In another aggressively vacuous argument offered by the head of the Stop The ACLU legal analysis division (i.e., whichever member of its angry cavalcade of snot-chompers most recently posted something), John Bambenek is complaining that the City of San Francisco — which to right-wingers represents what any number of backwater Texas burgs embody to so-called skeptics — is out of line in asking the city’s archdiocese to ignore a Vatican official’s directive to stop placing children in the care of gay adoptive parents.
I don’t have anything resembling a (scholarly) legal background myself, but John Bambenek’s complaint strikes me as an especially florid example of a straight-up argument from bullshit.
The beginning and end of the entire matter is that a 2003 Catholic Church decree — that placing youth with gay couples “would actually mean doing violence to these children” — violates city and state laws against discrimination. That the Court found as much and agreed with the city board’s resolution is a no-brainer, but some people, it seems, possess the putative neurological inverse of brains.
Bambenek attempts to frame his gripe in terms of church-state separation (which, of course, he claims isn’t really part of the Constitution anyway), asserting, in effect and very nearly in word, that a United States federal court should have no say in the legal policies of its own citizenry in matters in which the Vatican disagrees. It utterly eludes him that the resolution implies only that Church doctrine should not hold legal sway over a secular proceeding such as adoption, not that the church has to change anything internally. It is free to operate under whatever slap-happy Mezozoic rules it wishes, but its leadership apparently clings to the idea that it can do so with universal impunity.
The inanity of Bambenek’s entire enterprise notwithstanding, let’s hit a few of his patently false statements, ignoring relatively minor transgressions regarding the city’s history and population.
“The City of San Francisco recently labeled the Catholic Church to be a hateful organization and engaged in a tirade of anti-Catholic rhetoric.”
Read the resolution (it’s very short) and see if you can find where the Church itself is labeled a “hateful organization.” I see “hateful rhetoric,” but that’s it. This kind of not-so-subtle lying is a strong indicator of what to expect in the rest of the screed.
“…the attempt of the City to intervene in a purely ecclesiastical matter was ruled ‘constitutional’ by a Carter-appointed federal judge.”
I don’t know when adoption became a purely ecclesiastical matter, and Bambi never gets around to clearing this up.
“In short, that the public action of these officials in speaking on religious matters, in dictating that local Church officials should disregard Vatican directives, does not violate the Establishment Clause. Yet, somehow, when a public official prays in Jesus name that “entanglement” is so severe that the entire weight of the federal judiciary must come down upon it. Taking the common interpretation of the Separation of Church and State (despite that is not what it really means), how can this be reconciled? How can the Establishment Clause at once seek to avoid religiously-run states yet simultaneously allow state-run religions?”
Bambenek, in this ludicrous burst of equivocation, obviously doesn’t understand a few critical things. He doesn’t see that no one is telling the Church what to do in matters that don’t impact people operating outside its sphere of influence. He sounds like a sun-stricken tourist insisting that he make purchases with Disney Dollars at 7-11s up and down the entire I-95 corridor in Florida, and no one can stop him because they have lots of gray-bearded and highly respected security guards in Lake Buena Vista. I wonder how it strikes Bambenek that the Vatican has happily sheltered pederast-priest-protecting-and-shuttling Cardinal Bernard Law from prosecution in the United States.
If the government strikes down the practice of opening public proceedings such as city council meetings with sectarian prayer, and also declares that illegal discrimination on the basis of religious tradition is still illegal, there is no inconsistency afoot at all. In each instance, the goal, to use Bambi’s terminology, is to avoid religiously-run states. Any clear-headed person can see this.
“The Catholic Church and its teaching have remained and will remain, unchanged, for centuries before San Francisco exists and centuries after San Francisco no longer exists.”
