Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Over-Reaction and the Legal System

So, I've been gone almost three weeks. We had some vacation in there and then some recovery from vacation. It came at a good time for this blog - I had run out of ideas. I'm not sure the tank is all the way full, yet, but I did get a topic request, so I've got something to talk about.

Originally, a friend sent me this article from Christianity Today, asking for my opinion on the matter. It talks about a specific bill that's passed the California Senate and sitting in the state House regarding post-secondary education. It comes with a disclaimer that the authors recognize American evangelicalism is prone to over-reaction, but they still think this is an important alarm to sound. Also, to be fair, much of the article is quotes from California Christian Colleges that have some political skin in the game and are anything but unbiased.

It paints a grim picture - one even I'd be troubled by.

Of course, the first thing I do when something seems to ridiculous to be true, is check out the sourcing. California has a really nice legislation tracking website (much better than Delaware's, for sure) and you can find all sorts of information about SB1146 there. It turns out, there was some really inflammatory language introduced to the bill after it passed the Senate. It did indeed propose to restrict the religious exemptions to discrimination to strictly religion and theology (although they kindly left in a school's right to require chapel attendance to the delight of no one).

However, the bill was then submitted to the Committee on the Judiciary and then re-amended to pretty much remove everything Christianity Today was upset about (although this amendment happened the day BEFORE the article was posted - head scratching to say the least). It's still sitting in committee as of this writing (June 29, 2016). Presumably, the Committee on Judiciary saw what the magazine saw, what I saw, what most Americans would see: clearly unconstitutional language. They got rid of it.

Yes, I supposed the new language could lead to some argument that a school must limit its religious discrimination to those same specifically religious disciplines, but it would be far more persuasive that the school could argue it's whole reason for existence is to form religious people in whatever discipline they pursue. Continued harping on this is really way out of left field.

At the same time (and you knew there'd be more), I like the juxtaposition of me reading this on the same day the Supreme Court struck down the new abortion regulations from Texas (requiring doctors to have admitting privileges and clinics to basically be hospitals). Both of these issues illustrate the liberal and conservative tendency to over-react.

When people have a crusade, they tend to be committed - that's sort of implied in the term crusade. They go all out. People who really hate religious positions opposing homosexuality want to wipe them off the map and people who really hate abortion want it eliminated. They're happy (and free) to use any legal means available. Sometimes these get passed into law - other times the Committee on Judiciary steps in with a dose of sanity. In either event, those opposed to these bills go nuts - they scream and rant and post articles about the end of civilization and what have you.

In the end, these doomsday prophesies rarely come true. As much as I argue the government of the United States perches not on any moral bedrock, but nebulously on the whims of nine particular people, it's still a pretty functional system - at least at the constitutional level. Oh, of course people will argue over the "real meaning" of the constitution, much as we Christians argue over the "real meaning" of the bible - but in the end, things usually work out pretty well. It's really rare that the Supreme Court has to go back and correct itself - and when it does, it's usually because popular opinion has changed.

As flimsy and unfulfilling as that sounds, history is a good indication that the extremes rarely win. Yes, discrimination is a bad thing, but most people, even if they disagree, believe that people should be free to practice their religion as unsullied as possible. Yes, I'm no fan of abortion, but most people, even if they disagree with it, still believe women should have proper medical care and attention when they end a pregnancy. Passing laws to prevent those things aren't going to go over well, and the Supreme Court generally gets this.

That's not to say the Court only rules on public whims (Citizens United is a clear example), just that the Constitution tends to be pretty moderate most of the time. It's why I just generally don't get worked up over very much, especially these specific causes that fearmonger people into needless anxiety.

Beyond the actual topic of the article, though, are a half dozen manipulative elements that could be criticized (as is the case for liberal clickbait sites as well). That's the real rub. I get that people are upset about things that upset them. I know passionate people will have passionate responses, but we can take important issues seriously without elevating them to DEFCON levels - or at least we should be able to do it.

Although we should also be responsible enough to source these things out for ourselves. I'm no genius, people - I just took the time to click ONE link and read for a few minutes. Beyond that, it's a basic understanding of civics and, at worst, a couple trips to the dictionary. We keep saying we're (the collective 'we') smarter than the politicians and media mavens give us credit for.

How about we start acting like it?

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