Friday, October 17, 2008

Muzzling Catholic Opinion

I recommend this article to those who have not seen it yet:

Americans United Threatens the Tax Exemption of the U.S. Catholic Church

It seems that some Bishops have been rendering their opinion/guidance that Catholics must take into account a very morals-based issue when voting: the fact that supporting abortion is a sin in the eyes of the church. Because the I.R.S. gives churches exemption from taxes, the I.R.S. feels that can insist that churches must not become political. On the one had I agree with that. Churches should be specialists in religion and morality. But how can a church teach that something is a mortal sin and yet not mention that fact during election season? The Bishops arguable go one step further by talking about how Catholics should decide on their candidates.

But that is a long way from endorsing a specific candidate. It's relatively easy in the Presidential race to identify the position on abortion that the two major-party candidates hold (especially if you heard the Saddleback forum they participated in). But there are many, many other candidates for House and Senate races nationally, not to mention all the state and local candidates. Many of them have positions on abortion that are not nearly as clear. Their voting record may seem inconsistent, or they may have spoken on both sides of the issue. Or they may draw a line on certain types of abortion but not others.

I have a copy of the U.S. Constitution handy at home and I have read the whole thing (it's not all that long, actually). It's written in English, not translated from some other language. I cannot find where it says that the Federal Government may in any way limit the speech of churches, even by using tax law. In fact, the whole tone of the Constitution would seem to find such an idea repugnant.

In fact, the whole topic of abortion is interesting in a Constitution light. Supposedly the Supreme Court found that a woman's right to abortion is guaranteed by the Constitution because the Constitution guarantees a right to privacy. Well, not exactly. The word "privacy" is not in the Constitution. However, many principles of the Constitution imply certain types of privacy:


I find it a stretch to conclude that any of the referenced text in the link above relate to abortion, particularly as a means of after-the-fact birth control. Any inferred right along those lines would seem much less well founded that the rights of the states that are spelled out in the 10th Amendment:

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.

The Constitution is intended to limit the power of the Federal Government to certain specific areas. These are mostly areas that would not be practical to implement elsewhere. A strong military cannot be maintained by families, neighborhood or states. An Interstate highway system cannot be done effectively by the states or local governments. But the states are given many rights that the Federal Government might rather possess.

When the U.S. Supreme Court overrides states' rights, or when the I.R.S. uses the power of taxation to put limits on free speech and religious expression, a line has been crossed.

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