New Cultural Revolution Courtesy of the People’s Republic of Oakland

November 27, 2004

In another misapplication of the American doctrine of the separation of church and state, a California school district is ushering in a Cultural Revolution a la Mao by censoring founding documents because they contain references to God and religion. A principal in Oakland is requiring the redaction of the Declaration of Independence, diaries of George Washington and writings of John Adams, as well as state constitutions to expunge such references.

The Alliance Defence Fund is suing the school district for this unconstitutional censorship of history, and for good reason. In relation to the district’s actions, the ADF has stated that

[t]he district is simply attempting to cleanse all references to the Christian religion from our nation’s history, and they are singling out Mr. Williams [a school teacher who had handed out the Declaration of Indepence as supplemental reading for his students] for discriminatory treatment. Their actions are unacceptable under both California and federal law.

The reason that this is not only shocking in its leftist audacity but also downright dishearting is that the doctrine of the separation of church and state is indeed a necessary and beneficial doctrine. The separation of church and state stems in large part from Europe’s blood-drenched experience with established churches. But the idea of the separation of church and state was not meant as a vehicle for the political sanitization of history. It seems that even the most devoted ACLU lawyer or other adherent of “Living Constitution” notions of constitutional interpretation should realize this.

This is a serious perversion of the doctrine of the separation of church and state. It is an instance of the state being entirely hostile towards religion, rather than simply neutral as between different religions. It is absurd to think that the Declaration of Independence runs afoul of the First Amendment. Jeff Lindsay’s humor does justice to this ridiculous attempt at censorship. The Constitution in no way prefers atheism to religiosity, neither does it require a cleansing of history to expunge references to religion out of its tomes.

That is why I have compared this with the Cultural Revolution. It is an attempt to rewrite history or to deny its import to the students who are learning about their heritage. It is scary to think that someone would actually want to cleanse historical documents in this manner and deprive students of an accurate depiction of their heritage as Americans. Even if the parents of these children are atheists, it causes reason to stand still for those children to receive a politically sanitized version of history. That many of the founders were religious people is merely a historical fact: it does not imply that the students learning about them need to become religious.


私の最初の日本語のblog

November 22, 2004

(posted by Aaron F.)
兄のJohnからこのblogに誘われて、これから日本語でいろんなことをPostする積りです。ファウルズのBlogの四番目です。ですからLDSの外国語のBlogへようこそ!

自分のこと今ちょっとだけ紹介します。私はファウルズ・アロンと申します。(Aaron Fowles) 現在25歳でSalt Lake Cityに住んでいます。 ぼくはファウルズ家族の四番目の子で、三男です。2003年にBYU大学から卒業しました。大学の専攻は日本語でした。今Wells Fargoという銀行のために勤めています。今ぼくはまだ結婚してないです!日本語を学んだのがほとんど日本で宣教師として召された時でした。日本仙台伝道部で働きました。1998年から2000年まで宣教師として日本にいって2003年の夏も日本に仕事の関係で過ごしました。日本が大好きです!今でも日本語を勉強していて上手くなると希望しています!

よろしくお願いします!


Letter to the Editor

November 18, 2004

I just typed off this letter to the editor of Dissident Voice in reply to Mr. Joshua Frank’s bigotry and paternalism regarding Senator Reid’s position as Senate Minority Leader. Thanks to Ronan for pointing me Mr. Frank’s direction.

Here is the emailed letter that I have hastily shot off:

From: John Fowles
Sent: Thursday, November 18, 2004 9:31 AM
To: letterspage@dissidentvoice.org
Subject: Letter Page Submission

Dear Dissident Voice:

I was shocked at Joshua Frank’s bigotry in his article about Senator Reid’s new position as the Senate Minority Leader. It seems that to this “enlightened” liberal, Mr. Frank, it is still kosher to disparage a man because of his religious affiliation. I was surprised to see this vitriol based on Senator Reid’s being a “Mormon” coming from Mr. Frank, who should know better than to demonize a person because of such a criterion.

