Religion, Guns, & the Constitution

“We the people of the United States . . .” 

Interesting point of fact: in the US Constitution, as amended, the word “people” appears nine times: twice in the main body, five times in the Bill of Rights, and twice in Amendment XVII (the Senate amendment which numerous voices on the political far right have recently suggested be repealed). It’s worth noting that in each cited context, “people” clearly refers to everyone; there are no exceptions, expressed or implied, regarding gender, race, creed, or national origin.

OK, I do herein confess: I am NOT a lawyer (thank all gods)! Still, I do like to pay attention to legal detail on occasion, and in that vein the Constitution and its amendments, particularly the first ten, seem to me to be pretty clear at least on a handful of fairly prominent details, somewhat cloudy on several others.

The subject of ‘Religion,’ for example, is mentioned only twice in the entire document; further, there is no mention anywhere of such religious assignations as God, Christ, or Christian. There is clearly NO MANDATE, no evidence whatsoever, that the US is or ever has been, as is popularly rumored, a definably ‘Christian nation.’ The only two references in the entire body of the Constitution as amended are, in fact, brief and fairly clear in premise:

Article VI. Clause 3:  . . .  no  religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

Amendment I.  Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof  . . .

It’s simple: religion is not “ever“ to be considered as a determining factor in re qualification for any sort of Office or public Trust,” and Congress has NO AUTHORITY to either impose or prohibit the “exercise” of ANY religious belief (and one can confidently assume as well that while all “people” are guaranteed the freedom to “exercise” their religion, there is NO freedom expressed or implied which allows devotees to impose their beliefs on anyone else). Period. And it should be fair to presume that EACH and ALL religious beliefs of any sort, of any demeanor — including atheism and nontheism — are equally protected in every applicable context, even though there are clearly huge numbers of evangelical enthusiasts who patently refuse to recognize such simplistic realities.

And too, there’s the Constitutional guarantee of PRIVACY:

Amendment IV: The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated . . .

Religious imposition of dogmatic surmise upon virtually every woman who enters a doctor’s office seeking reproductive health care? Imposition of medically unnecessary trans-vaginal ultrasound probes? Contraception outlawed? Pregnancy termination considered a criminal act? And what about marriage equality, the recently proclaimed “right” (in 18 states, to date) of gay people to marry the person of their choice in contrast with the (invariably religious-based) banning of same in 32 states? And finally, what about that Constitutional “right” of ALL the people “. . . to be secure in their persons” — regardless of what the bible may (or may not) have to say on the matters of childbearing, of sexual preference? Today in the United States there are far too many in positions of voice and/or authority who not only support, but urge forward and then write/pass legislation that has clearly violated” at least the first and fourth amendments. At LEAST.

In just the last month or two, for example, a vociferous evangelical furor has erupted concerning the provision in the Affordable Care Act that makes contraceptives available at no cost to all insured women who want them (but does NOT INSIST that anyone be required . . . etc.), and that’s just one of many ongoing attempts by the religiously inclined to interfere with healthcare at the personal level for no reason other than the imposition of dogmatic beliefs upon others.  Here are three recent examples — three tips of said shitstorm’s iceberg, links included. I’ll not quote from any of them; their respective titles pretty much tell the tale embedded in each.

1. Fox’s Pirro Accuses Obama of Trying to Put Little Sisters of the Poor Out of Business

2. Mike Huckabee: Brain dead girl could lead to Nazi death camps, forced abortions

3. Romney: Only states should grant birth control rights to women

I suspect Mitt gets his thesis from Amendment X, which reads: The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people (underline added). Of course, when we speak of rights and powers reserved . . . to the people, we should probably also take a peek at Amendment IX, the one that reads: The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Hmmh. There it is again. That screwy concept of “rights” which are “reserved to” and/or “retained by the people.” Can it be? PEOPLE — individual PEOPLE have RIGHTS?? Rights that even trump the attitudes of both state and federal governments? Of corporations? Maybe even trump the attitudes of those from any corner who would attempt to impose their RELIGIOUS BELIEFS on others?? But but but . . . America is a CHRISTIAN NATION! ALL OF HER FOUNDERS WERE CHRISTIANS! CHRISTIANS HAVE ALWAYS BEEN MEANT TO RULE! IT SAYS SO IN THE CONSTITUTION!!

