Jennifer Rubin, a centrist op-ed columnist for the Washington Post, just produced a piece about the leaked Supreme Court abortion decisions. According to reader Steve, the piece is
“One of Rubin’s best, IMO. She brings the key issue front and center, viz. white evangelical Christian supremacy.”
Click the screenshot to read:
Rubin first discards the notion that betokens a “culture war”:
The livid reaction from progressive advocacy groups and Democratic politicians across the country about the potential evisceration of abortion rights — and possibly others protected by the 14th Amendment — should tell the media this is not simply about “culture,” nor is it a “war.” It’s a religious power grab by justices who, according to at least two female Republican senators, dissembled under oath about their intentions regarding Roe. The Senate Judiciary Committee should hold hearings and call GOP Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) to testify. If those senators were really duped, they should consider advocating for extreme measures, including impeachment and a filibuster exception to codify Roe.
Well, that’s a distinction without much of a difference, for one could conceive of it as a “culture” war if evangelical religion is a form of “culture” (it is), and a “war” is a “battle for power” (it is). But to think that Collins and Murkowski were duped by justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh assumes that these Senators were sufficiently stupid to believe the assertions of conservative nominees for the Court. Alternatively, one could suggest that those justices—and Barrett—really were keeping an open mind about Roe and could have changed their minds about abortion after they got on the bench.
The latter hypothesis is insane, and the former unbelievable. The most parsimonious hypothesis is that Collins and Murkowski were playing to their audience as “liberal” Republicans, and knew exactly what they were doing.
But put that aside, for Rubin makes a larger point that rings true:
It’s important to identify the nature of the threat to Americans to understand the reaction that would likely follow a ruling along the lines Alito laid out. A Supreme Court decision that would criminalize abortion, eviscerating the ambit of privacy and personal autonomy afforded by the 14th Amendment, would expand governmental power into every nook and cranny of life — from a doctor’s office in Texas treating a transgender child, to intimate relations in a bedroom in Georgia, to a pharmacy counter in Ohio. Will government dictate a set of views that have not had majority support for decades?
The right-wing justices and their supporters appear ready to reject one of the Founders’ core principles: that religion shall not be imposed by government edict.
Other Republicans have given away the scheme. In his 11-point plan, Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), the head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, declares: “The nuclear family is crucial to civilization, it is God’s design for humanity, and it must be protected and celebrated. To say otherwise is to deny science.” Put aside the utter incoherence (is it God or science?): The senator is explicitly calling for state power to be used in the service of his religious beliefs.
And it’s no slip of the tongue. As would a number of Supreme Court justices, Scott would impose religious views while refusing to admit his views stem from a particular religious perspective. “Abortion kills human children,” Scott pronounces. “To deny that is to deny science.” Actually, he wants to mandate conduct based on the religious view that humanity/personhood starts at conception.
I appreciate that if you think abortion is murder, you can be impelled to make your religious views into law. But there are many religious and secular people alike who see nothing sacred that begins when a sperm unites with an egg. The zygote isn’t sentient, doesn’t feel pain, and so on. The view that zygotes are “human children” is like saying an acorn is an oak tree. The only difference is that zygotes and not acorns are thought to have souls. The Supreme Court’s decision is an implicitly religious one.
Rubin again pronounces that “This is not about ‘culture.’ It is about appropriating state power to enforce theocratically driven positions.” She keeps saying this again and again, as if the folding of the draft decision into the “culture war” narrative is a gross and harmful mischaracterization by the press. But really, Americans aren’t dumb enough—even those who voted for Trump—not to know that, at bottom, this is a religiously based decision.
In sum, the media’s “culture wars” shorthand is an evasion, a refusal to recognize that what is at stake are the rights and lives of those without the resources or power to defend themselves (e.g., travel out of state for an abortion). The Supreme Court is poised to roil the very essence of our constitutional tradition and strike at the heart of a pluralistic democracy. Let’s call it what it really is: state-enforced theocracy, or, if you prefer, religious authoritarianism.
DUHHHH! I can’t say whether this is one of Rubin’s best columns, as I don’t read her often, but she’s belaboring the obvious.
What this decision should do is inject new energy into secularism via organs like the Freedom from Religion Foundation and the ACLU (if the latter has any energy left after its fervent wokeism). The highest law in the land is now mediated by a pack of evangelical Christian conservatives, bent on enforcing their religion on the rest of us.
I am starting to wonder if the Court will eventually overturn the “settled law” that deems it unconstitutional to teach creationism and its gussied-up cousin, Intelligent Design, in the public schools. I used to think that really was settled law, but now I’m not so sure. Next to abortion, the issue of evolution is small potatoes. But overturning the Dover and Epperson v. Arkansas cases, among many others, would be a step back into the dark ages: a repudiation of settled science in the name of religion. (All creationists are, at bottom, motivated by faith.)
I now think it’s only a matter of time before some benighted but devious Southern state passes an “equal time” or “pro-ID” law. Before that happens, let this statement, made 97 years ago by Clarence Darrow during the Scopes trial, be our clarion call:
“If today you can take a thing like evolution and make it a crime to teach it in the public school, tomorrow you can make it a crime to teach it in the private schools, and the next year you can make it a crime to teach it to the hustings or in the church. At the next session you may ban books and the newspapers. Soon you may set Catholic against Protestant and Protestant against Protestant, and try to foist your own religion upon the minds of men. If you can do one you can do the other. Ignorance and fanaticism is ever busy and needs feeding. Always it is feeding and gloating for more. Today it is the public school teachers, tomorrow the private. The next day the preachers and the lectures, the magazines, the books, the newspapers. After a while, your honor, it is the setting of man against man and creed against creed until with flying banners and beating drums we are marching backward to the glorious ages of the sixteenth century when bigots lighted fagots to burn the men who dared to bring any intelligence and enlightenment and culture to the human mind.”