Aside from the bigotry, Mr. Frank’s words reveal perhaps the key weakness of the leftist mentality in this country: he dismisses those things that are important to a majority of people in this country as “backwards” Republican values. If only everyone were as enlightened as Mr. Frank–then no one would think there was anything wrong with killing a baby in the womb or with supporting traditional families. Mr. Frank lists some of the Reid’s “backwards” political moves, including voting “yes” to ban partial birth abortions, as if stopping partial birth abortions were a bad thing. And there lies a large part of the problem because, quite frankly, it scares a majority of Americans that people like Mr. Frank take such a view towards the dignity of human life. As long as the majority of Americans see the democratic party as espousing such views, it will remain on its deathbed.

A second major weakness of the leftist mentality comes through in Mr. Frank’s bigoted words. He reveals a prescriptive vision of the democratic party that reinforces the exact difficulty that Reid’s leadership is calculated to allay. He longs for the day, not too many weeks ago, when the democratic party was so ideologically rigid that even the most minor voice of dissent could not be heard. Life on the ideological plantation would again flourish under Mr. Frank’s vision and anyone, whether a member of a minority group or not, who dared stray off the ideological plantation would have their foot cut off with an axe. And under this view, minorities who dared get off the democratic dole and find a place for “backwards” values in their worldviews would continue to deserve crucifixion, as we all witnessed with Estrada and Jones.

I voted for more democrats in this recent election than republicans. And yet, I am a man who espouses a clean and decent worldview that includes many of the exact values that Mr. Frank condescendingly dismisses as ignorance-based “backwards” relics. Reading Mr. Frank’s pessimistic arrogance reminds me of everything that has traditionally made me uncomfortable with the Democratic Party and causes me to question my own judgment in voting for democratic candidates in the recent election. But then I remember that this bigot is entitled to his own views just like the KKK is and that he doesn’t speak for all democrats or for the democratic party, as is evidenced by the fact that the democratic party is making the reasoned and realistic move of positioning Senator Reid as the Senate Minority Leader.

Sincerely,

John Fowles

I have little or no hope that this letter to the editor will end up on the letters page of dissident voice. Presumably, they only want to hear like-minded contributions. I am used to this, since the letters to the editor that I send to German newspapers have never yet (to my knowledge) appeared in those pages.


Violence From Heaven?

November 16, 2004

On a friend’s recommendation, I recently read John Krakauer’s “Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith”. I had seen Richard Turley’s review of the book, so I was especially interested to see Krakauer’s arguments and supporting material first hand. I was not disappointed. Even those skeptical of Krakauer’s motives will find the book an entertaining read on LDS and Utah history.

Krakauer tells the story of Ron and Dan Lafferty, brothers from the Payson, Utah area, who were commanded by revelation from God to “remove” their sister-in-law and her infant daughter from the earth. They succeeded in the removal, carrying out one of the most brutal double murders in Utah history on July 24, 1984. But were ultimately apprehended and convicted of capital murder in separate trials (a jury spared Dan the death penalty).

Krakauer attempts to connect the Laffertys’ crime to other violent events in Mormon history: early conflicts between Joseph Smith and the Saints in Missouri and Illinois, Porter Rockwell’s zealous activities, the Mountain Meadows massacre, Mark Hoffman bombings, and various activities of Mormon fundamentalists in Arizona, Utah, and Idaho. All the while Krakauer, admitedly a non-religious agnostic, points out that all actors in the violent events presented have in common a devout, even fanatical, belief in God, specifically the Mormon concept of God. Apparently, highly religious individuals, especially Mormons, are in a unique position to be motivated to commit acts of violence.

While Krakauer distinguishes between mainstream LDS and Mormon fundamentalist outsiders, he does suggest that something inherent in Mormon doctrine, and religion, generally, can encourage (illegal) violent activity. This suggestion raises two questions: First, does religious belief lead to violence more than non-religious values and worldviews? And second, does Mormon history or doctrine foster violent activity more than other religious doctrine?

I want to hear your answers, but my initial reaction is “no” to both questions. Deadly violence is equally fostered by religious and secular forces and, on the whole, is equally administered among religions. The simple reality is human beings are violent creatures. For every example of religious violence raised by Krakauer there are multiple examples of violence motivated by utterly non-religious factors. Think, for example, of the individuals in Florida who broke into a residence at night and killed a handful of people with baseball bats because the victims allegedly had a Nintendo system that belonged to one of the killers.