Is that so? Well, the Church seemed pretty intent for a number of centuries on keeping everyone convinced that the Earth was at the center of the universe, and went after Galileo Galilei and his heliocentric ideas notably hard. But in 1992, Pope John Paul II issued an apology on behalf of the Church for the way Galileo was treated, a mere 359 years after he was branded a heretic, forced to recant his ideas and placed on house arrest. Other examples of reform abound. Bambenek is simply braying like donkey at this early stage in his “argument.”
“The City of San Francisco has deigned to tell the Church what it can or cannot believe.”
Absolutely untrue. Beliefs themselves cannot be challenged in a court of law.
“Catholic Charities in San Francisco simply believes that gays don’t make good parents. This presents no challenge to the freedom of gays to adopt because they can go to another agency.”
Let’s leave aside the “good parents” thing. How long does anyone need to think to come up with examples in which religiously stricken people have tried to dictate the legal choices of the rest of us? Does the same thinking apply to creationists? Many of them do place their kids in schools that dutifully teach “biology” resembling something from a tribal campfire chat circa 1,000 BCE, but this hasn’t stopped Bambenek types from meddling in public-school curricula using Biblical mythology as their sole justification, and it sure hasn’t stopped them from railing against gay marriages in which they presumably will never take part. What Bambenek is saying — flaunting, in fact — is that the secular-minded should “shop elsewhere” while the Church continues to fight to control the inventory of every store.
“The federal court, in this case Judge Marilyn Hall Patel, has shown what the left-wing idea of separation of church and state means. It does not mean the institutions are actually separate. It means that religion most conform to whatever absurd and intellectually malformed ideas the left has on a given day. To them, the state must remain supreme.”
Here Bambenek has reiterated his “the state is telling people what to think” claim for about the twelfth time. Such reasoning apparently doesn’t apply to state-funded schools that teach evolution, which innumerable Christians and Christian organizations have been trying to do away with since the facts first became apparent. But no Stop the ACLU primal nutburst is complete without an especially loud and messy crescendo, leaving everyone out of reach of the counterfeit money shot agape and themselves stuck to their sheets.
So to sum up, here are the reasons Bambenek assembles for condemning San Francisco’s actions.
1. There are more Catholics than San Franciscans.
2. The Catholic Church is older than San Francisco.
3. Gays don’t make good parents.
So because San Francisco is “a fart in the wind compared to a Church with 1.1 billion members,” American doesn’t apply there. This is from someone who claims to not only understand the Establishment Clause, but to understand it better than U.S. Supreme Court.
Forget Bambi’s bias and lack of basic comprehension of the issues. Don’t dwell on the irony in his calling the resolution “a childish rant” and an “infantile rant” and speaking of “absurd and intellectually malformed ideas” – this is de rigueur for the members of his condylambulating fun bunch. Never mind the various jibber-jabber I didn’t comment on that would be an embarrassment to anyone with a conscience. Don’t bother puzzling over the fact that someone smart enough to secure a bachelor’s degree in physics and a minor in math appears to operate in entirely different planes of reality and under accordingly bizarre rules; I had that one covered before John was out of high school. The basic problem is not that every angle of the guy’s argument is hopelessly sloppy, but that he’s seriously deluded when it comes to how a country not run like a medieval theocracy works, and as usual the culprit is “faith.”
As an aside, Bambenek has also just posted perhaps the worst anti-ESCR essay I’ve ever read and in all seriousness I would, in terms of objectivity and general background-gathering, expect better not only from a college graduate but from an ambitious high-schooler from a fundamentalist Christian home. I’m not going to waste any more words on this jester, but you can find the post easily if you must.
Faced with the prodigious and relentless output of people like Bambenek, a cynic might reasonably wonder if the primary aim of the majority of people today is to get out of bed, declare “I’m going to see how f*cking stupid I could sound,” and start typing. However, I’m both optimistic and even more cynical and figure he and his ilk are doing the very best they can with what they have. If San Francisco is a fart in the wind, Bambenek is maybe part of an electron in a covalent C-H bond in a methane molecule ejected from either the primary or secondary anus of Ann Coulter. But unfortunately all of those molecules add up.