May 8, 2014

Religion and Government, Iowa Style

As I noted the other day, Alabama and Iowa are having fun with religion and government in their own way, completely apart from the Supreme Court decision in the Town of Greece v. Galloway case, in which the right to 'legislative prayer' was upheld by a 5-4 vote.

Alabama's apparently been taken over by Someone Else, aka the Christian God.  Iowa has its own traditions to uphold, and they have a bunch of Senate candidates doing their darnedest to out-Christian each other in efforts to appease those traditional voters.

For example, there's this guy, Representative Tom Shaw. He was unhappy with the unanimous 2009 decision of Iowa judges that gay marriage was constitutional.  Five of the judges were no longer around by the time Shaw put forth his proposal to cut the pay of the four who were left in 2013 from around $160K to $25K.  That'll teach em to mess with marriage, darn it!

Shaw announced in January that he would not be running for re-election this fall. In a letter to supporters, he noted
Honor to God, fidelity to the Constitution, as seen thru the prism of the stated purposes contained in the Declaration of Independence, is my foundation.  These guiding principles helped me in determining my votes...votes place on behalf of 30,000 Iowans. No man is perfect, but I tried to serve ethically, honorably and truthfully during my tenure. 
My "no compromise" approach did not always set well with others.  However, in his book Confrontational Politics, author H. L. Richardson, retired California State Senator, states "When we give in to liberals, even an inch, we're not compromising, we're abdicating our rights and our honor. When our legislators likewise, they are abdicating our right and their honor.  
His 'no compromise' approach  -- voting againstt a bill banning late term abortions, because he would only support a ban on all abortions -- that kind of thing,did not set well with his own party, so I'm thinking they might be OK with his decision not to run again.

But lame duck Mr. Shaw is not the only Republican in Iowa with a religious streak a mile wide. Three candidates who are running to fill the US Senate seat of another lame duck, Tom Harkin, who is not running for re-election when his term expires -- and they're trying to out-religious each other in the worst way.

When the topic of federal judges came up, three of the candidates indicated they'd look for judges who adhered to 'natural law' or who professed faith in God. (The video is here if you care to watch.)
  • First, there's Sam Clovis, a college professor, who  has "a very firm litmus test" on judges: "Can that judge explain to me natural law and natural rights?" 
  • Next, there's Iowa State Senator Joni Ernst who agreed with Clovis and added that judges should understand that the Constitution and all our laws came from God and that senators (considering candidates for the federal bench) should "make sure that any decisions that they have made in the past are decisions that fit within that criteria."
  • And then there's Matt Whitaker, a former federal prosecutor who (like Tom Shaw) felt his fellow Republicans didn't go far enough - he would demand that nominees for the federal bench are "people of faith" and "have a biblical view of justice." He noted that "As long as they have that worldview, they'll be a good judge. And if they have a secular worldview, where this is all we have here on earth, than I'm going to be very concerned about how they judge." 
This type of thinking, and the type of thinking that's prevalent in Alabama (where Someone Else controls the state), and the type of thinking that allows 'strongly held religious belief' laws which institutionalize discrimination, is not consistent with what I thought we stood for.