammed through by theocratic religious zealots who have no respect whatsoever for the First Amendment separation of church and state, let alone a woman's right to control her own body. That's bad enough, but for these holy rollers to not care about rape victims when they drafted this law is utterly contemptible.

It is, therefore, imperative that this law be challenged on First Amendment church-state grounds, rather than on Roe v. Wade. Indeed, it's quite self-evident that the pro-life movement is a faith-based crusade. So was the civil rights movement of the '50s and '60s.

But there are two fundamental differences between the two. The civil rights movement aimed at ensuring that the right of Americans to be treated equally is guaranteed to all Americans. The pro-life movement aims at taking away the right of American women -- a 52 percent majority of the population, I hasten to add -- to decide for themselves whether or not to have children.

The former tapped into the religious and spiritual faith of Americans to expand the rights of all Americans guaranteed by the Constitution; the latter seeks to impose a narrow religious doctrine on more than half of the American people that's in direct conflict with the rights guaranteed to all Americans by the Constitution.

Massachusetts: Catholic Charities to End Adoptions Rather Than Comply with Law Barring Discrimination Against Gays

On the other red-hot issue -- children being adopted by gay and lesbian parents -- the separation of church and state was made even more clear when Catholic Charities of Boston announced on March 10 that it would no longer place children for adoption, abandoning its founding mission, rather than comply with a Massachusetts law that bars it from rejecting gay and lesbian adoptive parents.

Massachusetts is one of 15 states that bars discrimination against gays -- and is, so far, the only state in the Union that allows gay and lesbian couples to marry. The Rev. J. Bryan Hehir, president of Catholic Charities of Boston, told The Boston Globe that after much reflection and analysis, the agency could not reconcile Catholic Church teaching that placing children with gay and lesbian adoptive parents is "immoral" with state law barring anti-gay discrimination.

The controversy erupted in October when the Globe revealed that the agency had been quietly processing a small number of adoptions by gay and lesbian couples, despite Vatican pronouncements that condemning the practice. About 13 children were placed in gay households since 1995, the Globe reported. Agency officials acknowledged that they allowed gay and lesbian couples to adopt the children to comply with the state's anti-discrimination law.

Eight members of Catholic Charities of Boston's 42-member board of directors resigned in protest of a decision by the state's four Roman Catholic bishops on February 28 to seek an exemption from the anti-discrimination law, effectively overruling a unanimous board decision in December to continue adoptions by gay and lesbian parents.

The Problem Rests with the Vatican, Not Catholic Charities

The decision by Catholic Charities of Boston to withdraw from adoption work was one that was, for all intents and purposes, one that it strongly preferred not to have made. But the agency -- the largest and most respected private adoption agency in the state -- found itself caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place.

Although its 42-member board of directors is dominated by laypersons, Catholic Charities must answer to the bishops, as the agency is a creature of the Archdiocese of Boston -- which is still reeling from the priest sex-abuse scandal. Critics were quick to condemn the decision as highly hypocritical in light of the scandal.

In all fairness to the agency, the problem over adoptions by gay and lesbian parents doesn't lie in Boston. It lies squarely in the Vatican. The church's condemnation of homosexuality borders on outright paranoia, as far as I'm concerned.

This is a church that has an all-male priesthood and bars women from serving in it.

This is a church that won't allow its priests to marry -- and even requires them to abstain from sex altogether -- for life.

This is a church that won't allow divorce, even when the marriage has been utterly destroyed by infidelity or by psychological, physical or sexual abuse.

This is a church that refuses to allow any form of birth control other than the highly unreliable rhythm method and condemns the use of condoms to combat AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.

Indeed, this church is so puritanical that it condemns all sexuality outside marriage and even non-procreative sexuality inside marriage. That this church is totally out of touch with reality on sexual matters is beside the point.

Yet this church has the unmitigated gall to actually promote the very cardinal (Bernard Law) who did nothing about the sexual abuse of children by priests in the Archdiocese of Boston to a high post in Vatican City!

To date, not one single priest implicated in the sex-abuse scandal has been defrocked. And the Archdiocese has refused to co-operate with the Massachusetts attorney general's office in his investigation.

As far as I'm concerned, this church has no moral authority to condemn the adoption of children by gay and lesbian parents when it has shamefully refused to punish the pedophiles within its own priestly ranks -- and at the same time, slander millions of gay and lesbian Americans by continuing to preach the bald-faced lie that homosexuality and pedophilia are one and the same. They are not.

Pedophilia is a distinct sexual orientation of adults exclusively toward children, period. Pedophiles are incapable of having fulfilling sexual relationships with other adults. And while nearly all pedophiles are men, 80 percent of pedophiles are sexually attracted exclusively to girls, 15 percent to both girls and boys and only five percent exclusively to boys.

The priests implicated in the sex-abuse scandal are pedophiles -- not gay men. Gay men have sex with men, not with boys.

Why We Have Separation of Church and State in America

What is truly galling about the Vatican is its refusal to accept the fact that in America, we have legal and constitutional separation of church and state -- and that under our system, the church is not above the law.

If the doctrines of this church are in direct conflict with the rights guaranteed to Americans under our Constitution and laws, the church cannot force its American adherents to obey those doctrines.

The Roman Catholic Church can preach all it wants to about the "immorality" of abortion and homosexuality. But it cannot force American women to not have abortions, nor can it force American gays and lesbians to be either permanently abstinent or heterosexual.

This is why we have separation of church and state in this country. It is one the most important principles that the founders of this nation -- most of them Freemasons whose European ancestors were bitterly persecuted by the Church -- insisted upon.

The Vatican is going to have to face the fact that in America (which, lest we forget, has a Protestant majority in the first place), we do things our own way, not the way the Vatican wants us to do them.


Volume I, Volume 17
Copyright 2006, Skeeter Sanders. All rights reserved.


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