Well, not really. The word ‘Christian’ is not, as previously noted, mentioned in the Constitution even a single time. Still, the notion persists that, since some of the Founders are deemed to have been of Christian persuasion, the first amendment clearly could NOT imply or insist separation of church and state. Its intent, obviously, was to forever prohibit the government from ever doing or allowing ANYTHING that any Christian anywhere might interpret to be a non-Christian act. The specific words “separation of church and state” are not in either the Constitution’s main body or the first amendment, of course, so obviously THE FOUNDERS’ PRESUMED INTENT WAS THAT THIS BE A CHRISTIAN NATION!

Really? The Founders’ presumed intent implicitly drives Constitutional interpretation?

OK. Well then, how about this?

Amendment II.  A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

So, lessee. If we employ that same religious wingnut thesis, that the position of the Founders is forever immutable, what else might that little detail imply? Must we not then construct and immediately employ “A well regulated Militia” where every last one of the “Arms” to be kept and ‘beared’ is either a muzzle loading flintlock musket or pistol? YES! The thesis is clear as clear can be! Screw the progress of gun technology; nothing else allowed, ever! We must honor the Founders’ presumed intent!

I suspect that even amongst the Christianistas, the resistance to such a simple hypothesis would begin, at the very least, with screaming, then gunfire, then a gruesome resistance in ways which we can only dare imagine. But resistance, no matter how gruesome it might become, cannot diminish the fact that each and every year, more than 30,000 Americans die from gunshots, and that since 1968, some 1.4 MILLION are dead by the same means — a higher tally than all Americans killed in every war the nation has fought since its inception.

Yet still, even with December 2012’s massacre of 20 school children and six adults by an armed madman in an elementary school, plus thousands more wanton deaths in cities and towns across and in every corner of the country, any suggestions of legislation to tame or restrict gun ownership is met with unbelievable resistance and spite. All of which brings up one more obvious question: WHY is malicious death by gunfire so much less revolting to the evangelical and Tea Party movements than subsidized contraception and/or pregnancy termination?

And speaking of death by gunfire, what of war and the mass killing implicit therein? That’s a topic which stands well beyond the scope of this current discussion, but still, since there is far less opposition to funding military atrocity than there is to subsidizing contraception, perhaps a momentary glance in that general direction is warranted. Consider the words of former US Lt. Gen. William Boykin who, when speaking of the Global War on Terror, effectively summed up his evangelical Christian point of view when he said (with straight face), “America’s enemy is a spiritual enemy . . . called Satan [and will only be defeated] if we come against them in the name of Jesus . . . We in the army of God, in the house of God, kingdom of God have been raised for such a time as this.”

With that bit of disquieting nonsense, the prosecution rests.

Yes, I know. Guns are here to stay, no matter how dangerous, how murderous, how absolutely despicable the vast bulk of them are, and any attempt to regulate their purchase or their design in any way is invariably declared parcel to an anti-American conspiracy of one sort or another. Just like efforts to deny imposition of Christian belief on everyone is declared parcel to an anti-American conspiracy of one sort or another.

One can only wonder: will the myriad sides and attitudes and philosophies implicit in human populations ever come together in mutual respect of differences? Will they ever agree to practice enduring regard for the “rights . . . retained by” and “reserved to” EACH and ALL of “the people”? Will we as a nation ever comprehend that freedom of religion means, also, freedom FROM religion, that imposition on the unwilling by either side is a heinous and non-legitimate act, whereas recognition of the implicit right of others to believe differently essentially defines democracy-inspired beneficence? And why the resistance to efforts to control gun ownership and possession? Where is that constitutionally mandated “well regulated Militia” whose clear intent and purpose would be, today, to control and supervise gun usage, to thereby prevent wanton killing and death?

Over much of my 71 years I’ve pretty much thought/hoped/believed that cultural benevolence was the goal upon which we as a nation were focused, that it was our destiny, that this was a nation where “all men are” — GENUINELY presumed to be — “created equal.” No more, however, not since the cultures of fear, and malice, and profit, and power/control, and biblical agenda imposition managed their collective takeover of such a sizable chunk of the population’s consciousness. The portal to universal tolerance appears to have been slammed shut and bricked up by the hyper-conservative movement which today presumes the imposition of each fragment of their political or religious belief trumps each and every effort toward understanding, toward intelligent discussion of virtually any premise.

Not sure there’s even an unsealed escape hatch available anymore.

******

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About frugalchariot

How Frugal is the Chariot That bears the Human soul. (Emily Dickinson)
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