Turley’s review (published in the book’s afterward) highlights a number of weak points in Krakauer’s research and historical conclusions, but it doesn’t really address the larger philosophical arguments regarding religion’s role in the violent behavior of its adherents.


Der demokratische Richter

November 14, 2004

Ludwig Erhard hat einmal gesagt, “Der Markt ist der einzig demokratische Richter, den es überhaupt in der modernen Wirtschaft gibt.” Bertolt Brecht wäre nicht damit einverstanden, und nicht nur, weil er lange Zeit als Stalinistisch galt.

In den vierziger Jahren schrieb Brecht ein schönes und einfaches Gedicht, das den “demokratischen Richter” erhöht:

Der Demokratische Richter

In Los Angeles vor den Richter, der die Leute examiniert

Die sich bemühen, Bürger der Vereinigten Staaten zu werden

Kam auch ein Italienischer Gastwirt. Nach ernsthafter

Vorbereitung

Leider behindert durch seiner Unkenntnis der neuen Sprache

Antwortete e rim Examen auf die Frage:

Was bedeutet das 8. Amendment? zögernd:

1492. Das das Gesetz die Kenntnis der Landessprache dem

Bewerber vorschreibt

Wurde er abgewiesen. Wiederkommend

Nach drei Monaten, verbracht mit weiteren Studien

Freilich immer noch behindert durch die Unkenntnis der

neuen Sprache

Bekam er diesmal die Frage vorgelegt: Wer

War der General, der im Bürgerkrieg siegte? Seine Antwort

war:

1492. (Laut und freundlich erteilt.) Wieder weggeschickt

Und ein drittes Mal wiederkommend, beantwortete er

Eine dritte Frage: Für wie viele Jahre wird der Präsident

gewählt?

Wieder mit: 1492. Nun

Erkannte der Richter, dem der Mann gefiel, daß er die neue

Sprache

Nicht lernen konnte, erkundigte sich

Wie er lebte, und erfuhr: schwer arbeitend. Und so

Legte ihm der Richter beim vierten Erscheinen die Frage

vor:

Wann

Wurde Amerika entdeckt: Und auf Grund seiner richtigen

Antwort

1492, erhielt er die Bürgerschaft.

Man kann kaum behaupten, der Richter hätte in diesem Fall falsch gehandelt (und ich tue das auch nicht). Das Problem ist die versteckte Andeutung, dass dieser Richter irgendwie ausserordentlich wäre—dass das US-System in der Wirklichkeit nicht schon demokratisch wäre, und ein Richter wie dieser deswegen parteiisch handeln müsste, um die Gerechtigkeit zu vollziehen. Ausserdem erscheint auch in diesem kleinen Stück der schwächende Relativismus des Marxismus: nur der “schwer Arbeitender” verdient sein Recht. Wenn der Italienischer Einwanderer auf die Frage des Richters mit irgendeinem Beruf erwidert hätte, z.B. Buchhalter oder Anwalt (die auch “schwer arbeiten”—soviel kann ich euch versichern), was hätte Brechts “demokratischer” Richter darauf geantwortet?


Announcing BYU Studies Panel Discussion

November 14, 2004

I just wanted to announce a cool panel discussion that BYU Studies is hosting on Tuesday, November 16 from 12:00 to 4:30 pm at BYU in the Harold B. Lee Library Auditorium. BYU Studies is printing an entire issue devoted to LDS readings of Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute). Many of the authors of articles contained in that issue will be presenting some of their material in panel discussions on various aspects of this LDS reception of The Magic Flute. The person behind this project, Dr. Paul Kerry, has a vision of igniting a more informed LDS reception of this opera, as he doesn’t see any significant existing LDS reception of this work. I have been involved in this project and am looking forward both to the issue coming out and to the panel discussion.

Below is the email announcement that BYU Studies has been sending around to subscribers informing them of this panel discussion. All Bloggernackers who are around Provo should drop by. I’d love to meet any of you. (By the way, it’s free.)

