I’ve been meaning to write something up about the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights’s recent report about religious freedom and civil rights, but this story by Hemant Mehta over at The Friendly Atheist provided a good example of a closely related issue: politicized religion. It’s been a staple of the political scene here in the States for a while now, and it’s doing very ugly things to public discourse.
What’s going on.
In Florida, a group called “Abolish Abortion Florida” is circulating a petition to amend the Florida Constitution. The amendment itself is calling for abortion to be classified as a premeditated first degree murder, which would qualify the defendant for the death penalty (but not require it). Not only that, the amendment would broadly classify abortion to the point that any intentional destruction of a fertilized egg would qualify a person for this murder charge.
The Florida Constitution does allow for voters to propose an initiative to amend the constitution in this way (See Fla. Const. Art. XI, § 3). That said, proposing an amendment like this is a little complicated. The group needs signatures from at least 8% of the voters in at least half of the 27 congressional districts (14 to be specific). Additionally, the petition needs to have enough signatures to cover 8% of the people who voted in the last presidential election (after doing the math, that number is currently about 678,000). Although Floridians generally support the right to an abortion, there are enough people that could sign this to put it on the ballot in 2018. If that happens, 60% of the voters would need to vote in favor of it.
Despite not being likely to succeed, the amendment has other things going against it. The amendment violates the U.S. Constitution and other Federal law, which would make it unenforceable. It also might not be able to survive a challenge brought by other voters if it gets on the ballot. On top of that, the Florida Supreme Court would most likely void it ahead of time because of its conflict with Federal law.
This is just the latest in a long string of grandstanding for religious voters.
Abortion is a hot-button issue, an almost guaranteed way to get people who identify as evangelical to vote a particular way. The rhetoric and attempts to curtail a woman’s right to seek medical treatment get dialed back as soon as a Federal court can issue the order and get confirmed on appeal. Still, the damage often gets done for the sake of claiming that a candidate is fighting against baby-killing.
None of this would be possible if evangelicals didn’t fall for it every election. It looks like they’re going to fall for it again this election. They believe with complete confidence in the lie that the clock can get turned back on women determining their own medical care. That ship has sailed a long time ago, and it’s never coming back.
Seeing this happen every two years makes it hard to take Christianity seriously.
From threats of divine annihilation to rebuking society for vague reasons, politicized faith runs at odds with the moral superiority I see flaunted over heathen savages. Somehow it’s loving and moral to deny people access to medical care and birth control for nothing more than failing to abide by one particular interpretation of a text cobbled together 1800 years ago. Let’s ignore the fact that too many Christians can’t even agree on what the entire text fully means; let’s pretend that Jesus wants everyone to vote one particular way.
I cannot stress how disappointing it is to see initiatives like this getting championed by people who ignore veteran homelessness, fair wages for honest work, or even something so simple as educating people on how to effectively use birth control. All this money collected to do something truly pointless could have been put towards research to making childbirth safer or saving the lives of prematurely born infants. But no, we need to punish women for getting pregnant.
Because that’s what Jesus wants.