Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Taking God Out of Politics

The NY Times' Paul Krugman is en fuego today. He's bound to get stacks and stacks of hate mail for his column -- most of it misguided, misspelled and misdirected -- because he's taking on the religious extremists who are attempting to take over this country. Using the Schiavo case as a springboard, he launches a blistering attack on those who would gladly dump the Constitution in favor of their version of "biblical law," whatever the hell that is. These members of the new American Taliban -- like Ralph Reed, Randall Terry, Pat Robertson, Lou Sheldon, Fred Phelps, et al -- are living proof that fundamentalism is dangerous, no matter what flavor or color it comes in.

"Democratic societies have a hard time dealing with extremists in their midst. The desire to show respect for other people's beliefs all too easily turns into denial: nobody wants to talk about the threat posed by those whose beliefs include contempt for democracy itself.


"Before he saw the polls, Tom DeLay declared that 'one thing that God has brought to us is Terri Schiavo, to help elevate the visibility of what is going on in America.' Now he and his party, shocked by the public's negative reaction to their meddling, want to move on. But we shouldn't let them. The Schiavo case is, indeed, a chance to highlight what's going on in America.

One thing that's going on is a climate of fear for those who try to enforce laws that religious extremists oppose. Randall Terry, a spokesman for Terri Schiavo's parents, hasn't killed anyone, but one of his former close associates in the anti-abortion movement is serving time for murdering a doctor. George Greer, the judge in the Schiavo case, needs armed bodyguards.

Another thing that's going on is the rise of politicians willing to violate the spirit of the law, if not yet the letter, to cater to the religious right.

Everyone knows about the attempt to circumvent the courts through 'Terri's law.' But there has been little national exposure for a Miami Herald report that Jeb Bush sent state law enforcement agents to seize Terri Schiavo from the hospice - a plan called off when local police said they would enforce the judge's order that she remain there.

And the future seems all too likely to bring more intimidation in the name of God and more political intervention that undermines the rule of law.

The religious right is already having a big impact on education: 31 percent of teachers surveyed by the National Science Teachers Association feel pressured to present creationism-related material in the classroom.


We can't count on restraint from people like Mr. DeLay, who believes that he's on a mission to bring a 'biblical worldview' to American politics, and that God brought him a brain-damaged patient to help him with that mission.

What we need - and we aren't seeing - is a firm stand by moderates against religious extremism. Some people ask, with justification, Where are the Democrats? But an even better question is, Where are the doctors fiercely defending their professional integrity? I think the American Medical Association disapproves of politicians who second-guess medical diagnoses based on video images - but the association's statement on the Schiavo case is so timid that it's hard to be sure."

It's long past time that we as a nation started standing up to the fundies and telling them to butt out. Good for Krugman for starting the volley. Now we need to follow through. Are you listening, Democrats?

Free Counter
Online Universities