Mozart, Mormons, Masonry and The Magic Flute

BYU Studies will be moderating a fascinating panel discussion with faculty from over 10 BYU departments, to be held in the Harold B. Lee Library Auditorium, Tuesday, Nov. 16th, from 12 pm to 4:30 pm. The first hour will include screen highlights from the opera The Magic Flute, followed by three panel discussions from 1 to 4:30 pm.

The symposium, entitled The Magic Flute: Mozart, Meanings, and Mormons, will be a rare opportunity to hear faculty from all over campus. Disciplines include Egyptology, art and music history, theatre and film, humanities, German literature, history and others.

The discussion will parallel the new special issue of BYU Studies on the significance and appeal that Mozart’s opera has for Latter-day Saints. John W. Welch, director of BYU Studies, notes that “we are proud to publish special issues that take an in-depth look at important and fascinating subjects. In Mozart’s Magic Flute we encounter crucial topics of western civilization. Significantly, Mozart lived around the time of the American Revolution and the birth of Joseph Smith. Latter-day Saints have found and will find many points of interest in this classic opera.”

Paul Kerry, special guest editor of the BYU Studies issue and moderator of the event on Tuesday, affirms that the opera “locates striking parallels to LDS doctrines such as eternal marriage and the exalting potential of divine love.” It can be “read as an allegory of life’s journey,” and a pattern relating to “Latter-day Saint teachings about the plan of salvation.”

Students, faculty, as well as the public are welcome to attend this free event. Below is the updated program.

The Magic Flute: Mozart, Meanings, and Mormons

I. 12:00 to 12:55 Highlights from The Magic Flute

II. 1:00 to 2:00 Panel One
Historical Contexts for Mozart and The Magic Flute

Moderator: Paul Kerry

Hans-Wilhelm Kelling – Mozart’s Life and Times (15 Min)
Gideon Burton – Mormons, Mozart, and Opera (15 Min)
Harrison Powley – Mozart’s Magical Musical Instruments (15 Min)
Michael Lyon – Stage Set Design, Magic Flute Final Scene (15 Min)

Fifteen minutes for questions

5 min break

III. 2:05 to 3:15 Panel Two
Mozart and the Moral World of The Magic Flute

Moderator: Jack Welch

Kaye Hanson – Of Princesses and Dragons: Children and The Magic Flute
(15 Min)
John Fowles – The Magic Flute and Moral Progression (15 Min)
Paul Kerry – The Magic Flute and Masonry (15 Min)

Fifteen minutes for questions

5 min break

IV. 3:20 to 4:30 Panel Three
Receiving The Magic Flute on Stage, Page, Poster, and Film

Moderator: Eric Samuelsen

Lawrence Vincent – Performing The Magic Flute in Vienna (15 Min)
Robert McFarland – Goethe’s Magic Flute Sequel (15 Min)
Dean Duncan – Ingmar Bergman’s Magic Flute Film (15 Min)
Philipp Malzl – Marc Chagall’s Magic Flute Poster (15 Min)

Fifteen minutes for questions

END


Same Sex Marriage impact on Private Religious Universities

November 11, 2004

People often say to those who advocate bans on same sex relationships- why do you care, anyway? How is it going to affect you if gays can be married? Here’s one proposition as to how:

Yesterday, Carey posed this question after debunking Irish Law’s “secular” policy arguments against allowing SSM:

What I’m curious about is why Irish Law seems so afraid of equality. Is it because she fears that gays will demand that the Catholic Church sanction gay marriage? I haven’t heard of anyone threatening to do that. I don’t see how Catholic marriages are in any way threatened by the state’s recognition of SSM. Irish law is a good writer, and she seems very smart. I’d like to see her answer this question, if she can.
Since Carey no longer has comments available on his blog, I will attempt to answer this question for myself here. It is something I have thought about as a Mormon, since the Mormon stand on the same sex marriage issue is likely very similar to the Catholic stand.

