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March 2006
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Editorials, good and bad

A couple of editorials in my morning reading caught my attention. One good, one bad.
“bullet” A good one from the Colorado Spring Gazette, also published in the Sedalia (MO) Democrat
The article talks about the border violence near Nueva Laredo, and continues…

These latest victims can be added to the rising costs of an American drug control policy that does little to keep drugs off the streets in U.S. cities, while racking up huge bills.
Drug warriors in this country like to trumpet their successes in the media, posing with large caches of drugs and weapons they’ve taken from smugglers and dealers. And for that dangerous work they are to be lauded. But the larger picture shows that for all the foot soldiers’ risky work, the supply of available drugs seems little changed. Don’t blame that on the folks on the front lines; the fault lies further up the chain of command and is the result of a faulty premise.
The drug war is based on the idea that if the government wishes something to go away, it can simply outlaw it. Apparently those in charge of the nation’s drug policy were absent from history class the day Prohibition was covered. It didn’t work in the 1920s and it’s not working now, because it ignores one of the basic tenets of freedom: so long as the rights of others are not harmed, what one does with one’s own body is not the business of government.

Excellent points, and well-said.
“bullet” Now, an editorial to read for the delicious stupidity of it. Kat Stromquist is the Views Editor of the Tulane Hullabaloo. She’s a senior, majoring in Political Science, and isn’t much of a spokesperson for the academic strengths of Tulane.
She writes the most convoluted editorial I could imagine on the recent Supreme Court case that ruled that the government did not have a compelling interest to prevent O Centro Espirita Beneficente Uniao De Vegetal’s use of the hoasca tea in ceremonies. Her editorial: Courts Try to Take Stand, Stumble Drunkenly
I can’t even make out her position in some places (it’s that incoherent), but let’s play with a couple of passages for fun.
She mentions that the decision “startled and complexed many observers” (I’m not sure who) and then characterized the Supreme Court decision:

The Court is an institution of unpopular stances, but this statement is almost perverse.

Perverse? Let’s see why.

To allow religious individuals special privileges is to deprive non-religious individuals of those same privileges. The religious freedoms we are guaranteed include the freedom to have no religion at all, so subscription to any particular faith should not carry benefits nor status.

Almost sounds like she’s upset that the court didn’t rule that everyone should be allowed to used the hoasca tea. But I guess if she wants to follow this “no benefits” ‘rule’ for religions, she’ll be leading the charge to eliminate tax-exempt status for churches. Right, Kat?

With this ruling, the court also defines something many consider immoral, or at least a vice, as something to be identified with religion. Religious practice is one of the more sacrosanct institutions of society.

Well, the court merely clarified the government’s reach under the law. But there’s something odd about her wording. It apparently can’t be religious, because she has identified it as a vice.

The open exercise of religion provides a haven for the pious and a shrine for believers.

???

If religion is defined as a loophole by the court, the declaration of religion is bound to be abused.
Hate crimes could easily be redefined by racist zealots as ritual sacrifices. Cruelty to animals, our society’s most defenseless members, can be committed as part of some sort of dietary practice.

This is so unbelievably ignorant, that Tulane should immediately request an investigation of her transcripts to date. The court has not declared religion a loophole — it was interpreting the scope of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act passed by Congress, and according to FindLaw (which Kat might have considered reading before spouting inanities):

RFRA prohibits the Federal Government from substantially burdening a person’s exercise of religion, “even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability,” … except when the Government can “demonstrat[e] that application of the burden to the person (1) [furthers] a compelling government interest; and (2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that … interest,”

Obviously, the bogeyman conjured up by Kat’s vague allusion to “hate crimes” committed by “racist zealots” isn’t in danger of coming to pass due to the Supreme Court’s ruling. And as far as the potential “cruelty to animals, our society’s most defenseless members” as some sort of dietary practice, have you ever visited a commercial chicken farm, Kat?
Back to the quotes:

The protection of illegal activities as instruments of religion endangers religious freedom for those with genuine beliefs; the advantageous will not let this ruling be ignored. [emphasis added]

So, Kat, will you be the one to tell the church members that their beliefs are not genuine? And how have you determined that?

To find religion is a sort of fortune.
Christians speak of gold-paved streets and pearls when describing their kingdom of heaven, and for many, a blessing that great is offered to them in their lifetime by their faith.
Many others spend their entire lives seeking something.
We seek faith in an innumerable quantity of places: in spring days that almost hurt with their vividity, in music and dancing, in falling in love. As regrettable as it may be for society, some look for the answer with drugs.
If we are to hold that drug use is a valid method of religious epiphany and that the achievement of religious faith is an essential good, there is no reason to criminalize drug use for those who are not already members of a particular religion.
It cannot be true that the use of psychoactive substances can only work on people who have a particular belief.

OK, once you get past the bizarre mumbo-jumbo, now Kat is saying something with which I wholeheartedly agree: “there is no reason to criminalize drug use for those who are not already members of a particular religion.” Absolutely. Let’s legalize drug use. (But I fear Kat didn’t really mean that.)

A decision made without regard to social consequences is no decision at all, only the flip of a coin on the Court’s lunch break.

Actually, it’s a pretty radical notion that the Court is to make every decision in terms of social consequences.
And finally, the winner of the tortured analogy competition:

These justices are not acting as architects. They are merely standing on site, hammer, wood, and nails in hand, but no blueprint.

Hey, I realize that more people are probably reading her editorial through this site than would otherwise — Kat’s editorial just isn’t worth this amount of time, but we all have to have fun now and then.

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