In my view, the author of Irish Law and others similarly situated are not “afraid of equality” because they fear that “gays will demand that the Catholic Church sanction gay marriage.” Rather, they fear a more direct but subtle force which will bring pressure on churches such as the Catholic church to do just that- sanction gay marriage. That force is the United States government- both the judicial and the legislative branches. It seems obvious to assume that the government cannot force religion to sanction or perform gay marriages, so in this discussion I assume that without further review of the governing case law. However, precedent exists in our First Amendment jurisprudence to suggest that the government CAN bring great pressure to bear on religious institutions who, for religious reasons, refuse to participate in the social agenda of equality.

One case illustrating this is Bob Jones University v. United States, 461 U.S. 574 (1983). In that case, the IRS denied Bob Jones University a tax exemption as a non-profit religious school because although it admitted minorities, it practiced racial discrimination through its strict policies against interracial dating and the like. Bob Jones University, showing that its policies were based upon a genuine religious belief that the Bible forbade interracial dating and marriage, protested that this exemption denial constituted a violation of its rights under the first amendment’s free exercise clause.

The court, noting that “The state may justify a limitation on religious liberty by showing that it is essential to accomplish an overriding governmental interest,” id. at 603 (quoting United States v. Lee, 455 U.S. 252, 257-58), held that the University could not be exempt from taxes even though its racist policies stemmed from sincere religious belief because “the Government ha[d] a fundamental, overriding interest in eradicating racial discrimination in education . . . [which] substantially outweigh[ed]whatever burden denial of tax benefits places on [the University's] exercise of [its] religious beliefs,” and that “no less restrictive means [were] available to achieve the governmental interest.” Id. at 604 (citations omitted). The court further held that contributions to such schools were no longer tax deductible as charitable contributions. Therefore, a religious school which had a policy in place mirroring the religious beliefs of the institution and individuals sponsoring it had a substantial burden placed on it due to the compelling governmental interest in racial equality in education.

Many on the “religious right” may be concerned that the same thing might occur should the courts determine that same sex marriage is a constitutional right or the legislature bestow that right. I am certain that should same sex marriage be allowed, private religious universities such as my alma mater, Brigham Young University, would still consider same sex relationships to violate their honor codes (in that link, see especially the section governing conduct- all students must commit to living the honor code and live it or they cannot attend Brigham Young University) or bylaws or other university regulations. Since these schools would then be “discriminating” against same sex relationships by forbidding them amongst their students, they would likely be denied their tax benefits, which the Bob Jones University court noted “will inevitably have a substantial impact on the operation of private religious schools,” id. at 603-04, as well as on any donors whose donations would no longer be tax deductible.

This would directly affect people like the author of Irish Law or me who attend, have attended, will attend, will send children to, donate money to, or otherwise be affiliated with these private religious universities. First of all, if the universities could continue to operate under such a burden, then tuition would certainly rise substantially to cover the added tax burden. Compounding this, at the same time less people would likely donate money because their donations would no longer be tax deductible. Finally, those who do choose to donate money would no longer receive a benefit from doing so.

In fact, although this may argue the point a bit too far, it is also perhaps likely that tithing such as that donated to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by members in good standing would no longer be tax deductible, since Brigham Young University is funded in large part by these tithes. (I wonder further if someday this burden would then be applied to all religious institutions directly outside the realm of education when, for example, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints refuses to perform same sex marriages in the temple. Probably not, but if there is a generally applicable law and neutral purpose, there is always Employment Division v. Smith, 474 U.S. 872 (1990) lurking out there… But that is a topic for another day.) In any case, the “substantial impact on the operation of private religious schools” of the added tax burdens would unquestionably affect all associated with these institutions.

Therefore, although Catholic marriages per se would not be “in any way threatened by the state’s recognition of SSM,” individuals such as the author of Irish Law, myself, and millions of others associated somehow with private religious schools would be personally affected by a constitutional right to same sex marriage or a legislative granting of that right.

Postscript: Perhaps the added tax burden is one which religious entities ought to bear for their religious beliefs regarding same sex relationships as members of a greater society grounded in equality. After all, the government is not preventing them from believing as they do, just making them internalize the societal cost of their beliefs. Then again, perhaps it is not a burden the religious institutions should bear. But this is a topic for another day…


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